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Praktiknjo, M., Monteiro, S., Grandt, J., Kimer, N., Madsen, J. L., Werge, M. P., William, P., Brol, M. J., Turco, L., Schierwagen, R., Chang, J., Klein, S., Uschner, F. E., Welsch, C., Moreau, R., Schepis, F., Bendtsen, F., Gluud, L. L., Møller, S., Trebicka, J., (2020). Cardiodynamic state is associated with systemic inflammation and fatal acute-on-chronic liver failure Liver International 40, (6), 1457-1466

Background & Aims: Acute-on-chronic liver failure (ACLF) is characterized by high short-term mortality and systemic inflammation (SI). Recently, different cardiodynamic states were shown to independently predict outcomes in cirrhosis. The relationship between cardiodynamic states, SI, and portal hypertension and their impact on ACLF development remains unclear. The aim of this study was therefore to evaluate the interplay of cardiodynamic state and SI on fatal ACLF development in cirrhosis. Results: At inclusion, hemodynamic measures including cardiac index (CI) and hepatic venous pressure gradient of 208 patients were measured. Patients were followed prospectively for fatal ACLF development (primary endpoint). SI was assessed by proinflammatory markers such as interleukins (ILs) 6 and 8 and soluble IL-33 receptor (sIL-33R). Patients were divided according to CI (<3.2; 3.2-4.2; >4.2 L/min/m2) in hypo- (n = 84), normo- (n = 69) and hyperdynamic group (n = 55). After a median follow-up of 3 years, the highest risk of fatal ACLF was seen in hyperdynamic (35%) and hypodynamic patients (25%) compared with normodynamic (14%) (P = .011). Hyperdynamic patients showed the highest rate of SI. The detectable level of IL-6 was an independent predictor of fatal ACLF development. Conclusions: Cirrhotic patients with hyperdynamic and hypodynamic circulation have a higher risk of fatal ACLF. Therefore, the cardiodynamic state is strongly associated with SI, which is an independent predictor of development of fatal ACLF.

Keywords: Acute-on-chronic liver failure, Circulation, Cirrhosis, Hemodynamic, Inflammation

Madsen, B. S., Thiele, M., Detlefsen, S., Sørensen, M. D., Kjærgaard, M., Møller, L. S., Rasmussen, D. N., Schlosser, A., Holmskov, U., Trebicka, J., Sorensen, G. L., Krag, A., (2020). Prediction of liver fibrosis severity in alcoholic liver disease by human microfibrillar-associated protein 4 Liver International 40, (7), 1701-1712

Background: Alcoholic liver disease (ALD) is a public health concern that is the cause of half of all cirrhosis-related deaths. Early detection of fibrosis, ideally in the precirrhotic stage, is a key strategy for improving ALD outcomes and for preventing progression to cirrhosis. Previous studies identified the blood-borne marker human microfibrillar-associated protein 4 (MFAP4) as a biomarker for detection of hepatitis C virus (HCV)-related fibrosis. Aim: To evaluate the diagnostic accuracy of MFAP4 to detect ALD-induced fibrosis. Method: We performed a prospective, liver biopsy-controlled study involving 266 patients with prior or current alcohol overuse. Patients were split into a training and a validation cohort. Results: MFAP4 was present in fibrotic hepatic tissue and serum MFAP4 levels increased with fibrosis grade. The area under the receiver operating characteristic curve (AUROC) for detection of cirrhosis was 0.91 (95% CI 0.85-0.96) in the training cohort and 0.91 (95% CI 0.79-1.00) in the validation cohort. For detection of advanced fibrosis, the AUROC was 0.88 (95% CI 0.81-0.94) in the training cohort and 0.92 (95% CI 0.83-1.00) in the validation cohort. The diagnostic accuracy did not differ between MFAP4 and the enhanced liver fibrosis (ELF) test or transient elastography (TE) in an intention-to-diagnose analysis. MFAP4 did not predict hepatic decompensation in a time-to-decompensation analysis in a subgroup of patients with cirrhosis. Conclusion: MFAP4 is a novel biomarker that can detect ALD-related fibrosis with high accuracy.

