All Publications

  • Noninvasive Tracking of Quiescent and Activated Muscle Stem Cell (MuSC) Engraftment Dynamics In Vivo. Methods in molecular biology (Clifton, N.J.) Ho, A. T., Blau, H. M. 2016; 1460: 181-189


    Muscle stem cells play a central role in muscle regeneration. Most studies in the field of muscle regeneration focus on the unraveling of muscle stem cell biology to devise strategies for treating failing muscles as seen in aging and muscle-related diseases. However, the common method used in assessing stem cell function in vivo is laborious, as it involves time-consuming immunohistological analyses by microscopy on serial cryo-sections of the muscle post stem cell transplantation. Here we describe an alternative method, which adapts the bioluminescence imaging (BLI) technique to allow noninvasive tracking of engrafted stem-cell function in vivo in real-time. This assay system enables longitudinal studies in the same mice over time and reveals parameters, not feasible by traditional analysis, such as the magnitude and dynamics of engrafted muscle stem cell expansion in vivo in response to a particular drug treatment or muscle injury.

    View details for DOI 10.1007/978-1-4939-3810-0_13

    View details for PubMedID 27492173

  • The central role of muscle stem cells in regenerative failure with aging NATURE MEDICINE Blau, H. M., Cosgrove, B. D., Ho, A. T. 2015; 21 (8): 854-862


    Skeletal muscle mass, function, and repair capacity all progressively decline with aging, restricting mobility, voluntary function, and quality of life. Skeletal muscle repair is facilitated by a population of dedicated muscle stem cells (MuSCs), also known as satellite cells, that reside in anatomically defined niches within muscle tissues. In adult tissues, MuSCs are retained in a quiescent state until they are primed to regenerate damaged muscle through cycles of self-renewal divisions. With aging, muscle tissue homeostasis is progressively disrupted and the ability of MuSCs to repair injured muscle markedly declines. Until recently, this decline has been largely attributed to extrinsic age-related alterations in the microenvironment to which MuSCs are exposed. However, as highlighted in this Perspective, recent reports show that MuSCs also progressively undergo cell-intrinsic alterations that profoundly affect stem cell regenerative function with aging. A more comprehensive understanding of the interplay of stem cell-intrinsic and extrinsic factors will set the stage for improving cell therapies capable of restoring tissue homeostasis and enhancing muscle repair in the aged.

    View details for DOI 10.1038/nm.3918

    View details for Web of Science ID 000359181000010

    View details for PubMedID 26248268

  • Neural Crest Cell Lineage Restricts Skeletal Muscle Progenitor Cell Differentiation through Neuregulinl-ErbB3 Signaling DEVELOPMENTAL CELL Van Ho, A. T., Hayashi, S., Broehl, D., Aurade, F., Rattenbach, R., Relaix, F. 2011; 21 (2): 273-287


    Coordinating the balance between progenitor self-renewal and myogenic differentiation is required for a regulated expansion of the developing muscles. Previous observation that neural crest cells (NCCs) migrate throughout the somite regions, where trunk skeletal muscles first emerge, suggests a potential role for these cells in influencing early muscle formation. However, specific signaling interactions between NCCs and skeletal muscle cells remain unknown. Here we show that mice with specific NCC and peripheral nervous system defects display impaired survival of skeletal muscle and show skeletal muscle progenitor cell (MPC) depletion due to precocious commitment to differentiation. We show that reduced NCC-derived Neuregulin1 (Nrg1) in the somite region perturbs ErbB3 signaling in uncommitted MPCs. Using a combination of explant culture experiments and genetic ablation in the mouse, we demonstrate that Nrg1 signals provided by the NCC lineage play a critical role in sustainable myogenesis, by restraining MPCs from precocious differentiation.

