Pharmacology and Therapeutics - Research Publications

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    The fibrogenic actions of lung fibroblast-derived urokinase: a potential drug target in IPF
    Schuliga, M ; Jaffar, J ; Harris, T ; Knight, DA ; Westall, G ; Stewart, AG (NATURE PUBLISHING GROUP, 2017-01-31)
    The role of urokinase plasminogen activator (uPA) in idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) remains unclear. uPA-generated plasmin has potent fibrogenic actions involving protease activated receptor-1 (PAR-1) and interleukin-6 (IL-6). Here we characterize uPA distribution or levels in lung tissue and sera from IPF patients to establish the mechanism of its fibrogenic actions on lung fibroblasts (LFs). uPA immunoreactivity was detected in regions of fibrosis including fibroblasts of lung tissue from IPF patients (n = 7). Serum uPA levels and activity were also higher in IPF patients (n = 18) than controls (n = 18) (P < 0.05), being negatively correlated with lung function as measured by forced vital capacity (FVC) %predicted (P < 0.05). The culture supernatants of LFs from IPF patients, as compared to controls, showed an increase in plasmin activity after plasminogen incubation (5-15 μg/mL), corresponding with increased levels of uPA and IL-6 (n = 5-6, P < 0.05). Plasminogen-induced increases in plasmin activity and IL-6 levels were attenuated by reducing uPA and/or PAR-1 expression by RNAi. Plasmin(ogen)-induced mitogenesis was also attenuated by targeting uPA, PAR-1 or IL-6. Our data shows uPA is formed in active regions of fibrosis in IPF lung and contributes to LF plasmin generation, IL-6 production and proliferation. Urokinase is a potential target for the treatment of lung fibrosis.
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    Casein Kinase 1 delta/epsilon Inhibitor, PF670462 Attenuates the Fibrogenic Effects of Transforming Growth Factor-beta in Pulmonary Fibrosis
    Keenan, CR ; Langenbach, SY ; Jativa, F ; Harris, T ; Li, M ; Chen, Q ; Xia, Y ; Gao, B ; Schuliga, MJ ; Jaffar, J ; Prodanovic, D ; Tu, Y ; Berhan, A ; Lee, PVS ; Westall, GP ; Stewart, AG (FRONTIERS MEDIA SA, 2018-07-10)
    Transforming growth factor-beta (TGF-β) is a major mediator of fibrotic diseases, including idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF). However, therapeutic global inhibition of TGF-β is limited by unwanted immunosuppression and mitral valve defects. We performed an extensive literature search to uncover a little-known connection between TGF-β signaling and casein kinase (CK) activity. We have examined the abundance of CK1 delta and epsilon (CK1δ/ε) in lung tissue from IPF patients and non-diseased controls, and investigated whether inhibition of CK1δ/ε with PF670462 inhibits pulmonary fibrosis. CK1δ/ε levels in lung tissue from IPF patients and non-diseased controls were assessed by immunohistochemistry. Anti-fibrotic effects of the CK1δ/ε inhibitor PF670462 were assessed in pre-clinical models, including acute and chronic bleomycin mouse models and in vitro experiments on spheroids made from primary human lung fibroblast cells from IPF and control donors, and human A549 alveolar-like adenocarcinoma-derived epithelial cells. Increased expression of CK1δ and ε in IPF lungs compared to non-diseased controls was accompanied by increased levels of the product, phospho-period 2. In vitro, PF670462 prevented TGF-β-induced epithelial-mesenchymal transition. The stiffness of IPF-derived spheroids was reduced by PF670462 and TGF-β-induced fibrogenic gene expression was inhibited. The CK1δ/ε inhibitor PF670462 administered systemically or locally by inhalation prevented both acute and chronic bleomycin-induced pulmonary fibrosis in mice. PF670462 administered in a 'therapeutic' regimen (day 7 onward) prevented bleomycin-induced lung collagen accumulation. Elevated expression and activity of CK1 δ and ε in IPF and anti-fibrogenic effects of the dual CK1δ/ε inhibitor, PF670462, support CK1δ/ε as novel therapeutic targets for IPF.