Keywords: Biomarker, Cirrhosis, Extracellular matrix protein, Liver biopsy, Non-invasive testing

Trebicka, J., Gu, W., Ibañez-Samaniego, L., Hernández-Gea, V., Pitarch, C., Garcia, E., Procopet, B., Giráldez, Á, Amitrano, L., Villanueva, C., Thabut, D., Silva-Junior, G., Martinez, J., Genescà , J., Bureau, C., Llop, E., Laleman, W., Palazon, J. M., Castellote, J., Rodrigues, S., Gluud, L., Ferreira, C. N., Barcelo, R., Cañete, N., Rodríguez, M., Ferlitsch, A., Mundi, J. L., Gronbaek, H., Hernández-Guerra, M., Sassatelli, R., Dell'Era, A., Senzolo, M., Abraldes, J. G., Romero-Gómez, M., Zipprich, A., Casas, M., Masnou, H., Primignani, M., Weiss, E., Catalina, M. V., Erasmus, H. P., Uschner, F. E., Schulz, M., Brol, M. J., Praktiknjo, M., Chang, J., Krag, A., Nevens, F., Calleja, J. L., Robic, M. A., Conejo, I., Albillos, A., Rudler, M., Alvarado, E., Guardascione, M. A., Tantau, M., Bosch, J., Torres, F., Pavesi, M., Garcia-Pagán, J. C., Jansen, C., Bañares, R., (2020). Rebleeding and mortality risk are increased by ACLF but reduced by pre-emptive TIPS Journal of Hepatology 73, (5), 1082-1091

Background & Aims: The relationship between acute-on-chronic liver failure (ACLF) and acute variceal bleeding (AVB) is poorly understood. Specifically, the prevalence and prognosis of ACLF in the context of AVB is unclear, while the role of transjugular intrahepatic portosystemic shunt (TIPS) in the management in patients with ACLF has not been described to date. Methods: A multicenter, international, observational study was conducted in 2,138 patients from 34 centers between 2011 and 2015. ACLF was defined and graded according to the EASL-CLIF consortium definition. Placement of pre-emptive TIPS (pTIPS) was based on individual center policy. Patients were followed-up for 1 year, until death or liver transplantation. Cox regression and competing risk models (Gray's test) were used to identify independent predictors of rebleeding or mortality. Results: At admission, 380/2,138 (17.8%) patients had ACLF according to EASL-CLIF criteria (grade 1: 38.7%; grade 2: 39.2%; grade 3: 22.1%). The 42-day rebleeding (19% vs. 10%; p <0.001) and mortality (47% vs. 10%; p <0.001) rates were higher in patients with ACLF and increased with ACLF grades. Of note, the presence of ACLF was independently associated with rebleeding and mortality. pTIPS placement improved survival in patients with ACLF at 42 days and 1 year. This effect was also observed in propensity score matching analysis of 66 patients with ACLF, of whom 44 received pTIPs and 22 did not. Conclusions: This large multicenter international real-life study identified ACLF at admission as an independent predictor of rebleeding and mortality in patients with AVB. Moreover, pTIPS was associated with improved survival in patients with ACLF and AVB. Lay summary: Acute variceal bleeding is a deadly complication of liver cirrhosis that results from severe portal hypertension. This study demonstrates that the presence of acute-on-chronic liver failure (ACLF) is the strongest predictor of mortality in patients with acute variceal bleeding. Importantly, patients with ACLF and acute variceal (re)bleeding benefit from pre-emptive (early) placement of a transjugular intrahepatic portosystemic shunt.

Keywords: Acute variceal bleeding, Acute-on-chronic liver failure, Cirrhosis, Rebleeding

Torner, M., Mangal, A., Scharnagl, H., Jansen, C., Praktiknjo, M., Queck, A., Gu, W., Schierwagen, R., Lehmann, J., Uschner, F. E., Graf, C., Strassburg, C. P., Fernandez, J., Stojakovic, T., Woitas, R., Trebicka, J., (2020). Sex specificity of kidney markers to assess prognosis in cirrhotic patients with TIPS Liver International 40, (1), 186-193

Background & Aims: Renal function assessed by creatinine is a key prognostic factor in cirrhotic patients. However, creatinine is influenced by several factors, rendering interpretation difficult in some situations. This is especially important in early stages of renal dysfunction where renal impairment might not be accompanied by an increase in creatinine. Other parameters, such as cystatin C (CysC) and beta‐trace protein (BTP), have been evaluated to fill this gap. However, none of these studies have considered the role of the patient's sex. The present study analysed CysC and BTP to evaluate their prognostic value and differentiate them according to sex. Patients and methods: CysC and BTP were measured in 173 transjugular intrahepatic portosystemic shunt (TIPS)-patients from the NEPTUN-STUDY(NCT03628807) and analysed their relationship with mortality and sex. Propensity score for age, MELD, etiology and TIPS indication was used. Results: Cystatin C and BTP showed excellent correlations with creatinine values at baseline and follow-up. CysC was an independent predictor of overall mortality (HR = 1.66(1.33-2.06)) with an AUC of 0.75 and identified a cut-off of 1.55 mg/L in the whole cohort. Interestingly, CysC was significantly lower in females, also after propensity score matching. In males, the only independent predictor was the creatinine level (HR = 1.54(1.25-1.58)), while in females CysC levels independently predicted mortality (HR = 3.17(1.34-7.52)). Conclusion: This study demonstrates for the first time that in TIPS-patients creatinine predicts mortality in males better than in females, whereas CysC is a better predictor of mortality in females. These results may influence future clinical decisions on therapeutic options for example, allocation for liver transplantation in TIPS-patients.

