Publications

2022
Kui Cui, Xinlei Gao, Beibei Wang, Hao Wu, Yunzhou Dong, Yuling Xiao, Xingya Jiang, Marina V. Malovichko, Kathryn S. Li, Siu-Lung Chan, Qianman Peng, Yao Wei Lu, Bo Zhu, Scott Wong, Douglas B. Cowan, Macrae F. Linton, Sanjay Srivastava, Jinjun Shi, Kaifu Chen, and Hong Chen. 8/31/2022. “Targeting Epsins by nanotherapy regulates lipid metabolism and promotes ABCG1-mediated cholesterol efflux to fortify atheroma regression.” bioRxiv, 2022, 08.09, Pp. 503334. Publisher's VersionAbstract
Resolving atheromas and hindering their transition into vulnerable atherosclerotic plaques is imperative to prevent deadly episodes such as heart attacks and strokes. Excess cholesterol accumulation in lesional macrophages switches on a complex inflammatory response in atherosclerosis. Despite the development of new cholesterol-lowering therapies, including of the recently approved PCSK9 small interfering RNA (siRNA) antagonists, patients still face a tremendous risk of developing major acute cardiovascular events resulting from chronic inflammation in the plaque. We previously showed that Epsins, a family of endocytic adaptors, fuel inflammation in atherosclerosis; however, the underlying mechanism and the therapeutic potential of targeting Epsins remains largely unknown. Here, we report that Epsins regulate lipid metabolism and transport in atherosclerotic macrophages, and that inhibiting Epsins by nanotherapy halts inflammation and accelerates atheroma resolution. Harnessing lesional macrophage-specific nanoparticle (NP) delivery of Epsin siRNAs, we show that silencing of macrophage Epsins markedly diminishes atherosclerotic plaque size and promotes plaque regression. Mechanistically, we demonstrate that Epsins bind to CD36 to facilitate lipid uptake by enhancing CD36 endocytosis and recycling. Conversely, Epsins promote ABCG1 degradation via lysosomes and hamper ABCG1-mediated cholesterol efflux and reverse cholesterol transport. In a myeloid-specific Epsin double knockout mouse model (LysM-DKO) with a genetic reduction in ABCG1 (LysM-DKO-ABCG1fl/+), the enhanced cholesterol efflux and reverse transport due to Epsin deficiency was suppressed. Our findings suggest that targeting Epsins in lesional macrophages may offer therapeutic benefits in treating advanced atherosclerosis.
Yunzhou Dong, Beibei Wang, Mulong Du, Bo Zhu, Kui Cui, Kelvin Chan, Douglas B. Cowan, Sudarshan Bhattacharjee, Scott Wong, Joyce Bischoff, MacRea F. Linton, and Hong Chen. 8/31/2022. “Targeting Epsins to Inhibit FGF Signaling while Potentiating TGF-β Signaling Constrains Endothelial-to-Mesenchymal-Transition in Atherosclerosis.” bioRxiv, 2022, 08.09, Pp. 503324. Publisher's Version
Qianman Peng, Dan Shan, Kui Cui, Kathryn Li, Bo Zhu, Hao Wu, Beibei Wang, Scott Wang, Vikram Norton, Yunzhou Dong, Yao Wei Lu, Changcheng Zhou, and Hong Chen. 6/3/2022. “The Role of Endothelial-to-Mesenchymal Transition in Cardiovascular Disease.” Cells, 11, 11, Pp. 1834. Publisher's Version
Hao Wu, Vikram Norton, Kui Cui, Bo Zhu, Sudarshan Bhattacharjee, Yao Wei Lu, Beibei Wang, Dan Shan, Scott Wong, Yunzhou Dong, Siu-Lung Chan, Douglas Cowan, Jian Xu, Diane R Bielenberg, Changcheng Zhou, and Hong Chen. 2022. “Diabetes and Its Cardiovascular Complications: Comprehensive Network and Systematic Analyses.” Front Cardiovasc Med, 9, Pp. 841928.Abstract
Diabetes mellitus is a worldwide health problem that usually comes with severe complications. There is no cure for diabetes yet and the threat of these complications is what keeps researchers investigating mechanisms and treatments for diabetes mellitus. Due to advancements in genomics, epigenomics, proteomics, and single-cell multiomics research, considerable progress has been made toward understanding the mechanisms of diabetes mellitus. In addition, investigation of the association between diabetes and other physiological systems revealed potentially novel pathways and targets involved in the initiation and progress of diabetes. This review focuses on current advancements in studying the mechanisms of diabetes by using genomic, epigenomic, proteomic, and single-cell multiomic analysis methods. It will also focus on recent findings pertaining to the relationship between diabetes and other biological processes, and new findings on the contribution of diabetes to several pathological conditions.
