Pharmacology and Therapeutics - Research Publications

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    Iron overload and impaired iron handling contribute to the dystrophic pathology in models of Duchenne muscular dystrophy
    Alves, FM ; Kysenius, K ; Caldow, MK ; Hardee, JP ; Chung, JD ; Trieu, J ; Hare, DJ ; Crouch, PJ ; Ayton, S ; Bush, A ; Lynch, GS ; Koopman, R (WILEY, 2022-03-06)
    BACKGROUND: Oxidative stress is implicated in the pathophysiology of Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD, caused by mutations in the dystrophin gene), which is the most common and severe of the muscular dystrophies. To our knowledge, the distribution of iron, an important modulator of oxidative stress, has not been assessed in DMD. We tested the hypotheses that iron accumulation occurs in mouse models of DMD and that modulation of iron through the diet or chelation could modify disease severity. METHODS: We assessed iron distribution and total elemental iron using LA-ICP-MS on skeletal muscle cross-sections of 8-week-old Bl10 control mice and dystrophic mdx mice (with moderate dystrophy) and dystrophin/utrophin-null mice (dko, with severe dystrophy). In addition, mdx mice (4 weeks) were treated with either an iron chelator (deferiprone 150 mg/kg/day) or iron-enriched feed (containing 1% added iron as carbonyl iron). Immunoblotting was used to determine the abundance of iron- and mitochondria-related proteins. (Immuno)histochemical and mRNA assessments of fibrosis and inflammation were also performed. RESULTS: We observed a significant increase in total elemental iron in hindlimb muscles of dko mice (+50%, P < 0.05) and in the diaphragm of mdx mice (+80%, P < 0.05), with both tissues exhibiting severe pathology. Iron dyshomeostasis was further evidenced by an increase in the storage protein ferritin (dko: +39%, P < 0.05) and ferroportin compared with Bl10 control mice (mdx: +152% and dko: +175%, P < 0.05). Despite having features of iron overload, dystrophic muscles had lower protein expression of ALAS-1, the rate-limiting enzyme for haem synthesis (dko -44%, P < 0.05), and the haem-containing protein myoglobin (dko -54%, P < 0.05). Deferiprone treatment tended to decrease muscle iron levels in mdx mice (-30%, P < 0.1), which was associated with lower oxidative stress and fibrosis, but suppressed haem-containing proteins and mitochondrial content. Increasing iron via dietary intervention elevated total muscle iron (+25%, P < 0.05) but did not aggravate the pathology. CONCLUSIONS: Muscles from dystrophic mice have increased iron levels and dysregulated iron-related proteins that are associated with dystrophic pathology. Muscle iron levels were manipulated by iron chelation and iron enriched feed. Iron chelation reduced fibrosis and reactive oxygen species (ROS) but also suppressed haem-containing proteins and mitochondrial activity. Conversely, iron supplementation increased ferritin and haem-containing proteins but did not alter ROS, fibrosis, or mitochondrial activity. Further studies are required to investigate the contribution of impaired ferritin breakdown in the dysregulation of iron homeostasis in DMD.