Keywords: Beta-trace protein, Cirrhosis, Cystatin C, Portal hypertension, Renal function

Praktiknjo, M., Simón-Talero, M., Römer, J., Roccarina, D., Martínez, J., Lampichler, K., Baiges, A., Low, G., Llop, E., Maurer, M. H., Zipprich, A., Triolo, M., Maleux, G., Fialla, A. D., Dam, C., Vidal-González, J., Majumdar, A., Picón, C., Toth, D., Darnell, A., Abraldes, J. G., López, M., Jansen, C., Chang, J., Schierwagen, R., Uschner, F., Kukuk, G., Meyer, C., Thomas, D., Wolter, K., Strassburg, C. P., Laleman, W., La Mura, V., Ripoll, C., Berzigotti, A., Calleja, J. L., Tandon, P., Hernandez-Gea, V., Reiberger, T., Albillos, A., Tsochatzis, E. A., Krag, A., Genescà , J., Trebicka, J., (2020). Total area of spontaneous portosystemic shunts independently predicts hepatic encephalopathy and mortality in liver cirrhosis Journal of Hepatology 72, (6), 1140-1150

Background & Aims: Spontaneous portosystemic shunts (SPSS) frequently develop in liver cirrhosis. Recent data suggested that the presence of a single large SPSS is associated with complications, especially overt hepatic encephalopathy (oHE). However, the presence of >1 SPSS is common. This study evaluates the impact of total cross-sectional SPSS area (TSA) on outcomes in patients with liver cirrhosis. Methods: In this retrospective international multicentric study, CT scans of 908 cirrhotic patients with SPSS were evaluated for TSA. Clinical and laboratory data were recorded. Each detected SPSS radius was measured and TSA calculated. One-year survival was the primary endpoint and acute decompensation (oHE, variceal bleeding, ascites) was the secondary endpoint. Results: A total of 301 patients (169 male) were included in the training cohort. Thirty percent of all patients presented with >1 SPSS. A TSA cut-off of 83 mm2 was used to classify patients with small or large TSA (S-/L-TSA). Patients with L-TSA presented with higher model for end-stage liver disease score (11 vs. 14) and more commonly had a history of oHE (12% vs. 21%, p <0.05). During follow-up, patients with L-TSA experienced more oHE episodes (33% vs. 47%, p <0.05) and had lower 1-year survival than those with S-TSA (84% vs. 69%, p <0.001). Multivariate analysis identified L-TSA (hazard ratio 1.66; 95% CI 1.02–2.70, p <0.05) as an independent predictor of mortality. An independent multicentric validation cohort of 607 patients confirmed that patients with L-TSA had lower 1-year survival (77% vs. 64%, p <0.001) and more oHE development (35% vs. 49%, p <0.001) than those with S-TSA. Conclusion: This study suggests that TSA >83 mm2 increases the risk for oHE and mortality in patients with cirrhosis. Our results support the clinical use of TSA/SPSS for risk stratification and decision-making in the management of patients with cirrhosis. Lay summary: The prevalence of spontaneous portosystemic shunts (SPSS) is higher in patients with more advanced chronic liver disease. The presence of more than 1 SPSS is common in advanced chronic liver disease and is associated with the development of hepatic encephalopathy. This study shows that total cross-sectional SPSS area (rather than diameter of the single largest SPSS) predicts survival in patients with advanced chronic liver disease. Our results support the clinical use of total cross-sectional SPSS area for risk stratification and decision-making in the management of SPSS.

