Epitranscriptomics is an exciting emerging area that studies biochemical modifications of RNA. The field is boosted by the technical efforts of the last decade to characterize and quantify RNA modifications which have led to a map of post-transcripcional RNA marks in normal cell fate and develoment. However, the scientific interest has been fueled by the discovery of aberrant epitranscriptomes associated with human diseases, mainly cancer. The challenge is now to see whether epitrancriptomics offers a tunable mechanims to be targeted by small- molecule intervention. In this review, we will describe the principal RNA modifications (with a focus on mRNA), summarize the latest scientific evidences of their dysregulation in cancer and provide an overview of the state-of-the-art drug discovery to target the epitranscriptome. Finally, we will discuss the principal challenges in the field of chemical biology and drug development to increase the potential of targeted-RNA for clinical benefit.
The complement system is a well-characterised cascade of extracellular serum proteins that is activated by pathogens and unwanted waste material. Products of activated complement signal to host cells via cell-surface receptors, illicting responses such as removal of the stimulus by phagocytosis. The complement system therefore functions as a warning system, resulting in removal of unwanted material. This review describes how extracellular activation of the complement system can also trigger autophagic responses within cells, upregulating protective homeostatic autophagy in response to perceived stress, but also intiating targeted anti-microbial autophagy in order to kill intracellular cyto-invasive pathogens. In particular, we will focus on recent discoveries that complement may also have roles in detection and autophagy-mediated disposal of unwanted materials within the intracellular environment. We therefore summarize the current evidence for complement involvement in autophagy, both by transducing signals across the cell membrane, as well as roles within the cellular environment.
IImmunodeficiency and hyperinflammation characterize COVID-19 associated states; thus, repurposing of multiple cytokine and/or anti-cytokine drugs currently being used in other therapeutic areas has been suggested as a potential therapeutic strategy in COVID-19 patients. Clinical trials involving these drugs target the most frequent and life-threatening peripheral consequences of the disease, mainly focusing on lung, heart, and coagulation functions; however, a growing number of reports describe a wide range of COVID-associated neurological manifestations (altogether defined as neuro-COVID) including anosmia, seizures, confusion, stroke, encephalopathy, and paralysis. Notably, the underlying pathophysiological mechanisms for neuro-COVID may also include dysregulation of cytokines/chemokines, deficiencies in the innate immune response, and autoimmunity. This suggests that therapeutic attempts with drugs targeting cytokine-mediated inflammation in peripheral organs could also positively affect neuro-COVID manifestations. As a matter of fact, some of these drugs have also been scrutinized for their potential efficacy in treating neuroinflammatory diseases such as optic neuromyelitis, epilepsy, stroke, and traumatic brain injury, among others. On the other hand, anti-cytokine drugs, by impairing relevant physiological activities exerted by these mediators in the CNS, may also be endowed with significant neurological risk. Therefore, the primary aim of the present manuscript is to review the available preclinical and clinical data regarding the neurological effects of the drugs targeting cytokine-mediated inflammation, in order to raise awareness about their potentially beneficial or detrimental neurological consequences when used to treat COVID-19 patients.
Abstract Background and Purpose: Gpr17 is an orphan receptor involved in the process of myelination due to its ability to inhibit the maturation of oligodendrocyte progenitor cells into myelinating oligodendrocytes. Despite multiple claims that the biological ligand has been identified, it remains an orphan receptor. Experimental Approach: Seventy-seven oxysterols were screened in a cell-free [35S]- GTPgS binding assay using membranes from cells expressing Gpr17. The positive hits were characterised using cAMP, IP1, and calcium mobilisation assays, with results confirmed in rat primary oligodendrocytes. Rat and pig brain extracts were separated by HPLC chromatography and endogenous activator(s) were identified in receptor activation assays. Gene expression studies of Gpr17 and Cyp46a1, the enzymes responsible for the conversion of cholesterol into specific oxysterols, were performed using quantitative real time PCR. Key Results: Eight oxysterols were able to stimulate Gpr17 activity, including the brain cholesterol, 24(S)-hydroxycholesterol. A specific brain fraction from rat and pig extracts containing 24S-HC activates Gpr17 in vitro assays. Expression of Gpr17 during mouse brain development correlates with the expression of Cyp46a1 and the levels of 24S-HC itself. Other active oxysterols have low brain concentrations below effective ranges. Conclusions and Implications: Oxysterols, including but not limited to 24S-HC, could be physiological activators for Gpr17 and thus potentially regulate OPC differentiation and myelination through activation of the receptor.
