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  • Luiro, Kaisu (Helsingin yliopisto, 2006)
    Neurodegenerative disorders are chronic, progressive, and often fatal disorders of the nervous system caused by dysfunction, and ultimately, death of neuronal cells. The underlying mechanisms of neurodegeneration are poorly understood, and monogenic disorders can be utilised as disease models to elucidate the pathogenesis. Juvenile neuronal ceroid-lipofuscinosis (JNCL, Batten disease) is a recessively inherited lysosomal storage disorder with progressive neurodegeneration and accumulation of autofluorescent storage material in most tissues. It is caused by mutations in the CLN3 gene; however, the exact function of the corresponding CLN3 protein, as well as the molecular mechanisms of JNCL pathogenesis have remained elusive. JNCL disease exclusively affects the central nervous system leaving other organs unaffected, and therefore it is of a particular importance to conduct studies in brain tissue and neuronal cells. The aim of this thesis project was to elucidate the molecular and cell biological mechanisms underlying JNCL. This was the first study to describe the endogenous Cln3 protein, and it was shown that Cln3 localised to neuronal cells in the mouse brain. At a subcellular level, endogenous Cln3 was localised to the presynaptic terminals and to the synaptosome compartment, but not to the synaptic vesicles. Studies with the CLN3-deficient cells demonstrated an impaired endocytic membrane trafficking, and established an interconnection between CLN3, microtubulus-binding Hook1 and Rab proteins. This novel data was not only important in characterising the roles of CLN3 in cells, but also provided significant information delineating the versatile role of the Rab proteins. To identify affected cellular pathways in JNCL, global gene expression profiling of the knock-out mouse Cln3-/- neurons was performed and systematically analysed; this revealed a slight dysfunction of the mitochondria, cytoskeletal abnormality in the microtubule plus-end, and an impaired recovery from depolarizing stimulus when specific N-type Ca2+ channels were inhibited, thus leading to a prolonged time of higher intracellular calcium. All these defective pathways are interrelated, and may together be sufficient to initiate the neurodegenerative process. Results of this thesis also suggest that in neuronal cells, CLN3 most likely functions at endocytic vesicles at the presynaptic terminal, potentially involved in the regulation of the calcium-mediated synaptic transmission.
  • Heliövaara, Elina (Helsingin yliopisto, 2011)
    Pituitary adenomas are common benign neoplasms. Although most of them are sporadic, a minority occurs in familial settings. Heterozygous germline mutations in the aryl hydrocarbon receptor interacting protein (AIP) gene were found to underlie familial pituitary adenomas, a condition designated as pituitary adenoma predisposition (PAP). PAP confers incomplete penetrance of mostly growth hormone (GH) secreting adenomas in young patients, who often lack a family history of pituitary adenomas. This thesis work aimed to clarify the molecular and clinical characteristics of PAP. Applying the multiplex ligation-dependent probe amplification assay (MLPA), we found large genomic AIP deletions to account for a subset of PAP. Therefore, MLPA could be considered in PAP suspected patients with no AIP mutations found with conventional sequencing. We generated an Aip mouse model to examine pituitary tumorigenesis in vivo. The heterozygous Aip mutation conferred complete penetrance of pituitary adenomas that were mostly GH-secreting, rendering the phenotype of the Aip mouse similar to that of PAP patients. We suggest that AIP may function as a candidate gatekeeper gene in somatotrophs. To clarify molecular mechanisms of tumorigenesis, we elucidated the expression of AIP-related molecules in human and mouse pituitary tumors. The expression of aryl hydrocarbon receptor nuclear translocator (ARNT) was reduced in mouse Aip-deficient adenomas, and similar ARNT reduction was also evident in human AIP mutation positive adenomas. This suggests that in addition to participating in the hypoxia pathway, estrogen receptor signaling and xenobiotic response pathways, ARNT may play a role in AIP-related tumorigenesis. We also studied the characteristics and the response to therapy of PAP patients and found them to have an aggressive disease phenotype with young age at onset. Therefore, improvement in treatment outcomes of PAP patients would require their efficient identification and earlier diagnosis of the pituitary adenomas. The possible role of the RET proto-oncogene in tumorigenesis of familial AIP mutation negative pituitary adenomas was evaluated, but none of the found RET germline variants were considered pathogenic. Surprisingly, RET immunohistochemistry suggested possible underexpression of RET in AIP mutation positive pituitary adenomas an observation that merits further investigation.
