Tiziana Squillaro

Biological Scientist, PhD

Name Tiziana
Surname Squillaro
Institution Università degli Studi della Campania Luigi Vanvitelli
E-Mail tiziana.squillaro@unicampania.it
Address Department of Medical, Surgical, Neurological, Metabolic Sciences, and Aging, 2nd Division of Neurology, Center for Rare Diseases, University of Campania "Luigi Vanvitelli", Napoli, Italy
Tiziana Squillaro


  • Adult-onset brain tumors and neurodegeneration: Are polyphenols protective?

    Publication Date: 08/09/2017 on Journal of cellular physiology
    by Squillaro T, Schettino C, Sampaolo S, Galderisi U, Di Iorio G, Giordano A, Melone MAB
    DOI: 10.1002/jcp.26170

    Aging is a primary risk factor for both neurodegenerative disorders (NDs) and tumors such as adult-onset brain tumors. Since NDs and tumors are severe, disabling, progressive and often incurable conditions, they represent a pressing problem in terms of human suffering and economic costs to the healthcare systems. The current challenge for physicians and researchers is to develop new therapeutic strategies in both areas to improve the patients' quality of life. In addition to genetics and environmental stressors, the increase in cellular oxidative stress as one of the potential common etiologies has been reported for both disorders. Recently, the scientific community has focused on the beneficial effects of dietary antioxidant classes, known as nutraceuticals, such as carotenoids, vitamins, and polyphenols. Among these compounds, polyphenols are considered to be one of the most bioactive agents in neurodegeneration and tumor prevention. Despite the beneficial activity of polyphenols, their poor bioavailability and inefficient delivery systems are the main factors limiting their use in medicine and functional food. The development of polymeric nanoparticle-based delivery systems able to encapsulate and preserve polyphenolic compounds may represent a promising tool to enhance their stability, solubility, and cell membrane permeation. In the present review we provide an overview of the main polyphenolic compounds used for ND and brain tumor prevention and treatment that explores their mechanisms of action, recent clinical findings and principal factors limiting their application in medicine.

  • Impact of lysosomal storage disorders on biology of mesenchymal stem cells: Evidences from in vitro silencing of glucocerebrosidase (GBA) and alpha-galactosidase A (GLA) enzymes.

    Publication Date: 18/01/2017 on Journal of cellular physiology
    by Squillaro T, Antonucci I, Alessio N, Esposito A, Cipollaro M, Melone MA, Peluso G, Stuppia L, Galderisi U
    DOI: 10.1002/jcp.25807

    Lysosomal storage disorders (LDS) comprise a group of rare multisystemic diseases resulting from inherited gene mutations that impair lysosomal homeostasis. The most common LSDs, Gaucher disease (GD), and Fabry disease (FD) are caused by deficiencies in the lysosomal glucocerebrosidase (GBA) and alpha-galactosidase A (GLA) enzymes, respectively. Given the systemic nature of enzyme deficiency, we hypothesized that the stem cell compartment of GD and FD patients might be also affected. Among stem cells, mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) are a commonly investigated population given their role in hematopoiesis and the homeostatic maintenance of many organs and tissues. Since the impairment of MSC functions could pose profound consequences on body physiology, we evaluated whether GBA and GLA silencing could affect the biology of MSCs isolated from bone marrow and amniotic fluid. Those cell populations were chosen given the former's key role in organ physiology and the latter's intriguing potential as an alternative stem cell model for human genetic disease. Our results revealed that GBA and GLA deficiencies prompted cell cycle arrest along with the impairment of autophagic flux and an increase of apoptotic and senescent cell percentages. Moreover, an increase in ataxia-telangiectasia-mutated staining 1 hr after oxidative stress induction and a return to basal level at 48 hr, along with persistent gamma-H2AX staining, indicated that MSCs properly activated DNA repair signaling, though some damages remained unrepaired. Our data therefore suggest that MSCs with reduced GBA or GLA activity are prone to apoptosis and senescence due to impaired autophagy and DNA repair capacity.

  • Clinical Trials With Mesenchymal Stem Cells: An Update.

