ENDpoiNTs

Institutions
  • Department of Biology
Publications
  31.01.25   Carvalho, Gustavo Almeida; Chiareli, Raphaela Almeida; Pedrazzi, João Francisco Cordeiro; Silva-Amaral, Danyelle; da Rocha, André Luís Batista; Oliveira-Lima, Onésia Cristina; Lião, Luciano Morais; Schildknecht, Stefan; Leist, Marcel; Pinto, Mauro Cunha Xavier (2024): Novel Proline Transporter Inhibitor (LQFM215) Presents Antipsychotic Effect in Ketamine Model of Schizophrenia Neurochemical Research. Springer. 2024, 49(1), pp. 170-183. ISSN 0364-3190. eISSN 1573-6903. Available under: doi: 10.1007/s11064-023-04018-3

Novel Proline Transporter Inhibitor (LQFM215) Presents Antipsychotic Effect in Ketamine Model of Schizophrenia

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The glutamatergic hypothesis of schizophrenia suggests a correlation between NMDA receptor hypofunction and negative psychotic symptoms. It has been observed that the expression of the proline transporter (PROT) in the central nervous system (CNS) is associated with glutamatergic neurotransmission, as l-proline has the capacity to activate and modulate AMPA and NMDA receptors. In this study, we aimed to investigate whether inhibition of proline transporters could enhance glutamatergic neurotransmission and potentially exhibit antipsychotic effects in an experimental schizophrenia model. Using molecular dynamics analysis in silico, we validated an innovative PROT inhibitor, LQFM215. We quantified the cytotoxicity of LQFM215 in the Lund human mesencephalic cell line (LUHMES). Subsequently, we employed the ketamine-induced psychosis model to evaluate the antipsychotic potential of the inhibitor, employing behavioral tests including open-field, three-chamber interaction, and prepulse inhibition (PPI). Our results demonstrate that LQFM215, at pharmacologically active concentrations, exhibited negligible neurotoxicity when astrocytes were co-cultured with neurons. In the ketamine-induced psychosis model, LQFM215 effectively reduced hyperlocomotion and enhanced social interaction in a three-chamber social approach task across all administered doses. Moreover, the compound successfully prevented the ketamine-induced disruption of sensorimotor gating in the PPI test at all tested doses. Overall, these findings suggest that PROT inhibition could serve as a potential therapeutic target for managing symptoms of schizophrenia model.

Origin (projects)

    Botham, Philip; Cronin, Mark T. D.; Currie, Richard; Doe, John; Funk-Weyer, Dorothee; Gant, Timothy W.; Leist, Marcel; Marty, Sue; van Ravenzwaay, Bennard; Westmoreland, Carl (2023): Analysis of health concerns not addressed by REACH for low tonnage chemicals and opportunities for new approach methodology Archives of Toxicology. Springer. 2023, 97(12), pp. 3075-3083. ISSN 0340-5761. eISSN 1432-0738. Available under: doi: 10.1007/s00204-023-03601-5

Analysis of health concerns not addressed by REACH for low tonnage chemicals and opportunities for new approach methodology

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In Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals (REACH) the criterion for deciding the studies that must be performed is the annual tonnage of the chemical manufactured or imported into the EU. The annual tonnage may be considered as a surrogate for levels of human exposure but this does not take into account the physico-chemical properties and use patterns that determine exposure. Chemicals are classified using data from REACH under areas of health concern covering effects on the skin and eye; sensitisation; acute, repeated and prolonged systemic exposure; effects on genetic material; carcinogenicity; and reproduction and development. We analysed the mandated study lists under REACH for each annual tonnage band in terms of the information they provide on each of the areas of health concern. Using the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) REACH Registration data base of over 20,000 registered substances, we found that only 19% of registered substances have datasets on all areas of health concern. Information limited to acute exposure, sensitisation and genotoxicity was found for 62%. The analysis highlighted the shortfall of information mandated for substances in the lower tonnage bands. Deploying New Approach Methodologies (NAMs) at this lower tonnage band to assess health concerns which are currently not covered by REACH, such as repeat and extended exposure and carcinogenicity, would provide additional information and would be a way for registrants and regulators to gain experience in the use of NAMs. There are currently projects in Europe aiming to develop NAM-based assessment frameworks and they could find their first use in assessing low tonnage chemicals once confidence has been gained by their evaluation with data rich chemicals.

