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DNA damage response (DDR) pathway prevents high level endogenous and environmental DNA damage being replicated and passed on to the next generation of cells via an orchestrated and integrated network of cell cycle checkpoint signalling and DNA repair pathways. Depending on the type of damage, and where in the cell cycle it occurs different pathways are involved, with the ATM-CHK2-p53 pathway controlling the G1 checkpoint or ATR-CHK1-Wee1 pathway controlling the S and G2/M checkpoints. Loss of G1 checkpoint control is common in cancer through TP53, ATM mutations, Rb loss or cyclin E overexpression, providing a stronger rationale for targeting the S/G2 checkpoints. This review will focus on the ATM-CHK2-p53-p21 pathway and the ATR-CHK1-WEE1 pathway and ongoing efforts to target these pathways for patient benefit.
The field of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) represents a vast and largely untapped resource for modern medicine. Exemplified by the success of the antimalarial artemisinin, the recent years have seen a rapid increase in the understanding and application of TCM-derived herbs and formulations for evidence-based therapy. In this review, we summarise and discuss the developmental history, clinical background and molecular basis of an action for several representative TCM-derived medicines, including artemisinin, arsenic trioxide, berberine and Salvia miltiorrhiza or Danshen. Through this, we highlight important examples of how TCM-derived medicines have already contributed to modern medicine, and discuss potential avenues for further research.
The GATA family of transcription factors consists of six proteins (GATA1-6) which are involved in a variety of physiological and pathological processes. GATA1/2/3 are required for differentiation of mesoderm and ectoderm-derived tissues, including the haematopoietic and central nervous system. GATA4/5/6 are implicated in development and differentiation of endoderm- and mesoderm-derived tissues such as induction of differentiation of embryonic stem cells, cardiovascular embryogenesis and guidance of epithelial cell differentiation in the adult.
Carcinoma of the stomach is one of the most prevalent cancer types in the world. Although the incidence of gastric cancer is declining, the outcomes of gastric cancer patients remain dismal because of the lack of effective biomarkers to detect early gastric cancer. Modern biomedical research has explored many potential gastric cancer biomarker genes by utilising serum protein antigens, oncogenic genes or gene families through improving molecular biological technologies, such as microarray, RNA-Seq and the like. Recently, the small noncoding microRNAs (miRNAs) have been suggested to be critical regulators in the oncogenesis pathways and to serve as useful clinical biomarkers. This new class of biomarkers is emerging as a novel molecule for cancer diagnosis and prognosis, including gastric cancer. By translational suppression of target genes, miRNAs play a significant role in the gastric cancer cell physiology and tumour progression. There are potential implications of previously discovered gastric cancer molecular biomarkers and their expression modulations by respective miRNAs. Therefore, many miRNAs are found to play oncogenic roles or tumour-suppressing functions in human cancers. With the surprising stability of miRNAs in tissues, serum or other body fluids, miRNAs have emerged as a new type of cancer biomarker with immeasurable clinical potential.
Elastic fibres are insoluble components of the extracellular matrix of dynamic connective tissues such as skin, arteries, lungs and ligaments. They are laid down during development, and comprise a cross-linked elastin core within a template of fibrillin-based microfibrils. Their function is to endow tissues with the property of elastic recoil, and they also regulate the bioavailability of transforming growth factor β. Severe heritable elastic fibre diseases are caused by mutations in elastic fibre components; for example, mutations in elastin cause supravalvular aortic stenosis and autosomal dominant cutis laxa, mutations in fibrillin-1 cause Marfan syndrome and Weill–Marchesani syndrome, and mutations in fibulins-4 and -5 cause autosomal recessive cutis laxa. Acquired elastic fibre defects include dermal elastosis, whereas inflammatory damage to fibres contributes to pathologies such as pulmonary emphysema and vascular disease. This review outlines the latest understanding of the composition and assembly of elastic fibres, and describes elastic fibre diseases and current therapeutic approaches.
Periodontitis is a chronic inflammatory condition of the periodontium involving interactions between bacterial products, numerous cell populations and inflammatory mediators. It is generally accepted that periodontitis is initiated by complex and diverse microbial biofilms which form on the teeth, i.e. dental plaque. Substances released from this biofilm such as lipopolysaccharides, antigens and other virulence factors, gain access to the gingival tissue and initiate an inflammatory and immune response, leading to the activation of host defence cells. As a result of cellular activation, inflammatory mediators, including cytokines, chemokines, arachidonic acid metabolites and proteolytic enzymes collectively contribute to tissue destruction and bone resorption. This review summarises recent studies on the pathogenesis of periodontitis, with the main focus on inflammatory mediators and their role in periodontal disease.