  • Lehtonen, Heli (Helsingin yliopisto, 2008)
    Hereditary leiomyomatosis and renal cell cancer (HLRCC) is a rare, dominantly inherited tumor predisposition syndrome characterized by benign cutaneous and uterine (ULM) leiomyomas, and sometimes renal cell cancer (RCC). A few cases of uterine leiomyosarcoma (ULMS) have also been reported. Mutations in a nuclear gene encoding fumarate hydratase (FH), an enzyme of the mitochondrial tricarboxylic acid cycle (TCA cycle), underlie HLRCC. As a recessive condition, germline mutations in FH predispose to a neurological defect, FH deficiency (FHD). Hereditary paragangliomatosis (HPGL) is a dominant disorder associated with paragangliomas and pheochromocytomas. Inherited mutations in three genes encoding subunits of succinate dehydrogenase (SDH), also a TCA cycle enzyme, predispose to HPGL. Both FH and SDH seem to act as tumor suppressors. One of the consequences of the TCA cycle defect is abnormal activation of HIF1 pathway ( pseudohypoxia ) in the HLRCC and HPGL tumors. HIF1 drives transcription of genes encoding e.g. angiogenetic factors which can facilitate tumor growth. Recently hypoxia/HIF1 has been suggested to be one of the causes of genetic instability as well. One of the aims of this study was to broaden the clinical definers of HLRCC. To determine the cancer risk and to identify possible novel tumor types associated with FH mutations eight Finnish HLRCC/FHD families were extensively evaluated. The extension of the pedigrees and the Finnish Cancer Registry based tumor search yielded genealogical and cancer data of altogether 868 individuals. The standardized incidence ratio-based comparison of HLRCC/FHD family members with general Finnish population revealed 6.5-fold risk for RCC. Moreover, risk for ULMS was highly increased. However, according to the recent and more stringent diagnosis criteria of ULMS many of the HLRCC uterine tumors previously considered malignant are at present diagnosed as atypical or proliferative ULMs (with a low risk of recurrence). Thus, the formation of ULMS (as presently defined) in HLRCC appears to be uncommon. Though increased incidence was not observed, interestingly the genetic analyses suggested possible association of breast and bladder cancer with loss of FH. Moreover, cancer cases were exceptionally detected in an FHD family. Another clinical finding was the conventional (clear cell) type RCC of a young Spanish HLRCC patient. Conventional RCC is distinct from the types previously observed in this syndrome but according to these results, FH mutation may underlie some of young conventional cancer cases. Secondly, the molecular pathway from defective TCA cycle to tumor formation was intended to clarify. Since HLRCC and HPGL tumors display abnormally activated HIF1, the hypothesis on the link between HIF1/hypoxia and genetic instability was of interest to study in HLRCC and HPGL tumor material. HIF1α (a subunit of HIF1) stabilization was confirmed in the majority of the specimens. However, no repression of MSH2, a protein of DNA mismatch repair system, or microsatellite instability (MSI), an indicator of genetic instability, was observed. Accordingly, increased instability seems not to play a role in the tumorigenesis of pseudohypoxic TCA cycle-deficient tumors. Additionally, to study the putative alternative functions of FH, a recently identified alternative FH transcript (FHv) was characterized. FHv was found to contain instead of exon 1, an alternative exon 1b. Differential subcellular distribution, lack of FH enzyme activity, low mRNA expression compared to FH, and induction by cellular stress suggest FHv to have a role distinct from FH, for example in apoptosis or survival. However, the physiological significance of FHv requires further elucidation.
  • Tapper, Johanna (Helsingin yliopisto, 2001)
  • Siljander, Tuula (Helsingin yliopisto, 2009)
    Streptococcus pyogenes (group A streptococcus) is an important human pathogen, causing a wide array of infections ranging in severity. The majority of S. pyogenes infections are mild upper respiratory tract or skin infections. Severe, invasive infections, such as bacteraemia, are relatively rare, but constitute a major global burden with a high mortality. Certain streptococcal types are associated with a more severe disease and higher mortality. Bacterial, non-necrotizing cellulitis and erysipelas are localised infections of the skin, and although they are usually not life-threatening, they have a tendency to recur and therefore cause substantial morbidity. Despite several efforts aimed at developing an effective and safe vaccine against S. pyogenes infections, no vaccine is yet available. In this study, the epidemiology of invasive S. pyogenes infections in Finland was described over a decade of national, population-based surveillance. Recent trends in incidence, outcome and bacterial types were investigated. The beta-haemolytic streptococci causing cellulitis and erysipelas infections in Finland were studied in a case-control study. Bacterial isolates were characterised using both conventional and molecular typing methods, such as the emm typing, which is the most widely used typing method for beta-haemolytic streptococci. The incidence of invasive S. pyogenes disease has had an increasing trend during the past ten years in Finland, especially from 2006 onwards. Age- and sex-specific differences in the incidence rate were identified, with men having a higher incidence than women, especially among persons aged 45-64 years. In contrast, more infections occurred in women aged 25-34 years than men. Seasonal patterns with occasional peaks during the midsummer and midwinter were observed. Differences in the predisposing factors and underlying conditions of patients may contribute to these distinctions. Case fatality associated with invasive S. pyogenes infections peaked in 2005 (12%) but remained at a reasonably low level (8% overall during 2004-2007) compared to that of other developed countries (mostly exceeding 10%). Changes in the prevalent emm types were associated with the observed increases in incidence and case fatality. In the case-control study, acute bacterial non-necrotizing cellulitis was caused predominantly by Streptococcus dysgalactiae subsp. equisimilis, instead of S. pyogenes. The recurrent nature of cellulitis became evident. This study adds to our understanding of S. pyogenes infections in Finland and provides a basis for comparison to other countries and future trends. emm type surveillance and outcome analyses remain important for detecting such changes in type distribution that might lead to increases in incidence and case fatality. Bacterial characterisation serves as a basis for disease pathogenesis studies and vaccine development.