    View details for DOI 10.1016/j.devcel.2011.06.019

    View details for Web of Science ID 000294387300009

    View details for PubMedID 21782525

  • Pathologic Calcification of Adult Vascular Smooth Muscle Cells Differs on Their Crest or Mesodermal Embryonic Origin JOURNAL OF BONE AND MINERAL RESEARCH Leroux-Berger, M., Queguiner, I., Maciel, T. T., Ho, A., Relaix, F., Kempf, H. 2011; 26 (7): 1543-1553


    Vascular calcifications can occur in the elderly and in patients suffering from various diseases. Interestingly, depending on the pathology, different regions of the arterial system can be affected. Embryonic observations have clearly indicated that vascular smooth muscle cell (VSMC) origin is notably heterogeneous. For instance, in the aorta, VSMCs colonizing the aortic arch region derive from cardiac neural crest cells, whereas those populating the descending aorta derive from the mesoderm. We examined here whether the embryonic origin of aortic VSMCs would correlate with their ability to mineralize. Under hyperphosphatemic conditions that induce vascular calcifications, we performed ex vivo aortic explant cultures as well as in vitro VSMC cultures from wild-type mice. Our data showed that VSMC embryonic origin affects their ability to mineralize. Indeed, the aortic arch media made up of VSMCs of neural crest origin calcifies significantly earlier than the descending aorta composed of VSMCs, which are mesoderm-derived. Similar results were obtained with cultured VSMCs harvested from both aortic regions. We also demonstrated that in a mouse model deficient in matrix Gla protein, a potent calcification inhibitor, developing extensive and spontaneous medial calcifications of the aorta, lesions initiate in the aortic arch. Subsequently, calcifications progress outside the aortic arch region and ultimately spread all over the entire arterial tree, including the descending aorta. Altogether, our results support an unsuspected correlation between VSMCs of embryonic origin and the timing of appearance of calcifications.

    View details for DOI 10.1002/jbmr.382

    View details for Web of Science ID 000292061400016

    View details for PubMedID 21425330

  • Critical Role of the Rb Family in Myoblast Survival and Fusion PLOS ONE Ciavarra, G., Ho, A. T., Cobrinik, D., Zacksenhaus, E. 2011; 6 (3)


    The tumor suppressor Rb is thought to control cell proliferation, survival and differentiation. We recently showed that differentiating Rb-deficient mouse myoblasts can fuse to form short myotubes that quickly collapse through a mechanism involving autophagy, and that autophagy inhibitors or hypoxia could rescue the defect leading to long, twitching myotubes. Here we determined the contribution of pRb relatives, p107 and p130, to this process. We show that chronic or acute inactivation of Rb plus p107 or p130 increased myoblast cell death and reduced myotube formation relative to Rb loss alone. Treatment with autophagy antagonists or hypoxia extended survival of double-knockout myotubes, which appeared indistinguishable from control fibers. In contrast, triple mutations in Rb, p107 and p130, led to substantial increase in myoblast death and to elongated bi-nuclear myocytes, which seem to derive from nuclear duplication, as opposed to cell fusion. Under hypoxia, some rare, abnormally thin triple knockout myotubes survived and twitched. Thus, mutation of p107 or p130 reduces survival of Rb-deficient myoblasts during differentiation but does not preclude myoblast fusion or necessitate myotube degeneration, whereas combined inactivation of the entire Rb family produces a distinct phenotype, with drastically impaired myoblast fusion and survival.

    View details for DOI 10.1371/journal.pone.0017682

    View details for Web of Science ID 000288219100025

    View details for PubMedID 21423694

  • XIAP activity dictates Apaf-1 dependency for caspase 9 activation MOLECULAR AND CELLULAR BIOLOGY Ho, A. T., Li, Q. H., Okada, H., Mak, T. W., Zacksenhaus, E. 2007; 27 (16): 5673-5685