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    Lithium administered to pregnant, lactating and neonatal rats: entry into developing brain
    Chiou, SY-S ; Kysenius, K ; Huang, Y ; Habgood, MD ; Koehn, LM ; Qiu, F ; Crouch, PJ ; Varshney, S ; Ganio, K ; Dziegielewska, KM ; Saunders, NR (BMC, 2021-12-07)
    BACKGROUND: Little is known about the extent of drug entry into developing brain, when administered to pregnant and lactating women. Lithium is commonly prescribed for bipolar disorder. Here we studied transfer of lithium given to dams, into blood, brain and cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) in embryonic and postnatal animals as well as adults. METHODS: Lithium chloride in a clinically relevant dose (3.2 mg/kg body weight) was injected intraperitoneally into pregnant (E15-18) and lactating dams (birth-P16/17) or directly into postnatal pups (P0-P16/17). Acute treatment involved a single injection; long-term treatment involved twice daily injections for the duration of the experiment. Following terminal anaesthesia blood plasma, CSF and brains were collected. Lithium levels and brain distribution were measured using Laser Ablation Inductively Coupled Plasma-Mass Spectrometry and total lithium levels were confirmed by Inductively Coupled Plasma-Mass Spectrometry. RESULTS: Lithium was detected in blood, CSF and brain of all fetal and postnatal pups following lithium treatment of dams. Its concentration in pups' blood was consistently below that in maternal blood (30-35%) indicating significant protection by the placenta and breast tissue. However, much of the lithium that reached the fetus entered its brain. Levels of lithium in plasma fluctuated in different treatment groups but its concentration in CSF was stable at all ages, in agreement with known stable levels of endogenous ions in CSF. There was no significant increase of lithium transfer into CSF following application of Na+/K+ ATPase inhibitor (digoxin) in vivo, indicating that lithium transfer across choroid plexus epithelium is not likely to be via the Na+/K+ ATPase mechanism, at least early in development. Comparison with passive permeability markers suggested that in acute experiments lithium permeability was less than expected for diffusion but similar in long-term experiments at P2. CONCLUSIONS: Information obtained on the distribution of lithium in developing brain provides a basis for studying possible deleterious effects on brain development and behaviour in offspring of mothers undergoing lithium therapy.
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    Sex-dependent effects of amyloid precursor-like protein 2 in the SOD1-G37R transgenic mouse model of MND
    Truong, PH ; Crouch, PJ ; Hilton, JBW ; McLean, CA ; Cappai, R ; Ciccotosto, GD (SPRINGER BASEL AG, 2021-09-02)
    Motor neurone disease (MND) is a neurodegenerative disorder characterised by progressive destruction of motor neurons, muscle paralysis and death. The amyloid precursor protein (APP) is highly expressed in the central nervous system and has been shown to modulate disease outcomes in MND. APP is part of a gene family that includes the amyloid precursor-like protein 1 (APLP1) and 2 (APLP2) genes. In the present study, we investigated the role of APLP2 in MND through the examination of human spinal cord tissue and by crossing APLP2 knockout mice with the superoxide dismutase 1 (SOD1-G37R) transgenic mouse model of MND. We found the expression of APLP2 is elevated in the spinal cord from human cases of MND and that this feature of the human disease is reproduced in SOD1-G37R mice at the End-stage of their MND-like phenotype progression. APLP2 deletion in SOD1-G37R mice significantly delayed disease progression and increased the survival of female SOD1-G37R mice. Molecular and biochemical analysis showed female SOD1-G37R:APLP2-/- mice displayed improved innervation of the neuromuscular junction, ameliorated atrophy of muscle fibres with increased APP protein expression levels in the gastrocnemius muscle. These results indicate a sex-dependent role for APLP2 in mutant SOD1-mediated MND and further support the APP family as a potential target for further investigation into the cause and regulation of MND.
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    Regular Physical Exercise Modulates Iron Homeostasis in the 5xFAD Mouse Model of Alzheimer's Disease
    Belaya, I ; Kucharikova, N ; Gorova, V ; Kysenius, K ; Hare, DJ ; Crouch, PJ ; Malm, T ; Atalay, M ; White, AR ; Liddell, JR ; Kanninen, KM (MDPI, 2021-08-01)
    Dysregulation of brain iron metabolism is one of the pathological features of aging and Alzheimer's disease (AD), a neurodegenerative disease characterized by progressive memory loss and cognitive impairment. While physical inactivity is one of the risk factors for AD and regular exercise improves cognitive function and reduces pathology associated with AD, the underlying mechanisms remain unclear. The purpose of the study is to explore the effect of regular physical exercise on modulation of iron homeostasis in the brain and periphery of the 5xFAD mouse model of AD. By using inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry and a variety of biochemical techniques, we measured total iron content and level of proteins essential in iron homeostasis in the brain and skeletal muscles of sedentary and exercised mice. Long-term voluntary running induced redistribution of iron resulted in altered iron metabolism and trafficking in the brain and increased iron content in skeletal muscle. Exercise reduced levels of cortical hepcidin, a key regulator of iron homeostasis, coupled with interleukin-6 (IL-6) decrease in cortex and plasma. We propose that regular exercise induces a reduction of hepcidin in the brain, possibly via the IL-6/STAT3/JAK1 pathway. These findings indicate that regular exercise modulates iron homeostasis in both wild-type and AD mice.
