Archive for the ‘Translational Effectiveness’ Category

The Fred Conrad Koch Lifetime Achievement Award—the Society’s highest honor—recognizes the lifetime achievements and exceptional contributions of an individual to the field of endocrinology

Larry H. Bernstein, MD, FCAP, Curator

Leaders in Pharmaceutical Innovation

Series E. 2; 7.3


lifetime achievements and exceptional contributions of an individual to the field of endocrinology

  • 2015

Andrzej Bartke, MS, PhD

Southern Illinois University School of Medicine

  • 2014

George P. Chrousos, MD

Athens University Medical School, Aghia Sophia Children’s Hospital

  • 2013

Michael O. Thorner, MBBS, DSc

University of Virginia

  • 2012

Samuel Refetoff, MD

University of Chicago

  • 2011

Pierre Chambon, MD

Institut de Génétique et de Biologie Moléculaire et Cellulaire

  • 2010

Kathryn B. Horwitz, PhD

University of Colorado at Denver – Anschutz Medical Campus

  • 2009
  1. Larry Jameson, MD, PhD

Northwestern University Medical School

  • 2008
  1. Reed Larsen, MD, FACP, FRCP

Harvard Medical School, Brigham and Women’s Hospital

  • 2007

John D. Baxter, MD

University of California – San Francisco

  • 2006

Gerald M. Reaven, MD

Joslin Diabetes Center, Boston

  • 2005

William F. Crowley, Jr., MD

Massachusetts General Hospital

  • 2004

Patricia K. Donahoe, MD

Massachusetts General Hospital – Harvard Medical School

  • 2003

Maria I. New, MD

New York Presbyterian Hospital, Cornell Medical School




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Treatments for Lymphomas and Leukemias

Curator and Editor: Larry H. Bernstein, MD, FCAP


2.4.4 Treatments for leukemia by type Acute Lymphocytic Leukemias

Treatment of Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia

Ching-Hon Pu, and William E. Evans
N Engl J Med Jan 12, 2006; 354:166-178

Although the overall cure rate of acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) in children is about 80 percent, affected adults fare less well. This review considers recent advances in the treatment of ALL, emphasizing issues that need to be addressed if treatment outcome is to improve further.

Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia

Ching-Hon Pui, Mary V. Relling, and James R. Downing
N Engl J Med Apr 8, 2004; 350:1535-1548

This comprehensive survey emphasizes how recent advances in the knowledge of molecular mechanisms involved in acute lymphoblastic leukemia have influenced diagnosis, prognosis, and treatment.

Gene-Expression Patterns in Drug-Resistant Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia Cells and Response to Treatment

Amy Holleman, Meyling H. Cheok, Monique L. den Boer, et al.
N Engl J Med 2004; 351:533-42

Childhood acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) is curable with chemotherapy in approximately 80 percent of patients. However, the cause of treatment failure in the remaining 20 percent of patients is largely unknown.

Methods We tested leukemia cells from 173 children for sensitivity in vitro to prednisolone, vincristine, asparaginase, and daunorubicin. The cells were then subjected to an assessment of gene expression with the use of 14,500 probe sets to identify differentially expressed genes in drug-sensitive and drug-resistant ALL. Gene-expression patterns that differed according to sensitivity or resistance to the four drugs were compared with treatment outcome in the original 173 patients and an independent cohort of 98 children treated with the same drugs at another institution.

Results We identified sets of differentially expressed genes in B-lineage ALL that were sensitive or resistant to prednisolone (33 genes), vincristine (40 genes), asparaginase (35 genes), or daunorubicin (20 genes). A combined gene-expression score of resistance to the four drugs, as compared with sensitivity to the four, was significantly and independently related to treatment outcome in a multivariate analysis (hazard ratio for relapse, 3.0; P=0.027). Results were confirmed in an independent population of patients treated with the same medications (hazard ratio for relapse, 11.85; P=0.019). Of the 124 genes identified, 121 have not previously been associated with resistance to the four drugs we tested.

Conclusions  Differential expression of a relatively small number of genes is associated with drug resistance and treatment outcome in childhood ALL.

Leukemias Treatment & Management

Author: Lihteh Wu, MD; Chief Editor: Hampton Roy Sr

The treatment of leukemia is in constant flux, evolving and changing rapidly over the past few years. Most treatment protocols use systemic chemotherapy with or without radiotherapy. The basic strategy is to eliminate all detectable disease by using cytotoxic agents. To attain this goal, 3 phases are typically used, as follows: remission induction phase, consolidation phase, and maintenance therapy phase.

Chemotherapeutic agents are chosen that interfere with cell division. Tumor cells usually divide more rapidly than host cells, making them more vulnerable to the effects of chemotherapy. Primary treatment will be under the direction of a medical oncologist, radiation oncologist, and primary care physician. Although a general treatment plan will be outlined, the ophthalmologist does not prescribe or manage such treatment.

  • The initial treatment of ALL uses various combinations of vincristine, prednisone, and L-asparaginase until a complete remission is obtained.
  • Maintenance therapy with mercaptopurine is continued for 2-3 years following remission.
  • Use of intrathecal methotrexate with or without cranial irradiation to cover the CNS varies from facility to facility.
  • Daunorubicin, cytarabine, and thioguanine currently are used to obtain induction and remission of AML.
  • Maintenance therapy for 8 months may lengthen remission. Once relapse has occurred, AML generally is curable only by bone marrow transplantation.
  • Presently, treatment of CLL is palliative.
  • CML is characterized by a leukocytosis greater than 100,000 cells. Emergent treatment with leukopheresis sometimes is necessary when leukostastic complications are present. Otherwise, busulfan or hydroxyurea may control WBC counts. During the chronic phase, treatment is palliative.
  • When CML converts to the blastic phase, approximately one third of cases behave as ALL and respond to treatment with vincristine and prednisone. The remaining two thirds resemble AML but respond poorly to AML therapy.
  • Allogeneic bone marrow transplant is the only curative therapy for CML. However, it carries a high early mortality rate.
  • Leukemic retinopathy usually is not treated directly. As the hematological parameters normalize with systemic treatment, many of the ophthalmic signs resolve. There are reports that leukopheresis for hyperviscosity also may alleviate intraocular manifestations.
  • When definite intraocular leukemic infiltrates fail to respond to systemic chemotherapy, direct radiation therapy is recommended.
  • Relapse, manifested by anterior segment involvement, should be treated by radiation. In certain cases, subconjunctival chemotherapeutic agents have been injected.
  • Optic nerve head infiltration in patients with ALL is an emergency and requires prompt radiation therapy to try to salvage some vision.

Treatments and drugs

Common treatments used to fight leukemia include:

  • Chemotherapy. Chemotherapy is the major form of treatment for leukemia. This drug treatment uses chemicals to kill leukemia cells.

Depending on the type of leukemia you have, you may receive a single drug or a combination of drugs. These drugs may come in a pill form, or they may be injected directly into a vein.

  • Biological therapy. Biological therapy works by using treatments that help your immune system recognize and attack leukemia cells.
  • Targeted therapy. Targeted therapy uses drugs that attack specific vulnerabilities within your cancer cells.

For example, the drug imatinib (Gleevec) stops the action of a protein within the leukemia cells of people with chronic myelogenous leukemia. This can help control the disease.

  • Radiation therapy. Radiation therapy uses X-rays or other high-energy beams to damage leukemia cells and stop their growth. During radiation therapy, you lie on a table while a large machine moves around you, directing the radiation to precise points on your body.

You may receive radiation in one specific area of your body where there is a collection of leukemia cells, or you may receive radiation over your whole body. Radiation therapy may be used to prepare for a stem cell transplant.

  • Stem cell transplant. A stem cell transplant is a procedure to replace your diseased bone marrow with healthy bone marrow.

Before a stem cell transplant, you receive high doses of chemotherapy or radiation therapy to destroy your diseased bone marrow. Then you receive an infusion of blood-forming stem cells that help to rebuild your bone marrow.

You may receive stem cells from a donor, or in some cases you may be able to use your own stem cells. A stem cell transplant is very similar to a bone marrow transplant. Acute Myeloid Leukemia

New treatment approaches in acute myeloid leukemia: review of recent clinical studies.

Norsworthy K1Luznik LGojo I.
Rev Recent Clin Trials. 2012 Aug; 7(3):224-37.

Standard chemotherapy can cure only a fraction (30-40%) of younger and very few older patients with acute myeloid leukemia (AML). While conventional allografting can extend the cure rates, its application remains limited mostly to younger patients and those in remission. Limited efficacy of current therapies and improved understanding of the disease biology provided a spur for clinical trials examining novel agents and therapeutic strategies in AML. Clinical studies with novel chemotherapeutics, antibodies, different signal transduction inhibitors, and epigenetic modulators demonstrated their clinical activity; however, it remains unclear how to successfully integrate novel agents either alone or in combination with chemotherapy into the overall therapeutic schema for AML. Further studies are needed to examine their role in relation to standard chemotherapy and their applicability to select patient populations based on recognition of unique disease and patient characteristics, including the development of predictive biomarkers of response. With increasing use of nonmyeloablative or reduced intensity conditioning and alternative graft sources such as haploidentical donors and cord blood transplants, the benefits of allografting may extend to a broader patient population, including older AML patients and those lacking a HLA-matched donor. We will review here recent clinical studies that examined novel pharmacologic and immunologic approaches to AML therapy.

Novel approaches to the treatment of acute myeloid leukemia.

Roboz GJ1
Hematology Am Soc Hematol Educ Program. 2011:43-50.

Approximately 12 000 adults are diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia (AML) in the United States annually, the majority of whom die from their disease. The mainstay of initial treatment, cytosine arabinoside (ara-C) combined with an anthracycline, was developed nearly 40 years ago and remains the worldwide standard of care. Advances in genomics technologies have identified AML as a genetically heterogeneous disease, and many patients can now be categorized into clinicopathologic subgroups on the basis of their underlying molecular genetic defects. It is hoped that enhanced specificity of diagnostic classification will result in more effective application of targeted agents and the ability to create individualized treatment strategies. This review describes the current treatment standards for induction, consolidation, and stem cell transplantation; special considerations in the management of older AML patients; novel agents; emerging data on the detection and management of minimal residual disease (MRD); and strategies to improve the design and implementation of AML clinical trials.

Age ≥ 60 years has consistently been identified as an independent adverse prognostic factor in AML, and there are very few long-term survivors in this age group.5 Poor outcomes in elderly AML patients have been attributed to both host- and disease-related factors, including medical comorbidities, physical frailty, increased incidence of antecedent myelodysplastic syndrome and myeloproliferative disorders, and higher frequency of adverse cytogenetics.28 Older patients with multiple poor-risk factors have a high probability of early death and little chance of long-term disease-free survival with standard chemotherapy. In a retrospective analysis of 998 older patients treated with intensive induction at the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, multivariate analysis identified age ≥ 75 years, unfavorable karyotype, poor performance status, creatinine > 1.3 mg/dL, duration of antecedent hematologic disorder > 6 months, and treatment outside a laminar airflow room as adverse prognostic indicators.29 Patients with 3 or more of these factors had expected complete remission rates of < 20%, 8-week mortality > 50%, and 1-year survival < 10%. The Medical Research Council (MRC) identified cytogenetics, WBC count at diagnosis, age, and de novo versus secondary disease as critical factors influencing survival in > 2000 older patients with AML, but cautioned in their conclusions that less objective factors, such as clinical assessment of “fitness” for chemotherapy, may be equally important in making treatment decisions in this patient population.30 It is hoped that data from comprehensive geriatric assessments of functional status, cognition, mood, quality of life, and other measures obtained during ongoing cooperative group trials will improve our ability to predict how older patients will tolerate treatment.

Current treatment of acute myeloid leukemia.

Roboz GJ1.
Curr Opin Oncol. 2012 Nov; 24(6):711-9.

The objectives of this review are to discuss standard and investigational nontransplant treatment strategies for acute myeloid leukemia (AML), excluding acute promyelocytic leukemia.

RECENT FINDINGS: Most adults with AML die from their disease. The standard treatment paradigm for AML is remission induction chemotherapy with an anthracycline/cytarabine combination, followed by either consolidation chemotherapy or allogeneic stem cell transplantation, depending on the patient’s ability to tolerate intensive treatment and the likelihood of cure with chemotherapy alone. Although this approach has changed little in the last three decades, increased understanding of the pathogenesis of AML and improvements in molecular genomic technologies are leading to novel drug targets and the development of personalized, risk-adapted treatment strategies. Recent findings related to prognostically relevant and potentially ‘druggable’ molecular targets are reviewed.

SUMMARY: At the present time, AML remains a devastating and mostly incurable disease, but the combination of optimized chemotherapeutics and molecularly targeted agents holds significant promise for the future.

Adult Acute Myeloid Leukemia Treatment (PDQ®)

About This PDQ Summary

This summary is reviewed regularly and updated as necessary by the PDQ Adult Treatment Editorial Board, which is editorially independent of the National Cancer Institute (NCI). The summary reflects an independent review of the literature and does not represent a policy statement of NCI or the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

Board members review recently published articles each month to determine whether an article should:

  • be discussed at a meeting,
  • be cited with text, or
  • replace or update an existing article that is already cited.

Treatment Option Overview for AML

Successful treatment of acute myeloid leukemia (AML) requires the control of bone marrow and systemic disease and specific treatment of central nervous system (CNS) disease, if present. The cornerstone of this strategy includes systemically administered combination chemotherapy. Because only 5% of patients with AML develop CNS disease, prophylactic treatment is not indicated.[13]

Treatment is divided into two phases: remission induction (to attain remission) and postremission (to maintain remission). Maintenance therapy for AML was previously administered for several years but is not included in most current treatment clinical trials in the United States, other than for acute promyelocytic leukemia. (Refer to the Adult Acute Myeloid Leukemia in Remission section of this summary for more information.) Other studies have used more intensive postremission therapy administered for a shorter duration of time after which treatment is discontinued.[4] Postremission therapy appears to be effective when given immediately after remission is achieved.[4]

Since myelosuppression is an anticipated consequence of both the leukemia and its treatment with chemotherapy, patients must be closely monitored during therapy. Facilities must be available for hematologic support with multiple blood fractions including platelet transfusions and for the treatment of related infectious complications.[5] Randomized trials have shown similar outcomes for patients who received prophylactic platelet transfusions at a level of 10,000/mm3 rather than 20,000/mm3.[6] The incidence of platelet alloimmunization was similar among groups randomly assigned to receive pooled platelet concentrates from random donors; filtered, pooled platelet concentrates from random donors; ultraviolet B-irradiated, pooled platelet concentrates from random donors; or filtered platelets obtained by apheresis from single random donors.[7] Colony-stimulating factors, for example, granulocyte colony–stimulating factor (G-CSF) and granulocyte-macrophage colony–stimulating factor (GM-CSF), have been studied in an effort to shorten the period of granulocytopenia associated with leukemia treatment.[8] If used, these agents are administered after completion of induction therapy. GM-CSF was shown to improve survival in a randomized trial of AML in patients aged 55 to 70 years (median survival was 10.6 months vs. 4.8 months). In this Eastern Cooperative Oncology Group (ECOG) (EST-1490) trial, patients were randomly assigned to receive GM-CSF or placebo following demonstration of leukemic clearance of the bone marrow;[9] however, GM-CSF did not show benefit in a separate similar randomized trial in patients older than 60 years.[10] In the latter study, clearance of the marrow was not required before initiating cytokine therapy. In a Southwest Oncology Group (NCT00023777) randomized trial of G-CSF given following induction therapy to patients older than 65 years, complete response was higher in patients who received G-CSF because of a decreased incidence of primary leukemic resistance. Growth factor administration did not impact on mortality or on survival.[11,12] Because the majority of randomized clinical trials have not shown an impact of growth factors on survival, their use is not routinely recommended in the remission induction setting.

The administration of GM-CSF or other myeloid growth factors before and during induction therapy, to augment the effects of cytotoxic therapy through the recruitment of leukemic blasts into cell cycle (growth factor priming), has been an area of active clinical research. Evidence from randomized studies of GM-CSF priming have come to opposite conclusions. A randomized study of GM-CSF priming during conventional induction and postremission therapy showed no difference in outcomes between patients who received GM-CSF and those who did not receive growth factor priming.[13,14][Level of evidence: 1iiA] In contrast, a similar randomized placebo-controlled study of GM-CSF priming in patients with AML aged 55 to 75 years showed improved disease-free survival (DFS) in the group receiving GM-CSF (median DFS for patients who achieved complete remission was 23 months vs. 11 months; 2-year DFS was 48% vs. 21%), with a trend towards improvement in overall survival (2-year survival was 39% vs. 27%, = .082) for patients aged 55 to 64 years.[15][Level of evidence: 1iiDii]


  1. Kebriaei P, Champlin R, deLima M, et al.: Management of acute leukemias. In: DeVita VT Jr, Lawrence TS, Rosenberg SA: Cancer: Principles and Practice of Oncology. 9th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, 2011, pp 1928-54.
  2. Wiernik PH: Diagnosis and treatment of acute nonlymphocytic leukemia. In: Wiernik PH, Canellos GP, Dutcher JP, et al., eds.: Neoplastic Diseases of the Blood. 3rd ed. New York, NY: Churchill Livingstone, 1996, pp 283-302.
  3. Morrison FS, Kopecky KJ, Head DR, et al.: Late intensification with POMP chemotherapy prolongs survival in acute myelogenous leukemia–results of a Southwest Oncology Group study of rubidazone versus adriamycin for remission induction, prophylactic intrathecal therapy, late intensification, and levamisole maintenance. Leukemia 6 (7): 708-14, 1992. [PUBMED Abstract]
  4. Cassileth PA, Lynch E, Hines JD, et al.: Varying intensity of postremission therapy in acute myeloid leukemia. Blood 79 (8): 1924-30, 1992. [PUBMED Abstract]
  5. Supportive Care. In: Wiernik PH, Canellos GP, Dutcher JP, et al., eds.: Neoplastic Diseases of the Blood. 3rd ed. New York, NY: Churchill Livingstone, 1996, pp 779-967.
  6. Rebulla P, Finazzi G, Marangoni F, et al.: The threshold for prophylactic platelet transfusions in adults with acute myeloid leukemia. Gruppo Italiano Malattie Ematologiche Maligne dell’Adulto. N Engl J Med 337 (26): 1870-5, 1997. [PUBMED Abstract]
  7. Leukocyte reduction and ultraviolet B irradiation of platelets to prevent alloimmunization and refractoriness to platelet transfusions. The Trial to Reduce Alloimmunization to Platelets Study Group. N Engl J Med 337 (26): 1861-9, 1997. [PUBMED Abstract]
  8. Geller RB: Use of cytokines in the treatment of acute myelocytic leukemia: a critical review. J Clin Oncol 14 (4): 1371-82, 1996. [PUBMED Abstract]
  9. Rowe JM, Andersen JW, Mazza JJ, et al.: A randomized placebo-controlled phase III study of granulocyte-macrophage colony-stimulating factor in adult patients (> 55 to 70 years of age) with acute myelogenous leukemia: a study of the Eastern Cooperative Oncology Group (E1490). Blood 86 (2): 457-62, 1995. [PUBMED Abstract]
  10. Stone RM, Berg DT, George SL, et al.: Granulocyte-macrophage colony-stimulating factor after initial chemotherapy for elderly patients with primary acute myelogenous leukemia. Cancer and Leukemia Group B. N Engl J Med 332 (25): 1671-7, 1995. [PUBMED Abstract]
  11. Dombret H, Chastang C, Fenaux P, et al.: A controlled study of recombinant human granulocyte colony-stimulating factor in elderly patients after treatment for acute myelogenous leukemia. AML Cooperative Study Group. N Engl J Med 332 (25): 1678-83, 1995. [PUBMED Abstract]
  12. Godwin JE, Kopecky KJ, Head DR, et al.: A double-blind placebo-controlled trial of granulocyte colony-stimulating factor in elderly patients with previously untreated acute myeloid leukemia: a Southwest oncology group study (9031). Blood 91 (10): 3607-15, 1998. [PUBMED Abstract]
  13. Buchner T, Hiddemann W, Wormann B, et al.: GM-CSF multiple course priming and long-term administration in newly diagnosed AML: hematologic and therapeutic effects. [Abstract] Blood 84 (10 Suppl 1): A-95, 27a, 1994.
  14. Löwenberg B, Boogaerts MA, Daenen SM, et al.: Value of different modalities of granulocyte-macrophage colony-stimulating factor applied during or after induction therapy of acute myeloid leukemia. J Clin Oncol 15 (12): 3496-506, 1997. [PUBMED Abstract]
  15. Witz F, Sadoun A, Perrin MC, et al.: A placebo-controlled study of recombinant human granulocyte-macrophage colony-stimulating factor administered during and after induction treatment for de novo acute myelogenous leukemia in elderly patients. Groupe Ouest Est Leucémies Aiguës Myéloblastiques (GOELAM). Blood 91 (8): 2722-30, 1998. [PUBMED Abstract] Treatment for CML

Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia Treatment (PDQ®)

Treatment Option Overview

Key Points for This Section

There are different types of treatment for patients with chronic myelogenous leukemia.

Six types of standard treatment are used:

  1. Targeted therapy
  2. Chemotherapy
  3. Biologic therapy
  4. High-dose chemotherapy with stem cell transplant
  5. Donor lymphocyte infusion (DLI)
  6. Surgery

New types of treatment are being tested in clinical trials.

Patients may want to think about taking part in a clinical trial.

Patients can enter clinical trials before, during, or after starting their cancer treatment.

Follow-up tests may be needed.

There are different types of treatment for patients with chronic myelogenous leukemia.

Different types of treatment are available for patients with chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML). Some treatments are standard (the currently used treatment), and some are being tested in clinical trials. A treatment clinical trial is a research study meant to help improve current treatments or obtain information about new treatments for patients with cancer. When clinical trials show that a new treatment is better than the standard treatment, the new treatment may become the standard treatment. Patients may want to think about taking part in a clinical trial. Some clinical trials are open only to patients who have not started treatment.

Six types of standard treatment are used:

Targeted therapy

Targeted therapy is a type of treatment that uses drugs or other substances to identify and attack specific cancer cells without harming normal cells. Tyrosine kinase inhibitors are targeted therapy drugs used to treat chronic myelogenous leukemia.

Imatinib mesylate, nilotinib, dasatinib, and ponatinib are tyrosine kinase inhibitors that are used to treat CML.

See Drugs Approved for Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia for more information.


Chemotherapy is a cancer treatment that uses drugs to stop the growth of cancer cells, either by killing the cells or by stopping them from dividing. When chemotherapy is taken by mouth or injected into a vein or muscle, the drugs enter the bloodstream and can reach cancer cells throughout the body (systemic chemotherapy). When chemotherapy is placed directly into the cerebrospinal fluid, an organ, or a body cavity such as the abdomen, the drugs mainly affect cancer cells in those areas (regional chemotherapy). The way the chemotherapy is given depends on the type and stage of the cancer being treated.

See Drugs Approved for Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia for more information.

Biologic therapy

Biologic therapy is a treatment that uses the patient’s immune system to fight cancer. Substances made by the body or made in a laboratory are used to boost, direct, or restore the body’s natural defenses against cancer. This type of cancer treatment is also called biotherapy or immunotherapy.

See Drugs Approved for Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia for more information.

High-dose chemotherapy with stem cell transplant

High-dose chemotherapy with stem cell transplant is a method of giving high doses of chemotherapy and replacing blood-forming cells destroyed by the cancer treatment. Stem cells (immature blood cells) are removed from the blood or bone marrow of the patient or a donor and are frozen and stored. After the chemotherapy is completed, the stored stem cells are thawed and given back to the patient through an infusion. These reinfused stem cells grow into (and restore) the body’s blood cells.

See Drugs Approved for Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia for more information.

Donor lymphocyte infusion (DLI)

Donor lymphocyte infusion (DLI) is a cancer treatment that may be used after stem cell transplant.Lymphocytes (a type of white blood cell) from the stem cell transplant donor are removed from the donor’s blood and may be frozen for storage. The donor’s lymphocytes are thawed if they were frozen and then given to the patient through one or more infusions. The lymphocytes see the patient’s cancer cells as not belonging to the body and attack them.



What`s new in chronic myeloid leukemia research and treatment?

Combining the targeted drugs with other treatments

Imatinib and other drugs that target the BCR-ABL protein have proven to be very effective, but by themselves these drugs don’t help everyone. Studies are now in progress to see if combining these drugs with other treatments, such as chemotherapy, interferon, or cancer vaccines (see below) might be better than either one alone. One study showed that giving interferon with imatinib worked better than giving imatinib alone. The 2 drugs together had more side effects, though. It is also not clear if this combination is better than treatment with other tyrosine kinase inhibitors (TKIs), such as dasatinib and nilotinib. A study going on now is looking at combing interferon with nilotinib.

Other studies are looking at combining other drugs, such as cyclosporine or hydroxychloroquine, with a TKI.

New drugs for CML

Because researchers now know the main cause of CML (the BCR-ABL gene and its protein), they have been able to develop many new drugs that might work against it.

In some cases, CML cells develop a change in the BCR-ABL oncogene known as a T315I mutation, which makes them resistant to many of the current targeted therapies (imatinib, dasatinib, and nilotinib). Ponatinib is the only TKI that can work against T315I mutant cells. More drugs aimed at this mutation are now being tested.

Other drugs called farnesyl transferase inhibitors, such as lonafarnib and tipifarnib, seem to have some activity against CML and patients may respond when these drugs are combined with imatinib. These drugs are being studied further.

Other drugs being studied in CML include the histone deacetylase inhibitor panobinostat and the proteasome inhibitor bortezomib (Velcade).

Several vaccines are now being studied for use against CML. Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia

Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia Treatment (PDQ®)

General Information About Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia

Key Points for This Section

  1. Chronic lymphocytic leukemia is a type of cancer in which the bone marrow makes too many lymphocytes (a type of white blood cell).
  2. Leukemia may affect red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets.
  3. Older age can affect the risk of developing chronic lymphocytic leukemia.
  4. Signs and symptoms of chronic lymphocytic leukemia include swollen lymph nodes and tiredness.
  5. Tests that examine the blood, bone marrow, and lymph nodes are used to detect (find) and diagnose chronic lymphocytic leukemia.
  6. Certain factors affect treatment options and prognosis (chance of recovery).
  7. Chronic lymphocytic leukemia is a type of cancer in which the bone marrow makes too many lymphocytes (a type of white blood cell).

Chronic lymphocytic leukemia (also called CLL) is a blood and bone marrow disease that usually gets worse slowly. CLL is one of the most common types of leukemia in adults. It often occurs during or after middle age; it rarely occurs in children.

Anatomy of the bone; drawing shows spongy bone, red marrow, and yellow marrow. A cross section of the bone shows compact bone and blood vessels in the bone marrow. Also shown are red blood cells, white blood cells, platelets, and a blood stem cell.

Anatomy of the bone. The bone is made up of compact bone, spongy bone, and bone marrow. Compact bone makes up the outer layer of the bone. Spongy bone is found mostly at the ends of bones and contains red marrow. Bone marrow is found in the center of most bones and has many blood vessels. There are two types of bone marrow: red and yellow. Red marrow contains blood stem cells that can become red blood cells, white blood cells, or platelets. Yellow marrow is made mostly of fat.

Leukemia may affect red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets.

Normally, the body makes blood stem cells (immature cells) that become mature blood cells over time. A blood stem cell may become a myeloid stem cell or a lymphoid stem cell.

A myeloid stem cell becomes one of three types of mature blood cells:

  1. Red blood cells that carry oxygen and other substances to all tissues of the body.
  2. White blood cells that fight infection and disease.
  3. Platelets that form blood clots to stop bleeding.

A lymphoid stem cell becomes a lymphoblast cell and then one of three types of lymphocytes (white blood cells):

  1. B lymphocytes that make antibodies to help fight infection.
  2. T lymphocytes that help B lymphocytes make antibodies to fight infection.
  3. Natural killer cells that attack cancer cells and viruses.
Blood cell development. CDR526538-750

Blood cell development. CDR526538-750

Blood cell development; drawing shows the steps a blood stem cell goes through to become a red blood cell, platelet, or white blood cell. A myeloid stem cell becomes a red blood cell, a platelet, or a myeloblast, which then becomes a granulocyte (the types of granulocytes are eosinophils, basophils, and neutrophils). A lymphoid stem cell becomes a lymphoblast and then becomes a B-lymphocyte, T-lymphocyte, or natural killer cell.

Blood cell development. A blood stem cell goes through several steps to become a red blood cell, platelet, or white blood cell.

In CLL, too many blood stem cells become abnormal lymphocytes and do not become healthy white blood cells. The abnormal lymphocytes may also be called leukemia cells. The lymphocytes are not able to fight infection very well. Also, as the number of lymphocytes increases in the blood and bone marrow, there is less room for healthy white blood cells, red blood cells, and platelets. This may cause infection, anemia, and easy bleeding.

This summary is about chronic lymphocytic leukemia. See the following PDQ summaries for more information about leukemia:

  • Adult Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia Treatment.
  • Childhood Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia Treatment.
  • Adult Acute Myeloid Leukemia Treatment.
  • Childhood Acute Myeloid Leukemia/Other Myeloid Malignancies Treatment.
  • Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia Treatment.
  • Hairy Cell Leukemia Treatment

Older age can affect the risk of developing chronic lymphocytic leukemia.

Anything that increases your risk of getting a disease is called a risk factor. Having a risk factor does not mean that you will get cancer; not having risk factors doesn’t mean that you will not get cancer. Talk with your doctor if you think you may be at risk. Risk factors for CLL include the following:

  • Being middle-aged or older, male, or white.
  • A family history of CLL or cancer of the lymph system.
  • Having relatives who are Russian Jews or Eastern European Jews.

Signs and symptoms of chronic lymphocytic leukemia include swollen lymph nodes and tiredness.

Usually CLL does not cause any signs or symptoms and is found during a routine blood test. Signs and symptoms may be caused by CLL or by other conditions. Check with your doctor if you have any of the following:

  • Painless swelling of the lymph nodes in the neck, underarm, stomach, or groin.
  • Feeling very tired.
  • Pain or fullness below the ribs.
  • Fever and infection.
  • Weight loss for no known reason.

Tests that examine the blood, bone marrow, and lymph nodes are used to detect (find) and diagnose chronic lymphocytic leukemia.

The following tests and procedures may be used:

Physical exam and history : An exam of the body to check general signs of health, including checking for signs of disease, such as lumps or anything else that seems unusual. A history of the patient’s health habits and past illnesses and treatments will also be taken.

  • Complete blood count (CBC) with differential : A procedure in which a sample of blood is drawn and checked for the following:
  • The number of red blood cells and platelets.
  • The number and type of white blood cells.
  • The amount of hemoglobin (the protein that carries oxygen) in the red blood cells.
  • The portion of the blood sample made up of red blood cells.

Results from the Phase 3 Resonate™ Trial

Significantly improved progression free survival (PFS) vs ofatumumab in patients with previously treated CLL

  • Patients taking IMBRUVICA® had a 78% statistically significant reduction in the risk of disease progression or death compared with patients who received ofatumumab1
  • In patients with previously treated del 17p CLL, median PFS was not yet reached with IMBRUVICA® vs 5.8 months with ofatumumab (HR 0.25; 95% CI: 0.14, 0.45)1

Significantly prolonged overall survival (OS) with IMBRUVICA® vs ofatumumab in patients with previously treated CLL

  • In patients with previously treated CLL, those taking IMBRUVICA® had a 57% statistically significant reduction in the risk of death compared with those who received ofatumumab (HR 0.43; 95% CI: 0.24, 0.79; P<0.05)1

Typical treatment of chronic lymphocytic leukemia

Treatment options for chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) vary greatly, depending on the person’s age, the disease risk group, and the reason for treating (for example, which symptoms it is causing). Many people live a long time with CLL, but in general it is very difficult to cure, and early treatment hasn’t been shown to help people live longer. Because of this and because treatment can cause side effects, doctors often advise waiting until the disease is progressing or bothersome symptoms appear, before starting treatment.

If treatment is needed, factors that should be taken into account include the patient’s age, general health, and prognostic factors such as the presence of chromosome 17 or chromosome 11 deletions or high levels of ZAP-70 and CD38.

Initial treatment

Patients who might not be able to tolerate the side effects of strong chemotherapy (chemo), are often treated with chlorambucil alone or with a monoclonal antibody targeting CD20 like rituximab (Rituxan) or obinutuzumab (Gazyva). Other options include rituximab alone or a corticosteroid like prednisione.

In stronger and healthier patients, there are many options for treatment. Commonly used treatments include:

  • FCR: fludarabine (Fludara), cyclophosphamide (Cytoxan), and rituximab
  • Bendamustine (sometimes with rituximab)
  • FR: fludarabine and rituximab
  • CVP: cyclophosphamide, vincristine, and prednisone (sometimes with rituximab)
  • CHOP: cyclophosphamide, doxorubicin, vincristine (Oncovin), and prednisone
  • Chlorambucil combined with prednisone, rituximab, obinutuzumab, or ofatumumab
  • PCR: pentostatin (Nipent), cyclophosphamide, and rituximab
  • Alemtuzumab (Campath)
  • Fludarabine (alone)

Other drugs or combinations of drugs may also be also used.

If the only problem is an enlarged spleen or swollen lymph nodes in one region of the body, localized treatment with low-dose radiation therapy may be used. Splenectomy (surgery to remove the spleen) is another option if the enlarged spleen is causing symptoms.

Sometimes very high numbers of leukemia cells in the blood cause problems with normal circulation. This is calledleukostasis. Chemo may not lower the number of cells until a few days after the first dose, so before the chemo is given, some of the cells may be removed from the blood with a procedure called leukapheresis. This treatment lowers blood counts right away. The effect lasts only for a short time, but it may help until the chemo has a chance to work. Leukapheresis is also sometimes used before chemo if there are very high numbers of leukemia cells (even when they aren’t causing problems) to prevent tumor lysis syndrome (this was discussed in the chemotherapy section).

Some people who have very high-risk disease (based on prognostic factors) may be referred for possible stem cell transplant (SCT) early in treatment.

Second-line treatment of CLL

If the initial treatment is no longer working or the disease comes back, another type of treatment may help. If the initial response to the treatment lasted a long time (usually at least a few years), the same treatment can often be used again. If the initial response wasn’t long-lasting, using the same treatment again isn’t as likely to be helpful. The options will depend on what the first-line treatment was and how well it worked, as well as the person’s health.

Many of the drugs and combinations listed above may be options as second-line treatments. For many people who have already had fludarabine, alemtuzumab seems to be helpful as second-line treatment, but it carries an increased risk of infections. Other purine analog drugs, such as pentostatin or cladribine (2-CdA), may also be tried. Newer drugs such as ofatumumab, ibrutinib (Imbruvica), and idelalisib (Zydelig) may be other options.

If the leukemia responds, stem cell transplant may be an option for some patients.

Some people may have a good response to first-line treatment (such as fludarabine) but may still have some evidence of a small number of leukemia cells in the blood, bone marrow, or lymph nodes. This is known as minimal residual disease. CLL can’t be cured, so doctors aren’t sure if further treatment right away will be helpful. Some small studies have shown that alemtuzumab can sometimes help get rid of these remaining cells, but it’s not yet clear if this improves survival.

Treating complications of CLL

One of the most serious complications of CLL is a change (transformation) of the leukemia to a high-grade or aggressive type of non-Hodgkin lymphoma called diffuse large cell lymphoma. This happens in about 5% of CLL cases, and is known as Richter syndrome. Treatment is often the same as it would be for lymphoma (see our document called Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma for more information), and may include stem cell transplant, as these cases are often hard to treat.

Less often, CLL may transform to prolymphocytic leukemia. As with Richter syndrome, these cases can be hard to treat. Some studies have suggested that certain drugs such as cladribine (2-CdA) and alemtuzumab may be helpful.

In rare cases, patients with CLL may have their leukemia transform into acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL). If this happens, treatment is likely to be similar to that used for patients with ALL (see our document called Leukemia: Acute Lymphocytic).

Acute myeloid leukemia (AML) is another rare complication in patients who have been treated for CLL. Drugs such as chlorambucil and cyclophosphamide can damage the DNA of blood-forming cells. These damaged cells may go on to become cancerous, leading to AML, which is very aggressive and often hard to treat (see our document calledLeukemia: Acute Myeloid).

CLL can cause problems with low blood counts and infections. Treatment of these problems were discussed in the section “Supportive care in chronic lymphocytic leukemia.”  Lymphoma treatment


The most widely used therapies are combinations of chemotherapy and radiation therapy.

  • Biological therapy, which targets key features of the lymphoma cells, is used in many cases nowadays.

The goal of medical therapy in lymphoma is complete remission. This means that all signs of the disease have disappeared after treatment. Remission is not the same as cure. In remission, one may still have lymphoma cells in the body, but they are undetectable and cause no symptoms.

  • When in remission, the lymphoma may come back. This is called recurrence.
  • The duration of remission depends on the type, stage, and grade of the lymphoma. A remission may last a few months, a few years, or may continue throughout one’s life.
  • Remission that lasts a long time is called durable remission, and this is the goal of therapy.
  • The duration of remission is a good indicator of the aggressiveness of the lymphoma and of the prognosis. A longer remission generally indicates a better prognosis.

Remission can also be partial. This means that the tumor shrinks after treatment to less than half its size before treatment.

The following terms are used to describe the lymphoma’s response to treatment:

  • Improvement: The lymphoma shrinks but is still greater than half its original size.
  • Stable disease: The lymphoma stays the same.
  • Progression: The lymphoma worsens during treatment.
  • Refractory disease: The lymphoma is resistant to treatment.

