Publications -- Rebecca Cunningham

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This collection is limited to articles published under the terms of a creative commons license or other open access publishing agreement since 2016. It is not intended as a complete list of the author's works.


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Now showing 1 - 8 of 8
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    Sex-dependent effects of chronic intermittent hypoxia: implication for obstructive sleep apnea
    (BioMed Central Ltd., 2024-04-26) Mabry, Steve; Bradshaw, Jessica L.; Gardner, Jennifer J.; Wilson, E. Nicole; Cunningham, Rebecca L.
    BACKGROUND: Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) affects 10-26% of adults in the United States with known sex differences in prevalence and severity. OSA is characterized by elevated inflammation, oxidative stress (OS), and cognitive dysfunction. However, there is a paucity of data regarding the role of sex in the OSA phenotype. Prior findings suggest women exhibit different OSA phenotypes than men, which could result in under-reported OSA prevalence in women. To examine the relationship between OSA and sex, we used chronic intermittent hypoxia (CIH) to model OSA in rats. We hypothesized that CIH would produce sex-dependent phenotypes of inflammation, OS, and cognitive dysfunction, and these sex differences would be dependent on mitochondrial oxidative stress (mtOS). METHODS: Adult male and female Sprague Dawley rats were exposed to CIH or normoxia for 14 days to examine the impact of sex on CIH-associated circulating inflammation (IL-1beta, IL-6, IL-10, TNF-alpha), circulating steroid hormones, circulating OS, and behavior (recollective and spatial memory; gross and fine motor function; anxiety-like behaviors; and compulsive behaviors). Rats were implanted with osmotic minipumps containing either a mitochondria-targeting antioxidant (MitoTEMPOL) or saline vehicle 1 week prior to CIH initiation to examine how inhibiting mtOS would affect the CIH phenotype. RESULTS: Sex-specific differences in CIH-induced inflammation, OS, motor function, and compulsive behavior were observed. In female rats, CIH increased inflammation (plasma IL-6 and IL-6/IL-10 ratio) and impaired fine motor function. Conversely, CIH elevated circulating OS and compulsivity in males. These sex-dependent effects of CIH were blocked by inhibiting mtOS. Interestingly, CIH impaired recollective memory in both sexes but these effects were not mediated by mtOS. No effects of CIH were observed on spatial memory, gross motor function, or anxiety-like behavior, regardless of sex. CONCLUSIONS: Our results indicate that the impact of CIH is dependent on sex, such as an inflammatory response and OS response in females and males, respectively, that are mediated by mtOS. Interestingly, there was no effect of sex or mtOS in CIH-induced impairment of recollective memory. These results indicate that mtOS is involved in the sex differences observed in CIH, but a different mechanism underlies CIH-induced memory impairments. Sleep apnea is a common sleeping condition in adults with a wide range of symptoms that include inflammation, oxidative stress, memory problems, anxiety, and compulsivity. Men are diagnosed with sleep apnea more often than women. Although there is limited information on how sleep apnea affects men and women differently, previous studies suggest that women may exhibit different sleep apnea symptoms than men. To examine the impact of male and female sex on common sleep apnea symptoms, we exposed adult male and female rats to a model of sleep apnea called chronic intermittent hypoxia (CIH). We found that many effects of CIH were different in males and females. CIH females had increased inflammation and motor problems, whereas CIH males had increased oxidative stress and compulsivity. To investigate the reason for these CIH sex differences, we blocked mitochondrial oxidative stress. Blocking mitochondrial oxidative stress decreased CIH associated sex differences. However, blocking mitochondrial oxidative stress had no impact on CIH-induced memory impairment that was observed in male and female rats. Our findings support previous reports that suggest that women exhibit different sleep apnea symptoms than men. Further, we extend these findings by showing that mitochondrial oxidative stress is involved in these sex differences. Clinically, patients diagnosed with sleep apnea are typically treated with continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machines, which have high rates of non-compliance (15-40%). Therefore, understanding why sleep apnea is causing these symptoms will be important in developing therapeutics.
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    Sex and age differences in social and cognitive function in offspring exposed to late gestational hypoxia
    (BioMed Central Ltd., 2023-11-12) Mabry, Steve; Wilson, E. Nicole; Bradshaw, Jessica L.; Gardner, Jennifer J.; Fadeyibi, Oluwadarasimi; Vera, Edward, Jr.; Osikoya, Oluwatobiloba; Cushen, Spencer C.; Karamichos, Dimitrios; Goulopoulou, Styliani; Cunningham, Rebecca L.
