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      Aberrant Mucin Assembly in Mice Causes Endoplasmic Reticulum Stress and Spontaneous Inflammation Resembling Ulcerative Colitis

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          There is no author summary for this article yet. Authors can add summaries to their articles on ScienceOpen to make them more accessible to a non-specialist audience.

          Abstract

          Background

          MUC2 mucin produced by intestinal goblet cells is the major component of the intestinal mucus barrier. The inflammatory bowel disease ulcerative colitis is characterized by depleted goblet cells and a reduced mucus layer, but the aetiology remains obscure. In this study we used random mutagenesis to produce two murine models of inflammatory bowel disease, characterised the basis and nature of the inflammation in these mice, and compared the pathology with human ulcerative colitis.

          Methods and Findings

          By murine N-ethyl- N-nitrosourea mutagenesis we identified two distinct noncomplementing missense mutations in Muc2 causing an ulcerative colitis-like phenotype. 100% of mice of both strains developed mild spontaneous distal intestinal inflammation by 6 wk (histological colitis scores versus wild-type mice, p < 0.01) and chronic diarrhoea. Monitoring over 300 mice of each strain demonstrated that 25% and 40% of each strain, respectively, developed severe clinical signs of colitis by age 1 y. Mutant mice showed aberrant Muc2 biosynthesis, less stored mucin in goblet cells, a diminished mucus barrier, and increased susceptibility to colitis induced by a luminal toxin. Enhanced local production of IL-1β, TNF-α, and IFN-γ was seen in the distal colon, and intestinal permeability increased 2-fold. The number of leukocytes within mesenteric lymph nodes increased 5-fold and leukocytes cultured in vitro produced more Th1 and Th2 cytokines (IFN-γ, TNF-α, and IL-13). This pathology was accompanied by accumulation of the Muc2 precursor and ultrastructural and biochemical evidence of endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stress in goblet cells, activation of the unfolded protein response, and altered intestinal expression of genes involved in ER stress, inflammation, apoptosis, and wound repair. Expression of mutated Muc2 oligomerisation domains in vitro demonstrated that aberrant Muc2 oligomerisation underlies the ER stress. In human ulcerative colitis we demonstrate similar accumulation of nonglycosylated MUC2 precursor in goblet cells together with ultrastructural and biochemical evidence of ER stress even in noninflamed intestinal tissue. Although our study demonstrates that mucin misfolding and ER stress initiate colitis in mice, it does not ascertain the genetic or environmental drivers of ER stress in human colitis.

          Conclusions

          Characterisation of the mouse models we created and comparison with human disease suggest that ER stress-related mucin depletion could be a fundamental component of the pathogenesis of human colitis and that clinical studies combining genetics, ER stress-related pathology and relevant environmental epidemiology are warranted.

          Abstract

          Michael McGuckin and colleagues identify two mutations that cause aberrant mucin oligomerization in mice. The resulting phenotype, including endoplasmic reticulum stress, resembles clinical and pathologic features of human ulcerative colitis.

          Editors' Summary

          Background.

          Inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD) are common disorders in which parts of the digestive tract become inflamed. The two main types of IBD are Crohn's disease, which mainly affects the small bowel, and ulcerative colitis (UC), which mainly affects the large bowel (colon). Both types tend to run in families and usually develop between 15 and 35 years old. Their symptoms include diarrhea, abdominal cramps, and unintentional weight loss. These symptoms can vary in severity, can be chronic (persistent) or intermittent, and may start gradually or suddenly. There is no cure for IBD (except removal of the affected part of the digestive tract), but drugs that modulate the immune system (for example, corticosteroids) or that inhibit “proinflammatory cytokines” (proteins made by the immune system that stimulate inflammation) can sometimes help.

          Why Was This Study Done?