The following terms to refer to therapy:

  • Induction therapy is designed to induce a remission.
  • If this treatment does not induce a complete remission, new or different therapy will be initiated. This is usually referred to as salvage therapy.
  • Once in remission, one may be given yet another treatment to prevent recurrence. This is called maintenance therapy.


Many different types of chemotherapy may be used for Hodgkin lymphoma. The most commonly used combination of drugs in the United States is called ABVD. Another combination of drugs, known as BEACOPP, is now widely used in Europe and is being used more often in the United States. There are other combinations that are less commonly used and not listed here. The drugs that make up these two more common combinations of chemotherapy are listed below.

ABVD: Doxorubicin (Adriamycin), bleomycin (Blenoxane), vinblastine (Velban, Velsar), and dacarbazine (DTIC-Dome). ABVD chemotherapy is usually given every two weeks for two to eight months.

BEACOPP: Bleomycin, etoposide (Toposar, VePesid), doxorubicin, cyclophosphamide (Cytoxan, Neosar), vincristine (Vincasar PFS, Oncovin), procarbazine (Matulane), and prednisone (multiple brand names). There are several different treatment schedules, but different drugs are usually given every two weeks.

The type of chemotherapy, number of cycles of chemotherapy, and the additional use of radiation therapy are based on the stage of the Hodgkin lymphoma and the type and number of prognostic factors.

Adult Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma Treatment (PDQ®)

Key Points for This Section

Adult non-Hodgkin Lymphoma is a disease in which malignant (cancer) cells form in the lymph system.

Because lymph tissue is found throughout the body, adult non-Hodgkin lymphoma can begin in almost any part of the body. Cancer can spread to the liver and many other organs and tissues.

Non-Hodgkin lymphoma in pregnant women is the same as the disease in nonpregnant women of childbearing age. However, treatment is different for pregnant women. This summary includes information on the treatment of non-Hodgkin lymphoma during pregnancy

Non-Hodgkin lymphoma can occur in both adults and children. Treatment for children, however, is different than treatment for adults. (See the PDQ summary on Childhood Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma Treatment for more information.)

There are many different types of lymphoma.

Lymphomas are divided into two general types: Hodgkin lymphoma and non-Hodgkin lymphoma. This summary is about the treatment of adult non-Hodgkin lymphoma. For information about other types of lymphoma, see the following PDQ summaries:

Age, gender, and a weakened immune system can affect the risk of adult non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

If cancer is found, the following tests may be done to study the cancer cells:

  • Immunohistochemistry : A test that uses antibodies to check for certain antigens in a sample of tissue. The antibody is usually linked to a radioactive substance or a dye that causes the tissue to light up under a microscope. This type of test may be used to tell the difference between different types of cancer.
  • Cytogenetic analysis : A laboratory test in which cells in a sample of tissue are viewed under a microscope to look for certain changes in the chromosomes.
  • Immunophenotyping : A process used to identify cells, based on the types of antigens ormarkers on the surface of the cell. This process is used to diagnose specific types of leukemia and lymphoma by comparing the cancer cells to normal cells of the immune system.

Certain factors affect prognosis (chance of recovery) and treatment options.

The prognosis (chance of recovery) and treatment options depend on the following:

  • The stage of the cancer.
  • The type of non-Hodgkin lymphoma.
  • The amount of lactate dehydrogenase (LDH) in the blood.
  • The amount of beta-2-microglobulin in the blood (for Waldenström macroglobulinemia).
  • The patient’s age and general health.
  • Whether the lymphoma has just been diagnosed or has recurred (come back).

Stages of adult non-Hodgkin lymphoma may include E and S.

Adult non-Hodgkin lymphoma may be described as follows:

E: “E” stands for extranodal and means the cancer is found in an area or organ other than the lymph nodes or has spread to tissues beyond, but near, the major lymphatic areas.

S: “S” stands for spleen and means the cancer is found in the spleen.

Stage I adult non-Hodgkin lymphoma is divided into stage I and stage IE.

  • Stage I: Cancer is found in one lymphatic area (lymph node group, tonsils and nearby tissue, thymus, or spleen).
  • Stage IE: Cancer is found in one organ or area outside the lymph nodes.

Stage II adult non-Hodgkin lymphoma is divided into stage II and stage IIE.

  • Stage II: Cancer is found in two or more lymph node groups either above or below the diaphragm (the thin muscle below the lungs that helps breathing and separates the chest from the abdomen).
  • Stage IIE: Cancer is found in one or more lymph node groups either above or below the diaphragm. Cancer is also found outside the lymph nodes in one organ or area on the same side of the diaphragm as the affected lymph nodes.

Stage III adult non-Hodgkin lymphoma is divided into stage III, stage IIIE, stage IIIS, and stage IIIE+S.

  • Stage III: Cancer is found in lymph node groups above and below the diaphragm (the thin muscle below the lungs that helps breathing and separates the chest from the abdomen).
  • Stage IIIE: Cancer is found in lymph node groups above and below the diaphragm and outside the lymph nodes in a nearby organ or area.
  • Stage IIIS: Cancer is found in lymph node groups above and below the diaphragm, and in the spleen.
  • Stage IIIE+S: Cancer is found in lymph node groups above and below the diaphragm, outside the lymph nodes in a nearby organ or area, and in the spleen.

In stage IV adult non-Hodgkin lymphoma, the cancer:

  • is found throughout one or more organs that are not part of a lymphatic area (lymph node group, tonsils and nearby tissue, thymus, or spleen), and may be in lymph nodes near those organs; or
  • is found in one organ that is not part of a lymphatic area and has spread to organs or lymph nodes far away from that organ; or
  • is found in the liver, bone marrow, cerebrospinal fluid (CSF), or lungs (other than cancer that has spread to the lungs from nearby areas).

Adult non-Hodgkin lymphomas are also described based on how fast they grow and where the affected lymph nodes are in the body.  Indolent & aggressive.

The treatment plan depends mainly on the following:

  • The type of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma
  • Its stage (where the lymphoma is found)
  • How quickly the cancer is growing
  • The patient’s age
  • Whether the patient has other health problems
  • If there are symptoms present such as fever and night sweats (see above)

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Diet and Exercise

Writer and Curator: Larry H. Bernstein, MD, FCAP 



In the last several decades there has been a transformation in the diet of Americans, and much debate about obesity, type 2 diabetes mellitus, hyperlipidemia, and the transformation of medical practice to a greater emphasis on preventive medicine. This occurs at a time that the Western countries are experiencing a large portion of the obesity epidemic, which actually diverts attention from a larger share of malnutrition in parts of Africa, Asia, and to a greater extent in India. This does not mean that obesity or malnutrition is exclusively in any parts of the world. But there is a factor at play that involves social factors, poverty, education, cognition, anxiety, and eating behaviors, food preferences and food balance, and activities of daily living. The epidemic of obesity also involves the development of serious long term health problems, such as, type 2 diabetes mellitus, sarcopenia, fracture risk, pulmonary disease, sleep apnea in particular, and cardiovascular and stroke risk. Nevertheless, this generation of Western society is also experiencing a longer life span than its predecessors. In this article I shall explore the published work on diet and exercise.


‘‘Go4Life’’ exercise counseling, accelerometer feedback, and activity levels in older people

Warren G. Thompson, CL Kuhle, GA Koepp, SK McCrady-Spitzer, JA Levine
Archives of Gerontology and Geriatrics 58 (2014) 314–319

Older people are more sedentary than other age groups. We sought to determine if providing an accelerometer with feedback about activity and counseling older subjects using Go4Life educational material would increase activity levels. Participants were recruited from independent living areas within assisted living facilities and the general public in the Rochester, MN area. 49 persons aged 65–95(79.5 + 7.0 years) who were ambulatory but sedentary and overweight participated in this randomized controlled crossover trial for one year. After a baseline period of 2 weeks, group 1 received an accelerometer and counseling using Go4Life educational material ( for 24 weeks and accelerometer alone for the next 24 weeks. Group 2 had no intervention for the first 24 weeks and then received an accelerometer and Go4Life based counseling for 24 weeks. There were no significant baseline differences between the two groups. The intervention was not associated with a significant change inactivity, body weight, % body fat, or blood parameters (p > 0.05). Older (80–93) subjects were less active than younger (65–79) subjects (p = 0.003). Over the course of the 48 week study, an increase in activity level was associated with a decline in % body fat (p = 0.008). Increasing activity levels benefits older patients. However, providing an accelerometer and a Go4Life based exercise counseling program did not result in a 15% improvement in activity levels in this elderly population. Alternate approaches to exercise counseling may be needed in elderly people of this age range.

It is generally recommended that older adults be moderately or vigorously active for 150 min each week. A systematic review demonstrated that only 20–60% of older people are achieving this goal. These studies determined adherence to physical activity recommendations by questionnaire. Using NHANES data, it has been demonstrated that older people meet activity recommendations 62% of the time using a self-report questionnaire compared to 9.6% of the time when measured by accelerometry. Thus, objective measures suggest that older people are falling even more short of the goal than previously thought. Most studies have measured moderate and vigorous activity. However, light activity or NEAT (non-exercise activity thermogenesis) also has an important effect on health. For example, increased energy expenditure was associated with lower mortality in community-dwelling older adults. More than half of the extra energy expenditure in the high energy expenditure group came from non-exercise (light) activity. In addition to reduced total mortality, increased light and moderate activity has been associated with better cognitive function, reduced fracture rate (Gregg et al., 1998), less cardiovascular disease, and weight loss in older people. A meta-analysis of middle-aged and older adults has demonstrated greater all-cause mortality with increased sitting time. Thus, any strategy which can increase activity (whether light or more vigorous) has the potential to save lives and improve quality of life for older adults. A variety of devices have been used to measure physical activity.

A tri-axial accelerometer measures movement in three dimensions. Studies comparing tri-axial accelerometers with uniaxial accelerometers and pedometers demonstrate that only certain tri-axial accelerometers provide a reliable assessment of energy expenditure. This is usually due to failure to detect light activity. Since light activity accounts for a substantial portion of older people’s energy expenditure, measuring activity with a questionnaire or measuring steps with a pedometer do not provide an accurate reflection of activity in older people.

A recent review concluded that there is only weak evidence that physical activity can be improved. Since increasing both light and moderate activity benefit older people, studies demonstrating that physical activity can be improved are urgently needed. Since accelerometry is the best way to accurately assess light activity, we performed a study to determine if an activity counseling program and using an accelerometer which gives feedback on physical activity, can result in an increase in light and moderate activity in older people. We also sought to determine whether counseling and accelerometer feedback would result in weight loss, change in % body fat, glucose, hemoglobin A1c, insulin, and fasting lipid profile.

The main results of the study are both the experimental and control group lost weight (about 1 kg) at 6months (p = 0.04 and 0.02, respectively). The experimental group was less active at 6 months but not significantly while the control group was significantly less active at 6 months (p = 0.006) than at baseline. The experimental group had a modest decline in cholesterol (p = 0.03) and an improvement in Get Up & go time (p = 0.03) while the control group had a slight improvement in HgbA1c (p = 0.01). However, the main finding of the study was that there were no differences between the two groups on any of these variables. Thus, providing this group of older participants with an accelerometer and Go4Life based counseling resulted in no increase in physical activity, weight loss or change in glucose, lipids, blood pressure, or body fat. There were no differences within either group or between groups from 6 to 12 months on any of the variables (data not shown). While age was correlated with baseline activity, it did not affect activity change indicating that younger participants did not respond to the program better than older participants. Performance on the Get Up and Go test and season of the year did not influence the change in activity. There were no differences in physical activity levels at 3 or 9 months.

There was a significant correlation (r = -0.38, p = 0.006) between change in activity and change in body fat over the course of the study. Those subjects (whether in the experimental or control group) who increased their activity over the course of the year were likely to have a decline in % body fat over the year while those whose activity declined were likely to have increased %body fat. There was no correlation between change in activity and any of the other parameters including weight and waist circumference (data not shown).

Older adults are the fastest growing segment of the population in the US, but few meet the minimum recommended 30 min of moderate activity on 5 days or more per week (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2002). Our study found that within the geriatric population, activity declines as people age. We saw a 2.4% decline per year cross-sectionally. This finding agrees with a recent cohort study (Bachman et al., 2014). In that study, the annual decline accelerated with increasing age. Thus, there is a need to increase activity particularly in the oldest age groups. The United States Preventive Services Task Force concluded that the evidence that counseling improves physical activity is weak (Moyer and US Preventive Services Task Force, 2012). The American Heart Association reached similar conclusions (Artinian et al., 2010). Thus, new ways of counseling older patients to counter the natural decline in activity with age are urgently needed.

Applying health behavior theory to multiple behavior change: Considerations and approaches

Seth M. Noar, Melissa Chabot, Rick S. Zimmerman
Preventive Medicine 46 (2008) 275–280

Background.There has been a dearth of theorizing in the area of multiple behavior change. The purpose of the current article was to examine how health behavior theory might be applied to the growing research terrain of multiple behavior change. Methods. Three approaches to applying health behavior theory to multiple behavior change are advanced, including searching the literature for potential examples of such applications. Results. These three approaches to multiple behavior change include

(1) a behavior change principles approach;

(2) a global health/behavioral category approach, and

(3) a multiple behavioral approach.

Each approach is discussed and explicated and examples from this emerging literature are provided. Conclusions. Further study in this area has the potential to broaden our understanding of multiple behaviors and multiple behavior change. Implications for additional theory-testing and application of theory to interventions are discussed.

Many of the leading causes of death in the United States are behavior-related and thus preventable. While a number of health behaviors are a concern individually, increasingly the impact of multiple behavioral risks is being appreciated. As newer initiatives funded by the National Institutes of Health and Robert Wood Johnson Foundation begin to stimulate research in this important area, a critical question emerges: How can we understand multiple health behavior change from a theoretical standpoint? While multiple behavior change interventions are beginning to be developed and evaluated, to date there have been few efforts to garner a theory-based understanding of the process of multiple health behavior change. Given that so little theoretical work currently exists in this area, our main purpose is to advance the conversation on how health behavior theory can help us to achieve a greater understanding of multiple behavior change. The approaches discussed have implications for both theory-testing as well as intervention design.

A critical question that must be asked, is whether there is a common set of principles of health behavior change that transcend individual health behaviors. This is an area where much data already exists, as health behavior theories have been tested across numerous health behaviors.The integration of findings from studies across diverse behavioral areas, is not what it could be. Godin and Kok (1996) reviewed studies of the TPB applied to numerous health-related behaviors. Across seven categories of health behaviors, they found TPB components to offer similar prediction of intention but inconsistent prediction of behavior.They concluded that the nature of differing health behaviors may require additional constructs to be added to the TPB, such as actual (versus perceived) behavioral control. Prochaska et al. (1994) examined decisional balance across stages of change for 12 health-related behaviors. Similar patterns were found across nearly all of these health behaviors, with the “pros” of changing generally increasing across the stages, the “cons” decreasing, and a pro/con crossover occurring in the contemplation or preparation stages of change. Prochaska et al. (1994) concluded that clear commonalties exist across these differing health behaviors which were examined in differing samples. Finally, Rosen (2000) examined change processes from the TTM across six behavioral categories, examining whether the trajectory of change processes is similar or different across stages of change in those health areas. He found that for smoking cessation, cognitive change processes were used more in earlier stages of change than behavioral processes, while for physical activity and dietary change, both categories of change processes increased together.

A second approach is the following: Rather than applying theoretical concepts to specific behaviors, such concepts might be applied at the general or global level. A general orientation toward health may not lead directly to specific health behaviors, but it may increase the chances of particular health-related attitudes, which may in turn lead to specific health behaviors. In fact, although Ajzen and Timko (1986) found general health attitudes to be poor predictors of behavior, such attitudes were significantly related to specific health attitudes and perceived behavioral control over specific behaviors. It is likely that when we consider multiple behaviors that we may discover an entire network of health attitudes and beliefs that are interrelated. In fact, studies of single behaviors essentially take those behaviors out of the multi-attitude and multi-behavioral context in which they are embedded. For instance, although attitudes toward walking may be a better predictor of walking behavior than attitudes toward physical activity, walking behavior is part of a larger “physical activity” behavioral category. While predicting that particular behavior may be best served by the specific measure, the larger category is both relevant and of interest. Thus, it may be that there are higher order constructs to be understood here.

A third approach is a multiple behavioral approach, or one which focuses on the linkages among health behaviors. It shares some similarities to the approach just described. Here the focus is more strictly on how particular  interventions were superior to comparison groups for 21 of 41 (51%) studies (3 physical activity, 7 diet, 11 weight loss/physical activity and diet). Twenty-four studies had indeterminate results, and in four studies the comparison conditions outperformed eHealth interventions. Conclusions: Published studies of eHealth interventions for physical activity and dietary behavior change are in their infancy. Results indicated mixed findings related to the effectiveness of eHealth interventions. Interventions that feature interactive technologies need to be refined and more rigorously evaluated to fully determine their potential as tools to facilitate health behavior change.


A prospective evaluation of the Transtheoretical Model of Change applied to exercise in young people 

Patrick Callaghan, Elizabeth Khalil, Ioannis Morres
Intl J Nursing Studies 47 (2010) 3–12

Objectives:To investigate the utility of the Transtheoretical Model of Change in predicting exercise in young people. Design: A prospective study: assessments were done at baseline and follow-up 6 months later. Method: Using stratified random sampling 1055 Chinese high school pupils living in Hong Kong, 533 of who were followed up at 6 months, completed measures of stage of change (SCQ), self-efficacy (SEQ), perceptions of the pros and cons of exercising (DBQ) and processes of change (PCQ). Data were analyzed using one-way ANOVA, repeated measures ANOVA and independent sample t tests.
Results:The utility of the TTM to predict exercise in this population is not strong; increases in self-efficacy and decisional balance discriminated between those remaining active at baseline and follow-up, but not in changing from an inactive (e.g.,Precontemplation or Contemplation) to an active state (e.g.,Maintenance) as one would anticipate given the staging algorithm of the TTM.
Conclusion:The TTM is a modest predictor of future stage of change for exercise in young Chinese people. Where there is evidence that TTM variables may shape movement over time, self-efficacy, pros and behavioral processes of change appear to be the strongest predictors


A retrospective study on changes in residents’ physical activities, social interactions, and neighborhood cohesion after moving to a walkable community

Xuemei Zhu,Chia-Yuan Yu, Chanam Lee, Zhipeng Lu, George Mann
Preventive Medicine 69 (2014) S93–S97

Objective. This study is to examine changes in residents’ physical activities, social interactions, andneighbor-hood cohesion after they moved to a walkable community in Austin, Texas.
Methods. Retrospective surveys (N=449) were administered in 2013–2014 to collect pre-and post-move data about the outcome variables and relevant personal, social, and physical environmental factors. Walkability of each resident’s pre-move community was measured using the Walk Score. T tests were used to examine the pre–post move differences in the outcomes in the whole sample and across subgroups with different physical activity levels, neighborhood conditions, and neighborhood preferences before the move. Results. After the move, total physical activity increased significantly in the whole sample and all subgroups except those who were previously sufficiently active; lived in communities with high walkability, social interactions, or neighborhood cohesion; or had moderate preference for walkable neighborhoods. Walking in the community increased in the whole sample and all subgroups except those who were previously sufficiently active, moved from high-walkability communities, or had little to no preference for walkable neighborhoods. Social interactions and neighborhood cohesion increased significantly after the move in the whole sample and all subgroups.
Conclusion.This study explored potential health benefits of a walkable community in promoting physically and socially active lifestyles, especially for populations at higher risk of obesity. The initial result is promising, suggesting the need for more work to further examine the relationships between health and community design using pre–post assessments.


Application of the transtheoretical model to identify psychological constructs influencing exercise behavior: A questionnaire survey

Young-Ho Kim
Intl J Nursing Studies 44 (2007) 936–944

Background: Current research on exercise behavior has largely been attempted to identify the relationship between psychological attributes and the initiation or adherence of exercise behavior based on psychological theories. A limited data are available on the psychological predictors of exercise behavior in public health. Objectives: The present study examined the theorized association of TTM of behavior change constructs by stage of change for exercise behavior. Methods: A total of 228 college students selected from 2 universities in Seoul were surveyed. Four Korean-version questionnaires were used to identify the stage of exercise behavior and psychological attributes of adolescents. Data were analyzed by frequency analysis, MANOVA, correlation analysis, and discriminant function analysis.
Results: Multivariate F-test indicated that behavioral and cognitive processes of change, exercise efficacy, and pros differentiated participants across the stages of exercise behavior. Furthermore, exercise behavior was significantly correlated with the TTM constructs, and that overall classification accuracy across the stages of change was 61.0%. Conclusions:The present study supports the internal and external validity of the Transtheoretical Model for explaining exercise behavior. As this study highlights, dissemination must increase awareness but also influences perceptions regarding theoretically based and practically important exercise strategies for public health professionals.



Does more education lead to better health habits? Evidence from the school reforms in Australia?

Jinhu Li, Nattavudh Powdthavee
Social Science & Medicine 127 (2015) 83-91

The current study provides new empirical evidence on the causal effect of education on health-related behaviors by exploiting historical changes in the compulsory schooling laws in Australia. Since World War II, Australian states increased the minimum school leaving age from 14 to 15 in different years. Using differences in the laws regarding minimum school leaving age across different cohorts and across different states as a source of exogenous variation in education, we show that more education improves people’s diets and their tendency to engage in more regular exercise and drinking moderately, but not necessarily their tendency to avoid smoking and to engage in more preventive health checks. The improvements in health behaviors are also reflected in the estimated positive effect of education on some health outcomes. Our results are robust to alternative measures of education and different estimation methods.

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Neonatal Pathophysiology

Neonatal Pathophysiology

Writer and Curator: Larry H. Bernstein, MD, FCAP 



This curation deals with a large and specialized branch of medicine that grew since the mid 20th century in concert with the developments in genetics and as a result of a growing population, with large urban populations, increasing problems of premature deliveries.  The problems of prematurity grew very preterm to very low birth weight babies with special problems.  While there were nurseries, the need for intensive care nurseries became evident in the 1960s, and the need for perinatal care of pregnant mothers also grew as a result of metabolic problems of the mother, intrauterine positioning of the fetus, and increasing numbers of teen age pregnancies as well as nutritional problems of the mother.  There was also a period when the manufacturers of nutritional products displaced the customary use of breast feeding, which was consequential.  This discussion is quite comprehensive, as it involves a consideration of the heart, the lungs, the brain, and the liver, to a large extent, and also the kidneys and skeletal development.

It is possible to outline, with a proportionate emphasis based on frequency and severity, this as follows:

  1. Genetic and metabolic diseases
  2. Nervous system
  3. Cardiovascular
  4. Pulmonary
  5. Skeletal – bone and muscle
  6. Hematological
  7. Liver
  8. Esophagus, stomach, and intestines
  9. Kidneys
  10. Immune system

Fetal Development

Gestation is the period of time between conception and birth when a baby grows and develops inside the mother’s womb. Because it’s impossible to know exactly when conception occurs, gestational age is measured from the first day of the mother’s last menstrual cycle to the current date. It is measured in weeks. A normal gestation lasts anywhere from 37 to 41 weeks.

Week 5 is the start of the “embryonic period.” This is when all the baby’s major systems and structures develop. The embryo’s cells multiply and start to take on specific functions. This is called differentiation. Blood cells, kidney cells, and nerve cells all develop. The embryo grows rapidly, and the baby’s external features begin to form.

Week 6-9:   Brain forms into five different areas. Some cranial nerves are visible. Eyes and ears begin to form. Tissue grows that will the baby’s spine and other bones. Baby’s heart continues to grow and now beats at a regular rhythm. Blood pumps through the main vessels. Your baby’s brain continues to grow. The lungs start to form. Limbs look like paddles. Essential organs begin to grow.

Weeks 11-18: Limbs extended. Baby makes sucking motion. Movement of limbs. Liver and pancreas produce secretions. Muscle and bones developing.

Week 19-21: Baby can hear. Mom feels baby – and quickening.



Inherited Metabolic Disorders

The original cause of most genetic metabolic disorders is a gene mutation that occurred many, many generations ago. The gene mutation is passed along through the generations, ensuring its preservation.

Each inherited metabolic disorder is quite rare in the general population. Considered all together, inherited metabolic disorders may affect about 1 in 1,000 to 2,500 newborns. In certain ethnic populations, such as Ashkenazi Jews (Jews of central and eastern European ancestry), the rate of inherited metabolic disorders is higher.

Hundreds of inherited metabolic disorders have been identified, and new ones continue to be discovered. Some of the more common and important genetic metabolic disorders include:

Lysosomal storage disorders : Lysosomes are spaces inside cells that break down waste products of metabolism. Various enzyme deficiencies inside lysosomes can result in buildup of toxic substances, causing metabolic disorders including:

  • Hurler syndrome (abnormal bone structure and developmental delay)
  • Niemann-Pick disease (babies develop liver enlargement, difficulty feeding, and nerve damage)
  • Tay-Sachs disease (progressive weakness in a months-old child, progressing to severe nerve damage; the child usually lives only until age 4 or 5)
  • Gauchers disease and others

Galactosemia: Impaired breakdown of the sugar galactose leads to jaundice, vomiting, and liver enlargement after breast or formula feeding by a newborn.

Maple syrup urine disease: Deficiency of an enzyme called BCKD causes buildup of amino acids in the body. Nerve damage results, and the urine smells like syrup.

Phenylketonuria (PKU): Deficiency of the enzyme PAH results in high levels of phenylalanine in the blood. Mental retardation results if the condition is not recognized.

Glycogen storage diseases: Problems with sugar storage lead to low blood sugar levels, muscle pain, and weakness.

Metal metabolism disorders: Levels of trace metals in the blood are controlled by special proteins. Inherited metabolic disorders can result in protein malfunction and toxic accumulation of metal in the body:

Wilson disease (toxic copper levels accumulate in the liver, brain, and other organs)

Hemochromatosis (the intestines absorb excessive iron, which builds up in the liver, pancreas, joints, and heart, causing damage)

Organic acidemias: methylmalonic acidemia and propionic acidemia.

Urea cycle disorders: ornithine transcarbamylase deficiency and citrullinemia

Hemoglobinopathies – thalassemias, sickle cell disease

Red cell enzyme disorders – glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase, pyruvate kinase

This list is by no means complete.

New variations in the galactose-1-phosphate uridyltransferase (GALT) gene

Clinical and molecular spectra in galactosemic patients from neonatal screening in northeastern Italy: Structural and functional characterization of new variations in the galactose-1-phosphate uridyltransferase (GALT) gene

E Viggiano, A Marabotti, AP Burlina, C Cazzorla, MR D’Apice, et al.
Gene 559 (2015) 112–118
Galactosemia (OMIM 230400) is a rare autosomal recessive inherited disorder caused by deficiency of galactose-1-phosphate uridyltransferase (GALT; OMIM 606999) activity. The incidence of galactosemia is 1 in 30,000–60,000, with a prevalence of 1 in 47,000 in the white population. Neonates with galactosemia can present acute symptoms, such as severe hepatic and renal failure, cataract and sepsis after milk introduction. Dietary restriction of galactose determines the clinical improvement in these patients. However, despite early diagnosis by neonatal screening and dietary treatment, a high percentage of patients develop long-term complications such as cognitive disability, speech problems, neurological and/or movement disorders and, in females, ovarian dysfunction.

With the benefit of early diagnosis by neonatal screening and early therapy, the acute presentation of classical galactosemia can be prevented. The objectives of the current study were to report our experience with a group of galactosemic patients identified through the neonatal screening programs in northeastern Italy during the last 30 years.

No neonatal deaths due to galactosemia complications occurred after the introduction of the neonatal screening program. However, despite the early diagnosis and dietary treatment, the patients with classical galactosemia showed one or more long-term complications.

A total of 18 different variations in the GALT gene were found in the patient cohort: 12 missense, 2 frameshift, 1 nonsense, 1 deletion, 1 silent variation, and 1 intronic. Six (p.R33P, p.G83V, p.P244S, p.L267R, p.L267V, p.E271D) were new variations. The most common variation was p.Q188R (12 alleles, 31.5%), followed by p.K285N (6 alleles, 15.7%) and p.N314D (6 alleles, 15.7%). The other variations comprised 1 or 2 alleles. In the patients carrying a new mutation, the biochemical analysis of GALT activity in erythrocytes showed an activity of < 1%. In silico analysis (SIFT, PolyPhen-2 and the computational analysis on the static protein structure) showed potentially damaging effects of the six new variations on the GALT protein, thus expanding the genetic spectrum of GALT variations in Italy. The study emphasizes the difficulty in establishing a genotype–phenotype correlation in classical galactosemia and underlines the importance of molecular diagnostic testing prior to making any treatment.

Diagnosis and Management of Hereditary Hemochromatosis

Reena J. Salgia, Kimberly Brown
Clin Liver Dis 19 (2015) 187–198

Hereditary hemochromatosis (HH) is a diagnosis most commonly made in patients with elevated iron indices (transferrin saturation and ferritin), and HFE genetic mutation testing showing C282Y homozygosity.

The HFE mutation is believed to result in clinical iron overload through altering hepcidin levels resulting in increased iron absorption.

The most common clinical complications of HH include cirrhosis, diabetes, nonischemic cardiomyopathy, and hepatocellular carcinoma.

Liver biopsy should be performed in patients with HH if the liver enzymes are elevated or serum ferritin is greater than 1000 mg/L. This is useful to determine the degree of iron overload and stage the fibrosis.

Treatment of HH with clinical iron overload involves a combination of phlebotomy and/or chelation therapy. Liver transplantation should be considered for patients with HH-related decompensated cirrhosis.

Health economic evaluation of plasma oxysterol screening in the diagnosis of Niemann–Pick Type C disease among intellectually disabled using discrete event simulation

CDM van Karnebeek, Tima Mohammadi, Nicole Tsaod, Graham Sinclair, et al.
Molecular Genetics and Metabolism 114 (2015) 226–232

Background: Recently a less invasive method of screening and diagnosing Niemann–Pick C (NP-C) disease has emerged. This approach involves the use of a metabolic screening test (oxysterol assay) instead of the current practice of clinical assessment of patients suspected of NP-C (review of medical history, family history and clinical examination for the signs and symptoms). Our objective is to compare costs and outcomes of plasma oxysterol screening versus current practice in diagnosis of NP-C disease among intellectually disabled (ID) patients using decision-analytic methods.
Methods: A discrete event simulation model was conducted to follow ID patients through the diagnosis and treatment of NP-C, forecast the costs and effectiveness for a cohort of ID patients and compare the outcomes and costs in two different arms of the model: plasma oxysterol screening and routine diagnosis procedure (anno 2013) over 5 years of follow up. Data from published sources and clinical trials were used in simulation model. Unit costs and quality-adjusted life-years (QALYs) were discounted at a 3% annual rate in the base case analysis. Deterministic and probabilistic sensitivity analyses were conducted.
Results: The outcomes of the base case model showed that using plasma oxysterol screening for diagnosis of NP-C disease among ID patients is a dominant strategy. It would result in lower total cost and would slightly improve patients’ quality of life. The average amount of cost saving was $3642 CAD and the incremental QALYs per each individual ID patient in oxysterol screening arm versus current practice of diagnosis NP-C was 0.0022 QALYs. Results of sensitivity analysis demonstrated robustness of the outcomes over the wide range of changes in model inputs.
Conclusion: Whilst acknowledging the limitations of this study, we conclude that screening ID children and adolescents with oxysterol tests compared to current practice for the diagnosis of NP-C is a dominant strategy with clinical and economic benefits. The less costly, more sensitive and specific oxysterol test has potential to save costs to the healthcare system while improving patients’ quality of life and may be considered as a routine tool in the NP-C diagnosis armamentarium for ID. Further research is needed to elucidate its effectiveness in patients presenting characteristics other than ID in childhood and adolescence.

Neurological and Behavioral Disorders

Estrogen receptor signaling during vertebrate development

Maria Bondesson, Ruixin Hao, Chin-Yo Lin, Cecilia Williams, Jan-Åke Gustafsson
Biochimica et Biophysica Acta 1849 (2015) 142–151

Estrogen receptors are expressed and their cognate ligands produced in all vertebrates, indicative of important and conserved functions. Through evolution estrogen has been involved in controlling reproduction, affectingboth the development of reproductive organs and reproductive behavior. This review broadly describes the synthesis of estrogens and the expression patterns of aromatase and the estrogen receptors, in relation to estrogen functions in the developing fetus and child. We focus on the role of estrogens for the development of reproductive tissues, as well as non-reproductive effects on the developing brain. We collate data from human, rodent, bird and fish studies and highlight common and species-specific effects of estrogen signaling on fetal development. Morphological malformations originating from perturbed estrogen signaling in estrogen receptor and aromatase knockout mice are discussed, as well as the clinical manifestations of rare estrogen receptor alpha and aromatase gene mutations in humans. This article is part of a Special Issue entitled: Nuclear receptors in animal development.


Memory function and hippocampal volumes in preterm born very-low-birth-weight (VLBW) young adults

Synne Aanes, Knut Jørgen Bjuland, Jon Skranes, Gro C.C. Løhaugen
NeuroImage 105 (2015) 76–83

The hippocampi are regarded as core structures for learning and memory functions, which is important for daily functioning and educational achievements. Previous studies have linked reduction in hippocampal volume to working memory problems in very low birth weight (VLBW; ≤1500 g) children and reduced general cognitive ability in VLBW adolescents. However, the relationship between memory function and hippocampal volume has not been described in VLBW subjects reaching adulthood. The aim of the study was to investigate memory function and hippocampal volume in VLBW young adults, both in relation to perinatal risk factors and compared to term born controls, and to look for structure–function relationships. Using Wechsler Memory Scale-III and MRI, we included 42 non-disabled VLBW and 61 control individuals at age 19–20 years, and related our findings to perinatal risk factors in the VLBW-group. The VLBW young adults achieved lower scores on several subtests of the Wechsler Memory Scale-III, resulting in lower results in the immediate memory indices (visual and auditory), the working memory index, and in the visual delayed and general memory delayed indices, but not in the auditory delayed and auditory recognition delayed indices. The VLBW group had smaller absolute and relative hippocampal volumes than the controls. In the VLBW group inferior memory function, especially for the working memory index, was related to smaller hippocampal volume, and both correlated with lower birth weight and more days in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). Our results may indicate a structural–functional relationship in the VLBW group due to aberrant hippocampal development and functioning after preterm birth.

The relation of infant attachment to attachment and cognitive and behavioural outcomes in early childhood

Yan-hua Ding, Xiu Xua, Zheng-yan Wang, Hui-rong Li, Wei-ping Wang
Early Human Development 90 (2014) 459–464

Background: In China, research on the relation of mother–infant attachment to children’s development is scarce.
Aims: This study sought to investigate the relation of mother–infant attachment to attachment, cognitive and behavioral development in young children.                                                                                                                            Study design: This study used a longitudinal study design.
Subjects: The subjects included healthy infants (n=160) aged 12 to 18 months.
Outcome measures: Ainsworth’s “Strange Situation Procedure” was used to evaluate mother–infant attachment types. The attachment Q-set (AQS) was used to evaluate the attachment between young children and their mothers. The Bayley scale of infant development-second edition (BSID-II) was used to evaluate cognitive developmental level in early childhood. Achenbach’s child behavior checklist (CBCL) for 2- to 3-year-oldswas used to investigate behavioral problems.
Results: In total, 118 young children (73.8%) completed the follow-up; 89.7% of infants with secure attachment and 85.0% of infants with insecure attachment still demonstrated this type of attachment in early childhood (κ = 0.738, p b 0.05). Infants with insecure attachment collectively exhibited a significantly lower mental development index (MDI) in early childhood than did infants with secure attachment, especially the resistant type. In addition, resistant infants were reported to have greater social withdrawal, sleep problems and aggressive behavior in early childhood.
Conclusion: There is a high consistency in attachment development from infancy to early childhood. Secure mother–infant attachment predicts a better cognitive and behavioral outcome; whereas insecure attachment, especially the resistant attachment, may lead to a lower cognitive level and greater behavioral problems in early childhood.

representations of the HPA axis

representations of the HPA axis

representations of limbic stress-integrative pathways from the prefrontal cortex, amygdala and hippocampus

representations of limbic stress-integrative pathways from the prefrontal cortex, amygdala and hippocampus

Fetal programming of schizophrenia: Select mechanisms

Monojit Debnatha, Ganesan Venkatasubramanian, Michael Berk
Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews 49 (2015) 90–104

Mounting evidence indicates that schizophrenia is associated with adverse intrauterine experiences. An adverse or suboptimal fetal environment can cause irreversible changes in brain that can subsequently exert long-lasting effects through resetting a diverse array of biological systems including endocrine, immune and nervous. It is evident from animal and imaging studies that subtle variations in the intrauterine environment can cause recognizable differences in brain structure and cognitive functions in the offspring. A wide variety of environmental factors may play a role in precipitating the emergent developmental dysregulation and the consequent evolution of psychiatric traits in early adulthood by inducing inflammatory, oxidative and nitrosative stress (IO&NS) pathways, mitochondrial dysfunction, apoptosis, and epigenetic dysregulation. However, the precise mechanisms behind such relationships and the specificity of the risk factors for schizophrenia remain exploratory. Considering the paucity of knowledge on fetal programming of schizophrenia, it is timely to consolidate the recent advances in the field and put forward an integrated overview of the mechanisms associated with fetal origin of schizophrenia.

NMDA receptor dysfunction in autism spectrum disorders

Eun-Jae Lee, Su Yeon Choi and Eunjoon Kim
Current Opinion in Pharmacology 2015, 20:8–13

Autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) represent neurodevelopmental disorders characterized by two core symptoms;

(1)  impaired social interaction and communication, and
(2)  restricted and repetitive behaviors, interests, and activities.