Keywords: ACLF, Acute decompensation, Acute-on-chronic liver failure, Ascites, Cirrhosis, Computed tomography, Hepatic encephalopathy, Liver, Portal hypertension, Spontaneous portosystemic shunt, SPSS, TIPS

Trebicka, J., Bastgen, D., Byrtus, J., Praktiknjo, M., Terstiegen, S., Meyer, C., Thomas, D., Fimmers, R., Treitl, M., Euringer, W., Sauerbruch, T., Rössle, M., (2019). Smaller-diameter covered transjugular intrahepatic portosystemic shunt stents are associated with increased survival Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology 17, (13), 2793-2799.e1

Background & Aims: We studied the effects of diameter of covered, self-expandable, nitinol stents on survival times of patients with a transjugular intrahepatic portosystemic shunt (TIPS). Methods: We collected data from 185 patients (median age, 55 y; 30% female) who received a covered nitinol stent, from February 2006 through September 2010, using the online multicenter German TIPS registry. TIPS were given to 107 patients for refractory ascites and to 78 patients for variceal bleeding. Patients at risk of hepatic encephalopathy (owing to advanced age, prior episodes) or liver failure (bilirubin level, >3 mg/dL), and bleeding patients receiving variceal embolization at TIPS, received 8-mm stents (n = 53). The remaining patients received 10-mm stents (n = 132). Eighty-one of the 10-mm stents were underdilated using 8-mm dilation balloons. Clinical and biochemical data were collected after TIPS placement at 1 month, 3 months, 6 months, 9 months, 1 year, and thereafter every 3 to 6 months. Groups were compared using propensity score analysis. Results: Patients who received 8-mm stents survived significantly longer (34 ± 26 mo) than patients who received 10-mm stents (18 ± 19 mo), regardless of whether they were fully dilated or underdilated. When we compared 10-mm stents with or without underdilation, we found that a significantly higher proportion of patients who received underdilated stents survived for 1 month after TIPS placement (95% vs 84%; P = .03), but not for 3 months (P = .10). In multivariate analysis, 1-year mortality correlated with full dilation of the stent to 10 mm (hazard ratio [HR], 2.0; 95% CI, 1.1–3.5) and with serum creatinine concentration at baseline (HR, 1.5; 95% CI, 1.0–1.7). Five-year mortality was associated with use of the 10-mm stents (HR, 1.8; 95% CI, 1.4–2.7) and baseline concentration of creatinine (HR, 1.3; 95% CI, 1.1–1.6). Conclusions: A smaller stent (nominal diameter of 8 mm, but not underdilation of a 10-mm stent) is associated with a prolonged survival compared with 10-mm stents, independent of liver-specific prognostic criteria.

Keywords: Cirrhosis, Comparison, Covered, Portal Hypertension

Lehmann, J., Praktiknjo, M., Nielsen, M. J., Schierwagen, R., Meyer, C., Thomas, D., Violi, F., Strassburg, C. P., Bendtsen, F., Moller, S., Krag, A., Karsdal, M. A., Leeming, D. J., Trebicka, J., (2019). Collagen type IV remodelling gender-specifically predicts mortality in decompensated cirrhosis Liver International 39, (5), 885-893

Background & Aims: Remodelling of extracellular matrix is crucial in progressive liver fibrosis. Collagen type III desposition has been shown in acute decompensation. Extratracellular matrix is compiled of deposition of various components. The role of basement membrane collagen type IV in advanced cirrhosis and acute decompensation is unclear and investigated in this study. Methods: Patients with decompensated cirrhosis from the prospective NEPTUN cohort ( Identifier: NCT03628807), who underwent transjugular intrahepatic portosystemic shunt procedure were included. Clinical and laboratory parameters, PRO-C4 and C4M levels were measured in blood samples from portal and hepatic veins just before transjugular intrahepatic portosystemic shunt placement. Results: Levels of C4M and PRO-C4 are significantly lower in patients with massive ascites and impaired renal sodium excretion. C4M and PRO-C4 show gender-specific profiles with significantly lower levels in females compared to males. Females with higher C4M levels show higher mortality. By contrast, males with higher C4M levels show lower mortality. In multivariate Cox regression analysis, C4M is an independent predictor of survival in female patients. Conclusion: This study shows that markers of collagen type IV remodelling do not accumulate in severe renal dysfunction. Although collagen type IV degradation markers derive from the liver, portal venous C4M levels are relevant for survival. Moreover, it demonstrates that circulating C4M shows gender-specific profiles, which can independently predict survival in female patients with decompensated cirrhosis.