Origin (projects)

    Neuhaus, Winfried; Reininger-Gutmann, Birgit; Rinner, Beate; Plasenzotti, Roberto; Wilflingseder, Doris; De Kock, Joery; Hartung, Thomas; Pallocca, Giorgia; Rovida, Costanza; Leist, Marcel (2022): The Current Status and Work of Three Rs Centres and Platforms in Europe Alternatives to Laboratory Animals : ATLA. Sage. 2022, 50(6), pp. 381-413. ISSN 0261-1929. eISSN 2632-3559. Available under: doi: 10.1177/02611929221140909

The Current Status and Work of Three Rs Centres and Platforms in Europe

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The adoption of Directive 2010/63/EU on the protection of animals used for scientific purposes has given a major push to the formation of Three Rs initiatives in the form of centres and platforms. These centres and platforms are dedicated to the so-called Three Rs, which are the Replacement, Reduction and Refinement of animal use in experiments. ATLA's 50th Anniversary year has seen the publication of two articles on European Three Rs centres and platforms. The first of these was about the progressive rise in their numbers and about their founding history; this second part focuses on their current status and activities. This article takes a closer look at their financial and organisational structures, describes their Three Rs focus and core activities (dissemination, education, implementation, scientific quality/translatability, ethics), and presents their areas of responsibility and projects in detail. This overview of the work and diverse structures of the Three Rs centres and platforms is not only intended to bring them closer to the reader, but also to provide role models and show examples of how such Three Rs centres and platforms could be made sustainable. The Three Rs centres and platforms are very important focal points and play an immense role as facilitators of Directive 2010/63/EU 'on the ground' in their respective countries. They are also invaluable for the wide dissemination of information and for promoting the implementation of the Three Rs in general.

Origin (projects)

    Holzer, Anna-Katharina; Karreman, Christiaan; Suciu, Ilinca; Furmanowsky, Lara-Seline; Wohlfarth, Harald; Loser, Dominik; Dirks, Wilhelm G.; Pardo González, Emilio; Leist, Marcel (2022): Generation of Human Nociceptor-Enriched Sensory Neurons for the Study of Pain-Related Dysfunctions Stem Cells Translational Medicine. Oxford University Press (OUP). 2022, 11(7), pp. 727-741. ISSN 2157-6564. eISSN 2157-6580. Available under: doi: 10.1093/stcltm/szac031

Generation of Human Nociceptor-Enriched Sensory Neurons for the Study of Pain-Related Dysfunctions

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In vitro models of the peripheral nervous system would benefit from further refinements to better support studies on neuropathies. In particular, the assessment of pain-related signals is still difficult in human cell cultures. Here, we harnessed induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) to generate peripheral sensory neurons enriched in nociceptors. The objective was to generate a culture system with signaling endpoints suitable for pharmacological and toxicological studies. Neurons generated by conventional differentiation protocols expressed moderate levels of P2X3 purinergic receptors and only low levels of TRPV1 capsaicin receptors, when maturation time was kept to the upper practically useful limit of 6 weeks. As alternative approach, we generated cells with an inducible NGN1 transgene. Ectopic expression of this transcription factor during a defined time window of differentiation resulted in highly enriched nociceptor cultures, as determined by functional (P2X3 and TRPV1 receptors) and immunocytochemical phenotyping, complemented by extensive transcriptome profiling. Single cell recordings of Ca2+-indicator fluorescence from >9000 cells were used to establish the "fraction of reactive cells" in a stimulated population as experimental endpoint, that appeared robust, transparent and quantifiable. To provide an example of application to biomedical studies, functional consequences of prolonged exposure to the chemotherapeutic drug oxaliplatin were examined at non-cytotoxic concentrations. We found (i) neuronal (allodynia-like) hypersensitivity to otherwise non-activating mechanical stimulation that could be blocked by modulators of voltage-gated sodium channels; (ii) hyper-responsiveness to TRPV1 receptor stimulation. These findings and several other measured functional alterations indicate that the model is suitable for pharmacological and toxicological studies related to peripheral neuropathies.

Origin (projects)

    Pallocca, Giorgia; Leist, Marcel (2022): On the usefulness of animals as a model system (part II) : Considering benefits within distinct use domains Alternatives to Animal Experimentation : ALTEX. Springer Spektrum. 2022, 39(3), pp. 531-539. ISSN 1868-596X. eISSN 1868-8551. Available under: doi: 10.14573/altex.2207111

On the usefulness of animals as a model system (part II) : Considering benefits within distinct use domains