Xiaozhe Xiong, Songhai Tian, Pan Yang, Francois Lebreton, Huan Bao, Kuanwei Sheng, Linxiang Yin, Pengsheng Chen, Jie Zhang, Wanshu Qi, Jianbin Ruan, Hao Wu, Hong Chen, David T Breault, Hao Wu, Ashlee M Earl, Michael S Gilmore, Jonathan Abraham, and Min Dong. 2022. “Emerging enterococcus pore-forming toxins with MHC/HLA-I as receptors.” Cell, 185, 7, Pp. 1157-1171.e22. Publisher's Version
Jingwei Liu, Rebecca Hernandez, Xiuchun Li, Zhaojie Meng, Hong Chen, and Changcheng Zhou. 2022. “Pregnane X Receptor Mediates Atherosclerosis Induced by Dicyclohexyl Phthalate in LDL Receptor-Deficient Mice.” Cells, 11, 7, Pp. 1125. Publisher's Version
Kyung In Baek, Shyr-Shea Chang, Chih-Chiang Chang, Mehrdad Roustaei, Yichen Ding, Yixuan Wang, Justin Chen, Ryan O'Donnell, Hong Chen, Julianne W Ashby, Xiaolei Xu, Julia J Mack, Susana Cavallero, Marcus Roper, and Tzung K Hsiai. 2022. “Vascular Injury in the Zebrafish Tail Modulates Blood Flow and Peak Wall Shear Stress to Restore Embryonic Circular Network.” Front Cardiovasc Med, 9, Pp. 841101. Publisher's Version
2021
Bo Zhu, Siu-Lung Chan, Jack Li, Kathryn Li, Hao Wu, Kui Cui, and Hong Chen. 9/7/2021. “Non-alcoholic Steatohepatitis Pathogenesis, Diagnosis, and Treatment.” Frontiers in Cardiovascular Medicine, 8, Pp. 742382. Publisher's Version
Yunzhou Dong, Beibei Wang, Kui Cui, Xiaofeng Cai, Sudarshan Bhattacharjee, Scott Wong, Douglas B Cowan, and Hong Chen. 7/29/2021. “Epsins Negatively Regulate Aortic Endothelial Cell Function by Augmenting Inflammatory Signaling.” Cells, 10, 8, Pp. 1918. Publisher's Version
Vincenza Cifarelli, Hong Chen, and Joshua P Scallan. 2021. “Editorial: The Role of the Lymphatic System in Lipid and Energy Metabolism, and Immune Homeostasis During Obesity and Diabetes.” Front Physiol, 12, Pp. 652461.