ASDs affect ~ 1% of the population, and are considered to be highly genetic in nature. A large number (~600) of ASD-related genetic variations have been identified (, and target gene functions are apparently quite diverse. However, some fall onto common pathways, including synaptic function and chromosome remodeling, suggesting that core mechanisms may exist.

Abnormalities and imbalances in neuronal excitatory and inhibitory synapses have been implicated in diverse neuropsychiatric disorders including autism spectrum disorders (ASDs). Increasing evidence indicates that dysfunction of NMDA receptors (NMDARs) at excitatory synapses is associated with ASDs. In support of this, human ASD-associated genetic variations are found in genes encoding NMDAR subunits. Pharmacological enhancement or suppression of NMDAR function ameliorates ASD symptoms in humans. Animal models of ASD display bidirectional NMDAR dysfunction, and correcting this deficit rescues ASD-like behaviors. These findings suggest that deviation of NMDAR function in either direction contributes to the development of ASDs, and that correcting NMDAR dysfunction has therapeutic potential for ASDs.

Among known synaptic proteins implicated in ASD are metabotropic glutamate receptors (mGluRs). Functional enhancement and suppression of mGluR5 are associated with fragile X syndrome and tuberous sclerosis, respectively, which share autism as a common phenotype. More recently, ionotropic glutamate receptors, namely NMDA receptors (NMDARs) and AMPA receptors (AMPARs), have also been implicated in ASDs. In this review, we will focus on NMDA receptors and summarize evidence supporting the hypothesis that NMDAR dysfunction contributes to ASDs, and, by extension, that correcting NMDAR dysfunction has therapeutic potential for ASDs. ASD-related human NMDAR genetic variants.

Chemokines roles within the hippocampus

Chemokines roles within the hippocampus

IL-1 mediates stress-induced activation of the HPA axis

IL-1 mediates stress-induced activation of the HPA axis

A systemic model of the beneficial role of immune processes in behavioral and neural plasticity

A systemic model of the beneficial role of immune processes in behavioral and neural plasticity

Three Classes of Glutamate Receptors

Three Classes of Glutamate Receptors

Clinical studies on ASDs have identified genetic variants of NMDAR subunit genes. Specifically, de novo mutations have been identified in the GRIN2B gene, encoding the GluN2B subunit. In addition, SNP analyses have linked both GRIN2A (GluN2A subunit) and GRIN2B with ASDs. Because assembled NMDARs contain four subunits, each with distinct properties, ASD-related GRIN2A/ GRIN2B variants likely alter the functional properties of NMDARs and/or NMDAR-dependent plasticity.

Pharmacological modulation of NMDAR function can improve ASD symptoms. D-cycloserine (DCS), an NMDAR agonist, significantly ameliorates social withdrawal and repetitive behavior in individuals with ASD. These results suggest that reduced NMDAR function may contribute to the development of ASDs in humans.

We can divide animal studies into two groups. The first group consists of animals in which NMDAR modulators were shown to normalize both NMDAR dysfunction and ASD-like behaviors, establishing strong association between NMDARs and ASD phenotypes (Fig.). In the second group, NMDAR modulators were shown to rescue ASD-like behaviors, but NMDAR dysfunction and its correction have not been demonstrated.

ASD models with data showing rescue of both NMDAR dysfunction and ASD like behaviors Mice lacking neuroligin-1, an excitatory postsynaptic adhesion molecule, show reduced NMDAR function in the hippocampus and striatum, as evidenced by a decrease in NMDA/AMPA ratio and long-term potentiation (LTP). Neuroligin-1 is thought to enhance synaptic NMDAR function, by directly interacting with and promoting synaptic localization of NMDARs.

Fig not shown.

Bidirectional NMDAR dysfunction in animal models of ASD. Animal models of ASD with bidirectional NMDAR dysfunction can be positioned on either side of an NMDAR function curve. Model animals were divided into two groups.

Group 1: NMDAR modulators normalize both NMDAR dysfunction and ASD-like behaviors (green).

Group 2: NMDAR modulators rescue ASD-like behaviors, but NMDAR dysfunction and its rescue have not been demonstrated (orange). Note that Group 2 animals are tentatively placed on the left-hand side of the slope based on the observed DCS rescue of their ASD-like phenotypes, but the directions of their NMDAR dysfunctions remain to be experimentally determined.

ASD models with data showing rescue of ASD-like behaviors but no demonstrated NMDAR dysfunction

Tbr1 is a transcriptional regulator, one of whose targets is the gene encoding the GluN2B subunit of NMDARs. Mice haploinsufficient for Tbr1 (Tbr1+/-) show structural abnormalities in the amygdala and limited GluN2B induction upon behavioral stimulation. Both systemic injection and local amygdalar infusion of DCS rescue social deficits and impaired associative memory in Tbr1+/- mice. However, reduced NMDAR function and its DCS-dependent correction have not been demonstrated.

Spatial working memory and attention skills are predicted by maternal stress during pregnancy

André Plamondon, Emis Akbari, Leslie Atkinson, Meir Steiner
Early Human Development 91 (2015) 23–29

Introduction: Experimental evidence in rodents shows that maternal stress during pregnancy (MSDP) negatively impacts spatial learning and memory in the offspring. We aim to investigate the association between MSDP (i.e., life events) and spatial working memory, as well as attention skills (attention shifting and attention focusing), in humans. The moderating roles of child sex, maternal anxiety during pregnancy and postnatal care are also investigated.  Methods: Participants were 236mother–child dyads that were followed from the second trimester of pregnancy until 4 years postpartum. Measurements included questionnaires and independent observations.
Results: MSDP was negatively associated with attention shifting at 18monthswhen concurrent maternal anxiety was low. MSDP was associated with poorer spatial working memory at 4 years of age, but only for boys who experienced poorer postnatal care.
Conclusion: Consistent with results observed in rodents, MSDP was found to be associated with spatial working memory and attention skills. These results point to postnatal care and maternal anxiety during pregnancy as potential targets for interventions that aim to buffer children from the detrimental effects of MSDP.

Acute and massive bleeding from placenta previa and infants’ brain damage

Ken Furuta, Shuichi Tokunaga, Seishi Furukawa, Hiroshi Sameshima
Early Human Development 90 (2014) 455–458

Background: Among the causes of third trimester bleeding, the impact of placenta previa on cerebral palsy is not well known.
Aims: To clarify the effect ofmaternal bleeding fromplacenta previa on cerebral palsy, and in particular when and how it occurs.
Study design: A descriptive study.
Subjects: Sixty infants born to mothers with placenta previa in our regional population-based study of 160,000 deliveries from 1998 to 2012. Premature deliveries occurring atb26 weeks of gestation and placenta accrete were excluded.
Outcome measures: Prevalence of cystic periventricular leukomalacia (PVL) and cerebral palsy (CP).
Results: Five infants had PVL and 4 of these infants developed CP (1/40,000 deliveries). Acute and massive bleeding (>500 g) within 8 h) occurred at around 30–31 weeks of gestation, and was severe enough to deliver the fetus. None of the 5 infants with PVL underwent antenatal corticosteroid treatment, and 1 infant had mild neonatal hypocapnia with a PaCO2 < 25 mm Hg. However, none of the 5 PVL infants showed umbilical arterial academia with pH < 7.2, an abnormal fetal heart rate monitoring pattern, or neonatal hypotension.
Conclusions: Our descriptive study showed that acute and massive bleeding from placenta previa at around 30 weeks of gestation may be a risk factor for CP, and requires careful neonatal follow-up. The underlying process connecting massive placental bleeding and PVL requires further investigation.

Impact of bilirubin-induced neurologic dysfunction on neurodevelopmental outcomes

Courtney J. Wusthoff, Irene M. Loe
Seminars in Fetal & Neonatal Medicine 20 (2015) 52e57

Extreme neonatal hyperbilirubinemia has long been known to cause the clinical syndrome of kernicterus, or chronic bilirubin encephalopathy (CBE). Kernicterus most usually is characterized by choreoathetoid cerebral palsy (CP), impaired upward gaze, and sensorineural hearing loss, whereas cognition is relatively spared. The chronic condition of kernicterus may be, but is not always, preceded in the acute stage by acute bilirubin encephalopathy (ABE). This acute neonatal condition is also due to hyperbilirubinemia, and is characterized by lethargy and abnormal behavior, evolving to frank neonatal encephalopathy, opisthotonus, and seizures. Less completely defined is the syndrome of bilirubin-induced neurologic dysfunction (BIND).

Bilirubin-induced neurologic dysfunction (BIND) is the constellation of neurologic sequelae following milder degrees of neonatal hyperbilirubinemia than are associated with kernicterus. Clinically, BIND may manifest after the neonatal period as developmental delay, cognitive impairment, disordered executive function, and behavioral and psychiatric disorders. However, there is controversy regarding the relative contribution of neonatal hyperbilirubinemia versus other risk factors to the development of later neurodevelopmental disorders in children with BIND. In this review, we focus on the empiric data from the past 25 years regarding neurodevelopmental outcomes and BIND, including specific effects on developmental delay, cognition, speech and language development, executive function, and the neurobehavioral disorders, such as attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder and autism.

As noted in a technical report by the American Academy of Pediatrics Subcommittee on Hyperbilirubinemia, “it is apparent that the use of a single total serum bilirubin level to predict long-term outcomes is inadequate and will lead to conflicting results”. As described above, this has certainly been the case in research to date. To clarify how hyperbilirubinemia influences neurodevelopmental outcome, more sophisticated consideration is needed both of how to assess bilirubin exposure leading to neurotoxicity, and of those comorbid conditions which may lower the threshold for brain injury.

For example, premature infants are known to be especially susceptible to bilirubin neurotoxicity, with kernicterus reported following TB levels far lower than the threshold expected in term neonates. Similarly, among extremely preterm neonates, BBC is proportional to gestational age, meaning that the most premature infants have the highest UB, even for similar TB levels. Thus, future studies must be adequately powered to examine preterm infants separately from term infants, and should consider not just peak TB, but also BBC, as independent variables in neonates with hyperbilirubinemia. Similarly, an analysis by the NICHD NRN found that, among ELBW infants, higher UB levels were associated with a higher risk of death or NDI. However, increased TB levels were only associated with death or NDI in unstable infants. Again, UB or BBC appeared to be more useful than TB.

Are the neuromotor disabilities of bilirubin-induced neurologic dysfunction disorders related to the cerebellum and its connections?

Jon F. Watchko, Michael J. Painter, Ashok Panigrahy
Seminars in Fetal & Neonatal Medicine 20 (2015) 47e51

Investigators have hypothesized a range of subcortical neuropathology in the genesis of bilirubin induced neurologic dysfunction (BIND). The current review builds on this speculation with a specific focus on the cerebellum and its connections in the development of the subtle neuromotor disabilities of BIND. The focus on the cerebellum derives from the following observations:
(i) the cerebellum is vulnerable to bilirubin-induced injury; perhaps the most vulnerable region within the central nervous system;
(ii) infants with cerebellar injury exhibit a neuromotor phenotype similar to BIND; and                                                       (iii) the cerebellum has extensive bidirectional circuitry projections to motor and non-motor regions of the brain-stem and cerebral cortex that impact a variety of neurobehaviors.
Future study using advanced magnetic resonance neuroimaging techniques have the potential to shed new insights into bilirubin’s effect on neural network topology via both structural and functional brain connectivity measurements.

Bilirubin-induced neurologic damage is most often thought of in terms of severe adverse neuromotor (dystonia with or without athetosis) and auditory (hearing impairment or deafness) sequelae. Observed together, they comprise the classic neurodevelopmental phenotype of chronic bilirubin encephalopathy or kernicterus, and may also be seen individually as motor or auditory predominant subtypes. These injuries reflect both a predilection of bilirubin toxicity for neurons (relative to glial cells) and the regional topography of bilirubin-induced neuronal damage characterized by prominent involvement of the globus pallidus, subthalamic nucleus, VIII cranial nerve, and cochlear nucleus.

It is also asserted that bilirubin neurotoxicity may be associated with other less severe neurodevelopmental disabilities, a condition termed “subtle kernicterus” or “bilirubin-induced neurologic dysfunction” (BIND). BIND is defined by a constellation of “subtle neurodevelopmental disabilities without the classical findings of kernicterus that, after careful evaluation and exclusion of other possible etiologies, appear to be due to bilirubin neurotoxicity”. These purportedly include:

(i) mild-to-moderate disorders of movement (e.g., incoordination, clumsiness, gait abnormalities, disturbances in static and dynamic balance, impaired fine motor skills, and ataxia);                                                                                             (ii) disturbances in muscle tone; and
(iii) altered sensorimotor integration. Isolated disturbances of central auditory processing are also included in the spectrum of BIND.

  • Cerebellar vulnerability to bilirubin-induced injury
  • Cerebellar injury phenotypes and BIND
  • Cerebellar projections
Transverse section of cerebellum and brainstem

Transverse section of cerebellum and brainstem

Transverse section of cerebellum and brain-stem from a 34 gestational-week premature kernicteric infant formalin-fixed for two weeks. Yellow staining is evident in the cerebellar dentate nuclei (upper arrow) and vestibular nuclei at the pontomedullary junction (lower arrowhead). Photo is courtesy of Mahmdouha Ahdab-Barmada and reprinted with permission from Taylor-Francis Group (Ahdab Barmada M. The neuropathology of kernicterus: definitions and debate. In: Maisel MJ, Watchko JF editors. Neonatal jaundice. Amsterdam: Harwood Academic Publishers; 2000. p. 75e88

Whether cerebellar injury is primal or an integral part of disturbed neural circuitry in bilirubin-induced CNS damage is unclear. Movement disorders, however, are increasingly recognized to arise from abnormalities of neuronal circuitry rather than localized, circumscribed lesions. The cerebellum has extensive bidirectional circuitry projections to an array of brainstem nuclei and the cerebral cortex that modulate and refine motor activities. In this regard, the cerebellum is characteristically subdivided into three lobes based on neuroanatomic and phylogenetic criteria as well as by their primary afferent and efferent connections. They include:
(i) flocculonodular lobe (archicerebellum);
(ii) anterior lobe (paleocerebellum); and
(iii) posterior lobe (neocerebellum).

The archicerebellum, the oldest division phylogenically, receives extensive input from the vestibular system and is therefore also known as the vestibulocerebellum and is important for equilibrium control. The paleocerebellum, also a primitive region, receives extensive somatosensory input from the spinal cord, including the anterior and posterior spinocerebellar pathways that convey unconscious proprioception, and is therefore also known as the spinocerebellum. The neocerebellum is the most recently evolved region, receives most of the input from the cerebral cortex, and is thus termed the cerebrocerebellum. This area has greatly expanded in association with the extensive development of the cerebral cortex in mammals and especially primates. To cause serious longstanding dysfunction, cerebellar injury must typically involve the deep cerebellar nuclei and their projections.

Schematic of the bidirectional connectivity between the cerebellum and other

Schematic of the bidirectional connectivity between the cerebellum and other

Schematic of the bidirectional connectivity between the cerebellum and other brain regions including the cerebral cortex. Most cerebro-cerebellar afferent projections pass through the basal (anterior or ventral) pontine nuclei and intermediate cerebellar peduncle, whereas most cerebello-cerebral efferent projections pass through the dentate and ventrolateral thalamic nuclei. DCN, deep cerebellar nuclei; RN, red nucleus; ATN, anterior thalamic nucleus; PFC, prefrontal cortex; MC, motor cortex; PC, parietal cortex; TC, temporal cortex; STN, subthalamic nucleus; APN, anterior pontine nuclei. Reprinted under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License from D’Angelo E, Casali S. Seeking a unified framework for cerebellar function and dysfunction: from circuit to cognition. Front Neural Circuits 2013; 6:116.

Given the vulnerability of the cerebellum to bilirubin-induced injury, cerebellar involvement should also be evident in classic kernicterus, contributing to neuromotor deficits observed therein. It is of interest, therefore, that cerebellar damage may play a role in the genesis of bilirubin-induced dystonia, a prominent neuromotor feature of chronic bilirubin encephalopathy in preterm and term neonates alike. This complex movement disorder is characterized by involuntary sustained muscle contractions that result in abnormal position and posture. Moreover, dystonia that is brief in duration results in chorea, and, if brief and repetitive, leads to athetosis ‒ conditions also classically observed in kernicterus. Recent evidence suggests that dystonic movements may depend on disruption of both basal ganglia and cerebellar neuronal networks, rather than isolated dysfunction of only one motor system.

Dystonia is also a prominent feature in Gunn rat pups and neonatal Ugt1‒/‒-deficient mice both robust models of kernicterus. The former is used as an experimental model of dystonia. Although these models show basal ganglia injury, the sine qua non of bilirubin-induced murine neuropathology is cerebellar damage and resultant cerebellar hypoplasia.

Studies are needed to define more precisely the motor network abnormalities in kernicterus and BIND. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) has been widely used in evaluating infants at risk for bilirubin-induced brain injury using conventional structural T1-and T2-weighted imaging. Infants with chronic bilirubin encephalopathy often demonstrate abnormal bilateral, symmetric, high-signal intensity on T2-weighted MRI of the globus pallidus and subthalamic nucleus, consistent with the neuropathology of kernicterus. Early postnatal MRI of at-risk infants, although frequently showing increased T1-signal in these regions, may give false-positive findings due to the presence of myelin in these structures.

Diffusion tensor imaging and tractography could be used to delineate long-term changes involving specific white matter pathways, further elucidating the neural basis of long-term disability in infants and children with chronic bilirubin encephalopathy and BIND. It will be equally valuable to use blood oxygen level-dependent (BOLD) “resting state” functional MRI to study intrinsic connectivity in order to identify vulnerable brain networks in neonates with kernicterus and BIND. Structural networks of the CNS (connectome) and functional network topology can be characterized in infants with kernicterus and BIND to determine disease-related pattern(s) with respect to both long- and short-range connectivity. These findings have the potential to shed novel insights into the pathogenesis of these disorders and their impact on complex anatomical connections and resultant functional deficits.

Audiologic impairment associated with bilirubin-induced neurologic damage

Cristen Olds, John S. Oghalai
Seminars in Fetal & Neonatal Medicine 20 (2015) 42e46

Hyperbilirubinemia affects up to 84% of term and late preterm infants in the first week of life. The elevation of total serum/plasma bilirubin (TB) levels is generally mild, transitory, and, for most children, inconsequential. However, a subset of infants experiences lifelong neurological sequelae. Although the prevalence of classic kernicterus has fallen steadily in the USA in recent years, the incidence of jaundice in term and premature infants has increased, and kernicterus remains a significant problem in the global arena. Bilirubin-induced neurologic dysfunction (BIND) is a spectrum of neurological injury due to acute or sustained exposure of the central nervous system(CNS) to bilirubin. The BIND spectrum includes kernicterus, acute bilirubin encephalopathy, and isolated neural pathway dysfunction.

Animal studies have shown that unconjugated bilirubin passively diffuses across cell membranes and the blood‒brain barrier (BBB), and bilirubin not removed by organic anion efflux pumps accumulates within the cytoplasm and becomes toxic. Exposure of neurons to bilirubin results in increased oxidative stress and decreased neuronal proliferation and presynaptic neuro-degeneration at central glutaminergic synapses. Furthermore, bilirubin administration results in smaller spiral ganglion cell bodies, with decreased cellular density and selective loss of large cranial nerve VIII myelinated fibers. When exposed to bilirubin, neuronal supporting cells have been found to secrete inflammatory markers, which contribute to increased BBB permeability and bilirubin loading.

The jaundiced Gunn rat is the classic animal model of bilirubin toxicity. It is homozygous for a premature stop codon within the gene for UDP-glucuronosyltransferase family 1 (UGT1). The resultant gene product has reduced bilirubin-conjugating activity, leading to a state of hyperbilirubinemia. Studies with this rat model have led to the concept that impaired calcium homeostasis is an important mechanism of neuronal toxicity, with reduced expression of calcium-binding proteins in affected cells being a sensitive index of bilirubin-induced neurotoxicity. Similarly, application of bilirubin to cultured auditory neurons from brainstem cochlear nuclei results in hyperexcitability and excitotoxicity.

The auditory pathway and normal auditory brainstem response (ABR).

The auditory pathway and normal auditory brainstem response (ABR).

The auditory pathway and normal auditory brain-stem response (ABR). The ipsilateral (green) and contralateral (blue) auditory pathways are shown, with structures that are known to be affected by hyperbilirubinemia highlighted in red. Roman numerals in parentheses indicate corresponding waves in the normal human ABR (inset). Illustration adapted from the “Ear Anatomy” series by Robert Jackler and Christine Gralapp, with permission.

Bilirubin-induced neurologic dysfunction (BIND)

Vinod K. Bhutani, Ronald Wong
Seminars in Fetal & Neonatal Medicine 20 (2015) 1

Beyond the traditional recognized areas of fulminant injury to the globus pallidus as seen in infants with kernicterus, other vulnerable areas include the cerebellum, hippocampus, and subthalamic nuclear bodies as well as certain cranial nerves. The hippocampus is a brain region that is particularly affected by age related morphological changes. It is generally assumed that a loss in hippocampal volume results in functional deficits that contribute to age-related cognitive deficits. Lower grey matter volumes within the limbic-striato-thalamic circuitry are common to other etiological mechanisms of subtle neurologic injury. Lower grey matter volumes in the amygdala, caudate, frontal and medial gyrus are found in schizophrenia and in the putamen in autism. Thus, in terms of brain volumetrics, schizophrenia and autism spectrum disorders have a clear degree of overlap that may reflect shared etiological mechanisms. Overlap with injuries observed in infants with BIND raises the question about how these lesions are arrived at in the context of the impact of common etiologies.

Stress-induced perinatal and transgenerational epigenetic programming of brain development and mental health

Olena Babenko, Igor Kovalchuk, Gerlinde A.S. Metz
Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews 48 (2015) 70–91

Research efforts during the past decades have provided intriguing evidence suggesting that stressful experiences during pregnancy exert long-term consequences on the future mental wellbeing of both the mother and her baby. Recent human epidemiological and animal studies indicate that stressful experiences in utero or during early life may increase the risk of neurological and psychiatric disorders, arguably via altered epigenetic regulation. Epigenetic mechanisms, such as miRNA expression, DNA methylation, and histone modifications are prone to changes in response to stressful experiences and hostile environmental factors. Altered epigenetic regulation may potentially influence fetal endocrine programming and brain development across several generations. Only recently, however, more attention has been paid to possible transgenerational effects of stress. In this review we discuss the evidence of transgenerational epigenetic inheritance of stress exposure in human studies and animal models. We highlight the complex interplay between prenatal stress exposure, associated changes in miRNA expression and DNA methylation in placenta and brain and possible links to greater risks of schizophrenia, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, autism, anxiety- or depression-related disorders later in life. Based on existing evidence, we propose that prenatal stress, through the generation of epigenetic alterations, becomes one of the most powerful influences on mental health in later life. The consideration of ancestral and prenatal stress effects on lifetime health trajectories is critical for improving strategies that support healthy development and successful aging.

Sensitive time-windows for susceptibility in neurodevelopmental disorders

Rhiannon M. Meredith, Julia Dawitz and Ioannis Kramvis
Trends in Neurosciences, June 2012; 35(6): 335-344

Many neurodevelopmental disorders (NDDs) are characterized by age-dependent symptom onset and regression, particularly during early postnatal periods of life. The neurobiological mechanisms preceding and underlying these developmental cognitive and behavioral impairments are, however, not clearly understood. Recent evidence using animal models for monogenic NDDs demonstrates the existence of time-regulated windows of neuronal and synaptic impairments. We propose that these developmentally-dependent impairments can be unified into a key concept: namely, time-restricted windows for impaired synaptic phenotypes exist in NDDs, akin to critical periods during normal sensory development in the brain. Existence of sensitive time-windows has significant implications for our understanding of early brain development underlying NDDs and may indicate vulnerable periods when the brain is more susceptible to current therapeutic treatments.

Fig (not shown)

Misregulated mechanisms underlying spine morphology in NDDs. Several proteins implicated in monogenic NDDs (highlighted in red) are linked to the regulation of the synaptic cytoskeleton via F-actin through different Rho-mediated signaling pathways (highlighted in green). Mutations in OPHN1, TSC1/2, FMRP, p21-activated kinase (PAK) are directly linked to human NDDs of intellectual disability. For instance, point mutations in OPHN1 and a PAK isoform are linked to non-syndromic mental retardation, whereas mutations or altered expression of TSC1/2 and FMRP are linked to TSC and FXS, respectively. Cytoplasmic interacting protein (CYFIP) and LIM-domain kinase 1 (LIMK1) are known to interact with FMRP and PAK, respectively [105]. LIMK1 is one of many dysregulated proteins contributing to the NDD Williams syndrome. Mouse models are available for all highlighted (red) proteins and reveal specific synaptic and behavioral deficits. Local protein synthesis in synapses, dendrites and glia is also regulated by proteins such as TSC1/2 and the FMRP/CYFIP complex. Abbreviations: 4EBP, 4E binding protein; eIF4E, eukaryotic translation initiation factor 4E.

Fig (not shown)

Sensitive time-windows, synaptic phenotypes and NDD gene targets. Sensitive time-windows exist in neural circuits, during which gene targets implicated in NDDs are normally expressed. Misregulation of these genes can affect multiple synaptic phenotypes during a restricted developmental period. The effect upon synaptic phenotypes is dependent upon the temporal expression of these NDD genes and their targets. (a) Expression outside a critical period of development will have no effect upon synaptic phenotypes. (b,c) A temporal expression pattern that overlaps with the onset (b) or closure (c) of a known critical period can alter the synaptic phenotype during that developmental time-window.

Outstanding questions

(1) Can treatment at early presymptomatic stages in animal models for NDDs prevent or ease the later synaptic, neuronal, and behavioral impairments?

(2) Are all sensory critical periods equally misregulated in mouse models for a specific NDD? Are there different susceptibilities for auditory, visual and somatosensory neurocircuits that reflect the degree of impairments observed in patients?

(3) If one critical period is missed or delayed during formation of a layer-specific connection in a network, does the network overcome this misregulated connectivity or plasticity window?

(4) In monogenic NDDs, does the severity of misregulating one particular time-window for synaptic establishment during development correlate with the importance of that gene for that synaptic circuit?

(5) Why do critical periods close in brain development?

(6) What underlies the regression of some altered synaptic phenotypes in Fmr1-KO mice?

(7) Can the concept of susceptible time-windows be applied to other NDDs, including schizophrenia and Tourette’s syndrome?


Cardiac output monitoring in newborns

Willem-Pieter de Boode
Early Human Development 86 (2010) 143–148

There is an increased interest in methods of objective cardiac output measurement in critically ill patients. Several techniques are available for measurement of cardiac output in children, although this remains very complex in newborns. Cardiac output monitoring could provide essential information to guide hemodynamic management. An overview is given of various methods of cardiac output monitoring with advantages and major limitations of each technology together with a short explanation of the basic principles.

Fick principle

According to the Fick principle the volume of blood flow in a given period equals the amount of substance entering the blood stream in the same period divided by the difference in concentrations of the substrate upstream respectively downstream to the point of entry in the circulation. This substance can be oxygen (O2-Fick) or carbon dioxide (CO2-FICK), so cardiac output can be calculated by dividing measured pulmonary oxygen uptake by the arteriovenous oxygen concentration difference. The direct O2-Fick method is regarded as gold standard in cardiac output monitoring in a research setting, despite its limitations. When the Fick principle is applied for carbon dioxide (CO2 Fick), the pulmonary carbon dioxide exchange is divided by the venoarterial CO2 concentration difference to calculate cardiac output.

In the modified CO2 Fick method pulmonary CO2 exchange is measured at the endotracheal tube. Measurement of total CO2 concentration in blood is more complex and simultaneous sampling of arterial and central venous blood is required. However, frequent blood sampling will result in an unacceptable blood loss in the neonatal population.

Blood flow can be calculated if the change in concentration of a known quantity of injected indicator is measured in time distal to the point of injection, so an indicator dilution curve can be obtained. Cardiac output can then be calculated with the use of the Stewart–Hamilton equation. Several indicators are used, such as indocyanine green, Evans blue and brilliant red in dye dilution, cold solutions in thermodilution, lithium in lithium dilution, and isotonic saline in ultrasound dilution.

Cardiovascular adaptation to extra uterine life

Alice Lawford, Robert MR Tulloh
Paediatrics And Child Health 2014; 25(1): 1-6.

The adaptation to extra uterine life is of interest because of its complexity and the ability to cause significant health concerns. In this article we describe the normal changes that occur and the commoner abnormalities that are due to failure of normal development and the effect of congenital cardiac disease. Abnormal development may occur as a result of problems with the mother, or with the fetus before birth. After birth it is essential to determine whether there is an underlying abnormality of the fetal pulmonary or cardiac development and to determine the best course of management of pulmonary hypertension or congenital cardiac disease. Causes of underdevelopment, maldevelopment and maladaptation are described as are the causes of critical congenital heart disease. The methods of diagnosis and management are described to allow the neonatologist to successfully manage such newborns.

Fetal vascular structures that exist to direct blood flow

Fetal structure Function
Arterial duct Connects pulmonary artery to the aorta and shunts blood right to left; diverting flow away from fetal lungs
Foramen ovale Opening between the two atria thatdirects blood flow returning to right

atrium through the septal wall into the left atrium bypassing lungs

Ductus venosus Receives oxygenated blood fromumbilical vein and directs it to the

inferior vena cava and right atrium

Umbilical arteries Carrying deoxygenated blood fromthe fetus to the placenta
Umbilical vein Carrying oxygenated blood from theplacenta to the fetus

Maternal causes of congenital heart disease

Maternal disorders rubella, SLE, diabetes mellitus
Maternal drug use Warfarin, alcohol
Chromosomal abnormality Down, Edward, Patau, Turner, William, Noonan


Fetal and Neonatal Circulation  The fetal circulation is specifically adapted to efficiently exchange gases, nutrients, and wastes through placental circulation. Upon birth, the shunts (foramen ovale, ductus arteriosus, and ductus venosus) close and the placental circulation is disrupted, producing the series circulation of blood through the lungs, left atrium, left ventricle, systemic circulation, right heart, and back to the lungs.

Clinical monitoring of systemic hemodynamics in critically ill newborns

Willem-Pieter de Boode
Early Human Development 86 (2010) 137–141

Circulatory failure is a major cause of mortality and morbidity in critically ill newborn infants. Since objective measurement of systemic blood flow remains very challenging, neonatal hemodynamics is usually assessed by the interpretation of various clinical and biochemical parameters. An overview is given about the predictive value of the most used indicators of circulatory failure, which are blood pressure, heart rate, urine output, capillary refill time, serum lactate concentration, central–peripheral temperature difference, pH, standard base excess, central venous oxygen saturation and color.

Key guidelines

➢ The clinical assessment of cardiac output by the interpretation of indirect parameters of systemic blood flow is inaccurate, irrespective of the level of experience of the clinician

➢ Using blood pressure to diagnose low systemic blood flow will consequently mean that too many patients will potentially be undertreated or overtreated, both with substantial risk of adverse effects and iatrogenic damage.

➢ Combining different clinical hemodynamic parameters enhances the predictive value in the detection of circulatory failure, although accuracy is still limited.

➢ Variation in time (trend monitoring) might possibly be more informative than individual, static values of clinical and biochemical parameters to evaluate the adequacy of neonatal circulation.

Monitoring oxygen saturation and heart rate in the early neonatal period

J.A. Dawson, C.J. Morley
Seminars in Fetal & Neonatal Medicine 15 (2010) 203e207

Pulse oximetry is commonly used to assist clinicians in assessment and management of newly born infants in the delivery room (DR). In many DRs, pulse oximetry is now the standard of care for managing high risk infants, enabling immediate and dynamic assessment of oxygenation and heart rate. However, there is little evidence that using pulse oximetry in the DR improves short and long term outcomes. We review the current literature on using pulse oximetry to measure oxygen saturation and heart rate and how to apply current evidence to management in the DR.

Practice points

  • Understand how SpO2 changes in the first minutes after birth.
  • Apply a sensor to an infant’s right wrist as soon as possible after birth.
  • Attach sensor to infant then to oximeter cable.
  • Use two second averaging and maximum sensitivity.

Using pulse oximetry assists clinicians:

  1. Assess changes in HR in real time during transition.
  2. Assess oxygenation and titrate the administration of oxygen to maintain oxygenation within the appropriate range for SpO2 during the first minutes after birth.

Research directions

  • What are the appropriate centiles to target during the minutes after birth to prevent hypoxia and hyperoxia: 25th to 75th, or 10th to 90th, or just the 50th (median)?
  • Can the inspired oxygen be titrated against the SpO2 to keep the SpO2 in the ‘normal range’?
  • Does the use of centile charts in the DR for HR and oxygen saturation reduce the rate of hyperoxia when infants are treated with oxygen.
  • Does the use of pulse oximetry immediately after birth improve short term outcomes, e.g. efficacy of immediate respiratory support, intubation rates in the DR, percentage of inspired oxygen, rate of use of adrenalin or chest compressions, duration of hypoxia/hyperoxia and bradycardia.
  • Does the use of pulse oximetry in the DR improve short term respiratory and long term neurodevelopmental outcomes for preterm infants, e.g. rate of intubation, use of surfactant, and duration of ventilation, continuous positive airway pressure, or supplemental oxygen?
  • Can all modern pulse oximeters be used effectively in the DR or do some have a longer delay before giving an accurate signal and more movement artefact?
  • Would a longer averaging time result in more stable data?

Peripheral haemodynamics in newborns: Best practice guidelines

Michael Weindling, Fauzia Paize
Early Human Development 86 (2010) 159–165

Peripheral hemodynamics refers to blood flow, which determines oxygen and nutrient delivery to the tissues. Peripheral blood flow is affected by vascular resistance and blood pressure, which in turn varies with cardiac function. Arterial oxygen content depends on the blood hemoglobin concentration (Hb) and arterial pO2; tissue oxygen delivery depends on the position of the oxygen-dissociation curve, which is determined by temperature and the amount of adult or fetal hemoglobin. Methods available to study tissue perfusion include near-infrared spectroscopy, Doppler flowmetry, orthogonal polarization spectral imaging and the peripheral perfusion index. Cardiac function, blood gases, Hb, and peripheral temperature all affect blood flow and oxygen extraction. Blood pressure appears to be less important. Other factors likely to play a role are the administration of vasoactive medications and ventilation strategies, which affect blood gases and cardiac output by changing the intrathoracic pressure.


NIRS with partial venous occlusion to measure venous oxygen saturation

NIRS with partial venous occlusion to measure venous oxygen saturation

NIRS with partial venous occlusion to measure venous oxygen saturation. Taken from Yoxall and Weindling

Schematic representation of the biphasic relationship between oxygen delivery and oxygen consumption in tissue

Schematic representation of the biphasic relationship between oxygen delivery and oxygen consumption in tissue


Schematic representation of the biphasic relationship between oxygen delivery and oxygen consumption in tissue.  (a) oxygen delivery (DO2). (b) As DO2 decreases, VO2 is dependent on DO2. The slope of the line indicates the FOE, which in this case is about 0.50. (c) The slope of the line indicates the FOE in the normal situation where oxygenation is DO2 independent, usually < 0.35

The oxygen-dissociation curve

The oxygen-dissociation curve


The oxygen-dissociation curve

Considerable information about the response of the peripheral circulation has been obtained using NIRS with venous occlusion. Although these measurements were validated against blood co-oximetry in human adults and infants, they can only be made intermittently by a trained operator and are thus not appropriate for general clinical use. Further research is needed to find other better measures of peripheral perfusion and oxygenation which may be easily and continuously monitored, and which could be useful in a clinical setting.

Peripheral oxygenation and management in the perinatal period

Michael Weindling
Seminars in Fetal & Neonatal Medicine 15 (2010) 208e215

The mechanisms for the adequate provision of oxygen to the peripheral tissues are complex. They involve control of the microcirculation and peripheral blood flow, the position of the oxygen dissociation curve including the proportion of fetal and adult hemoglobin, blood gases and viscosity. Systemic blood pressure appears to have little effect, at least in the non-shocked state. The adequate delivery of oxygen (DO2) depends on consumption (VO2), which is variable. The balance between VO2 and DO2 is given by fractional oxygen extraction (FOE ¼ VO2/DO2). FOE varies from organ to organ and with levels of activity. Measurements of FOE for the whole body produce a range of about 0.15-0.33, i.e. the body consumes 15-33% of oxygen transported.

Fig (not shown)

Biphasic relationship between oxygen delivery (DO2) and oxygen consumption (VO2) in tissue. Dotted lines show fractional oxygen extraction (FOE). ‘A’ indicates the normal situation when VO2 is independent ofDO2 and FOE is about 0.30. AsDO2 decreases in the direction of the arrow, VO2 remains independent of DO2 until the critical point is reached at ‘B’; in this illustration, FOE is about 0.50. The slope of the dotted line indicates the FOE (¼ VO2/DO2), which increases progressively as DO2 decreases.

Relationship between haemoglobin F fraction (HbF) and peripheral fractional oxygen extraction

Relationship between haemoglobin F fraction (HbF) and peripheral fractional oxygen extraction

(A)Relationship between haemoglobin F fraction (HbF) and peripheral fractional oxygen extraction in anaemic and control infants. (From Wardle et al.)  (B) HbF synthesis and concentration. (From Bard and Widness.) (C) Oxygen dissociation curve.

Peripheral fractional oxygen extraction in babies

Peripheral fractional oxygen extraction in babies


Peripheral fractional oxygen extraction in babies with asymptomatic or symptomatic anemia compared to controls. Bars represent the median for each group. (From Wardle et al.)