Background and Purpose: Acute lung injury (ALI), acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) and pulmonary fibrosis remain major causes of morbidity, mortality and healthcare burden in the critically ill patient. There is an urgent medical need for identifying factors of susceptibility and prognosis and for designing new therapeutic tools for treating these disorders. Here, we evaluate the capacity of the immunomodulatory neuropeptide cortistatin to regulate pulmonary inflammation and fibrosis in vivo. Experimental Approach: ALI/ARDS and pulmonary fibrosis were induced experimentally in wild-type and cortistatin-deficient mice by pulmonary infusion of the bacterial endotoxin LPS or the chemotherapeutic drug bleomycin, and the histopathological signs, pulmonary leukocyte infiltration and cytokines and fibrotic markers were evaluated. Key Results: Partially-deficient mice in cortistatin showed exacerbated pulmonary damage, pulmonary inflammation, alveolar oedema and fibrosis, and subsequent increased respiratory failure and mortality when challenged to LPS or bleomycin, even at low doses. Treatment with cortistatin reversed these aggravated phenotypes and protected from progression to severe ARDS and fibrosis after high-exposition to both injury agents. Moreover, cortistatin-deficient pulmonary macrophages and fibroblasts showed exaggerated ex vivo inflammatory and fibrotic responses. The anti-fibrotic protective effect of cortistatin was also observed in experimental scleroderma, in which lack of cortistatin predisposes to develop more severe dermal lesions and associated pulmonary fibrosis. Conclusion and Implications: We identify to cortistatin as an endogenous break of pulmonary inflammation and fibrosis. Deficiency in cortistatin could be a marker of poor-prognosis in inflammatory/fibrotic pulmonary disorders. Cortistatin-based therapies emerge as attractive candidates to treat severe ALI/ARDS, including SARS-Cov-2-associated ARDS.
Starting from December 2019 the novel SARS-Cov-2 has spread all over the world, being recognized as the causing agent of COVID-19. Since nowadays no specific drug therapies neither vaccines are available for the treatment of COVID-19, drug repositioning may offer a strategy to efficiently control the clinical course of the disease and the spread of the outbreak. In this paper we aim to describe the main pharmacological properties, including data on mechanism of action, safety concerns and drug-drug interactions, of drugs currently administered in patients with COVID-19, focusing on antivirals and drugs with immune-modulatory and/or anti-inflammatory properties. Where available, data from clinical trials involving patients with COVID-19 were reported. A large number of clinical studies have been registered worldwide and several drugs were repurposed to face the new health emergency of COVID-19. For many of these drugs, including lopinavir/ritonavir, remdesivir, favipiravir, chloroquine and tocilizumab, clinical evidence from literature and real life settings support their favorable efficacy and safety profile in improving patients’ clinical conditions. Even though drug repurposing is necessary, it requires caution. Indeed, too many drugs that are currently tested in patients with COVID-19 have peculiar safety profiles. While waiting for the results of clinical studies demonstrating the efficacy of drugs able to reduce symptoms and complications of COVID-19, the best therapeutic path to pursue is the development of an effective vaccine able to prevent this infection.
Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) are heterogeneous neurodevelopmental disorders with considerably increased risk in male infants born preterm and with neonatal infection. Here we investigated the role of postnatal immune activation on hippocampal synaptopathology by targeting Reelin+ cells in mice with ASD-like behavior. C57/Bl6 mouse pups of both sexes received lipopolysaccharide (LPS, 1mg/kg) on postnatal day (P) 5. At P45, animal behavior was examined by marble burying and sociability test, followed by ex-vivo brain MRI diffusion kurtosis imaging (DKI). Hippocampal synaptogenesis, number and morphology of Reelin+ cells, and mRNA expression of trans-synaptic genes, including neurexin-3, neuroligin-1, and cell-adhesion molecule nectin-1 were analyzed at P12 and P45. Social withdrawal and increased stereotypic activities in males were related to increased mean diffusivity on MRI-DKI and overgrowth in hippocampus together with retention of long-thin immature synapses on apical dendrites, decreased volume and number of Reelin+ cells as well as reduced expression of trans-synaptic and cell-adhesion molecules. The study provides new insights into sex-dependent mechanisms that may underlie ASD-like behavior in males following PIA. We identify GABAergic interneurons as core components of dysmaturation of excitatory synapses in the hippocampus following postnatal infection and provide cellular and molecular substrates for the MRI findings with translational value.
Background and purpose: Increasing evidence suggests that ferroptosis plays a key role in the pathophysiology of acute kidney injury induced by cisplatin. The Nrf2 signaling pathway regulates oxidative stress and lipid peroxidation and positively regulates cisplatin-induced AKI (CI-AKI). However, Nrf2 and its activator leonurine on ferroptosis after CI-AKI remain unclear. Experimental Approach: The anti-ferroptotic effects of Nrf2 and its activator leonurine were assessed using a mouse model of cisplatin-induced AKI. In vitro, the potential effects of leonurine on erastin- and RSL3-induced HK-2 human PTEC ferroptosis were examined. Key Results: As expected, Nrf2 deletion induced ferroptosis-related protein expression and iron accumulation in vivo, further aggravating CI-AKI. The Nrf2 activator leonurine prevented iron accumulation and lipid peroxidation and inhibited ferroptosis in vitro, while these effects were abolished in siNrf2-treated cells. Moreover, leonurine potently ameliorated cisplatin-induced renal damage, as indicated by the assessment of SCr, BUN, KIM-1, and NGAL. Importantly, leonurine activated the Nrf2 antioxidative signaling pathway and prohibited changes in ferroptosis-related morphological and biochemical indicators, such as the MDA level, SOD and GSH depletion and GPX4 and xCT downregulation, in CI-AKI. Moreover, Nrf2 KO mice were more susceptible to ferroptosis after CI-AKI than control mice, and the protective effects of leonurine on AKI and ferroptosis were largely abolished in Nrf2 KO mice. Conclusion and Implications: These data suggest that the renal protective effects of Nrf2 and its activator leonurine on CI-AKI are achieved at least partially by inhibiting lipid peroxide-mediated ferroptosis and highlight the potential of leonurine as a CI-AKI treatment.
Identifying candidate drugs effective in the new coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) is crucial, pending a vaccine against SARS-CoV2. We suggest the hypothesis that Cannabidiol (CBD), a non-psychotropic phytocannabinoid, has the potential to limit the severity and progression of the disease for several reasons: 1) High-CBD Cannabis Sativa extracts are able to downregulate the expression of the two key receptors for SARS-CoV2 in several models of human epithelia 2) CBD exerts a wide range of immunomodulatory and anti-inflammatory effects and it can mitigate the uncontrolled cytokine production featuring Acute Lung Injury 3) Being a PPARΥ agonist, it can display a direct antiviral activity 4) PPARΥ agonists are regulators of fibroblast/myofibroblast activation and can inhibit the development of pulmonary fibrosis, thus ameliorating lung function in recovered patients. We hope our hypothesis, corroborated by several preclinical evidence, will inspire further targeted studies to test CBD as a support drug against the COVID-19 pandemic.