Keywords: ACLF, Acute decompensation, Acute-on-chronic liver failure, Cirrhosis, Collagen type IV, Extracellular matrix remodelling, Gender, Liver, Portal hypertension, Transjugular intrahepatic portosystemic shunt

Trebicka, J., Amoros, A., Pitarch, C., Titos, E., Alcaraz-Quiles, J., Schierwagen, R., Deulofeu, C., Fernandez-Gomez, J., Piano, S., Caraceni, P., Oettl, K., Sola, E., Laleman, W., McNaughtan, J., Mookerjee, R. P., Coenraad, M. J., Welzel, T., Steib, C., Garcia, R., Gustot, T., Rodriguez Gandia, M. A., Bañares, R., Albillos, A., Zeuzem, S., Vargas, V., Saliba, F., Nevens, F., Alessandria, C., De Gottardi, A., Zoller, H., Ginès, P., Sauerbruch, T., Gerbes, A., Stauber, R. E., Bernardi, M., Angeli, P., Pavesi, M., Moreau, R., Clària, J., Jalan, R., Arroyo, V., (2019). Addressing profiles of systemic inflammation across the different clinical phenotypes of acutely decompensated cirrhosis Frontiers in Immunology 10, 476

Background: Patients with acutely decompensated cirrhosis (AD) may or may not develop acute-on-chronic liver failure (ACLF). ACLF is characterized by high-grade systemic inflammation, organ failures (OF) and high short-term mortality. Although patients with AD cirrhosis exhibit distinct clinical phenotypes at baseline, they have low short-term mortality, unless ACLF develops during follow-up. Because little is known about the association of profile of systemic inflammation with clinical phenotypes of patients with AD cirrhosis, we aimed to investigate a battery of markers of systemic inflammation in these patients. Methods: Upon hospital admission baseline plasma levels of 15 markers (cytokines, chemokines, and oxidized albumin) were measured in 40 healthy controls, 39 compensated cirrhosis, 342 AD cirrhosis, and 161 ACLF. According to EASL-CLIF criteria, AD cirrhosis was divided into three distinct clinical phenotypes (AD-1: Creatinine<1.5, no HE, no OF; AD-2: creatinine 1.5–2, and or HE grade I/II, no OF; AD-3: Creatinine<1.5, no HE, non-renal OF). Results: Most markers were slightly abnormal in compensated cirrhosis, but markedly increased in AD. Patients with ACLF exhibited the largest number of abnormal markers, indicating “full-blown” systemic inflammation (all markers). AD-patients exhibited distinct systemic inflammation profiles across three different clinical phenotypes. In each phenotype, activation of systemic inflammation was only partial (30% of the markers). Mortality related to each clinical AD-phenotype was significantly lower than mortality associated with ACLF (p < 0.0001 by gray test). Among AD-patients baseline systemic inflammation (especially IL-8, IL-6, IL-1ra, HNA2 independently associated) was more intense in those who had poor 28-day outcomes (ACLF, death) than those who did not experience these outcomes. Conclusions: Although AD-patients exhibit distinct profiles of systemic inflammation depending on their clinical phenotypes, all these patients have only partial activation of systemic inflammation. However, those with the most extended baseline systemic inflammation had the highest the risk of ACLF development and death.

Keywords: ACLF, Acute decompensation, Cirrhosis, Organ dysfunction, Organ failure, Signature

Alvarez-Silva, C., Schierwagen, R., Pohlmann, A., Magdaleno, F., Uschner, F. E., Ryan, P., Vehreschild, M. J. G. T., Claria, J., Latz, E., Lelouvier, B., Arumugam, M., Trebicka, J., (2019). Compartmentalization of immune response and microbial translocation in decompensated cirrhosis Frontiers in Immunology 10, 69

Background: Acquired dysfunctional immunity in cirrhosis predisposes patients to frequent bacterial infections, especially spontaneous bacterial peritonitis (SBP), leading to systemic inflammation that is associated with poor outcome. But systemic inflammation can also be found in the absence of a confirmed infection. Detection of bacterial DNA has been investigated as a marker of SBP and as a predictor of prognosis. Data is, however, contradictory. Here we investigated whether levels of IL-6 and IL-8 putatively produced by myeloid cells in ascites are associated with systemic inflammation and whether inflammation depends on the presence of specific bacterial DNA. Methods and Materials: We enrolled 33 patients with decompensated liver cirrhosis from whom we collected paired samples of blood and ascites. IL-6 and IL-8 were measured in serum samples of all patients using ELISA. In a subset of 10 representative patients, bacterial DNA was extracted from ascites and whole blood, followed by 16S rRNA gene amplicon sequencing. Results: There were significantly higher levels of IL-6 in ascites fluid compared to blood samples in all patients. Interestingly, IL-6 levels in blood correlated tightly with disease severity and surrogates of systemic inflammation, while IL-6 levels in ascites did not. Moreover, patients with higher blood CRP levels showed greater SBP prevalence compared to patients with lower levels, despite similar positive culture results. Bacterial richness was also significantly higher in ascites compared to the corresponding patient blood. We identified differences in microbial composition and diversity between ascites and blood, but no tight relationship with surrogates of systemic inflammation could be observed. Discussion: In decompensated cirrhosis, markers of systemic inflammation and microbiota composition seem to be dysregulated in ascites and blood. While a relationship between systemic inflammation and microbiota composition seems to exist in blood, this is not the case for ascites in our hands. These data may suggest compartmentalization of the immune response and interaction of the latter with the microbiota especially in the blood compartment.

