Maria Luisa Balestrieri

Professor of Biochemistry

Name Maria Luisa
Surname Balestrieri
Institution Università degli Studi della Campania Luigi Vanvitelli
Address Department of Biochemistry, Biophysics and General Pathology, University of Campania "L. Vanvitelli", Via L. De Crecchio 7, 80138 Naples, Italy
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Maria Luisa Balestrieri


  • Beneficial effects of low doses of red wine consumption on perturbed shear stress-induced atherogenesis.

    Publication Date: 01/03/2008 on Heart and vessels
    by Napoli C, Balestrieri ML, Sica V, Lerman LO, Crimi E, De Rosa G, Schiano C, Servillo L, D'Armiento FP
    DOI: 10.1007/s00380-007-1015-8

    Moderate wine intake is associated with a reduced risk of morbidity and mortality from cardiovascular disease. Atherosclerosis is enhanced in arterial segments exposed to disturbed flow. Perturbed shear stress increases also the endothelial expression of oxidation-sensitive responsive genes (such as ELK-1 and p-JUN). This study evaluates the effects of chronic consumption of red wine on perturbed shear stress-induced atherogenesis. Results indicated that chronic treatment with red wine significantly attenuated the activation of redox-sensitive genes (ELK-1 and p-JUN) and increased endothelial nitric oxide synthase (eNOS) expression (which was decreased by perturbed shear stress) in cultured human coronary endothelial cells (EC) and in atherosclerosis-prone areas of hypercholesterolemic mice. Oral administration of red wine to hypercholesterolemic mice reduced significantly the progression of atherosclerosis. Moreover, short-term supplementation with red wine to C57BL/6J mice significantly increased upregulation of aortic eNOS and SIRT1 expression induced by physical training. These findings establish that administration of low doses of red wine can attenuate the proatherogenic effects induced by perturbed shear stress in vitro and in vivo. This evidence may have implications for the prevention of atherosclerotic lesion progression and its clinical manifestations.

  • Functional impairment of hematopoietic progenitor cells in patients with coronary heart disease.

    Publication Date: 01/03/2008 on European journal of haematology
    by Liguori A, Fiorito C, Balestrieri ML, Crimi E, Bruzzese G, Williams-Ignarro S, D'Amora M, Sommese L, Grimaldi V, Minucci PB, Giovane A, Farzati B, Ignarro LJ, Napoli C
    DOI: 10.1111/j.1600-0609.2007.01007.x

    The circulating form of endothelial progenitors cells (EPCs) are derived from bone marrow (BM)-derived hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs). Enhanced mobilization of EPCs was shown to be linked to cardiac diseases. This study investigated whether reduced EPC levels in advanced coronary heart disease (CHD) are secondary to a functional exhaustion of HSCs in the BM or to reduced mobilization. Number and functional properties of EPCs were assessed in 15 healthy controls, and 40 patients with CHD. The colony-forming unit (CFU) capacity of BM-derived mononuclear cells and the CD34+ HSC number were examined in four healthy volunteers, and 15 CHD patients. EPC number was reduced in CHD patients (P < 0.01 vs. controls). Moreover, the migratory capacity was significantly impaired in EPCs of CHD patients (P < 0.05 vs. controls). On multivariate analysis, CHD was an independent predictor of functional EPC impairment. CFUs were reduced in CHD patients (59.6 +/- 21.2 vs. 75.4 +/- 25.8 in controls, P < 0.05). CHD was also predictor of impaired CFU capacity. In this small clinical study, CHD is associated with selective impairment of HSC function in the BM and in the peripheral blood, which may contribute to impairment of cardiac function.

  • Effect of low doses of red wine and pure resveratrol on circulating endothelial progenitor cells.

    Publication Date: 01/02/2008 on Journal of biochemistry
    by Balestrieri ML, Schiano C, Felice F, Casamassimi A, Balestrieri A, Milone L, Servillo L, Napoli C
    DOI: 10.1093/jb/mvm209

    Circulating endothelial progenitor cells (EPCs) play a significant role in neovascularization of ischaemic tissues and in re-endothelization of injured blood vessels. Identification of compounds able to enhance EPC levels and improve their functional activity, noticeably compromised by risk factors for coronary heart disease, is of clinical interest. This study evaluates the effects of red wine on EPCs. After being isolated from total peripheral blood mononuclear cells, EPC phenotype was confirmed by the presence of double positive cells for DiLDL uptake and lectin binding and by expression of CD34, CD133 and VE-cadherin cell surface markers. Long-term culture in the presence of red wine (1 microl/ml), containing resveratrol (Resv) at physiological concentration (nM), determined a time-dependent amelioration of cell number (P < 0.05). The presence of red wine prevented the TNF-alpha-induced reduction of EPC number (P < 0.05) and this effect was accompanied by reduced p38-phosphorylation expression levels (P < 0.05) and increased NOx levels (P < 0.05) Indeed, pure Resv alone significantly improved the TNF-alpha reduced EPC number (P < 0.05). This evidence indicates novel beneficial effects of red wine and Resv in the positive modulation of EPCs levels.