  • Naukkarinen, Jussi (Helsingin yliopisto, 2008)
    The leading cause of death in the Western world continues to be coronary heart disease (CHD). At the root of the disease process is dyslipidemia an aberration in the relevant amounts of circulating blood lipids. Cholesterol builds up in the arterial wall and following rupture of these plaques, myocardial infarction or stroke can occur. Heart disease runs in families and a number of hereditary forms are known. The leading cause of adult dyslipidemia presently however is overweight and obesity. This thesis work presents an investigation of the molecular genetics of common, hereditary dyslipidemia and the tightly related condition of obesity. Familial combined hyperlipidemia (FCHL) is the most common hereditary dyslipidemia in man with an estimated population prevalence of 1-6%. This complex disease is characterized by elevated levels of serum total cholesterol, triglycerides or both and is observed in about 20% of individuals with premature CHD. Our group identified the disease to be associated with genetic variation in the USF1 transcription factor gene. USF1 has a key role in regulating other genes that control lipid and glucose metabolism as well as the inflammatory response all central processes in the progression of atherosclerosis and CHD. The first two works of this thesis aimed at understanding how these USF1 variants result in increased disease risk. Among the many, non-coding single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) that associated with the disease, one was found to have a functional effect. The risk-enhancing allele of this SNP seems to eradicate the ability of the important hormone insulin to induce the expression of USF1 in peripheral tissues. The resultant changes in the expression of numerous USF1 target genes over time probably enhance and accelerate the atherogenic processes. Dyslipidemias often represent an outcome of obesity and in the final work of this thesis we wanted to address the metabolic pathways related to acquired obesity. It is recognized that active processes in adipose tissue play an important role in the development of dyslipidemia, insulin resistance and other pathological conditions associated with obesity. To minimize the confounding effects of genetic differences present in most human studies, we investigated a rare collection of identical twins that differed significantly in the amount of body fat. In the obese, but otherwise healthy young adults, several notable changes were observed. In addition to chronic inflammation, the adipose tissue of the obese co-twins was characterized by a marked (47%) decrease in amount of mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) a change associated with mitochondrial dysfunction. The catabolism of branched chain amino acids (BCAAs) was identified as the most down-regulated process in the obese co-twins. A concordant increase in the serum level of these insulin secretagogues was identified. This hyperaminoacidemia may provide the feed-back signal from insulin resistant adipose tissue to the pancreas to ensure an appropriately augmented secretory response. The down regulation of BCAA catabolism correlated closely with liver fat accumulation and insulin. The single most up-regulated gene (5.9 fold) in the obese co-twins was osteopontin (SPP1) a cytokine involved in macrophage recruitment to adipose tissue. SPP1 is here implicated as an important player in the development of insulin resistance. These studies of exceptional study samples provide better understanding of the underlying pathology in common dyslipidemias and other obesity associated diseases important for future improvement of intervention strategies and treatments to combat atherosclerosis and coronary heart disease.
  • Nousiainen, Heidi (Helsingin yliopisto, 2011)
    This study identified the molecular defects underlying three lethal fetal syndromes. Lethal Congenital Contracture Syndrome 1 (LCCS1, MIM 253310) and Lethal Arthrogryposis with Anterior Horn Cell Disease (LAAHD, MIM 611890) are fetal motor neuron diseases. They affect the nerve cells that control voluntary muscle movement, and eventually result in severe atrophy of spinal cord motor neurons and fetal immobility. Both LCCS1 and LAAHD are caused by mutations in the GLE1 gene, which encodes for a multifunctional protein involved in posttranscriptional mRNA processing. LCCS2 and LCCS3, two syndromes that are clinically similar to LCCS1, are caused by defective proteins involved in the synthesis of inositol hexakisphosphate (IP6), an essential cofactor of GLE1. This suggests a common mechanism behind these fetal motor neuron diseases, and along with accumulating evidence from genetic studies of more late-onset motor neuron diseases such as Spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) and Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), implicates mRNA processing as a common mechanism in motor neuron disease pathogenesis. We also studied gle1-/- zebrafish in order to investigate whether they would be a good model for studying the pathogenesis of LCCS1 and LAAHD. Mutant zebrafish exhibit cell death in their central nervous system at two days post fertilization, and the distribution of mRNA within the cells of mutant zebrafish differs from controls, encouraging further studies. The third lethal fetal syndrome is described in this study for the first time. Cocoon syndrome (MIM 613630) was discovered in a Finnish family with two affected individuals. Its hallmarks are the encasement of the limbs under the skin, and severe craniofacial abnormalities, including the lack of skull bones. We showed that Cocoon syndrome is caused by a mutation in the gene encoding the conserved helix-loop-helix ubiquitous kinase CHUK, also known as IκB kinase α (IKKα). The mutation results in the complete lack of CHUK protein expression. CHUK is a subunit of the IκB kinase enzyme that inhibits NF-κB transcription factors, but in addition, it has an essential, independent role in controlling keratinocyte differentiation, as well as informing morphogenetic events such as limb and skeletal patterning. CHUK also acts as a tumor suppressor, and is frequently inactivated in cancer. This study has brought significant new information about the molecular background of these three lethal fetal syndromes, as well as provided knowledge about the prerequisites of normal human development.
  • Vuorinen, Kirsi (Helsingin yliopisto, 2008)
    Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) is an interstitial lung disease with unknown aetiology and poor prognosis. IPF is characterized by alveolar epithelial damage that leads tissue remodelling and ultimately to the loss of normal lung architecture and function. Treatment has been focused on anti-inflammatory therapies, but due to their poor efficacy new therapeutic modalities are being sought. There is a need for early diagnosis and also for differential diagnostic markers for IPF and other interstitial lung diseases. The study utilized patient material obtained from bronchoalveolar lavage (BAL), diagnostic biopsies or lung transplantation. Human pulmonary fibroblast cell cultures were propagated and asbestos-induced pulmonary fibrosis in mice was used as an experimental animal model of IPF. The possible markers for IPF were scanned by immunohistochemistry, RT-PCR, ELISA and western blot. Matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs) are proteolytic enzymes that participate in tissue remodelling. Microarray studies have introduced potential markers that could serve as additional tools for the assessment of IPF and one of the most promising was MMP 7. MMP-7 protein levels were measured in the BAL fluid of patients with idiopathic interstitial lung diseases or idiopathic cough. MMP-7 was however similarly elevated in the BAL fluid of all these disorders and thus cannot be used as a differential diagnostic marker for IPF. Activation of transforming growth factor (TGF)-ß is considered to be a key element in the progression of IPF. Bone morphogenetic proteins (BMP) are negative regulators of intracellular TGF-ß signalling and BMP-4 signalling is in turn negatively regulated by gremlin. Gremlin was found to be highly upregulated in the IPF lungs and IPF fibroblasts. Gremlin was detected in the thickened IPF parenchyma and endothelium of small capillaries, whereas in non-specific interstitial pneumonia it localized predominantly in the alveolar epithelium. Parenchymal gremlin immunoreactivity might indicate IPF-type interstitial pneumonia. Gremlin mRNA levels were higher in patients with end-stage fibrosis suggesting that gremlin might be a marker for more advanced disease. Characterization of the fibroblastic foci in the IPF lungs showed that immunoreactivity to platelet-derived growth factor (PDGF) receptor-α and PDGF receptor-β was elevated in IPF parenchyma, but the fibroblastic foci showed only minor immunoreactivity to the PDGF receptors or the antioxidant peroxiredoxin II. Ki67 positive cells were also observed predominantly outside the fibroblastic foci, suggesting that the fibroblastic foci may not be composed of actively proliferating cells. When inhibition of profibrotic PDGF-signalling by imatinib mesylate was assessed, imatinib mesylate reduced asbestos-induced pulmonary fibrosis in mice as well as human pulmonary fibroblast migration in vitro but it had no effect on the lung inflammation.
