Scielo RSS <![CDATA[Brazilian Journal of Medical and Biological Research]]> vol. 44 num. 12 lang. en <![CDATA[SciELO Logo]]> <![CDATA[<b>The use of genes for performance enhancement</b>: <b>doping or therapy?</b>]]> Recent biotechnological advances have permitted the manipulation of genetic sequences to treat several diseases in a process called gene therapy. However, the advance of gene therapy has opened the door to the possibility of using genetic manipulation (GM) to enhance athletic performance. In such ‘gene doping’, exogenous genetic sequences are inserted into a specific tissue, altering cellular gene activity or leading to the expression of a protein product. The exogenous genes most likely to be utilized for gene doping include erythropoietin (EPO), vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF), insulin-like growth factor type 1 (IGF-1), myostatin antagonists, and endorphin. However, many other genes could also be used, such as those involved in glucose metabolic pathways. Because gene doping would be very difficult to detect, it is inherently very attractive for those involved in sports who are prepared to cheat. Moreover, the field of gene therapy is constantly and rapidly progressing, and this is likely to generate many new possibilities for gene doping. Thus, as part of the general fight against all forms of doping, it will be necessary to develop and continually improve means of detecting exogenous gene sequences (or their products) in athletes. Nevertheless, some bioethicists have argued for a liberal approach to gene doping. <![CDATA[<b>The <i>Streptococcus mutans</i> GlnR protein exhibits an increased affinity for the <i>glnRA </i>operon promoter when bound to GlnK</b>]]> The control of nitrogen metabolism in pathogenic Gram-positive bacteria has been studied in a variety of species and is involved with the expression of virulence factors. To date, no data have been reported regarding nitrogen metabolism in the odontopathogenic species Streptococcus mutans. GlnR, which controls nitrogen assimilation in the related bacterial species, Bacillus subtilis, was assessed in S. mutans for its DNA and protein binding activity. Electrophoretic mobility shift assay of the S. mutans GlnR protein indicated that GlnR binds to promoter regions of the glnRA and amtB-glnK operons. Cross-linking and pull-down assays demonstrated that GlnR interacts with GlnK, a signal transduction protein that coordinates the regulation of nitrogen metabolism. Upon formation of this stable complex, GlnK enhances the affinity of GlnR for the glnRA operon promoter. These results support an involvement of GlnR in transcriptional regulation of nitrogen metabolism-related genes and indicate that GlnK relays information regarding ammonium availability to GlnR. <![CDATA[<b>Production of L1 protein from different types of HPV in <i>Pichia pastoris</i> using an integrative vector</b>]]> Human papillomavirus (HPV) infection is the most common sexually transmitted disease in the world and is related to the etiology of cervical cancer. The most common high-risk HPV types are 16 and 18; however, the second most prevalent type in the Midwestern region of Brazil is HPV-33. New vaccine strategies against HPV have shown that virus-like particles (VLP) of the major capsid protein (L1) induce efficient production of antibodies, which confer protection against the same viral type. The methylotrophic yeast Pichia pastoris is an efficient and inexpensive expression system for the production of high levels of heterologous proteins stably using a wild-type gene in combination with an integrative vector. It was recently demonstrated that P. pastoris can produce the HPV-16 L1 protein by using an episomal vector associated with the optimized L1 gene. However, the use of an episomal vector is not appropriate for protein production on an industrial scale. In the present study, the vectors were integrated into the Pichia genome and the results were positive for L1 gene transcription and protein production, both intracellularly and in the extracellular environment. Despite the great potential for expression by the P. pastoris system, our results suggest a low yield of L1 recombinant protein, which, however, does not make this system unworkable. The achievement of stable clones containing the expression cassettes integrated in the genome may permit optimizations that could enable the establishment of a platform for the production of VLP-based vaccines. <![CDATA[<b>Diversity of <i>16S