    BACKGROUND: Gestational sleep apnea is a hypoxic sleep disorder that affects 8-26% of pregnancies and increases the risk for central nervous system dysfunction in offspring. Specifically, there are sex differences in the sensitivity of the fetal hippocampus to hypoxic insults, and hippocampal impairments are associated with social dysfunction, repetitive behaviors, anxiety, and cognitive impairment. Yet, it is unclear whether gestational sleep apnea impacts these hippocampal-associated functions and if sex and age modify these effects. To examine the relationship between gestational sleep apnea and hippocampal-associated behaviors, we used chronic intermittent hypoxia (CIH) to model late gestational sleep apnea in pregnant rats. We hypothesized that late gestational CIH would produce sex- and age-specific social, anxiety-like, repetitive, and cognitive impairments in offspring. METHODS: Timed pregnant Long-Evans rats were exposed to CIH or room air normoxia from GD 15-19. Behavioral testing of offspring occurred during either puberty or young adulthood. To examine gestational hypoxia-induced behavioral phenotypes, we quantified hippocampal-associated behaviors (social function, repetitive behaviors, anxiety-like behaviors, and spatial memory and learning), hippocampal neuronal activity (glutamatergic NMDA receptors, dopamine transporter, monoamine oxidase-A, early growth response protein 1, and doublecortin), and circulating hormones in offspring. RESULTS: Late gestational CIH induced sex- and age-specific differences in social, repetitive, and memory functions in offspring. In female pubertal offspring, CIH impaired social function, increased repetitive behaviors, and elevated circulating corticosterone levels but did not impact memory. In contrast, CIH transiently induced spatial memory dysfunction in pubertal male offspring but did not impact social or repetitive functions. Long-term effects of gestational CIH on social behaviors were only observed in female offspring, wherein CIH induced social disengagement and suppression of circulating corticosterone levels in young adulthood. No effects of gestational CIH were observed in anxiety-like behaviors, hippocampal neuronal activity, or circulating testosterone and estradiol levels, regardless of sex or age of offspring. CONCLUSIONS: Our results indicate that hypoxia-associated pregnancy complications during late gestation can increase the risk for behavioral and physiological outcomes in offspring, such as social dysfunction, repetitive behaviors, and cognitive impairment, that are dependent on sex and age. Sleep apnea during late pregnancy is a common pregnancy complication that can impact the brain development of children born to mothers with sleep apnea. Children with impaired brain development may present with decreased social skills, memory issues, anxiety, and compulsivity. It is unclear if there is a cause and effect relationship between sleep apnea during late pregnancy and behavioral changes in offspring. Additionally, it is unknown whether male or female sex or age of the offspring affects these relationships. In this study, we exposed pregnant rats to a model of sleep apnea called chronic intermittent hypoxia (CIH) within late gestation and examined the behavior of the offspring and brain activity during puberty and young adulthood. We found that CIH during late pregnancy had long-term effects in the offspring that were different in males and females. Notably, female offspring displayed social impairments in response to late gestation CIH, whereas male offspring displayed cognitive dysfunction.
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    Novel Correlation between TGF-beta1/-beta3 and Hormone Receptors in the Human Corneal Stroma
    (MDPI, 2023-09-09) Choi, Alexander J.; Hefley, Brenna S.; Nicholas, Sarah E.; Cunningham, Rebecca L.; Karamichos, Dimitrios
    This study investigated the interplay between transforming growth factor beta (TGF-beta1/T1 and TGF-beta3/T3), and sex hormone receptors using our 3D in vitro cornea stroma model. Primary human corneal fibroblasts (HCFs) from healthy donors were plated in transwells at 10(6) cells/well and cultured for four weeks. HCFs were supplemented with stable vitamin C (VitC) and stimulated with T1 or T3. 3D construct proteins were analyzed for the androgen receptor (AR), progesterone receptor (PR), estrogen receptor alpha (ERalpha) and beta (ERbeta), luteinizing hormone receptor (LHR), follicle-stimulating hormone receptor (FSHR), gonadotropin-releasing hormone receptor (GnRHR), KiSS1-derived peptide receptor (KiSS1R/GPR54), and follicle-stimulating hormone subunit beta (FSH-B). In female constructs, T1 significantly upregulated AR, PR, ERalpha, FSHR, GnRHR, and KiSS1R. In male constructs, T1 significantly downregulated FSHR and FSH-B and significantly upregulated ERalpha, ERbeta, and GnRHR. T3 caused significant upregulation in expressions PR, ERalpha, ERbeta, LHR, FSHR, and GNRHR in female constructs, and significant downregulation of AR, ERalpha, and FSHR in male constructs. Semi-quantitative Western blot findings present the interplay between sex hormone receptors and TGF-beta isoforms in the corneal stroma, which is influenced by sex as a biological variable (SABV). Additional studies are warranted to fully delineate their interactions and signaling mechanisms.
