Professional Education

  • Doctor of Philosophy, University Of Otago (2010)

Stanford Advisors


Journal Articles

  • Whole-Exome Sequencing Reveals TopBP1 as a Novel Gene in Idiopathic Pulmonary Arterial Hypertension AMERICAN JOURNAL OF RESPIRATORY AND CRITICAL CARE MEDICINE Perez, V. A., Yuan, K., Lyuksyutova, M. A., Dewey, F., Orcholski, M. E., Shuffle, E. M., Mathur, M., Yancy, L., Rojas, V., Li, C. G., Cao, A., Alastalo, T., Khazeni, N., Cimprich, K. A., Butte, A. J., Ashley, E., Zamanian, R. T. 2014; 189 (10): 1260-1272


    Rationale: Idiopathic pulmonary arterial hypertension (IPAH) is a life-threatening disorder characterized by progressive loss of pulmonary microvessels. While mutations in the bone morphogenetic receptor (BMPR) 2 are found in 80% of heritable and ±15% of IPAH patients, their low penetrance (±20%) suggests that other as-yet unidentified genetic modifiers are required for manifestation of the disease phenotype. Use of whole exome sequencing (WES) has recently led to the discovery of novel susceptibility genes in heritable PAH but whether WES can also accelerate gene discovery in IPAH remains unknown. Objectives: To determine whether WES can help identify novel gene modifiers in IPAH patients. Methods and Measurements: Exome capture and sequencing was performed on genomic DNA isolated from 12 unrelated IPAH patients lacking BMPR2 mutations. Observed genetic variants were prioritized according to their pathogenic potential using ANNOVAR. Main Results: A total of 10 genes were identified as high priority candidates. Our top hit was TopBP1, a gene involved in the response to DNA damage and replication stress. We found that TopBP1 expression was reduced in vascular lesions and pulmonary endothelial cells isolated from IPAH patients. While TopBP1 deficiency made endothelial cells susceptible to DNA damage and apoptosis in response to hydroxyurea, its restoration resulted in less DNA damage and improved cell survival. Conclusions: WES led to the discovery of TopBP1, a gene whose deficiency may increase susceptibly to small vessel loss in IPAH. We predict that use of WES will help identify gene modifiers that influence an individual's risk of developing IPAH.

    View details for DOI 10.1164/rccm.201310-17490C

    View details for Web of Science ID 000336017200018

  • FK506 activates BMPR2, rescues endothelial dysfunction, and reverses pulmonary hypertension. journal of clinical investigation Spiekerkoetter, E., Tian, X., Cai, J., Hopper, R. K., Sudheendra, D., Li, C. G., El-Bizri, N., Sawada, H., Haghighat, R., Chan, R., Haghighat, L., de Jesus Perez, V., Wang, L., Reddy, S., Zhao, M., Bernstein, D., Solow-Cordero, D. E., Beachy, P. A., Wandless, T. J., ten Dijke, P., Rabinovitch, M. 2013; 123 (8): 3600-3613


    Dysfunctional bone morphogenetic protein receptor-2 (BMPR2) signaling is implicated in the pathogenesis of pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH). We used a transcriptional high-throughput luciferase reporter assay to screen 3,756 FDA-approved drugs and bioactive compounds for induction of BMPR2 signaling. The best response was achieved with FK506 (tacrolimus), via a dual mechanism of action as a calcineurin inhibitor that also binds FK-binding protein-12 (FKBP12), a repressor of BMP signaling. FK506 released FKBP12 from type I receptors activin receptor-like kinase 1 (ALK1), ALK2, and ALK3 and activated downstream SMAD1/5 and MAPK signaling and ID1 gene regulation in a manner superior to the calcineurin inhibitor cyclosporine and the FKBP12 ligand rapamycin. In pulmonary artery endothelial cells (ECs) from patients with idiopathic PAH, low-dose FK506 reversed dysfunctional BMPR2 signaling. In mice with conditional Bmpr2 deletion in ECs, low-dose FK506 prevented exaggerated chronic hypoxic PAH associated with induction of EC targets of BMP signaling, such as apelin. Low-dose FK506 also reversed severe PAH in rats with medial hypertrophy following monocrotaline and in rats with neointima formation following VEGF receptor blockade and chronic hypoxia. Our studies indicate that low-dose FK506 could be useful in the treatment of PAH.

    View details for DOI 10.1172/JCI65592

    View details for PubMedID 23867624

  • Loss of adenomatous poliposis coli-a3 integrin interaction promotes endothelial apoptosis in mice and humans. Circulation research de Jesus Perez, V. A., Yuan, K., Orcholski, M. E., Sawada, H., Zhao, M., Li, C. G., Tojais, N. F., Nickel, N., Rajagopalan, V., Spiekerkoetter, E., Wang, L., Dutta, R., Bernstein, D., Rabinovitch, M. 2012; 111 (12): 1551-1564