rRNA</i> genes from bacteria of sugarcane rhizosphere soil</b>]]> Sugarcane is an important agricultural product of Brazil, with a total production of more than 500 million tons. Knowledge of the bacterial community associated with agricultural crops and the soil status is a decisive step towards understanding how microorganisms influence crop productivity. However, most studies aim to isolate endophytic or rhizosphere bacteria associated with the plant by culture-dependent approaches. Culture-independent approaches allow a more comprehensive view of entire bacterial communities in the environment. In the present study, we have used this approach to assess the bacterial community in the rhizosphere soil of sugarcane at different times and under different nitrogen fertilization conditions. At the high taxonomic level, few differences between samples were observed, with the phylum Proteobacteria (29.6%) predominating, followed by Acidobacteria (23.4%), Bacteroidetes (12.1%), Firmicutes (10.2%), and Actinobacteria (5.6%). The exception was the Verrucomicrobia phylum whose prevalence in N-fertilized soils was approximately 0.7% and increased to 5.2% in the non-fertilized soil, suggesting that this group may be an indicator of nitrogen availability in soils. However, at low taxonomic levels a higher diversity was found associated with plants receiving nitrogen fertilizer. Bacillus was the most predominant genus, accounting for 19.7% of all genera observed. Classically reported nitrogen-fixing and/or plant growth-promoting bacterial genera, such as Azospirillum, Rhizobium, Mesorhizobium, Bradyrhizobium, and Burkholderia were also found although at a lower prevalence. <![CDATA[<b>Inhibition of STAT3 by RNA interference suppresses angiogenesis in colorectal carcinoma</b>]]> In order to investigate signal transduction and activation of transcription 3 (STAT3) signaling on angiogenesis in colorectal carcinoma (CRC) after inhibiting STAT3 expression, we constructed the HT-29-shSTAT3 cell line by lentivirus-mediated RNAi. Cell growth was assessed with MTT and the cell cycle distribution by flow cytometry. CRC nude mouse models were established and tumor growth was monitored periodically. On day 30, all mice were killed and tumor tissues were removed. Microvessel density (MVD) was determined according to CD34-positive staining. The expression of vascular endothelial growth factor A (VEGFA), matrix metalloproteinase-2 (MMP2) and basic fibroblast growth factor (FGF2) was monitored by quantitative real-time PCR and Western blot analysis. Knockdown of STAT3 expression significantly inhibited cell growth in HT-29 cells, with a significantly higher proportion of cells at G0/G1 (P < 0.01). Consistently, in vivo data also demonstrated that tumor growth was significantly inhibited in mice injected with HT-29-shSTAT3 cells. MVD was 9.80 ± 3.02 in the HT-29-shSTAT3 group, significantly less than that of the control group (P < 0.01). mRNA and protein levels of VEGFA and MMP2 in the HT-29-shSTAT3 group were significantly lower than in the control group (P < 0.05), but no significant difference was observed in the mRNA or protein level of FGF2 (P &gt; 0.05). Taken together, these results demonstrate that STAT3 signaling is important to the growth of CRC and promotes angiogenesis by regulating VEGFA and MMP2 expression. <![CDATA[<b>Periodic mechanical stress activates MEK1/2-ERK1/2 mitogenic signals in rat chondrocytes through Src and PLCγ1</b>]]> The mitogenic effects of periodic mechanical stress on chondrocytes have been studied extensively but the mechanisms whereby chondrocytes sense and respond to periodic mechanical stress remain a matter of debate. We explored the signal transduction pathways of chondrocyte proliferation and matrix synthesis under periodic mechanical stress. In particular, we sought to identify the role of the MEK1/2-ERK1/2 signaling pathway in chondrocyte proliferation and matrix synthesis following cyclic physiologic mechanical compression. Under periodic mechanical stress, both rat chondrocyte proliferation and matrix synthesis were significantly increased (P < 0.05) and were associated with increases in the phosphorylation of Src, PLCγ1, MEK1/2, and ERK1/2 (P < 0.05). Pretreatment with the MEK1/2-ERK1/2 selective inhibitor, PD98059, and shRNA targeted to ERK1/2 reduced periodic mechanical stress-induced chondrocyte proliferation and matrix synthesis (P < 0.05), while the phosphorylation levels of Src-Tyr418 and PLCγ1-Tyr783 were not inhibited. Proliferation, matrix