    The current model for the intrinsic apoptotic pathway holds that mitochondrial activation of caspases in response to cytotoxic drugs requires both Apaf-1-induced dimerization of procaspase 9 and Smac/Diablo-mediated sequestration of inhibitors of apoptosis proteins (IAPs). Here, we showed that either pathway can independently promote caspase 9 activation in response to apoptotic stimuli. In drug-treated Apaf-1(-/-) primary myoblasts, but not fibroblasts, Smac/Diablo accumulates in the cytosol and sequesters X-linked IAP (XIAP), which is expressed at lower levels in myoblasts than in fibroblasts. Consequently, caspase 9 activation proceeds in Apaf-1(-/-) myoblasts; concomitant ablation of Apaf-1 and Smac is required to prevent caspase 9 activation and the onset of apoptosis. Conversely, in stimulated Apaf-1(-/-) fibroblasts, the ratio of XIAP to Smac/Diablo is high compared to that for myoblasts and procaspase 9 is not activated. Suppressing XIAP with exogenous Smac/Diablo or a pharmacological inhibitor can still induce caspase 9 in drug-treated Apaf-1-null fibroblasts. Thus, caspase 9 activation in response to intrinsic apoptotic stimuli can be uncoupled from Apaf-1 in vivo by XIAP antagonists.

    View details for DOI 10.1128/MCB.00188-07

    View details for Web of Science ID 000248526100007

    View details for PubMedID 17562856

  • Splitting the apoptosome CELL CYCLE Ho, A. T., Zacksenhaus, E. 2004; 3 (4): 446-448


    Assembly of the apoptosome in response to mitochondrial permeabilization, the hallmark of the intrinsic apoptotic pathway, involves binding of cytochrome c to Apaf1, recruitment and auto-processing of the apical/signaling pro-caspase-9, and coupled activation of downstream/executioner caspases like caspase 3. Evidence now indicates that certain apoptotic cascades can bypass the apoptosome and activate caspase-9 independent of the mitochondria. Recently, we have demonstrated that caspase-9 can be activated in Apaf1-mutant primary myoblasts, but not fibroblasts, in response to stimuli that are known to act via the mitochondria. Thus, apoptosomal activation of caspase-9 seems to represent only one of the routes for its activation; other pathways, some of which are yet to be discovered, can bypass the requirement for Apaf1 and activate caspase-9 in a tissue and context specific manner.

    View details for Web of Science ID 000222361700019

    View details for PubMedID 15020840

  • Coupling of caspase-9 to Apaf1 in response to loss of pRb or cytotoxic drugs is cell-type-specific EMBO JOURNAL Ho, A. T., Li, Q. H., HAKEM, R., Mak, T. W., Zacksenhaus, E. 2004; 23 (2): 460-472


    Inactivation of the tumor suppressor Rb in the mouse induces cell death, which depends entirely (in lens, CNS) and only partly (PNS, skeletal muscles) on Apaf1/Ced4, an apoptosomal factor thought to be required for processing procaspase-9 following mitochondrial permeabilization. Here, we report that in response to cytotoxic drugs, Apaf1(-/-) primary myoblasts but not fibroblasts undergo bona fide apoptosis. Cell demise was associated with disruption of mitochondria but not endoplasmic reticulum. Processing of procaspase-9 occurred in Apaf1(-/-) myoblasts but not fibroblasts, and ablation of Casp9 prevented drug-induced apoptosis in both cell types. Deregulation of the Rb pathway by overexpression of E2F1 also induced caspase-9-dependent, Apaf1-independent apoptosis in myoblasts. Despite its requirement for apoptosis in vitro, mutation in Casp9 abrogated cell death in the nervous system and lens but only partly in skeletal muscles of Rb-deficient embryos. In addition, developmental cell death in fetal liver and PNS was not inhibited in Casp9(-/-) embryos. Therefore, loss of pRb elicits apoptosome-dependent and apoptosome-independent cell death, and the requirement and coupling of caspase-9 to Apaf1 are both context-dependent.

