Postdoc, The University of Sydney
Identifying therapeutic targets to treat stroke
Cerebral cavernous malformation (CCM) is a disease of the brain blood vessels, with life threatening outcomes such as stroke. It is estimated 1/200 individuals are affected. While surgery can be successful in some cases, there is currently no drug treatment available. It has been suggested that CCM burden is greater in males. Hence, the project aims to uncover the role of androgens (i.e. “male hormones”) in CCM. It is hoped that this project can unveil the potential use of hormones to treat CCM.
Abstract: Cerebral cavernous malformations (CCMs) are a cause of stroke and seizure for which no effective medical therapies yet exist. CCMs arise from the loss of an adaptor complex that negatively regulates MEKK3-KLF2/4 signalling in brain endothelial cells, but upstream activators of this disease pathway have yet to be identified. Here we identify endothelial Toll-like receptor 4 (TLR4) and the gut microbiome as critical stimulants of CCM formation. Activation of TLR4 by Gram-negative bacteria or lipopolysaccharide accelerates CCM formation, and genetic or pharmacologic blockade of TLR4 signalling prevents CCM formation in mice. Polymorphisms that increase expression of the TLR4 gene or the gene encoding its co-receptor CD14 are associated with higher CCM lesion burden in humans. Germ-free mice are protected from CCM formation, and a single course of antibiotics permanently alters CCM susceptibility in mice. These studies identify unexpected roles for the microbiome and innate immune signalling in the pathogenesis of a cerebrovascular disease, as well as strategies for its treatment.
Pub.: 11 May '17, Pinned: 18 Sep '17
Abstract: Cerebral cavernous malformations (CCMs) are common inherited and sporadic vascular malformations that cause strokes and seizures in younger individuals1. CCMs arise from endothelial cell loss of KRIT1, CCM2 or PDCD10, non-homologous proteins that form an adaptor complex2. How disruption of the CCM complex results in disease remains controversial, with numerous signalling pathways (including Rho3, 4, SMAD5 and Wnt/β-catenin6) and processes such as endothelial–mesenchymal transition (EndMT)5 proposed to have causal roles. CCM2 binds to MEKK3 (refs 7, 8, 9, 10, 11), and we have recently shown that CCM complex regulation of MEKK3 is essential during vertebrate heart development12. Here we investigate this mechanism in CCM disease pathogenesis. Using a neonatal mouse model of CCM disease, we show that expression of the MEKK3 target genes Klf2 and Klf4, as well as Rho and ADAMTS protease activity, are increased in the endothelial cells of early CCM lesions. By contrast, we find no evidence of EndMT or increased SMAD or Wnt signalling during early CCM formation. Endothelial-specific loss of Map3k3 (also known as Mekk3), Klf2 or Klf4 markedly prevents lesion formation, reverses the increase in Rho activity, and rescues lethality. Consistent with these findings in mice, we show that endothelial expression of KLF2 and KLF4 is increased in human familial and sporadic CCM lesions, and that a disease-causing human CCM2 mutation abrogates the MEKK3 interaction without affecting CCM complex formation. These studies identify gain of MEKK3 signalling and KLF2/4 function as causal mechanisms for CCM pathogenesis that may be targeted to develop new CCM therapeutics.
Pub.: 30 Mar '16, Pinned: 18 Sep '17
Abstract: Mutations in CCM1 (aka KRIT1), CCM2, or CCM3 (aka PDCD10) gene cause cerebral cavernous malformation in humans. Mouse models of CCM disease have been established by deleting Ccm genes in postnatal animals. These mouse models provide invaluable tools to investigate molecular mechanism and therapeutic approaches for CCM disease. However, the full value of these animal models is limited by the lack of an accurate and quantitative method to assess lesion burden and progression. In the present study we have established a refined and detailed contrast enhanced X-ray micro-CT method to measure CCM lesion burden in mouse brains. As this study utilized a voxel dimension of 9.5μm (leading to a minimum feature size of approximately 25μm), it is therefore sufficient to measure CCM lesion volume and number globally and accurately, and provide high-resolution 3-D mapping of CCM lesions in mouse brains. Using this method, we found loss of Ccm1 or Ccm2 in neonatal endothelium confers CCM lesions in the mouse hindbrain with similar total volume and number. This quantitative approach also demonstrated a rescue of CCM lesions with simultaneous deletion of one allele of Mekk3. This method would enhance the value of the established mouse models to study the molecular basis and potential therapies for CCM and other cerebrovascular diseases.
Pub.: 12 Aug '16, Pinned: 18 Sep '17