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    The Role of Estriol and Estrone in Keratoconic Stromal Sex Hormone Receptors
    (MDPI, 2022-01-14) Escandon, Paulina; Nicholas, Sarah E.; Cunningham, Rebecca L.; Murphy, David A.; Riaz, Kamran M.; Karamichos, Dimitrios
    Keratoconus (KC) is a progressive corneal thinning disease that manifests in puberty and worsens during pregnancy. KC onset and progression are attributed to diverse factors that include: environmental, genetics, and hormonal imbalances; however, the pathobiology remains elusive. This study aims to determine the role of corneal stroma sex hormone receptors in KC and their interplay with estrone (E1) and estriol (E3) using our established 3D in vitro model. Healthy cornea stromal cells (HCFs) and KC cornea stromal cells (HKCs), both male and female, were stimulated with various concentrations of E1 and E3. Significant changes were observed between cell types, as well as between males and females in the sex hormone receptors tested; androgen receptor (AR), progesterone receptor (PR), estrogen receptor alpha (ERalpha), and estrogen receptor beta (ERbeta) using Western blot analysis. E1 and E3 stimulations in HCF females showed AR, PR, and ERbeta were significantly upregulated compared to HCF males. In contrast, ERalpha and ERbeta had significantly higher expression in HKC's females than HKC's males. Our data suggest that the human cornea is a sex-dependent, hormone-responsive tissue that is significantly influenced by E1 and E3. Therefore, it is plausible that E1, E3, and sex hormone receptors are involved in the KC pathobiology, warranting further investigation.
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    The Role of Lipid Rafts and Membrane Androgen Receptors in Androgen's Neurotoxic Effects
    (Oxford University Press, 2022-02-21) Fadeyibi, Oluwadarasimi; Rybalchenko, Nataliya; Mabry, Steve; Nguyen, Dianna H.; Cunningham, Rebecca L.
    Sex differences have been observed in multiple oxidative stress-associated neurodegenerative diseases. Androgens, such as testosterone, can exacerbate oxidative stress through a membrane androgen receptor (mAR), AR45, localized to lipid rafts in the plasma membrane. The goal of this study is to determine if interfering with mAR localization to cholesterol-rich lipid rafts decreases androgen induced neurotoxicity under oxidative stress environments. We hypothesize that cholesterol-rich caveolar lipid rafts are necessary for androgens to induce oxidative stress generation in neurons via the mAR localized within the plasma membrane. Nystatin was used to sequester cholesterol and thus decrease cholesterol-rich caveolar lipid rafts in a neuronal cell line (N27 cells). Nystatin was applied prior to testosterone exposure in oxidatively stressed N27 cells. Cell viability, endocytosis, and protein analysis of oxidative stress, apoptosis, and mAR localization were conducted. Our results show that the loss of lipid rafts via cholesterol sequestering blocked androgen-induced oxidative stress in cells by decreasing the localization of mAR to caveolar lipid rafts.
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    Neuroprotective and neurotoxic outcomes of androgens and estrogens in an oxidative stress environment
    (BioMed Central Ltd., 2020-03-29) Duong, Phong; Tenkorang, Mavis A. A.; Trieu, Jenny; McCuiston, Clayton; Rybalchenko, Nataliya; Cunningham, Rebecca L.