Keywords: Acute-on-chronic liver failure, Ascites, Cirrhosis, Cytokines, Microbiome, Myeloid cells, Systemic inflammation

Magdaleno, Fernando, Schierwagen, R., Uschner, Frank E., Trebicka, J., (2018). “Tipping” extracellular matrix remodeling towards regression of liver fibrosis: novel concepts Minerva Gastroenterologica e Dietologica , 64, (1), 51-61

Fibrosis development was initially conceived as an incessant progressive condition. Nowadays, it has become evident that fibrotic tissue undergoes a continuous two-way process: fibrogenesis and fibrinolysis, characterizing the remodeling of extracellular matrix (ECM). However, in established fibrosis, this two-way process is tipped towards fibrogenesis and this leads to a self-perpetuating accumulation of ECM, a distinct metabolic unit, together with other cells and processes promoting fibrosis deposition. Several mechanisms promote fibrosis regression, such as degradation of ECM, infiltration of restorative macrophages, prevention of the epithelial-mesenchymal transition of hepatocytes, restoration of the liver sinusoidal endothelial cells’ differentiation phenotype, and reversion to quiescence, apoptosis and senescence of hepatic stellate cells (HSC). Hence, fibrosis is the result of an unbalanced two-way process of matrix remodeling. At the late stage of the disease, antifibrotic interventions could become necessary to reverse self-perpetuating fibrogenesis and accelerate regression of fibrosis even if cause and cofactors of hepatic injury have been eliminated. This review outlines some of the important mechanisms leading towards regression of liver fibrosis.

Keywords: Hepatic stellate cells, Extracellular matrix, remodeling, Rho-associated kinases, Janus kinases

Pardo-Pastor, Carlos, Rubio-Moscardo, Fanny, Vogel-González, Marina, Serra, Selma A., Afthinos, Alexandros, Mrkonjic, Sanela, Destaing, Olivier, Abenza, Juan F., Fernández-Fernández, José M., Trepat, Xavier, Albiges-Rizo, Corinne, Konstantopoulos, Konstantinos, Valverde, Miguel A., (2018). Piezo2 channel regulates RhoA and actin cytoskeleton to promote cell mechanobiological responses Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 115, (8), 1925-1930

The actin cytoskeleton is central to many cellular processes involving changes in cell shape, migration, and adhesiveness. Therefore, there is a great interest in the identification of the signaling pathways leading to the regulation of actin polymerization and assembly into stress fibers (SFs). However, to date it is not well understood how the mechanical interactions between cells and their environment activate the assembly of SFs. Here, we demonstrate that the mechanosensitive Piezo2 channel is required to sense physical cues from the environment to generate a calcium signal that maintains RhoA active and the formation and orientation of SFs and focal adhesions. Besides, this Piezo2-initiated signaling pathway has implications for different hallmarks of cancer invasion and metastasis.

Keywords: Mechanotransduction, Calcium signaling, RhoA, Actin stress fibers, Cancer

Juarez, A., Villa, J. A., Lanza, V. F., Lázaro, B., Cruz, F., Alvarez, H. M., Moncalián, G., (2017). Nutrient starvation leading to triglyceride accumulation activates the Entner Doudoroff pathway in Rhodococcus jostii RHA1 Microbial Cell Factories , 16, 35

Background: Rhodococcus jostii RHA1 and other actinobacteria accumulate triglycerides (TAG) under nutrient starvation. This property has an important biotechnological potential in the production of sustainable oils. Results: To gain insight into the metabolic pathways involved in TAG accumulation, we analysed the transcriptome of R jostii RHA1 under nutrient-limiting conditions. We correlate these physiological conditions with significant changes in cell physiology. The main consequence was a global switch from catabolic to anabolic pathways. Interestingly, the Entner-Doudoroff (ED) pathway was upregulated in detriment of the glycolysis or pentose phosphate pathways. ED induction was independent of the carbon source (either gluconate or glucose). Some of the diacylglycerol acyltransferase genes involved in the last step of the Kennedy pathway were also upregulated. A common feature of the promoter region of most upregulated genes was the presence of a consensus binding sequence for the cAMP-dependent CRP regulator. Conclusion: This is the first experimental observation of an ED shift under nutrient starvation conditions. Knowledge of this switch could help in the design of metabolomic approaches to optimize carbon derivation for single cell oil production.

