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  • Myllykangas, Samuel (Helsingin yliopisto, 2008)
    Helicobacter pylori infection is a risk factor for gastric cancer, which is a major health issue worldwide. Gastric cancer has a poor prognosis due to the unnoticeable progression of the disease and surgery is the only available treatment in gastric cancer. Therefore, gastric cancer patients would greatly benefit from identifying biomarker genes that would improve diagnostic and prognostic prediction and provide targets for molecular therapies. DNA copy number amplifications are the hallmarks of cancers in various anatomical locations. Mechanisms of amplification predict that DNA double-strand breaks occur at the margins of the amplified region. The first objective of this thesis was to identify the genes that were differentially expressed in H. pylori infection as well as the transcription factors and signal transduction pathways that were associated with the gene expression changes. The second objective was to identify putative biomarker genes in gastric cancer with correlated expression and copy number, and the last objective was to characterize cancers based on DNA copy number amplifications. DNA microarrays, an in vitro model and real-time polymerase chain reaction were used to measure gene expression changes in H. pylori infected AGS cells. In order to identify the transcription factors and signal transduction pathways that were activated after H. pylori infection, gene expression profiling data from the H. pylori experiments and a bioinformatics approach accompanied by experimental validation were used. Genome-wide expression and copy number microarray analysis of clinical gastric cancer samples and immunohistochemistry on tissue microarray were used to identify putative gastric cancer genes. Data mining and machine learning techniques were applied to study amplifications in a cross-section of cancers. FOS and various stress response genes were regulated by H. pylori infection. H. pylori regulated genes were enriched in the chromosomal regions that are frequently changed in gastric cancer, suggesting that molecular pathways of gastric cancer and premalignant H. pylori infection that induces gastritis are interconnected. 16 transcription factors were identified as being associated with H. pylori infection induced changes in gene expression. NF-κB transcription factor and p50 and p65 subunits were verified using elecrophoretic mobility shift assays. ERBB2 and other genes located in 17q12- q21 were found to be up-regulated in association with copy number amplification in gastric cancer. Cancers with similar cell type and origin clustered together based on the genomic localization of the amplifications. Cancer genes and large genes were co-localized with amplified regions and fragile sites, telomeres, centromeres and light chromosome bands were enriched at the amplification boundaries. H. pylori activated transcription factors and signal transduction pathways function in cellular mechanisms that might be capable of promoting carcinogenesis of the stomach. Intestinal and diffuse type gastric cancers showed distinct molecular genetic profiles. Integration of gene expression and copy number microarray data allowed the identification of genes that might be involved in gastric carcinogenesis and have clinical relevance. Gene amplifications were demonstrated to be non-random genomic instabilities. Cell lineage, properties of precursor stem cells, tissue microenvironment and genomic map localization of specific oncogenes define the site specificity of DNA amplifications, whereas labile genomic features define the structures of amplicons. These conclusions suggest that the definition of genomic changes in cancer is based on the interplay between the cancer cell and the tumor microenvironment.
  • Tyybäkinoja, Anne (Helsingin yliopisto, 2009)
    Chromosomal alterations in leukemia have been shown to have prognostic and predictive significance and are also important minimal residual disease (MRD) markers in the follow-up of leukemia patients. Although specific oncogenes and tumor suppressors have been discovered in some of the chromosomal alterations, the role and target genes of many alterations in leukemia remain unknown. In addition, a number of leukemia patients have a normal karyotype by standard cytogenetics, but have variability in clinical course and are often molecularly heterogeneous. Cytogenetic methods traditionally used in leukemia analysis and diagnostics; G-banding, various fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH) techniques, and chromosomal comparative genomic hybridization (cCGH), have enormously increased knowledge about the leukemia genome, but have limitations in resolution or in genomic coverage. In the last decade, the development of microarray comparative genomic hybridization (array-CGH, aCGH) for DNA copy number analysis and the SNP microarray (SNP-array) method for simultaneous copy number and loss of heterozygosity (LOH) analysis has enabled investigation of chromosomal and gene alterations genome-wide with high resolution and high throughput. In these studies, genetic alterations were analyzed in acute myeloid leukemia (AML) and chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL). The aim was to screen and characterize genomic alterations that could play role in leukemia pathogenesis by using aCGH and SNP-arrays. One of the most important goals was to screen cryptic alterations in karyotypically normal leukemia patients. In addition, chromosomal changes were evaluated to narrow the target regions, to find new markers, and to obtain tumor suppressor and oncogene candidates. The work presented here shows the capability of aCGH to detect submicroscopic copy number alterations in leukemia, with information about breakpoints and genes involved in the alterations, and that genome-wide microarray analyses with aCGH and SNP-array are advantageous methods in the research and diagnosis of leukemia. The most important findings were the cryptic changes detected with aCGH in karyotypically normal AML and CLL, characterization of amplified genes in 11q marker chromosomes, detection of deletion-based mechanisms of MLL-ARHGEF12 fusion gene formation, and detection of LOH without copy number alteration in karyotypically normal AML. These alterations harbor candidate oncogenes and tumor suppressors for further studies.