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    An integrated mass spectrometry imaging and digital pathology workflow for objective detection of colorectal tumours by unique atomic signatures
    Paul, B ; Kysenius, K ; Hilton, JB ; Jones, MWM ; Hutchinson, RW ; Buchanan, DD ; Rosty, C ; Fryer, F ; Bush, A ; Hergt, JM ; Woodhead, JD ; Bishop, DP ; Doble, PA ; Hill, MM ; Crouch, PJ ; Hare, DJ (ROYAL SOC CHEMISTRY, 2021-06-29)
    Tumours are abnormal growths of cells that reproduce by redirecting essential nutrients and resources from surrounding tissue. Changes to cell metabolism that trigger the growth of tumours are reflected in subtle differences between the chemical composition of healthy and malignant cells. We used LA-ICP-MS imaging to investigate whether these chemical differences can be used to spatially identify tumours and support detection of primary colorectal tumours in anatomical pathology. First, we generated quantitative LA-ICP-MS images of three colorectal surgical resections with case-matched normal intestinal wall tissue and used this data in a Monte Carlo optimisation experiment to develop an algorithm that can classify pixels as tumour positive or negative. Blinded testing and interrogation of LA-ICP-MS images with micrographs of haematoxylin and eosin stained and Ki67 immunolabelled sections revealed Monte Carlo optimisation accurately identified primary tumour cells, as well as returning false positive pixels in areas of high cell proliferation. We analysed an additional 11 surgical resections of primary colorectal tumours and re-developed our image processing method to include a random forest regression machine learning model to correctly identify heterogenous tumours and exclude false positive pixels in images of non-malignant tissue. Our final model used over 1.6 billion calculations to correctly discern healthy cells from various types and stages of invasive colorectal tumours. The imaging mass spectrometry and data analysis methods described, developed in partnership with clinical cancer researchers, have the potential to further support cancer detection as part of a comprehensive digital pathology approach to cancer care through validation of a new chemical biomarker of tumour cells.
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    SLN124, a GalNac-siRNA targeting transmembrane serine protease 6, in combination with deferiprone therapy reduces ineffective erythropoiesis and hepatic iron-overload in a mouse model of beta-thalassaemia
    Vadolas, J ; Ng, GZ ; Kysenius, K ; Crouch, PJ ; Dames, S ; Eisermann, M ; Nualkaew, T ; Vilcassim, S ; Schaeper, U ; Grigoriadis, G (WILEY, 2021-05-04)
    Beta-thalassaemia is an inherited blood disorder characterised by ineffective erythropoiesis and anaemia. Consequently, hepcidin expression is reduced resulting in increased iron absorption and primary iron overload. Hepcidin is under the negative control of transmembrane serine protease 6 (TMPRSS6) via cleavage of haemojuvelin (HJV), a co-receptor for the bone morphogenetic protein (BMP)-mothers against decapentaplegic homologue (SMAD) signalling pathway. Considering the central role of the TMPRSS6/HJV/hepcidin axis in iron homeostasis, the inhibition of TMPRSS6 expression represents a promising therapeutic strategy to increase hepcidin production and ameliorate anaemia and iron overload in β-thalassaemia. In the present study, we investigated a small interfering RNA (siRNA) conjugate optimised for hepatic targeting of Tmprss6 (SLN124) in β-thalassaemia mice (Hbbth3/+ ). Two subcutaneous injections of SLN124 (3 mg/kg) were sufficient to normalise hepcidin expression and reduce anaemia. We also observed a significant improvement in erythroid maturation, which was associated with a significant reduction in splenomegaly. Treatment with the iron chelator, deferiprone (DFP), did not impact any of the erythroid parameters. However, the combination of SLN124 with DFP was more effective in reducing hepatic iron overload than either treatment alone. Collectively, we show that the combination therapy can ameliorate several disease symptoms associated with chronic anaemia and iron overload, and therefore represents a promising pharmacological modality for the treatment of β-thalassaemia and related disorders.