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In many countries, animal experiments can only be performed when their necessity has been demonstrated in a legal document. As the usefulness of animals in research is also a significant societal and political issue, criteria to structure debates and evaluations are needed. Here, background information is given on laboratory animal studies. Moreover, parameters that may be considered in judging their usefulness are suggested. The discussion is strictly focused on animals used as tools/test systems/models to provide information on humans. In this context, general features and performance characteristics of models are discussed. Examples are given for well-recognized criteria (e.g., robustness, relevance, predictivity) to judge the usefulness of predictive models. The main hypothesis put forward here is that a benefits evaluation (usefulness metrics) is only possible within sharply circumscribed "use domains". Examples are given for the research fields of drug and vaccine research, toxicology, disease pathogenesis, and basic biological research. Efficacy, safety, and quality studies are highlighted as "use domains" within the field of drug discovery and production. A further separation into individual diseases, drug targets or symptoms is suggested for, e.g., efficacy studies or pathophysiology. Finally, an outlook is given on the evaluation of model advantages and disadvantages to arrive at their "net benefit". Moreover, the need to compare the net benefits of animal models versus that of their alternatives is highlighted.

Origin (projects)

    Lupu, Diana; Andersson, Patrik; Bornehag, Carl-Gustaf; Demeneix, Barbara; Fritsche, Ellen; Gennings, Chris; Lichtensteiger, Walter; Leist, Marcel; Leonards, Pim E. G.; Ponsonby, Anne-Louise (2020): The ENDpoiNTs Project : Novel Testing Strategies for Endocrine Disruptors Linked to Developmental Neurotoxicity International Journal of Molecular Sciences (IJMS). Molecular Diversity Preservation International (MDPI). 2020, 21(11), 3978. eISSN 1422-0067. Available under: doi: 10.3390/ijms21113978

The ENDpoiNTs Project : Novel Testing Strategies for Endocrine Disruptors Linked to Developmental Neurotoxicity

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Ubiquitous exposure to endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs) has caused serious concerns about the ability of these chemicals to affect neurodevelopment, among others. Since endocrine disruption (ED)-induced developmental neurotoxicity (DNT) is hardly covered by the chemical testing tools that are currently in regulatory use, the Horizon 2020 research and innovation action ENDpoiNTs has been launched to fill the scientific and methodological gaps related to the assessment of this type of chemical toxicity. The ENDpoiNTs project will generate new knowledge about ED-induced DNT and aims to develop and improve in vitro, in vivo, and in silico models pertaining to ED-linked DNT outcomes for chemical testing. This will be achieved by establishing correlative and causal links between known and novel neurodevelopmental endpoints and endocrine pathways through integration of molecular, cellular, and organismal data from in vitro and in vivo models. Based on this knowledge, the project aims to provide adverse outcome pathways (AOPs) for ED-induced DNT and to develop and integrate new testing tools with high relevance for human health into European and international regulatory frameworks.

Origin (projects)

    Ripani, Paola; Delp, Johannes; Bode, Konstantin J.; Delgado, M. Eugenia; Dietrich, Lea; Betzler, Verena M.; von Scheven, Gudrun; Mayer, Thomas U.; Leist, Marcel; Brunner, Thomas (2020): Thiazolides promote G1 cell cycle arrest in colorectal cancer cells by targeting the mitochondrial respiratory chain Oncogene. Springer Science and Business Media. 2020, 39(11), pp. 2345-2357. ISSN 0950-9232. eISSN 1476-5594. Available under: doi: 10.1038/s41388-019-1142-6

Thiazolides promote G1 cell cycle arrest in colorectal cancer cells by targeting the mitochondrial respiratory chain

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Systemic toxicity and tumor cell resistance still limit the efficacy of chemotherapy in colorectal cancer. Therefore, alternative treatments are desperately needed. The thiazolide Nitazoxanide (NTZ) is an FDA-approved drug for the treatment of parasite-mediated infectious diarrhea with a favorable safety profile. Interestingly, NTZ and the thiazolide RM4819—its bromo-derivative lacking antibiotic activity—are also promising candidates for cancer treatment. Yet the exact anticancer mechanism(s) of these compounds still remains unclear. In this study, we systematically investigated RM4819 and NTZ in 2D and 3D colorectal cancer culture systems. Both compounds strongly inhibited proliferation of colon carcinoma cell lines by promoting G1 phase cell cycle arrest. Thiazolide-induced cell cycle arrest was independent of the p53/p21 axis, but was mediated by inhibition of protein translation via the mTOR/c-Myc/p27 pathway, likely caused by inhibition of mitochondrial respiration. While both thiazolides demonstrated mitochondrial uncoupling activity, only RM4819 inhibited the mitochondrial respiratory chain complex III. Interestingly, thiazolides also potently inhibited the growth of murine colonic tumoroids in a comparable manner with cisplatin, while in contrast to cisplatin thiazolides did not affect the growth of primary intestinal organoids. Thus, thiazolides appear to have a tumor-selective antiproliferative activity, which offers new perspectives in the treatment of colorectal cancer.