  • Kanduri, Chakravarthi (Helsingin yliopisto, 2015)
    Music perception and performance form a useful tool for studying the normal functioning of the human brain. The abundance of neuroscientific literature has demonstrated that music perception and performance alter the human brain structure and function and induce physiological changes through neurochemical modulation. Emerging evidence from molecular genetic studies have suggested a substantial genetic component in musical aptitude and related traits like creativity in music. This thesis puts a step forward in understanding the molecular genetic background of music perception and performance, using a combination of genomics and bioinformatics approaches. Specifically, the role of copy number variations (CNVs; a form of genetic variation) in musical aptitude and creativity in music was investigated both in the largest families of the MUSGEN-project and also in sporadic cases. The effects of listening to music and performing music by playing an instrument on human transcriptional responses were also investigated. The genome-wide CNV analysis principally identified genes like GALM, PCDHA1-9 as the possible candidate genes that could affect musical aptitude and creativity in music. PCDHA1-9 and GALM genes are known to regulate the serotonergic system, which is responsible for neurocognitive and motor functions, the essential biological processes of music related traits. Overall, the detected genes affect neurodevelopment, learning, memory and serotonergic functions. The findings also demonstrated that large and rare CNV burden does not affect normal traits like musical aptitude. Both listening to music and performing music enhanced the activity of genes that are known to be involved in dopaminergic neurotransmission, neuroplasticity, learning, and memory. Most importantly, one of the most up-regulated genes in both studies - synuclein alpha (SNCA) and its upstream transcription regulator GATA2, are located on chromosomal regions 4q22.1 and 3q21 respectively linking the strongest linkage and associated regions of musical aptitude together. In addition, several of the up-regulated genes in both the studies (like SNCA, FOS, and DUSP1) have been known to be regulated during song learning and singing in songbirds, suggesting a possible evolutionary conservation of genes related to sound perception and production. These novel findings give preliminary information about the genes associated with musical aptitude and the effect of music on the human body. It is obvious that replication studies are required to confirm the results. These pioneering findings could guide further research on the molecular genetics of music perception and performance in humans. These findings will also enhance our understanding of the genetic bases of cognitive traits, the evolution of music and music therapy.
  • Paavonen, Kristian (Helsingin yliopisto, 2006)
    Long QT syndrome is a congenital or acquired arrhythmic disorder which manifests as a prolonged QT-interval on the electrocardiogram and as a tendency to develop ventricular arrhythmias which can lead to sudden death. Arrhythmias often occur during intense exercise and/or emotional stress. The two most common subtypes of LQTS are LQT1, caused by mutations in the KCNQ1 gene and LQT2, caused by mutations in the KCNH2 gene. LQT1 and LQT2 patients exhibit arrhythmias in different types of situations: in LQT1 the trigger is usually vigorous exercise whereas in LQT2 arrhythmia results from the patient being startled from rest. It is not clear why trigger factors and clinical outcome differ from each other in the different LQTS subtypes. It is possible that stress hormones such as catecholamines may show different effects depending on the exact nature of the genetic defect, or sensitivity to catecholamines varies from subject to subject. Furthermore, it is possible that subtle genetic variants of putative modifier genes, including those coding for ion channels and hormone receptors, play a role as determinants of individual sensitivity to life-threatening arrhythmias. The present study was designed to identify some of these risk modifiers. It was found that LQT1 and LQT2 patients show an abnormal QT-adaptation to both mental and physical stress. Furthermore, as studied with epinephrine infusion experiments while the heart was paced and action potentials were measured from the right ventricular septum, LQT1 patients showed repolarization abnormalities which were related to their propensity to develop arrhythmia during intense, prolonged sympathetic tone, such as exercise. In LQT2 patients, this repolarization abnormality was noted already at rest corresponding to their arrhythmic episodes as a result of intense, sudden surges in adrenergic tone, such as fright or rage. A common KCNH2 polymorphism was found to affect KCNH2 channel function as demonstrated by in vitro experiments utilizing mammalian cells transfected with the KCNH2 potassium channel as well as QT-dynamics in vivo. Finally, the present study identified a common β-1-adrenergic receptor genotype that is related a shorter QT-interval in LQT1 patients. Also, it was discovered that compound homozygosity for two common β-adrenergic polymorphisms was related to the occurrence of symptoms in the LQT1 type of long QT syndrome. The studies demonstrate important genotype-phenotype differences between different LQTS subtypes and suggest that common modifier gene polymorphisms may affect cardiac repolarization in LQTS. It will be important in the future to prospectively study whether variant gene polymorphisms will assist in clinical risk profiling of LQTS patients.