    Publication Date: 01/01/2016 on Cell transplantation
    by Squillaro T, Peluso G, Galderisi U
    DOI: 10.3727/096368915X689622

    In the last year, the promising features of mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs), including their regenerative properties and ability to differentiate into diverse cell lineages, have generated great interest among researchers whose work has offered intriguing perspectives on cell-based therapies for various diseases. Currently the most commonly used adult stem cells in regenerative medicine, MSCs, can be isolated from several tissues, exhibit a strong capacity for replication in vitro, and can differentiate into osteoblasts, chondrocytes, and adipocytes. However, heterogeneous procedures for isolating and cultivating MSCs among laboratories have prompted the International Society for Cellular Therapy (ISCT) to issue criteria for identifying unique populations of these cells. Consequently, the isolation of MSCs according to ISCT criteria has produced heterogeneous, nonclonal cultures of stromal cells containing stem cells with different multipotent properties, committed progenitors, and differentiated cells. Though the nature and functions of MSCs remain unclear, nonclonal stromal cultures obtained from bone marrow and other tissues currently serve as sources of putative MSCs for therapeutic purposes, and several findings underscore their effectiveness in treating different diseases. To date, 493 MSC-based clinical trials, either complete or ongoing, appear in the database of the US National Institutes of Health. In the present article, we provide a comprehensive review of MSC-based clinical trials conducted worldwide that scrutinizes biological properties of MSCs, elucidates recent clinical findings and clinical trial phases of investigation, highlights therapeutic effects of MSCs, and identifies principal criticisms of the use of these cells. In particular, we analyze clinical trials using MSCs for representative diseases, including hematological disease, graft-versus-host disease, organ transplantation, diabetes, inflammatory diseases, and diseases in the liver, kidney, and lung, as well as cardiovascular, bone and cartilage, neurological, and autoimmune diseases.

  • Changes in autophagy, proteasome activity and metabolism to determine a specific signature for acute and chronic senescent mesenchymal stromal cells.

    Publication Date: 24/11/2015 on Oncotarget
    by Capasso S, Alessio N, Squillaro T, Di Bernardo G, Melone MA, Cipollaro M, Peluso G, Galderisi U
    DOI: 10.18632/oncotarget.6277

    A sharp definition of what a senescent cell is still lacking since we do not have in depth understanding of mechanisms that induce cellular senescence. In addition, senescent cells are heterogeneous, in that not all of them express the same genes and present the same phenotype. To further clarify the classification of senescent cells, hints may be derived by the study of cellular metabolism, autophagy and proteasome activity. In this scenario, we decided to study these biological features in senescence of Mesenchymal Stromal Cells (MSC). These cells contain a subpopulation of stem cells that are able to differentiate in mesodermal derivatives (adipocytes, chondrocytes, osteocytes). In addition, they can also contribute to the homeostatic maintenance of many organs, hence, their senescence could be very deleterious for human body functions. We induced MSC senescence by oxidative stress, doxorubicin treatment, X-ray irradiation and replicative exhaustion. The first three are considered inducers of acute senescence while extensive proliferation triggers replicative senescence also named as chronic senescence. In all conditions, but replicative and high IR dose senescence, we detected a reduction of the autophagic flux, while proteasome activity was impaired in peroxide-treated and irradiated cells. Differences were observed also in metabolic status. In general, all senescent cells evidenced metabolic inflexibility and prefer to use glucose as energy fuel. Irradiated cells with low dose of X-ray and replicative senescent cells show a residual capacity to use fatty acids and glutamine as alternative fuels, respectively. Our study may be useful to discriminate among different senescent phenotypes.

  • De-regulated expression of the BRG1 chromatin remodeling factor in bone marrow mesenchymal stromal cells induces senescence associated with the silencing of NANOG and changes in the levels of chromatin proteins.