  • Proteomics and cardiovascular disease: an update.

    Publication Date: 01/01/2008 on Current medicinal chemistry
    by Balestrieri ML, Giovane A, Mancini FP, Napoli C

    Proteomics has unraveled important questions in the biology of cardiovascular disease and holds even greater promise for the development of novel diagnostic and prognostic biomarkers. This approach may establish early detection strategies, and monitor responses to therapies. Technological advances (most notably blue native polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis, electrospray ionization, matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionization (MALDI), analysis of MALDI-derived peptides in Time-of-Flight (TOF) analyzers, and multidimensional protein identification technology (MudPIT) and bioinformatics for data handling and interpretation allow a large-scale identification of peptide sequence and post-translational modifications. Moreover, combination of proteomic biomarkers with clinical phenotype, metabolite changes, and genetic haplotype information is promising for the physician assessment of individual cardiovascular risk profile.

  • Effect of gestational hypercholesterolaemia on omental vasoreactivity, placental enzyme activity and transplacental passage of normal and oxidised fatty acids.

    Publication Date: 01/12/2007 on BJOG : an international journal of obstetrics and gynaecology
    by Liguori A, D'Armiento FP, Palagiano A, Balestrieri ML, Williams-Ignarro S, de Nigris F, Lerman LO, D'Amora M, Rienzo M, Fiorito C, Ignarro LJ, Palinski W, Napoli C
    DOI: 10.1111/j.1471-0528.2007.01510.x

    Maternal hypercholesterolaemia during pregnancy increases lipid peroxidation in mothers and fetuses and programs increased susceptibility to atherosclerosis later in life. The objective of this study was to elucidate the role of the placenta in mediating oxidative stress from mother to offspring.

  • Therapeutic effects of autologous bone marrow cells and metabolic intervention in the ischemic hindlimb of spontaneously hypertensive rats involve reduced cell senescence and CXCR4/Akt/eNOS pathways.

    Publication Date: 01/10/2007 on Journal of cardiovascular pharmacology
    by de Nigris F, Balestrieri ML, Williams-Ignarro S, D'Armiento FP, Lerman LO, Byrns R, Crimi E, Palagiano A, Fatigati G, Ignarro LJ, Napoli C
    DOI: 10.1097/FJC.0b013e31812564e4

    Peripheral arterial disease (PAD) is a major health problem, especially when associated with severe hypertension. Administration of autologous bone marrow cells (BMCs) is emerging as a novel intervention to induce neoangiogenesis in ischemic limb models and in patients with PAD. This study evaluates the neovascularization capacity of BMCs alone or in combination with metabolic cotreatment (0.8% vitamin E, 0.05% vitamin C, and 5% of L-arginine) in a rat model of ischemic hindlimbs of spontaneously hypertensive rats (SHR) and normotensive Wistar-Kyoto rats (WKY). Molecular mechanisms were investigated in bone marrow-derived endothelial progenitor cells (BM-EPC) derived from rats. BMC therapy increased blood flow and capillary densities and Ki67 proliferative marker, and it decreased interstitial fibrosis. These effects were amplified by metabolic cotreatment, an intervention that induces vascular protection at least partly through the nitric oxide (NO)/endothelial nitric oxide synthase (eNOS) pathway, reduction of systemic oxidative stress, and macrophage activation. In addition, BMC therapy alone and, more consistently, in combination with metabolic treatment, ameliorated BM-EPC functional activity via decreased cellular senescence and improved homing capacity by increasing CXCR4-expression levels. These data suggest potential therapeutic effects of autologous BMCs and metabolic treatment in hypertensive PAD patients.

  • The influence of pomegranate fruit extract in comparison to regular pomegranate juice and seed oil on nitric oxide and arterial function in obese Zucker rats.

    Publication Date: 01/08/2007 on Nitric oxide : biology and chemistry
    by de Nigris F, Balestrieri ML, Williams-Ignarro S, D'Armiento FP, Fiorito C, Ignarro LJ, Napoli C
    DOI: 10.1016/j.niox.2007.04.005

    Metabolic syndrome includes most widely distributed clinical conditions such as obesity, hypertension, dislipidemia, and diabetes. Pomegranate fruit extract (PFE), rich in polyphenolic antioxidants, reduces the expression of oxidation-sensitive genes at the sites of perturbed shear-stress. The aim of this study was to evaluate the effect of PFE in comparison to regular pomegranate juice (PJ) and seed oil on the biological actions of nitric oxide (NO) and the arterial function in obese Zucker rats, a model of metabolic syndrome. Our results indicated that supplementation with PFE or PJ significantly decreased the expression of vascular inflammation markers, thrombospondin (TSP), and cytokine TGFbeta1 (P<0.05), whereas seed oil supplementation had a significant effect only on TSP-1 expression (P <0.05). Plasma nitrate and nitrite (NO(x)) levels were significantly increased by PFE and PJ (P<0.05). Furthermore, the effect of PFE in increasing endothelial NO synthase (eNOS) expression was comparable to that of PJ. These data highlight possible clinical applications of PFE in metabolic syndrome.