  • Rautanen, Anna (Helsingin yliopisto, 2007)
    In this thesis, two separate single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) genotyping techniques were set up at the Finnish Genome Center, pooled genotyping was evaluated as a screening method for large-scale association studies, and finally, the former approaches were used to identify genetic factors predisposing to two distinct complex diseases by utilizing large epidemiological cohorts and also taking environmental factors into account. The first genotyping platform was based on traditional but improved restriction-fragment-length-polymorphism (RFLP) utilizing 384-microtiter well plates, multiplexing, small reaction volumes (5 µl), and automated genotype calling. We participated in the development of the second genotyping method, based on single nucleotide primer extension (SNuPeTM by Amersham Biosciences), by carrying out the alpha- and beta tests for the chemistry and the allele-calling software. Both techniques proved to be accurate, reliable, and suitable for projects with thousands of samples and tens of markers. Pooled genotyping (genotyping of pooled instead of individual DNA samples) was evaluated with Sequenom s MassArray MALDI-TOF, in addition to SNuPeTM and PCR-RFLP techniques. We used MassArray mainly as a point of comparison, because it is known to be well suited for pooled genotyping. All three methods were shown to be accurate, the standard deviations between measurements being 0.017 for the MassArray, 0.022 for the PCR-RFLP, and 0.026 for the SNuPeTM. The largest source of error in the process of pooled genotyping was shown to be the volumetric error, i.e., the preparation of pools. We also demonstrated that it would have been possible to narrow down the genetic locus underlying congenital chloride diarrhea (CLD), an autosomal recessive disorder, by using the pooling technique instead of genotyping individual samples. Although the approach seems to be well suited for traditional case-control studies, it is difficult to apply if any kind of stratification based on environmental factors is needed. Therefore we chose to continue with individual genotyping in the following association studies. Samples in the two separate large epidemiological cohorts were genotyped with the PCR-RFLP and SNuPeTM techniques. The first of these association studies concerned various pregnancy complications among 100,000 consecutive pregnancies in Finland, of which we genotyped 2292 patients and controls, in addition to a population sample of 644 blood donors, with 7 polymorphisms in the potentially thrombotic genes. In this thesis, the analysis of a sub-study of pregnancy-related venous thromboses was included. We showed that the impact of factor V Leiden polymorphism on pregnancy-related venous thrombosis, but not the other tested polymorphisms, was fairly large (odds ratio 11.6; 95% CI 3.6-33.6), and increased multiplicatively when combined with other risk factors such as obesity or advanced age. Owing to our study design, we were also able to estimate the risks at the population level. The second epidemiological cohort was the Helsinki Birth Cohort of men and women who were born during 1924-1933 in Helsinki. The aim was to identify genetic factors that might modify the well known link between small birth size and adult metabolic diseases, such as type 2 diabetes and impaired glucose tolerance. Among ~500 individuals with detailed birth measurements and current metabolic profile, we found that an insertion/deletion polymorphism of the angiotensin converting enzyme (ACE) gene was associated with the duration of gestation, and weight and length at birth. Interestingly, the ACE insertion allele was also associated with higher indices of insulin secretion (p=0.0004) in adult life, but only among individuals who were born small (those among the lowest third of birth weight). Likewise, low birth weight was associated with higher indices of insulin secretion (p=0.003), but only among carriers of the ACE insertion allele. The association with birth measurements was also found with a common haplotype of the glucocorticoid receptor (GR) gene. Furthermore, the association between short length at birth and adult impaired glucose tolerance was confined to carriers of this haplotype (p=0.007). These associations exemplify the interaction between environmental factors and genotype, which, possibly due to altered gene expression, predisposes to complex metabolic diseases. Indeed, we showed that the common GR gene haplotype associated with reduced mRNA expression in thymus of three individuals (p=0.0002).