Nuclear envelope spectrin-repeat proteins (Nesprins), are a novel family of nuclear and cytoskeletal proteins with rapidly expanding roles as intracellular scaffolds and linkers. Originally described as proteins that localise to the nuclear envelope (NE) and establish nuclear-cytoskeletal connections, nesprins have now been found to comprise a diverse spectrum of tissue specific isoforms that localise to multiple sub-cellular compartments. Here, we describe how nesprins are necessary in maintaining cellular architecture by acting as essential scaffolds and linkers at both the NE and other sub-cellular domains. More importantly, we speculate how nesprin mutations may disrupt tissue specific nesprin scaffolds and explain the tissue specific nature of many nesprin-associated diseases, including laminopathies.
Polyamines are small organic cations that are essential for normal cell growth and development in eukaryotes. Under normal physiological conditions, intracellular polyamine concentrations are tightly regulated through a dynamic network of biosynthetic and catabolic enzymes, and a poorly characterised transport system. This precise regulation ensures that the intracellular concentration of polyamines is maintained within strictly controlled limits. It has frequently been observed that the metabolism of, and the requirement for, polyamines in tumours is frequently dysregulated. Elevated levels of polyamines have been associated with breast, colon, lung, prostate and skin cancers, and altered levels of rate-limiting enzymes in both biosynthesis and catabolism have been observed. Based on these observations and the absolute requirement for polyamines in tumour growth, the polyamine pathway is a rational target for chemoprevention and chemotherapeutics. Here we describe the recent advances made in the polyamine field and focus on the roles of polyamines and polyamine metabolism in neoplasia through a discussion of the current animal models for the polyamine pathway, chemotherapeutic strategies that target the polyamine pathway, chemotherapeutic clinical trials for polyamine pathway-specific drugs and ongoing clinical trials targeting polyamine biosynthesis.
Protein–protein interactions (PPIs) control the assembly of multi-protein complexes and, thus, these contacts have enormous potential as drug targets. However, the field has produced a mix of both exciting success stories and frustrating challenges. Here, we review known examples and explore how the physical features of a PPI, such as its affinity, hotspots, off-rates, buried surface area and topology, might influence the chances of success in finding inhibitors. This analysis suggests that concise, tight binding PPIs are most amenable to inhibition. However, it is also clear that emerging technical methods are expanding the repertoire of ‘druggable’ protein contacts and increasing the odds against difficult targets. In particular, natural product-like compound libraries, high throughput screens specifically designed for PPIs and approaches that favour discovery of allosteric inhibitors appear to be attractive routes. The first group of PPI inhibitors has entered clinical trials, further motivating the need to understand the challenges and opportunities in pursuing these types of targets.
The liver is necessary for survival. Its strategic localisation, blood flow and prominent role in the metabolism of xenobiotics render this organ particularly susceptible to injury by chemicals to which we are ubiquitously exposed. The pathogenesis of most chemical-induced liver injuries is initiated by the metabolic conversion of chemicals into reactive intermediate species, such as electrophilic compounds or free radicals, which can potentially alter the structure and function of cellular macromolecules. Many reactive intermediate species can produce oxidative stress, which can be equally detrimental to the cell. When protective defences are overwhelmed by excess toxicant insult, the effects of reactive intermediate species lead to deregulation of cell signalling pathways and dysfunction of biomolecules, leading to failure of target organelles and eventual cell death. A myriad of genetic factors determine the susceptibility of specific individuals to chemical-induced liver injury. Environmental factors, lifestyle choices and pre-existing pathological conditions also have roles in the pathogenesis of chemical liver injury. Research aimed at elucidating the molecular mechanism of the pathogenesis of chemical-induced liver diseases is fundamental for preventing or devising new modalities of treatment for liver injury by chemicals.
New therapeutic approaches to counter the increasing prevalence of obesity and type 2 diabetes mellitus are in high demand. Deregulation of the phosphoinositide-3-kinase (PI3K)/v-akt murine thymoma viral oncogene homologue (AKT), mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) and AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK) pathways, which are essential for glucose homeostasis, often results in obesity and diabetes. Thus, these pathways should be attractive therapeutic targets. However, with the exception of metformin, which is considered to function mainly by activating AMPK, no treatment for the metabolic syndrome based on targeting protein kinases has yet been developed. By contrast, therapies based on the inhibition of the PI3K/AKT and MAPK pathways are already successful in the treatment of diverse cancer types and inflammatory diseases. This contradiction prompted us to review the signal transduction mechanisms of PI3K/AKT, MAPK and AMPK and their roles in glucose homeostasis, and we also discuss current clinical implications.