    View details for DOI 10.1038/sj.emboj.7600039

    View details for Web of Science ID 000188921700021

    View details for PubMedID 14713951

  • MMP inhibitors augment fibroblast adhesion through stabilization of focal adhesion contacts and up-regulation of cadherin function JOURNAL OF BIOLOGICAL CHEMISTRY Ho, A. T., Voura, E. B., Soloway, P. D., Watson, K. L., Khokha, R. 2001; 276 (43): 40215-40224


    Increased pericellular proteolysis due to an imbalance between MMPs (matrix metalloproteinases) and TIMPs (tissue inhibitors of metalloproteinases) promotes early stages of tumorigenesis. We have reported that TIMP-1 down-regulation confers tumorigenicity on immortal Swiss 3T3 fibroblasts. In pursuit of the mechanism involved in this transformation, we asked whether MMP inhibitors modulate contact inhibition and cell adhesion, because the dysregulation of these events is essential for cellular transformation. Using both genetic and biochemical means, we demonstrate that MMP inhibitors regulate fibroblast cell adhesion. TIMP-1 down-regulated cells formed dense, multilayered colonies, suggesting a loss of contact inhibition. Recombinant TIMP-1 and synthetic MMP inhibitors (MMPi) restored normal cell contact and density of these cells in a dose-dependent manner. Consequently, the effect of MMPi on both cell-extracellular matrix (ECM) and cell-cell adhesion were investigated. Upon MMPi treatment, p125(FAK) was redistributed, together with vinculin, to points of cell-ECM contact. Furthermore, phosphorylation of p125(FAK) was restored to levels similar to that of wild type. In parallel, MMPi treatment increased cadherin levels and stabilized cadherin-mediated cell-cell contacts. Moreover, enhanced cadherin function was evident as increased calcium-dependent cell-cell aggregation and co-localization of cadherin and beta-catenin at the cell membrane. We also obtained independent evidence of altered cadherin function using timp-1(-/-) mouse embryonic fibroblasts. Our data provide provocative evidence that increased pericellular proteolysis impacts cell adhesion systems to offset normal contact inhibition, with subsequent effects on cell transformation and tumorigenesis.

    View details for Web of Science ID 000171789200094

    View details for PubMedID 11500488

  • Cellular turnover and extracellular matrix remodeling in female reproductive tissues: functions of metalloproteinases and their inhibitors CELLULAR AND MOLECULAR LIFE SCIENCES Fata, J. E., Ho, A. T., Leco, K. J., Moorehead, R. A., Khokha, R. 2000; 57 (1): 77-95


    Female reproductive tissues possess a unique ability to accommodate a remarkable amount of cell turnover and extracellular matrix (ECM) remodeling following puberty. Cellular structures within ovary, uterus, and mammary tissue not only change cyclically in response to ovarian hormones but also undergo differentiation during pregnancy, and eventually revert to that resembling the pre-pregnant stage. Cell proliferation, apoptosis, invasion, and differentiation are integral cellular processes that are precisely regulated in reproductive tissues, but become dysregulated in pathologies such as cancer. Explicit reorganization of ECM and basement membranes is also critical to preserve the form and function of these tissues. Here we review the evidence that coordinated spatiotemporal expression patterns of matrix metalloproteinase (MMP) genes and their tissue inhibitors (TIMPs) are important in cell and ECM turnover of the ovary, uterus, and mammary tissues. We discuss how perturbation in these gene families may impact the biology of these reproductive tissues and the factors implicated in the control of MMP and TIMP gene expression. The observed trends in MMP and TIMP expression involved in ovarian and mammary carcinomas are also presented.