  • Tuupanen, Sari (2009)
    Colorectal cancer (CRC) is one of the most frequent malignancies in Western countries. Inherited factors have been suggested to be involved in 35% of CRCs. The hereditary CRC syndromes explain only ~6% of all CRCs, indicating that a large proportion of the inherited susceptibility is still unexplained. Much of the remaining genetic predisposition for CRC is probably due to undiscovered low-penetrance variations. This study was conducted to identify germline and somatic changes that contribute to CRC predisposition and tumorigenesis. MLH1 and MSH2, that underlie Hereditary non-polyposis colorectal cancer (HNPCC) are considered to be tumor suppressor genes; the first hit is inherited in the germline and somatic inactivation of the wild type allele is required for tumor initiation. In a recent study, frequent loss of the mutant allele in HNPCC tumors was detected and a new model, arguing against the two-hit hypothesis, was proposed for somatic HNPCC tumorigenesis. We tested this hypothesis by conducting LOH analysis on 25 colorectal HNPCC tumors with a known germline mutation in the MLH1 or MSH2 genes. LOH was detected in 56% of the tumors. All the losses targeted the wild type allele supporting the classical two-hit model for HNPCC tumorigenesis. The variants 3020insC, R702W and G908R in NOD2 predispose to Crohn s disease. Contribution of NOD2 to CRC predisposition has been examined in several case-control series, with conflicting results. We have previously shown that 3020insC does not predispose to CRC in Finnish CRC patients. To expand our previous study the variants R702W and G908R were genotyped in a population-based series of 1042 Finnish CRC patients and 508 healthy controls. Association analyses did not show significant evidence for association of the variants with CRC. Single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) rs6983267 at chromosome 8q24 was the first CRC susceptibility variant identified through genome-wide association studies. To characterize the role of rs6983267 in CRC predisposition in the Finnish population, we genotyped the SNP in the case-control material of 1042 cases and 1012 controls and showed that G allele of rs6983267 is associated with the increased risk of CRC (OR 1.22; P=0.0018). Examination of allelic imbalance in the tumors heterozygous for rs6983267 revealed that copy number increase affected 22% of the tumors and interestingly, it favored the G allele. By utilizing a computer algorithm, Enhancer Element Locator (EEL), an evolutionary conserved regulatory motif containing rs6983267 was identified. The SNP affected the binding site of TCF4, a transcription factor that mediates Wnt signaling in cells, and has proven to be crucial in colorectal neoplasia. The preferential binding of TCF4 to the risk allele G was showed in vitro and in vivo. The element drove lacZ marker gene expression in mouse embryos in a pattern that is consistent with genes regulated by the Wnt signaling pathway. These results suggest that rs6983267 at 8q24 exerts its effect in CRC predisposition by regulating gene expression. The most obvious target gene for the enhancer element is MYC, residing ~335 kb downstream, however further studies are required to establish the transcriptional target(s) of the predicted enhancer element.
  • Heikkilä , Eija (Helsingin yliopisto, 2010)
    The kidney filtration barrier consists of fenestrated endothelial cell layer, glomerular basement membrane and slit diaphragm (SD), the specialized junction between glomerular viscelar epithelial cells (podocytes). Podocyte injury is associated with the development of proteinuria, and if not reversed the injury will lead to permanent deterioration of the glomerular filter. The early events are characterized by disruption of the integrity of the SD, but the molecular pathways involved are not fully understood. Congenital nephrotic syndrome of the Finnish type (CNF) is caused by mutations in NPHS1, the gene encoding the SD protein nephrin. Lack of nephrin results in loss of the SD and massive proteinuria beginning before birth. Furthermore, nephrin expression is decreased in acquired human kidney diseases including diabetic nephropathy. This highlights the importance of nephrin and consequently SD in regulating the kidney filtration function. However, the precise molecular mechanism of how nephrin is involved in the formation of the SD is unknown. This thesis work aimed at clarifying the role of nephrin and its interaction partners in the formation of the SD. The purpose was to identify novel proteins that associate with nephrin in order to define the essential molecular complex required for the establishment of the SD. The aim was also to decipher the role of novel nephrin interacting proteins in podocytes. Nephrin binds to nephrin-like proteins Neph1 and Neph2, and to adherens junction protein P-cadherin. These interactions have been suggested to play a role in the formation of the SD. In this thesis work, we identified densin as a novel interaction partner for nephrin. Densin was localized to the SD and it was shown to bind to adherens junction protein beta-catenin. Furthermore, densin was shown to behave in a similar fashion as adherens junction proteins in cell-cell contacts. These results indicate that densin may play a role in cell adhesion and, therefore, may contribute to the formation of the SD together with nephrin and adherens junction proteins. Nephrin was also shown to bind to Neph3, which has been previously localized to the SD. Neph3 and Neph1 were shown to induce cell adhesion alone, whereas nephrin needed to trans-interact with Neph1 or Neph3 from the opposite cell surface in order to make cell-cell contacts. This was associated with the decreased tyrosine phosphorylation of nephrin. These data extend the current knowledge of the molecular composition of the nephrin protein complex at the SD and also provide novel insights of how the SD may be formed. This thesis work also showed that densin was up-regulated in the podocytes of CNF patients. Neph3 was up-regulated in nephrin deficient mouse kidneys, which share similar podocyte alterations and lack of the SD as observed in CNF patients podocytes. These data suggest that densin and Neph3 may have a role in the formation of morphological alterations in podocytes detected in CNF patients. Furthermore, this thesis work showed that deletion of beta-catenin specifically from adult mouse podocytes protected the mice from the development of adriamycin-induced podocyte injury and proteinuria compared to wild-type mice. These results show that beta-catenin play a role in the adriamycin induced podocyte injury. Podocyte injury is a hallmark in many kidney diseases and the changes observed in the podocytes of CNF patient share characteristics with injured podocytes observed in chronic kidney diseases. Therefore, the results obtained in this thesis work suggest that densin, Neph3 and beta-catenin participate in the molecular pathways which result in morphological alterations commonly detected in injured podocytes in kidney diseases.