          Although the clinical and pathological (disease-associated) features of Crohn's disease and UC are somewhat different, both disorders are probably caused by an immune system imbalance. Normally, the immune system protects the body from potentially harmful microbes in the gut but does not react to the many harmless bacteria that live there or to the food that passes along the digestive tract. In IBD, the immune system becomes overactive for unknown reasons, and lymphocytes (immune system cells) accumulate in the lining of the bowel and cause inflammation. In this study, the researchers use a technique called random mutagenesis (the random introduction of small changes, called mutations, into the genes of an organism using a chemical that damages DNA) to develop two mouse models that resemble human UC and that throw new light on to how this disorder develops.

          What Did the Researchers Do and Find?

          The researchers establish two mutant mouse strains —Winnie and Eeyore mice—that develop mild spontaneous inflammation of the colon and chronic diarrhea and that have more proinflammatory cytokines and more lymphocytes in their colons than normal mice. 25% and 40% of the Winnie and Eeyore mice, respectively, have severe clinical signs of colitis by 1 year of age. Both strains have a mutation in the Muc2 gene, which codes for MUC2 mucin, the main protein in mucus. This viscous substance (which coats the inside of the intestine) is produced by and stored in intestinal “goblet” cells. Mucus helps to maintain the intestine's immunological balance but is depleted in UC. The researchers show that the manufacture and assembly of Muc2 molecules is abnormal in Winnie and Eeyore mice, that less mucin is stored in their goblet cells than in normal mice, and that their intestinal mucus barrier is reduced. In addition, an incompletely assembled version of the molecule, called Muc2 precursor, accumulates in the endoplasmic reticulum (ER; the cellular apparatus that prepares newly manufactured proteins for release) of goblet cells, leading to overload with abnormal protein and causing a state of cellular distress known as the “ER stress response.” Finally, the researchers report that MUC2 precursor also accumulates in the goblet cells of people with UC and that even the noninflamed intestinal tissue of these patients shows signs of ER stress.

          What Do These Findings Mean?

          These findings indicate that mucin abnormalities and ER stress can initiate colitis in mice. Results from animal studies do not always reflect what happens in people, but these findings, together with those from the small study in humans, suggest that ER stress-related mucin depletion could be a component in the development of human colitis. The results do not identify the genetic changes and/or environmental factors that might trigger ER stress in human colitis, but suggest that once initiated, ER stress might interfere with MUC2 production, which would lead to a diminished mucus barrier, expose the lining of the intestine to more toxins and foreign substances, and trigger local mucosal inflammation. The release of inflammatory cytokines would then damage the intestine's lining and exacerbate ER stress, thus setting up a cycle of intestinal damage and inflammation. Clinical studies to look for genetic changes and environmental factors capable of triggering ER stress and for ER-stress related changes in human UC should now be undertaken to test this hypothesis.

          Additional Information.

          Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.0050054.

          Related collections

          Most cited references 76

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          Signal integration in the endoplasmic reticulum unfolded protein response.

          The endoplasmic reticulum (ER) responds to the accumulation of unfolded proteins in its lumen (ER stress) by activating intracellular signal transduction pathways - cumulatively called the unfolded protein response (UPR). Together, at least three mechanistically distinct arms of the UPR regulate the expression of numerous genes that function within the secretory pathway but also affect broad aspects of cell fate and the metabolism of proteins, amino acids and lipids. The arms of the UPR are integrated to provide a response that remodels the secretory apparatus and aligns cellular physiology to the demands imposed by ER stress.
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            Unravelling the pathogenesis of inflammatory bowel disease.

            Recently, substantial advances in the understanding of the molecular pathogenesis of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) have been made owing to three related lines of investigation. First, IBD has been found to be the most tractable of complex disorders for discovering susceptibility genes, and these have shown the importance of epithelial barrier function, and innate and adaptive immunity in disease pathogenesis. Second, efforts directed towards the identification of environmental factors implicate commensal bacteria (or their products), rather than conventional pathogens, as drivers of dysregulated immunity and IBD. Third, murine models, which exhibit many of the features of ulcerative colitis and seem to be bacteria-driven, have helped unravel the pathogenesis/mucosal immunopathology of IBD.
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              CHOP induces death by promoting protein synthesis and oxidation in the stressed endoplasmic reticulum.