Acetylation of lysine residues is a post-translational modification with broad relevance to cellular signalling and disease biology. Enzymes that ‘write’ (histone acetyltransferases, HATs) and ‘erase’ (histone deacetylases, HDACs) acetylation sites are an area of extensive research in current drug development, but very few potent inhibitors that modulate the ‘reading process’ mediated by acetyl lysines have been described. The principal readers of ɛ-N-acetyl lysine (Kac) marks are bromodomains (BRDs), which are a diverse family of evolutionary conserved protein-interaction modules. The conserved BRD fold contains a deep, largely hydrophobic acetyl lysine binding site, which represents an attractive pocket for the development of small, pharmaceutically active molecules. Proteins that contain BRDs have been implicated in the development of a large variety of diseases. Recently, two highly potent and selective inhibitors that target BRDs of the BET (bromodomains and extra-terminal) family provided compelling data supporting targeting of these BRDs in inflammation and in an aggressive type of squamous cell carcinoma. It is likely that BRDs will emerge alongside HATs and HDACs as interesting targets for drug development for the large number of diseases that are caused by aberrant acetylation of lysine residues.
The macrophage is a prominent inflammatory cell in wounds, but its role in healing remains incompletely understood. Macrophages have many functions in wounds, including host defence, the promotion and resolution of inflammation, the removal of apoptotic cells, and the support of cell proliferation and tissue restoration following injury. Recent studies suggest that macrophages exist in several different phenotypic states within the healing wound and that the influence of these cells on each stage of repair varies with the specific phenotype. Although the macrophage is beneficial to the repair of normally healing wounds, this pleotropic cell type may promote excessive inflammation or fibrosis under certain circumstances. Emerging evidence suggests that macrophage dysfunction is a component of the pathogenesis of nonhealing and poorly healing wounds. As a result of advances in the understanding of this multifunctional cell, the macrophage continues to be an attractive therapeutic target, both to reduce fibrosis and scarring, and to improve healing of chronic wounds.
Glioblastoma multiforme, because of its invasive nature, can be considered a disease of the entire brain. Despite recent advances in surgery, radiotherapy and chemotherapy, current treatment regimens have only a marginal impact on patient survival. A crucial challenge is to deliver drugs effectively to invasive glioma cells residing in a sanctuary within the central nervous system. The blood–brain barrier (BBB) restricts the delivery of many small and large molecules into the brain. Drug delivery to the brain is further restricted by active efflux transporters present at the BBB. Current clinical assessment of drug delivery and hence efficacy is based on the measured drug levels in the bulk tumour mass that is usually removed by surgery. Mounting evidence suggests that the inevitable relapse and lethality of glioblastoma multiforme is due to a failure to effectively treat invasive glioma cells. These invasive cells hide in areas of the brain that are shielded by an intact BBB, where they continue to grow and give rise to the recurrent tumour. Effective delivery of chemotherapeutics to the invasive glioma cells is therefore critical, and long-term efficacy will depend on the ability of a molecularly targeted agent to penetrate an intact and functional BBB throughout the entire brain. This review highlights the various aspects of the BBB, and also the brain–tumour-cell barrier (a barrier due to expression of efflux transporters in tumour cells), that together can significantly influence drug response. It then discusses the challenge of glioma as a disease of the whole brain, which lends emphasis to the need to deliver drugs effectively across the BBB to reach both the central tumour and the invasive glioma cells.
The unremitting emergence of multidrug-resistant bacterial pathogens highlights a matching need for new therapeutic options. For example, new carbapenemases such as KPC (class A Klebsiella pneumoniae) and NDM-1 (New Delhi metallo-β-lactamase 1) are surfacing, resulting in almost total resistance to β-lactam antibiotics. Furthermore, resistance is quickly disseminated, not only in the healthcare sector, but also within the community at large, because many resistance determinants are carried on mobile genetic elements readily shared among pathogens. The absence of new antibiotics has led to a growing reliance on older, more toxic drugs such as colistin, but resistance to these is already arising. One approach to combat this growing problem is the use of combination drug antibiotic adjuvant therapy, which potentiates the activity of antibiotics. Here, we review the current situation and discuss potential drug combinations that may increase the potency of antibiotics in the future. Adjuvant therapies include antibiotic combinations, synergy between antibiotics and nonantibiotics, inhibition of resistance and molecules that alter the physiology of antibiotic-insensitive cells, such as those in biofilms. We provide a rationale for these multicomponent strategies, highlighting current research and important considerations for their clinical use and pharmacological properties.