  • Skrobuk, Paulina (Helsingin yliopisto, 2012)
    Insulin resistance is characterized by a blunted biological response to insulin, and it is the hallmark of obesity and type 2 diabetes. Since skeletal muscle is among the major metabolic organs in the body, a better understanding of the molecular pathways regulating metabolic responses in muscle will help to develop novel strategies to improve glucose and lipid metabolism. Here, two different models of human skeletal muscle, intact skeletal muscle strips and primary human myotubes, were used to study acute regulation of metabolism. Globular adiponectin modestly increased glucose transport in type 2 diabetic, but not in nondiabetic muscle strips, without any effects on proximal insulin signaling. Insulin sensitizing drug rosiglitazone did not affect glucose transport or proximal insulin signaling events in intact human muscle strips, but it transiently activated AMPK-signaling pathway. Polyphenolic compound resveratrol inhibited fatty acid oxidation, glucose metabolism and insulin signaling in human myotubes. Moreover, resveratrol increased ER stress and directly inhibited AMPK activity. Palmitate impaired glucose metabolism and increased ER stress in primary human myotubes and also in intact skeletal muscle strips from overweight, but not lean men. Thus, the role of ER stress in the pathogenesis of fatty acid induced insulin resistance and T2D warrants further studies.
  • Levonen, Anna-Liisa (Helsingin yliopisto, 2000)
  • Suhonen , Lauri (Helsingin yliopisto, 2009)
    Background: Both maternal and fetal complications are increased in diabetic pregnancies. Although hypertensive complications are increased in pregnant women with pregestational diabetes, reports on hypertensive complications in women with gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM) have been contradictory. Congenital malformations and macrosomia are the main fetal complications in Type 1 diabetic pregnancies, whereas fetal macrosomia and birth trauma but not congenital malformations are increased in GDM pregnancies. Aims: To study the frequency of hypertensive disorders in gestational diabetes mellitus. To evaluate the risk of macrosomia and brachial plexus injury (Erb’s palsy) and the ability of the 2-hour glucose tolerance test (OGTT) combined with the 24-hour glucose profile to distinguish between low and high risks of fetal macrosomia among women with GDM. To evaluate the relationship between glycemic control and the risk of fetal malformations in pregnancies complicated by Type 1 diabetes mellitus. To assess the effect of glycemic control on the occurrence of preeclampsia and pregnancy-induced hypertension in Type 1 diabetic pregnancies. Subjects: A total of 986 women with GDM and 203 women with borderline glucose intolerance (one abnormal value in the OGTT) with a singleton pregancy, 488 pregnant women with Type 1 diabetes (691 pregnancies and 709 offspring), and 1154 pregnant non-diabetic women (1181 pregnancies and 1187 offspring) were investigated. Results: In a prospective study on 81 GDM patients the combined frequency of preeclampsia and PIH was higher than in 327 non-diabetic controls (19.8% vs 6.1%, p<0.001). On the other hand, in 203 women with only one abnormal value in the OGTT, the rate of hypertensive complications did not differ from that of the controls. Both GDM women and those with only one abnormal value in the OGTT had higher pre-pregnancy weights and BMIs than the controls. In a retrospective study involving 385 insulin-treated and 520 diet-treated GDM patients, and 805 non-diabetic control pregnant women, fetal macrosomia occurred more often in the insulin-treated GDM pregnancies (18.2%, p<0.001) than in the diet-treated GDM pregnancies (4.4%), or the control pregnancies (2.2%). The rate of Erb’s palsy in vaginally delivered infants was 2.7% in the insulin-treated group of women and 2.4% in the diet-treated women compared with 0.3% in the controls (p<0.001). The cesarean section rate was more than twice as high (42.3% vs 18.6%) in the insulin-treated GDM patients as in the controls. A major fetal malformation was observed in 30 (4.2%) of the 709 newborn infants in Type 1 diabetic pregnancies and in 10 (1.4%) of the 735 controls (RR 3.1, 95% CI 1.6–6.2). Even women whose levels of HbA1c (normal values less than 5.6%) were only slightly increased in early pregnancy (between 5.6 and 6.8%) had a relative risk of fetal malformation of 3.0 (95% CI 1.2–7.5). Only diabetic patients with a normal HbA1c level (<5.6%) in early pregnancy had the same low risk of fetal malformations as the controls. Preeclampsia was diagnosed in 12.8% and PIH in 11.4% of the 616 Type 1 diabetic women without diabetic nephropathy. The corresponding frequencies among the 854 control women were 2.7% (OR 5.2; 95% CI 3.3–8.4) for preeclampsia and 5.6% (OR 2.2, 95% CI 1.5–3.1) for PIH. Multiple logistic regression analysis indicated that glycemic control, nulliparity, diabetic retinopathy and duration of diabetes were statistically significant independent predictors of preeclampsia. The adjusted odds ratios for preeclampsia were 1.6 (95% CI 1.3–2.0) for each 1%-unit increment in the HbA1c value during the first trimester and 0.6 (95% CI 0.5–0.8) for each 1%-unit decrement during the first half of pregnancy. In contrast, changes in glycemic control during the second half of pregnancy did not alter the risk of preeclampsia. Conclusions: In type 1 diabetic pregnancies it is extremely important to achieve optimal glycemic control before pregnancy and maintain it throughout pregnancy in order to decrease the complication rates both in the mother and in her offspring. The rate of fetal macrosomia and birth trauma in GDM pregnancies, especially in the group of insulin-treated women, is still relatively high. New strategies for screening, diagnosing, and treatment of GDM must be developed in order to decrease fetal and neonatal complications.