Background and Purpose: Liver fibrosis is one of the leading causes of morbidity and mortality worldwide of which no acceptable therapy exists. Accumulating evidence supports that glioma-associated oncogene homologue 1(GLI1) is a potentially important therapeutic target for liver fibrosis. This study investigates the antifibrotic activities and potential mechanisms of Physalin B (PB), a natural Solanaceae compound. Experimental Approach: Mice subjected to CCl4 challenge and bile duct ligation were used to study the antifibrotic effects of PB in vivo. Mouse primary hepatic stellate cells (pHSCs) and human HSC line LX‐2 also served as an in vitro liver fibrosis model. Liver fibrogenic genes, GLI1 downstream genes were examined using western blot and real-time PCR analyses. GLI1 acetylation and LAP2α-HDAC1 interaction were analyzed by coimmunoprecipitation. Key Results: In animal models, PB administration attenuated hepatic histopathological injury, collagen accumulation, and reduced the expression of fibrogenic genes. PB dose‐dependently suppressed fibrotic marker expression in LX‐2 cells and mouse pHSCs. Mechanistic studies showed PB inhibited GLI activity in a non-canonical Hedgehog signaling. PB blocked lamina-associated polypeptide 2 α (LAP2α)/ histone deacetylase 1 (HDAC1) complex formation thereby inhibited HDAC1mediated GLI1 deacetylation. PB downregulated the acetylation and expression of GLI1, and subsequently inhibiting HSC activation. Conclusions and Implications: PB exerted potent antifibrotic effects in vitro and in vivo by disrupting the LAP2α/HDAC1 complex, increasing GLI1 acetylation and inactivating GLI1. This indicates that PB may be a potential therapeutic candidate for the treatment of liver fibrosis.
Bruton’s tyrosine kinase (BTK) is a non-receptor kinase best known for its role in B lymphocyte development that is critical for proliferation, and survival of leukaemia cells in B cell malignancies. However, BTK is expressed in myeloid cells, particularly monocytes and macrophages where its inhibition has been reported to exhibit anti-inflammatory properties. Therefore, we explored the role of BTK on the migration of myeloid cells in vitro and in vivo. Using the zymosan induced peritonitis model of sterile inflammation we demonstrated that acute (1 h prior to zymosan) inhibition of BTK using a wide range of FDA (Ibrutinib and Acalabrutinib) and non-FDA approved inhibitors (ONO-4059, CNX-774, Olumatinib and LFM-A13) reduced neutrophil and monocyte recruitment. XID mice, which have a point mutation in the Btk gene had reduced neutrophil and monocyte recruitment to the peritoneum following zymosan challenge. To better understand the role of BTK in myeloid cell recruitment we investigated both chemotaxis and chemokine production in monocytes and macrophages. Pharmacological or genetic inhibition of BTK signalling substantially reduced human monocyte and murine macrophage chemotaxis to a range of chemoattractants (complement C5a and CCL2). We also demonstrated that inhibition of BTK in tissue resident macrophages significantly decreases chemokine secretion by reducing NF-kB activity and Akt signalling. Our work has identified a new role of BTK in regulating myeloid cell recruitment via two mechanisms, 1) reducing monocyte/macrophages’ ability to undergo chemotaxis, and 2) reducing chemokine secretion, via reduced NF-kB activity in tissue resident macrophages.
Background and Purpose: Activation of hepatic thyroid hormone receptor ß (THR-ß) is associated with systemic lipid lowering, increased bile acid synthesis and fat oxidation. In patients with non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH), treatment with THR-ß agonists led to reduction in hepatic steatosis and circulating lipids, and resolution of NASH. We chose resmetirom (MGL-3196), a liver-directed, selective THR-ß agonist, as a prototype to investigate the effects of THR-ß agonism in mice with diet-induced obesity (DIO) and biopsy-confirmed advanced NASH with fibrosis. Experimental Approach: C57Bl/6J mice were fed a diet high in fat, fructose and cholesterol for 34 weeks, and only biopsy-confirmed DIO-NASH mice with fibrosis were included. Resmetirom was then administered at a daily dose of 3 mg/kg p.o. over a period of eight weeks. Systemic and hepatic metabolic parameters, histological NAFLD activity and fibrosis scores, and liver RNA expression profiles were determined to assess the effect of THR-ß agonism. Key Results: Treatment with resmetirom did not influence body weight but led to significant reduction in liver weight (-43 %, p<0.001), hepatic steatosis (-53 %, p<0.001), plasma ALT activity (-49 %, p<0.001), liver and plasma cholesterol (-27 % and -60 %, respectively, p<0.001), and blood glucose (6.3 vs. 7.5 mmol/l, p<0.001). These metabolic effects translated into significant improvement in NAFLD activity score. Moreover, lower alpha-smooth muscle actin content and down-regulation of genes involved in fibrogenesis indicated a decrease in hepatic fibrosis. Conclusion and implications: Our model robustly reflected clinical observations of body weight-independent improvements in systemic and hepatic metabolism including anti-steatotic activity.