Kai Song, Xiaofeng Cai, Yunzhou Dong, Hao Wu, Yong Wei, Uma T Shankavaram, Kui Cui, Yang Lee, Bo Zhu, Sudarshan Bhattacharjee, Beibei Wang, Kun Zhang, Aiyun Wen, Scott Wong, Lili Yu, Lijun Xia, Alana L Welm, Diane R Bielenberg, Kevin A Camphausen, Yibin Kang, and Hong Chen. 2021. “Epsins 1 and 2 promote NEMO linear ubiquitination via LUBAC to drive breast cancer development.” J Clin Invest, 131, 1.Abstract
Estrogen receptor-negative (ER-negative) breast cancer is thought to be more malignant and devastating than ER-positive breast cancer. ER-negative breast cancer exhibits elevated NF-κB activity, but how this abnormally high NF-κB activity is maintained is poorly understood. The importance of linear ubiquitination, which is generated by the linear ubiquitin chain assembly complex (LUBAC), is increasingly appreciated in NF-κB signaling, which regulates cell activation and death. Here, we showed that epsin proteins, a family of ubiquitin-binding endocytic adaptors, interacted with LUBAC via its ubiquitin-interacting motif and bound LUBAC's bona fide substrate NEMO via its N-terminal homolog (ENTH) domain. Furthermore, epsins promoted NF-κB essential modulator (NEMO) linear ubiquitination and served as scaffolds for recruiting other components of the IκB kinase (IKK) complex, resulting in the heightened IKK activation and sustained NF-κB signaling essential for the development of ER-negative breast cancer. Heightened epsin levels in ER-negative human breast cancer are associated with poor relapse-free survival. We showed that transgenic and pharmacological approaches eliminating epsins potently impeded breast cancer development in both spontaneous and patient-derived xenograft breast cancer mouse models. Our findings established the pivotal role epsins played in promoting breast cancer. Thus, targeting epsins may represent a strategy to restrain NF-κB signaling and provide an important perspective into ER-negative breast cancer treatment.
Sudarshan Bhattacharjee, Yang Lee, Bo Zhu, Hao Wu, Yabing Chen, and Hong Chen. 2021. “Epsins in vascular development, function and disease.” Cell Mol Life Sci, 78, 3, Pp. 833-842.Abstract
Epsins are a family of adaptor proteins involved in clathrin-dependent endocytosis. In the vasculature, epsins 1 and 2 are functionally redundant members of this family that are expressed in the endothelial cells of blood vessels and the lymphatic system throughout development and adulthood. These proteins contain a number of peptide motifs that allow them to interact with lipid moieties and a variety of proteins. These interactions facilitate the regulation of a wide range of cell signaling pathways. In this review, we focus on the involvement of epsins 1 and 2 in controlling vascular endothelial growth factor receptor signaling in angiogenesis and lymphangiogenesis. We also discuss the therapeutic implications of understanding the molecular mechanisms of epsin-mediated regulation in diseases such as atherosclerosis and diabetes.
Yunzhou Dong, Beibei Wang, Kui Cui, Xiaofeng Cai, Sudarshan Bhattacharjee, Scott Wong, Douglas B Cowan, and Hong Chen. 2021. “Epsins Negatively Regulate Aortic Endothelial Cell Function by Augmenting Inflammatory Signaling.” Cells, 10, 8.Abstract
Background: The endothelial epsin 1 and 2 endocytic adaptor proteins play an important role in atherosclerosis by regulating the degradation of the calcium release channel inositol 1,4,5-trisphosphate receptor type 1 (IP3R1). In this study, we sought to identify additional targets responsible for epsin-mediated atherosclerotic endothelial cell activation and inflammation in vitro and in vivo. Methods: Atherosclerotic ApoE-/- mice and ApoE-/- mice with an endothelial cell-specific deletion of epsin 1 on a global epsin 2 knock-out background (EC-iDKO/ApoE-/-), and aortic endothelial cells isolated from these mice, were used to examine inflammatory signaling in the endothelium. Results: Inflammatory signaling was significantly abrogated by both acute (tumor necrosis factor-α (TNFα) or lipopolysaccharide (LPS)) and chronic (oxidized low-density lipoprotein (oxLDL)) stimuli in EC-iDKO/ApoE-/- mice and murine aortic endothelial cells (MAECs) isolated from epsin-deficient animals when compared to ApoE-/- controls. Mechanistically, the epsin ubiquitin interacting motif (UIM) bound to Toll-like receptors (TLR) 2 and 4 to potentiate inflammatory signaling and deletion of the epsin UIM mitigated this interaction. Conclusions: The epsin endocytic adaptor proteins potentiate endothelial cell activation in acute and chronic models of atherogenesis. These studies further implicate epsins as therapeutic targets for the treatment of inflammation of the endothelium associated with atherosclerosis.