synthesis and phosphorylation of MEK1/2-Ser217/221 and ERK1/2-Thr202/Tyr204 were inhibited after pretreatment with the PLCγ1 inhibitor U73122 in chondrocytes in response to periodic mechanical stress (P < 0.05), while the phosphorylation site of Src-Tyr418 was not affected. Inhibition of Src activity with PP2 and shRNA targeted to Src abrogated chondrocyte proliferation and matrix synthesis (P < 0.05) and attenuated PLCγ1, MEK1/2 and ERK1/2 activation in chondrocytes subjected to periodic mechanical stress (P < 0.05). These findings suggest that periodic mechanical stress promotes chondrocyte proliferation and matrix synthesis in part through the Src-PLCγ1-MEK1/2-ERK1/2 signaling pathway, which links these three important signaling molecules into a mitogenic cascade. <![CDATA[<b>The effect of microgravity on tissue structure and function of rat testis</b>]]> To explore whether an environment of weightlessness will cause damage to the reproductive system of animals, we used the tail-suspension model to simulate microgravity, and investigated the effect of microgravity on the tissue structure and function of the testis in sexually mature male rats. Forty-eight male Wistar rats weighing 200-250 g were randomly assigned to three groups (N = 16 each): control, tail traction, and tail suspension. After the rats were suspended for 7 or 14 days, morphological changes of testis were evaluated by histological and electron microscopic methods. The expression of HSP70, bax/bcl-2 and AR (androgen receptor) in testis was measured by immunohistochemistry. Obvious pathological lesions were present in the testis after the rats were suspended for 7 or 14 days. We detected overexpression of HSP70 and an increase of apoptotic cells, which may have contributed to the injury to the testis. The expression of AR, as an effector molecule in the testis, was significantly decreased in the suspended groups compared to control (P < 0.01). We also observed that, with a longer time of suspension, the aforementioned pathological damage became more serious and some pathological injury to the testis was irreversible. The results demonstrated that a short- or medium-term microgravity environment could lead to severe irreversible damage to the structure of rat testis. <![CDATA[<b>Interaction between human cytomegalovirus UL136 protein and ATP1B1 protein</b>]]> Interplay between the host and human cytomegalovirus (HCMV) has a pivotal role in the outcome of infection. A region (referred to as UL/b’) present in the Toledo strain of HCMV and low passage clinical isolates contains 19 additional genes, which are absent in the highly passaged laboratory strain AD169. Products of the UL/b’ genes may determine the manifestations of HCMV infection in vivo. However, little is known about the host factors, which interact with UL/b’ proteins. This study was conducted to investigate the function of the HCMV UL136 protein. By yeast two-hybrid screening, the β1 subunit of the host Na+/K+-ATPase (ATP1B1) was identified to be a candidate protein, which interacts with the HCMV UL136 protein. The interaction was further evaluated both in vitro by pull-down assay and in vivo by immunofluorescent co-localization. The results showed that the UL136 protein can interact with ATP1B1 in vitro. Co-localization of UL136-EGFP and ATP1B1-DsRed in cell membranes suggests that ATP1B1 was a partner of the UL136 protein. It can be proposed that the HCMV UL136 protein may have important roles in processes such as cell-to-cell spread, and in maintaining cell osmotic pressure and intracellular ion homeostasis during HCMV infection. <![CDATA[<b>Expression of the chemokine receptor CXCR4 on lymphocytes of leprosy patients</b>]]> Leprosy is caused by Mycobacterium leprae, which induces chronic granulomatous infection of the skin and peripheral nerves. The disease ranges from the tuberculoid to the lepromatous forms, depending on the cellular immune response of the host. Chemokines are thought to be involved in the immunopathogenesis of leprosy, but few studies have investigated the expression of chemokine receptors on leukocytes of leprosy patients. In the present study, we evaluated 21 leprosy patients (M/F: 16/5) with a new diagnosis from the Dermatology Outpatient Clinic of the University Hospital, Federal University of Minas Gerais. The control group was composed of 20 healthy members (M/F: 15/5) of the community recruited by means of announcements. The expression of CCR2, CCR3, CCR5, and CXCR4 was investigated by flow