Over the past few years, genetic findings have changed our views on the molecular pathogenesis of Parkinson disease (PD), as mutations in a growing number of genes have been found to cause monogenic forms of the disorder. These mutations cause neuronal dysfunction and neurodegeneration either by a toxic gain of function, as in the case of the dominant forms of monogenic PD caused by mutations in the genes for α-synuclein or LRRK2, or by a loss of an intrinsic protective function, as is likely for the recessive PD genes parkin (PRKN), PINK1 and DJ-1. Evidence is emerging that at least some of the pathways uncovered in the rare monogenic forms of PD may play a direct role in the aetiology of the common sporadic disorder and that variants of the respective genes contribute to the risk of developing the disease. These findings will allow the search for new treatment strategies that focus on the underlying molecular pathophysiology, rather than simply on ameliorating symptoms.
Endothelial hyperpermeability is a significant problem in vascular inflammation associated with trauma, ischaemia–reperfusion injury, sepsis, adult respiratory distress syndrome, diabetes, thrombosis and cancer. An important mechanism underlying this process is increased paracellular leakage of plasma fluid and protein. Inflammatory stimuli such as histamine, thrombin, vascular endothelial growth factor and activated neutrophils can cause dissociation of cell–cell junctions between endothelial cells as well as cytoskeleton contraction, leading to a widened intercellular space that facilitates transendothelial flux. Such structural changes initiate with agonist–receptor binding, followed by activation of intracellular signalling molecules including calcium, protein kinase C, tyrosine kinases, myosin light chain kinase, and small Rho-GTPases; these kinases and GTPases then phosphorylate or alter the conformation of different subcellular components that control cell–cell adhesion, resulting in paracellular hypermeability. Targeting key signalling molecules that mediate endothelial-junction–cytoskeleton dissociation demonstrates a therapeutic potential to improve vascular barrier function during inflammatory injury.
The expression of phase-II detoxification and antioxidant enzymes is governed by a cis-acting regulatory element named the antioxidant response element (ARE). ARE-containing genes are regulated by the nuclear factor erythroid-2-related factor 2 (Nrf2), a member of the Cap'n'Collar basic-leucine-zipper family of transcription factors. ARE-regulated genes are preferentially activated in astrocytes, which consequently have more efficient detoxification and antioxidant defences than neurons. Astrocytes closely interact with neurons to provide structural, metabolic and trophic support, as well as actively participating in the modulation of neuronal excitability and neurotransmission. Therefore, functional alterations in astrocytes can shape the interaction with surrounding cells, such as neurons and microglia. Activation of Nrf2 in astrocytes protects neurons from a wide array of insults in different in vitro and in vivo paradigms, confirming the role of astrocytes in determining the vulnerability of neurons to noxious stimuli. Here, we review the current data supporting Nrf2 activation in astrocytes as a viable therapeutic approach, not only in acute neuronal damage, but also in chronic neurodegeneration related to oxidative stress.
Severe malaria has a high mortality rate (15–20%) despite treatment with effective antimalarial drugs. Adjunctive therapies for severe malaria that target the underlying disease process are therefore urgently required. Adhesion of erythrocytes infected with Plasmodium falciparum to human cells has a key role in the pathogenesis of life-threatening malaria and could be targeted with antiadhesion therapy. Parasite adhesion interactions include binding to endothelial cells (cytoadherence), rosetting with uninfected erythrocytes and platelet-mediated clumping of infected erythrocytes. Recent research has started to define the molecular mechanisms of parasite adhesion, and antiadhesion therapies are being explored. However, many fundamental questions regarding the role of parasite adhesion in severe malaria remain unanswered. There is strong evidence that rosetting contributes to severe malaria in sub-Saharan Africa; however, the identity of other parasite adhesion phenotypes that are implicated in disease pathogenesis remains unclear. In addition, the possibility of geographic variation in adhesion phenotypes causing severe malaria, linked to differences in malaria transmission levels and host immunity, has been neglected. Further research is needed to realise the untapped potential of antiadhesion adjunctive therapies, which could revolutionise the treatment of severe malaria and reduce the high mortality rate of the disease.