  • Similä, Minna (Helsingin yliopisto, 2012)
    Type 2 diabetes prevalence is on the rise. The carbohydrates inducing a rapid postprandial elevation in blood glucose have been suggested to increase risk of type 2 diabetes. Glycemic index (GI) classifies foods based on their postprandial blood glucose response compared with the response of reference food (glucose solution or white bread). Glycemic load (GL) is a measure of both quantity and GI of carbohydrates. The aim was to investigate the associations between dietary GI, GL, and intake of high-, medium-, and low-GI carbohydrates and the risk of type 2 diabetes and to evaluate the applicability of GI to epidemiologic studies. In a postprandial study (n=11), variations in glycemic responses and GI values of foods were examined and the effects of methodologic choices on variation compared (capillary and venous sampling, white wheat bread and glucose solution as reference foods, and repeating the reference measurement). Both within-subject and between-subject variation was considerable. The variation was smaller when capillary samples were used and when the reference food was tested at least twice. The GI database was compiled for dietary GI and GL calculation for the Alpha-Tocopherol, Beta-Carotene Cancer Prevention (ATBC) Study participants. The GI values were obtained from the GI measurement laboratory of the National Institute for Health and Welfare and from publications meeting the methodologic criteria. The ATBC Study cohort comprised 25 943 male smokers, aged 50-69 years, among whom 1098 diabetes cases were identified from the national drug reimbursement register during a 12-year follow-up. Diet was assessed by a validated food frequency questionnaire. The relative risks (RRs) and confidence intervals (CIs) for diabetes were analyzed using Cox proportional hazard modeling, and multivariate nutrient density models were applied to examine the substitutions of macronutrients. Dietary GI and GL were not associated with diabetes risk: RR (and 95% CI) for the highest versus the lowest quintile in the multivariate model was 0.87 (0.71, 1.07) for GI and 0.88 (0.65, 1.17) for GL. Substitution of low-GI (GI≤55) carbohydrates for an isoenergetic amount of high-GI (GI≥70) carbohydrates or low-GI carbohydrates for medium-GI (56-69) carbohydrates was not associated with diabetes risk. Substitution of medium-GI carbohydrates for high-GI carbohydrates was inversely associated with diabetes risk (RR 0.75 (0.59, 0.96)). Total carbohydrate substitutions for total fat and protein were inversely associated with diabetes risk, the multivariate RRs for 2 E% substitution were 0.96 (0.94, 0.99) and 0.85 (0.80, 0.90), respectively. Carbohydrate substitution for saturated plus trans fatty acids, but not unsaturated fatty acids, was inversely associated with diabetes risk. Carbohydrate substitution for total, meat, or milk protein was associated inversely with diabetes risk, independently from GI. Within-subject and between-subject variations in measured food GI were considerable. In addition, the same total dietary GI and GL result from several different food combinations, thus reflecting different properties of the diet, not only the carbohydrate quality. These factors limit the possibilities of epidemiologic studies to observe reliable associations between glycemic effects of diet and disease risk. In this study population, GI was not associated with diabetes risk. A higher percentage of carbohydrate intake was associated with decreased diabetes risk; the risk was lowered when fat or protein was replaced with carbohydrates.