Bo Zhu, Siu-Lung Chan, Jack Li, Kathryn Li, Hao Wu, Kui Cui, and Hong Chen. 2021. “Non-alcoholic Steatohepatitis Pathogenesis, Diagnosis, and Treatment.” Front Cardiovasc Med, 8, Pp. 742382.Abstract
There has been a rise in the prevalence of non-alcohol fatty liver disease (NAFLD) due to the popularity of western diets and sedentary lifestyles. One quarter of NAFLD patients is diagnosed with non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH), with histological evidence not only of fat accumulation in hepatocytes but also of liver cell injury and death due to long-term inflammation. Severe NASH patients have increased risks of cirrhosis and liver cancer. In this review, we discuss the pathogenesis and current methods of diagnosis for NASH, and current status of drug development for this life-threatening liver disease.
2020
Kui Cui, Yunzhou Dong, Beibei Wang, Douglas B Cowan, Siu-Lung Chan, John Shyy, and Hong Chen. 2020. “Endocytic Adaptors in Cardiovascular Disease.” Front Cell Dev Biol, 8, Pp. 624159.Abstract
Endocytosis is the process of actively transporting materials into a cell by membrane engulfment. Traditionally, endocytosis was divided into three forms: phagocytosis (cell eating), pinocytosis (cell drinking), and the more selective receptor-mediated endocytosis (clathrin-mediated endocytosis); however, other important endocytic pathways (e.g., caveolin-dependent endocytosis) contribute to the uptake of extracellular substances. In each, the plasma membrane changes shape to allow the ingestion and internalization of materials, resulting in the formation of an intracellular vesicle. While receptor-mediated endocytosis remains the best understood pathway, mammalian cells utilize each form of endocytosis to respond to their environment. Receptor-mediated endocytosis permits the internalization of cell surface receptors and their ligands through a complex membrane invagination process that is facilitated by clathrin and adaptor proteins. Internalized vesicles containing these receptor-ligand cargoes fuse with early endosomes, which can then be recycled back to the plasma membrane, delivered to other cellular compartments, or destined for degradation by fusing with lysosomes. These intracellular fates are largely determined by the interaction of specific cargoes with adaptor proteins, such as the epsins, disabled-homolog 2 (Dab2), the stonin proteins, epidermal growth factor receptor substrate 15, and adaptor protein 2 (AP-2). In this review, we focus on the role of epsins and Dab2 in controlling these sorting processes in the context of cardiovascular disease. In particular, we will focus on the function of epsins and Dab2 in inflammation, cholesterol metabolism, and their fundamental contribution to atherogenicity.