    Publication Date: 01/01/2015 on Cell cycle (Georgetown, Tex.)
    by Squillaro T, Severino V, Alessio N, Farina A, Di Bernardo G, Cipollaro M, Peluso G, Chambery A, Galderisi U
    DOI: 10.4161/15384101.2014.995053

    Stem cells have a peculiar chromatin architecture that contributes to their unique properties, including uncommitted status, multi/pluripotency and self-renewal. We analyzed the effect of the de-regulation of the SWI/SNF chromatin remodeling complex in mesenchymal stromal cells (MSC) through the silencing and up-regulation of BRG1, which is the ATPase subunit of the complex. The altered expression of BRG1 promoted the senescence of MSC with suppression of the NANOG transcription, which is part of the transcriptional circuitry governing stem cell functions. To gain insight on the way NANOG was silenced, we evaluated how the de-regulated BRG1 expression affect the binding of activators and repressors on the NANOG promoter. We found 4 E2F binding motifs on NANOG promoter, which can be occupied by RB1 and RB2/P130. These are members of the retinoblastoma gene family. In MSC with a silenced BRG1, the relative binding of the 2 retinoblastoma proteins increased, and this was associated with the recruitment of DNMT1. This induced the methylation of CpG on the NANOG promoter. Opposingly, when a high level of BRG1 was present, the same E2F binding motifs were docking sites for BRG1, which induced chromatin compaction without CpG methylation but with increased histone deacetylation, associated with the presence of HDAC1 on E2F binding sites. Besides the sharp regulation of the NANOG expression, we evidenced, through proteomic analysis, that the de-regulation of the SWI/SNF function affected the expression of histones and other nuclear proteins involved in "nuclear architecture," suggesting that BRG1 may act as global regulator of gene expression.

  • Expression of stemness genes in primary breast cancer tissues: the role of SOX2 as a prognostic marker for detection of early recurrence.

    Publication Date: 30/10/2014 on Oncotarget
    by Finicelli M, Benedetti G, Squillaro T, Pistilli B, Marcellusi A, Mariani P, Santinelli A, Latini L, Galderisi U, Giordano A
    DOI: 10.18632/oncotarget.1936

    The events leading to breast cancer (BC) progression or recurrence are not completely understood and new prognostic markers aiming at identifying high risk-patients and to develop suitable therapy are highly demanded. Experimental evidences found in cancer cells a deregulated expression of some genes involved in governance of stem cell properties and demonstrated a relationship between stemness genes overexpression and poorly differentiated BC subtypes. In the present study 140 primary invasive BC specimens were collected. The expression profiles of 13 genes belonging to the OCT3/SOX2/NANOG/KLF4 core circuitry by RT-PCR were analyzed and any correlation between their expression and the BC clinic-pathological features (CPfs) and prognosis was investigated. In our cohort (117 samples), NANOG, GDF3 and SOX2 significantly correlated with grade 2, Nodes negative status and higher KI67 proliferation index, respectively (p=0.019, p=0.029, p= 0.035). According to multivariate analysis, SOX2 expression resulted independently associated with increased risk of recurrence (HR= 2,99; p= p=0,004) as well as Nodes status (HR=2,44; p=0,009) and T-size >1 (HR=1,77; p=0,035). Our study provides further proof of the suitable use of stemness genes in BC management. Interestingly, a prognostic role of SOX2, which seems to be a suitable marker of early recurrence irrespective of other clinicopathological features.

  • Reduced expression of MECP2 affects cell commitment and maintenance in neurons by triggering senescence: new perspective for Rett syndrome.

    Publication Date: 01/04/2012 on Molecular biology of the cell
    by Squillaro T, Alessio N, Cipollaro M, Melone MA, Hayek G, Renieri A, Giordano A, Galderisi U
    DOI: 10.1091/mbc.E11-09-0784

    MECP2 protein binds preferentially to methylated CpGs and regulates gene expression by causing changes in chromatin structure. The mechanism by which impaired MECP2 activity can induce pathological abnormalities in the nervous system of patients with Rett syndrome (RTT) is not clearly understood. To gain further insight into the role of MECP2 in human neurogenesis, we compared the neural differentiation process in mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) obtained from a RTT patient and from healthy donors. We further analyzed neural differentiation in a human neuroblastoma cell line carrying a partially silenced MECP2 gene. Senescence and reduced expression of neural markers were observed in proliferating and differentiating MSCs from the RTT patient, which suggests that impaired activity of MECP2 protein may impair neural differentiation, as observed in RTT patients. Next, we used an inducible expression system to silence MECP2 in neuroblastoma cells before and after the induction of neural differentiation via retinoic acid treatment. This approach was used to test whether MECP2 inactivation affected the cell fate of neural progenitors and/or neuronal differentiation and maintenance. Overall, our data suggest that neural cell fate and neuronal maintenance may be perturbed by senescence triggered by impaired MECP2 activity either before or after neural differentiation.