    BACKGROUND: The role of sex hormones on cellular function is unclear. Studies show androgens and estrogens are protective in the CNS, whereas other studies found no effects or damaging effects. Furthermore, sex differences have been observed in multiple oxidative stress-associated CNS disorders, such as Alzheimer's disease, depression, and Parkinson's disease. The goal of this study is to examine the relationship between sex hormones (i.e., androgens and estrogens) and oxidative stress on cell viability. METHODS: N27 and PC12 neuronal and C6 glial phenotypic cell lines were used. N27 cells are female rat derived, whereas PC12 cells and C6 cells are male rat derived. These cells express estrogen receptors and the membrane-associated androgen receptor variant, AR45, but not the full-length androgen receptor. N27, PC12, and C6 cells were exposed to sex hormones either before or after an oxidative stressor to examine neuroprotective and neurotoxic properties, respectively. Estrogen receptor and androgen receptor inhibitors were used to determine the mechanisms mediating hormone-oxidative stress interactions on cell viability. Since the presence of AR45 in the human brain tissue was unknown, we examined the postmortem brain tissue from men and women for AR45 protein expression. RESULTS: Neither androgens nor estrogens were protective against subsequent oxidative stress insults in glial cells. However, these hormones exhibited neuroprotective properties in neuronal N27 and PC12 cells via the estrogen receptor. Interestingly, a window of opportunity exists for sex hormone neuroprotection, wherein temporary hormone deprivation blocked neuroprotection by sex hormones. However, if sex hormones are applied following an oxidative stressor, they exacerbated oxidative stress-induced cell loss in neuronal and glial cells. CONCLUSIONS: Sex hormone action on cell viability is dependent on the cellular environment. In healthy neuronal cells, sex hormones are protective against oxidative stress insults via the estrogen receptor, regardless of sex chromosome complement (XX, XY). However, in unhealthy (e.g., high oxidative stress) cells, sex hormones exacerbated oxidative stress-induced cell loss, regardless of cell type or sex chromosome complement. The non-genomic AR45 receptor, which is present in humans, mediated androgen's damaging effects, but it is unknown which receptor mediated estrogen's damaging effects. These differential effects of sex hormones that are dependent on the cellular environment, receptor profile, and cell type may mediate the observed sex differences in oxidative stress-associated CNS disorders.
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    Rat Strain and Housing Conditions Alter Oxidative Stress and Hormone Responses to Chronic Intermittent Hypoxia
    (Frontiers Media S.A., 2018-11-06) Snyder, Brina D.; Duong, Phong; Tenkorang, Mavis A. A.; Wilson, E. Nicole; Cunningham, Rebecca L.
    Sleep apnea has been associated with elevated risk for metabolic, cognitive, and cardiovascular disorders. Further, the role of hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) activation in sleep apnea has been controversial in human studies. Chronic intermittent hypoxia (CIH) is a rodent model, which mimics the hypoxemia experienced by patients with sleep apnea. Most studies of CIH in rats have been conducted in the Sprague Dawley rat strain. Previously published literature suggests different strains of rats exhibit various responses to disease models, and these effects can be further modulated by the housing conditions experienced by each strain. This variability in response is similar to what has been observed in clinical populations, especially with respect to the HPA system. To investigate if strain or housing (individual or pair-housed) can affect the results of CIH (AHI 8 or 10) treatment, we exposed individual and pair-housed Sprague Dawley and Long-Evans male rats to 7 days of CIH treatment. This was followed by biochemical analysis of circulating hormones, oxidative stress, and neurodegenerative markers. Both strain and housing conditions altered oxidative stress generation, hyperphosphorylated tau protein (tau tangles), circulating corticosterone and adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH), and weight metrics. Specifically, pair-housed Long-Evans rats were the most sensitive to CIH, which showed a significant association between oxidative stress generation and HPA activation under conditions of AHI of 8. These results suggest both strain and housing conditions can affect the outcomes of CIH.
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    Presence of Androgen Receptor Variant in Neuronal Lipid Rafts
    (Society for Neuroscience, 2017-08-29) Garza-Contreras, Jo; Duong, Phong; Snyder, Brina D.; Schreihofer, Derek A.; Cunningham, Rebecca L.
    Fast, nongenomic androgen actions have been described in various cell types, including neurons. However, the receptor mediating this cell membrane-initiated rapid signaling remains unknown. This study found a putative androgen receptor splice variant in a dopaminergic N27 cell line and in several brain regions (substantia nigra pars compacta, entorhinal cortex, and hippocampus) from gonadally intact and gonadectomized (young and middle-aged) male rats. This putative splice variant protein has a molecular weight of 45 kDa and lacks an N-terminal domain, indicating it is homologous to the human AR45 splice variant. Interestingly, AR45 was highly expressed in all brain regions examined. In dopaminergic neurons, AR45 is localized to plasma membrane lipid rafts, a microdomain involved in cellular signaling. Further, AR45 protein interacts with membrane-associated G proteins Galphaq and Galphao. Neither age nor hormone levels altered AR45 expression in dopaminergic neurons. These results provide the first evidence of AR45 protein expression in the brain, specifically plasma membrane lipid rafts. AR45 presence in lipid rafts indicates that it may function as a membrane androgen receptor to mediate fast, nongenomic androgen actions.