  • Novel challenges in exploring peptide ligands and corresponding tissue-specific endothelial receptors.

    Publication Date: 01/05/2007 on European journal of cancer (Oxford, England : 1990)
    by Balestrieri ML, Napoli C
    DOI: 10.1016/j.ejca.2007.02.006

    The structural and molecular diversity of vascular endothelium may depend on the functional state and tissue localisation of its cells. Tumour vasculature expresses a number of molecular markers that distinguish it from normal vasculature. In cancer, the determinant of specific tumour vasculature heterogeneity is, in part, dictated by dysregulated expression of tumour-derived angiogenic factors. The identification of molecular 'addresses' on the surface of tumour vasculature has significantly contributed to the selection of targets, which have been used for delivering therapeutic and imaging agents in cancer. Cytotoxic drug, pro-apoptotic peptides, protease inhibitors, and gene therapy vectors have been successfully linked to peptides and delivered to tumour sites with an improved experimental therapy. Different diagnostic and therapeutic compounds can be efficiently targeted to specific receptors on vascular endothelial cells; the development of ligand-directed vector tools may promote systemic targeted gene delivery. Here, we review the very recent advances in the identification of peptide ligands and their corresponding tissue-specific endothelial receptors through the phage display technology with emphasis on ligand-directed delivery of therapeutic agents and targeted gene therapy.

  • Comparison between total endothelial progenitor cell isolation versus enriched Cd133+ culture.

    Publication Date: 01/04/2007 on Journal of biochemistry
    by Casamassimi A, Balestrieri ML, Fiorito C, Schiano C, Maione C, Rossiello R, Grimaldi V, Del Giudice V, Balestrieri C, Farzati B, Sica V, Napoli C
    DOI: 10.1093/jb/mvm060

    Endothelial progenitor cells (EPCs) play a role in endogenous neovascularization of ischaemic tissues. Isolation and characterization of EPCs from circulating mononuclear cells are important for developing targeted cellular therapies and reproducibility of data are the major scientific goals. Here we compared two currently employed isolation methods, i.e. from total peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) and from enriched CD133(+) cells, by defining the cell morphology and functional activities. We show that EPCs from cultured PBMCs resulted in an adherent population of 23% +/- 4% merged cells positive for Dil-Ac-LDL and lectin, whereas the percentage of double positive cells in cultured CD133(+) enriched cells was 50% +/- 7% (P < 0.01). These data were obtained through a novel and a more complete method of analysis of cell calculations (specifically by dividing each microscope field into 120 subfields). When stimulated with tumour necrosis factor alpha (TNF)-alpha and glucose, cell number was reduced in EPCs from total PBMCs and, more consistently, in CD133(+) enriched cells. However, both cultured total PBMCs and CD133(+) enriched cells respond similarly to TNF-alpha or glucose-induced p38-phosphorylation. EPCs from both procedures show similar results in terms of phenotype and response to modulators of their functional activities. However, when the cell phenotype of CD133(+) enrichment-derived cells was compared with that of cells from the total PBMC, a significant increase in CD133(+) expression was observed (P < 0.01) This may have relevance during intervention studies using cultured EPCs.

  • Nutrition, physical activity, and cardiovascular disease: an update.

    Publication Date: 15/01/2007 on Cardiovascular research
    by Ignarro LJ, Balestrieri ML, Napoli C
    DOI: 10.1016/j.cardiores.2006.06.030

    Many epidemiological studies have indicated a protective role for a diet rich in fruits and vegetables against the development and progression of cardiovascular disease (CVD), one of the leading causes of morbidity and mortality worldwide. Physical inactivity and unhealthy eating contribute to these conditions. This article assesses the scientific rationale of benefits of physical activity and good nutrition on CVD, especially on atherosclerosis-related diseases. Compelling evidence has accumulated on the role of oxidative stress in endothelial dysfunction and in the pathogenesis of CVD. Reduced nitric oxide (NO) bioavailability due to oxidative stress seems to be the common molecular disorder comprising stable atherosclerotic narrowing lesions. Energy expenditure of about 1000 kcal (4200 kJ) per week (equivalent to walking 1 h 5 days a week) is associated with significant health benefits. Such benefits can be achieved through structured or nonstructured physical activity, accumulated throughout the day (even through short 10-min bouts) on most days of the week. Some prospective studies showed a direct inverse association between fruit and vegetable intake and the development of CVD incidents such as acute plaque rupture causing unstable angina or myocardial infarction and stroke. Many nutrients and phytochemicals in fruits and vegetables, including fiber, potassium, and folate, could be independently or jointly responsible for the apparent reduction in CVD risk. Novel findings and critical appraisal regarding antioxidants, dietary fibers, omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (n-3 PUFAs), nutraceuticals, vitamins, and minerals, are presented here in support of the current dietary habits together with physical exercise recommendations for prevention and treatment of CVD.