    Pulmonary hypertension (PH) is characterized by progressive elevation in pulmonary pressure and loss of small pulmonary arteries. As bone morphogenetic proteins promote pulmonary angiogenesis by recruiting the Wnt/?-catenin pathway, we proposed that ?-catenin activation could reduce loss and induce regeneration of small pulmonary arteries (PAs) and attenuate PH.This study aims to establish the role of ?-catenin in protecting the pulmonary endothelium and stimulating compensatory angiogenesis after injury.To assess the impact of ?-catenin activation on chronic hypoxia-induced PH, we used the adenomatous polyposis coli (Apc(Min/+)) mouse, where reduced APC causes constitutive ?-catenin elevation. Surprisingly, hypoxic Apc(Min/+) mice displayed greater PH and small PA loss compared with control C57Bl6J littermates. PA endothelial cells isolated from Apc(Min/+) demonstrated reduced survival and angiogenic responses along with a profound reduction in adhesion to laminin. The mechanism involved failure of APC to interact with the cytoplasmic domain of the ?3 integrin, to stabilize focal adhesions and activate integrin-linked kinase-1 and phospho Akt. We found that PA endothelial cells from lungs of patients with idiopathic PH have reduced APC expression, decreased adhesion to laminin, and impaired vascular tube formation. These defects were corrected in the cultured cells by transfection of APC.We show that APC is integral to PA endothelial cells adhesion and survival and is reduced in PA endothelial cells from PH patient lungs. The data suggest that decreased APC may be a cause of increased risk or severity of PH in genetically susceptible individuals.

    View details for DOI 10.1161/CIRCRESAHA.112.267849

    View details for PubMedID 23011394

  • PAX Genes in Cancer; Friends or Foes? Frontiers in genetics Li, C. G., Eccles, M. R. 2012; 3: 6-?


    PAX genes have been shown to be critically required for the development of specific tissues and organs during embryogenesis. In addition, PAX genes are expressed in a handful of adult tissues where they are thought to play important roles, usually different from those in embryogenesis. A common theme in adult tissues is a requirement for PAX gene expression in adult stem cell maintenance or tissue regeneration. The connections between adult stem cell PAX gene expression and cancer are intriguing, and the literature is replete with examples of PAX gene expression in either situation. Here we systematically review the literature and present an overview of postnatal PAX gene expression in normal and cancerous tissue. We discuss the potential link between PAX gene expression in adult tissue and cancer. In addition, we discuss whether persistent PAX gene expression in cancer is favorable or unfavorable.

    View details for DOI 10.3389/fgene.2012.00006

    View details for PubMedID 22303411

  • PAX8 promotes tumor cell growth by transcriptionally regulating E2F1 and stabilizing RB protein ONCOGENE Li, C. G., NYMAN, J. E., Braithwaite, A. W., Eccles, M. R. 2011; 30 (48): 4824-4834


    The retinoblastoma protein (RB)-E2F1 pathway has a central role in regulating the cell cycle. Several PAX proteins (tissue-specific developmental regulators), including PAX8, interact with the RB protein, and thus regulate the cell cycle directly or indirectly. Here, we report that PAX8 expression is frequent in renal cell carcinoma, bladder, ovarian and thyroid cancer cell lines, and that silencing of PAX8 in cancer cell lines leads to a striking reduction in the expression of E2F1 and its target genes, as well as a proteasome-dependent destabilization of RB protein, with the RB1 mRNA level remaining unaffected. Cancer cells expressing PAX8 undergo a G(1)/S arrest and eventually senesce following PAX8 silencing. We demonstrate that PAX8 transcriptionally regulates the E2F1 promoter directly, and E2F1 transcription is enhanced after RB depletion. RB is recruited to the PAX8-binding site, and is involved in PAX8-mediated E2F1 transcription in cancer cells. Therefore, our results suggest that, in cancer, frequent and persistent expression of PAX8 is required for cell growth control through transcriptional activation of E2F1 expression and upregulation of the RB-E2F1 pathway.

    View details for DOI 10.1038/onc.2011.190

    View details for Web of Science ID 000298134700006

    View details for PubMedID 21602887

  • PAX3 knockdown in metastatic melanoma cell lines does not reduce MITF expression. Melanoma research He, S., Li, C. G., Slobbe, L., Glover, A., Marshall, E., Baguley, B. C., Eccles, M. R. 2010


    PAX3 and MITF are important transcriptional activators in the melanocyte lineage and PAX3 is thought to control MITF expression during normal melanocyte differentiation. However, it is not clear whether this is still true in melanoma and whether the effects of knockdown of PAX3 on the inhibition of melanoma growth or survival are by its regulation of MITF. By western blot and quantitative real-time reverse transcription-PCR, we investigated the relationship between PAX3 and MITF expression in 27 metastatic melanoma and one immortalized melanocyte cell lines. All lines were found to express both PAX3 and MITF proteins but levels varied by 15 fold and more than 100 fold, respectively. The expression of PAX3 protein was correlated with that of MITF (r=0.75; P<0.001) but the expression of PAX3 protein and MITF mRNA was not. Immunofluorescence microscopy showed that individual cells expressed widely differing relative amounts of PAX3 and MITF protein. By MTT cell proliferation and flow cytometry assays, both MITF and PAX3 proteins seemed to be functional, as knockdown with siRNA led to reduced proliferation and induction of apoptosis. However, knockdown of PAX3 with small interfering RNA did not decrease MITF expression and vice versa. In one cell line (NZM15), silencing of PAX3 induced terminal differentiation whereas silencing of MITF induced expression of FOXD3, a repressor of melanogenesis. The results suggest that the melanoma lines used in this study show considerable phenotypic variation of expression of these two transcriptional activators and reflect a deregulation of the developmental process operating in the genesis of the melanocyte lineage, and that they probably function independently to enhance the survival of melanoma cells.

    View details for PubMedID 21164369

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