Bradley E. Aouizerat


Bradley E. Aouizerat headshot

Bradley E. Aouizerat


Professor, College of Dentistry

Bradley E. Aouizerat's additional information

BS, Microbiology/ Molecular Genetics - University of California at Los Angeles
PhD, Microbiology/ Molecular Genetics/lmmunology - University of California at Los Angeles
MAS, Master of Advance Science Research in Clinical - University of California at San Francisco

Oral-systemic health

American Heart Association
American Liver Foundation
American Pain Society
American Society for Human Genetics
International Association for the Study of Pain

Faculty Honors Awards

Excellence in Research Mentoring Faculty Teaching Award (2013)
Excellence in Research Mentoring Faculty Teaching Award (Nominee) (2012)
Excellence in Research Mentoring Faculty Teaching Award (Nominee) (2011)
Most Dedicated Mentor Award, PMCTR Fellowship Program (2009)
Multidisciplinary Clinical Research Scholar, Roadmap K12 (2006)
Early Career Investigator Award, Bayer Healthcare International (2006)
Young Investigator Award, National Hemophilia Foundation (2005)
Early Career Faculty Award, Hellman Family (2005)
Faculty Mentorship Award Nominee (2005)
Faculty Mentorship Award Nominee (2004)
National Liver Scholar Award, American Liver Foundation (2004)
Irvine H. Page Young Investigator Award (Finalist), American Heart Association (2004)
Warsaw Fellowship (1998)
Sam and Rose Gilbert Fellowship, UCLA (1998)


Circulating microRNAs associated with prediabetes and geographic location in Latinos

Flowers, E., Ramírez-Mares, J. D., Velazquez-Villafaña, M., Rangel-Salazar, R., Sucher, A., Kanaya, A. M., Aouizerat, B. E., & De La Vega Monroy, M. L. L. (2021). International Journal of Diabetes in Developing Countries. 10.1007/s13410-020-00917-1
Background: Globally, type 2 diabetes is highly prevalent in individuals of Latino ancestry. The reasons underlying this high prevalence are not well understood, but both genetic and lifestyle factors are contributors. Circulating microRNAs are readily detectable in blood and are promising biomarkers to characterize biological responses (i.e., changes in gene expression) to lifestyle factors. Prior studies identified relationships between circulating microRNAs and risk for type 2 diabetes, but Latinos have largely been under-represented in these study samples. Aims/hypothesis: The aim of this study was to assess for differences in expression levels of three candidate microRNAs (miR-126, miR-146, miR-15) between individuals who had prediabetes compared to normal glycemic status and between individuals who self-identified with Latino ancestry in the United States (US) and native Mexicans living in or near Leon, Mexico. Methods: This was a cross-sectional study that included 45 Mexicans and 21 Latino participants from the US. Prediabetes was defined as fasting glucose 100–125 mg/dL or 2-h post-glucose challenge between 140 and 199 mg/dL. Expression levels of microRNAs from plasma were measured by qPCR. Linear and logistic regression models were used to assess relationships between individual microRNAs and glycemic status or geographic site. Results: None of the three microRNAs was associated with risk for type 2 diabetes. MiR-146a and miR-15 were significantly lower in the study sample from Mexico compared to the US. There was a significant interaction between miR-146a and BMI associated with fasting blood glucose. Conclusions/interpretation: This study did not replicate in Latinos prior observations from other racial groups of associations between miR-126, miR-146a, and miR-15 and risk for type 2 diabetes. Future studies should consider other microRNAs related to different biological pathways as possible biomarkers for type 2 diabetes in Latinos.

Circulating MicroRNAs predict glycemic improvement and response to a behavioral intervention

Flowers, E., Allen, I. E., Kanaya, A. M., & Aouizerat, B. E. (2021). Biomarker Research, 9(1). 10.1186/s40364-021-00317-5
Background: MicroRNAs may be important regulators of risk for type 2 diabetes. The purpose of this longitudinal observational study was to assess whether circulating microRNAs predicted improvements in fasting blood glucose, a major risk factor for type 2 diabetes, over 12 months. Methods: The study included participants (n = 82) from a previously completed trial that tested the effect of restorative yoga on individuals with prediabetes. Circulating microRNAs were measured using a flow cytometry miRNA assay. Linear models were used to determine the optimal sets of microRNA predictors overall and by intervention group. Results: Subsets of microRNAs were significant predictors of final fasting blood glucose after 12-months (R2 = 0.754, p < 0.001) and changes in fasting blood glucose over 12-months (R2 = 0.731, p < 0.001). Three microRNAs (let-7c, miR-363, miR-374b) were significant for the control group only, however there was no significant interaction by intervention group. Conclusions: Circulating microRNAs are significant predictors of fasting blood glucose in individuals with prediabetes. Among the identified microRNAs, several have previously been associated with risk for type 2 diabetes. This is one of the first studies to use a longitudinal design to assess whether microRNAs predict changes in fasting blood glucose over time. Further exploration of the function of the microRNAs included in these models may provide new insights about the complex etiology of type 2 diabetes and responses to behavioral risk reduction interventions. Trial registration: This study was a secondary analysis of a previously completed clinical trial that is registered at (NCT01024816) on December 3, 2009.