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    The Coagulant Factor Xa Induces Protease-Activated Receptor-1 and Annexin A2-Dependent Airway Smooth Muscle Cytokine Production and Cell Proliferation
    Schuliga, M ; Royce, SG ; Langenbach, S ; Berhan, A ; Harris, T ; Keenan, CR ; Stewart, AG (AMER THORACIC SOC, 2016-02-01)
    During asthma exacerbation, plasma circulating coagulant factor X (FX) enters the inflamed airways and is activated (FXa). FXa may have an important role in asthma, being involved in thrombin activation and an agonist of protease-activated receptor-1 (PAR-1). Extracellular annexin A2 and integrins are also implicated in PAR-1 signaling. In this study, the potential role of PAR-1 in mediating the effects of FXa on human airway smooth muscle (ASM) cell cytokine production and proliferation was investigated. FXa (5-50 nM), but not FX, stimulated increases in ASM IL-6 production and cell number after 24- and 48-hour incubation, respectively (P < 0.05; n = 5). FXa (15 nM) also stimulated increases in the levels of mRNA for cytokines (IL-6), cell cycle-related protein (cyclin D1), and proremodeling proteins (FGF-2, PDGF-B, CTGF, SM22, and PAI-1) after 3-hour incubation (P < 0.05; n = 4). The actions of FXa were insensitive to inhibition by hirudin (1 U/ml), a selective thrombin inhibitor, but were attenuated by SCH79797 (100 nM), a PAR-1 antagonist, or Cpd 22 (1 μM), an inhibitor of integrin-linked kinase. The selective targeting of PAR-1, annexin A2, or β1-integrin by small interfering RNA and/or by functional blocking antibodies also attenuated FXa-evoked responses. In contrast, the targeting of annexin A2 did not inhibit thrombin-stimulated ASM function. In airway biopsies of patients with asthma, FXa and annexin A2 were detected in the ASM bundle by immunohistochemistry. These findings establish FXa as a potentially important asthma mediator, stimulating ASM function through actions requiring PAR-1 and annexin A2 and involving integrin coactivation.
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    Plasminogen-stimulated airway smooth muscle cell proliferation is mediated by urokinase and annexin A2, involving plasmin-activated cell signalling
    Stewart, AG ; Xia, YC ; Harris, T ; Royce, S ; Hamilton, JA ; Schuliga, M (WILEY-BLACKWELL, 2013-12-01)
    BACKGROUND AND PURPOSE: The conversion of plasminogen into plasmin by interstitial urokinase plasminogen activator (uPA) is potentially important in asthma pathophysiology. In this study, the effect of uPA-mediated plasminogen activation on airway smooth muscle (ASM) cell proliferation was investigated. EXPERIMENTAL APPROACH: Human ASM cells were incubated with plasminogen (0.5-50 μg·mL(-1) ) or plasmin (0.5-50 mU·mL(-1) ) in the presence of pharmacological inhibitors, including UK122, an inhibitor of uPA. Proliferation was assessed by increases in cell number or MTT reduction after 48 h incubation with plasmin(ogen), and by earlier increases in [(3) H]-thymidine incorporation and cyclin D1 expression. KEY RESULTS: Plasminogen (5 μg·mL(-1) )-stimulated increases in cell proliferation were attenuated by UK122 (10 μM) or by transfection with uPA gene-specific siRNA. Exogenous plasmin (5 mU·mL(-1) ) also stimulated increases in cell proliferation. Inhibition of plasmin-stimulated ERK1/2 or PI3K/Akt signalling attenuated plasmin-stimulated increases in ASM proliferation. Furthermore, pharmacological inhibition of cell signalling mediated by the EGF receptor, a receptor trans-activated by plasmin, also reduced plasmin(ogen)-stimulated cell proliferation. Knock down of annexin A2, which has dual roles in both plasminogen activation and plasmin-signal transduction, also attenuated ASM cell proliferation following incubation with either plasminogen or plasmin. CONCLUSIONS AND IMPLICATIONS: Plasminogen stimulates ASM cell proliferation in a manner mediated by uPA and involving multiple signalling pathways downstream of plasmin. Targeting mediators of plasminogen-evoked ASM responses, such as uPA or annexin A2, may be useful in the treatment of asthma.
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    Plasminogen-Stimulated Inflammatory Cytokine Production by Airway Smooth Muscle Cells Is Regulated by Annexin A2
    Schuliga, M ; Langenbach, S ; Xia, YC ; Qin, C ; Mok, JSL ; Harris, T ; Mackay, GA ; Medcalf, RL ; Stewart, AG (AMER THORACIC SOC, 2013-11-01)
    Plasminogen has a role in airway inflammation. Airway smooth muscle (ASM) cells cleave plasminogen into plasmin, a protease with proinflammatory activity. In this study, the effect of plasminogen on cytokine production by human ASM cells was investigated in vitro. Levels of IL-6 and IL-8 in the medium of ASM cells were increased by incubation with plasminogen (5-50 μg/ml) for 24 hours (P < 0.05; n = 6-9), corresponding to changes in the levels of cytokine mRNA at 4 hours. The effects of plasminogen were attenuated by α2-antiplasmin (1 μg/ml), a plasmin inhibitor (P < 0.05; n = 6-12). Exogenous plasmin (5-15 mU/ml) also stimulated cytokine production (P < 0.05; n = 6-8) in a manner sensitive to serine-protease inhibition by aprotinin (10 KIU/ml). Plasminogen-stimulated cytokine production was increased in cells pretreated with basic fibroblast growth factor (300 pM) in a manner associated with increases in urokinase plasminogen activator expression and plasmin formation. The knockdown of annexin A2, a component of the putative plasminogen receptor comprised of annexin A2 and S100A10, attenuated plasminogen conversion into plasmin and plasmin-stimulated cytokine production by ASM cells. Moreover, a role for annexin A2 in airway inflammation was demonstrated in annexin A2-/- mice in which antigen-induced increases in inflammatory cell number and IL-6 levels in the bronchoalveolar lavage fluid were reduced (P < 0.01; n = 10-14). In conclusion, plasminogen stimulates ASM cytokine production in a manner regulated by annexin A2. Our study shows for the first time that targeting annexin A2-mediated signaling may provide a novel therapeutic approach to the treatment of airway inflammation in diseases such as chronic asthma.