Origin (projects)

    Dreser, Nadine; Holzer, Anna-Katharina; Kapitza, Marion; Scholz, Christopher; Kranaster, Petra; Gutbier, Simon; Klima, Stefanie; Kolb, David; Dietz, Christian; Trefzer, Timo; Berthold, Michael R.; Waldmann, Tanja; Leist, Marcel (2020): Development of a neural rosette formation assay (RoFA) to identify neurodevelopmental toxicants and to characterize their transcriptome disturbances Archives of Toxicology. Springer Science and Business Media. 2020, 94(1), pp. 151-171. ISSN 0340-5761. eISSN 1432-0738. Available under: doi: 10.1007/s00204-019-02612-5

Development of a neural rosette formation assay (RoFA) to identify neurodevelopmental toxicants and to characterize their transcriptome disturbances

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The first in vitro tests for developmental toxicity made use of rodent cells. Newer teratology tests, e.g. developed during the ESNATS project, use human cells and measure mechanistic endpoints (such as transcriptome changes). However, the toxicological implications of mechanistic parameters are hard to judge, without functional/morphological endpoints. To address this issue, we developed a new version of the human stem cell-based test STOP-tox(UKN). For this purpose, the capacity of the cells to self-organize to neural rosettes was assessed as functional endpoint: pluripotent stem cells were allowed to differentiate into neuroepithelial cells for 6 days in the presence or absence of toxicants. Then, both transcriptome changes were measured (standard STOP-tox(UKN)) and cells were allowed to form rosettes. After optimization of staining methods, an imaging algorithm for rosette quantification was implemented and used for an automated rosette formation assay (RoFA). Neural tube toxicants (like valproic acid), which are known to disturb human development at stages when rosette-forming cells are present, were used as positive controls. Established toxicants led to distinctly different tissue organization and differentiation stages. RoFA outcome and transcript changes largely correlated concerning (1) the concentration-dependence, (2) the time dependence, and (3) the set of positive hits identified amongst 24 potential toxicants. Using such comparative data, a prediction model for the RoFA was developed. The comparative analysis was also used to identify gene dysregulations that are particularly predictive for disturbed rosette formation. This ‘RoFA predictor gene set’ may be used for a simplified and less costly setup of the STOP-tox(UKN) assay.

Origin (projects)

    Karreman, Christiaan; Klima, Stefanie; Holzer, Anna-Katharina; Leist, Marcel (2020): CaFFEE : A program for evaluating time courses of Ca2+ dependent signal changes of complex cells loaded with fluorescent indicator dyes Alternatives to Animal Experimentation : ALTEX. Springer Spektrum. 2020, 37(2), pp. 332-336. ISSN 1868-596X. eISSN 1868-8551. Available under: doi: 10.14573/altex.2003191

CaFFEE : A program for evaluating time courses of Ca2+ dependent signal changes of complex cells loaded with fluorescent indicator dyes

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Quantification of changes in intracellular free Ca2+ concentrations [Ca2+]i is fundamental to the understanding of the physiology of single cells in response to both environmental and endogenous stimuli. Here we present easy to use freeware that allows especially the evaluation of [Ca2+]i signals in complex and mixed cultures. The program CaFFEE (Calcium Fluorescent Flash Evaluating Engine) enables the user to evaluate the response of hundreds of cells to treat-ments that influence [Ca2+]i. CaFFEE processes large quantities of image data, automatically identifies individual cells in mixed, heterogeneous populations, and evaluates their fluorescence signal. All data are exported in spreadsheet format, and data on thousands of cells can be batch-processed. Moreover, the program optimizes the visual representation of time-lapse image data for user-guided data exploration (setting of parameters for semi-automated data processing). The freeware allows the standardized and transparent processing of imaging data independent of the platform used to generate the data.

Origin (projects)

    Brüll, Markus; Spreng, Anna-Sophie; Gutbier, Simon; Loser, Dominik; Krebs, Alice; Reich, Marvin; Kraushaar, Udo; Britschgi, Markus; Patsch, Christoph; Leist, Marcel (2020): Incorporation of stem cell-derived astrocytes into neuronal organoids to allow neuro-glial interactions in toxicological studies Alternatives to Animal Experimentation : ALTEX. Springer Spektrum. 2020, 37(3). ISSN 1868-596X. eISSN 1868-596X. Available under: doi: 10.14573/altex.1911111

Incorporation of stem cell-derived astrocytes into neuronal organoids to allow neuro-glial interactions in toxicological studies