cytometry on the surface of peripheral blood lymphocytes. There was a decrease in percentage of CD3+CXCR4+ and CD4+CXCR4+ lymphocytes in the peripheral blood of leprosy patients (median [range], 17.6 [2.7-41.9] and 65.3 [3.9-91.9], respectively) compared to the control group (median [range], 43.0 [3.7-61.3] and 77.2 [43.6-93.5], respectively). The percentage of CD4+CXCR4+ was significantly lower in patients with the tuberculoid form (median [range], 45.7 [0.0-83.1]) of the disease, but not in lepromatous patients (median [range], 81.5 [44.9-91.9]). The CXCR4 chemokine receptor may play a role in leprosy immunopathogenesis, probably directing cell migration to tissue lesions in tuberculoid leprosy patients. <![CDATA[<b>The response of social anxiety disorder patients to threat scenarios differs from that of healthy controls</b>]]> The objective of the present study was to evaluate the response of social anxiety disorder (SAD) patients to threat scenarios. First-choice responses to 12 scenarios describing conspecific threatening situations and mean scores of defensive direction and defensive intensity dimensions were compared between 87 SAD patients free of medication and 87 matched healthy controls (HC). A significant gender difference in the first-choice responses was identified for seven scenarios among HCs but only for two scenarios among SAD patients. A significantly higher proportion of SAD patients chose "freezing" in response to "Bush" and "Noise" scenarios, whereas the most frequent response by HCs to these scenarios was "check out". SAD males chose "run away" and "yell" more often than healthy men in response to the scenarios "Park" and "Elevator", respectively. There was a positive correlation between the severity of symptoms and both defensive direction and defensive intensity dimensions. Factorial analysis confirmed the gradient of defensive reactions derived from animal studies. SAD patients chose more urgent defensive responses to threat scenarios, seeming to perceive them as more dangerous than HCs and tending to move away from the source of threat. This is consistent with the hypothesis that the physiopathology of anxiety disorders involves brain structures responsible for defensive behaviors. <![CDATA[<b>Plasma von Willebrand factor as a predictor of survival in pulmonary arterial hypertension associated with congenital heart disease</b>]]> Biomarkers have been identified for pulmonary arterial hypertension, but are less well defined for specific etiologies such as congenital heart disease-associated pulmonary arterial hypertension (CHDPAH). We measured plasma levels of eight microvascular dysfunction markers in CHDPAH, and tested for associations with survival. A cohort of 46 inoperable CHDPAH patients (age 15.0 to 60.2 years, median 33.5 years, female:male 29:17) was prospectively followed for 0.7 to 4.0 years (median 3.6 years). Plasma levels of von Willebrand factor antigen (VWF:Ag), tissue plasminogen activator (t-PA) and its inhibitor (PAI-1), P-selectin, reactive C-protein, tumor necrosis factor alpha, and interleukin-6 and -10 were measured at baseline, and at 30, 90, and 180 days in all subjects. Levels of six of the eight proteins were significantly increased in patients versus controls (13 to 106% increase, P < 0.003). Interleukin-10 level was 2.06 times normal (P = 0.0003; Th2 cytokine response). Increased levels of four proteins (t-PA, PAI-1, P-selectin, and interleukin-6) correlated with disease severity indices (P < 0.05). Seven patients died during follow-up. An average VWF:Ag (mean of four determinations) above the level corresponding to the 95th percentile of controls (139 U/dL) was independently associated with a high risk of death (hazard ratio = 6.56, 95%CI = 1.46 to 29.4, P = 0.014). Thus, in CHDPAH, microvascular dysfunction appears to involve Th2 inflammatory response. Of the biomarkers studied, plasma vWF:Ag was independently associated with survival. <![CDATA[<b>Cardiac autonomic modulation during progressive upper limb exercise by patients with coronary artery disease</b>]]> The purpose of this study was to investigate the behavior of heart rate (HR) and HR variability (HRV) during different loads of resistance exercise (incline bench press) in patients with coronary artery disease (CAD) and healthy sedentary controls. Ten healthy men (65 ± 1.2 years, control group, CG) and 10 men with clinically stable CAD (66 ± 2.4 years, CADG) were recruited. A discontinuous progressive protocol was applied with an initial load