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    Transforming Growth Factor-beta-Induced Differentiation of Airway Smooth Muscle Cells Is Inhibited by Fibroblast Growth Factor-2
    Schuliga, M ; Javeed, A ; Harris, T ; Xia, Y ; Qin, C ; Wang, Z ; Zhang, X ; Lee, PVS ; Camoretti-Mercado, B ; Stewart, AG (AMER THORACIC SOC, 2013-03-01)
    In asthma, basic fibroblast growth factor (FGF-2) plays an important (patho)physiological role. This study examines the effects of FGF-2 on the transforming growth factor-β (TGF-β)-stimulated differentiation of airway smooth muscle (ASM) cells in vitro. The differentiation of human ASM cells after incubation with TGF-β (100 pM) and/or FGF-2 (300 pM) for 48 hours was assessed by increases in contractile protein expression, actin-cytoskeleton reorganization, enhancements in cell stiffness, and collagen remodeling. FGF-2 inhibited TGF-β-stimulated increases in transgelin (SM22) and calponin gene expression (n = 15, P < 0.01) in an extracellular signal-regulated kinase 1/2 (ERK1/2) signal transduction-dependent manner. The abundance of ordered α-smooth muscle actin (α-SMA) filaments formed in the presence of TGF-β were also reduced by FGF-2, as was the ratio of F-actin to G-actin (n = 8, P < 0.01). Furthermore, FGF-2 attenuated TGF-β-stimulated increases in ASM cell stiffness and the ASM-mediated contraction of lattices, composed of collagen fibrils (n = 5, P < 0.01). However, the TGF-β-stimulated production of IL-6 was not influenced by FGF-2 (n = 4, P > 0.05), suggesting that FGF-2 antagonism is selective for the regulation of ASM cell contractile protein expression, organization, and function. Another mitogen, thrombin (0.3 U ml(-1)), exerted no effect on TGF-β-regulated contractile protein expression (n = 8, P > 0.05), α-SMA organization, or the ratio of F-actin to G-actin (n = 4, P > 0.05), suggesting that the inhibitory effect of FGF-2 is dissociated from its mitogenic actions. The addition of FGF-2, 24 hours after TGF-β treatment, still reduced contractile protein expression, even when the TGF-β-receptor kinase inhibitor, SB431542 (10 μM), was added 1 hour before FGF-2. We conclude that the ASM cell differentiation promoted by TGF-β is antagonized by FGF-2. A better understanding of the mechanism of action for FGF-2 is necessary to develop a strategy for therapeutic exploitation in the treatment of asthma.
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    Transforming growth factor-beta impairs glucocorticoid activity in the A549 lung adenocarcinoma cell line
    Salem, S ; Harris, T ; Mok, JSL ; Li, MYS ; Keenan, CR ; Schuliga, MJ ; Stewart, AG (WILEY, 2012-08-01)
    BACKGROUND AND PURPOSE: The lung adenocarcinoma cell line, A549, undergoes epithelial-mesenchymal cell transition (EMT) in response to TGF-β. Glucocorticoids do not prevent the EMT response, but TGF-β induced resistance to the cytokine-regulatory action of glucocorticoids. We sought to characterize the impairment of glucocorticoid response in A549 cells. EXPERIMENTAL APPROACH: A549 cells were exposed to TGF-β for up to 96 h before glucocorticoid treatment and challenge with IL-1α to assess glucocorticoid regulation of IL-6 and CXCL8 production. Nuclear localization of the glucocorticoid receptor α (GRα) was ascertained by immunofluorescence and Western blotting. Transactivation of the glucocorticoid response element (GRE) was measured with a transfected GRE-secreted human placental alkaline phosphatase reporter. KEY RESULTS: TGF-β (40-400 pM) reduced the maximum inhibitory effect of dexamethasone on IL-1α-induced IL-6 and CXCL8 production. The impaired glucocorticoid response was detected with 4 h of TGF-β (40 pM) exposure (and 4 h IL-1α to induce CXCL8 expression) and therefore was not secondary to EMT, a process that requires longer incubation periods and higher concentrations of TGF-β. TGF-β also impaired dexamethasone regulation of granulocyte-macrophage colony-stimulating factor in thrombin-stimulated BEAS-2B epithelial cells. Impaired regulation of CXCL8 was associated with markedly reduced GRE transactivation and reduced induction of mRNA for IκBα, the glucocorticoid-inducible leucine zipper and the epithelial sodium channel (SCNN1A). The expression, cellular levels and nuclear localization of GRα were reduced by TGF-β. CONCLUSIONS AND IMPLICATIONS: We have identified mechanisms underlying the impairment of responses to glucocorticoids by TGF-β in the A549 and BEAS-2B cell lines.