Yunzhou Dong, Yang Lee, Kui Cui, Ming He, Beibei Wang, Sudarshan Bhattacharjee, Bo Zhu, Tadayuki Yago, Kun Zhang, Lin Deng, Kunfu Ouyang, Aiyun Wen, Douglas B Cowan, Kai Song, Lili Yu, Megan L Brophy, Xiaolei Liu, Jill Wylie-Sears, Hao Wu, Scott Wong, Guanglin Cui, Yusuke Kawashima, Hiroyuki Matsumoto, Yoshio Kodera, Richard JH Wojcikiewicz, Sanjay Srivastava, Joyce Bischoff, Da-Zhi Wang, Klaus Ley, and Hong Chen. 2020. “Epsin-mediated degradation of IP3R1 fuels atherosclerosis.” Nat Commun, 11, 1, Pp. 3984.Abstract
The epsin family of endocytic adapter proteins are widely expressed, and interact with both proteins and lipids to regulate a variety of cell functions. However, the role of epsins in atherosclerosis is poorly understood. Here, we show that deletion of endothelial epsin proteins reduces inflammation and attenuates atherosclerosis using both cell culture and mouse models of this disease. In atherogenic cholesterol-treated murine aortic endothelial cells, epsins interact with the ubiquitinated endoplasmic reticulum protein inositol 1,4,5-trisphosphate receptor type 1 (IP3R1), which triggers proteasomal degradation of this calcium release channel. Epsins potentiate its degradation via this interaction. Genetic reduction of endothelial IP3R1 accelerates atherosclerosis, whereas deletion of endothelial epsins stabilizes IP3R1 and mitigates inflammation. Reduction of IP3R1 in epsin-deficient mice restores atherosclerotic progression. Taken together, epsin-mediated degradation of IP3R1 represents a previously undiscovered biological role for epsin proteins and may provide new therapeutic targets for the treatment of atherosclerosis and other diseases.
Songhai Tian, Yang Liu, Hao Wu, Hao Liu, Ji Zeng, Mei Yuk Choi, Hong Chen, Ralf Gerhard, and Min Dong. 2020. “Genome-Wide CRISPR Screen Identifies Semaphorin 6A and 6B as Receptors for Paeniclostridium sordellii Toxin TcsL.” Cell Host Microbe, 27, 5, Pp. 782-792.e7.Abstract
The exotoxin TcsL is a major virulence factor in Paeniclostridium (Clostridium) sordellii and responsible for the high lethality rate associated with P. sordellii infection. Here, we present a genome-wide CRISPR-Cas9-mediated screen using a human lung carcinoma cell line and identify semaphorin (SEMA) 6A and 6B as receptors for TcsL. Disrupting SEMA6A/6B expression in several distinct human cell lines and primary human endothelial cells results in reduced TcsL sensitivity, while SEMA6A/6B over-expression increases their sensitivity. TcsL recognizes the extracellular domain (ECD) of SEMA6A/6B via a region homologous to the receptor-binding site in Clostridioides difficile toxin B (TcdB), which binds the human receptor Frizzled. Exchanging the receptor-binding interfaces between TcsL and TcdB switches their receptor-binding specificity. Finally, administration of SEMA6A-ECD proteins protects human cells from TcsL toxicity and reduces TcsL-induced damage to lung tissues and the lethality rate in mice. These findings establish SEMA6A and 6B as pathophysiologically relevant receptors for TcsL.
Ratnakar Potla, Mariko Hirano-Kobayashi, Hao Wu, Hong Chen, Akiko Mammoto, Benjamin D Matthews, and Donald E Ingber. 2020. “Molecular mapping of transmembrane mechanotransduction through the β1 integrin-CD98hc-TRPV4 axis.” J Cell Sci, 133, 20.Abstract
One of the most rapid (less than 4 ms) transmembrane cellular mechanotransduction events involves activation of transient receptor potential vanilloid 4 (TRPV4) ion channels by mechanical forces transmitted across cell surface β1 integrin receptors on endothelial cells, and the transmembrane solute carrier family 3 member 2 (herein denoted CD98hc, also known as SLC3A2) protein has been implicated in this response. Here, we show that β1 integrin, CD98hc and TRPV4 all tightly associate and colocalize in focal adhesions where mechanochemical conversion takes place. CD98hc knockdown inhibits TRPV4-mediated calcium influx induced by mechanical forces, but not by chemical activators, thus confirming the mechanospecificity of this signaling response. Molecular analysis reveals that forces applied to β1 integrin must be transmitted from its cytoplasmic C terminus via the CD98hc cytoplasmic tail to the ankyrin repeat domain of TRPV4 in order to produce ultrarapid, force-induced channel activation within the focal adhesion.