  • Hepojoki, Jussi (Helsingin yliopisto, 2011)
    Hantaviruses are one of the five genera of the vector-borne virus family Bunyaviridae. While other members of the family are transmitted via arthropods, hantaviruses are carried and transmitted by rodents and insectivores. Occasional transmission to humans occurs via inhalation of aerosolized rodent excreta. When transmitted to man hantaviruses cause hemorrhagic fever with renal syndrome (HFRS, in Eurasia, mortality ~10%) and hantavirus cardiopulmonary syndrome (HCPS, in the Americas, mortality ~40%). The single-stranded, negative-sense RNA genome of hantaviruses is in segments S, M and L that respectively encode for nucleocapsid (N), glycoproteins Gn and Gc, and RNA-dependent RNA-polymerase (RdRp or L protein). The genome segments, encapsidated by N protein to form ribonucleoprotein (RNP), are enclosed inside a lipid envelope decorated by spikes formed of Gn and Gc. The focus of this study was to understand the mechanisms and interactions through which the virion is formed and maintained. We observed that when extracted from virions both Gn and Gc favor homo- over hetero-oligomerization. The minimal glycoprotein complexes extracted from virion by detergent were observed, by using ultracentrifugation and gel filtration, to be tetrameric Gn and homodimeric Gc. These results led us to suggest a model where tetrameric Gn complexes are interconnected through homodimeric Gc units to form the grid-like surface architecture described for hantaviruses. This model was found to correlate with the three-dimensional (3D) reconstruction of virion surface created using cryo-electron tomography (cryo-ET). The 3D-density map showed the spike complex formed of Gn and Gc to be 10 nm high and to display a four-fold symmetry with dimensions of 15 nm times 15 nm. This unique square-shaped complex on a roughly round virion creates a hitch for the assembly, since a sphere cannot be broken into rectangles. Thus additional interactions are likely required for the virion assembly. In cryo-ET we observed that the RNP makes occasional contacts to the viral membrane, suggesting an interaction between the spike and RNP. We were able to demonstrate this interaction using various techniques, and showed that both Gn and Gc contribute to the interaction. This led us to suggest that in addition to the interactions between Gn and Gc, also the interaction between spike and RNP is required for assembly. We found galectin-3 binding protein (referred to as 90K) to co-purify with the virions and showed an interaction between 90K and the virion. Analysis of plasma samples taken from patients hospitalized for Puumala virus infection showed increased concentrations of 90K in the acute phase and the increased 90K level was found to correlate with several parameters that reflect the severity of acute HFRS. The results of these studies confirmed, but also challenged some of the dogmas on the structure and assembly of hantaviruses. We confirmed that Gn and RNP do interact, as long assumed. On the other hand we demonstrated that the glycoproteins Gn and Gc exist as homo-oligomers or appear in large hetero-oligomeric complexes, rather than form primarily heterodimers as was previously assumed. This work provided new insight into the structure and assembly of hantaviruses.
  • Kaivo-oja, Noora (Helsingin yliopisto, 2007)
    In the ovary, two new members of the large TGF-beta superfamily of growth factors were discovered in the 1990s. The oocyte was shown to express two closely related growth factors that were named growth differentiation factor 9 (GDF-9) and growth differentiation factor 9B (GDF-9B). Both of these proteins are required for normal ovarian follicle development although their individual significance varies between species. GDF-9 and GDF-9B mRNAs are expressed in the human oocytes from the primary follicle stage onwards. This thesis project was aimed to define the signalling mechanisms utilized by the oocyte secreted GDF-9. We used primary cultures of human granulosa luteal cells (hGL) as our cell model, and recombinant adenovirus-mediated gene transfer in manipulating the TGF-b family signalling cascade molecules in these cells. Overexpression of the constitutively active forms of the seven type I receptors, the activin receptor-like kinases 1-7 (ALK1-7), using recombinant adenoviruses caused a specific activation of either the Smad1 or Smad2 pathway proteins depending on the ALK used. Activation of both Smad1 and Smad2 proteins also stimulated the expression of dimeric inhibin B protein in hGL cells. Treatment with recombinant GDF-9 protein induced the specific activation of the Smad2 pathway and stimulated the expression of inhibin betaB subunit mRNA as well as inhibin B protein secretion in our cell model. Recombinant GDF-9 also activated the Smad3-responsive CAGA-luciferase reported construct, and the GDF-9 response in hGL cells was markedly potentiated upon the overexpression of Alk5 by adenoviral gene transduction. Alk5 overexpression also enhanced the GDF-9 induced inhibin B secretion by these cells. Similarly, in a mouse teratocarcinoma cell line P19, GDF-9 could activate the Smad2/3 pathway, and overexpression of ALK5 in COS7 cells rendered them responsive to GDF-9. Furthermore, transfection of rat granulosa cells with small interfering RNA for ALK5 or overexpression of the inhibitory Smad7 resulted in dose-dependent suppression of GDF-9 effects. In conclusion, this thesis shows that both Smad1 and Smad2 pathways are involved in controlling the regulation of inhibin B secretion. Therefore, in addition to endocrine control of inhibin production by the pituitary gonadotropins, also local paracrine factors within in the ovary, like the oocyte-derived growth factors, may contribute to controlling inhibin secretion. This thesis shows as well that like other TGF-beta family ligands, also GDF-9 signalling is mediated by the canonical type I and type II receptors with serine/threonine kinase activity, and the intracellular transcription factors, the Smads. Although GDF-9 binds to the BMP type II receptor, its downstream actions are specifically mediated by the type I receptor, ALK5, and the Smad2 and Smad3 proteins.