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    Iron accumulation in skeletal muscles of old mice is associated with impaired regeneration after ischaemia-reperfusion damage
    Alves, FM ; Kysenius, K ; Caldow, MK ; Hardee, JP ; Crouch, PJ ; Ayton, S ; Bush, AI ; Lynch, GS ; Koopman, R (WILEY, 2021-03-04)
    BACKGROUND: Oxidative stress is implicated in the insidious loss of muscle mass and strength that occurs with age. However, few studies have investigated the role of iron, which is elevated during ageing, in age-related muscle wasting and blunted repair after injury. We hypothesized that iron accumulation leads to membrane lipid peroxidation, muscle wasting, increased susceptibility to injury, and impaired muscle regeneration. METHODS: To examine the role of iron in age-related muscle atrophy, we compared the skeletal muscles of 3-month-old with 22- to 24-month-old 129SvEv FVBM mice. We assessed iron distribution and total elemental iron using laser ablation inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry and Perls' stain on skeletal muscle cross-sections. In addition, old mice underwent ischaemia-reperfusion (IR) injury (90 min ischaemia), and muscle regeneration was assessed 14 days after injury. Immunoblotting was used to determine lipid peroxidation (4HNE) and iron-related proteins. To determine whether muscle iron content can be altered, old mice were treated with deferiprone (DFP) in the drinking water, and we assessed its effects on muscle regeneration after injury. RESULTS: We observed a significant increase in total elemental iron (+43%, P < 0.05) and lipid peroxidation (4HNE: +76%, P < 0.05) in tibialis anterior muscles of old mice. Iron was further increased after injury (adult: +81%, old: +135%, P < 0.05) and associated with increased lipid peroxidation (+41%, P < 0.05). Administration of DFP did not impact iron or measures of lipid peroxidation in skeletal muscle or modulate muscle mass. Increased muscle iron concentration and lipid peroxidation were associated with less efficient regeneration, evident from the smaller fibres in cross-sections of tibialis anterior muscles (-24%, P < 0.05) and an increased percentage of fibres with centralized nuclei (+4124%, P < 0.05) in muscles of old compared with adult mice. Administration of DFP lowered iron after IR injury (PRE: -32%, P < 0.05 and POST: -41%, P < 0.05), but did not translate to structural improvements. CONCLUSIONS: Muscles from old mice have increased iron levels, which are associated with increased lipid peroxidation, increased susceptibility to IR injury, and impaired muscle regeneration. Our results suggest that iron is involved in effective muscle regeneration, highlighting the importance of iron homeostasis in muscle atrophy and muscle repair.
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    Copper-ATSM as a Treatment for ALS: Support from Mutant SOD1 Models and Beyond
    Nikseresht, S ; Hilton, JBW ; Kysenius, K ; Liddell, JR ; Crouch, PJ (MDPI, 2020-11-01)
    The blood-brain barrier permeant, copper-containing compound, CuII(atsm), has successfully progressed from fundamental research outcomes in the laboratory through to phase 2/3 clinical assessment in patients with the highly aggressive and fatal neurodegenerative condition of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). The most compelling outcomes to date to indicate potential for disease-modification have come from pre-clinical studies utilising mouse models that involve transgenic expression of mutated superoxide dismutase 1 (SOD1). Mutant SOD1 mice provide a very robust mammalian model of ALS with high validity, but mutations in SOD1 account for only a small percentage of ALS cases in the clinic, with the preponderant amount of cases being sporadic and of unknown aetiology. As per other putative drugs for ALS developed and tested primarily in mutant SOD1 mice, this raises important questions about the pertinence of CuII(atsm) to broader clinical translation. This review highlights some of the challenges associated with the clinical translation of new treatment options for ALS. It then provides a brief account of pre-clinical outcomes for CuII(atsm) in SOD1 mouse models of ALS, followed by an outline of additional studies which report positive outcomes for CuII(atsm) when assessed in cell and mouse models of neurodegeneration which do not involve mutant SOD1. Clinical evidence for CuII(atsm) selectively targeting affected regions of the CNS in patients is also presented. Overall, this review summarises the existing evidence which indicates why clinical relevance of CuII(atsm) likely extends beyond the context of cases of ALS caused by mutant SOD1.