              Unfolded and malfolded client proteins impose a stress on the endoplasmic reticulum (ER), which contributes to cell death in pathophysiological conditions. The transcription factor C/EBP homologous protein (CHOP) is activated by ER stress, and CHOP deletion protects against its lethal consequences. We find that CHOP directly activates GADD34, which promotes ER client protein biosynthesis by dephosphorylating phospho-Ser 51 of the alpha-subunit of translation initiation factor 2 (eIF2alpha) in stressed cells. Thus, impaired GADD34 expression reduces client protein load and ER stress in CHOP(-/-) cells exposed to perturbations that impair ER function. CHOP(-/-) and GADD34 mutant cells accumulate less high molecular weight protein complexes in their stressed ER than wild-type cells. Furthermore, mice lacking GADD34-directed eIF2alpha dephosphorylation, like CHOP(-/-) mice, are resistant to renal toxicity of the ER stress-inducing drug tunicamycin. CHOP also activates ERO1alpha, which encodes an ER oxidase. Consequently, the ER of stressed CHOP(-/-) cells is relatively hypo-oxidizing. Pharmacological and genetic manipulations that promote a hypo-oxidizing ER reduce abnormal high molecular weight protein complexes in the stressed ER and protect from the lethal consequences of ER stress. CHOP deletion thus protects cells from ER stress by decreasing ER client protein load and changing redox conditions within the organelle.
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                Author and article information

                Contributors
                Role: Academic Editor
                Journal
                PLoS Med
                pmed
                plme
                plosmed
                PLoS Medicine
                Public Library of Science (San Francisco, USA )
                1549-1277
                1549-1676
                March 2008
                4 March 2008
                : 5
                : 3
                Affiliations
                [1 ] Mucin and IBD Research Teams, Mucosal Diseases Program, Mater Medical Research Institute, and the University of Queensland, Aubigny Place, Mater Health Services, South Brisbane, Queensland, Australia
                [2 ] Immunology and Inflammation Group, Phenomix Australia, Acton, Australia
                [3 ] Molecular Genetics Team, Mater Medical Research Institute, and the University of Queensland, Aubigny Place, Mater Health Services, South Brisbane, Queensland, Australia
                [4 ] Gastroenterology Unit, Canberra Hospital, Woden, Australia
                [5 ] Wellcome Trust Centre for Cell Matrix Research, Faculty of Life Sciences, University of Manchester, Manchester, United Kingdom
                [6 ] Nuffield Dept of Clinical Medicine, University of Oxford, John Radcliffe Hospital, Oxford, United Kingdom
                [7 ] Dendritic Cell Program, Mater Medical Research Institute, Aubigny Place, Mater Health Services, South Brisbane, Queensland, Australia
                [8 ] Phenomix Corporation, San Diego, California, United States of America
                [9 ] Division of Immunology and Genetics and Australian Phenomics Facility, John Curtin School of Medical Research, The Australian National University, Canberra, Australia
                University Hospital Schleswig Holstein, Germany
                Author notes
                * To whom correspondence should be addressed. E-mail: mmcguckin@ 123456mmri.mater.org.au
                Article
                07-PLME-RA-0448R4 plme-05-03-04
                10.1371/journal.pmed.0050054
                2270292
                18318598
                Copyright: © 2008 Heazlewood et al. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.
                Counts
                Pages: 21
                Categories
                Research Article
                Cell Biology
                Gastroenterology and Hepatology
                Genetics and Genomics
                Immunology
                Pathology
                Inflammatory Bowel Disease
                Genetics
                Gastroenterology
                Colonic Disease
                Pathology
                Custom metadata
                Heazlewood CK, Cook MC, Eri R, Price GR, Tauro SB, et al. (2008) Aberrant mucin assembly in mice causes endoplasmic reticulum stress and spontaneous inflammation resembling ulcerative colitis. PLoS Med 5(3): e54. doi: 10.1371/journal.pmed.0050054

                Medicine

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