  • The BRG1 ATPase of chromatin remodeling complexes is involved in modulation of mesenchymal stem cell senescence through RB-P53 pathways.

    Publication Date: 07/10/2010 on Oncogene
    by Alessio N, Squillaro T, Cipollaro M, Bagella L, Giordano A, Galderisi U
    DOI: 10.1038/onc.2010.285

    We focused our attention on brahma-related gene 1 (BRG1), the ATPase subunit of the SWItch/Sucrose NonFermentable (SWI/SNF) chromatin remodeling complex, and analyzed its role in mesenchymal stem cell (MSC) biology. We hypothesized that deviation from the correct concentration of these proteins, which act at the highest level of gene regulation, may be deleterious for cells. We wanted to know what would happen if a cell had to cope with altered regulation of gene expression, either by upregulation or downregulation of BRG1. We assumed that cells would try to restore homeostasis or, alternatively, that the event could trigger senescence/apoptosis phenomena. To this end, in MSCs, we silenced BRG1gene. Knockdown of BRG1 expression induced a significant increase in senescent cells and decrease in apoptotic cells. It is interesting that BRG1 downregulation also induced an increase in heterochromatin. At the molecular level, these phenomena were associated with activation of retinoblastoma-like protein 2 (RB2)/P130- and P53-related pathways. Senescence was accompanied by reduced expression of some stemness-related genes. This is consistent with our previous research, which showed that BRG1 upregulation by ectopic expression also induced senescence processes. Together, these data suggest that BRG1 belongs to a class of genes whose expression is tightly regulated; hence, subtle alterations in BRG1 activity seem to negatively affect mechanisms regulating chromatin status and, in turn, impair cellular physiology.

  • Partial silencing of methyl cytosine protein binding 2 (MECP2) in mesenchymal stem cells induces senescence with an increase in damaged DNA.

    Publication Date: 01/05/2010 on FASEB journal : official publication of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology
    by Squillaro T, Alessio N, Cipollaro M, Renieri A, Giordano A, Galderisi U
    DOI: 10.1096/fj.09-143057

    DNA methylation is an epigenetic modification that occurs almost exclusively on CpG dinucleotides. MECP2 is a member of a family of proteins that preferentially bind to methylated CpGs. We analyzed the contribution of MECP2 to the physiology of mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs). Partial silencing of MECP2 in human MSCs induced a significant reduction of S-phase cells, along with an increase in G(1) cells. These changes were accompanied by a reduction of apoptosis, the triggering of senescence, a decrease in telomerase activity, and the down-regulation of genes involved in maintaining stem cell properties. Senescence appeared to rely on impairment of DNA damage repair and seemed to occur through RB- and P53-related pathways. The effects of MECP2 silencing could be related to the modification of the DNA methylation status. Our results indicate that the silencing of MECP2 induces an increase in methylated cytosines in the genome. Nevertheless, MECP2 partial silencing did not change the methylation of promoters, whose expression is affected by MECP2 down-regulation.

  • Dual role of parathyroid hormone in endothelial progenitor cells and marrow stromal mesenchymal stem cells.

    Publication Date: 01/02/2010 on Journal of cellular physiology
    by Di Bernardo G, Galderisi U, Fiorito C, Squillaro T, Cito L, Cipollaro M, Giordano A, Napoli C
    DOI: 10.1002/jcp.21976

    Hematopoietic stem cells derive regulatory information also from parathyroid hormone (PTH). To explore the possibility that PTH may have a role in regulation of other stem cells residing in bone marrow, such as mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) and endothelial progenitor cells (EPCs) we assessed the effect of this hormone on the in vitro behavior of MSCs and EPCs. We evidenced that MSCs were much more responsive to PTH than EPCs. PTH increased the proliferation rate of MSCs with a diminution of senescence and apoptosis. Taken together, our results may suggest a protective effect of PTH on MSCs that reduces stress phenomena and preserve genome integrity. At the opposite, PTH did not modify the fate of EPCs in culture.