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Human cell-based neural organoids are increasingly being used for investigations of neurotoxicity, and to study the pathophysiology of neurodegenerative diseases. Here, we present a fast and robust method to generate 3D cultured human dopaminergic neurons (LUHMES) for toxicity testing and long-term culture. Moreover, a plating step was introduced to allow generation of neurite networks with defined 2D orientation and several mm length, while all cell bodies (somata) remained in a 3D, dome-like structure. These cultures, named here 2.5D (for 2.5 dimensional), offer new approaches to quantify toxicant effects on organoids by standard technology and high throughput. For instance, the system reacted to the parkinsonian model toxicants MPP+, rotenone, MG-132 and the ferroptosis-inducer erastin. Moreover, stable incorporation of human stem cell-derived astrocytes or microglia was possible. Added astrocytes stabilized the post mitotic state of the LUHMES neurons and thereby allowed the formation of a stable micro-physiological system. We observed neuroprotection against the proteasome inhibitor MG-132 and the ferroptosis-inducer erastin by such glia. This exemplifies the crucial protective role of astrocytes in neurodegeneration. The modularity of the system was further employed to incorporate microglia together with astrocytes into the organoids. Such ratio-defined, three cell type-based organoids will allow new approaches to study human pathophysiology and toxicology of the nervous system.

Origin (projects)

    Krebs, Alice; Nyffeler, Johanna; Karreman, Christiaan; Schmidt, Béla Z; Kappenberg, Franziska; Mellert, Jan; Pallocca, Giorgia; Pastor, Manuel; Rahnenführer, Jörg; Leist, Marcel (2020): Determination of benchmark concentrations and their statistical uncertainty for cytotoxicity test data and functional in vitro assays Alternatives to Animal Experimentation : ALTEX. ALTEX Edition. 2020, 37(1). ISSN 1868-596X. eISSN 1868-596X. Available under: doi: 10.14573/altex.1912021

Determination of benchmark concentrations and their statistical uncertainty for cytotoxicity test data and functional in vitro assays

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Many toxicological test methods, including assays of cell viability and function, require an evaluation of concentration-response data. This often involves curve fitting, and the resulting mathematical functions are then used to determine the concentration at which a certain deviation from the control value occurs (e.g. a decrease of cell viability by 15%). Such a threshold is called the benchmark response (BMR). For a toxicological test, it is often of interest to determine the concentration of test compound at which a pre-defined BMR of e.g. 10, 25 or 50% is reached. The concentration at which the modelled curve crosses the BMR is called the benchmark concentration (BMC). We present a user-friendly, web-based tool (BMCeasy), designed for operators without programming skills and profound statistical background, to determine BMCs and their confidence intervals. BMCeasy allows simultaneous analysis of viability plus a functional test endpoint, and it yields absolute BMCs with confidence intervals for any BMR. Besides an explanation of the algorithm underlying BMCeasy, this article also gives multiple examples of data outputs. BMCeasy was used within the EU-ToxRisk project for preparing data packages that were submitted to regulatory authorities, demonstrating the real-life applicability of the tool.

Origin (projects)

    Karreman, Christiaan; Kranaster, Petra; Leist, Marcel (2019): SUIKER : Quantification of antigens in cell organelles, neurites and cellular sub-structures by imaging Alternatives to Animal Experimentation : ALTEX. 2019, 36(3), pp. 518-520. ISSN 1868-596X. eISSN 1868-8551. Available under: doi: 10.14573/altex.1906251

SUIKER : Quantification of antigens in cell organelles, neurites and cellular sub-structures by imaging

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Quantification of fluorescence colocalization and intensity of strongly overlapping cells, e.g., neuronal cultures, is challenging for programs that use image segmentation to identify cells as individual objects. Moreover, learning to use and apply one of the large imaging packages can be very time- and/or resource-demanding. Therefore, we developed the free and highly interactive image analysis program SUIKER (program for SUperImposing KEy Regions) that quantifies colocalization of different proteins or other features over an entire image field. The software allows definition of cellular subareas by subtraction ("punching out") of structures identified in one channel from structures in a second channel. This allows, e.g., definition of neurites without cell bodies. Moreover, normalization to live or total cell numbers is possible. Providing a detailed manual that contains image analysis examples, we demonstrate how the program uses a combination of colocalization information and fluorescence intensity to quantify carbohydrate-specific stains on neurites. SUIKER can import any multichannel histology or cell culture image, builds on user-guided threshold setting, batch processes large image stacks, and exports all data (including the settings, results and metadata) in flexible formats to be used in Excel.

Origin (projects)

Funding sources
Name Finanzierungstyp Kategorie Project no.
Europäische Union third-party funds research funding program 427/19
Further information
Period: 01.01.2019 – 31.12.2023