Dr Anthony Ashton

Level C (Research Only) Academic
Obstetrics, Gynaecology and Neonatology, Northern Clinical School

E25 - Royal North Shore Hospital
The University of Sydney
NSW 2006 Australia

T: +61 2 9926 8486
F: +61 2 9926 8484

Research interests

Major Research Interests


Vascular injury and reactivity

Cell migration and differentiation

Role of small non-protein based mediators in the pathophysiology of disease

Narrative Report of Research

My principal area of interest in laboratory research lies in the investigation and application of angiogenic regulators in disease states, especially cancer and cardiac re-vascularization. In the past 11 years, I have studied the role of endothelial cell specific receptor isoforms on angiogenesis, examined the complicated relationships between inflammatory mediators on the outcome of angiogenesis and reperfusion injury and looked at the increasingly important role of cardiac specific modulators of apoptosis in the preservation of myocardium and mechanisms that might prevent myocyte apoptosis during reperfusion injury. As a part of these studies we have spanned the entire spectrum of techniques from recombinant protein production to cell culture models. More recently, we have used in vivo models to accurately model complex disease processes, such as angiogenesis, reperfusion injury, tumorigenesis and wound healing, and to take advantage of the power of mouse genetics in these investigations.

Our work on endothelial specific regulators of angiogenesis has focused on novel roles for the eicosanoid thromboxane (TX) A2. We found that TXA2 receptor stimulation alone is sufficient to inhibit angiogenesis through antagonism of connexin signaling, important for coordinating endothelial cell migration (an essential component of angiogenesis). Moreover, TXA2 receptor activation directly antagonizes the signaling of the angiogenic growth factors VEGF and FGF-2, both of which are undergoing clinical trials for pro-angiogenic therapy. These results may be vital to the reformulation of this therapy since many diseases recommended for pro-angiogenic therapy, such as re-vascularization of infarcted myocardium, also have locally or systemically elevated TXA2 levels. Further, only the B-isoform of the TXA2 receptor has this anti-angiogenic activity. Humans are the only species in which this receptor has been found and its function has previously been undetermined. Our work on this receptor establishes a novel role for isoform-specific regulation of angiogenesis by TXA2 receptors, provides the first pathophysiological significance of the two isoforms in humans, and clarifies the mechanism by these receptors regulate angiogenesis. This work has substantially altered the current model for the role of thromboxane A2 in vascular biology and has significant clinical implications for an emerging therapeutic regimen.

In ischemia-reperfusion injury, we recently described in detail a novel molecular interaction between the signaling pathways of the TXA2 and TNFa receptors that induces cardiac damage in part through limiting the angiogenic response from endothelial cells in the border area of an infarct. In an extension of these findings, we showed deletion of the TXA2 receptor decreases myocardial damage, compared to wild-type mice, in a murine model of cardiac infarction. This increased myocardial health directly correlated with lower rates of myocardial and endothelial cell apoptosis and increased survival. Thus,this phenomenon as one of potential clinical importance and may possibly explain the conflicting data on the role of TNFa in infarction.

Finally, we have recently been involved with characterizing the behavior of a very important cardiac-enriched protein, ARC (Apoptosis Repressor with CARD (Caspase Recruitment Domain)), that appears to function as the first master repressor of apoptosis. We have shown that ARC binds to and inhibits several proteins that regulate both the death receptor (extrinsic) and mitochondrial (intrinsic) pathways of apoptosis, including Fas, FADD, and Bax, and endows protection against cell death from stimuli which activate either pathway. Further, the final common pathway of apoptosis, after activation of Caspase 3, is also regulated by ARC. Specifically, ARC inhibits the proteolytic processing and activation of several Caspase-3 substrates responsible for dismantling the nucleus during the final phase of apoptosis. These are some of our most exciting results to date as no other protein has been demonstrated to inhibit nuclear degradation during apoptosis once Caspase 3 is activated.

Current national competitive grants*


Population Health at the Clinical Interface: Pregnancy and Childbirth
Roberts C, Ford J, Todd A, Simpson J, Ashton A, Taylor L, Morris J, Ellwood D
NHMRC Centre of Clinical Research Excellence ($2,456,365 over 5 years)

* Grants administered through the University of Sydney

International links

United States. (Institute of Translational Medicine and Therapeutics University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine) Examining the regulation of angiogenesis by thromboxane receptors in vivo Dr.s Garret FitzGerald and Yan Cheng.
United States. (Dept.s of Radiation Oncology & Pathology Wayne State University Detroit, MI) Study of the pathophysiological role of thromboxane receptors Dr. Kenneth V. Honn.
United States. (University of Kentucky) Study of thromboxane receptor signalling Dr. Hsin-Hsiung Tai.
United States. (Department of Molecular Physiology and Biological Physics University of Virginia School of Medicine) Study of the pathophysiological role of connexins in angiogenesis Dr. Brian Duling.
Italy. (Lab. of Molecular Pharmacology Dept. Pharmacological Sciences University of Milan) Examining structural motifs in the regulation of thromboxane receptor signalling Dr.s Valerie Capra and G.Enrico Rovati.
United States. (Center for Arrhythmia Research University of Michigan Ann Arbour, MI) Role of connexin 43 in angiogenesis Dr. Mario Delmar.
Ireland. (Department of Biochemistry, Conway Institute of Biomolecular & Biomedical Research, University College, Dublin) Structure-function relationships in prostaglandin receptors Dr. B. Therese Kinsella.
United States. (Department of Pathology Montefiore Medical Center Albert Einstein College of Medicine) Dissecting the mechanisms of anti-phospholipid antibodies in coagulation Dr. Jacob Rand.
United States. (Department of Medicine; Division of Nephrology Duke University Medical Center Durham, NC) Role in TP in disease Dr. Thomas Coffman.
United States. (University of Texas Health Centre) Study of the pathogenic role of TXA2 in cancer and parasitic disease Dr. Kenneth Wu.
United States. (Albert Einstein College of Medicine) Consultant to Mechanisms of Disease Training Grant Dr.s Weiss and Tanowitz.