Keywords: CRP, Entner-Doudoroff pathway, Nutrient starvation, Rhodococcus, RNA-Seq, Triacylglycerol

Schwab, S., Lehmann, J., Lutz, P., Jansen, C., Appenrodt, B., Lammert, F., Strassburg, C. P., Spengler, U., Nischalke, H. D., Trebicka, J., (2017). Influence of genetic variations in the SOD1 gene on the development of ascites and spontaneous bacterial peritonitis in decompensated liver cirrhosis European Journal of Gastroenterology and Hepatology , 29, (7), 800-804

Background The balance between generation and elimination of reactive oxygen species by superoxide dismutase (SOD) is crucially involved in the pathophysiology of liver cirrhosis. Reactive oxygen species damage cells and induce inflammation/fibrosis, but also play a critical role in immune defense from pathogens. As both processes are involved in the development of liver cirrhosis and its complications, genetic variation of the SOD1 gene was investigated. Patients and methods Two SOD1 single nucleotide polymorphisms (rs1041740 and rs3844942) were analyzed in 49 cirrhotic patients undergoing liver transplantation. In addition, 344 cirrhotic patients with ascites were analyzed in a cohort of 521 individuals in terms of the relationship of these polymorphisms with spontaneous bacterial peritonitis (SBP). Results Although rs3844942 showed no associations with complications of cirrhosis, we observed a significant association between rs1041740 and the presence of ascites and SBP in the discovery cohort of patients with cirrhosis. Importantly, the association with SBP was not confirmed in the validation cohort of patients with ascites. By contrast, a trend toward lower SBP rates was observed in carriers of rs1041740. In this cohort, rs1041740 was not associated with survival. Conclusion These data suggest a complex role of SOD1 in different processes leading to complications of liver cirrhosis. rs1041740 might be associated with the development of ascites and possibly plays a role in SBP once ascites has developed.

Keywords: Ascites, Genetic polymorphism, Liver cirrhosis, Reactive oxygen stress, Spontaneous bacterial peritonitis, Superoxide dismutases

Crosas-Molist, E., Meirelles, T., López-Luque, J., Serra-Peinado, C., Selva, J., Caja, L., Gorbenko Del Blanco, D., Uriarte, J. J., Bertran, E., Mendizábal, Y., Hernández, V., García-Calero, C., Busnadiego, O., Condom, E., Toral, D., Castellà, M., Forteza, A., Navajas, D., Sarri, E., Rodríguez-Pascual, F., Dietz, H. C., Fabregat, I., Egea, G., (2015). Vascular smooth muscle cell phenotypic changes in patients with marfan syndrome Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis, and Vascular Biology , 35, (4), 960-972

Objective - Marfan's syndrome is characterized by the formation of ascending aortic aneurysms resulting from altered assembly of extracellular matrix microfibrils and chronic tissue growth factor (TGF)-β signaling. TGF-β is a potent regulator of the vascular smooth muscle cell (VSMC) phenotype. We hypothesized that as a result of the chronic TGF-β signaling, VSMC would alter their basal differentiation phenotype, which could facilitate the formation of aneurysms. This study explores whether Marfan's syndrome entails phenotypic alterations of VSMC and possible mechanisms at the subcellular level. Approach and Results - Immunohistochemical and Western blotting analyses of dilated aortas from Marfan patients showed overexpression of contractile protein markers (α-smooth muscle actin, smoothelin, smooth muscle protein 22 alpha, and calponin-1) and collagen I in comparison with healthy aortas. VSMC explanted from Marfan aortic aneurysms showed increased in vitro expression of these phenotypic markers and also of myocardin, a transcription factor essential for VSMC-specific differentiation. These alterations were generally reduced after pharmacological inhibition of the TGF-β pathway. Marfan VSMC in culture showed more robust actin stress fibers and enhanced RhoA-GTP levels, which was accompanied by increased focal adhesion components and higher nuclear localization of myosin-related transcription factor A. Marfan VSMC and extracellular matrix measured by atomic force microscopy were both stiffer than their respective controls. Conclusions - In Marfan VSMC, both in tissue and in culture, there are variable TGF-β-dependent phenotypic changes affecting contractile proteins and collagen I, leading to greater cellular and extracellular matrix stiffness. Altogether, these alterations may contribute to the known aortic rigidity that precedes or accompanies Marfan's syndrome aneurysm formation.