Na+,K+ATPase (NKA), a transmembrane protein essential for maintaining the electrochemical gradient across the plasma membrane, acts as a receptor for cardiotonic steroids (CTS) such as ouabain. CTS binding to NKA, triggers signalling pathways or inhibits NKA activity in a concentration-dependent manner, resulting in a modulation of Ca2+ levels, which are essential for homeostasis in neurons. However, most of the pharmacological strategies for avoiding neuronal death do not target NKA activity, due to its complexity and poor comprehension of the mechanisms involved in NKA modulation. The present review aims to discuss two points regarding the interplay between NKA and Ca2+ signalling in the brain: NKA impairment causing illness as well as neuronal death due to Ca2+ signalling and benefits to the brain by modulating NKA activity. These interactions play an essential role in neuronal cell fate determination and are relevant to finding new targets for the treatment of neurodegenerative diseases.
Background and Purpose: Cancer cachexia and cancer-associated thrombosis are potentially fatal outcomes of advanced cancer. Nevertheless, thrombin expression in NSCLC primary tumor tissues and the association between prognosis of NSCLC patients remain largely unknown. Experimental Approach: Clinical pathological analysis was performed to determine the relationship between thrombin and tumor progression. Effect of r-hirudin and DTIP on cancer progression were evaluated. Western blotting, immunohistochemistry, and immunofluorescence were used to explore the inhibition mechanism of r-hirudin and DTIP. Therapeutic effect of combination of DTIP and chemotherapy was determined. Key Results: We illustrated thrombin expression in NSCLC tissues is closely related to clinicopathological features and the prognosis of patients. Thrombin deficiency inhibited tumor progression. The novel thrombin inhibitors, r-hirudin and DTIP, inhibited cell invasion and metastasis in vitro. They inhibited tumor growth and metastasis in orthotopic lung cancer model; inhibited cells invasion and prolonged survival after injection tumor cells via tail vein; they also inhibited angiogenesis and spontaneous metastases from subcutaneously inoculated tumors. The promotional activity of thrombin in invasion and metastasis was abolished in PAR-1 deficient-NSCLC cells. r-hirudin and DTIP inhibit tumor progression through the thrombin-PAR-1-mediated RhoA and NF-κB signaling cascades via inhibiting the MMP9 and IL6 expression. DTIP potentiated chemotherapy-induced growth and metastatic inhibition and inhibited chemotherapy-induced resistance in mice. Conclusions and Implications: Thrombin makes a substantial contribution, together with PAR-1, to NSCLC malignancy. We concluded the anticoagulants, r-hirudin and DTIP, could be expanded for anti-tumor therap. Combination therapy of DTIP and chemotherapy might achieve a better therapeutic effect.