of 10% of the maximum load achieved in the 1RM (1 repetition maximum) with increases of 10% until 30% 1RM was reached, which was followed by subsequent increases of 5% 1RM until exhaustion. HRV was analyzed by linear and non-linear methods. There was a significant reduction in rMSSD (CG: 20 ± 2 to 11 ± 3 ms; CADG: 19 ± 3 to 9 ± 1 ms) and SD1 indexes (CG: 14 ± 2 to 8 ± 1 ms; CADG: 14 ± 2 to 7 ± 1 ms). An increase in HR (CG: 69 ± 5 to 90 ± 5 bpm; CADG: 62 ± 4 to 75 ± 4 bpm) and in systolic blood pressure (CG: 124 ± 3 to 138 ± 3 mmHg; CADG: 122 ± 6 to 126 ± 9 bpm) were observed (P < 0.05) when comparing pre-effort rest and 40% 1RM in both groups. Furthermore, an increase in RMSM index was also observed (CG: 28 ± 3 to 45 ± 9 ms; CADG: 22 ± 2 to 79 ± 33 ms), with higher values in CADG. We conclude that loads up to 30% 1RM during incline bench press result in depressed vagal modulation in both groups, although only stable CAD patients presented sympathetic overactivity at 20% 1RM upper limb exercise. <![CDATA[<b>Markers of insulin resistance and sedentary lifestyle are predictors of preeclampsia in women with adverse obstetric results</b>]]> Some thrombophilias and severe preeclampsia may increase the risk for preterm deliveries and fetal death due to placental insufficiency. Our objective was to evaluate clinical and laboratory data as predictors of preeclampsia in a population of mothers with 3rd trimester fetal losses or preterm deliveries. In a longitudinal retrospective study, 54 consecutive women (age range: 16 to 39 years) with normotensive pregnancies were compared to 79 consecutive women with preeclampsia (age range: 16 to 43 years). Weight accrual rate (WAR) was arbitrarily defined as weight gain from age 18 years to the beginning of pregnancy divided by elapsed years. Independent predictors of preeclampsia were past history of oligomenorrhea, WAR &gt;0.8 kg/years, pre-pregnancy or 1st trimester triglyceridemia &gt;150 mg/dL, and elevated acanthosis nigricans in the neck. In a multivariate logistic regression model, two or more predictors conferred an odds ratio of 15 (95%CI [5.9-37]; P < 0.001) to develop preeclampsia (85% specificity, 73% sensitivity, c-statistic of 81 ± 4%; P < 0.0001). Clinical markers related to insulin resistance and sedentary lifestyles are strong independent predictors of preeclampsia in mothers with 3rd trimester fetal losses or preterm deliveries due to placental insufficiency. Women at risk for preeclampsia in this particular population might benefit from measures focused on overcoming insulin resistance. <![CDATA[<b>Implications of extubation failure and prolonged mechanical ventilation in the postoperative period following elective intracranial surgery</b>]]> Patients undergoing neurosurgery are predisposed to a variety of complications related to mechanical ventilation (MV). There is an increased incidence of extubation failure, pneumonia, and prolonged MV among such patients. The aim of the present study was to assess the influence of extubation failure and prolonged MV on the following variables: postoperative pulmonary complications (PPC), mortality, reoperation, tracheostomy, and duration of postoperative hospitalization following elective intra-cranial surgery. The study involved a prospective observational cohort of 317 patients submitted to elective intracranial surgery for tumors, aneurysms and arteriovenous malformation. Preoperative assessment was performed and patients were followed up for the determination of extubation failure and prolonged MV (>48 h) until discharge from the hospital or death. The occurrence of PPC, incidence of death, the need for reoperation and tracheostomy, and the length of hospitalization were assessed during the postoperative period. Twenty-six patients (8.2%) experienced extubation failure and 30 (9.5%) needed prolonged MV after surgery. Multivariate analysis showed that extubation failure was significant for the occurrence of death (OR = 8.05 [1.88; 34.36]), PPC (OR = 11.18 [2.27; 55.02]) and tracheostomy (OR = 7.8 [1.12; 55.07]). Prolonged MV was significant only for the occurrence of PPC (OR = 4.87 [1.3; 18.18]). Elective intracranial surgery patients who experienced extubation failure or required prolonged MV had a higher incidence of PPC, reoperation and tracheostomy and required a longer period of time in the ICU. Level of consciousness and extubation failure were associated with death and PPC. Patients who required prolonged MV had a higher incidence of extubation failure.