  • Sadeghi, Mohammadreza (2014)
    Human polyomaviruses (HPyVs) are known to cause benign initial infection at an early age. They have a high prevalence in the population with frequent incidences of reactivation, and pathologic consequences in those who are elderly or immunosuppressed. Thus far 12 HPyV species have been known. The first two HPyVs, JC virus (JCPyV) and BK virus (BKPyV) were described in 1971. They are associated with specific diseases, progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy (PML) and polyomavirus-associated nephropathy (PVAN), respectively. Since 2007, 10 additional HPyVs have been identified by molecular genetic techniques. Study of the role of these new viruses in human disease is a new challenge in the HPyV area. The Karolinska Institute (KIPyV) and Washington University (WUPyV) viruses were discovered in respiratory secretions of patients with unidentified causes of pneumonia. Other examples of newly found HPyVs are the Merkel cell polyomavirus (MCPyV) in Merkel cell carcinoma (MCC), and trichodysplasia spinulosa-associated polyomavirus (TSPyV) in Trichodysplasia spinulosa (TS), both skin diseases in immunocompromised patients. The potential pathogenicity of the remaining HPyVs awaits assessment. Seroprevalence studies indicate that HPyVs infect 30 to 90% of the general population and are transmitted apparently independently of one another. Thus far, although their modes of transmission have yet to be resolved, HPyVs are frequently detectable at different body sites and in bodily fluids of healthy immunocompetent individuals, including the skin, hair follicles, saliva, urine, feces, and respiratory secretions, and they can also be found in the environment. To investigate their tropism, persistence site, reactivation, transmission route, and contribution to disease, we have developed for KI, WU, MC, and TS polyomaviruses comprehensive diagnostic methods. We studied the occurrence of their DNAs and antibodies to these viruses from birth to death. In our study, using recombinant fusion protein antigens, IgG antibodies were detectable for KIPyV in 55% and for WUPyV in 69%. Rapidly increasing and high IgG seroprevalences showed that KIPyV and WUPyV are acquired early in childhood and supported the notion that these polyomaviruses are widespread. Our results not only suggested the significance of protein conformation in immunoreactivity of VP1, the major capsid protein, but also pointed to the antigenic importance of the minor proteins VP2 and VP3. Among aging individuals, by employment of recombinant virus-like particles (VLPs)as antigens in ELISA, MCPyV and TSPyV IgG seroprevalences were 59.6% and 67.3%. Among 462 pregnant women, MCPyV IgG seroprevalence was 46% and in constitutionally healthy individuals, TSPyV IgG seroprevalence among children was 39% and among adults 70%. In addition, our DNA PCR studies of respiratory specimens indicated exposure to KIPyV and WUPyV, as well as to MCPyV. We observed MCPyV and TSPyV DNAs particularly often in tonsillitis or hypertrophic tonsillar tissues, unlike for KIPyV or WUPyV. MCPyV and TSPyV DNA in the tonsillar biopsies suggested lifelong persistence in lymphoid tissue or mucosa. MCPyV DNA occurred in tonsils more frequently in adults than in children. By contrast, WUPyV DNA was found preferentially in children. MCPyV occurred also in nasal swabs and NPAs, at a frequency similar to that of KIPyV and WUPyV. The tonsil may be an initial site of WUPyV infection and a site of MCPyV persistence. On the other hand, TSPyV PCR positivity of tonsillar samples of individuals with long-term immunity provided evidence of TSPyV persistence in tonsils and suggests lymphoid tissue as a latency site also for this emerging human pathogen. Our results indicated that MCPyV DNA, unlike TSPyV DNA, occurs in low copy numbers in serum in a notable proportion of aging individuals. Whether the enhanced viral replication in our elderly participants is a reflection of waning immune surveillance and is correlated with increased MCC risk deserves further exploration. Furthermore, to investigate the frequency of fetal infections by these new viruses, we sought the KIPyV, WUPyV, and MCPyV DNAs by PCR, from 535 fetal autopsy samples (heart, liver, placenta) from intrauterine fetal deaths (IUFDs), miscarriages, or induced abortions. Examining by PCR 535 fetal autopsy samples and the corresponding pregnant women by serology, we obtained data to rule out vertical transmission of the new polyomaviruses KI, WU, and MC. Our data suggest that none of the three often cause miscarriages or IUFDs, nor are they transmitted to fetuses. By means of new molecular methods several emerging polyomaviruses have been discovered. Although it is still too early to reach a conclusion on this point, it seems apparent that these novel viruses follow the pattern established for the JC and BK polyomaviruses: a mild initial infection at an early age, high prevalence in the general population, lymphoid tissue as a latency site, and pathologic consequences among the immunosuppressed and/or the elderly.
  • Illman, Sara (Helsingin yliopisto, 2007)
    Epilysin (MMP-28) is the most recently identified member of the matrix metalloproteinase (MMP) family of extracellular proteases. Together these enzymes are capable of degrading almost all components of the extracellular matrix (ECM) and are thus involved in important biological processes such as development, wound healing and immune functions, but also in pathological processes such as tumor invasion, metastasis and arthritis. MMPs do not act solely by degrading the ECM. They also regulate cell behavior by releasing growth factors and biologically active peptides from the ECM, by modulating cell surface receptors and adhesion molecules and by regulating the activity of many important mediators in inflammatory pathways. The aim of this study was to define the unique role of epilysin within the MMP-family, to elucidate how and when it is expressed and how its catalytic activity is regulated. To gain information on its essential functions and substrates, the specific aim was to characterize how epilysin affects the phenotype of epithelial cells, where it is biologically expressed. During the course of the study we found that the epilysin promoter contains a well conserved GT-box that is essential for the basic expression of this gene. Transcription factors Sp1 and Sp3 bind this sequence and could hence regulate both the basic and cell type and differentiation stage specific expression of epilysin. We cloned mouse epilysin cDNA and found that epilysin is well conserved between human and mouse genomes and that epilysin is glycosylated and activated by furin. Similarly to in human tissues, epilysin is normally expressed in a number of mouse tissues. The expression pattern differs from most other MMPs, which are expressed only in response to injury or inflammation and in pathological processes like cancer. These findings implicate that epilysin could be involved in tissue homeostasis, perhaps fine-tuning the phenotype of epithelial cells according to signals from the ECM. In view of these results, it was unexpected to find that epilysin can induce a stable epithelial to mesenchymal transition (EMT) when overexpressed in epithelial lung carcinoma cells. Transforming growth factor b (TGF-b) was recognized as a crucial mediator of this process, which was characterized by the loss of E-cadherin mediated cell-cell adhesion, elevated expression of gelatinase B and MT1-MMP and increased cell migration and invasion into collagen I gels. We also observed that epilysin is bound to the surface of epithelial cells and that this interaction is lost upon cell transformation and is susceptible to degradation by membrane type-1-MMP (MT1-MMP). The wide expression of epilysin under physiological conditions implicates that its effects on epithelial cell phenotype in vivo are not as dramatic as seen in our in vitro cell system. Nevertheless, current results indicate a possible interaction between epilysin and TGF-b also under physiological circumstances, where epilysin activity may not induce EMT but, instead, trigger less permanent changes in TGF-b signaling and cell motility. Epilysin may thus play an important role in TGF-b regulated events such as wound healing and inflammation, processes where involvement of epilysin has been indicated.
  • Alakurtti, Kirsi (Helsingin yliopisto, 2006)
    Progressive myoclonus epilepsy of Unverricht-Lundborg type (EPM1) is an autosomal recessively inherited disorder characterized by age of onset at 6-15 years, stimulus-sensitive myoclonus, tonic-clonic epileptic seizures and a progressive course. Mutations in the cystatin B (CSTB) gene underlie EPM1. The most common mutation underlying EPM1 is a dodecamer repeat expansion in the promoter region of CSTB. In addition, nine other mutations have been identified. CSTB, a cysteine protease inhibitor, is a ubiquitously expressed inhibitor of cathepsins, but its physiological function is unknown. The purpose of this study was to investigate CSTB gene expression and CSTB protein function in normal and pathological conditions. The basal CSTB promoter was mapped and characterized using different promoter-luciferase gene constructs. The binding activity of transcription factors to one ARE half, five Sp1 and four AP1 sites in the CSTB promoter was demonstrated. The CSTB promoter activity was clearly decreased using a CSTB promoter with "premutation" repeat expansions and in individuals with alike expansions. The expression of CSTB mRNA and protein was markedly reduced in patient cells. The endogenous CSTB protein localized to the nucleus, cytoplasm and lysosomes, and in differentiated cells merely to the cytoplasm. This suggests that the subcellular distribution of CSTB is dependent on the differentation status of the cells. The proteins representing patient missense mutations failed to associate with lysosomes, implying the importance of the lysosomal association for the proper physiological function of CSTB. Several alternatively spliced CSTB isoforms were identified. Of these CSTB2 was widely expressed with very low levels whereas the other alternatively spliced forms seemed to have limited tissue expression. In patients CSTB2 expression was reduced similarly to that of CSTB. The physiological relevance of CSTB alternative splicing remains unknown. The mouse Cstb transcript was shown to be present in all embryonic stages and adult tissues examined. The expression was highest at embryonic day 7 and in thymus, as well as in postnatal brain in the cortex, caudate putamen, thalamus, hippocampus, and in the Purkinje cell layer of the cerebellum. Our data implies that CSTB expression is tightly temporally and spatially regulated. The data presented in my thesis lay the basis for further understanding of the role of CSTB in health and disease.
  • Jussila, Minna M. (Helsingin yliopisto, 2006)
    Rhizoremediation is the use of microbial populations present in the rhizosphere of plants for environmental cleanup. The idea of this work was that bacteria living in the rhizosphere of a nitrogen-fixing leguminous plant, goat's rue (Galega orientalis), could take part in the degradation of harmful monoaromatic hydrocarbons, such as benzene, toluene and xylene (BTEX), from oil-contaminated soils. In addition to chemical (e.g. pollutant concentration) and physical (e.g. soil structure) information, the knowledge of biological aspects (e.g. bacteria and their catabolic genes) is essential when developing the rhizoremediation into controlled and effective bioremediation practice. Therefore, the need for reliable biomonitoring methods is obvious. The main aims of this thesis were to evaluate the symbiotic G. orientalis - Rhizobium galegae system for rhizoremediation of oil-contaminated soils, to develop molecular methods for biomonitoring, and to apply these methods for studying the microbiology of rhizoremediation. In vitro, Galega plants and rhizobia remained viable in m-toluate concentrations up to 3000 mg/l. Plant growth and nodulation were inhibited in 500 mg/l m-toluate, but were restored when plants were transferred to clean medium. In the greenhouse, Galega showed good growth, nodulation and nitrogen fixation, and developed a strong rhizosphere in soils contaminated with oil or spiked with 2000 mg/l m-toluate. The high aromatic tolerance of R. galegae and the viability of Galega plants in oil-polluted soils proved this legume system to be a promising method for the rhizoremediation of oil-contaminated soils. Molecular biomonitoring methods were designed and/or developed further for bacteria and their degradation genes. A combination of genomic fingerprinting ((GTG)5-PCR), taxonomic ribotyping of 16S rRNA genes and partial 16S rRNA gene sequencing were chosen for molecular grouping of culturable, heterogeneous rhizosphere bacteria. PCR primers specific for the xylE gene were designed for TOL plasmid detection. Amplified enzyme-coding DNA restriction analysis (AEDRA) with AluI was used to profile both TOL plasmids (xylE primers) and, in general, aromatics-degrading plasmids (C230 primers). The sensitivity of the direct monitoring of TOL plasmids in soil was enhanced by nested C23O-xylE-PCR. Rhizosphere bacteria were isolated from the greenhouse and field lysimeter experiments. High genetic diversity was observed among the 50 isolated, m-toluate tolerating rhizosphere bacteria in the form of five major lineages of the Bacteria domain. Gram-positive Rhodococcus, Bacillus and Arthrobacter and gram-negative Pseudomonas were the most abundant genera. The inoculum Pseudomonas putida PaW85/pWW0 was not found in the rhizosphere samples. Even if there were no ecological niches available for the bioaugmentation bacterium itself, its conjugative catabolic plasmid might have had some additional value for other bacterial species and thus, for rhizoremediation. Only 10 to 20% of the isolated, m-toluate tolerating bacterial strains were also able to degrade m-toluate. TOL plasmids were a major group of catabolic plasmids among these bacteria. The ability to degrade m-toluate by using enzymes encoded by a TOL plasmid was detected only in species of the genus Pseudomonas, and the best m-toluate degraders were these Pseudomonas species. Strain-specific differences in degradation abilities were found for P.oryzihabitans and P. migulae: some of these strains harbored a TOL plasmid - a new finding observed in this work, indicating putative horizontal plasmid transfer in the rhizosphere. One P. oryzihabitans strain harbored the pWW0 plasmid that had probably conjugated from the bioaugmentation Pseudomonas. Some P. migulae and P. oryzihabitans strains seemed to harbor both the pWW0- and the pDK1-type TOL plasmid. Alternatively, they might have harbored a TOL plasmid with both the pWW0- and the pDK1-type xylE gene. The breakdown of m-toluate by gram-negative bacteria was not restricted to the TOL pathway. Also some gram-positive Rhodococcus erythropolis and Arthrobacter aurescens strains were able to degrade m-toluate in the absence of a TOL plasmid. Three aspects of the rhizosphere effect of G. orientalis were manifested in oil-contaminated soil in the field: 1) G. orientalis and Pseudomonas bioaugmentation increased the amount of rhizosphere bacteria. G. orientalis especially together with Pseudomonas bioaugmentation increased the numbers of m-toluate utilizing and catechol positive bacteria indicating an increase in degradation potential. 2) Also the bacterial diversity, when measured as the amount of ribotypes, was increased in the Galega rhizosphere with or without Pseudomonas bioaugmentation. However, the diversity of m-toluate utilizing bacteria did not significantly increase. At the community level, by using the 16S rRNA gene PCR-DGGE method, the highest diversity of species was also observed in vegetated soils compared with non-vegetated soils. Diversified communities may best guarantee the overall success in rhizoremediation by offering various genetic machineries for catabolic processes. 3) At the end of the experiment, no TOL plasmid could be detected by direct DNA analysis in soil treated with both G. orientalis and Pseudomonas. The detection limit for TOL plasmids was encountered indicating decreased amount of degradation plasmids and thus, the success of rhizoremediation. The use of G. orientalis for rhizoremediation is unique. In this thesis new information was obtained about the rhizosphere effect of Galega orientalis in BTEX contaminated soils. The molecular biomonitoring methods can be applied for several purposes within environmental biotechnology, such as for evaluating the intrinsic biodegradation potential, monitoring the enhanced bioremediation, and estimating the success of bioremediation. Environmental protection by using nature's own resources and thus, acting according to the principle of sustainable development, would be both economically and environmentally beneficial for society. Keywords: molecular biomonitoring, genetic fingerprinting, soil bacteria, bacterial diversity, TOL plasmid, catabolic genes, horizontal gene transfer, rhizoremediation, rhizosphere effect, Galega orientalis, aerobic biodegradation, petroleum hydrocarbons, BTEX
  • Arighi, Elena (Helsingin yliopisto, 2005)
  • Lindqvist, Nanna (Elintarviketurvallisuusvirasto Evira, 2008)
    Salmonellosis is one of the most significant zoonoses worldwide and also in Finland. Salmonella Typhimurium definitive phage type (DT) 1 and Salmonella Infantis are considered endemic in Finland. These serovars have frequently caused outbreaks among humans. Salmonella Agona was not frequently encountered in Finland until a small outbreak among cattle farms occurred in 1994-1995. Bacterial typing methods are used for outbreak investigations and for surveillance, where the data can be used for risk assessment calculations in addition to the future prevention of outbreaks.In particular the identification of factors that contribute to the persistence and spread of infection in endemic situations, estimations of the effect of animal reservoirs on human cases, and the identification of other risk factors for human infections are among the important reasons for typing. Salmonella Infantis became more common in cattle in the 1980s, after it established itself in the broiler chicken production in Finland in 1971. In the 1990s, S. Infantis became the predominant serovar among cattle in Finland. In 1995, a feedborne outbreak of S. Infantis in cattle occurred. By XbaI-PFGE methodology we were able to identify the feedstuff-related genotype, which contained a 60 kb plasmid. Farms infected with the feedstuff-related genotype were also identified. The stability of the feedstuff-related genotype was followed on selected farms. The plasmid was stable on the farms during the follow-up period. The feedstuff-related genotype did not persist in the cattle population. Moreover, there was a general decline in bovine salmonella infections from 1997 onwards. The genetic diversity of the S. Infantis isolates taken from Finnish cattle was also assessed. The S. Infantis infection in cattle is highly clonal as 99 per cent of the isolates had XbaI-PFGE profiles clonally related to each other. The major genotype was predominant both at the starting year of our analysis in 1985 and as the infection seemed to fade out in 2003. There is a trend towards less genetic diversity of the S. Infantis infection among domestic isolates from humans and poultry. The ribo/IS200-types and the most common XbaI-PFGE profiles determined among the analysed cattle isolates could also be detected among domestic isolates from poultry and humans. In our analysis of successive isolates from the same cattle herds, we frequently detected minor changes in banding patterns during long-lasting infections in individual herds. The sampling and testing of several isolates from a herd in outbreak investigations is therefore advisable. In 1997, another small outbreak of Salmonella Agona among cattle farms occurred. The PFGE genotype of that outbreak was possibly related to that of the first outbreak, in 1994-1995. In 1999, a large outbreak of S. Agona of domestic origin involving more than 50 human cases occurred. Despite epidemiological investigations carried out by the local authorities, the source of the outbreak remained unknown. Based on our typing data, this outbreak was unrelated to the cattle farm outbreaks, though it did occur in the same region of Finland. The outbreak profile for the 1999 outbreak could not be found in any of the older isolates. Salmonella Typhimurium DT1 has become the most common S. Typhimurium phage type among cattle farms in Finland, and has been detected annually since 1980. The infection is highly homogenous. The most common XbaI-PFGE profile can be seen in isolates from humans, domestic animals, hedgehogs and wild birds, so molecular subtyping by XbaI-PFGE alone is not discriminatory enough in analysing our endemic infection. A combination of XbaI-, BlnI-, and SpeI-PFGE can be applied in the analysis of outbreaks. Two clusters were formed by the combination of the XbaI-, BlnI-, and SpeI-PFGE profiles, IS200-profiles and possession of the serovar-specific virulence plasmid. The major cluster, typical of our endemic infection, had no virulence plasmid.
  • Kaukinen, Anne (Helsingin yliopisto, 2010)
    Congenital nephrotic syndrome of the Finnish type (NPHS1, CNF) is an autosomal recessive disease, enriched in the Finnish population. NPHS1 is caused by a mutation in the NPHS1 gene. This gene encodes for nephrin, which is a major structural component of the slit diaphragm connecting podocyte foot processes in the glomerular capillary wall. In NPHS1, the genetic defect in nephrin leads to heavy proteinuria already in the newborn period. Finnish NPHS1 patients are nephrectomized at infancy, and after a short period of dialysis the patients receive a kidney transplant, which is the only curative therapy for the disease. In this thesis, we examined the cellular and molecular mechanisms leading to the progression of glomerulosclerosis and tubulointerstitial fibrosis in NPHS1 kidneys. Progressive mesangial expansion in NPHS1 kidneys is caused by mesangial cell hyperplasia and the accumulation of extracellular matrix proteins. Expansion of the extracellular matrix was caused by the normal mesangial cell component, collagen IV. However, no significant changes in mesangial cell phenotype or extracellular matrix component composition were observed. Endotheliosis was the main ultrastructural lesion observed in the endothelium of NPHS1 glomeruli. The abundant expression of vascular endothelial growth factor and its transcription factor hypoxia inducible factor-1 alpha were in accordance with the preserved structure of the endothelium in NPHS1 kidneys. Hypoperfusion of peritubular capillaries and tubulointerstitial hypoxia were evident in NPHS1 kidneys, indicating that these may play an important role in the rapid progression of fibrosis in the kidneys of NPHS1 patients. Upregulation of Angiotensin II was obvious, emphasizing its role in the pathophysiology of NPHS1. Excessive oxidative stress was evident in NPHS1 kidneys, manifested as an increase expression of p22phox, superoxide production, lipid oxide peroxidation and reduced antioxidant activity. In conclusion, our data indicate that mesangial cell proliferation and the accumulation of extracellular matrix accumulation are associated with the obliteration of glomerular capillaries, causing the reduction of circulation in peritubular capillaries. The injury and rarefaction of peritubular capillaries result in impairment of oxygen and nutrient delivery to the tubuli and interstitial cells, which correlates with the fibrosis, tubular atrophy and oxidative stress observed in NPHS1 kidneys.