Keywords: Actin, Aortic aneurysms, Aortic stiffness, Extracellular matrix, Focal adhesion, Myocardin, RhoA, TGF-β

Krishnan, Ramaswamy, Klumpers, Darinka D., Park, Chan Y., Rajendran, Kavitha, Trepat, Xavier, van Bezu, Jan, van Hinsbergh, Victor W. M., Carman, Christopher V., Brain, Joseph D., Fredberg, Jeffrey J., Butler, James P., van Nieuw Amerongen, Geerten P., (2011). Substrate stiffening promotes endothelial monolayer disruption through enhanced physical forces American Journal of Physiology - Cell Physiology , 300, (1), C146-C154

A hallmark of many, sometimes life-threatening, inflammatory diseases and disorders is vascular leakage. The extent and severity of vascular leakage is broadly mediated by the integrity of the endothelial cell (EC) monolayer, which is in turn governed by three major interactions: cell-cell and cell-substrate contacts, soluble mediators, and biomechanical forces. A potentially critical but essentially uninvestigated component mediating these interactions is the stiffness of the substrate to which the endothelial monolayer is adherent. Accordingly, we investigated the extent to which substrate stiffening influences endothelial monolayer disruption and the role of cell-cell and cell-substrate contacts, soluble mediators, and physical forces in that process. Traction force microscopy showed that forces between cell and cell and between cell and substrate were greater on stiffer substrates. On stiffer substrates, these forces were substantially enhanced by a hyperpermeability stimulus (thrombin, 1 U/ml), and gaps formed between cells. On softer substrates, by contrast, these forces were increased far less by thrombin, and gaps did not form between cells. This stiffness-dependent force enhancement was associated with increased Rho kinase activity, whereas inhibition of Rho kinase attenuated baseline forces and lessened thrombin-induced inter-EC gap formation. Our findings demonstrate a central role of physical forces in EC gap formation and highlight a novel physiological mechanism. Integrity of the endothelial monolayer is governed by its physical microenvironment, which in normal circumstances is compliant but during pathology becomes stiffer.

Keywords: Contraction, Human umbilical vein endothelial cells, Permeability, Traction force, Cell-cell contact, Cell-substrate contact, Substrate stiffness, Rho kinase, Vascular endothelial cadherin, Thrombin

Estevez, M., Fernandez-Ulibarri, I., Martinez, E., Egea, G., Samitier, J., (2010). Changes in the internal organization of the cell by microstructured substrates Soft Matter 6, (3), 582-590

Surface features at the micro and nanometre scale have been shown to influence and even determine cell behaviour and cytoskeleton organization through direct mechanotransductive pathways. Much less is known about the function and internal distribution of organelles of cells grown on topographically modified surfaces. In this study, the nanoimprint lithography technique was used to manufacture poly(methyl methacrylate) (PMMA) sheets with a variety of features in the micrometre size range. Normal rat kidney (NRK) fibroblasts were cultured on these substrates and immunofluorescence staining assays were performed to visualize cell adhesion, the organization of the cytoskeleton and the morphology and subcellular positioning of the Golgi complex. The results show that different topographic features at the micrometric scale induce different rearrangements of the cell cytoskeleton, which in turn alter the positioning and morphology of the Golgi complex. Microposts and microholes alter the mechanical stability of the Golgi complex by modifying the actin cytoskeleton organization leading to the compaction of the organelle. These findings prove that physically modified surfaces are a valuable tool with which to study the dynamics of cell cytoskeleton organization and its subsequent repercussion on internal cell organization and associated function.

Keywords: Actin stress fibers, Golgi-complex, Focal adhesions, Cytoskeletal organization, Osteoblast adhesion, Mammalian-cells, Micron-scale, Nanoscale, Dynamics, Rho

Gorostiza, P., Isacoff, E. Y., (2008). Optical switches for remote and noninvasive control of cell signaling Science 322, (5900), 395-399

Although the identity and interactions of signaling proteins have been studied in great detail, the complexity of signaling networks cannot be fully understood without elucidating the timing and location of activity of individual proteins. To do this, one needs a means for detecting and controlling specific signaling events. An attractive approach is to use light, both to report on and control signaling proteins in cells, because light can probe cells in real time with minimal damage. Although optical detection of signaling events has been successful for some time, the development of the means for optical control has accelerated only recently. Of particular interest is the development of chemically engineered proteins that are directly sensitive to light.

Keywords: Ion channels, Acetylcholine receptor, Glutamate-receptor, Potassium channel, K+ channel, Light, Neurons, Channelrhodopsin-2, Manipulation, Activation