Avner Adini, Hao Wu, Duy T Dao, Victoria H Ko, Lumeng J Yu, Amy Pan, Mark Puder, Selome Z Mitiku, Ratnakar Potla, Hong Chen, James M Rice, and Benjamin D Matthews. 2020. “PR1P Stabilizes VEGF and Upregulates Its Signaling to Reduce Elastase-induced Murine Emphysema.” Am J Respir Cell Mol Biol, 63, 4, Pp. 452-463.Abstract
Emphysema is a progressive and fatal lung disease with no cure that is characterized by thinning, enlargement, and destruction of alveoli, leading to impaired gas exchange. Disease progression is due in part to dysregulation of VEGF (vascular endothelial growth factor) signaling in the lungs and increased lung-cell apoptosis. Here we asked whether PR1P (Prominin-1-derived peptide), a novel short peptide we designed that increases VEGF binding to endothelial cells, could be used to improve outcome in in vitro and in vivo models of emphysema. We used computer simulation and in vitro and in vivo studies to show that PR1P upregulated endogenous VEGF receptor-2 signaling by binding VEGF and preventing its proteolytic degradation. In so doing, PR1P mitigated toxin-induced lung-cell apoptosis, including from cigarette-smoke extract in vitro and from LPS in vivo in mice. Remarkably, inhaled PR1P led to significantly increased VEGF concentrations in murine lungs within 30 minutes that remained greater than twofold above that of control animals 24 hours later. Finally, inhaled PR1P reduced acute lung injury in 4- and 21-day elastase-induced murine emphysema models. Taken together, these results highlight the potential of PR1P as a novel therapeutic agent for the treatment of emphysema or other lung diseases characterized by VEGF signaling dysregulation.
Xin Geng, Keisuke Yanagida, Racheal G Akwii, Dongwon Choi, Lijuan Chen, YenChun Ho, Boksik Cha, Md Riaj Mahamud, Karen Berman de Ruiz, Hirotake Ichise, Hong Chen, Joshua D Wythe, Constantinos M Mikelis, Timothy Hla, and Sathish R Srinivasan. 2020. “S1PR1 regulates the quiescence of lymphatic vessels by inhibiting laminar shear stress-dependent VEGF-C signaling.” JCI Insight, 5, 14.Abstract
During the growth of lymphatic vessels (lymphangiogenesis), lymphatic endothelial cells (LECs) at the growing front sprout by forming filopodia. Those tip cells are not exposed to circulating lymph, as they are not lumenized. In contrast, LECs that trail the growing front are exposed to shear stress, become quiescent, and remodel into stable vessels. The mechanisms that coordinate the opposed activities of lymphatic sprouting and maturation remain poorly understood. Here, we show that the canonical tip cell marker Delta-like 4 (DLL4) promotes sprouting lymphangiogenesis by enhancing VEGF-C/VEGF receptor 3 (VEGFR3) signaling. However, in lumenized lymphatic vessels, laminar shear stress (LSS) inhibits the expression of DLL4, as well as additional tip cell markers. Paradoxically, LSS also upregulates VEGF-C/VEGFR3 signaling in LECs, but sphingosine 1-phosphate receptor 1 (S1PR1) activity antagonizes LSS-mediated VEGF-C signaling to promote lymphatic vascular quiescence. Correspondingly, S1pr1 loss in LECs induced lymphatic vascular hypersprouting and hyperbranching, which could be rescued by reducing Vegfr3 gene dosage in vivo. In addition, S1PR1 regulates lymphatic vessel maturation by inhibiting RhoA activity to promote membrane localization of the tight junction molecule claudin-5. Our findings suggest a potentially new paradigm in which LSS induces quiescence and promotes the survival of LECs by downregulating DLL4 and enhancing VEGF-C signaling, respectively. S1PR1 dampens LSS/VEGF-C signaling, thereby preventing sprouting from quiescent lymphatic vessels. These results also highlight the distinct roles that S1PR1 and DLL4 play in LECs when compared with their known roles in the blood vasculature.

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