Background and Purpose: The development of effective therapeutic strategies against Alzheimer’s disease (AD) remains a challenge. I2 Imidazoline receptors (I2-IR) ligands have a neuroprotective role in AD. While co-treatment of acetylcholinesterase inhibitors with neuroprotective agents have shown better effects on the prevention of dementia. Here, we assessed the potential therapeutic effect of the I2-IR ligand LSL60101, donepezil and their combination in 5XFAD mice. Experimental Approach: 5XFAD female mice were treated with low doses of LSL60101 (1mg/kg/day), donepezil (1mg/kg/day), and donepezil plus LSL60101 (1+1mg/kg/day), during 4 weeks per os. Novel object recognition, Morris water maze, open field, elevated plus maze and three-chamber tests were employed to evaluate the cognitive and behavioural status of the mice after treatment. The effects of the treatments on AD-like pathology were assessed with immunohistochemistry, Western blot and qPCR. Key results: Chronic low-dose treatment with LSL60101 and donepezil reversed cognitive deficits and impaired social behaviour. LSL60101 treatment did not affect anxiety-like behaviour in contrast to donepezil. In the 5XFAD brains, LSL60101 and donepezil/LSL60101 treatments decreased Aβ-pathology and Tau hyperphosphorylation, and these alterations were accompanied by decreased microglia marker Iba-1 levels and increased Trem2 gene expression. LSL60601 and donepezil decreased glial fibrillary acidic protein (GFAP) astrocytic marker reactivity. However, only LSL60601 treatment significantly increased the levels of the synaptic markers post-density 95 (PSD95) and synaptophysin (SYN). Conclusion and implications: Our results suggest that chronic low dose treatment with selective I2-IR ligands can be an effective treatment for AD and provide insights into combination treatments of symptomatic and disease-modifying drugs
COVID-19 pandemic caused by the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) has overwhelmed Healthcare Systems requiring the rapid development of treatments, at least, to reduce COVID-19 severity. Drug repurposing offers a fast track. Here, we discuss the potential beneficial effects of statins in COVID-19 patients based on evidence that they may target virus receptors, replication, degradation and downstream responses in infected cells, addressing both basic research and epidemiological information. Briefly, statins could act modulating virus entry, acting on the SARS-CoV-2 receptors, ACE2 and CD147, and/or lipid rafts engagement. Statins, by inducing autophagy activation, could regulate virus replication or degradation, exerting protective effects. The well-known anti-inflammatory properties of statins, by blocking several molecular mechanisms, including NF-κB and NLRP3 inflammasome, could limit the “cytokine storm” in severe COVID-19 patients which is linked to fatal outcome. Finally, statin moderation of coagulation response activation may also contribute to improve COVID-19 outcomes.
Metabolic pathways have emerged as cornerstones in carcinogenic deregulation providing new therapeutic strategies for cancer management. This is illustrated by the recent discovery of a cholesterol metabolic branch involving the biochemical transformation of 5,6-epoxycholesterol (5,6-ECs). 5,6-ECs have been shown to be differentially metabolized in breast cancers (BC) compared to normal breast tissue. 5,6-ECs are metabolized into the tumour promoter oncosterone in BC, while they are transformed into the tumour suppressor metabolite dendrogenin A (DDA) in normal breast tissue. Blocking oncosterone’s mitogenic and invasive potential will represent new opportunities for BC treatment. The reactivation of DDA biosynthesis, or its use as a drug, represents promising therapeutic approaches such as DDA-deficiency complementation, activation of BC cell re-differentiation and BC chemoprevention. This review presents current knowledge as to the 5,6-EC metabolic pathway in BC focusing on the 5,6-EC metabolic enzymes ChEH and HSD11B2, and on 5,6-EC metabolite targets LXRβ and GR.
Pyroptosis, is a specialized form of inflammatory cell death which aids the defensive response against invading pathogens. Its tight regulation is lost during infection by the severe acute respiratory coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) and thus uncontrolled pyroptosis disrupts the immune system and the integrity of organs defining the critical conditions in patients with high viral load. Molecular pathways engaged downstream to the formation and stabilization of the inflammasome -required to execute the process- have been uncovered and drugs are available for their regulation. On the contrary, pharmacological inferring of the upstream events -which are critical to sense and interpret the initial damage by the pathogen- is far from being elucidated. This limits our capacity to identify early markers and targets to ameliorate SARS-CoV-2 linked pyroptosis. Here we aim to raise attention on mitochondria and pathways leading to its dysfunction with the goal to inform early steps of inflammasome and devise tools to interpret and counteract diseases by the SARS-CoV-2.