  • Alanko, Tuomo (Helsingin yliopisto, 2000)
  • Tolonen, Jukka (Helsingin yliopisto, 2007)
    The intervertebral disc is composed of concentrically arranged components: annulus fibrosus, the transition zone, and central nucleus pulposus. The major disc cell type differs in various parts of the intervertebral disc. In annulus fibrosus a spindle shaped fibroblast-like cell mainly dominates, whereas in central nucleus pulposus the more rounded chondrocyte-like disc cell is the major cell type. At birth the intervertebral disc is well vascularized, but during childhood and adolescence blood vessels become smaller and less numerous. The adult intervertebral disc is avascular and is nourished via the cartilage endplates. On the other hand, degenerated and prolapsed intervertebral discs are again vascularized, and show many changes compared to normal discs, including: nerve ingrowth, change in collagen turnover, and change in water content. Furthermore, the prolapsed intervertebral disc tissue has a tendency to decrease in size over time. Growth factors are polypeptides which regulate cell growth, extracellular matrix protease activity, and vascularization. Oncoproteins c-Fos and c-Jun heterodimerize, forming the AP-1 transcription factor which is expressed in activated cells. In this thesis the differences of growth factor expression in normal intervertebral disc, the degenerated intervertebral disc and herniated intervertebral disc were analyzed. Growth factors of particular interest were basic fibroblast growth factor (bFGF or FGF-2), platelet-derived growth factor (PDGF), vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF), and transforming growth factor beta (TGFβ). Cell activation was visualized by the expression of the AP-1 transcription promoters c-Fos and c-Jun. The expression was shown with either mono- or polyclonal antibodies by indirect avidin-biotin-peroxidase immunohistochemical staining method. The normal control material was collected from a tissue bank of five organ donors. The degenerated disc material was from twelve patients operated on for painful degenerative disc disease, and herniated disc tissue material was obtained from 115 patients operated on for sciatica. Normal control discs showed only TGFβ immunopositivity. All other factors studied were immunonegative in the control material. Prolapsed disc material was immunopositive for all factors studied, and this positivity was located either in the disc cells or in blood vessels. Furthermore, neovascularization was noted. Disc cell immunoreaction was shown in chondrocyte-like disc cells or in fibroblast-like disc cells, the former being expressed especially in conglomerates (clusters of disc cells). TGFβ receptor induction was prominent in prolapsed intervertebral disc tissue. In degenerated disc material, the expression of growth factors was analyzed in greater detail in various parts of the disc: nucleus pulposus, anterior annulus fibrosus and posterior annulus fibrosus. PDGF did not show any immunoreactivity, whereas all other studied growth factors were localized either in chondrocyte-like disc cells, often forming clusters, in fibroblast-like disc cells, or in small capillaries. Many of the studied degenerated discs showed tears in the posterior region of annulus fibrosus, but expression of immunopositive growth factors was detected throughout the entire disc. Furthermore, there was a difference in immunopositive cell types for different growth factors. The main conclusion of the thesis, supported by all substudies, is the occurrence of growth factors in disc cells. They may be actively participating in a network regulating disc cell growth, proliferation, extracellular matrix turnover, and neovascularization. Chondrocyte-like disc cells, in particular, expressed growth factors and oncoproteins, highlighting the importance of this cell type in the basic pathophysiologic events involved in disc degeneration and disc rearrangement. The thesis proposes a hypothesis for cellular remodelling in intervertebral disc tissue. In summary, the model presents an activation pattern of different growth factors at different intervertebral disc stages, mechanisms leading to neovascularization of the intervertebral disc in pathological conditions, and alteration of disc cell shape, especially in annulus fibrosus. Chondrocyte-like disc cells become more numerous, and these cells are capable of forming clusters, which appear to be regionally active within the disc. The alteration of the phenotype of disc cells expressing growth factors from fibroblast-like disc cells to chondrocyte-like cells in annulus fibrosus, and the numerous expression of growth factor expressing disc cells in nucleus pulposus, may be a key element both during pathological degeneration of the intervertebral disc, and during the healing process after trauma.