Practice points

  • Peripheral tissue DO2 is complex: cardiac function, blood gases, Hb concentration and the proportion of HbF, and peripheral temperature all play a part in determining blood flow and oxygen extraction in the sick, preterm infant. Blood pressure appears to be less important.
  • Other factors likely to play a role are the administration of vasoactive medications and ventilation strategies, which affect blood gases and cardiac output by changing intrathoracic pressure.
  • Central blood pressure is a poor surrogate measurement for the adequacy of DO2 to the periphery. Direct measurement, using NIRS, laser Doppler flowmetry or other means, may give more useful information.
  • Reasons for total hemoglobin concentration (Hb) being a relatively poor indicator of the adequacy of the provision of oxygen to the tissues:
  1. Hb is only indirectly related to red blood cell volume, which may be a better indicator of the body’s oxygen delivering capacity.
  2. Hb-dependent oxygen availability depends on the position of the oxygen-hemoglobin dissociation curve.
  3. An individual’s oxygen requirements vary with time and from organ to organ. This means that DO2 also needs to vary.
  4. It is possible to compensate for a low Hb by increasing cardiac output and ventilation, and so the ability to compensate for anemia depends on an individual’s cardio-respiratory reserve as well as Hb.
  5. The normal decrease of Hb during the first few weeks of life in both full-term and preterm babies usually occurs without symptoms or signs of anemia or clinical consequences.

The relationship between VO2 and DO2 is complex and various factors need to be taken into account, including the position of the oxygen dissociation curve, determined by the proportion of HbA and HbF, temperature and pH. Furthermore, diffusion of oxygen from capillaries to the cell depends on the oxygen tension gradient between erythrocytes and the mitochondria, which depends on microcirculatory conditions, e.g. capillary PO2, distance of the cell from the capillary (characterized by intercapillary distances) and the surface area of open capillaries. The latter can change rapidly, for example, in septic shock where arteriovenous shunting occurs associated with tissue hypoxia in spite of high DO2 and a low FOE.

Changes in local temperature deserve particular consideration. When the blood pressure is low, there may be peripheral vasoconstriction with decreased local perfusion and DO2. However, the fall in local tissue temperature would also be expected to be associated with a decreased metabolic rate and a consequent decrease in VO2. Thus a decreased DO2 may still be appropriate for tissue needs.


Accurate Measurements of Oxygen Saturation in Neonates: Paired Arterial and Venous Blood Analyses

Shyang-Yun Pamela K. Shiao
Newborn and Infant Nurs Rev,  2005; 5(4): 170–178

Oxygen saturation (So2) measurements (functional measurement, So2; and fractional measurement, oxyhemoglobin [Hbo2]) and monitoring are commonly investigated as a method of assessing oxygenation in neonates. Differences exist between the So2 and Hbo2 when blood tests are performed, and clinical monitors indicate So2 values. Oxyhemoglobin will decrease with the increased levels of carbon monoxide hemoglobin (Hbco) and methemo-globin (MetHb), and it is the most accurate measurements of oxygen (O2) association of hemoglobin (Hb). Pulse oximeter (for pulse oximetry saturation [Spo2] measurement) is commonly used in neonates. However, it will not detect the changes of Hb variations in the blood for accurate So2 measurements. Thus, the measurements from clinical oximeters should be used with caution. In neonates, fetal hemoglobin (HbF) accounts for most of the circulating Hb in their blood. Fetal hemoglobin has a high O2 affinity, thus releases less O2 to the body tissues, presenting a left-shifted Hbo2 dissociation curve.5,6 To date, however, limited data are available with HbF correction, for accurate arterial and venous (AV) So2 measurements (arterial oxygen saturation [Sao2] and venous oxygen saturation [Svo2]) in neonates, using paired AV blood samples.

In a study of critically ill adult patients, increased pulmonary CO production and elevation in arterial Hbco but not venous Hbco were documented by inflammatory stimuli inducing pulmonary heme oxygenase–1. In normal adults, venous Hbco level might be slightly higher than or equal to arterial Hbco because of production of CO by enzyme heme oxygenase–2, which is predominantly produced in the liver and spleen. However, hypoxia or pulmonary inflammation could induce heme oxygenase–1 to increase endogenous CO, thus elevating pulmonary arterial and systemic arterial Hbco levels in adults. Both endogenous and exogenous CO can suppress proliferation of pulmonary smooth muscles, a significant consideration for the prevention of chronic lung diseases in newborns. Despite these considerations, a later study in healthy adults indicated that the AV differences in Hbco were from technical artifacts and perhaps from inadequate control of different instruments. Thus, further studies are needed to provide more definitive answers for the AV differences of Hbco for adults and neonates with acute and chronic lung diseases.

Methemoglobin is an indicator of Hb oxidation and is essential for accurate measurement of Hbo2, So2, and oxygenation status. No evidence exists to show the AV MetHb difference, although this difference was elucidated with the potential changes of MetHb with different O2 levels.  Methemoglobin can be increased with nitric oxide (NO) therapy, used in respiratory distress syndrome (RDS) to reduce pulmonary hypertension and during heart surgery. Nitric oxide, in vitro, is an oxidant of Hb, with increased O2 during ischemia reperfusion. In hypoxemic conditions in vivo, nitrohemoglobin is a product generated by vessel responsiveness to nitrovasodilators. Nitro-hemoglobin can be spontaneously reversible in vivo, requiring no chemical agents or reductase. However, when O2 levels were increased experimentally in vitro following acidic conditions (pH 6.5) to simulate reperfusion conditions, MetHb levels were increased for the hemolysates (broken red cells). Nitrite-induced oxidation of Hb was associated with an increase in red blood cell membrane rigidity, thus contributing to Hb breakdown. A newer in vitro study of whole blood cells, however, concluded that MetHb formation is not dependent on increased O2 levels. Additional studies are needed to examine in vivo reperfusion of O2 and MetHb effects.

Purpose: The aim of this study was to examine the accuracy of arterial oxygen saturation (Sao2) and venous oxygen saturation (Svo2) with paired arterial and venous (AV) blood in relation to pulse oximetry saturation (Spo2) and oxyhemoglobin (Hbo2) with fetal hemoglobin determination, and their Hbo2 dissociation curves. Method: Twelve preterm neonates with gestational ages ranging from 27 to 34 weeks at birth, who had umbilical AV lines inserted, were investigated. Analyses were performed with 37 pairs of AV blood samples by using a blood volume safety protocol. Results: The mean differences between Sao2 and Svo2, and AV Hbo2 were both 6 percent (F6.9 and F6.7 percent, respectively), with higher Svo2 than those reported for adults. Biases were 2.1 – 0.49 for Sao2, 2.0 – 0.44 for Svo2, and 3.1 – 0.45 for Spo2, compared against Hbo2. With left-shifted Hbo2 dissociation curves in neonates, for the critical values of oxygen tension values between 50 and 75 millimeters of mercury, Hbo2 ranged from 92 to 93.4 percent; Sao2 ranged from 94.5 to 95.7 percent; and Spo2 ranged from 93.7 to 96.3 percent (compared to 85–94 percent in healthy adults). Conclusions: In neonates, both left-shifted Hbo2 dissociation curve and lower AV differences of oxygen saturation measurements indicated low flow of oxygen to the body tissues. These findings demonstrate the importance of accurate assessment of oxygenation statues in neonates.

In these neonates, the mean AV blood differences for both So2 and Hbo2 were about 6 percent, which was much lower than those reported for healthy adults (23 percent) for O2 supply and demand. In addition, with very high levels of HbF releasing less O2 to the body tissue, the results of blood analyses are worrisome for these critically ill neonates for low systemic oxygen states.  O’Connor and Hall determined AV So2 in neonates without HbF determination. Much of the AV So2 difference is dependent on Svo2 measurement. The ranges of Svo2 spanned for 35 percent, and the ranges of Sao2 spanned 6 percent in these neonates. The greater intervals for Svo2 measurements contribute to greater sensitivity for the measurements (than Sao2 measurements) in responding to nursing care and changes of O2 demand. Thus, Svo2 measurement is essential for better assessment of oxygenation status in neonates.

The findings of this study on AV differences of So2 were limited with very small number of paired AV blood samples. However, critically ill neonates need accurate assessment of oxygenation status because of HbF, which releases less O2 to the tissues. Decreased differences of AV So2 measurements added further possibilities of lower flow of O2 to the body tissues and demonstrated the greater need to accurately assess the proper oxygenation in the neonates. The findings of this study continued to clarify the accuracy of So2 measurements for neonates. Additional studies are needed to examine So2 levels in neonates to further validate these findings by using larger sample sizes.

Neonatal ventilation strategies and long-term respiratory outcomes

Sandeep Shetty, Anne Greenough
Early Human Development 90 (2014) 735–739

Long-term respiratory morbidity is common, particularly in those born very prematurely and who have developed bronchopulmonary dysplasia (BPD), but it does occur in those without BPD and in infants born at term. A variety of neonatal strategies have been developed, all with short-term advantages, but meta-analyses of randomized controlled trials (RCTs) have demonstrated that only volume-targeted ventilation and prophylactic high-frequency oscillatory ventilation (HFOV) may reduce BPD. Few RCTs have incorporated long-term follow-up, but one has demonstrated that prophylactic HFOV improves respiratory and functional outcomes at school age, despite not reducing BPD. Results from other neonatal interventions have demonstrated that any impact on BPD may not translate into changes in long-term outcomes. All future neonatal  ventilation RCTs should have long-term outcomes rather than BPD as their primary outcome if they are to impact on clinical practice.

A Model Analysis of Arterial Oxygen Desaturation during Apnea in Preterm Infants

Scott A. Sands, BA Edwards, VJ Kelly, MR Davidson, MH Wilkinson, PJ Berger
PLoS Comput Biol 5(12): e1000588

Rapid arterial O2 desaturation during apnea in the preterm infant has obvious clinical implications but to date no adequate explanation for why it exists. Understanding the factors influencing the rate of arterial O2 desaturation during apnea (_SSaO2 ) is complicated by the non-linear O2 dissociation curve, falling pulmonary O2 uptake, and by the fact that O2 desaturation is biphasic, exhibiting a rapid phase (stage 1) followed by a slower phase when severe desaturation develops (stage 2). Using a mathematical model incorporating pulmonary uptake dynamics, we found that elevated metabolic O2 consumption accelerates _SSaO2 throughout the entire desaturation process. By contrast, the remaining factors have a restricted temporal influence: low pre-apneic alveolar PO2 causes an early onset of desaturation, but thereafter has little impact; reduced lung volume, hemoglobin content or cardiac output, accelerates _SSaO2 during stage 1, and finally, total blood O2 capacity (blood volume and hemoglobin content) alone determines _SSaO2 during stage 2. Preterm infants with elevated metabolic rate, respiratory depression, low lung volume, impaired cardiac reserve, anemia, or hypovolemia, are at risk for rapid and profound apneic hypoxemia. Our insights provide a basic physiological framework that may guide clinical interpretation and design of interventions for preventing sudden apneic hypoxemia.

A novel approach to study oxidative stress in neonatal respiratory distress syndrome

Reena Negi, D Pande, K Karki, A Kumar, RS Khanna, HD Khanna
BBA Clinical 3 (2015) 65–69

Oxidative stress is an imbalance between the systemic manifestation of reactive oxygen species and a biological system’s ability to readily detoxify the reactive intermediates or to repair the resulting damage. It is a physiological event in the fetal-to-neonatal transition, which is actually a great stress to the fetus. These physiological changes and processes greatly increase the production of free radicals, which must be controlled by the antioxidant defense system, the maturation of which follows the course of the gestation. This could lead to several functional alterations with important repercussions for the infants. Adequately mature and healthy infants are able to tolerate this drastic change in the oxygen concentration. A problem occurs when the intrauterine development is incomplete or abnormal. Preterm or intrauterine growth retarded (IUGR) and low birth weight neonates are typically of this kind. An oxidant/antioxidant imbalance in infants is implicated in the pathogenesis of the major complications of prematurity including respiratory distress syndrome (RDS), necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC), chronic lung disease, retinopathy of prematurity and intraventricular hemorrhage (IVH).

Background: Respiratory distress syndrome of the neonate (neonatal RDS) is still an important problem in treatment of preterm infants. It is accompanied by inflammatory processes with free radical generation and oxidative stress. The aim of study was to determine the role of oxidative stress in the development of neonatal RDS. Methods: Markers of oxidative stress and antioxidant activity in umbilical cord blood were studied in infants with neonatal respiratory distress syndrome with reference to healthy newborns. Results: Status of markers of oxidative stress (malondialdehyde, protein carbonyl and 8-hydroxy-2-deoxy guanosine) showed a significant increase with depleted levels of total antioxidant capacity in neonatal RDS when compared to healthy newborns. Conclusion: The study provides convincing evidence of oxidative damage and diminished antioxidant defenses in newborns with RDS. Neonatal RDS is characterized by damage of lipid, protein and DNA, which indicates the augmentation of oxidative stress. General significance: The identification of the potential biomarker of oxidative stress consists of a promising strategy to study the pathophysiology of neonatal RDS.

Neonatal respiratory distress syndrome represents the major lung complications of newborn babies. Preterm neonates suffer from respiratory distress syndrome (RDS) due to immature lungs and require assisted ventilation with high concentrations of oxygen. The pathogenesis of this disorder is based on the rapid formation of the oxygen reactive species, which surpasses the detoxification capacity of antioxidative defense system. The high chemical reactivity of free radical leads to damage to a variety of cellular macro molecules including proteins, lipids and nucleic acid. This results in cell injury and may induce respiratory cell death.

Malondialdehyde (MDA) is one of the final products of polyunsaturated fatty acids peroxidation. The present study showed increased concentration of MDA in neonates with respiratory disorders than that of control in consonance with the reported study.

Anemia, Apnea of Prematurity, and Blood Transfusions

Kelley Zagol, Douglas E. Lake, Brooke Vergales, Marion E. Moorman, et al
J Pediatr 2012;161:417-21

The etiology of apnea of prematurity is multifactorial; however, decreased oxygen carrying capacity may play a role. The respiratory neuronal network in neonates is immature, particularly in those born preterm, as demonstrated by their paradoxical response to hypoxemia. Although adults increase the minute ventilation in response to hypoxemia, newborns have a brief increase in ventilation followed by periodic breathing, respiratory depression, and occasionally cessation of respiratory effort. This phenomenon may be exacerbated by anemia in preterm newborns, where a decreased oxygen carrying capacity may result in decreased oxygen delivery to the central nervous system, a decreased efferent output of the respiratory neuronal network, and an increase in apnea.

Objective Compare the frequency and severity of apneic events in very low birth weight (VLBW) infants before and after blood transfusions using continuous electronic waveform analysis. Study design We continuously collected waveform, heart rate, and oxygen saturation data from patients in all 45 neonatal intensive care unit beds at the University of Virginia for 120 weeks. Central apneas were detected using continuous computer processing of chest impedance, electrocardiographic, and oximetry signals. Apnea was defined as respiratory pauses of >10, >20, and >30 seconds when accompanied by bradycardia (<100 beats per minute) and hypoxemia (<80% oxyhemoglobin saturation as detected by pulse oximetry). Times of packed red blood cell transfusions were determined from bedside charts. Two cohorts were analyzed. In the transfusion cohort, waveforms were analyzed for 3 days before and after the transfusion for all VLBW infants who received a blood transfusion while also breathing spontaneously. Mean apnea rates for the previous 12 hours were quantified and differences for 12 hours before and after transfusion were compared. In the hematocrit cohort, 1453 hematocrit values from all VLBW infants admitted and breathing spontaneously during the time period were retrieved, and the association of hematocrit and apnea in the next 12 hours was tested using logistic regression. Results Sixty-seven infants had 110 blood transfusions during times when complete monitoring data were available. Transfusion was associated with fewer computer-detected apneic events (P < .01). Probability of future apnea occurring within 12 hours increased with decreasing hematocrit values (P < .001). Conclusions Blood transfusions are associated with decreased apnea in VLBW infants, and apneas are less frequent at higher hematocrits.

Bronchopulmonary dysplasia: The earliest and perhaps the longest lasting obstructive lung disease in humans

Silvia Carraro, M Filippone, L Da Dalt, V Ferraro, M Maretti, S Bressan, et al.
Early Human Development 89 (2013) S3–S5

Bronchopulmonary dysplasia (BPD) is one of the most important sequelae of premature birth and the most common form of chronic lung disease of infancy, an umbrella term for a number of different diseases that evolve as a consequence of a neonatal respiratory disorder. BPD is defined as the need for supplemental oxygen for at least 28 days after birth, and its severity is graded according to the respiratory support required at 36 post-menstrual weeks.

BPD was initially described as a chronic respiratory disease occurring in premature infants exposed to mechanical ventilation and oxygen supplementation. This respiratory disease (later named “old BPD”) occurred in relatively large premature newborn and, from a pathological standpoint, it was characterized by intense airway inflammation, disruption of normal pulmonary structures and lung fibrosis.

Bronchopulmonary dysplasia (BPD) is one of the most important sequelae of premature birth and the most common form of chronic lung disease of infancy. From a clinical standpoint BPD subjects are characterized by recurrent respiratory symptoms, which are very frequent during the first years of life and, although becoming less severe as children grow up, they remain more common than in term-born controls throughout childhood, adolescence and into adulthood. From a functional point of view BPD subjects show a significant airflow limitation that persists during adolescence and adulthood and they may experience an earlier and steeper decline in lung function during adulthood. Interestingly, patients born prematurely but not developing BPD usually fare better, but they too have airflow limitations during childhood and later on, suggesting that also prematurity per se has life-long detrimental effects on pulmonary function. For the time being, little is known about the presence and nature of pathological mechanisms underlying the clinical and functional picture presented by BPD survivors. Nonetheless, recent data suggest the presence of persistent neutrophilic airway inflammation and oxidative stress and it has been suggested that BPD may be sustained in the long term by inflammatory pathogenic mechanisms similar to those underlying COPD. This hypothesis is intriguing but more pathological data are needed.  A better understanding of these pathogenetic mechanisms, in fact, may be able to orient the development of novel targeted therapies or prevention strategies to improve the overall respiratory health of BPD patients.

We have a limited understanding of the presence and nature of pathological mechanisms in the lung of BPD survivors. The possible role of asthma-like inflammation has been investigated because BPD subjects often present with recurrent wheezing and other symptoms resembling asthma during their childhood and adolescence. But BPD subjects have normal or lower than normal exhaled nitric oxide levels and exhaled air temperatures, whereas they are higher than normal in asthmatic patients.

Of all obstructive lung diseases in humans, BPD has the earliest onset and is possibly the longest lasting. Given its frequent association with other conditions related to preterm birth (e.g. growth retardation, pulmonary hypertension, neurodevelopmental delay, hearing defects, and retinopathy of prematurity), it often warrants a multidisciplinary management.

Effects of Sustained Lung Inflation, a lung recruitment maneuver in primary acute respiratory distress syndrome, in respiratory and cerebral outcomes in preterm infants

Chiara Grasso, Pietro Sciacca, Valentina Giacchi, Caterina Carpinato, et al.
Early Human Development 91 (2015) 71–75

Background: Sustained Lung Inflation (SLI) is a maneuver of lung recruitment in preterm newborns at birth that can facilitate the achieving of larger inflation volumes, leading to the clearance of lung fluid and formation of functional residual capacity (FRC). Aim: To investigate if Sustained Lung Inflation (SLI) reduces the need of invasive procedures and iatrogenic risks. Study design: 78 newborns (gestational age ≤ 34 weeks, weighing ≤ 2000 g) who didn’t breathe adequately at birth and needed to receive SLI in addition to other resuscitation maneuvers (2010 guidelines). Subjects: 78 preterm infants born one after the other in our department of Neonatology of Catania University from 2010 to 2012. Outcome measures: The need of intubation and surfactant, the ventilation required, radiological signs, the incidence of intraventricular hemorrhage (IVH), periventricular leukomalacia, retinopathy in prematurity from III to IV plus grades, bronchopulmonary dysplasia, patent ductus arteriosus, pneumothorax and necrotizing enterocolitis. Results: In the SLI group infants needed less intubation in the delivery room (6% vs 21%; p b 0.01), less invasive mechanical ventilation (14% vs 55%; p ≤ 0.001) and shorter duration of ventilation (9.1 days vs 13.8 days; p ≤ 0.001). There wasn’t any difference for nasal continuous positive airway pressure (82% vs 77%; p = 0.43); but there was less surfactant administration (54% vs 85%; p ≤ 0.001) and more infants received INSURE (40% vs 29%; p=0.17). We didn’t found any differences in the outcomes, except for more mild intraventricular hemorrhage in the SLI group (23% vs 14%; p = 0.15; OR= 1.83). Conclusion: SLI is easier to perform even with a single operator, it reduces the necessity of more complicated maneuvers and surfactant without statistically evident adverse effects.

Long-term respiratory consequences of premature birth at less than 32 weeks of gestation

Anne Greenough
Early Human Development 89 (2013) S25–S27

Chronic respiratory morbidity is a common adverse outcome of very premature birth, particularly in infants who had developed bronchopulmonary dysplasia (BPD). Prematurely born infants who had BPD may require supplementary oxygen at home for many months and affected infants have increased healthcare utilization until school age. Chest radiograph abnormalities are common; computed tomography of the chest gives predictive information in children with ongoing respiratory problems. Readmission to hospital is common, particularly for those who have BPD and suffer respiratory syncytial virus lower respiratory infections (RSV LRTIs). Recurrent respiratory symptoms requiring treatment are common and are associated with evidence of airways obstruction and gas trapping. Pulmonary function improves with increasing age, but children with BPD may have ongoing airflow limitation. Lung function abnormalities may be more severe in those who had RSV LRTIs, although this may partly be explained by worse premorbid lung function. Worryingly, lung function may deteriorate during the first year. Longitudinal studies are required to determine if there is catch up growth.

Long-term pulmonary outcomes of patients with bronchopulmonary dysplasia

Anita Bhandari and Sharon McGrath-Morrow
Seminars in Perinatology 37 (2013)132–137

Bronchopulmonary dysplasia (BPD) is the commonest cause of chronic lung disease in infancy. The incidence of BPD has remained unchanged despite many advances in neonatal care. BPD starts in the neonatal period but its effects can persist long term. Premature infants with BPD have a greater incidence of hospitalization, and continue to have a greater respiratory morbidity and need for respiratory medications, compared to those without BPD. Lung function abnormalities, especially small airway abnormalities, often persist. Even in the absence of clinical symptoms, BPD survivors have persistent radiological abnormalities and presence of emphysema has been reported on chest computed tomography scans. Concern regarding their exercise tolerance remains. Long-term effects of BPD are still unknown, but given reports of a more rapid decline in lung function and their susceptibility to develop chronic obstructive pulmonary disease phenotype with aging, it is imperative that lung function of survivors of BPD be closely monitored.

Neonatal ventilation strategies and long-term respiratory outcomes

Sandeep Shetty, Anne Greenough
Early Human Development 90 (2014) 735–739

Long-term respiratory morbidity is common, particularly in those born very prematurely and who have developed bronchopulmonary dysplasia (BPD), but it does occur in those without BPD and in infants born at term. A variety of neonatal strategies have been developed, all with short-term advantages, but meta-analyses of randomized controlled trials (RCTs) have demonstrated that only volume-targeted ventilation and prophylactic high-frequency oscillatory ventilation (HFOV) may reduce BPD. Few RCTs have incorporated long-term follow-up, but one has demonstrated that prophylactic HFOV improves respiratory and functional outcomes at school age, despite not reducing BPD. Results from other neonatal interventions have demonstrated that any impact on BPD may not translate into changes in long-term outcomes. All future neonatal ventilation RCTs should have long-term outcomes rather than BPD as their primary outcome if they are to impact on clinical practice.

Prediction of neonatal respiratory distress syndrome in term pregnancies by assessment of fetal lung volume and pulmonary artery resistance index

Mohamed Laban, GM Mansour, MSE Elsafty, AS Hassanin, SS EzzElarab
International Journal of Gynecology and Obstetrics 128 (2015) 246–250

Objective: To develop reference cutoff values for mean fetal lung volume (FLV) and pulmonary artery resistance index (PA-RI) for prediction of neonatal respiratory distress syndrome (RDS) in low-risk term pregnancies. Methods: As part of a cross-sectional study, women aged 20–35 years were enrolled and admitted to a tertiary hospital in Cairo, Egypt, for elective repeat cesarean at 37–40 weeks of pregnancy between January 1, 2012, and July 31, 2013. FLV was calculated by virtual organ computer-aided analysis, and PA-RI was measured by Doppler ultrasonography before delivery. Results: A total of 80 women were enrolled. Neonatal RDS developed in 11 (13.8%) of the 80 newborns. Compared with neonates with RDS, healthy neonates had significantly higher FLVs (P b 0.001) and lower PA-RIs (P b 0.001). Neonatal RDS is less likely with FLV of at least 32 cm3 or PA-RI less than or equal to 0.74. Combining these two measures improved the accuracy of prediction. Conclusion: The use of either FLV or PA-RI predicted neonatal RDS. The predictive value increased when these two measures were combined

Pulmonary surfactant - a front line of lung host defense, 2003 JCI0318650.f2

Pulmonary surfactant – a front line of lung host defense, 2003 JCI0318650.f2

Pulmonary hypertension in bronchopulmonary dysplasia

Sara K.Berkelhamer, Karen K.Mestan, and Robin H. Steinhorn
Seminars In  Perinatology 37 (2013)124–131

Pulmonary hypertension (PH) is a common complication of neonatal respiratory diseases, including bronchopulmonary dysplasia (BPD), and recent studies have increased aware- ness that PH worsens the clinical course, morbidity and mortality of BPD. Recent evidence indicates that up to 18% of all extremely low-birth-weight infants will develop some degree of PH during their hospitalization, and the incidence rises to 25–40% of the infants with established BPD. Risk factors are not yet well understood, but new evidence shows that fetal growth restriction is a significant predictor of PH. Echocardiography remains the primary method for evaluation of BPD-associated PH, and the development of standardized screening timelines and techniques for identification of infants with BPD-associated PH remains an important ongoing topic of investigation. The use of pulmonary vasodilator medications, such as nitric oxide, sildenafil, and others, in the BPD population is steadily growing, but additional studies are needed regarding their long-term safety and efficacy.
An update on pharmacologic approaches to bronchopulmonary dysplasia

Sailaja Ghanta, Kristen Tropea Leeman, and Helen Christou
Seminars In Perinatology 37 (2013)115–123

Bronchopulmonary dysplasia (BPD) is the most prevalent long-term morbidity in surviving extremely preterm infants and is linked to increased risk of reactive airways disease, pulmonary hypertension, post-neonatal mortality, and adverse neurodevelopmental outcomes. BPD affects approximately 20% of premature newborns, and up to 60% of premature infants born before completing 26 weeks of gestation. It is characterized by the need for assisted ventilation and/or supplemental oxygen at 36 weeks postmenstrual age. Approaches to prevention and treatment of BPD have evolved with improved understanding of its pathogenesis. This review will focus on recent advancements and detail current research in pharmacotherapy for BPD. The evidence for both current and potential future experimental therapies will be reviewed in detail. As our understanding of the complex and multifactorial pathophysiology of BPD changes, research into these current and future approaches must continue to evolve.

Diuretics and bronchodilators
Macrolide antibiotics
Recombinant human Clara cell 10-kilodalton protein(rhCC10)
Vitamin A
Leukotriene receptor antagonist
Pulmonary vasodilators

Skeletal and Muscle

Skeletal Stem Cells in Space and Time

Moustapha Kassem and Paolo Bianco
Cell  Jan 15, 2015; 160: 17-19

The nature, biological characteristics, and contribution to organ physiology of skeletal stem cells are not completely determined. Chan et al. and Worthley et al. demonstrate that a stem cell for skeletal tissues, and a system of more restricted, downstream progenitors, can be identified in mice and demonstrate its role in skeletal tissue maintenance and regeneration.

The groundbreaking concept that bone, cartilage, marrow adipocytes, and hematopoiesis-supporting stroma could originate from a common progenitor and putative stem cell was surprising at the time when it was formulated (Owen and Friedenstein, 1988). The putative stem cell, nonhematopoietic in nature, would be found in the postnatal bone marrow stroma, generate tissues previously thought of as foreign to each other, and support the turnover of tissues and organs that self-renew at a much slower rate compared to other tissues associated with stem cells (blood, epithelia). This concept also connected bone and bone marrow as parts of a single-organ system, implying their functional interplay. For many years, the evidence underpinning the concept has been incomplete.

While multipotency of stromal progenitors has been demonstrated by in vivo transplantation experiments, self-renewal, the defining property of a stem cell, has not been easily demonstrated until recently in humans (Sacchetti et al., 2007) and mice (Mendez-Ferrer et al., 2010). Meanwhile, a confusing and plethoric terminology has been introduced into the literature, which diverted and confounded the search for a skeletal stem cell and its physiological significance (Bianco et al., 2013).

Two studies in this issue of Cell (Chan et al., 2015; Worthley et al., 2015), using a combination of rigorous single-cell analyses and lineage tracing technologies, mark significant steps toward rectifying the course of skeletal stem cell discovery by making several important points, within and beyond skeletal physiology.

First, a stem cell for skeletal tissues, and a system of more restricted, downstream progenitors can in fact be identified and linked to defined phenotype(s) in the mouse. The system is framed conceptually, and approached experimentally, similar to the hematopoietic system.

Second, based on its assayable functions and potential, the stem cell at the top of the hierarchy is defined as a skeletal stem cell (SSC). As noted earlier (Sacchetti et al., 2007) (Bianco et al., 2013), this term clarifies, well beyond semantics, that the range of tissues that the self-renewing stromal progenitor (originally referred to as an ‘‘osteogenic’’ or ‘‘stromal’’ stem cell) (Owen and Friedenstein, 1988) can actually generate in vivo, overlaps with the range of tissues that make up the skeleton.

Third, these cells are spatially restricted, local residents of the bone/bone marrow organ. The systemic circulation is not a sizable contributor to their recruitment to locally deployed functions.

Fourth, a native skeletogenic potential is inherent to the system of progenitor/ stem cells found in the skeleton, and internally regulated by bone morphogenetic protein (BMP) signaling. This is reflected in the expression of regulators and antagonists of BMP signaling within the system, highlighting potential feedback mechanisms modulating expansion or quiescence of specific cell compartments.

Fifth, in cells isolated from other tissues, an assayable skeletogenic potential is not inherent: it can only be induced de novo by BMP reprogramming. These two studies (Chan et al., 2015, Worthley et al., 2015) corroborate the classical concept of ‘‘determined’’ and ‘‘inducible’’ skeletal progenitors (Owen and Friedenstein, 1988): the former residing in the skeleton, the latter found in nonskeletal tissues; the former capable of generating skeletal tissues, in vivo and spontaneously, the latter requiring reprogramming signals in order to acquire a skeletogenic capacity; the former operating in physiological bone formation, the latter in unwanted, ectopic bone formation in diseases such as fibrodysplasia ossificans progressiva.

To optimize our ability to obtain specific skeletal tissues for medical application, the study by Chan et al. offers a glimpse of another facet of the biology of SSC lineages and progenitors. Chan et al. show that a homogeneous cell population inherently committed to chondrogenesis can alter its output to generate bone if cotransplanted with multipotent progenitors. Conversely, osteogenic cells can be shifted to a chondrogenic fate by blockade of vascular endothelial growth factor receptor, consistent with the avascular and hypoxic milieu of cartilage. This has two important implications:

  • commitment is flexible in the system;
  • the choir is as important as the soloist and can modulate the solo tune.

Reversibility and population behavior thus emerge as two features that may be characteristic, albeit not unique, of the stromal system, resonating with conceptually comparable evidence in the human system.

The two studies by Chan et al. and Worthely et al. emphasize the relevance not only of their new data, but also of a proper concept of a skeletal stem cell per se, for proper clinical use. Confusion arising from improper conceptualization of skeletal stem cells has markedly limited clinical development of skeletal stem cell biology.

Gremlin 1 Identifies a Skeletal Stem Cell with Bone, Cartilage, and Reticular Stromal Potential

Daniel L. Worthley, Michael Churchill, Jocelyn T. Compton, Yagnesh Tailor, et al.
Cell, Jan 15, 2015; 160: 269–284

The stem cells that maintain and repair the postnatal skeleton remain undefined. One model suggests that perisinusoidal mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) give rise to osteoblasts, chondrocytes, marrow stromal cells, and adipocytes, although the existence of these cells has not been proven through fate-mapping experiments. We demonstrate here that expression of the bone morphogenetic protein (BMP) antagonist gremlin 1 defines a population of osteochondroreticular (OCR) stem cells in the bone marrow. OCR stem cells self-renew and generate osteoblasts, chondrocytes, and reticular marrow stromal cells, but not adipocytes. OCR stem cells are concentrated within the metaphysis of long bones not in the perisinusoidal space and are needed for bone development, bone remodeling, and fracture repair. Grem1 expression also identifies intestinal reticular stem cells (iRSCs) that are cells of origin for the periepithelial intestinal mesenchymal sheath. Grem1 expression identifies distinct connective tissue stem cells in both the bone (OCR stem cells) and the intestine (iRSCs).

Identification and Specification of the Mouse Skeletal Stem Cell

Charles K.F. Chan, Eun Young Seo, James Y. Chen, David Lo, A McArdle, et al.
Cell, Jan 15, 2015; 160: 285–298

How are skeletal tissues derived from skeletal stem cells? Here, we map bone, cartilage, and stromal development from a population of highly pure, postnatal skeletal stem cells (mouse skeletal stem cells, mSSCs) to their downstream progenitors of bone, cartilage, and stromal tissue. We then investigated the transcriptome of the stem/progenitor cells for unique gene-expression patterns that would indicate potential regulators of mSSC lineage commitment. We demonstrate that mSSC niche factors can be potent inducers of osteogenesis, and several specific combinations of recombinant mSSC niche factors can activate mSSC genetic programs in situ, even in nonskeletal tissues, resulting in de novo formation of cartilage or bone and bone marrow stroma. Inducing mSSC formation with soluble factors and subsequently regulating the mSSC niche to specify its differentiation toward bone, cartilage, or stromal cells could represent a paradigm shift in the therapeutic regeneration of skeletal tissues.

Bone mesenchymal development

Bone mesenchymal development

Bone mesenchymal development

The bone-remodeling cycle

The bone-remodeling cycle

Nuclear receptor modulation – Role of coregulators in selective estrogen receptor modulator (SERM) actions

Qin Feng, Bert W. O’Malley
Steroids 90 (2014) 39–43

Selective estrogen receptor modulators (SERMs) are a class of small-molecule chemical compounds that bind to estrogen receptor (ER) ligand binding domain (LBD) with high affinity and selectively modulate ER transcriptional activity in a cell- and tissue-dependent manner. The prototype of SERMs is tamoxifen, which has agonist activity in bone, but has antagonist activity in breast. Tamoxifen can reduce the risk of breast cancer and, at same time, prevent osteoporosis in postmenopausal women. Tamoxifen is widely prescribed for treatment and prevention of breast cancer. Mechanistically the activity of SERMs is determined by the selective recruitment of coactivators and corepressors in different cell types and tissues. Therefore, understanding the coregulator function is the key to understanding the tissue selective activity of SERMs.


Hematopoietic Stem Cell Arrival Triggers Dynamic Remodeling of the Perivascular Niche

Owen J. Tamplin, Ellen M. Durand, Logan A. Carr, Sarah J. Childs, et al.
Cell, Jan 15, 2015; 160: 241–252

Hematopoietic stem and progenitor cells (HSPCs) can reconstitute and sustain the entire blood system. We generated a highly specific transgenic reporter of HSPCs in zebrafish. This allowed us to perform high resolution live imaging on endogenous HSPCs not currently possible in mammalian bone marrow. Using this system, we have uncovered distinct interactions between single HSPCs and their niche. When an HSPC arrives in the perivascular niche, a group of endothelial cells remodel to form a surrounding pocket. This structure appears conserved in mouse fetal liver. Correlative light and electron microscopy revealed that endothelial cells surround a single HSPC attached to a single mesenchymal stromal cell. Live imaging showed that mesenchymal stromal cells anchor HSPCs and orient their divisions. A chemical genetic screen found that the compound lycorine promotes HSPC-niche interactions during development and ultimately expands the stem cell pool into adulthood. Our studies provide evidence for dynamic niche interactions upon stem cell colonization.

Neonatal anemia

Sanjay Aher, Kedar Malwatkar, Sandeep Kadam
Seminars in Fetal & Neonatal Medicine (2008) 13, 239e247

Neonatal anemia and the need for red blood cell (RBC) transfusions are very common in neonatal intensive care units. Neonatal anemia can be due to blood loss, decreased RBC production, or increased destruction of erythrocytes. Physiologic anemia of the newborn and anemia of prematurity are the two most common causes of anemia in neonates. Phlebotomy losses result in much of the anemia seen in extremely low birthweight infants (ELBW). Accepting a lower threshold level for transfusion in ELBW infants can prevent these infants being exposed to multiple donors.

Management of anemia in the newborn

Naomi L.C. Luban
Early Human Development (2008) 84, 493–498

Red blood cell (RBC) transfusions are administered to neonates and premature infants using poorly defined indications that may result in unintentional adverse consequences. Blood products are often manipulated to limit potential adverse events, and meet the unique needs of neonates with specific diagnoses. Selection of RBCs for small volume (5–20 mL/kg) transfusions and for massive transfusion, defined as extracorporeal bypass and exchange transfusions, are of particular concern to neonatologists. Mechanisms and therapeutic treatments to avoid transfusion are another area of significant investigation. RBCs collected in anticoagulant additive solutions and administered in small aliquots to neonates over the shelf life of the product can decrease donor exposure and has supplanted the use of fresh RBCs where each transfusion resulted in a donor exposure. The safety of this practice has been documented and procedures established to aid transfusion services in ensuring that these products are available. Less well established are the indications for transfusion in this population; hemoglobin or hematocrit alone are insufficient indications unless clinical criteria (e.g. oxygen desaturation, apnea and bradycardia, poor weight gain) also augment the justification to transfuse. Comorbidities increase oxygen consumption demands in these infants and include bronchopulmonary dysplasia, rapid growth and cardiac dysfunction. Noninvasive methods or assays have been developed to measure tissue oxygenation; however, a true measure of peripheral oxygen offloading is needed to improve transfusion practice and determine the value of recombinant products that stimulate erythropoiesis. The development of such noninvasive methods is especially important since randomized, controlled clinical trials to support specific practices are often lacking, due at least in part, to the difficulty of performing such studies in tiny infants.
The Effect of Blood Transfusion on the Hemoglobin Oxygen Dissociation Curve of Very Early Preterm Infants During the First Week of Life

Virginie De HaUeux, Anita Truttmann, Carmen Gagnon, and Harry Bard
Seminars in Perinatology, 2002; 26(6): 411-415

This study was conducted during the first week of life to determine the changes in Ps0 (PO2 required to achieve a saturation of 50% at pH 7.4 and 37~ and the proportions of fetal hemoglobin (I-IbF) and adult hemoglobin (HbA) prior to and after transfusion in very early preterm infants. Eleven infants with a gestational age <–27 weeks have been included in study. The hemoglobin dissociation curve and the Ps0 was determined by Hemox-analyser. Liquid chromatography was also performed to determine the proportions of HbF and HbA. The mean gestational age of the 11 infants was 25.1 weeks (-+1 weeks) and their mean birth weight was 736 g (-+125 g). They received 26.9 mL/kg of packed red cells. The mean Ps0 prior and after transfusion was 18.5 +- 0.8 and 21.0 + 1 mm Hg (P = .0003) while the mean percentage of HbF was 92.9 -+ 1.1 and 42.6 -+ 5.7%, respectively. The data of this study show a decrease of hemoglobin oxygen affinity as a result of blood transfusion in very early preterm infants prone to O 2 toxicity. The shift in HbO 2 curve after transfusion should be taken into consideration when oxygen therapy is being regulated for these infants.

Effect of neonatal hemoglobin concentration on long-term outcome of infants affected by fetomaternal hemorrhage

Mizuho Kadooka, H Katob, A Kato, S Ibara, H Minakami, Yuko Maruyama
Early Human Development 90 (2014) 431–434

Background: Fetomaternal hemorrhage (FMH) can cause severe morbidity. However, perinatal risk factors for long-term poor outcome due to FMH have not been extensively studied.                                                                                 Aims: To determine which FMH infants are likely to have neurological sequelae.
Study design: A single-center retrospective observational study. Perinatal factors, including demographic characteristics, Kleihauer–Betke test, blood gas analysis, and neonatal blood hemoglobin concentration ([Hb]), were analyzed in association with long-term outcomes.
Subjects: All 18 neonates referred to a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit of Kagoshima City Hospital and diagnosed with FMH during a 15-year study period. All had a neonatal [Hb] b7.5 g/dL and 15 of 17 neonates tested had Kleihauer–Betke test result N4.0%.
Outcome measures: Poor long-term outcome was defined as any of the following determined at 12 month old or more: cerebral palsy, mental retardation, attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder, and epilepsy.
Results: Nine of the 18 neonates exhibited poor outcomes. Among demographic characteristics and blood variables compared between two groups with poor and favorable outcomes, significant differences were observed in [Hb] (3.6 ± 1.4 vs. 5.4 ± 1.1 g/dL, P = 0.01), pH (7.09 ± 0.11 vs. 7.25 ± 0.13, P = 0.02) and base deficits (17.5 ± 5.4 vs. 10.4 ± 6.0 mmol/L, P = 0.02) in neonatal blood, and a number of infants with [Hb] ≤ 4.5 g/dL (78%[7/9] vs. 22%[2/9], P= 0.03), respectively. The base deficit in neonatal arterial blood increased significantly with decreasing neonatal [Hb].
Conclusions: Severe anemia causing severe base deficit is associated with neurological sequelae in FMH infants

Clinical and hematological presentation among Indian patients with common hemoglobin variants

Khushnooma Italia, Dipti Upadhye, Pooja Dabke, Harshada Kangane, et al.
Clinica Chimica Acta 431 (2014) 46–51

Background: Co-inheritance of structural hemoglobin variants like HbS, HbD Punjab and HbE can lead to a variable clinical presentation and only few cases have been described so far in the Indian population.
Methods: We present the varied clinical and hematological presentation of 22 cases (HbSD Punjab disease-15, HbSE disease-4, HbD Punjab E disease-3) referred to us for diagnosis.
Results: Two of the 15 HbSDPunjab disease patients had moderate crisis, one presented with mild hemolytic anemia; however, the other 12 patients had a severe clinical presentation with frequent blood transfusion requirements, vaso occlusive crisis, avascular necrosis of the femur and febrile illness. The 4 HbSE disease patients had a mild to moderate presentation. Two of the 3 HbD Punjab E patients were asymptomatic with one patient’s sibling having a mild presentation. The hemoglobin levels of the HbSD Punjab disease patients ranged from 2.3 to 8.5 g/dl and MCV from 76.3 to 111.6 fl. The hemoglobin levels of the HbD Punjab E and HbSE patients ranged from 10.8 to 11.9 and 9.8 to 10.0 g/dl whereas MCV ranged from 67.1 to 78.2 and 74.5 to 76.0 fl respectively.
Conclusions: HbSD Punjab disease patients should be identified during newborn screening programs and managed in a way similar to sickle cell disease. Couple at risk of having HbSD Punjab disease children may be given the option of prenatal diagnosis in subsequent pregnancies.

Sickle cell anemia is the most common hemoglobinopathy seen across the world. It is caused by a point mutation in the 6th codon of the beta (β) globin gene leading to the substitution of the amino acid glutamic acid to valine. The sickle gene is frequently seen in Africa, some Mediterranean countries, India, Middle East—Saudi Arabia and North America. In India the prevalence of hemoglobin S (HbS) carriers varies from 2 to 40% among different population groups and HbS is mainly seen among the scheduled tribe, scheduled caste and other backward class populations in the western, central and parts of eastern and southern India. Sickle cell anemia has a variable clinical presentation in India with the most severe clinical presentation seen in central India whereas patients in the western region show a mild to moderate clinical presentation.

Hemoglobin D Punjab (HbD Punjab) (also known as HbD Los-Angeles, HbD Portugal, HbD North Carolina, D Oak Ridge and D Chicago) is another hemoglobin variant due to a point mutation in codon 121 of the β globin gene resulting in the substitution of the amino acid glutamic acid to glycine. It is a widely distributed hemoglobin with a relatively low prevalence of 0.86% in the Indo-Pak subcontinent, 1–3% in north-western India, 1–3% in the Black population in the Caribbean and North America and has also been reported among the English. It accounts for 55.6% of all the Hb variants seen in the Xenjiang province of China.

Hemoglobin E (HbE) is the most common abnormal hemoglobin in Southeast Asia. In India, the frequency ranges from 4% to 51% in the north eastern region and 3% to 4% in West Bengal in the east. The HbE mutation (β26 GAG→AAG) creates an alternative splice site and the βE chain is insufficiently synthesized, hence the phenotype of this disorder is that of a mild form of β thalassemia.

Though these 3 structural variants are prevalent in different regions of India, their interaction is increasingly seen in all states of the country due to migration of people to different regions for a better livelihood. There are very few reports on interaction of these commonly seen Hb variants and the phenotypic–genotypic presentation of these cases is important for genetic counseling and management.

HbF of patients with HbSD Punjab disease with variable clinical severity. The HbF values of 4 patients are not included as they were post blood transfusion

The genotypes of the patients were confirmed by restriction enzyme digestion and ARMS (Fig). Patients 1 to 15 were characterized as compound heterozygous for HbS and HbD Punjab whereas patients 16 to 19 were characterized as compound heterozygous for HbS and HbE. Patient nos. 20 to 22 were characterized as compound heterozygous for HbE and HbD Punjab.

Molecular characterization of HbS and HbDPunjab by restriction enzyme digestion and of HbE by ARMS.

Molecular characterization of HbS and HbDPunjab by restriction enzyme digestion and of HbE by ARMS.

Molecular characterization of HbS and HbDPunjab by restriction enzyme digestion and of HbE by ARMS.

The 3 common β globin gene variants of hemoglobin, HbS, HbE and HbD Punjab are commonly seen in India, with HbS having a high prevalence in the central belt and some parts of western, eastern and southern India, HbE in the eastern and north eastern region whereas HbD is mostly seen in the north western part of India. These hemoglobin variants have been reported in different population groups. However, with migration and intermixing of the different populations from different geographic regions, occasional cases of HbSD Punjab and HbSE are being reported. There are several HbD variants like HbD Punjab, HbD Iran, HbD Ibadan. However, of these only HbD Punjab interacts with HbS to form a clinically significant condition as the glutamine residue facilitates polymerization of HbS. HbD Iran and HbD Ibadan are non-interacting and produce benign conditions like the sickle cell trait. The first case of HbSD Punjab disease was a brother and sister considered to have atypical sickle cell disease in 1934. This family was further reinvestigated and reported as the first case of HbD Los Angeles which has the same mutation as the HbD Punjab. Serjeant et al. reported HbD Punjab in an English parent in 6 out of 11 HbSD-Punjab disease cases. This has been suggested to be due to the stationing of nearly 50,000 British troops on the Indian continent for a period of 200 y and the introduction into Britain of their Anglo-Indian children.

HbSD Punjab disease shows a similar pattern to HbS homozygous on alkaline hemoglobin electrophoresis but can be differentiated on acid agar gel electrophoresis and on HPLC. In HbSD Punjab disease cases, the peripheral blood films show anisocytosis, poikilocytosis, target cells and irreversibly sickled cells. Values of HbF and HbA2 are similar to those in sickle homozygous cases. HbSD Punjab disease is characterized by a moderately severe hemolytic anemia.

Twenty-one cases of HbSDPunjab were reported by Serjeant of which 16 were reported by different workers among patients originating from Caucasian, Spanish, Australian, Irish, English, Portuguese, Black, American, Venezuelan, Caribbean, Mexican, Turkish and Jamaican backgrounds. Yavarian et al. 2009 reported a multi centric origin of HbD Punjab which in combination with HbS results in sickle cell disease. Patel et al. 2010 have also reported 12 cases of HbSD Punjab from the Orissa state of eastern India. Majority of these cases were symptomatic, presenting with chronic hemolytic anemia and frequent painful crises.

HbF levels >20% were seen in 4 out of our 11 clinically severe patients of HbSD-Punjab disease with the mean HbF levels of 16.8% in 8 clinically severe patients, while 3 clinically severe patients were post transfused. However, the 3 patients with a mild to moderate clinical presentation showed a mean HbF level of 8.6%. This is in contrast to the relatively milder clinical presentation associated with high HbF seen in patients with sickle cell anemia. This was also reported by Adekile et al. 2010 in 5 cases of HbS-DLos Angeles where high HbF did not ameliorate the severe clinical presentation seen in these patients.

These 15 cases of HbSDPunjab disease give us an overall idea of the severe clinical presentation of the disease in different regions of India. However the HbDPunjabE cases were milder or asymptomatic and the HbSE cases were moderately symptomatic. Since most of the cases of HbSDPunjab disease were clinically severe, it is important to pick up these cases during newborn screening and enroll them into a comprehensive care program with the other sickle cell disease patients with introduction of therapeutic interventions such as penicillin prophylaxis if required and pneumococcal immunization. In fact, 2 of our cases (No. 6 and 7) were identified during newborn screening for sickle cell disorders. The parents can be given information on home care and educated to detect symptoms that may lead to serious medical emergencies. The parents of these patients as well as the couples who are at risk of having a child with HbSDPunjab disease could also be counseled about the option of prenatal diagnosis in subsequent pregnancies. It is thus important to document the clinical and hematological presentation of compound heterozygotes with these common β globin chain variants.

Common Hematologic Problems in the Newborn Nursery

Jon F. Watchko
Pediatr Clin N Am – (2015) xxx-xxx

Common RBC disorders include hemolytic disease of the newborn, anemia, and polycythemia. Another clinically relevant hematologic issue in neonates to be covered herein is thrombocytopenia. Disorders of white blood cells will not be reviewed.


(1)               Early clinical jaundice or rapidly developing hyperbilirubinemia are often signs of hemolysis, the differential diagnosis of which commonly includes immune-mediated disorders, red-cell enzyme deficiencies, and red-cell membrane defects.

(2)             Knowledge of the maternal blood type and antibody screen is critical in identifying non-ABO alloantibodies in the maternal serum that may pose a risk for severe hemolytic disease in the newborn.

(3)             Moderate to severe thrombocytopenia in an otherwise well-appearing newborn strongly suggests immune-mediated (alloimmune or autoimmune) thrombocytopenia.

Hemolytic conditions in the neonate

1. Immune-mediated (positive direct Coombs test)  a. Rhesus blood group: Anti-D, -c, -C, -e, -E, CW, and several others

  b. Non-Rhesus blood groups: Kell, Duffy, Kidd, Xg, Lewis, MNS, and others

  c. ABO blood group: Anti-A, -B

2. Red blood cell (RBC) enzyme defects

  a. Glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase (G6PD) deficiency

  b. Pyruvate kinase deficiency

  c. Others

3. RBC membrane defects

  a. Hereditary spherocytosis

  b. Elliptocytosis

  c. Stomatocytosis

  d. Pyknocytosis

  e. Others

4. Hemoglobinopathies

  a. alpha-thalassemia

  b. gamma-thalassemia

Standard maternal antibody screeningAlloantibody                                 Blood Group

D, C, c, E, e, f, CW, V                     Rhesus

K, k, Kpa, Jsa                                  Kell

Fya, Fyb                                          Duffy

Jka, Jkb                                           Kidd

Xga                                                  Xg

Lea, Leb                                          Lewis

S, s, M, N                                        MNS

P1                                                    P

Lub                                                  Lutheran

Non-ABO alloantibodies reported to cause moderate to severe hemolytic disease of the newbornWithin Rh system: Anti-D, -c, -C, -Cw, -Cx, -e, -E, -Ew, -ce, -Ces, -Rh29, -Rh32, -Rh42, -f, -G, -Goa, -Bea, -Evans, -Rh17, -Hro, -Hr, -Tar, -Sec, -JAL, -STEM

Outside Rh system:  Anti-LW, -K, -k, -Kpa, -Kpb, -Jka, -Jsa, -Jsb, -Ku, -K11, -K22, -Fya, -M, -N, -S, -s, -U, -PP1 pk, -Dib, -Far, -MUT, -En3, -Hut, -Hil, -Vel, -MAM, -JONES, -HJK, -REIT


Red Blood Cell Enzymopathies

G6PD9 and pyruvate kinase (PK) deficiency are the 2 most common red-cell enzyme disorders associated with marked neonatal hyperbilirubinemia. Of these, G6PD deficiency is the more frequently encountered and it remains an important cause of kernicterus worldwide, including the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom, the prevalence in Western countries a reflection in part of immigration patterns and intermarriage. The risk of kernicterus in G6PD deficiency also relates to the potential for unexpected rapidly developing extreme hyperbilirubinemia in this disorder associated with acute severe hemolysis.

Red Blood Cell Membrane Defects

Establishing a diagnosis of RBC membrane defects is classically based on the development of Coombs-negative hyperbilirubinemia, a positive family history, and abnormal RBC smear, albeit it is often difficult because newborns normally exhibit a marked variation in red-cell membrane size and shape. Spherocytes, however, are not often seen on RBC smears of hematologically normal newborns and this morphologic abnormality, when prominent, may yield a diagnosis of hereditary spherocytosis (HS) in the immediate neonatal period. Given that approximately 75% of families affected with hereditary spherocytosis manifest an autosomal dominant phenotype, a positive family history can often be elicited and provide further support for this diagnosis. More recently, Christensen and Henry highlighted the use of an elevated mean corpuscular hemoglobin concentration (MCHC) (>36.0 g/dL) and/or elevated ratio of MCHC to mean corpuscular volume, the latter they term the “neonatal HS index” (>0.36, likely >0.40) as screening tools for HS. An index of greater than 0.36 had 97% sensitivity, greater than 99% specificity, and greater than 99% negative predictive value for identifying HS in neonates. Christensen and colleagues also provided a concise update of morphologic RBC features that may be helpful in diagnosing this and other underlying hemolytic conditions in newborns.

The diagnosis of HS can be confirmed using the incubated osmotic fragility test when coupled with fetal red-cell controls or eosin-5-maleimide flow cytometry. One must rule out symptomatic ABO hemolytic disease by performing a direct Coombs test, as infants so affected also may manifest prominent micro-spherocytosis. Moreover, HS and symptomatic ABO hemolytic disease can occur in the same infant and result in severe hyperbilirubinemia and anemia.  Of other red-cell membrane defects, only hereditary elliptocytosis,  stomato-cytosis, and infantile pyknocytosis have been reported to exhibit significant hemolysis in the newborn period. Hereditary elliptocytosis and stomatocytosis are both rare. Infantile pyknocytosis, a transient red-cell membrane abnormality manifesting itself during the first few months of life, is more common.

Risk factors for bilirubin neurotoxicityIsoimmune hemolytic disease

G6PD deficiency




Albumin less than 3.0 g/dL
Data from Maisels MJ, Bhutani VK, Bogen D, et al. Hyperbilirubinemia in the newborn infant > or 535 weeks’ gestation: an update with clarifications. Pediatrics 2009; 124:1193–8.


Polycythemia (venous hematocrit 65%) in seen in infants across a range of conditions associated with active erythropoiesis or passive transfusion.76,77 They include, among others, placental insufficiency, the infant of a diabetic mother, recipient in twin-twin transfusion syndrome, and several aneuploidies, including trisomy. The clinical concern related to polycythemia is the risk for microcirculatory complications of hyperviscosity. However, determining which polycythemic infants are hyperviscous and when to intervene is a challenge.




Metabolic disorders presenting as liver disease

Germaine Pierre, Efstathia Chronopoulou
Paediatrics and Child Health 2013; 23(12): 509-514
The liver is a highly metabolically active organ and many inherited metabolic disorders have hepatic manifestations. The clinical presentation in these patients cannot usually be distinguished from liver disease due to acquired causes like infection, drugs or hematological disorders. Manifestations include acute and chronic liver failure, cholestasis and hepatomegaly. Metabolic causes of acute liver failure in childhood can be as high as 35%. Certain disorders like citrin deficiency and Niemann-Pick C disease may present in infancy with self-limiting cholestasis before presenting in later childhood or adulthood with irreversible disease. This article reviews important details from the history and clinical examination when evaluating the pediatric patient with suspected metabolic disease, the specialist and genetic tests when investigating, and also discusses specific disorders, their clinical course and treatment. The role of liver transplantation is also briefly discussed. Increased awareness of this group of disorders is important as in many cases, early diagnosis leads to early intervention with improved outcome. Diagnosis also allows genetic counselling and future family planning.

Adult liver disorders caused by inborn errors of metabolism: Review and update

Sirisak Chanprasert, Fernando Scaglia
Molecular Genetics and Metabolism 114 (2015) 1–10

Inborn errors of metabolism (IEMs) are a group of genetic diseases that have protean clinical manifestations and can involve several organ systems. The age of onset is highly variable but IEMs afflict mostly the pediatric population. However, in the past decades, the advancement in management and new therapeutic approaches have led to the improvement in IEM patient care. As a result, many patients with IEMs are surviving into adulthood and developing their own set of complications. In addition, some IEMs will present in adulthood. It is important for internists to have the knowledge and be familiar with these conditions because it is predicted that more and more adult patients with IEMs will need continuity of care in the near future. The review will focus on Wilson disease, alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency, citrin deficiency, and HFE-associated hemochromatosis which are typically found in the adult population. Clinical manifestations and pathophysiology, particularly those that relate to hepatic disease as well as diagnosis and management will be discussed in detail.

Inborn errors of metabolism (IEMs) are a group of genetic diseases characterized by abnormal processing of biochemical reactions, resulting in accumulation of toxic substances that could interfere with normal organ functions, and failure to synthesize essential compounds. IEMs are individually rare, but collectively numerous. The clinical presentations cover a broad spectrum and can involve almost any organ system. The age of onset is highly variable but IEMs afflict mostly the pediatric population.

Wilson disease is an autosomal recessive genetic disorder of copper metabolism. It is characterized by an abnormal accumulation of inorganic copper in various tissues, most notably in the liver and the brain, especially in the basal ganglia. The disease was first described in 1912 by Kinnier Wilson, and affects between 1 in 30,000 and 1 in 100,000 individuals. Clinical features are variable and depend on the extent  and the severity of copper deposition. Typically, patients tend to develop hepatic disease at a younger age than the neuropsychiatric manifestations. Individuals withWilson disease eventually succumb to complications of end stage liver disease or become debilitated from neurological problems, if they are left untreated.

The clinical presentations of Wilson disease are varied affecting many organ systems. However, the overwhelming majority of cases display hepatic and neurologic symptoms. In general, patients with hepatic disease present between the first and second decades of life although patients as young as 3 years old or over 50 years old have also been reported. The most common modes of presentations are acute self-limited hepatitis and chronic active hepatitis that are indistinguishable from other hepatic disorders although liver aminotransferases are generally much lower than in autoimmune or viral hepatitis. Acute fulminant hepatic failure is less common but is observed in approximately 3% of all cases of acute liver failure. Symptoms of acute liver failure include jaundice, coagulopathy, and hepatic encephalopathy. Cirrhosis can develop over time and may be clinically silent. Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is rarely associated with Wilson disease, but may occur in the setting of cirrhosis and chronic inflammation.

Copper is an essential element, and is required for the proper functioning of various proteins and enzymes. The total body content of copper in a healthy adult individual is approximately 70–100 mg, while the daily requirements are estimated to be between 1 and 5 mg. Absorption occurs in the small intestine. Copper is taken up to the hepatocytes via the copper transporter hTR1. Once inside the cell, copper is bound to various proteins including metallothionein and glutathione, however, it is the metal chaperone, ATOX1 that helps direct copper to the ATP7B protein for intracellular transport and excretion. At the steady state, copper will be bound to ATP7B and is then incorporated to ceruloplasmin and secreted into the systemic circulation. When the cellular copper concentration arises, ATP7B protein will be redistributed from the trans-Golgi network to the prelysosomal vesicles facilitating copper excretion into the bile. The molecular defects in ATP7B lead to a reduction of copper excretion. Excess copper is accumulated in the liver causing tissue injury. The rate of accumulation of copper varies among individuals, and it may depend on other factors such as alcohol consumption, or viral hepatitis infections. If the liver damage is not severe, patients will accumulate copper in various tissues including the brain, the kidney, the eyes, and the musculoskeletal system leading to clinical disease. A failure of copper to incorporate into ceruloplasmin leads to secretion of the unsteady protein that has a shorter half-life, resulting in the reduced concentrations of ceruloplasmin seen in most patients with Wilson disease.

Wilson disease used to be a progressive fatal condition during the first half of the 20th century because there was no effective treatment available at that time. Penicillamine was the first pharmacologic agent introduced in 1956 for treating this condition. Penicillamine is a sulfhydryl-bearing amino acid cysteine doubly substituted with methyl groups. This drug acts as a chelating agent that promotes the urinary excretion of copper. It is rapidly absorbed in the gastrointestinal track, and over 80% of circulating penicillamine is excreted via the kidneys. Although it is very effective, approximately 10%–50% of Wilson disease patients with neuropsychiatric presentations may experience worsening of their symptoms, and often times the worsening symptoms may not be reversible.

Alpha1-antitrypsin deficiency

Alpha1-antitrypsin deficiency (AATD) is one of the most common genetic liver diseases in children and adults, affecting 1 in 2000 to 1 in 3000 live births worldwide. It is transmitted in an autosomal co-dominant fashion with variable expressivity. Alpha1 antitrypsin (A1AT) is a member of the serine protease inhibitor (SERPIN) family. Its function is to counteract the proteolytic effect of neutrophil elastase and other neutrophil proteases. Mutations in the SERPINA1, the gene encoding A1AT, result in changes in the protein structure with the PiZZ phenotype being the most common cause of liver and lung disease-associated AATDs. Although, it classically causes early onset chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) in adults, liver disease characterized by chronic inflammation, hepatic fibrosis, and cirrhosis is not uncommon in the adult population. Decreased plasma concentration of A1AT predisposes lung tissue to be more susceptible to injury from protease enzymes. However, the underlying mechanism of liver injury is different, and is believed to be caused by accumulation of polymerized mutant A1AT in the hepatocyte endoplasmic reticulum (ER). Currently, there is no specific treatment for liver disease-associated AATD, but A1AT augmentation therapy is available for patients affected with pulmonary involvement.

A1AT is a single-chain, 52-kDa polypeptide of approximately 394 amino acids [56]. It is synthesized in the liver, circulates in the plasma, and functions as an inhibitor of neutrophil elastase and other proteases such as cathepsin G, and proteinase 3. A1AT has a globular shape composed of two central β sheets surrounded by a small β sheet and nine α helices. The pathophysiology underlying liver disease is thought to be a toxic gain-of-function mutation associated with the PiZZ phenotypes. This hypothesis has been supported by the fact that null alleles which produce no detectable plasma A1AT, are not associated with liver disease. In addition, the transgenic mouse model of AATD PiZZ developed periodic acid-Schiff-positive diastase-resistant intrahepatic globule early in life similar to AATD patients. The PiZZ phenotype results in the blockade of the final processing of A1AT in the liver, as only 15% of the A1AT reaches the circulation whereas 85% of non-secreted protein is accumulated in the hepatocytes.

Citrin deficiency

Citrin deficiency is a relatively newly-defined autosomal recessive disease. It encompasses two different sub-groups of patients, neonatal intrahepatic cholestasis caused by citrin deficiency (NICCD), and adult onset citrullinemia type 2 (CTLN 2).

AGC2 exports aspartate out of the mitochondrial matrix in exchange for glutamate and a proton. Thus, this protein has an important role in ureagenesis and gluconeogenesis. In CTLN2, a defect in this protein is believed to limit the supply of aspartate for the formation of argininosuccinate in the cytosol resulting in impairment of ureagenesis. Interestingly, the mouse model of citrin deficiency (Ctrn−/−) fails to develop symptoms of CTLN2 suggesting that the mitochondrial aspartate is not the only source of ureagenesis. However, it should be noted that the rodent liver expresses higher glycerol-phosphate shuttle activity than the human counterpart. With the intact glycerol-phosphate dehydrogenase, it can compensate for the deficiency of AGC2, as demonstrated by the AGC2 and glycerol-phosphate dehydrogenase double knock-out mice that exhibit similar features to those observed in human CTLN2.

HFE-associated hemochromatosis

HFE-associated hemochromatosis is an inborn error of iron metabolism characterized by excessive iron storage resulting in tissue and organ damage. It is the most common autosomal recessive disorder in the Caucasian population, affecting 0.3%–0.5% of individuals of Northern European descent. The term “hemochromatosis” was coined in 1889 by the German pathologist Friedrich Daniel Von Recklinghausen, who described it as bronze stain of organs caused by a blood borne pigment.

The classic clinical triad of cirrhosis, diabetes, and bronze skin pigmentation is rarely observed nowadays given the early recognition, diagnosis, and treatment of this condition. The most common presenting symptoms are nonspecific including weakness, lethargy, and arthralgia.

The liver is a major site of iron storage in healthy individuals and as such it is the organ that is universally affected in HFE-associated hemochromatosis. Elevation of liver aminotransferases indicative of hepatocyte injury is the most common mode of presentation and it can be indistinguishable from other causes of hepatitis. Approximately 15%–40% of patients with HFE-associated hemochromatosis have other liver conditions, including chronic viral hepatitis B or C infection, nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, and alcoholic liver disease.


The liver in haemochromatosis

Rune J. Ulvik
Journal of Trace Elements in Medicine and Biology xxx (2014) xxx–xxx

The review deals with genetic, regulatory and clinical aspects of iron homeostasis and hereditary hemochromatosis. Hemochromatosis was first described in the second half of the 19th century as a clinical entity characterized by excessive iron overload in the liver. Later, increased absorption of iron from the diet was identified as the pathophysiological hallmark. In the 1970s genetic evidence emerged supporting the apparent inheritable feature of the disease. And finally in 1996 a new “hemochromato-sis gene” called HFE was described which was mutated in about 85% of the patients. From the year2000 onward remarkable progress was made in revealing the complex molecular regulation of iron trafficking in the human body and its disturbance in hemochromatosis. The discovery of hepcidin and ferroportin and their interaction in regulating the release of iron from enterocytes and macrophages to plasma were important milestones. The discovery of new, rare variants of non-HFE-hemochromatosis was explained by mutations in the multicomponent signal transduction pathway controlling hepcidin transcription. Inhibited transcription induced by the altered function of mutated gene products, results in low plasma levels of hepcidin which facilitate entry of iron from enterocytes into plasma. In time this leads to progressive accumulation of iron and subsequently development of disease in the liver and other parenchymatous organs. Being the major site of excess iron storage and hepcidin synthesis the liver is a cornerstone in maintaining normal systemic iron homeostasis. Its central pathophysiological role in HFE-hemochromatosis with downgraded hepcidin synthesis, was recently shown by the finding that liver transplantation normalized the hepcidin levels in plasma and there was no sign of iron accumulation in the new liver.


Decoding the enigma of necrotizing enterocolitis in premature infants

Roberto Murgas TorrazzaNan Li, Josef Neu
Pathophysiology 21 (2014) 21–27

Necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC) is an enigmatic disease that affects primarily premature infants. It often occurs suddenly and when it occurs, treatment attempts at treatment often fail and results in death. If the infant survives, there is a significant risk of long term sequelae including neurodevelopmental delays. The pathophysiology of NEC is poorly understood and thus prevention has been difficult. In this review, we will provide an overview of why progress may be slow in our understanding of this disease, provide a brief review diagnosis, treatment and some of the current concepts about the pathophysiology of this disease.

Necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC) has been reported since special care units began to house preterm infants .With the advent of modern neonatal intensive care approximately 40 years ago, the occurrence and recognition of the disease markedly increased. It is currently the most common and deadly gastro-intestinal illness seen in preterm infants. Despite major efforts to better understand, treat and prevent this devastating disease, little if any progress has been made during these 4 decades. Underlying this lack of progress is the fact that what is termed “NEC” is likely more than one disease, or mimicked by other diseases, each with a different etiopathogenesis.

Human gut microbiome

Human gut microbiome

Term or near term infants with “NEC” when compared to matched controls usually have occurrence of their disease in the first week after birth, have a significantly higher frequency of prolonged rupture of membranes, chorio-amnionitis, Apgar score <7 at 1 and 5 min, respiratory problems, congenital heart disease, hypoglycemia, and exchange transfusions. When a “NEC” like illness presents in term or near term infants, it should be noted that these are likely to be distinct in pathogenesis than the most common form of NEC and should be differentiated as such.

The infants who suffer primary ischemic necrosis are term or near term infants (although this can occur in preterms) who have concomitant congenital heart disease, often related to poor left ventricular output or obstruction. Other factors that have been associated with primary ischemia are maternal cocaine use, hyperviscosity caused by polycythemia or a severe antecedent hypoxic–ischemic event. Whether the dis-ease entity that results from this should be termed NEC can be debated on historical grounds, but the etiology is clearly different from the NEC seen in most preterm infants.

The pathogenesis of NEC is uncertain, and the etiology seems to be multifactorial. The “classic” form of NEC is highly associated with prematurity; intestinal barrier immaturity, immature immune response, and an immature regulation of intestinal blood flow (Fig.). Although genetics appears to play a role, the environment, especially a dysbiotic intestinal microbiota acting in concert with host immaturities predisposes the preterm infant to disruption of the intestinal epithelia, increased permeability of tight junctions, and release of inflammatory mediators that leads to intestinal mucosa injury and therefore development of necrotizing enterocolitis.

NEC is a multifactorial disease

NEC is a multifactorial disease

What causes NEC? NEC is a multifactorial disease with an interaction of several etiophathologies

It is clear from this review that there are several entities that have been described as NEC. What is also clear is that despite having some overlap in the final parts of the pathophysiologic cascade that lead to necrosis, the disease that is most commonly seen in the preterm infant is likely to have an origin that differs markedly from that seen in term infants with congenital heart disease or severe hypoxic–ischemic injury. Thus, epidemiologic studies will need to differentiate these entities, if the aim is to dissect common features that are most highly associated with development of the disease. At this juncture, we areleft with more of a population based preventative approach, where the use of human milk, evidence based feeding guide-lines, considerations for microbial therapy once these are proved safe and effective and approved as such by regulatory authorities, and perhaps even measures that prevent prematurity will have a major impact on this devastating disease.

Influenced by the microbiota, intestinal epithelial cells (IECs) elaborate cytokines

Influenced by the microbiota, intestinal epithelial cells (IECs) elaborate cytokines

Influenced by the microbiota, intestinal epithelial cells (IECs) elaborate cytokines, including thymic stromal lymphoprotein (TSLP), transforming growthfactor (TGF), and interleukin-10 (IL-10), that can influence pro-inflammatory cytokine production by dendritic cells (DC) and macrophages present in the laminapropria (GALT) and Peyer’s patches. Signals from commensal organisms may influence tissue-specific functions, resulting in T-cell expansion and regulation of the numbers of Th-1,
Th-2, and Th-3 cells. Also modulated by the microbiota, other IEC derived factors, including APRIL (a proliferation-inducing ligand),B-cell activating factor (BAFF), secretory leukocyte peptidase inhibitor (SLPI), prostaglandin E2(PGE2), and other metabolites, directly regulate functions ofboth antigen presenting cells and lymphocytes in the intestinal ecosystem. NK: natural killer cell; LN: lymph node; DC: dendritic cells.Modified from R. Sharma, C. Young, M. Mshvildadze, J. Neu, Intestinal microbiota does it play a role in diseases of the neonate? NeoReviews 10 (4) (2009)e166, with permission

Cross-talk between monocyte.macrophage cells and T.NK lymphocytes

Cross-talk between monocyte.macrophage cells and T.NK lymphocytes

Current Issues in the Management of Necrotizing Enterocolitis

Marion C. W. Henry and R. Lawrence Moss
Seminars in Perinatology, 2004; 28(3): 221-233

Necrotizing enterocolitis is almost exclusively a disease of prematurity, with 90% of all cases occurring in premature infants and 90% of those infants weighing less than 2000 g. Prematurity is the only risk factor for necrotizing enterocolitis consistently identified in case control studies and the disease is rare in countries where prematurity is uncommon such as Japan and Sweden. When necrotizing enterocolitis does occur in full-term infants, it appears to by a somewhat different disease, typically associated with some predisposing condition.

NEC occurs in one to three in 1,000 live births and most commonly affects babies born between 30-32 weeks. It is most often diagnosed during the second week of life and occurs more often in previously fed infants. The mortality from NEC has been cited as 10% to 50% of all NEC cases. Surgical mortality has decreased over the last several decades from 70% to between 20 and 50%. The incremental cost per case of acute hospital care is estimated at $74 to 186 thousand compared to age matched controls, not including additional costs of long term care for the infants’ with lifelong morbidity. Survivors may develop short bowel syndrome, recurrent bouts of catheter-related sepsis, malabsorption, malnutrition, and TPN induced liver failure.

Although extensive research concerning the pathophysiology of necrotizing enterocolitis has occurred, a complete understanding has not been fully elucidated. The classic histologic finding is coagulation necrosis; present in over 90% of specimens. This finding suggests the importance of ischemia in the pathogenesis of NEC. Inflammation and bacterial overgrowth also are present. These findings support the assumptions by Kosloske that NEC occurs by the interaction of 3 events:

  • intestinal ischemia,
  • colonization by pathogenic bacteria and
  • excess protein substrate in the intestinal lumen.

Additionally, the immunologic immaturity of the neonatal gut has been implicated in the development of NEC. Reparative tissue changes including epithelial regeneration, formation of granulation tissue and fibrosis, and mixed areas of acute and chronic inflammatory changes suggest that the pathogenesis of NEC may involve a chronic process of injury and repair.

Premature newborns born prior to the 32nd week of gestational age may have compromised intestinal peristalsis and decreased motility. These motility problems may lead to poor clearance of bacteria, and subsequent bacterial overgrowth. Premature infants also have an immature intestinal tract in terms of immunologic immunity.

There are fewer functional B lymphocytes present and the ability to produce sufficient secretory IgA is reduced. Pepsin, gastric acid and mucus are also not produced as well in prematurity. All of these factors may contribute to the limited proliferation of intestinal flora and the decreased binding of these flora to mucosal cells (Fig).

Role of nitric oxide in the pathogenesis of NEC

Role of nitric oxide in the pathogenesis of NEC

Role of nitric oxide in the pathogenesis of NEC.

Characteristics of the immature gut leading to increased risk of necrotizing enterocolitis

Characteristics of the immature gut leading to increased risk of necrotizing enterocolitis

Characteristics of the immature gut leading to increased risk of necrotizing enterocolitis.

As understanding of the pathophysiology of necrotizing enterocolitis continues to evolve, a unifying concept is emerging. Initially, there is likely a subclinical insult leading to NEC. This may arise from a brief episode of hypoxia or infection. With colonization of the intestines, bacteria bind to the injured mucosa eliciting an inflammatory response which leads to further inflammation.

Intestinal Microbiota Development in Preterm Neonates and Effect of Perinatal Antibiotics

Silvia Arboleya, Borja Sanchez,, Christian Milani, Sabrina Duranti, et al.
Pediatr 2014;-:—).

Objectives Assess the establishment of the intestinal microbiota in very low birth-weight preterm infants and to evaluate the impact of perinatal factors, such as delivery mode and perinatal antibiotics.
Study design We used 16S ribosomal RNA gene sequence-based microbiota analysis and quantitative polymerase chain reaction to evaluate the establishment of the intestinal microbiota. We also evaluated factors affecting the microbiota, during the first 3 months of life in preterm infants (n = 27) compared with full-term babies (n = 13).
Results Immaturity affects the microbiota as indicated by a reduced percentage of the family Bacteroidaceae during the first months of life and by a higher initial percentage of Lactobacillaceae in preterm infants compared with full term infants. Perinatal antibiotics, including intrapartum antimicrobial prophylaxis, affects the gut microbiota, as indicated by increased Enterobacteriaceae family organisms in the infants.

Human gut microbiome

Human gut microbiome

Conclusions Prematurity and perinatal antibiotic administration strongly affect the initial establishment of microbiota with potential consequences for later health.

Ischemia and necrotizing enterocolitis: where, when, and how

Philip T. Nowicki
Seminars in Pediatric Surgery (2005) 14, 152-158

While it is accepted that ischemia contributes to the pathogenesis of necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC), three important questions regarding this role subsist. First, where within the intestinal circulation does the vascular pathophysiology occur? It is most likely that this event begins within the intramural microcirculation, particularly the small arteries that pierce the gut wall and the submucosal arteriolar plexus insofar as these represent the principal sites of resistance regulation in the gut. Mucosal damage might also disrupt the integrity or function of downstream villous arterioles leading to damage thereto; thereafter, noxious stimuli might ascend into the submucosal vessels via downstream venules and lymphatics. Second, when during the course of pathogenesis does ischemia occur? Ischemia is unlikely to the sole initiating factor of NEC; instead, it is more likely that ischemia is triggered by other events, such as inflammation at the mucosal surface. In this context, it is likely that ischemia plays a secondary, albeit critical role in disease extension. Third, how does the ischemia occur? Regulation of vascular resistance within newborn intestine is principally determined by a balance between the endothelial production of the vasoconstrictor peptide endothelin-1 (ET-1) and endothelial production of the vasodilator free radical nitric oxide (NO). Under normal conditions, the balance heavily favors NO-induced vasodilation, leading to a low resting resistance and high rate of flow. However, factors that disrupt endothelial cell function, eg, ischemia-reperfusion, sustained low-flow perfusion, or proinflammatory mediators, alter the ET-1:NO balance in favor of constriction. The unique ET-1–NO interaction thereafter might facilitate rapid extension of this constriction, generating a viscous cascade wherein ischemia rapidly extends into larger portions of the intestine.

Schematic representation of the intestinal microcirculation

Schematic representation of the intestinal microcirculation

Schematic representation of the intestinal microcirculation. Small mesenteric arteries pierce the muscularis layers and terminate in the submucosa where they give rise to 1A (1st order) arterioles. 2A (2nd order) arterioles arise from the 1A. Although not shown here, these 2A arterioles connect merge with several 1A arterioles, thus generating an arteriolar plexus, or manifold that serves to pressurize the terminal downstream microvasculature. 3A (3rd order) arterioles arise from the 2A and proceed to the mucosa, giving off a 4A branch just before descent into the mucosa. This 4A vessel travels to the muscularis layers. Each 3A vessel becomes the single arteriole perfusing each villus.

Collectively, these studies indicate that disruption of endothelial cell function has the potential to disrupt the normal balance between NO and ET-1 within the newborn intestinal circulation, and that such an event can generate significant ischemia. In this context, it is important to note that NO and ET-1 each regulate the expression and activity of the other. An increased [NO] within the microvascular environment reduces ET-1 expression and compromises ligand binding to the ETA receptor (thus decreasing its contractile efficacy), while ET-1 compromises eNOS expression. Thus, factors that upset the balance between NO and ET-1 will have an immediate and direct effect on vascular tone, but also exert an additional indirect effect by extenuating the disruption of balance between these two factors.

It is not difficult to construct a hypothesis that links the perturbations of I/R and sustained low-flow perfusion with an initial inflammatory insult. Initiation of an inflammatory process at the mucosal–luminal interface could have a direct impact on villus and mucosal 3A arterioles, damaging arteriolar integrity and disrupting villus hemodynamics. Ascent of proinflammatory mediators to the submucosal 1A–2A arteriolar plexus could occur via draining venules and lymphatics, generating damage to vascular effector systems therein; these mediators might include cytokines and platelet activating factor, as these elements have been recovered from human infants with NEC. This event, coupled with a generalized loss of 3A flow throughout a large portion of the mucosal surface, could compromise flow rate within the submucosal arteriolar plexus.

Necrotizing enterocolitis: An update

Loren Berman, R. Lawrence Moss
Seminars in Fetal & Neonatal Medicine 16 (2011) 145e150

Necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC) is a leading cause of death among patients in the neonatal intensive care unit, carrying a mortality rate of 15e30%. Its pathogenesis is multifactorial and involves an over reactive response of the immune system to an insult. This leads to increased intestinal permeability, bacterial translocation, and sepsis. There are many inflammatory mediators involved in this process, but thus far none has been shown to be a suitable target for preventive or therapeutic measures. NEC usually occurs in the second week of life after the initiation of enteral feeds, and the diagnosis is made based on physical examination findings, laboratory studies, and abdominal radiographs. Neonates with NEC are followed with serial abdominal examinations and radiographs, and may require surgery or primary peritoneal drainage for perforation or necrosis. Many survivors are plagued with long term complications including short bowel syndrome, abnormal growth, and neurodevelopmental delay. Several evidence-based strategies exist that may decrease the incidence of NEC including promotion of human breast milk feeding, careful feeding advancement, and prophylactic probiotic administration in at-risk patients. Prevention is likely to have the greatest impact on decreasing mortality and morbidity related to NEC, as little progress has been made with regard to improving outcomes for neonates once the disease process is underway.

Immune Deficiencies

Primary immunodeficiencies: A rapidly evolving story

Nima Parvaneh, Jean-Laurent Casanova,  LD Notarangelo, ME Conley
J Allergy Clin Immunol 2013;131:314-23.

The characterization of primary immunodeficiencies (PIDs) in human subjects is crucial for a better understanding of the biology of the immune response. New achievements in this field have been possible in light of collaborative studies; attention paid to new phenotypes, infectious and otherwise; improved immunologic techniques; and use of exome sequencing technology. The International Union of Immunological Societies Expert Committee on PIDs recently reported on the updated classification of PIDs. However, new PIDs are being discovered at an ever-increasing rate. A series of 19 novel primary defects of immunity that have been discovered after release of the International Union of Immunological Societies report are discussed here. These new findings highlight the molecular pathways that are associated with clinical phenotypes and suggest potential therapies for affected patients.

Combined Immunodeficiencies

  • T-cell receptor a gene mutation: T-cell receptor ab1 T-cell depletion

T cells comprise 2 distinct lineages that express either ab or gd T-cell receptor (TCR) complexes that perform different tasks in immune responses. During T-cell maturation, the precise order and efficacy of TCR gene rearrangements determine the fate of the cells. Productive β-chain gene rearrangement produces a pre-TCR on the cell surface in association with pre-Tα invariant peptide (β-selection). Pre-TCR signals promote α-chain recombination and transition to a double-positive stage (CD41CD81). This is the prerequisite for central tolerance achieved through positive and negative selection of thymocytes.

  • Ras homolog gene family member H deficiency: Loss of naive T cells and persistent human papilloma virus infections
  • MST1 deficiency: Loss of naive T cells

New insight into the role of MST1 as a critical regulator of T-cell homing and function was provided by the characterization of 8 patients from 4 unrelated families who had homozygous nonsense mutations in STK4, the gene encoding MST1. MST1 was originally identified as an ubiquitously expressed kinase with structural homology to yeast Ste. MST1 is the mammalian homolog of the Drosophila Hippo protein, controlling cell growth, apoptosis, and tumorigenesis. It has both proapoptotic and antiapoptotic functions.

  • Lymphocyte-specific protein tyrosine kinase deficiency: T-cell deficiency with CD41 lymphopenia

Defects in pre-TCR– and TCR-mediated signaling lead to aberrant T-cell development and function (Fig). One of the earliest biochemical events occurring after engagement of the (pre)-TCR is the activation of lymphocyte-specific protein tyrosine kinase (LCK), a member of the SRC family of protein tyrosine kinases. This kinase then phosphorylates immunoreceptor tyrosine-based activation motifs of intracellular domains of CD3 subunits. Phosphorylated immunoreceptor tyrosine-based activation motifs recruit z-chain associated protein kinase of 70 kDa, which, after being phosphorylated by LCK, is responsible for activation of critical downstream events. Major consequences include activation of the membrane-associated enzyme phospholipase Cg1, activation of the mitogen-activated protein kinase, nuclear translocation of nuclear factor kB (NFkB), and Ca21/Mg21 mobilization. Through these pathways, LCK controls T-cell development and activation. In mice lacking LCK, T-cell development in the thymus is profoundly blocked at an early double-negative stage.

TCR signaling

TCR signaling

TCR signaling. Multiple signal transduction pathways are stimulated through the TCR. These pathways collectively activate transcription factors that organize T-cell survival, proliferation, differentiation, homeostasis, and migration. Mutant molecules in patients with TCR-related defects are indicated in red.

  • Uncoordinated 119 deficiency: Idiopathic CD41 lymphopenia

Idiopathic CD41 lymphopenia (ICL) is a very heterogeneous clinical entity that is defined, by default, by persistent CD41 T-cell lymphopenia (<300 cells/mL or <20% of total T cells) in the absence of HIV infection or any other known cause of immunodeficiency.

Well-Defined Syndromes with Immunodeficiency

  • Wiskott-Aldrich syndrome protein–interacting protein deficiency: Wiskott-Aldrich syndrome-like phenotype

In hematopoietic cells Wiskott-Aldrich syndrome protein (WASP) is stabilized through forming a complex with WASP interacting protein (WIP).

  • Phospholipase Cg2 gain-of-function mutations: Cold urticaria, immunodeficiency, and autoimmunity/autoinflammatory

This is a unique phenotype, sharing features of antibody deficiency, autoinflammatory diseases, and immune dysregulatory disorders, making its classification difficult. Two recent studies validated the pleiotropy of genetic alterations in the same gene.

Predominantly Antibody Defects

  • Defect in the p85a subunit of phosphoinositide 3-kinase: Agammaglobulinemia and absent B cells
  • CD21 deficiency: Hypogammaglobulinemia
  • LPS-responsive beige-like anchor deficiency:
  • Hypogammaglobulinemia with autoimmunity and

early colitis

Defects Of Immune Dysregulation

  • Pallidin deficiency: Hermansky-Pudlak syndrome type 9
  • CD27 deficiency: Immune dysregulation and
  • persistent EBV infection

Congenital Defects Of Phagocyte Number, Function, Or Both

  • Interferon-stimulated gene 15 deficiency: Mendelian susceptibility to mycobacterial diseases

Defects In Innate Immunity

  • NKX2-5 deficiency: Isolated congenital asplenia
  • Toll/IL-1 receptor domain–containing adaptor inducing IFN-b and TANK-binding kinase 1 deficiencies: Herpes simplex encephalitis
  • Minichromosome maintenance complex component 4 deficiency: NK cell deficiency associated with growth retardation and adrenal insufficiency

Autoinflammatory Disorders

  • A disintegrin and metalloproteinase 17 deficiency: Inflammatory skin and bowel disease


Cross-talk between monocyte.macrophage cells and T.NK lymphocytes

Cross-talk between monocyte.macrophage cells and T.NK lymphocytes

Cross-talk between monocyte/macrophage cells and T/NK lymphocytes. Genes in the IL-12/IFN-g pathway are particularly important for protection against mycobacterial disease. IRF8 is an IFN-g–inducible transcription factor required for the induction of various target genes, including IL-12. The NF-kB essential modulator (NEMO) mutations in the LZ domain impair CD40-NEMO–dependent pathways. Some gp91phox mutations specifically abolish the respiratory burst in monocyte-derived macrophages. ISG15 is secreted by neutrophils and potentiates IFN-g production by NK/T cells. Genetic defects that preclude monocyte development (eg, GATA2) can also predispose to mycobacterial infections (not shown). Mutant molecules in patients with unusual susceptibility to infection are indicated in red.

The field of PIDs is advancing at full speed in 2 directions. New genetic causes of known PIDs are being discovered (eg, CD21 and TRIF). Moreover, new phenotypes qualify as PIDs with the identification of a first genetic cause (eg, generalized pustular psoriasis). Recent findings contribute fundamental knowledge about immune system biology and its perturbation in disease. They are also of considerable clinical benefit for the patients and their families. A priority is to further translate these new discoveries into improved diagnostic methods and more effective therapeutic strategies, promoting the well-being of patients with PIDs.

Primary immunodeficiencies

Luigi D. Notarangelo
J Allergy Clin Immunol 2010; 125(2): S182-194

In the last years, advances in molecular genetics and immunology have resulted in the identification of a growing number of genes causing primary immunodeficiencies (PIDs) in human subjects and a better understanding of the pathophysiology of these disorders. Characterization of the molecular mechanisms of PIDs has also facilitated the development of novel diagnostic assays based on analysis of the expression of the protein encoded by the PID-specific gene. Pilot newborn screening programs for the identification of infants with severe combined immunodeficiency have been initiated. Finally, significant advances have been made in the treatment of PIDs based on the use of subcutaneous immunoglobulins, hematopoietic cell transplantation from unrelated donors and cord blood, and gene therapy. In this review we will discuss the pathogenesis, diagnosis, and treatment of PIDs, with special attention to recent advances in the field.



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Classification of Microbiota –

An Overview of Clinical Microbiology, Classification, and Antimicrobial Resistance

Author and Curator: Larry H. Bernstein, MD, FCAP

Classification of Microbiota

Introduction to Overview of Microbiology

This is a contribution to a series of pieces on the history of biochemistry, molecular biology, physiology and medicine in the 20th century.  Here I describe the common microbial organisms encountered in the clinical laboratory, the method of their collection, plating, culture and identification, and antibiotic sensitivity testing and resistant strains.

I may begin with the recognition that there are common strains in the environment that are not pathogenic, and there are pathogenic bacteria.
In addition, there are bacteria that coexist in the body habitat under specific conditions so that we are able to map the types expected to location, such as, skin, mouth and nasal cavities, the colon, the vagina and urinary system.  Meningitides occur as a result of extension from the nasal cavity to the brain.  When bacteria invade the circulation, it is referred to as septicemia, and the bacteria can cause valvular heart damage.

Bacteriology can be traced to origins in the 19th century.  The clinical features of localized infection are classically referred to as redness, heat, a raised lesion (pustule), and exudate (serous or purulent – watery or cellular).  This not only holds for a focal lesion (as skin), but also for pneumonia, urinary infection, and genital. It may be accompanied by cough, or bloody cough and wheezing, or by an unclear urine. In the case of septicemia, there is fever, and there may be seizures or delirium.

Collection and handling of specimens

Specimens are collected by sterile technique by a nurse or physician and sent to a lab as a swab, or as a blood specimen.  In the case of a febrile illness, blood cultures may be obtained from opposite arms, and another an hour later.  This is related to the possible cyclical seeding of bacteria into the circulation.  If the specimen is collected from a site of infection, a swab may be put onto a glass slide for gram staining.  The specimen collected is sent to the laboratory.

We may consider syphilis and tuberculosis special cases that I’ll set aside.  I shall not go into virology either, although I may referred to smallpox, influenza, polio, HIV under epidemic.  The first step in identification is the Gram stain, developed in the 19th century.  Organisms of the skin are Gram positive and appear blue on staining.  They are cocci, or circular, organized in characteristic clusters (staphylococcus, streptococcus) or in pairs (diplococci, eg. Pneumococcus), and if from the intestine (enterococcus).  If they are elongated rods, they might be coliform.  If they stain red, they are Gram negative.  Gram negative rods are coliform, and are enterobacteriaceae. Meningococci are Gram negative cocci.  So we have certain information about these organisms before we plate them for growth.

Laboratory growth characteristics

The specimen is applied to an agar plate with a metal rod applicator, or perhaps onto more than one agar plate.  The agar plate contains a growth media or a growth inhibitor that is more favorable to certain species than to others.  The bacteria are grown at 37o C in an incubator and colonies develop that are white or nonwhite, and they are smooth or wrinkled.  The appearance of the colonies is characteristic for certain strains.  If there is no contamination, all of the colonies look the same.  The next step is to:

  • Gram stain from a colony
  • Transfer samples from the colony to a series of growth media that identify presence or absence of specific nutrient requirements for growth (which is presumed from the prior findings).

In addition, the colony samples are grown on an agar to which is applied antibiotic tabs.  The tabs either allow or repress growth.  It wa some 50 years ago that the infectious disease physician and microbiologist Abraham Braude would culture the bacteria on agar plates that had a gradient of antibiotic to check for concentration that would inhibit growth.

Principles of Diagnosis (Extracts)

By John A. Washington

The clinical presentation of an infectious disease reflects the interaction between the host and the microorganism. This interaction is affected by the host immune status and microbial virulence factors. Signs and symptoms vary according to the site and severity of infection. Diagnosis requires a composite of information, including history, physical examination, radiographic findings, and laboratory data.

Microbiologic Examination

Direct Examination and Techniques: Direct examination of specimens reveals gross pathology. Microscopy may identify microorganisms. Immunofluorescence, immuno-peroxidase staining, and other immunoassays may detect specific microbial antigens. Genetic probes identify genus- or species-specific DNA or RNA sequences.

Culture: Isolation of infectious agents frequently requires specialized media. Nonselective (noninhibitory) media permit the growth of many microorganisms. Selective media contain inhibitory substances that permit the isolation of specific types of microorganisms.

Microbial Identification: Colony and cellular morphology may permit preliminary identification. Growth characteristics under various conditions, utilization of carbohydrates and other substrates, enzymatic activity, immunoassays, and genetic probes are also used.

Serodiagnosis: A high or rising titer of specific IgG antibodies or the presence of specific IgM antibodies may suggest or confirm a diagnosis.

Antimicrobial Susceptibility: Microorganisms, particularly bacteria, are tested in vitro to determine whether they are susceptible to antimicrobial agents.

Diagnostic medical microbiology is the discipline that identifies etiologic agents of disease. The job of the clinical microbiology laboratory is to test specimens from patients for microorganisms that are, or may be, a cause of the illness and to provide information (when appropriate) about the in vitro activity of antimicrobial drugs against the microorganisms identified (Fig. 1).

Laboratory procedures used in confirming a clinical diagnosis of infectious disease with a bacterial etiology

A variety of microscopic, immunologic, and hybridization techniques have been developed for rapid diagnosis

techniques have been developed for rapid diagnosis

techniques have been developed for rapid diagnosis

From: Chapter 10, Principles of Diagnosis
Medical Microbiology. 4th edition.
Baron S, editor.
Galveston (TX): University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston; 1996.

For immunologic detection of microbial antigens, latex particle agglutination, coagglutination, and enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) are the most frequently used techniques in the clinical laboratory. Antibody to a specific antigen is bound to latex particles or to a heat-killed and treated protein A-rich strain of Staphylococcus aureus to produce agglutination (Fig. 10-2). There are several approaches to ELISA; the one most frequently used for the detection of microbial antigens uses an antigen-specific antibody that is fixed to a solid phase, which may be a latex or metal bead or the inside surface of a well in a plastic tray. Antigen present in the specimen binds to the antibody as inFig. 10-2. The test is then completed by adding a second antigen-specific antibody bound to an enzyme that can react with a substrate to produce a colored product. The initial antigen antibody complex forms in a manner similar to that shown inFigure 10-2. When the enzyme-conjugated antibody is added, it binds to previously unbound antigenic sites, and the antigen is, in effect, sandwiched between the solid phase and the enzyme-conjugated antibody. The reaction is completed by adding the enzyme substrate.

agglutination test ch10f2

agglutination test ch10f2

Figure 2 Agglutination test in which inert particles (latex beads or heat-killed S aureus Cowan 1 strain with protein A) are coated with antibody to any of a variety of antigens and then used to detect the antigen in specimens or in isolated bacteria

Genetic probes are based on the detection of unique nucleotide sequences with the DNA or RNA of a microorganism. Once such a unique nucleotide sequence, which may represent a portion of a virulence gene or of chromosomal DNA, is found, it is isolated and inserted into a cloning vector (plasmid), which is then transformed into Escherichia coli to produce multiple copies of the probe. The sequence is then reisolated from plasmids and labeled with an isotope or substrate for diagnostic use. Hybridization of the sequence with a complementary sequence of DNA or RNA follows cleavage of the double-stranded DNA of the microorganism in the specimen.

The use of molecular technology in the diagnoses of infectious diseases has been further enhanced by the introduction of gene amplication techniques, such as the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) in which DNA polymerase is able to copy a strand of DNA by elongating complementary strands of DNA that have been initiated from a pair of closely spaced oligonucleotide primers. This approach has had major applications in the detection of infections due to microorganisms that are difficult to culture (e.g. the human immunodeficiency virus) or that have not as yet been successfully cultured (e.g. the Whipple’s disease bacillus).

Solid media, although somewhat less sensitive than liquid media, provide isolated colonies that can be quantified if necessary and identified. Some genera and species can be recognized on the basis of their colony morphologies.

In some instances one can take advantage of differential carbohydrate fermentation capabilities of microorganisms by incorporating one or more carbohydrates in the medium along with a suitable pH indicator. Such media are called differential media (e.g., eosin methylene blue or MacConkey agar) and are commonly used to isolate enteric bacilli. Different genera of the Enterobacteriaceae can then be presumptively identified by the color as well as the morphology of colonies.

Culture media can also be made selective by incorporating compounds such as antimicrobial agents that inhibit the indigenous flora while permitting growth of specific microorganisms resistant to these inhibitors. One such example is Thayer-Martin medium, which is used to isolate Neisseria gonorrhoeae. This medium contains vancomycin to inhibit Gram-positive bacteria, colistin to inhibit most Gram-negative bacilli, trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole to inhibit Proteus species and other species that are not inhibited by colistin and anisomycin to inhibit fungi. The pathogenic Neisseria species, N gonorrhoeae and N meningitidis, are ordinarily resistant to the concentrations of these antimicrobial agents in the medium.

Infection of the bladder (cystitis) or kidney (pyelone-phritis) is usually accompanied by bacteriuria of about ≥ 104 CFU/ml. For this reason, quantitative cultures (Fig. 10-3) of urine must always be performed. For most other specimens a semiquantitative streak method (Fig. 10-3) over the agar surface is sufficient. For quantitative cultures, a specific volume of specimen is spread over the agar surface and the number of colonies per milliliter is estimated.

Identification of bacteria (including mycobacteria) is based on growth characteristics (such as the time required for growth to appear or the atmosphere in which growth occurs), colony and microscopic morphology, and biochemical, physiologic, and, in some instances, antigenic or nucleotide sequence characteristics. The selection and number of tests for bacterial identification depend upon the category of bacteria present (aerobic versus anaerobic, Gram-positive versus Gram-negative, cocci versus bacilli) and the expertise of the microbiologist examining the culture. Gram-positive cocci that grow in air with or without added CO2 may be identified by a relatively small number of tests. The identification of most Gram-negative bacilli is far more complex and often requires panels of 20 tests for determining biochemical and physiologic characteristics.

Antimicrobial susceptibility tests are performed by either disk diffusion or a dilution method. In the former, a standardized suspension of a particular microorganism is inoculated onto an agar surface to which paper disks containing various antimicrobial agents are applied. Following overnight incubation, any zone diameters of inhibition about the disks are measured. An alternative method is to dilute on a log2 scale each antimicrobial agent in broth to provide a range of concentrations and to inoculate each tube or, if a microplate is used, each well containing the antimicrobial agent in broth with a standardized suspension of the microorganism to be tested. The lowest concentration of antimicrobial agent that inhibits the growth of the microorganism is the minimal inhibitory concentration.

Classification Principles

This Week’s Citation Classic®_______ Sneath P H A & Sokal R R.
Numerical taxonomy: the principles and practice of
numerical classification. San Francisco: Freeman, 1973. 573 p.
[Medical Research Council Microbial Systematics Unit, Univ. Leicester, England
and Dept. Ecology and Evolution, State Univ. New York, Stony Brook, NY]
Numerical taxonomy establishes classification
of organisms based on their similarities. It utilizes
many equally weighted characters and employs
clustering and similar algorithms to yield
objective groupings. It can beextended to give
phylogenetic or diagnostic systems and can be
applied to many other fields of endeavour.

Mathematical Foundations of Computer Science 1998
Lecture Notes in Computer Science Volume 1450, 1998, pp 474-482
Date: 28 May 2006
Positive Turing and truth-table completeness for NEXP are incomparable 1998
Levke Bentzien

The truth-table method [matrix method] is one of the decision procedures for sentence logic (q.v., §3.2). The method is based on the fact that the truth value of a compound formula of sentence logic, construed as a truth-function, is determined by the truth values of its arguments (cf. “Sentence logic” §2.2). To decide whether a formula A is a tautology or not, we list all possible combinations of truth values to the variables in A: A is a tautology if it takes the value truth under each assignment.

Using ideas introduced by Buhrman et al. ([2], [3]) to separate various completeness notions for NEXP = NTIME (2poly), positive Turing complete sets for NEXP are studied. In contrast to many-one completeness and bounded truth-table completeness with norm 1 which are known to coincide on NEXP ([3]), whence any such set for NEXP is positive Turing complete, we give sets A and B such that

A is ≤ bT(2) P -complete but not ≤ posT P -complete for NEXP

B is ≤ posT P -complete but not ≤ tt P -complete for NEXP. These results come close to optimality since a further strengthening of (1), as was done by Buhrman in [1] for EXP = DTIME(2poly), seems to require the assumption NEXP = co-NEXP.

Computability and Models
The University Series in Mathematics 2003, pp 1-10
Truth-Table Complete Computably Enumerable Sets
Marat M. Arslanov

We prove a truth-table completeness criterion for computably enumerable sets.
The authors research was partially supported by Russian Foundation of Basic Research, Project 99-01-00830, and RFBR-INTAS, Project 97-91-71991.

Department of Microbiology, Lovelace Foundation for Medical Education and Research,
Albuquerque, N.M. 87108, U.S.A.
Space life sciences 1971-12-1; 3(2): pp 135-156
(Received 15 July, 1971)
Abstract. A logical basis for classification is that elements grouped together and higher categories of elements should have a high degree of similarity with the provision that all groups and categories be disjoint to some degree. A methodology has been developed for constructing classifications automatically that gives
nearly instantaneous correlations of character patterns of organisms with time and clusters with apparent similarity. This means that automatic numerical identification will always construct schemes from which disjoint answers can be obtained if test sensitivities for characters are correct. Unidentified organisms are recycled through continuous classification with reconstruction of identification schemes. This process is
cyclic and self-correcting. The method also accumulates and analyzes data which updates and presents a more accurate biological picture.

Syndromic classification: A process for amplifying information using S-clustering

Eugene W. Rypka, PHD

Optimal classification/Rypka < Optimal classification>


1 Rypka’s Method

1.1 Equations

1.2 Examples

2 Notes and References

Rypka’s Method

Rypka’s[1] method[2] utilizes the theoretical and empirical separatory equations shown below to perform the task of optimal classification. The method finds the optimal order of the fewest attributes, which in combination define a bounded class of elements.

Application of the method begins with construction of an attribute-valued system in truth table[3] or spreadsheet form with elements listed in the left most column beginning in the second row. Characteristics[4] are listed in the first row beginning in the second column with the code name of the data in the upper left most cell. The values which connect each characteristic with each element are placed in the intersecting cells. Selecting appropriate characteristics to universally define the class of elements may be the most difficult part for the classifier of utilizing this method.

The elements are first sorted in descending order according to their truth table value, which is calculated from the existing sequence and value of characteristics for each element. Duplicate truth table values or multisets for the entire bounded class reveal either the need to eliminate duplicate elements or the need to include additional characteristics.

An empirical separatory value is calculated for each characteristic in the set and the characteristic with the greatest empirical separatory value is exchanged with the characteristic which occupies the most significant attribute position.

Next the second most significant characteristic is found by calculating an empirical separatory value for each remaining characteristic in combination with the first characteristic. The characteristic which produces the greatest separatory value is then exchanged with the characteristic which occupies the second most significant attribute position.

Next the third most significant characteristic is found by calculating an empirical separatory value for each remaining characteristic in combination with the first and second characteristics. The characteristic which produces the greatest empirical separatory value is then exchanged with the characteristic which occupies the third most significant attribute position. This procedure may continue until all characteristics have been processed or until one hundred percent separation of the elements has been achieved.

A larger radix will allow faster identification by excluding a greater percentage of elements per characteristic. A binary radix for instance excludes only fifty percent of the elements per characteristic whereas a five-valued radix excludes eighty percent of the elements per characteristic.[5] What follows is an elucidation of the matrix and separatory equations.[6]

Computational Example
Bounded Class Data

bounded class data

Bounded Class Dimensions

G = 28 – 28 elements – i = 0…G-1[1]

C = 10 – 10 characteristics or attributes – j = 0…C-1

V = 5 – 5 valued logic – l = 0…V-1

Order of Elements

order of elements

Count multisets

count multisets

Squared multiset Counts

squared multiset counts

Separatory Values

separatory values


max(T) = 309 = S8 = highest initial separatory value


Mathcad’s ORIGIN function applies to all arrays such that if more than one array is being used and one array requires a zero origin then the other arrays must use a zero origin with all variables being adapted as well.

Rypka’s Method Edit

Rypka’s[1] method[2] utilizes the theoretical and empirical separatory equations shown below to perform the task of optimal classification. The method finds the optimal order of the fewest attributes, which in combination define a bounded class of elements.

Application of the method begins with construction of an attribute-valued system in truth table[3] or spreadsheet form with elements listed in the left most column beginning in the second row. Characteristics[4] are listed in the first row beginning in the second column with the title of the attributes in the upper left most cell. Normally the file name of the data is given the title of the element class. The values which connect each characteristic with each element are placed in the intersecting cells. Selecting characteristics which all elements share may be the most difficult part of creating a database which can utilizing this method.

The elements are first sorted in descending order according to their truth table value, which is calculated from the existing sequence and value of characteristics for each element. Duplicate truth table values or multisets for the entire bounded class reveal either the need to eliminate duplicate elements or the need to include additional characteristics.

An empirical separatory value is calculated for each characteristic in the set and the characteristic with the greatest empirical separatory value is exchanged with the characteristic which occupies the most significant attribute position.

Next the second most significant characteristic is found by calculating an empirical separatory value for each remaining characteristic in combination with the first characteristic. The characteristic which produces the greatest separatory value is then exchanged with the characteristic which occupies the second most significant attribute position.

Next the third most significant characteristic is found by calculating an empirical separatory value for each remaining characteristic in combination with the first and second characteristics. The characteristic which produces the greatest empirical separatory value is then exchanged with the characteristic which occupies the third most significant attribute position. This procedure may continue until all characteristics have been processed or until one hundred percent separation of the elements has been achieved.

A larger radix will allow faster identification by excluding a greater percentage of elements per characteristic. A binary radix for instance excludes only fifty percent of the elements per characteristic whereas a five-valued radix excludes eighty percent of the elements per characteristic.[5] What follows is an elucidation of the matrix and separatory equations.[6]

Syndromic Classification: A Process for Amplifying Information Using S-Clustering

Eugene W. Rypka, PhD
University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, New Mexico, USA
Statistics Editor: Marcello Pagano, PhD
Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, Massachusetts, USA
Nutrition 1996; 12(11/12): 827-829

In a previous issue of Nutrition, Drs. Bernstein and Pleban’ use the method of S-clustering to aid in nutritional classification of patients directly on-line. Classification of this type is called primary or syndromic classification.* It is created by a process called separatory (S-) clustering (E. Rypka, unpublished observations). The authors use S-clustering in Table I.  S-clustering extracts features (analytes, variables) from endogenous data that amplify or maximize structural information to create classes of patients (pathophysiologic events) which are the most disjointed or separable. S-clustering differs from other classificatory methods because it finds in a database a theoretic- or more- number of variables with the required variety that map closest to an ideal, theoretic, or structural information standard. In Table I of their article, Bernstein and Pleban’ indicate there would have to be 3 ’ = 243 rows to show all possible patterns. In Table II of this article, I have used a 33 = 27 row truth table to convey the notion of mapping amplified information to an ideal, theoretic standard using just the first three columns. Variables are scaled for use in S-clustering.

A Survey of Binary Similarity and Distance Measures
Seung-Seok Choi, Sung-Hyuk Cha, Charles C. Tappert
The binary feature vector is one of the most common
representations of patterns and measuring similarity and
distance measures play a critical role in many problems
such as clustering, classification, etc. Ever since Jaccard
proposed a similarity measure to classify ecological
species in 1901, numerous binary similarity and distance
measures have been proposed in various fields. Applying
appropriate measures results in more accurate data
analysis. Notwithstanding, few comprehensive surveys
on binary measures have been conducted. Hence we
collected 76 binary similarity and distance measures used
over the last century and reveal their correlations through
the hierarchical clustering technique.

This paper is organized as follows. Section 2 describes
the definitions of 76 binary similarity and dissimilarity
measures. Section 3 discusses the grouping of those
measures using hierarchical clustering. Section 4
concludes this work.

Historically, all the binary measures observed above have
had a meaningful performance in their respective fields.
The binary similarity coefficients proposed by Peirce,
Yule, and Pearson in 1900s contributes to the evolution
of the various correlation based binary similarity
measures. The Jaccard coefficient proposed at 1901 is
still widely used in the various fields such as ecology and
biology. The discussion of inclusion or exclusion of
negative matches was actively arisen by Sokal & Sneath
in during 1960s and by Goodman & Kruskal in 1970s.

Polyphasic Taxonomy of the Genus Vibrio: Numerical Taxonomy of Vibrio cholerae, Vibrio
parahaemolyticus, and Related Vibrio Species
JOURNAL OF BACTERIOLOGY, Oct. 1970;  104(1): 410-433
A set of 86 bacterial cultures, including 30 strains of Vibrio cholerae, 35 strains of
V. parahaemolyticus, and 21 representative strains of Pseudomonas, Spirillum,
Achromobacter, Arthrobacter, and marine Vibrio species were tested for a total of 200
characteristics. Morphological, physiological, and biochemical characteristics were
included in the analysis. Overall deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) base compositions
and ultrastructure, under the electron microscope, were also examined. The taxonomic
data were analyzed by computer by using numerical taxonomy programs
designed to sort and cluster strains related phenetically. The V. cholerae strains
formed an homogeneous cluster, sharing overall S values of >75%. Two strains,
V. cholerae NCTC 30 and NCTC 8042, did not fall into the V. cholerae species
group when tested by the hypothetical median organism calculation. No separation
of “classic” V. cholerae, El Tor vibrios, and nonagglutinable vibrios was observed.
These all fell into a single, relatively homogeneous, V. cholerae species cluster.
PJ. parahaemolyticus strains, excepting 5144, 5146, and 5162, designated members
of the species V. alginolyticus, clustered at S >80%. Characteristics uniformly
present in all the Vibrio species examined are given, as are also characteristics and
frequency of occurrence for V. cholerae and V. parahaemolyticus. The clusters formed
in the numerical taxonomy analyses revealed similar overall DNA base compositions,
with the range for the Vibrio species of 40 to 48% guanine plus cytosine. Generic
level of relationship of V. cholerae and V. parahaemolyticus is considered
dubious. Intra- and intergroup relationships obtained from the numerical taxonomy
studies showed highly significant correlation with DNA/DNA reassociation data.

A Numerical Classification of the Genus Bacillus
Journal of General Microbiology (1988), 134, 1847-1882.

Three hundred and sixty-eight strains of aerobic, endospore-forming bacteria which included type and reference cultures of Bacillus and environmental isolates were studied. Overall similarities of these strains for 118 unit characters were determined by the SSMS,, and Dp coefficients and clustering achieved using the UPGMA algorithm. Test error was within acceptable limits. Six cluster-groups were defined at 70% SSM which corresponded to 69% Sp and 48-57% SJ.G roupings obtained with the three coefficients were generally similar but there were some changes in the definition and membership of cluster-groups and clusters, particularly with the SJ coefficient. The Bacillus strains were distributed among 31 major (4 or more strains), 18 minor (2 or 3 strains) and 30 single-member clusters at the 83% SsMle vel. Most of these clusters can be regarded as taxospecies. The heterogeneity of several species, including Bacillus breuis, B. circulans, B. coagulans, B. megateriun, B . sphaericus and B . stearothermophilus, has been indicated  and the species status of several taxa of hitherto uncertain validity confirmed. Thus on the basis of the numerical phenetic and appropriate (published) molecular genetic data, it is proposed
that the following names be recognized; BacillusJlexus (Batchelor) nom. rev., Bacillus fusiformis (Smith et al.) comb. nov., Bacillus kaustophilus (Prickett) nom. rev., Bacilluspsychrosaccharolyticus (Larkin & Stokes) nom. rev. and Bacillus simplex (Gottheil) nom. rev. Other phenetically well-defined taxospecies included ‘ B. aneurinolyticus’, ‘B. apiarius’, ‘B. cascainensis’, ‘B. thiaminolyticus’ and three clusters of environmental isolates related to B . firmus and previously described as ‘B. firmus-B. lentus intermediates’. Future developments in the light of the numerical phenetic data are discussed.

Numerical Classification of Bacteria
Part II. * Computer Analysis of Coryneform Bacteria (2)
Comparison of Group-Formations Obtained on Two
Different Methods of Scoring Data
By Eitaro MASUOan d Toshio NAKAGAWA
[Agr. Biol. Chem., 1969; 33(8): 1124-1133.
Sixty three organisms selected from 12 genera of bacteria were subjected to numerical analysis. The purpose of this work is to examine the relationships among 38 coryneform bacteria included in the test organisms by two coding methods-Sneath’s and Lockhart’s systems-, and to compare the results with conventional classification. In both cases of codification, five groups and one or two single item(s) were found in the resultant classifications. Different codings brought, however, a few distinct differences in some groups , especially in a group of sporogenic bacilli or lactic-acid bacteria. So far as the present work concerns, the result obtained on Lockhart’s coding rather than that obtained on Sneath’s coding resembled the conventional classification. The taxonomic positions of corynebacteria were quite different from those of the conventional classification, regardless
of which coding method was applied.
Though animal corynebacteria have conventionally been considered to occupy the
taxonomic position neighboring to genera Arthrobacter and Cellulornonas and regarded to be the nucleus of so-called “coryneform bacteria,’ the present work showed that many of the corynebacteria are akin to certain mycobacteria rather than to the organisms belonging to the above two genera.

Numerical Classification of Bacteria
Part III. Computer Analysis of “Coryneform Bacteria” (3)
Classification Based on DNA Base Compositions
By EitaroM ASUaOnd ToshioN AKAGAWA
Agr. Biol. Chem., 1969; 33(11): 1570-1576
It has been known that the base compositions of deoxyribonucleic acids (DNA) are
quite different from organism to organism. A pertinent example of this diversity is
found in bacterial species. The base compositions of DNA isolated from a wide variety
of bacteria are distributed in a range from 25 to 75 GC mole-percent (100x(G+C)/
(A+T+G+C)).1) The usefulness of the information of DNA base composition for
the taxonomy of bacteria has been emphasized by several authors. Lee et al.,” Sueoka,” and Freese) have speculated on the evolutionary significance of microbial DNA base composition. They pointed out that closely related microorganisms generally showed similar base compositions of DNA, and suggested that phylogenetic relationship should be reflected in the GC content.
In the present paper are compared the results of numerical classifications of 45
bacteria based on the two different similarity matrices: One representing the overall
similarities of phenotypic properties, the other representing the similarities of GC contents.

Advanced computational algorithms for microbial community analysis using massive 16S rRNA
sequence data
Y Sun, Y Cai, V Mai, W Farmerie, F Yu, J Li and S Goodison
Nucleic Acids Research, 2010; 38(22): e205

With the aid of next-generation sequencing technology, researchers can now obtain millions of microbial signature sequences for diverse applications ranging from human epidemiological studies to global ocean surveys. The development of advanced computational strategies to maximally extract pertinent information from massive nucleotide data has become a major focus of the bioinformatics community. Here, we describe a novel analytical strategy including discriminant and topology analyses that enables researchers to deeply investigate the hidden world of microbial communities, far beyond basic microbial diversity estimation. We demonstrate the utility of our
approach through a computational study performed on a previously published massive human gut 16S rRNA data set. The application of discriminant and
topology analyses enabled us to derive quantitative disease-associated microbial signatures and describe microbial community structure in far more detail than previously achievable. Our approach provides rigorous statistical tools for sequence based studies aimed at elucidating associations between known or unknown organisms and a variety of physiological or environmental conditions.

What is Drug Resistance?

Antimicrobial resistance is the ability of microbes, such as bacteria, viruses, parasites, or fungi, to grow in the presence of a chemical (drug) that would normally kill it or limit its growth.

Diagram showing the difference between non-resistant bacteria and drug resistant bacteria.

Credit: NIAID

DrugResistance difference between non-resistant bacteria and drug resistant bacteria

DrugResistance difference between non-resistant bacteria and drug resistant bacteria

Diagram showing the difference between non-resistant bacteria and drug resistant bacteria. Non-resistant bacteria multiply, and upon drug treatment, the bacteria die. Drug resistant bacteria multiply as well, but upon drug treatment, the bacteria continue to spread.

Between 5 and 10 percent of all hospital patients develop an infection. About 90,000 of these patients die each year as a result of their infection, up from 13,300 patient deaths in 1992.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (April 2011), antibiotic resistance in the United States costs an estimated $20 billion a year in excess health care costs, $35 million in other societal costs and more than 8 million additional days that people spend in the hospital.

Resistance to Antibiotics: Are We in the Post-Antibiotic Era?

Alfonso J. Alanis
Archives of Medical Research 36 (2005) 697–705

Serious infections caused by bacteria that have become resistant to commonly used antibiotics have become a major global healthcare problem in the 21st century. They not only are more severe and require longer and more complex treatments, but they are also significantly more expensive to diagnose and to treat. Antibiotic resistance, initially a problem of the hospital setting associated with an increased number of hospital acquired infections usually in critically ill and immunosuppressed patients, has now extended into the community causing severe infections difficult to diagnose and treat. The molecular mechanisms by which bacteria have become resistant to antibiotics are diverse and complex. Bacteria have developed resistance to all different classes of antibiotics discovered to date. The most frequent type of resistance is acquired and transmitted horizontally via the conjugation of a plasmid. In recent times new mechanisms of resistance have resulted in the simultaneous development of resistance to several antibiotic classes creating very dangerous multidrug-resistant (MDR) bacterial strains, some also known as ‘‘superbugs’’. The indiscriminate and inappropriate use of antibiotics in outpatient clinics, hospitalized patients and in the food industry is the single largest factor leading to antibiotic resistance. The pharmaceutical industry, large academic institutions or the government are not investing the necessary resources to produce the next generation of newer safe and effective antimicrobial drugs. In many cases, large pharmaceutical companies have terminated their anti-infective research programs altogether due to economic reasons. The potential negative consequences of all these events are relevant because they put society at risk for the spread of potentially serious MDR bacterial infections.

Targeting the Human Macrophage with Combinations of Drugs and Inhibitors of Ca2+ and K+ Transport to Enhance the Killing of Intracellular Multi-Drug Resistant M. tuberculosis (MDR-TB) – a Novel, Patentable Approach to Limit the Emergence of XDR-TB

Marta Martins
Recent Patents on Anti-Infective Drug Discovery, 2011, 6, 000-000

The emergence of resistance in Tuberculosis has become a serious problem for the control of this disease. For that reason, new therapeutic strategies that can be implemented in the clinical setting are urgently needed. The design of new compounds active against mycobacteria must take into account that Tuberculosis is mainly an intracellular infection of the alveolar macrophage and therefore must maintain activity within the host cells. An alternative therapeutic approach will be described in this review, focusing on the activation of the phagocytic cell and the subsequent killing of the internalized bacteria. This approach explores the combined use of antibiotics and phenothiazines, or Ca2+ and K+ flux inhibitors, in the infected macrophage. Targeting the infected macrophage and not the internalized bacteria could overcome the problem of bacterial multi-drug resistance. This will potentially eliminate the appearance of new multi-drug resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB) cases and subsequently prevent the emergence of extensively-drug resistant tuberculosis (XDR-TB). Patents resulting from this novel and innovative approach could be extremely valuable if they can be implemented in the clinical setting. Other patents will also be discussed such as the treatment of TB using immunomodulator compounds (for example: betaglycans).

Six Epigenetic Faces of Streptococcus

Kevin Mayer

Medical illustration of Streptococcus pneumonia. [CDC]

Streptococcus pneumonia

Streptococcus pneumonia

It appears that S. pneumoniae has even more personalities, each associated with a different proclivity toward invasive, life-threatening disease. In fact, any of six personalities may emerge depending on the action of a single genetic switch.

To uncover the switch, an international team of scientists conducted a study in genomics, but they looked beyond nucleotide polymorphisms or accessory regions as possible phenotype-shifting mechanisms. Instead, they focused on the potential of restriction-modification (RM) systems to mediate gene regulation via epigenetic changes.

Scientists representing the University of Leicester, Griffith University’s Institute for Glycomics, theUniversity of Adelaide, and Pacific Biosciences realized that the S. pneumoniae genome contains two Type I, three Type II, and one Type IV RM systems. Of these, only the DpnI Type II RM system had been described in detail. Switchable Type I systems had been described previously, but these reports did not provide evidence for differential methylation or for phenotypic impact.

As it turned out, the Type I system embodied a mechanism capable of randomly changing the bacterium’s characteristics into six alternative states. The mechanism’s details were presented September 30 in Nature Communications, in an article entitled, “A random six-phase switch regulates pneumococcal virulence via global epigenetic changes.”

“The underlying mechanism for such phase variation consists of genetic rearrangements in a Type I restriction-modification system (SpnD39III),” wrote the authors. “The rearrangements generate six alternative specificities with distinct methylation patterns, as defined by single-molecule, real-time (SMRT) methylomics.”

Eradication of multidrug-resistant A. baumanniii in burn wounds by antiseptic pulsed electric field.

A Golberg, GF Broelsch, D Vecchio,S Khan, MR Hamblin, WG Austen, Jr, RL Sheridan,  ML Yarmush.

Emerging bacterial resistance to multiple drugs is an increasing problem in burn wound management. New non-pharmacologic interventions are needed for wound disinfection. Here we report on a novel physical method for disinfection: antiseptic pulsed electric field (PEF) applied externally to the infected wounds.  In an animal model, we show that PEF can reduce the load of multidrug resistant Acinetobacter baumannii present in a full thickness burn wound by more than four orders of magnitude, as detected by bioluminescence imaging. Furthermore, using a finite element numerical model, we demonstrate that PEF provides non-thermal, homogeneous, full thickness treatment for the burn wound, thus, overcoming the limitation of treatment depth for many topical antimicrobials. These modeling tools and our in vivo results will be extremely useful for further translation of the PEF technology to the clinical setting. We believe that PEF, in combination with systemic antibiotics, will synergistically eradicate multidrug-resistant burn wound infections, prevent biofilm formation and restore natural skin microbiome. PEF provides a new platform for infection combat in patients, therefore it has a potential to significantly decreasing morbidity and mortality.

Golberg, A. & Yarmush, M. L. Nonthermal irreversible electroporation: fundamentals, applications, and challenges. IEEE Trans Biomed Eng 60, 707-14 (2013).

Mechanisms Of Antibiotic Resistance In Salmonella: Efflux Pumps, Genetics, Quorum Sensing And Biofilm Formation.

Martins M, McCusker M, Amaral L, Fanning S
Perspectives in Drug Discovery and Design 02/2011; 8:114-123.

In Salmonella the main mechanisms of antibiotic resistance are mutations in target genes (such as DNA gyrase and topoisomerase IV) and the over-expression of efflux pumps. However, other mechanisms such as changes in the cell envelope; down regulation of membrane porins; increased lipopolysaccharide (LPS) component of the outer cell membrane; quorum sensing and biofilm formation can also contribute to the resistance seen in this microorganism. To overcome this problem new therapeutic approaches are urgently needed. In the case of efflux-mediated multidrug resistant isolates, one of the treatment options could be the use of efflux pump inhibitors (EPIs) in combination with the antibiotics to which the bacteria is resistant. By blocking the efflux pumps resistance is partly or wholly reversed, allowing antibiotics showing no activity against the MDR strains to be used to treat these infections. Compounds that show potential as an EPI are therefore of interest, as well as new strategies to target the efflux systems. Quorum sensing (QS) and biofilm formation are systems also known to be involved in antibiotic resistance. Consequently, compounds that can disrupt or inhibit these bacterial “communication systems” will be of use in the treatment of these infections.

Role of Phenothiazines and Structurally Similar Compounds of Plant Origin in the Fight against Infections by Drug Resistant Bacteria

SG Dastidar, JE Kristiansen, J Molnar and L Amaral
Antibiotics 2013, 2, 58-71;

Phenothiazines have their primary effects on the plasma membranes of prokaryotes and eukaryotes. Among the components of the prokaryotic plasma membrane affected are efflux pumps, their energy sources and energy providing enzymes, such as ATPase, and genes that regulate and code for the permeability aspect of a bacterium. The response of multidrug and extensively drug resistant tuberculosis to phenothiazines shows an alternative therapy for its treatment. Many phenothiazines have shown synergistic activity with several antibiotics thereby lowering the doses of antibiotics administered for specific bacterial infections. Trimeprazine is synergistic with trimethoprim. Flupenthixol (Fp) has been found to be synergistic with penicillin and chlorpromazine (CPZ); in addition, some antibiotics are also synergistic. Along with the antibacterial action described in this review, many phenothiazines possess plasmid curing activities, which render the bacterial carrier of the plasmid sensitive to antibiotics. Thus, simultaneous applications of a phenothiazine like TZ would not only act as an additional antibacterial agent but also would help to eliminate drug resistant plasmid from the infectious bacterial cells.

Multidrug Efflux Pumps Described for Staphylococcus aureus

Efflux Pump  Family Regulator(s) Substrate Specificity  References 
Chromosomally-encoded Efflux Systems 
NorA MFS MgrA, NorG(?) Hydrophilic fluoroquinolones (ciprofloxacin, norfloxacin)QACs (tetraphenylphosphonium, benzalkonium chloride)

Dyes (e.g. ethidium bromide, rhodamine)

NorB MFS MgrA, NorG Fluoroquinolones (e.g. hydrophilic: ciprofloxacin, norfloxacin and hydrophobic: moxifloxacin,
sparfloxacin)TetracyclineQACs (e.g. tetraphenylphosphonium, cetrimide)Dyes (e.g. ethidium bromide)
NorC MFS MgrA(?), NorG Fluoroquinolones (e.g. hydrophilic: ciprofloxacin and hydrophobic: moxifloxacin)Dyes (e.g. rhodamine) [35,36]
MepA MATE MepR Fluoroquinolones (e.g. hydrophilic: ciprofloxacin, norfloxacin and hydrophobic: moxifloxacin,
sparfloxacin)Glycylcyclines (e.g. tigecycline)QACs (e.g. tetraphenylphosphonium, cetrimide, benzalkonium chloride)Dyes (e.g. ethidium bromide)
MdeA MFS n.i. Hydrophilic fluoroquinolones (e.g. ciprofloxacin, norfloxacin)Virginiamycin, novobiocin, mupirocin, fusidic acid

QACs (e.g. tetraphenylphosphonium, benzalkonium chloride, dequalinium)

Dyes (e.g. ethidium bromide)

SepA n.d. n.i. QACs (e.g. benzalkonium chloride)Biguanidines (e.g. chlorhexidine)

Dyes (e.g. acriflavine)

SdrM MFS n.i. Hydrophilic fluoroquinolones (e.g. norfloxacin)Dyes (e.g. ethidium bromide, acriflavine) [42]
LmrS MFS n.i. Oxazolidinone (linezolid)Phenicols (e.g. choramphenicol, florfenicol)

Trimethoprim, erythromycin, kanamycin, fusidic acid

QACs (e.g. tetraphenylphosphonium)

Detergents (e.g. sodium docecyl sulphate)

Dyes (e.g. ethidium bromide)


Plasmid-encoded Efflux Systems

QacA MFS QacR QACs (e.g. tetraphenylphosphonium, benzalkonium chloride, dequalinium)Biguanidines (e.g. chlorhexidine)

Diamidines (e.g. pentamidine)

Dyes (e.g. ethidium bromide, rhodamine, acriflavine)

QacB MFS QacR QACs (e.g. tetraphenylphosphonium, benzalkonium chloride)Dyes (e.g. ethidium bromide, rhodamine, acriflavine) [53]
Smr SMR n.i. QACs (e.g. benzalkonium chloride, cetrimide)Dyes (e.g. ethidium bromide) [58,61]
QacG SMR n.i. QACs (e.g. benzalkonium chloride, cetyltrymethylammonium)Dyes (e.g. ethidium bromide) [67]
QacH SMR n.i. QACs (e.g. benzalkonium chloride, cetyltrymethylammonium)Dyes (e.g. ethidium bromide) [68]
QacJ SMR n.i. QACs (e.g. benzalkonium chloride, cetyltrymethylammonium)Dyes (e.g. ethidium bromide) [69]

a n.d.: The family of transporters to which SepA belongs is not elucidated to date.
b n.i.: The transporter has no regulator identified to date.
QACs: quaternary ammonium compounds
The importance of efflux pumps in bacterial antibiotic resistance

  1. A. Webber and L. J. V. Piddock
    Journal of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy (2003) 51, 9–11 pumps are transport proteins involved in the extrusion of toxic substrates (including virtually all classes of clinically relevant antibiotics) from within cells into the external environment. These proteins are found in both Gram-positive and -negative bacteria as well as in eukaryotic organisms. Pumps may be specific for one substrate or may transport a range of structurally dissimilar compounds (including antibiotics of multiple classes); such pumps can be associated with multiple drug resistance (MDR). In the prokaryotic kingdom there are five major families of efflux transporter: MF (major facilitator), MATE (multidrug and toxic efflux), RND (resistance-nodulation-division), SMR (small multidrug resistance) and ABC (ATP binding cassette). All these systems utilize the proton motive force as an energy source. Advances in DNA technology have led to the identification of members of the above families. Transporters that efflux multiple substrates, including antibiotics, have not evolved in response to the stresses of the antibiotic era. All bacterial genomes studied contain efflux pumps that indicate their ancestral origins. It has been estimated that ∼5–10% of all bacterial genes are involved in transport and a large proportion of these encode efflux pumps.
The efflux pump

The efflux pump

Multidrug-resistance efflux pumps — not just for resistance

Laura J. V. Piddock
Nature Reviews | Microbiology | Aug 2006; 4: 629

It is well established that multidrug-resistance efflux pumps encoded by bacteria can confer clinically relevant resistance to antibiotics. It is now understood that these efflux pumps also have a physiological role(s). They can confer resistance to natural substances produced by the host, including bile, hormones and host defense molecules. In addition, some efflux pumps of the resistance nodulation division (RND) family have been shown to have a role in the colonization and the persistence of bacteria in the host. Here, I present the accumulating evidence that multidrug-resistance efflux pumps have roles in bacterial pathogenicity and propose that these pumps therefore have greater clinical relevance than is usually attributed to them.

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Summary and Perspectives: Impairments in Pathological States: Endocrine Disorders, Stress Hypermetabolism and Cancer

Summary and Perspectives: Impairments in Pathological States: Endocrine Disorders, Stress Hypermetabolism and Cancer

Author and Curator: Larry H. Bernstein, MD, FCAP

This summary is the last of a series on the impact of transcriptomics, proteomics, and metabolomics on disease investigation, and the sorting and integration of genomic signatures and metabolic signatures to explain phenotypic relationships in variability and individuality of response to disease expression and how this leads to  pharmaceutical discovery and personalized medicine.  We have unquestionably better tools at our disposal than has ever existed in the history of mankind, and an enormous knowledge-base that has to be accessed.  I shall conclude here these discussions with the powerful contribution to and current knowledge pertaining to biochemistry, metabolism, protein-interactions, signaling, and the application of the -OMICS to diseases and drug discovery at this time.

The Ever-Transcendent Cell

Deriving physiologic first principles By John S. Torday | The Scientist Nov 1, 2014

Both the developmental and phylogenetic histories of an organism describe the evolution of physiology—the complex of metabolic pathways that govern the function of an organism as a whole. The necessity of establishing and maintaining homeostatic mechanisms began at the cellular level, with the very first cells, and homeostasis provides the underlying selection pressure fueling evolution.

While the events leading to the formation of the first functioning cell are debatable, a critical one was certainly the formation of simple lipid-enclosed vesicles, which provided a protected space for the evolution of metabolic pathways. Protocells evolved from a common ancestor that experienced environmental stresses early in the history of cellular development, such as acidic ocean conditions and low atmospheric oxygen levels, which shaped the evolution of metabolism.

The reduction of evolution to cell biology may answer the perennially unresolved question of why organisms return to their unicellular origins during the life cycle.

As primitive protocells evolved to form prokaryotes and, much later, eukaryotes, changes to the cell membrane occurred that were critical to the maintenance of chemiosmosis, the generation of bioenergy through the partitioning of ions. The incorporation of cholesterol into the plasma membrane surrounding primitive eukaryotic cells marked the beginning of their differentiation from prokaryotes. Cholesterol imparted more fluidity to eukaryotic cell membranes, enhancing functionality by increasing motility and endocytosis. Membrane deformability also allowed for increased gas exchange.

Acidification of the oceans by atmospheric carbon dioxide generated high intracellular calcium ion concentrations in primitive aquatic eukaryotes, which had to be lowered to prevent toxic effects, namely the aggregation of nucleotides, proteins, and lipids. The early cells achieved this by the evolution of calcium channels composed of cholesterol embedded within the cell’s plasma membrane, and of internal membranes, such as that of the endoplasmic reticulum, peroxisomes, and other cytoplasmic organelles, which hosted intracellular chemiosmosis and helped regulate calcium.

As eukaryotes thrived, they experienced increasingly competitive pressure for metabolic efficiency. Engulfed bacteria, assimilated as mitochondria, provided more bioenergy. As the evolution of eukaryotic organisms progressed, metabolic cooperation evolved, perhaps to enable competition with biofilm-forming, quorum-sensing prokaryotes. The subsequent appearance of multicellular eukaryotes expressing cellular growth factors and their respective receptors facilitated cell-cell signaling, forming the basis for an explosion of multicellular eukaryote evolution, culminating in the metazoans.

Casting a cellular perspective on evolution highlights the integration of genotype and phenotype. Starting from the protocell membrane, the functional homolog for all complex metazoan organs, it offers a way of experimentally determining the role of genes that fostered evolution based on the ontogeny and phylogeny of cellular processes that can be traced back, in some cases, to our last universal common ancestor.  ….

As eukaryotes thrived, they experienced increasingly competitive pressure for metabolic efficiency. Engulfed bacteria, assimilated as mitochondria, provided more bioenergy. As the evolution of eukaryotic organisms progressed, metabolic cooperation evolved, perhaps to enable competition with biofilm-forming, quorum-sensing prokaryotes. The subsequent appearance of multicellular eukaryotes expressing cellular growth factors and their respective receptors facilitated cell-cell signaling, forming the basis for an explosion of multicellular eukaryote evolution, culminating in the metazoans.

Casting a cellular perspective on evolution highlights the integration of genotype and phenotype. Starting from the protocell membrane, the functional homolog for all complex metazoan organs, it offers a way of experimentally determining the role of genes that fostered evolution based on the ontogeny and phylogeny of cellular processes that can be traced back, in some cases, to our last universal common ancestor.

Given that the unicellular toolkit is complete with all the traits necessary for forming multicellular organisms (Science, 301:361-63, 2003), it is distinctly possible that metazoans are merely permutations of the unicellular body plan. That scenario would clarify a lot of puzzling biology: molecular commonalities between the skin, lung, gut, and brain that affect physiology and pathophysiology exist because the cell membranes of unicellular organisms perform the equivalents of these tissue functions, and the existence of pleiotropy—one gene affecting many phenotypes—may be a consequence of the common unicellular source for all complex biologic traits.  …

The cell-molecular homeostatic model for evolution and stability addresses how the external environment generates homeostasis developmentally at the cellular level. It also determines homeostatic set points in adaptation to the environment through specific effectors, such as growth factors and their receptors, second messengers, inflammatory mediators, crossover mutations, and gene duplications. This is a highly mechanistic, heritable, plastic process that lends itself to understanding evolution at the cellular, tissue, organ, system, and population levels, mediated by physiologically linked mechanisms throughout, without having to invoke random, chance mechanisms to bridge different scales of evolutionary change. In other words, it is an integrated mechanism that can often be traced all the way back to its unicellular origins.

The switch from swim bladder to lung as vertebrates moved from water to land is proof of principle that stress-induced evolution in metazoans can be understood from changes at the cellular level.

A MECHANISTIC BASIS FOR LUNG DEVELOPMENT: Stress from periodic atmospheric hypoxia (1) during vertebrate adaptation to land enhances positive selection of the stretch-regulated parathyroid hormone-related protein (PTHrP) in the pituitary and adrenal glands. In the pituitary (2), PTHrP signaling upregulates the release of adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) (3), which stimulates the release of glucocorticoids (GC) by the adrenal gland (4). In the adrenal gland, PTHrP signaling also stimulates glucocorticoid production of adrenaline (5), which in turn affects the secretion of lung surfactant, the distension of alveoli, and the perfusion of alveolar capillaries (6). PTHrP signaling integrates the inflation and deflation of the alveoli with surfactant production and capillary perfusion.  THE SCIENTIST STAFF

From a cell-cell signaling perspective, two critical duplications in genes coding for cell-surface receptors occurred during this period of water-to-land transition—in the stretch-regulated parathyroid hormone-related protein (PTHrP) receptor gene and the β adrenergic (βA) receptor gene. These gene duplications can be disassembled by following their effects on vertebrate physiology backwards over phylogeny. PTHrP signaling is necessary for traits specifically relevant to land adaptation: calcification of bone, skin barrier formation, and the inflation and distention of lung alveoli. Microvascular shear stress in PTHrP-expressing organs such as bone, skin, kidney, and lung would have favored duplication of the PTHrP receptor, since sheer stress generates radical oxygen species (ROS) known to have this effect and PTHrP is a potent vasodilator, acting as an epistatic balancing selection for this constraint.

Positive selection for PTHrP signaling also evolved in the pituitary and adrenal cortex (see figure on this page), stimulating the secretion of ACTH and corticoids, respectively, in response to the stress of land adaptation. This cascade amplified adrenaline production by the adrenal medulla, since corticoids passing through it enzymatically stimulate adrenaline synthesis. Positive selection for this functional trait may have resulted from hypoxic stress that arose during global episodes of atmospheric hypoxia over geologic time. Since hypoxia is the most potent physiologic stressor, such transient oxygen deficiencies would have been acutely alleviated by increasing adrenaline levels, which would have stimulated alveolar surfactant production, increasing gas exchange by facilitating the distension of the alveoli. Over time, increased alveolar distension would have generated more alveoli by stimulating PTHrP secretion, impelling evolution of the alveolar bed of the lung.

This scenario similarly explains βA receptor gene duplication, since increased density of the βA receptor within the alveolar walls was necessary for relieving another constraint during the evolution of the lung in adaptation to land: the bottleneck created by the existence of a common mechanism for blood pressure control in both the lung alveoli and the systemic blood pressure. The pulmonary vasculature was constrained by its ability to withstand the swings in pressure caused by the systemic perfusion necessary to sustain all the other vital organs. PTHrP is a potent vasodilator, subserving the blood pressure constraint, but eventually the βA receptors evolved to coordinate blood pressure in both the lung and the periphery.

Gut Microbiome Heritability

Analyzing data from a large twin study, researchers have homed in on how host genetics can shape the gut microbiome.
By Tracy Vence | The Scientist Nov 6, 2014

Previous research suggested host genetic variation can influence microbial phenotype, but an analysis of data from a large twin study published in Cell today (November 6) solidifies the connection between human genotype and the composition of the gut microbiome. Studying more than 1,000 fecal samples from 416 monozygotic and dizygotic twin pairs, Cornell University’s Ruth Ley and her colleagues have homed in on one bacterial taxon, the family Christensenellaceae, as the most highly heritable group of microbes in the human gut. The researchers also found that Christensenellaceae—which was first described just two years ago—is central to a network of co-occurring heritable microbes that is associated with lean body mass index (BMI).  …

Of particular interest was the family Christensenellaceae, which was the most heritable taxon among those identified in the team’s analysis of fecal samples obtained from the TwinsUK study population.

While microbiologists had previously detected 16S rRNA sequences belonging to Christensenellaceae in the human microbiome, the family wasn’t named until 2012. “People hadn’t looked into it, partly because it didn’t have a name . . . it sort of flew under the radar,” said Ley.

Ley and her colleagues discovered that Christensenellaceae appears to be the hub in a network of co-occurring heritable taxa, which—among TwinsUK participants—was associated with low BMI. The researchers also found that Christensenellaceae had been found at greater abundance in low-BMI twins in older studies.

To interrogate the effects of Christensenellaceae on host metabolic phenotype, the Ley’s team introduced lean and obese human fecal samples into germ-free mice. They found animals that received lean fecal samples containing more Christensenellaceae showed reduced weight gain compared with their counterparts. And treatment of mice that had obesity-associated microbiomes with one member of the Christensenellaceae family, Christensenella minuta, led to reduced weight gain.   …

Ley and her colleagues are now focusing on the host alleles underlying the heritability of the gut microbiome. “We’re running a genome-wide association analysis to try to find genes—particular variants of genes—that might associate with higher levels of these highly heritable microbiota.  . . . Hopefully that will point us to possible reasons they’re heritable,” she said. “The genes will guide us toward understanding how these relationships are maintained between host genotype and microbiome composition.”

J.K. Goodrich et al., “Human genetics shape the gut microbiome,” Cell,, 2014.

Light-Operated Drugs

Scientists create a photosensitive pharmaceutical to target a glutamate receptor.
By Ruth Williams | The Scentist Nov 1, 2014

light operated drugs MO1

light operated drugs MO1

The desire for temporal and spatial control of medications to minimize side effects and maximize benefits has inspired the development of light-controllable drugs, or optopharmacology. Early versions of such drugs have manipulated ion channels or protein-protein interactions, “but never, to my knowledge, G protein–coupled receptors [GPCRs], which are one of the most important pharmacological targets,” says Pau Gorostiza of the Institute for Bioengineering of Catalonia, in Barcelona.

Gorostiza has taken the first step toward filling that gap, creating a photosensitive inhibitor of the metabotropic glutamate 5 (mGlu5) receptor—a GPCR expressed in neurons and implicated in a number of neurological and psychiatric disorders. The new mGlu5 inhibitor—called alloswitch-1—is based on a known mGlu receptor inhibitor, but the simple addition of a light-responsive appendage, as had been done for other photosensitive drugs, wasn’t an option. The binding site on mGlu5 is “extremely tight,” explains Gorostiza, and would not accommodate a differently shaped molecule. Instead, alloswitch-1 has an intrinsic light-responsive element.

In a human cell line, the drug was active under dim light conditions, switched off by exposure to violet light, and switched back on by green light. When Gorostiza’s team administered alloswitch-1 to tadpoles, switching between violet and green light made the animals stop and start swimming, respectively.

The fact that alloswitch-1 is constitutively active and switched off by light is not ideal, says Gorostiza. “If you are thinking of therapy, then in principle you would prefer the opposite,” an “on” switch. Indeed, tweaks are required before alloswitch-1 could be a useful drug or research tool, says Stefan Herlitze, who studies ion channels at Ruhr-Universität Bochum in Germany. But, he adds, “as a proof of principle it is great.” (Nat Chem Biol,, 2014)

Enhanced Enhancers

The recent discovery of super-enhancers may offer new drug targets for a range of diseases.
By Eric Olson | The Scientist Nov 1, 2014

To understand disease processes, scientists often focus on unraveling how gene expression in disease-associated cells is altered. Increases or decreases in transcription—as dictated by a regulatory stretch of DNA called an enhancer, which serves as a binding site for transcription factors and associated proteins—can produce an aberrant composition of proteins, metabolites, and signaling molecules that drives pathologic states. Identifying the root causes of these changes may lead to new therapeutic approaches for many different diseases.

Although few therapies for human diseases aim to alter gene expression, the outstanding examples—including antiestrogens for hormone-positive breast cancer, antiandrogens for prostate cancer, and PPAR-γ agonists for type 2 diabetes—demonstrate the benefits that can be achieved through targeting gene-control mechanisms.  Now, thanks to recent papers from laboratories at MIT, Harvard, and the National Institutes of Health, researchers have a new, much bigger transcriptional target: large DNA regions known as super-enhancers or stretch-enhancers. Already, work on super-enhancers is providing insights into how gene-expression programs are established and maintained, and how they may go awry in disease.  Such research promises to open new avenues for discovering medicines for diseases where novel approaches are sorely needed.

Super-enhancers cover stretches of DNA that are 10- to 100-fold longer and about 10-fold less abundant in the genome than typical enhancer regions (Cell, 153:307-19, 2013). They also appear to bind a large percentage of the transcriptional machinery compared to typical enhancers, allowing them to better establish and enforce cell-type specific transcriptional programs (Cell, 153:320-34, 2013).

Super-enhancers are closely associated with genes that dictate cell identity, including those for cell-type–specific master regulatory transcription factors. This observation led to the intriguing hypothesis that cells with a pathologic identity, such as cancer cells, have an altered gene expression program driven by the loss, gain, or altered function of super-enhancers.

Sure enough, by mapping the genome-wide location of super-enhancers in several cancer cell lines and from patients’ tumor cells, we and others have demonstrated that genes located near super-enhancers are involved in processes that underlie tumorigenesis, such as cell proliferation, signaling, and apoptosis.

Super-enhancers cover stretches of DNA that are 10- to 100-fold longer and about 10-fold less abundant in the genome than typical enhancer regions.

Genome-wide association studies (GWAS) have found that disease- and trait-associated genetic variants often occur in greater numbers in super-enhancers (compared to typical enhancers) in cell types involved in the disease or trait of interest (Cell, 155:934-47, 2013). For example, an enrichment of fasting glucose–associated single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) was found in the stretch-enhancers of pancreatic islet cells (PNAS, 110:17921-26, 2013). Given that some 90 percent of reported disease-associated SNPs are located in noncoding regions, super-enhancer maps may be extremely valuable in assigning functional significance to GWAS variants and identifying target pathways.

Because only 1 to 2 percent of active genes are physically linked to a super-enhancer, mapping the locations of super-enhancers can be used to pinpoint the small number of genes that may drive the biology of that cell. Differential super-enhancer maps that compare normal cells to diseased cells can be used to unravel the gene-control circuitry and identify new molecular targets, in much the same way that somatic mutations in tumor cells can point to oncogenic drivers in cancer. This approach is especially attractive in diseases for which an incomplete understanding of the pathogenic mechanisms has been a barrier to discovering effective new therapies.

Another therapeutic approach could be to disrupt the formation or function of super-enhancers by interfering with their associated protein components. This strategy could make it possible to downregulate multiple disease-associated genes through a single molecular intervention. A group of Boston-area researchers recently published support for this concept when they described inhibited expression of cancer-specific genes, leading to a decrease in cancer cell growth, by using a small molecule inhibitor to knock down a super-enhancer component called BRD4 (Cancer Cell, 24:777-90, 2013).  More recently, another group showed that expression of the RUNX1 transcription factor, involved in a form of T-cell leukemia, can be diminished by treating cells with an inhibitor of a transcriptional kinase that is present at the RUNX1 super-enhancer (Nature, 511:616-20, 2014).

Fungal effector Ecp6 outcompetes host immune receptor for chitin binding through intrachain LysM dimerization 
Andrea Sánchez-Vallet, et al.   eLife 2013;2:e00790

LysM effector

LysM effector

While host immune receptors

  • detect pathogen-associated molecular patterns to activate immunity,
  • pathogens attempt to deregulate host immunity through secreted effectors.

Fungi employ LysM effectors to prevent

  • recognition of cell wall-derived chitin by host immune receptors

Structural analysis of the LysM effector Ecp6 of

  • the fungal tomato pathogen Cladosporium fulvum reveals
  • a novel mechanism for chitin binding,
  • mediated by intrachain LysM dimerization,

leading to a chitin-binding groove that is deeply buried in the effector protein.

This composite binding site involves

  • two of the three LysMs of Ecp6 and
  • mediates chitin binding with ultra-high (pM) affinity.

The remaining singular LysM domain of Ecp6 binds chitin with

  • low micromolar affinity but can nevertheless still perturb chitin-triggered immunity.

Conceivably, the perturbation by this LysM domain is not established through chitin sequestration but possibly through interference with the host immune receptor complex.

Mutated Genes in Schizophrenia Map to Brain Networks
From –  Sep 3, 2013

Previous studies have shown that many people with schizophrenia have de novo, or new, genetic mutations. These misspellings in a gene’s DNA sequence

  • occur spontaneously and so aren’t shared by their close relatives.

Dr. Mary-Claire King of the University of Washington in Seattle and colleagues set out to

  • identify spontaneous genetic mutations in people with schizophrenia and
  • to assess where and when in the brain these misspelled genes are turned on, or expressed.

The study was funded in part by NIH’s National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). The results were published in the August 1, 2013, issue of Cell.

The researchers sequenced the exomes (protein-coding DNA regions) of 399 people—105 with schizophrenia plus their unaffected parents and siblings. Gene variations
that were found in a person with schizophrenia but not in either parent were considered spontaneous.

The likelihood of having a spontaneous mutation was associated with

  • the age of the father in both affected and unaffected siblings.

Significantly more mutations were found in people

  • whose fathers were 33-45 years at the time of conception compared to 19-28 years.

Among people with schizophrenia, the scientists identified

  • 54 genes with spontaneous mutations
  • predicted to cause damage to the function of the protein they encode.

The researchers used newly available database resources that show

  • where in the brain and when during development genes are expressed.

The genes form an interconnected expression network with many more connections than

  • that of the genes with spontaneous damaging mutations in unaffected siblings.

The spontaneously mutated genes in people with schizophrenia

  • were expressed in the prefrontal cortex, a region in the front of the brain.

The genes are known to be involved in important pathways in brain development. Fifty of these genes were active

  • mainly during the period of fetal development.

“Processes critical for the brain’s development can be revealed by the mutations that disrupt them,” King says. “Mutations can lead to loss of integrity of a whole pathway,
not just of a single gene.”

These findings support the concept that schizophrenia may result, in part, from

  • disruptions in development in the prefrontal cortex during fetal development.

James E. Darnell’s “Reflections”

A brief history of the discovery of RNA and its role in transcription — peppered with career advice
By Joseph P. Tiano

James Darnell begins his Journal of Biological Chemistry “Reflections” article by saying, “graduate students these days

  • have to swim in a sea virtually turgid with the daily avalanche of new information and
  • may be momentarily too overwhelmed to listen to the aging.

I firmly believe how we learned what we know can provide useful guidance for how and what a newcomer will learn.” Considering his remarkable discoveries in

  • RNA processing and eukaryotic transcriptional regulation

spanning 60 years of research, Darnell’s advice should be cherished. In his second year at medical school at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, while
studying streptococcal disease in Robert J. Glaser’s laboratory, Darnell realized he “loved doing the experiments” and had his first “career advancement event.”
He and technician Barbara Pesch discovered that in vivo penicillin treatment killed streptococci only in the exponential growth phase and not in the stationary phase. These
results were published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation and earned Darnell an interview with Harry Eagle at the National Institutes of Health.

Darnell arrived at the NIH in 1956, shortly after Eagle  shifted his research interest to developing his minimal essential cell culture medium, still used. Eagle, then studying cell metabolism, suggested that Darnell take up a side project on poliovirus replication in mammalian cells in collaboration with Robert I. DeMars. DeMars’ Ph.D.
adviser was also James  Watson’s mentor, so Darnell met Watson, who invited him to give a talk at Harvard University, which led to an assistant professor position
at the MIT under Salvador Luria. A take-home message is to embrace side projects, because you never know where they may lead: this project helped to shape
his career.

Darnell arrived in Boston in 1961. Following the discovery of DNA’s structure in 1953, the world of molecular biology was turning to RNA in an effort to understand how
proteins are made. Darnell’s background in virology (it was discovered in 1960 that viruses used RNA to replicate) was ideal for the aim of his first independent lab:
exploring mRNA in animal cells grown in culture. While at MIT, he developed a new technique for purifying RNA along with making other observations

  • suggesting that nonribosomal cytoplasmic RNA may be involved in protein synthesis.

When Darnell moved to Albert Einstein College of Medicine for full professorship in 1964,  it was hypothesized that heterogenous nuclear RNA was a precursor to mRNA.
At Einstein, Darnell discovered RNA processing of pre-tRNAs and demonstrated for the first time

  • that a specific nuclear RNA could represent a possible specific mRNA precursor.

In 1967 Darnell took a position at Columbia University, and it was there that he discovered (simultaneously with two other labs) that

  • mRNA contained a polyadenosine tail.

The three groups all published their results together in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in 1971. Shortly afterward, Darnell made his final career move
four short miles down the street to Rockefeller University in 1974.

Over the next 35-plus years at Rockefeller, Darnell never strayed from his original research question: How do mammalian cells make and control the making of different
mRNAs? His work was instrumental in the collaborative discovery of

  • splicing in the late 1970s and
  • in identifying and cloning many transcriptional activators.

Perhaps his greatest contribution during this time, with the help of Ernest Knight, was

  • the discovery and cloning of the signal transducers and activators of transcription (STAT) proteins.

And with George Stark, Andy Wilks and John Krowlewski, he described

  • cytokine signaling via the JAK-STAT pathway.

Darnell closes his “Reflections” with perhaps his best advice: Do not get too wrapped up in your own work, because “we are all needed and we are all in this together.”

Darnell Reflections - James_Darnell

Darnell Reflections – James_Darnell

Recent findings on presenilins and signal peptide peptidase

By Dinu-Valantin Bălănescu

γ-secretase and SPP

γ-secretase and SPP

Fig. 1 from the minireview shows a schematic depiction of γ-secretase and SPP

GxGD proteases are a family of intramembranous enzymes capable of hydrolyzing

  • the transmembrane domain of some integral membrane proteins.

The GxGD family is one of the three families of

  • intramembrane-cleaving proteases discovered so far (along with the rhomboid and site-2 protease) and
  • includes the γ-secretase and the signal peptide peptidase.

Although only recently discovered, a number of functions in human pathology and in numerous other biological processes

  • have been attributed to γ-secretase and SPP.

Taisuke Tomita and Takeshi Iwatsubo of the University of Tokyo highlighted the latest findings on the structure and function of γ-secretase and SPP
in a recent minireview in The Journal of Biological Chemistry.

  • γ-secretase is involved in cleaving the amyloid-β precursor protein, thus producing amyloid-β peptide,

the main component of senile plaques in Alzheimer’s disease patients’ brains. The complete structure of mammalian γ-secretase is not yet known; however,
Tomita and Iwatsubo note that biochemical analyses have revealed it to be a multisubunit protein complex.

  • Its catalytic subunit is presenilin, an aspartyl protease.

In vitro and in vivo functional and chemical biology analyses have revealed that

  • presenilin is a modulator and mandatory component of the γ-secretase–mediated cleavage of APP.

Genetic studies have identified three other components required for γ-secretase activity:

  1. nicastrin,
  2. anterior pharynx defective 1 and
  3. presenilin enhancer 2.

By coexpression of presenilin with the other three components, the authors managed to

  • reconstitute γ-secretase activity.

Tomita and Iwatsubo determined using the substituted cysteine accessibility method and by topological analyses, that

  • the catalytic aspartates are located at the center of the nine transmembrane domains of presenilin,
  • by revealing the exact location of the enzyme’s catalytic site.

The minireview also describes in detail the formerly enigmatic mechanism of γ-secretase mediated cleavage.

SPP, an enzyme that cleaves remnant signal peptides in the membrane

  • during the biogenesis of membrane proteins and
  • signal peptides from major histocompatibility complex type I,
  • also is involved in the maturation of proteins of the hepatitis C virus and GB virus B.

Bioinformatics methods have revealed in fruit flies and mammals four SPP-like proteins,

  • two of which are involved in immunological processes.

By using γ-secretase inhibitors and modulators, it has been confirmed

  • that SPP shares a similar GxGD active site and proteolytic activity with γ-secretase.

Upon purification of the human SPP protein with the baculovirus/Sf9 cell system,

  • single-particle analysis revealed further structural and functional details.

HLA targeting efficiency correlates with human T-cell response magnitude and with mortality from influenza A infection

From –  Sep 3, 2013 4:24 PM

Experimental and computational evidence suggests that

  • HLAs preferentially bind conserved regions of viral proteins, a concept we term “targeting efficiency,” and that
  • this preference may provide improved clearance of infection in several viral systems.

To test this hypothesis, T-cell responses to A/H1N1 (2009) were measured from peripheral blood mononuclear cells obtained from a household cohort study
performed during the 2009–2010 influenza season. We found that HLA targeting efficiency scores significantly correlated with

  • IFN-γ enzyme-linked immunosorbent spot responses (P = 0.042, multiple regression).

A further population-based analysis found that the carriage frequencies of the alleles with the lowest targeting efficiencies, A*24,

  • were associated with pH1N1 mortality (r = 0.37, P = 0.031) and
  • are common in certain indigenous populations in which increased pH1N1 morbidity has been reported.

HLA efficiency scores and HLA use are associated with CD8 T-cell magnitude in humans after influenza infection.
The computational tools used in this study may be useful predictors of potential morbidity and

  • identify immunologic differences of new variant influenza strains
  • more accurately than evolutionary sequence comparisons.

Population-based studies of the relative frequency of these alleles in severe vs. mild influenza cases

  • might advance clinical practices for severe H1N1 infections among genetically susceptible populations.

Metabolomics in drug target discovery

J D Rabinowitz et al.

Lewis-Sigler Institute for Integrative Genomics, Princeton University, Princeton, NJ.
Cold Spring Harbor Symposia on Quantitative Biology 11/2011; 76:235-46. 

Most diseases result in metabolic changes. In many cases, these changes play a causative role in disease progression. By identifying pathological metabolic changes,

  • metabolomics can point to potential new sites for therapeutic intervention.

Particularly promising enzymatic targets are those that

  • carry increased flux in the disease state.

Definitive assessment of flux requires the use of isotope tracers. Here we present techniques for

  • finding new drug targets using metabolomics and isotope tracers.

The utility of these methods is exemplified in the study of three different viral pathogens. For influenza A and herpes simplex virus,

  • metabolomic analysis of infected versus mock-infected cells revealed
  • dramatic concentration changes around the current antiviral target enzymes.

Similar analysis of human-cytomegalovirus-infected cells, however, found the greatest changes

  • in a region of metabolism unrelated to the current antiviral target.

Instead, it pointed to the tricarboxylic acid (TCA) cycle and

  • its efflux to feed fatty acid biosynthesis as a potential preferred target.

Isotope tracer studies revealed that cytomegalovirus greatly increases flux through

  • the key fatty acid metabolic enzyme acetyl-coenzyme A carboxylase.
  • Inhibition of this enzyme blocks human cytomegalovirus replication.

Examples where metabolomics has contributed to identification of anticancer drug targets are also discussed. Eventual proof of the value of

  • metabolomics as a drug target discovery strategy will be
  • successful clinical development of therapeutics hitting these new targets.

 Related References

Use of metabolic pathway flux information in targeted cancer drug design. Drug Discovery Today: Therapeutic Strategies 1:435-443, 2004.

Detection of resistance to imatinib by metabolic profiling: clinical and drug development implications. Am J Pharmacogenomics. 2005;5(5):293-302. Review. PMID: 16196499

Medicinal chemistry, metabolic profiling and drug target discovery: a role for metabolic profiling in reverse pharmacology and chemical genetics.
Mini Rev Med Chem.  2005 Jan;5(1):13-20. Review. PMID: 15638788 [PubMed – indexed for MEDLINE] Related citations

Development of Tracer-Based Metabolomics and its Implications for the Pharmaceutical Industry. Int J Pharm Med 2007; 21 (3): 217-224.

Use of metabolic pathway flux information in anticancer drug design. Ernst Schering Found Symp Proc. 2007;(4):189-203. Review. PMID: 18811058

Pharmacological targeting of glucagon and glucagon-like peptide 1 receptors has different effects on energy state and glucose homeostasis in diet-induced obese mice. J Pharmacol Exp Ther. 2011 Jul;338(1):70-81. PMID: 21471191

Single valproic acid treatment inhibits glycogen and RNA ribose turnover while disrupting glucose-derived cholesterol synthesis in liver as revealed by the
[U-C(6)]-d-glucose tracer in mice. Metabolomics. 2009 Sep;5(3):336-345. PMID: 19718458

Metabolic Pathways as Targets for Drug Screening, Metabolomics, Dr Ute Roessner (Ed.), ISBN: 978-953-51-0046-1, InTech, Available from:

Iron regulates glucose homeostasis in liver and muscle via AMP-activated protein kinase in mice. FASEB J. 2013 Jul;27(7):2845-54. PMID: 23515442

Metabolomics and systems pharmacology: why and how to model the human metabolic network for drug discovery

Drug Discov. Today 19 (2014), 171–182


  • We now have metabolic network models; the metabolome is represented by their nodes.
  • Metabolite levels are sensitive to changes in enzyme activities.
  • Drugs hitchhike on metabolite transporters to get into and out of cells.
  • The consensus network Recon2 represents the present state of the art, and has predictive power.
  • Constraint-based modelling relates network structure to metabolic fluxes.

Metabolism represents the ‘sharp end’ of systems biology, because changes in metabolite concentrations are

  • necessarily amplified relative to changes in the transcriptome, proteome and enzyme activities, which can be modulated by drugs.

To understand such behaviour, we therefore need (and increasingly have) reliable consensus (community) models of

  • the human metabolic network that include the important transporters.

Small molecule ‘drug’ transporters are in fact metabolite transporters, because

  • drugs bear structural similarities to metabolites known from the network reconstructions and
  • from measurements of the metabolome.

Recon2 represents the present state-of-the-art human metabolic network reconstruction; it can predict inter alia:

(i) the effects of inborn errors of metabolism;

(ii) which metabolites are exometabolites, and

(iii) how metabolism varies between tissues and cellular compartments.

However, even these qualitative network models are not yet complete. As our understanding improves

  • so do we recognise more clearly the need for a systems (poly)pharmacology.

Introduction – a systems biology approach to drug discovery

It is clearly not news that the productivity of the pharmaceutical industry has declined significantly during recent years

  • following an ‘inverse Moore’s Law’, Eroom’s Law, or
  • that many commentators, consider that the main cause of this is
  • because of an excessive focus on individual molecular target discovery rather than a more sensible strategy
  • based on a systems-level approach (Fig. 1).
drug discovery science

drug discovery science

Figure 1.

The change in drug discovery strategy from ‘classical’ function-first approaches (in which the assay of drug function was at the tissue or organism level),
with mechanistic studies potentially coming later, to more-recent target-based approaches where initial assays usually involve assessing the interactions
of drugs with specified (and often cloned, recombinant) proteins in vitro. In the latter cases, effects in vivo are assessed later, with concomitantly high levels of attrition.

Arguably the two chief hallmarks of the systems biology approach are:

(i) that we seek to make mathematical models of our systems iteratively or in parallel with well-designed ‘wet’ experiments, and
(ii) that we do not necessarily start with a hypothesis but measure as many things as possible (the ’omes) and

  • let the data tell us the hypothesis that best fits and describes them.

Although metabolism was once seen as something of a Cinderella subject,

  • there are fundamental reasons to do with the organisation of biochemical networks as
  • to why the metabol(om)ic level – now in fact seen as the ‘apogee’ of the ’omics trilogy –
  •  is indeed likely to be far more discriminating than are
  • changes in the transcriptome or proteome.

The next two subsections deal with these points and Fig. 2 summarises the paper in the form of a Mind Map.

metabolomics and systems pharmacology

metabolomics and systems pharmacology

Metabolic Disease Drug Discovery— “Hitting the Target” Is Easier Said Than Done

David E. Moller, et al.

Despite the advent of new drug classes, the global epidemic of cardiometabolic disease has not abated. Continuing

  • unmet medical needs remain a major driver for new research.

Drug discovery approaches in this field have mirrored industry trends, leading to a recent

  • increase in the number of molecules entering development.

However, worrisome trends and newer hurdles are also apparent. The history of two newer drug classes—

  1. glucagon-like peptide-1 receptor agonists and
  2. dipeptidyl peptidase-4 inhibitors—

illustrates both progress and challenges. Future success requires that researchers learn from these experiences and

  • continue to explore and apply new technology platforms and research paradigms.

The global epidemic of obesity and diabetes continues to progress relentlessly. The International Diabetes Federation predicts an even greater diabetes burden (>430 million people afflicted) by 2030, which will disproportionately affect developing nations (International Diabetes Federation, 2011). Yet

  • existing drug classes for diabetes, obesity, and comorbid cardiovascular (CV) conditions have substantial limitations.

Currently available prescription drugs for treatment of hyperglycemia in patients with type 2 diabetes (Table 1) have notable shortcomings. In general,

Therefore, clinicians must often use combination therapy, adding additional agents over time. Ultimately many patients will need to use insulin—a therapeutic class first introduced in 1922. Most existing agents also have

  • issues around safety and tolerability as well as dosing convenience (which can impact patient compliance).

Pharmacometabolomics, also known as pharmacometabonomics, is a field which stems from metabolomics,

  • the quantification and analysis of metabolites produced by the body.

It refers to the direct measurement of metabolites in an individual’s bodily fluids, in order to

  • predict or evaluate the metabolism of pharmaceutical compounds, and
  • to better understand the pharmacokinetic profile of a drug.

Alternatively, pharmacometabolomics can be applied to measure metabolite levels

  • following the administration of a pharmaceutical compound, in order to
  • monitor the effects of the compound on certain metabolic pathways(pharmacodynamics).

This provides detailed mapping of drug effects on metabolism and

  • the pathways that are implicated in mechanism of variation of response to treatment.

In addition, the metabolic profile of an individual at baseline (metabotype) provides information about

  • how individuals respond to treatment and highlights heterogeneity within a disease state.

All three approaches require the quantification of metabolites found

relationship between -OMICS

relationship between -OMICS

Pharmacometabolomics is thought to provide information that

Looking at the characteristics of an individual down through these different levels of detail, there is an

  • increasingly more accurate prediction of a person’s ability to respond to a pharmaceutical compound.
  1. the genome, made up of 25 000 genes, can indicate possible errors in drug metabolism;
  2. the transcriptome, made up of 85,000 transcripts, can provide information about which genes important in metabolism are being actively transcribed;
  3. and the proteome, >10,000,000 members, depicts which proteins are active in the body to carry out these functions.

Pharmacometabolomics complements the omics with

  • direct measurement of the products of all of these reactions, but with perhaps a relatively
  • smaller number of members: that was initially projected to be approximately 2200 metabolites,

but could be a larger number when gut derived metabolites and xenobiotics are added to the list. Overall, the goal of pharmacometabolomics is

  • to more closely predict or assess the response of an individual to a pharmaceutical compound,
  • permitting continued treatment with the right drug or dosage
  • depending on the variations in their metabolism and ability to respond to treatment.

Pharmacometabolomic analyses, through the use of a metabolomics approach,

  • can provide a comprehensive and detailed metabolic profile or “metabolic fingerprint” for an individual patient.

Such metabolic profiles can provide a complete overview of individual metabolite or pathway alterations,

This approach can then be applied to the prediction of response to a pharmaceutical compound

  • by patients with a particular metabolic profile.

Pharmacometabolomic analyses of drug response are

Pharmacogenetics focuses on the identification of genetic variations (e.g. single-nucleotide polymorphisms)

  • within patients that may contribute to altered drug responses and overall outcome of a certain treatment.

The results of pharmacometabolomics analyses can act to “inform” or “direct”

  • pharmacogenetic analyses by correlating aberrant metabolite concentrations or metabolic pathways to potential alterations at the genetic level.

This concept has been established with two seminal publications from studies of antidepressants serotonin reuptake inhibitors

  • where metabolic signatures were able to define a pathway implicated in response to the antidepressant and
  • that lead to identification of genetic variants within a key gene
  • within the highlighted pathway as being implicated in variation in response.

These genetic variants were not identified through genetic analysis alone and hence

  • illustrated how metabolomics can guide and inform genetic data.

Benznidazole Biotransformation and Multiple Targets in Trypanosoma cruzi Revealed by Metabolomics

Andrea Trochine, Darren J. Creek, Paula Faral-Tello, Michael P. Barrett, Carlos Robello
Published: May 22, 2014

The first line treatment for Chagas disease, a neglected tropical disease caused by the protozoan parasite Trypanosoma cruzi,

  • involves administration of benznidazole (Bzn).

Bzn is a 2-nitroimidazole pro-drug which requires nitroreduction to become active. We used a

  • non-targeted MS-based metabolomics approach to study the metabolic response of T. cruzi to Bzn.

Parasites treated with Bzn were minimally altered compared to untreated trypanosomes, although the redox active thiols

  1. trypanothione,
  2. homotrypanothione and
  3. cysteine

were significantly diminished in abundance post-treatment. In addition, multiple Bzn-derived metabolites were detected after treatment.

These metabolites included reduction products, fragments and covalent adducts of reduced Bzn

  • linked to each of the major low molecular weight thiols:
  1. trypanothione,
  2. glutathione,
  3. g-glutamylcysteine,
  4. glutathionylspermidine,
  5. cysteine and
  6. ovothiol A.

Bzn products known to be generated in vitro by the unusual trypanosomal nitroreductase, TcNTRI,

  • were found within the parasites,
  • but low molecular weight adducts of glyoxal, a proposed toxic end-product of NTRI Bzn metabolism, were not detected.

Our data is indicative of a major role of the

  • thiol binding capacity of Bzn reduction products
  • in the mechanism of Bzn toxicity against T. cruzi.



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Introduction to Proteomics

Author and Curator: Larry H. Bernstein, MD, FCAP  


We have had a considerable extended discussion of preoteins and peptides, protein sinthesis, amino acid incorporation into protein, and metabolism of carbohydrates and lipids.  It is also clear that the historic practice of medicine, and the classification of biological systems has been highly dependent on the observations related to the observed phenotypical traits and disturbances of normal function that could be measured by traditional metabolic pathways for over a century.

What did we gain from the genomic revolution?

  1. Traceability of protein expression to a basic coded message
  2. The possibility of tracing disturbed cellular function to mutation related loss-of-function
  3. The ability to trace generational traits over long periods of time
  4. The promise of regenerating the enterprise of pharmacology and pharmaceutical intervention based on the silencing of or readjustment of regulated metabolic pathways to bring an adaptive rebalancing favoring extended life

What can we expect as we progress further as a result of the last two decades?

  1. There is a huge amount of information, as well as missing information that is necessary for adequately tackling the mastery of the life processes.
  2. There is a complex web of knowledge that goes beyond the genome and the one-gene one-enzyme, and the DNA-RNA-protein hypotheses that can only be realized by more full disclosure of the many metabolic control circuits involved in cellular homeostasis and adaptive control.
  3. The ability to come to disclosure and understanding of this cellular balancing will require the comprehensive exploration of the proteome and the active role of proteins and peptides in the functioning of all cells, and the organism.
  4. Proteomics will open up the discovery of new approaches to diagnostics and pharmaceutical discovery.

What about proteins?  What can proteins do? What can’t they do!

  • Enzymes are proteins that make sure that chemical reactions in your body take place up to a million times faster than they would without enzymes.
  • Antibodies are proteins that help your immune system to fight disease.
  • When you get an injury, the bleeding stops because of blood clots, thanks to the proteins fibrinogen and thrombin.
  • Transport! Some proteins carry vitamins ot hormones from one place to another, or form tunnels (pores) in cell membranes that will let only specific molecules (or ions) through. Hemoglobin, a protein in your blood, carries oxygen from your lungs to your cells.
  • Strength and support! Other proteins like collagen and keratin are strong and tough and make up your skin, hair, and fingernails. Collagen also supports your cells and organs so they don’t slosh around.
  • Motion! The proteins myosin and actin make up much of your muscle tissue. They work together so your muscles can move you around. Some bacteria have cilia and flagella made out of proteins. The bacteria can whip these around to move from place to place.

Proteins (/ˈprˌtnz/ or /ˈprti.ɨnz/) are large biological molecules, or macromolecules,

Proteins perform a vast array of functions within living organisms, including

  1. catalyzing metabolic reactions,
  2. replicating DNA,
  3. responding to stimuli, and
  4. transporting molecules from one location to another.

Proteins differ from one another primarily in

  1. their sequence of amino acids,
  2. which is dictated by the nucleotide sequence of their genes, and
  3. which usually results in folding of the protein into

A linear chain of amino acid residues is called a polypeptide. A protein contains at least one long polypeptide. Short polypeptides, containing less than about 20-30 residues, are rarely considered to be proteins and are commonly called peptides, or sometimes oligopeptides. The individual amino acid residues are bonded together by peptide bonds and adjacent amino acid residues. The sequence of amino acid residues in a protein is defined by

In general, the genetic code specifies 20 standard amino acids; however, in certain organisms the genetic code can include selenocysteine and—in certain archaeapyrrolysine. Shortly after or even during synthesis,

  • the residues in a protein are often chemically modified by posttranslational modification,
  • which alters the physical and chemical properties, folding, stability, activity, and ultimately, the function of the proteins.

Posttranslational modification (PTM) is a step in protein biosynthesis. Proteins created by ribosomes translating mRNA into polypeptide chains may undergo PTM (such as folding, cutting and other processes) before becoming the mature protein product.  After translation, the posttranslational modification of amino acids extends the range of functions of the protein by attaching it to other biochemical functional groups (such as acetate, phosphate, various lipids and carbohydrates), changing the chemical nature of an amino acid (e.g. citrullination), or making structural changes (e.g. formation of disulfide bridges).

Also, enzymes may remove amino acids from the amino end of the protein, or cut the peptide chain in the middle. For instance, the peptide hormone insulin is cut twice after disulfide bonds are formed, and a propeptide is removed from the middle of the chain; the resulting protein consists of two polypeptide chains connected by disulfide bonds. Also, most nascent polypeptides start with the amino acid methionine because the “start” n mRNA also codes for this amino acid. This amino acid is usually taken off during post-translational modification. Other modifications, like phosphorylation, are part of common mechanisms for controlling the behavior of a protein, for instance activating or inactivating an enzyme.

posttranslational modification of insulin

posttranslational modification of insulin

Posttranslational modification of insulin. At the top, the ribosome translates a mRNA sequence into a protein, insulin, and passes the protein through the endoplasmic reticulum, where it is cut, folded and held in shape by disulfide (-S-S-) bonds. Then the protein passes through the golgi apparatus, where it is packaged into a vesicle. In the vesicle, more parts are cut off, and it turns into mature insulin.

Genetic Code mapped

Genetic Code mapped

The genetic code diagram showing the amino acid residues as target of modification.

PTMs involving addition of cofactors for enhanced enzymatic activity

Sometimes proteins have non-peptide groups attached, which can be called prosthetic groups or cofactors.  Examples of cofactors include metal ions like iron and zinc. Proteins can also work together to achieve a particular function, and they often associate to form stable protein complexes.



Coenzymes are molecules that work at the active site of an enzyme and aid in recognizing, attracting, or repulsing a substrate or product. Many are derived from vitamins. The substrate is the molecule upon which an enzyme catalyzes a reaction transforming A to B by removal or addition of a hydrogen, or a hydroxyl group, or a methyl group, and so forth. This is  how an alcohol or an aldehyde is produced. Such a reaction is critical is carbohydrate metabolism for producing two 3-carbon sugars from a 6-carbon sugar. Coenzymes shuttle chemical groups from one enzyme to another enzyme. They may bind loosely to enzymes, while another group of cofactors do not.

Prosthetic groups are cofactors that bind tightly to proteins or enzymes. As if holding on for dear life, they are not easily removed. They can be organic or metal ions and are often attached to proteins by a covalent bond. The same cofactors can bind multiple different types of enzymes and may bind some enzymes loosely, as a coenzyme, and others tightly, as a prosthetic group. Some cofactors may always tightly bind their enzymes. It’s important to note, though, that these prosthetic groups can also bind to proteins other than enzymes.  A holoenzyme is an enzyme with any metal ions or coenzymes attached to it that is now ready to catalyze a reaction.



Around the world, millions of people don’t get enough protein. Protein malnutrition leads to the condition known as kwashiorkor. Lack of protein can cause growth failure, loss of muscle mass, decreased immunity, weakening of the heart and respiratory system, and death.

All Protein Isn’t Alike

Protein is built from building blocks called amino acids. Our bodies make amino acids in two different ways: Either from scratch, or by modifying others. A few amino acids (known as the essential amino acids) must come from food.

  • Animal sources of protein tend to deliver all the amino acids we need.
  • Other protein sources, such as fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts and seeds, lack one or more essential amino acids.

Vegetarians need to be aware of this. People who don’t eat meat, fish, poultry, eggs, or dairy products need to eat a variety of protein-containing foods each day in order to get all the amino acids needed to make new protein.
Molecular Biologists Guide to Proteomics

PR. Graves and TA.J. Haystead*
Microbiol Mol Biol Rev. Mar 2002; 66(1): 39–63  PMC120780

The emergence of proteomics, the large-scale analysis of proteins, has been inspired by the realization that

  • the final product of a gene is inherently more complex and
  • closer to function than the gene itself.

Shortfalls in the ability of bioinformatics to predict

  • both the existence and function of genes have also illustrated
  • the need for protein analysis.

Moreover, only through the study of proteins can posttranslational modifications be determined,

  • which can profoundly affect protein function.

Proteomics has been enabled by

  • the accumulation of both DNA and protein sequence databases,
  • improvements in mass spectrometry, and
  • the development of computer algorithms for database searching.

In this review, we describe why proteomics is important,

  • how it is conducted, and
  • how it can be applied to complement other existing technologies.

We conclude that currently, the most practical application of proteomics is

  • the analysis of target proteins as opposed to entire proteomes.

This type of proteomics, referred to as functional proteomics, is always

  • driven by a specific biological question.

In this way, protein identification and characterization has a meaningful outcome. We discuss some of the advantages

  • of a functional proteomics approach and

provide examples of how different methodologies can be utilized to address a wide variety of biological problems.

Entry of our laboratory into proteomics 5 years ago was driven by a need to define a complex mixture of proteins (∼36 proteins) we had affinity isolated that bound specifically to the catalytic subunit of protein phosphatase 1 (PP-1, a serine/threonine protein phosphatase that regulates multiple dephosphorylation events in cells). We were faced with the task of trying to understand the significance of these proteins, and the only obvious way to begin to do this was to identify them by sequencing. Since the majority of intact eukaryotic proteins are not immediately accessible to Edman sequencing

  • due to posttranslational N-terminal modifications,
  • we invented mixed-peptide sequencing.

This method enables internal peptide sequence information to be derived from proteins

  • electroblotted onto hydrophobic membranes.

Using the mixed-peptide sequencing strategy, we identified all 36 proteins in about a week. The mixture contained at least two known PP-1 regulatory subunits, but most were novel proteins of unknown function. Herein lies the lesson of proteomics. Identifying long lists of potentially interesting proteins often generates more questions than it seeks to answer.

Despite learning this obvious lesson, our early sequencing experiences were an epiphany that has subsequently altered our whole scientific strategy for probing protein function in cells. The sequencing of the 36 proteins has opened new avenues to further explore the functions of PP-1 in intact cells. Because of increased sensitivity, our approaches now routinely use state-of-the-art mass spectrometry (MS) techniques. However, rather than using proteomics to simply characterize large numbers of proteins in complex mixtures, we see the real application of this technology as a tool to enhance the power of existing approaches currently used by the modern molecular biologist such as classical yeast and mouse genetics, tissue culture, protein expression systems, and site-directed mutagenesis.

Importantly, the one message we would want the reader to take away from reading this review is that one should always let the biological question in mind drive the application of proteomics rather than simply engaging in an orgy of protein sequencing. From our experiences, we believe that if the appropriate controls are performed, proteomics is an extremely powerful approach for addressing important physiological questions. One should always design experiments to define a selected number of relevant proteins in the mixture of interest. Examples of such experiments that we routinely perform include defining early phosphorylation events in complex protein mixtures after hormone treatment of intact cells or comparing patterns of protein derived from a stimulated versus nonstimulated cell in an affinity pull-down experiment. Only the proteins that were specifically phosphorylated or bound in response to the stimulus are sequenced in the complex mixtures. Sequencing proteins that are regulated then has a meaningful outcome and directs all subsequent biological investigation.

The term “proteomics” was first coined in 1995 and was defined as the large-scale characterization of the entire protein complement of a cell line, tissue, or organism. Today, two definitions of proteomics are encountered. The first is the more classical definition, restricting the large-scale analysis of gene products to studies involving only proteins. The second and more inclusive definition combines protein studies with analyses that have a genetic readout such as mRNA analysis, genomics, and the yeast two-hybrid analysis. However, the goal of proteomics remains the same, i.e., to obtain a more global and integrated view of biology by studying all the proteins of a cell rather than each one individually.

Using the more inclusive definition of proteomics, many different areas of study are now grouped under the rubric of proteomics (Fig. (Fig.1).1). These include protein-protein interaction studies, protein modifications, protein function, and protein localization studies to name a few. The aim of proteomics is not only to identify all the proteins in a cell but also to create a complete three-dimensional (3-D) map of the cell indicating where proteins are located. These ambitious goals will certainly require the involvement of a large number of different disciplines such as molecular biology, biochemistry, and bioinformatics. It is likely that in bioinformatics alone, more powerful computers will have to be devised to organize the immense amount of information generated from these endeavors.

Types of proteomics and their applications to biology

Types of proteomics and their applications to biology

In the quest to characterize the proteome of a given cell or organism, it should be remembered that the proteome is dynamic. The proteome of a cell will reflect the immediate environment in which it is studied. In response to internal or external cues, proteins can be modified by posttranslational modifications, undergo translocations within the cell, or be synthesized or degraded. Thus, examination of the proteome of a cell is like taking a “snapshot” of the protein environment at any given time. Considering all the possibilities, it is likely that any given genome can potentially give rise to an infinite number of proteomes.

The first major technology to emerge for the identification of proteins was the sequencing of proteins by Edman degradation. A major breakthrough was the development of microsequencing techniques for electroblotted proteins. This technique was used for the identification of proteins from 2-D gels to create the first 2-D databases.  One of the most important developments in protein identification has been the development of MS technology. In the last decade, the sensitivity of analysis and accuracy of results for protein identification by MS have increased by several orders of magnitude. It is now estimated that proteins in the femtomolar range can be identified in gels. Because MS is more sensitive, can tolerate protein mixtures, and is amenable to high-throughput operations, it has essentially replaced Edman sequencing as the protein identification tool of choice.

The growth of proteomics is a direct result of advances made in large-scale nucleotide sequencing of expressed sequence tags and genomic DNA. Without this information, proteins could not be identified even with the improvements made in MS. Protein identification (by MS or Edman sequencing) relies on the presence of some form of database for the given organism. The majority of DNA and protein sequence information has accumulated within the last 5 to 10 years. In 1995, the first complete genome of an organism was sequenced, that of Haemophilus influenzae. At the time of this writing, the sequencing of the genomes of 45 microorganisms has been completed and that of 170 more is under way ( To date, five eukaryotic genomes have been completed: Arabidopsis thaliana, Saccharomyces cerevisiae, Schizosaccharomyces pombe, Caenorhabditis elegans, and Drosophila melanogaster. In addition, the rice, mouse, and human genomes are near completion.

One of the first applications of proteomics will be to identify the total number of genes in a given genome. This “functional annotation” of a genome is necessary because

  • it is still difficult to predict genes accurately from genomic data. One problem is that
  • the exon-intron structure of most genes cannot be accurately predicted by bioinformatics.

To achieve this goal, genomic information will have to be integrated with

  • data obtained from protein studies to confirm the existence of a particular gene.

The analysis of mRNA is

  • not a direct reflection of the protein content in the cell.

Many studies have shown a poor correlation

  • between mRNA and protein expression levels.

The formation of mRNA is only the first step in a long sequence of events resulting in the synthesis of a protein (Fig. (Fig.2).2).

  1. mRNA is subject to posttranscriptional control in the form of alternative splicing, polyadenylation, and mRNA editing. Many different protein isoforms can be generated from a single gene at this step.
  2. mRNA then can be subject to regulation at the level of protein translation. Proteins, having been formed, are subject to posttranslational modification. It is estimated that up to 200 different types of posttranslational protein modification exist. Proteins can also be regulated by proteolysis and compartmentalization. It is clear that the tenet of “one gene, one protein” is an oversimplification.
Mechanisms by which a single gene can give rise to multiple gene products

Mechanisms by which a single gene can give rise to multiple gene products

Mechanisms by which a single gene can give rise to multiple gene products. Multiple protein isoforms can be generated by RNA processing when RNA is alternatively spliced or edited to form mature mRNA. mRNA, in turn, can be regulated by stability and efficiency
One of the most important applications of proteomics will be the characterization of posttranslational protein modifications. Proteins are known to be modified posttranslationally in response to a variety of intracellular and extracellular signals. For example, protein phosphorylation is an important signaling mechanism and disregulation of protein kinases or phosphatases can result in oncogenesis. By using a proteomics approach, changes in the modifications of many proteins expressed by a cell can be analyzed simultaneously.
Of fundamental importance in biology is the understanding of protein-protein interactions. The process of cell growth, programmed cell death, and the decision to proceed through the cell cycle are all regulated by signal transduction through protein complexes. Proteomics aims to develop a complete 3-D map of all protein interactions in the cell. One step toward this goal was recently completed for the microorganism Helicobacter pylori. Using the yeast two-hybrid method to detect protein interactions, 1,200 connections were identified between H. pylori proteins covering 46.6% of the genome. A comprehensive two-hybrid analysis has also been performed on all the proteins from the yeast S. cerevisiae.
mixed peptide sequencing with MS

mixed peptide sequencing with MS

The process of mixed-peptide sequencing involves separation of a complex protein mixture by polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis (1-D or 2-D) and then transfer of the proteins to an inert membrane by electroblotting (Fig. (Fig.4).4). The proteins of interest are visualized on the membrane surface, excised, and fragmented chemically at methionine (by CNBr) or tryptophan (by skatole) into several large peptide fragments.
FASTF and FASTS search programs

FASTF and FASTS search programs

The mixed-sequence data are fed into the FASTF or TFASTF algorithms, which sort and match the data against protein (FASTF) and DNA (TFASTF) databases to unambiguously identify the protein. The FASTF and TFASTF programs were written in collaboration with William Pearson (Department of Biochemistry, University of Virginia). Because minimal sample handling is involved, mixed-peptide sequencing can be a sensitive approach for identifying proteins in polyacrylamide gels at the 0.1- to 1-pmol level.  A recent variation of T/FASTF has been devised for MS (101) (Fig. (Fig.5B).5B). The T/FASTF/S programs are available at (Table (Table11).

triple quadrupole MS

triple quadrupole MS

Triple-quadrupole mass spectrometers are most commonly used to obtain amino acid sequences. In the first stage of analysis, the machine is operated in MS scan mode and all ions above a certain m/z ratio are transmitted to the third quadrupole for mass analysis (Fig. (Fig.6)6) (82, 173). In the second stage, the mass spectrometer is operated in MS/MS mode and a particular peptide ion is selectively passed into the collision chamber. Inside the collision chamber, peptide ions are fragmented by interactions with an inert gas by a process known as collision-induced dissociation or collisionally activated dissociation. The peptide ion fragments are then resolved on the basis of their m/z ratio by the third quadrupole (Fig. (Fig.6).6). Since two different mass spectra are obtained in this analysis, it is referred to as tandem mass spectrometry (MS/MS). MS/MS is used to obtain the amino acid sequence of peptides by generating a series of peptides that differ in mass by a single amino acid.

The largest application of proteomics continues to be protein expression profiling. Through the use of two-dimensional gels or novel techniques such as ICAT, the expression levels of proteins or changes in their level of modification between two different samples can be compared and the proteins can be identified. This approach can facilitate the dissection of signaling mechanisms or identify disease-specific proteins.

Cancer cells are good candidates for proteomics studies because they can be compared to their non-transformed counterparts. Analysis of differentially expressed proteins in normal versus cancer cells can

(i) identify novel tumor cell biomarkers that can be used for diagnosis,

(ii) provide clues to mechanisms of cancer development, and

(iii) identify novel targets for therapeutic intervention. Protein expression profiling has been used in the study of breast, esophageal, bladder and prostate cancer. From these studies, tumor-specific proteins were identified and 2-D protein expression databases were generated. Many of these 2-D protein databases are now available on the World Wide Web.

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