Co-Occurrence of Symptoms and Gut Microbiota Composition Before Neoadjuvant Chemotherapy and Radiation Therapy for Rectal Cancer: A Proof of Concept

González-Mercado, V. J., Lim, J., Yu, G., Penedo, F., Pedro, E., Bernabe, R., Tirado-Gómez, M., & Aouizerat, B. (2021). Biological Research for Nursing, 23(3), 513-523. 10.1177/1099800421991656
Purpose: To examine a) whether there are significant differences in gut microbial diversity and in the abundance of gut microbial taxa; and b) differences in predicted functional pathways of the gut microbiome between those participants with high co-occurring symptoms and those with low co-occurring symptoms, prior to neoadjuvant chemotherapy and radiation therapy (CRT) for rectal cancer. Methods: Rectal cancer patients (n = 41) provided stool samples for 16 S rRNA gene sequencing and symptom ratings for fatigue, sleep disturbance, and depressive symptoms prior to CRT. Descriptive statistics were computed for symptoms. Gut microbiome data were analyzed using QIIME2, LEfSe, and the R statistical package. Results: Participants with high co-occurring symptoms (n = 19) had significantly higher bacterial abundances of Ezakiella, Clostridium sensu stricto, Porphyromonas, Barnesiella, Coriobacteriales Incertae Sedis, Synergistiaceae, Echerichia-Shigella, and Turicibacter compared to those with low co-occurring symptoms before CRT (n = 22). Biosynthesis pathways for lipopolysaccharide, L-tryptophan, and colanic acid building blocks were enriched in participants with high co-occurring symptoms. Participants with low co-occurring symptoms showed enriched abundances of Enterococcus and Lachnospiraceae, as well as pathways for β-D-glucoronosides, hexuronide/hexuronate, and nicotinate degradation, methanogenesis, and L-lysine biosynthesis. Conclusion: A number of bacterial taxa and predicted functional pathways were differentially abundant in patients with high co-occurring symptoms compared to those with low co-occurring symptoms before CRT for rectal cancer. Detailed examination of bacterial taxa and pathways mediating co-occurring symptoms is warranted.

Exploring the effects of genomic testing on fear of cancer recurrence among breast cancer survivors

Gormley, M., Knobf, M. T., Vorderstrasse, A., Aouizerat, B., Hammer, M., Fletcher, J., & D’Eramo Melkus, G. (2021). Psycho-Oncology, 30(8), 1322-1331. 10.1002/pon.5679
Objective: Fear of cancer recurrence (FCR) is the greatest unmet psychosocial need among breast cancer survivors (BCS). The Oncotype Dx® test predicts the 10-year risk of distant recurrence and benefit of adjuvant chemotherapy among women with early stage hormone receptor-positive breast cancer. Despite the test's clinical utility, psychosocial responses are poorly understood. Methods: A descriptive cross-sectional study was conducted to explore associations between Oncotype Dx® test results (Recurrence Score [RS]) and FCR, health-related quality of life (HRQOL), distress, anxiety, depression, illness representation and perceived risk. Bivariate analyses were used to examine the associations between variables followed by multiple linear regression to examine predictors of FCR. Results: Greater FCR was associated with higher distress, anxiety, depression, illness representation and poorer HRQOL. BCS's with a high Oncotype Dx® RS reported higher overall fear (p = 0.013) and greater perceived consequences of their cancer (p = 0.034) compared to BCS's with a low RS. Using multiple linear regression, anxiety ((Formula presented.) = 0.21, p = 0.016), greater emotional response (Formula presented.) = 0.45, p < 0.001) and perceived consequences ((Formula presented.) = 0.18, p = 0.039) of illness explained 58% of the variance (p < 0.001) in FCR. Conclusion: BCS's with higher risk of recurrence may experience higher FCR. However, for FCR, modifiable factors such as anxiety and illness representation (greater emotional response and perceived consequences of illness) may be more important than non-modifiable factors such as Oncotype Dx® test results and age. Further research is needed to develop personalized interventions to improve BCS's outcomes.

A genomic variant of ALPK2 is associated with increased liver fibrosis risk in HIV/HCV coinfected women

McIntosh, A. T., Wei, R., Ahn, J., Aouizerat, B. E., Kassaye, S. G., Augenbraun, M. H., