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  • Nummela, Pirjo (Helsingin yliopisto, 2011)
    Cancer is becoming the leading cause of deaths in the world. As 90% of all deaths from cancer are caused by metastasis, discovery of the mechanisms behind cancer cell invasion and metastasis is of utmost importance. Only new effective therapies targeting cancer progression can reduce cancer mortality rates. The aim of this study was to identify molecules that are relevant for tumor cell invasion and spreading in fibrosarcomas and melanomas, and to analyze their potential for cancer biomarkers or therapeutic targets. First, the gene expression changes of normal cells and transformed cells showing high invasiveness, S-adenosylmethionine decarboxylase (AdoMetDC)-transfected murine fibroblasts and human melanoma cells, were studied by microarray analyses. The function of the identified candidate molecules were then studied in detail in these cell lines. Finally, the physiological relevance of the identified changes was studied by immunohistochemical analyses of human sarcoma and melanoma specimens or by a mouse xenograft model. In fibrosarcoma cells, the most remarkable change detected was a dramatic up-regulation of the actin-sequestering molecule thymosin beta 4 (TB4), which was shown to be important for the transformed phenotype of the AdoMetDC-transfected cells (Amdc-s and -as). A sponge toxin latrunculin A, inhibiting the binding of TB4 to actin, was found to selectively inhibit the migration and invasion of these cells. Further, Amdc-s-induced mouse tumors and human high-grade sarcomas were found to show intense TB4 immunostaining. In addition to TB4, integrin subunits alfa 6 and beta 7 (ItgA6 and ItgB7) were found to be up-regulated in Amdc-s and -as cells. ItgA6 was shown to dimerize mainly with ItgB1 in Amdc-s. Inhibition of ItgA6 or ItgB1 function with neutralizing antibodies fully blocked the invasiveness of Amdc-s cells, and importantly also human HT-1080 fibrosarcoma cells, in three-dimensional (3D)-Matrigel mimicking tumor extracellular matrix (ECM). By immunohistochemical analyses, strong staining for ITGA6 was detected in human high-grade fibrosarcomas and other sarcomas, especially at the invasion fronts of the tumors. In the studied melanoma cell lines, the expression levels of the adhesion-related ECM proteins tenascin-C (TN-C), fibronectin (FN), and transforming growth factor beta-induced (TGFBI) were found to be highly up-regulated. By immunohistochemistry, intense TN-C and FN staining was detected in invasive and metastatic melanoma tumors, showing co-localization (together with procollagen-I) in tubular meshworks and channels around the invading melanoma cells. In vitro, TN-C and FN were further found to directly stimulate the migration of melanoma cells in 3D-collagen-I matrix. The third candidate protein, TGFBI, was found to be an anti-adhesive molecule for melanoma cells, and knockdown of its expression in metastatic melanoma cells (TGFBI-KD cells) led to dramatically impaired tumor growth in immunocompromized mice. Interestingly, the control tumors showed intense TGFBI immunostaining in the invasion fronts, showing partial co-localization with the fibrillar FN staining, whereas the small TGFBI-KD cell-induced tumors displayed amorphous, non-fibrillar FN staining. These data suggest an important role for TGFBI in FN fibrillogenesis and melanoma progression. In conclusion, we have identified several invasion-related molecules, which show potential for cancer diagnostic or prognostic markers, or therapeutic targets. Based on our previous and present fibrosarcoma studies, we propose the possibility of using ITGA6 antagonists (affecting tumor cell adhesion) in combination with TB4 inhibitors (affecting tumor cell migration) and cathepsin L inhibitors (affecting the degradation of basement membrane and ECM proteins) for the treatment of fibrosarcomas and other tumors overexpressing these molecules. With melanoma cells, in turn, we point to the importance of three secreted ECM proteins, TN-C, FN, and TGFBI, in melanoma progression. Of these, especially the potential of TN-C as a prognostic melanoma biomarker and TGFBI as a promising therapeutic target molecule are clearly worth additional studies.
  • Hilditch, Satu (Helsingin yliopisto, 2010)
    Pectin is a natural polymer consisting mainly of D-galacturonic acid monomers. Microorganisms living on decaying plant material can use D-galacturonic acid for growth. Although bacterial pathways for D-galacturonate catabolism had been described previously, no eukaryotic pathway for D-galacturonate catabolism was known at the beginning of this work. The aim of this work was to identify such a pathway. In this thesis the pathway for D-galacturonate catabolism was identified in the filamentous fungus Trichoderma reesei. The pathway consisted of four enzymes: NADPH-dependent D-galacturonate reductase (GAR1), L-galactonate dehydratase (LGD1), L-threo-3-deoxy-hexulosonate aldolase (LGA1) and NADPH-dependent glyceraldehyde reductase (GLD1). In this pathway D-galacturonate was converted to pyruvate and glycerol via L-galactonate, L-threo-3-deoxy-hexulosonate and L-glyceraldehyde. The enzyme activities of GAR1, LGD1 and LGA1 were present in crude mycelial extract only when T. reesei was grown on D-galacturonate. The activity of GLD1 was equally present on all the tested carbon sources. The corresponding genes were identified either by purifying and sequencing the enzyme or by expressing genes with homology to other similar enzymes in a heterologous host and testing the activities. The new genes that were identified were expressed in Saccharomyces cerevisiae and resulted in active enzymes. The GAR1, LGA1 and GLD1 were also produced in S. cerevisiae as active enzymes with a polyhistidine-tag, and purified and characterised. GAR1 and LGA1 catalysed reversible reactions, whereas only the forward reactions were observed for LGD1 and GLD1. When gar1, lgd1 or lga1 was deleted in T. reesei the deletion strain was unable to grow with D-galacturonate as the only carbon source, demonstrating that all the corresponding enzymes were essential for D-galacturonate catabolism and that no alternative D-galacturonate pathway exists in T. reesei. A challenge for biotechnology is to convert cheap raw materials to useful and more valuable products. Filamentous fungi are especially useful for the conversion of pectin, since they are efficient producers of pectinases. Identification of the fungal D-galacturonate pathway is of fundamental importance for the utilisation of pectin and its conversion to useful products.
  • Tiittanen, Minna (Helsingin yliopisto, 2006)
    Type 1 diabetes (T1D) is considered to be an autoimmune disease. The cause of T1D is the destruction of insulin-producing β-cells in the pancreatic islets. The autoimmune nature of T1D is characterized by the presence of autoreactive T-cells and autoantibodies against β-cell molecules. Insulin is the only β-cell-specific autoantigen associated with T1D but the insulin autoantibodies (IAAs) are difficult to measure with proper sensitivity. T-cell assays for detection of autoreactive T-cells, such as insulin-specific T-cells, have also proven to be difficult to perform. The genetic risk of T1D is associated with the HLA gene region but the environmental factors also play an important role. The most studied environmental risk factors of T1D are enteroviruses and cow's milk which both affect the immune system through the gut. One hypothesis is that the insulin-specific immune response develops against bovine insulin in cow's milk during early infancy and later spreads to include human insulin. The aims of this study were to determine whether the separation of immunoglobulin (Ig)G from plasma would improve the sensitivity of the IAA assay and how insulin treatment affects the cellular immune response to insulin in newly diagnosed patients. Furthermore, the effect of insulin concentration in mother's breast milk on the development of antibodies to dietary insulin in the child was examined. Small intestinal biopsies were also obtained from children with T1D to characterize any immunological changes associated with T1D in the gut. The isolation of the IgG fraction from the plasma of T1D patients negative for plasma IAA led to detectable IAA levels that exceeded those in the control children. Thus the isolation of IgG may improve the sensitivity of the IAA assay. The effect of insulin treatment on insulin-specific T-cells was studied by culturing peripheral blood mononuclear cells with insulin. The insulin stimulation induced increased expression of regulatory T-cell markers, such as Foxp3, in those patients treated with insulin than in patients examined before initiating insulin treatment. This finding suggests that insulin treatment in patients with T1D stimulates regulatory T-cells in vivo and this may partly explain the difficulties in measuring autoantigen-specific T-cell responses in recently diagnosed patients. The stimulation of regulatory T-cells by insulin treatment may also explain the remission period often seen after initiating insulin treatment. In the third study we showed that insulin concentration in mother's breast milk correlates inversely with the levels of bovine insulin-specific antibodies in those infants who were exposed to cow's milk proteins in their diet, suggesting that human insulin in breast milk induces tolerance to dietary bovine insulin. However, in infants who later developed T1D-associated autoantibodies, the insulin concentration in their mother's breast milk was increased. This finding may indicate that in those children prone to β-cell autoimmunity, breast milk insulin does not promote tolerance to insulin. In the small intestinal biopsies the presence of several immunological markers were quantified with the RT-PCR. From these markers the expression of the interleukin (IL)-18 cytokine was significantly increased in the gut in patients with T1D compared with children with celiac disease or control children. The increased IL-18 expression lends further support for the hypothesis that the gut immune system is involved in the pathogenesis of T1D.
  • Piha, Henna (Helsingin yliopisto, 2006)
    Agriculture-mediated habitat loss and degradation together with climate change are among the greatest global threats to species, communities, and ecosystem functioning. During the last century, more than 50% of the world's wetlands have been lost and agricultural activities have subjected wetland species to increased isolation and decreased quality of habitats. Likewise, as a part of agricultural intensification, the use of pesticides has increased notably, and pesticide residues occur frequently in wetlands making the exposure of wetland organisms to pesticides highly probable. In this thesis, a set of ecotoxicological and landscape ecological studies were carried out to investigate pesticide-effects on tadpoles, and species-habitat relationships of amphibians in agricultural landscapes. The results show that the fitness of R. temporaria tadpoles can be negatively affected by sublethal pesticide concentrations, and that pesticides may increase the costs of response to natural environmental stressors. However, tadpoles may also be able to compensate for some of the negative effects of pesticides. The results further demonstrate that both historic and current-day agricultural land use can negatively impact amphibians, but that in some cases the costs of living in agricultural habitats may only become apparent when amphibians face other environmental stressors, such as drought. Habitat heterogeneity may, however, increase the persistence of amphibians in agricultural landscapes. Hence, the results suggest that amphibians are likely to be affected by agricultural processes that operate at several spatial and temporal scales, and that it is probable that various processes related to current-day agriculture will affect both larval and adult amphibians. The results imply that maintaining dense wetland patterns could enhance persistence of amphibian populations in agricultural habitats, and indicate that heterogeneous landscapes may lower the risk of regional amphibian population declines under extreme weather perturbations.
  • Penttilä, Tuula (Helsingin yliopisto, 2004)
  • Heiniö, Raija-Liisa (Helsingin yliopisto, 2003)
  • Tuimala, Jarno (Helsingin yliopisto, 2004)
  • Kuuliala, Krista (Helsingin yliopisto, 2007)
    The pathogenesis of inflammatory rheumatic diseases, including rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and spondyloarthropathies (SpAs) such as reactive arthritis (ReA), is incompletely understood. ReA is a sterile joint inflammation, which may follow a distal infection caused by Gram-negative bacteria that have lipopolysaccharide (LPS) in their outer membrane. The functions of innate immunity that may affect the pathogenesis, prognosis and treatment of these diseases were studied in this thesis. When compared with healthy controls, whole blood monocytes of healthy subjects with previous ReA showed enhanced capacity to produce TNF, an essential proinflammatory cytokine, in response to adherent conditions (mimicking vascular endothelium made adherent by inflammatory signals) and non-specific protein kinase C stimulation. Also, blood neutrophils of these subjects showed high levels of CD11b, an important adhesion molecule, in response to adherence or LPS. Thus, high responsiveness of monocytes and neutrophils when encountering inflammatory stimuli may play a role in the pathogenesis of ReA. The results also suggested that the known risk allele for SpAs, HLA-B27, may be an additive contributor to the observed differences. The promoter polymorphisms TNF 308A and CD14 (gene for an LPS receptor component) 159T were found not to increase the risk of acute arthritis. However, all female patients who developed chronic SpA had 159T and none of them had 308A, possibly reflecting an interplay between hormonal and inflammatory signals in the development of chronic SpA. Among subjects with early RA, those having the polymorphic TLR4 +896G allele (causing the Asp299Gly change in TLR4, another component of LPS receptor) required a combination of disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs to achieve remission. It is known that rapid treatment response is essential in order to maintain the patients work ability. Hence, +896G might be a candidate marker for identifying the patients who need combination treatment. The production of vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF), which strongly promotes vascular permeability and angiogenesis that takes place e.g. early in rheumatic joints, was induced by LPS and inhibited by interferon (IFN)-alpha in peripheral blood mononuclear cells. These long-living cells might provide a source of VEGF when stimulated by LPS and migrating to inflamed joints, and the effect of IFN-alpha may contribute to the clinical efficacy of this cytokine in inhibiting joint inflammation.
  • Lahti, Katriina (Helsingin yliopisto, 2001)
  • Häärä, Otso (Helsingin yliopisto, 2013)
    The salivary glands and the teeth are organs derived from the embryonic germ layer, ectoderm, and share a common early development. Ectodysplasin (Eda) is a signaling molecule belonging to the tumor necrosis factor (TNF) family and its function has been shown to be vital for the formation of the ectodermal organs in vertebrates from teleost fish to mammals. A mutation in Eda in human causes hypohidrotic ectodermal dysplasia (HED), an X-linked hereditary disease causing reduced salivation and missing or modified teeth, in addition to defects in other ectodermal organs. The spontaneous mutant mouse for Eda, called Tabby, shares similar defects and serves as a good model to study HED. In Tabby, teeth are smaller and modified in shape. While the mechanisms of Eda signaling are well known in teeth, they are not yet understood in salivary gland development. However, it is known that in Tabby, the salivary glands are smaller with reduced branching of the saliva-secreting epithelium. In both organs, beside Eda, other major signaling pathways including Wnt/β-catenin, Hh, BMP and Fgf, also operate simultaneously during development. Eda is thought to interact with these pathways; however, it is not known how Eda is integrated with these other pathways. Here I have analyzed the role of Eda in salivary gland development and showed that branching of the epithelium, required to produce adequate surface area for saliva production, is dependent on Eda. In Tabby, branching of the epithelium and thus, the surface area, was reduced. The effect of Eda was largely mediated by the Hh pathway in the salivary gland. I also showed that the transcription factor NF-B is required for Eda signaling and that the Wnt pathway induced Eda expression in the salivary gland. In tooth, Eda induced the Fgf pathway ligand Fgf20, which I identified as a novel regulator of tooth development. Using an Fgf20-null mouse crossed with either the Eda loss-of-function (Tabby) or the gain-of-function mice (K14-Eda), I showed that Fgf20 mediates many functions of Eda and was required for the regulation of tooth size and shape. Interestingly, loss of Fgf20 in the K14-Eda mouse supported the formation of an extra molar in the place of the ancestral premolar, a structure lost during rodent evolution 45 million years ago. I observed that reducing Fgf20 levels from normal to null in K14-Eda mouse mimics the shift from omnivorous to faunivorous type of rodent dentition, evoking a scenario that Fgf20 and Eda might be genes operating in the microevolution of dentition.
  • Palva, J. Matias (Helsingin yliopisto, 2005)
  • Pernu, Tuomas (Helsingin yliopisto, 2013)
    The notion of causal explanation is an essential element of the naturalistic world view. This view is typically interpreted to claim that we are only licensed to postulate entities that make a causal difference , or have causal power . The rest are epiphenomena and hence eliminable from the correct view of reality. The worry that some entities and phenomena that we take for granted mental properties in particular turn out to be epiphenomenal, can be seen as stemming from this sort of naturalistic attitude. This thesis reviews the issue of causal explanation within the context of the naturalistic philosophy of mind. It is argued that there is no single monolithic, unanimously accepted notion of causation that the naturalist should be committed to. Views vary on what this notion amounts to exactly, and fields of science vary with respect to their causal commitments. However, the naturalist can still presume that a scientifically informed philosophical account of causation exists, an account that is fundamentally philosophical, but also sensitive to actual scientific practice and its view of reality. The central issue of the current naturalistic philosophy of mind is the so-called problem of causal exclusion. According to this, the assumption that mental states could have genuine and autonomous effects on the physical world is inconsistent with physical commitments, namely the idea that mental states are necessarily neurally based and the idea that the physical world is causally complete. The causal exclusion argument claims that mental causes must be reduced to physical causes, as there remains no role for independent mental causes. The thesis reviews some central responses to the causal exclusion argument. It is shown that within the context of the interventionist notion of causation, inter-level causation can be ruled out. The causal exclusion argument would thus find support, contrary to what the proponents of the interventionist view typically claim. However, the result is also shown to have the corollary that purely higher-level, mental-to-mental causation is possible. The thesis suggests that this offers a consistent view of mental causation for a naturalist to hold.
  • Sopanen, Sanna (Helsingin yliopisto, 2009)
    The aim of the studies reported in this thesis was to examine the feeding interactions between calanoid copepods and toxic algae in the Baltic Sea. The central questions in this research concerned the feeding, survival and egg production of copepods exposed to toxic algae. Furthermore, the importance of copepods as vectors in toxin transfer was examined. The haptophyte Prymnesium parvum, which produces extracellular toxins, was the only studied species that directly harmed copepods. Beside this, it had allelopathic effects (cell lysis) on non-toxic Rhodomonas salina. Copepods that were exposed to P. parvum filtrates died or became severely impaired, although filtrates were not haemolytic (indicative of toxicity in this study). Monospecific Prymnesium cell suspensions, in turn, were haemolytic and copepods in these treatments became inactive, although no clear effect on mortality was detected. These results suggest that haemolytic activity may not be a good proxy of the harmful effects of P. parvum. In addition, P. parvum deterred feeding, and low egestion and suppressed egg production were consequently observed in monospecific suspensions of Prymnesium. Similarly, ingestion and faecal pellet production rates were suppressed in high concentration P. parvum filtrates and in mixtures of P. parvum and R. salina. These results indicate that the allelopathic effects of P. parvum on other algal species together with lowered viability as well as suppressed production of copepods may contribute to bloom formation and persistence. Furthermore, the availability of food for planktivorous animals may be affected due to reduced copepod productivity. Nodularin produced by Nodularia spumigena was transferred to Eurytemora affinis via grazing on filaments of small N. spumigena and by direct uptake from the dissolved pool. Copepods also acquired nodularin in fractions where N. spumigena filaments were absent. Thus, the importance of microbial food webs in nodularin transfer should be considered. Copepods were able to remove particulate nodularin from the system, but at the same time a large proportion of the nodularin disappeared. This indicates that copepods may possess effective mechanisms to remove toxins from their tissues. The importance of microorganisms, such as bacteria, in the degradation of cyanobacterial toxins could also be substantial. Our results were the first reports of the accumulation of diarrhetic shellfish toxins (DSTs) produced by Dinophysis spp. in copepods. The PTX2 content in copepods after feeding experiments corresponded to the ingestion of <100 Dinophysis spp. cells. However, no DSTs were recorded from field-collected copepods. Dinophysis spp. was not selected by the copepods and consumption remained low. It seems thus likely that copepods are an unimportant link in the transfer of DSTs in the northern Baltic Sea.
  • Voutilainen, Liina (Helsingin yliopisto, 2013)
    Among rodent-borne pathogens, hantaviruses are one of the most important groups concerning human health and economy. Understanding the interactions between hantaviruses and their reservoir host species is crucial for prediction and prevention of human epidemics. In this thesis, I studied the interactions between Puumala hantavirus (PUUV) and its host, the bank vole (Myodes glareolus). The study was conducted in the boreal zone of Europe, where human incidence of nephropathia epidemica (NE, a mild form of haemorrhagic fever with renal syndrome) caused by PUUV is the highest. Endemic pathogens, such as hantaviruses, have been hypothesized to cause no apparent symptoms or fitness costs to their hosts. However, we found PUUV infection to decrease the over-winter survival of wild bank voles. We also found wild bank voles to shed PUUV via urine, faeces, and saliva throughout their life span without any remarkable decline, in contrast to earlier results from laboratory-reared rodent hosts. For the first time, dynamics of PUUV infection were studied during winter, when the majority of NE cases occur in the boreal zone. We found PUUV-infected bank voles to be most abundant in the winters of increase and peak years of the 3-year density cycle. In bank voles, the prevalence of PUUV infection showed a regular, seasonal fluctuation, which resulted from seasonal population turnover and the positive correlation between age and the likelihood of being PUUV infected. However, despite its regular fluctuation, PUUV prevalence in voles is not a good predictor of human NE risk since the periods of high prevalence coincided with low NE incidence in humans. Aggression has been suggested as the key driver for other hantaviruses in their host species, but the rate of PUUV transmission in bank voles was higher outside the breeding season, when bank voles do not show aggressive behaviour, than during the breeding season. The high rate of transmission outside the breeding season may be attributed to subnivean conditions that promote virus stability, lower immune response during cold conditions, and high host density in fall. We also found evidence for the dilution effect hypothesis, which assumes non-host species to reduce virus transmission between hosts: the prevalence of PUUV was low in bank voles when other small mammals were abundant. Male sex bias in infection is a general phenomenon that has also been observed in several hantavirus-host systems. We found a male bias in PUUV infection only in overwintered, breeding bank voles, whereas a female bias was seen in summer-born breeding animals. In non-breeding animals, no sex differences existed. Therefore, the effects of host sex in hantavirus transmission may be more complex than previously thought. Forest habitats disturbed by intensive forest management were associated with a higher likelihood of PUUV infection in bank voles. This finding could be explained by the poorer quality of these habitats, leading to lower condition and higher susceptibility, and also by more favourable environmental conditions for virus survival outside the host. Despite the higher infection prevalence in voles, the total number of PUUV-infected bank voles was 46-64% lower in young, intensively managed than in undisturbed, old forests. Thus, environmental change per se does not automatically lead to relative success of species that serve as reservoirs for zoonotic pathogens, and thereby, to increased human disease risk. The results of this thesis encourage further studies of host-pathogen interactions in natural conditions, and in different host-hantavirus systems. They also provide a framework for risk models aiming at reduction of human hantavirus infections.
  • Kailanto, Sanna (Helsingin yliopisto, 2010)
    It has been hypothesized that abuse of supra-therapeutic doses of anabolic androgenic steroids (AASs) can lead to dependence and function as a gateway to abuse of other drugs. This is supported by behavioral studies on animal models and psychiatric evaluations of human subjects, although their neurochemical effects remain largely unknown. A large body of evidence suggests that the ability of the drugs to induce a strong elevation of extracellular dopamine (DA) levels in the nucleus accumbens (NAc), especially, plays a crucial role in their reinforcing effects. -- This study had four main aims. The first was to explore the effects of nandrolone decanoate on dopaminergic and serotonergic activities in the brains of rats. The second aim was to assess whether or not nandrolone pre-exposure modulates the acute neurochemical and behavioral effects of psychostimulant drugs in experimental animals. The third was to investigate if the AAS-pre-treatment induced changes in brain reward circuitry are reversible. And the fourth main goal was to evaluate the role of androgen and estrogen receptors in the modulation of the dopaminergic and serotonergic effects of acute injections of stimulant drugs by sub-chronic nandrolone treatment. The results showed that nandrolone decanoate at doses, high enough to induce erythropoiesis, significantly increased the levels of DOPAC and 5-HT in the cerebral cortex. Co-administration of AAS and psychostimulant drugs showed that the increase in extracellular DA and 5-HT concentration evoked by amphetamine, MDMA and cocaine in the NAc was attenuated dose-dependently by pretreatment with nandrolone. Nandrolone pre-exposure also attenuated the ability of stimulants to cause increased stereotyped behavior and locomotor activity. Despite the significant decrease in nandrolone concentration in blood, the attenuation of cocaine’s effects remained unchanged after a fairly long period without nandrolone, suggesting that nandrolone effects could be long lasting. Blockade of androgen receptors with flutamide abolished the attenuating effect of nandrolone pretreatment on amphetamine-induced elevation of extracellular DA concentration. --- In conclusion, the results show that AAS-pretreatment is able to inhibit the reward-related neurochemical and behavioral effects of amphetamine, MDMA and cocaine in experimental animals. Furthermore, it seems that these effects could be long lasting and it appears that the ability of nandrolone to modulate reward-related effects of stimulants is dependent on activation of androgen receptors.