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    Superoxide Dismutase 1 in Health and Disease: How a Frontline Antioxidant Becomes Neurotoxic
    Trist, BG ; Hilton, JB ; Hare, DJ ; Crouch, PJ ; Double, KL (WILEY-V C H VERLAG GMBH, 2020-11-19)
    Cu/Zn superoxide dismutase (SOD1) is a frontline antioxidant enzyme catalysing superoxide breakdown and is important for most forms of eukaryotic life. The evolution of aerobic respiration by mitochondria increased cellular production of superoxide, resulting in an increased reliance upon SOD1. Consistent with the importance of SOD1 for cellular health, many human diseases of the central nervous system involve perturbations in SOD1 biology. But far from providing a simple demonstration of how disease arises from SOD1 loss-of-function, attempts to elucidate pathways by which atypical SOD1 biology leads to neurodegeneration have revealed unexpectedly complex molecular characteristics delineating healthy, functional SOD1 protein from that which likely contributes to central nervous system disease. This review summarises current understanding of SOD1 biology from SOD1 genetics through to protein function and stability.
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    Effects of paracetamol (acetaminophen) on gene expression and permeability properties of the rat placenta and fetal brain.
    Koehn, LM ; Huang, Y ; Habgood, MD ; Kysenius, K ; Crouch, PJ ; Dziegielewska, KM ; Saunders, NR (F1000 Research Ltd, 2020)
    Background: Paracetamol (acetaminophen) is widely used in pregnancy and generally regarded as "safe" by regulatory authorities. Methods: Clinically relevant doses of paracetamol were administered intraperitoneally to pregnant rats twice daily from embryonic day E15 to 19 (chronic) or as a single dose at E19 (acute). Control samples were from un-treated age-matched animals. At E19, rats were anaesthetised, administered a final paracetamol dose, uteruses were opened and fetuses exposed for sample collection. For RNA sequencing, placentas and fetal brains were removed and flash frozen. Fetal and maternal plasma and cerebrospinal fluid were assayed for α-fetoprotein and interleukin 1β (IL1β). Brains were fixed and examined (immunohistochemistry) for plasma protein distribution. Placental permeability to a small molecule ( 14C-sucrose) was tested by injection into either mother or individual fetuses; fetal and maternal blood was sampled at regular intervals to 90 minutes. Results: RNA sequencing revealed a large number of genes up- or down-regulated in placentas from acutely or chronically treated animals compared to controls. Most notable was down-regulation of three acute phase plasma proteins (α-fetoprotein, transferrin, transthyretin) in acute and especially chronic experiments and marked up-regulation of immune-related genes, particularly cytokines, again especially in chronically treated dams. IL1β increased in plasma of most fetuses from treated dams but to variable levels and no IL1β was detectable in plasma of control fetuses or any of the dams. Increased placental permeability appeared to be only from fetus to mother for both 14C-sucrose and α-fetoprotein, but not in the reverse direction. In the fetal brain, gene regulatory changes were less prominent than in the placenta of treated fetuses and did not involve inflammatory-related genes; there was no evidence of increased blood-brain barrier permeability. Conclusion: Results suggest that paracetamol may induce an immune-inflammatory-like response in placenta and more caution should be exercised in use of paracetamol in pregnancy.