  • Wang, Hao (Helsingin yliopisto, 2011)
    Hantaviruses have a tri-segmented negative-stranded RNA genome. The S segment encodes the nucleocapsid protein (N), M segment two glycoproteins, Gn and Gc, and the L segment the RNA polymerase. Gn and Gc are co-translationally cleaved from a precursor and targeted to the cis-Golgi compartment. The Gn glycoprotein consists of an external domain, a transmembrane domain and a C-terminal cytoplasmic domain. In addition, the S segment of some hantaviruses, including Tula and Puumala virus, have an open reading frame (ORF) encoding a nonstructural potein NSs that can function as a weak interferon antagonist. The mechanisms of hantavirus-induced pathogenesis are not fully understood but it is known that both hemorrhagic fever with renal syndrome (HFRS) and hantavirus (cardio) pulmonary syndrome (HCPS) share various features such as increased capillary permeability, thrombocytopenia and upregulation of TNF-. Several hantaviruses have been reported to induce programmed cell death (apoptosis), such as TULV-infected Vero E6 cells which is known to be defective in interferon signaling. Recently reports describing properties of the hantavirus Gn cytoplasmic tail (Gn-CT) have appeared. The Gn-CT of hantaviruses contains animmunoreceptor tyrosine-based activation motif (ITAM) which directs receptor signaling in immune and endothelial cells; and contain highly conserved classical zinc finger domains which may have a role in the interaction with N protein. More functions of Gn protein have been discovered, but much still remains unknown. Our aim was to study the functions of Gn protein from several aspects: synthesis, degradation and interaction with N protein. Gn protein was reported to inhibit interferon induction and amplication. For this reason, we also carried out projects studying the mechanisms of IFN induction and evasion by hantavirus. We first showed degradation and aggresome formation of the Gn-CT of the apathogenic TULV. It was reported earlier that the degradation of Gn-CT is related to the pathogenicity of hantavirus. We found that the Gn-CT of the apathogenic hantaviruses (TULV, Prospect Hill virus) was degraded through the ubiquitin-proteasome pathway, and TULV Gn-CT formed aggresomes upon treatment with proteasomal inhibitor. Thus the results suggest that degradation and aggregation of the Gn-CT may be a general property of most hantaviruses, unrelated to pathogenicity. Second, we investigated the interaction of TULV N protein and the TULV Gn-CT. The Gn protein is located on the Golgi membrane and its interaction with N protein has been thought to determine the cargo of the hantaviral ribonucleoprotein which is an important step in virus assembly, but direct evidence has not been reported. We found that TULV Gn-CT fused with GST tag expressed in bacteria can pull-down the N protein expressed in mammalian cells; a mutagenesis assay was carried out, in which we found that the zinc finger motif in Gn-CT and RNA-binding motif in N protein are indispensable for the interaction. For the study of mechanisms of IFN induction and evasion by Old World hantavirus, we found that Old World hantaviruses do not produce detectable amounts of dsRNA in infected cells and the 5 -termini of their genomic RNAs are monophosphorylated. DsRNA and tri-phosphorylated RNA are considered to be critical activators of innate immnity response by interacting with PRRs (pattern recognition receptors). We examined systematically the 5´-termini of hantavirus genomic RNAs and the dsRNA production by different species of hantaviruses. We found that no detectable dsRNA was produced in cells infected by the two groups of the old world hantaviruses: Seoul, Dobrava, Saaremaa, Puumala and Tula. We also found that the genomic RNAs of these Old World hantaviruses carry 5´-monophosphate and are unable to trigger interferon induction. The antiviral response is mainly mediated by alpha/beta interferon. Recently the glycoproteins of the pathogenic hantaviruses Sin Nombre and New York-1 viruses were reported to regulate cellular interferon. We found that Gn-CT can inhibit the induction of IFN activation through Toll-like receptor (TLR) and retinoic acid-inducible gene I-like RNA helicases (RLH) pathway and that the inhibition target lies at the level of TANK-binding kinase 1 (TBK-1)/ IKK epislon complex and myeloid differentiation primary response gene (88) (MyD88) / interferon regulatory factor 7 (IRF-7) complex.