    View details for Web of Science ID 000085572900007

    View details for PubMedID 10949582

  • Tumor suppressive capabilities of TIMP-1 in transgenic mouse models. Conference on Tissue Inhibitors of Metalloproteinases in Development and Disease Khokha, R., Martin, D. C., Sanchez-Sweatman, O. H., Kruger, A., Ho, A. T., Fata, J. E. HARWOOD ACADEMIC PUBL GMBH. 2000: 179–186
  • Transgenic TIMP-1 inhibits simian virus 40 T antigen-induced hepatocarcinogenesis by impairment of hepatocellular proliferation and tumor angiogenesis LABORATORY INVESTIGATION Martin, D. C., Sanchez-Sweatman, O. H., Ho, A. T., Inderdeo, D. S., Tsao, M. S., Khokha, R. 1999; 79 (2): 225-234


    Tissue inhibitors of metalloproteinases (TIMP) block proteolytic degradation of extracellular matrix and consequently impede tumor invasion and metastasis. In addition, we have previously reported that hepatic TIMP-1 modulation alters the susceptibility of the liver to oncogene (simian virus 40 T-antigen; TAg)-induced tumorigenesis in a double-transgenic mouse model. To identify the cellular processes by which TIMP-1 inhibits hepatocarcinogenesis, we examined the effects of TIMP-1 on four specific events that are important during tumorigenesis: hepatocellular proliferation, apoptosis, the stromal characteristics of the liver, and tumor vascularization. Transgenic mice with elevated or reduced hepatic TIMP-1 expression were bred independently with TAg transgenics. Liver tissue from littermates were analyzed by in situ hybridization with TIMP-1 cDNA probes; gelatin enzymography; immunohistochemistry for proliferating cell nuclear antigen, von Willebrand factor, and collagen type IV; reticulin histochemistry; and collagens type III and IV, laminin, fibronectin, and CD31 immunoblotting. We demonstrate that TIMP-1 overexpression significantly inhibited the proliferation of hepatocytes in TAg mice but did not affect their apoptotic index, the hepatic parenchymal architecture, or extracellular matrix composition, including collagens type III and IV, laminin, and fibronectin. Moreover, the hepatocellular carcinomas formed in TIMP-1-overexpressing mice had significantly reduced tumor vascularization; conversely, tumor vascularization was significantly increased in TIMP-1-reduced livers. These data indicate that TIMP-1 inhibits TAg-induced hepatocarcinogenesis by altering hepatocellular proliferation and tumor vascularization, without any effect on hepatocyte apoptosis and stromal composition. To our knowledge, this is the first in vivo demonstration that genetic modulation of TIMP-1 inhibits cellular proliferation and angiogenesis during hepatocarcinogenesis. This potentially extends the use of matrix metalloproteinase inhibitors in cancer beyond control of invasion and metastasis.

    View details for Web of Science ID 000078847900018

    View details for PubMedID 10068210

  • Host TIMP-1 overexpression confers resistance to experimental brain metastasis of a fibrosarcoma cell line ONCOGENE Kruger, A., Sanchez-Sweatman, O. H., Martin, D. C., Fata, J. E., Ho, A. T., Orr, F. W., Ruther, U., Khokha, R. 1998; 16 (18): 2419-2423


    Within the tumor-stromal microenvironment a disrupted balance between matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs) and their inhibitors compromises the integrity of the extracellular matrix and promotes malignancy. Tissue inhibitors of metalloproteinases (TIMPs) have been linked to tumor suppression in studies of genetically altered tissue culture cells and in analyses of clinical specimens in situ. We generated transgenic mice as a model system to test the relationship between TIMP-1 levels in a host organ and susceptibility to experimentally targeted metastasis. Ectopically overexpressed TIMP-1 in the brain resulted in a tissue microenvironment with elevated protein levels of this natural MMP inhibitor. Metastatic challenge provided by lacZ-tagged fibrosarcoma cells permitted high-resolution analysis of metastatic load and pattern. We found that elevated host TIMP-1 imposed resistance to experimental metastasis of fibrosarcoma: In TIMP-1 overexpressing mice, brain metastases were significantly reduced by 75% compared to wild-type littermates. Our findings demonstrate that ectopic TIMP-1 expression efficiently exerts a suppressive effect on metastasizing tumor cells.

    View details for Web of Science ID 000073428000016

    View details for PubMedID 9620561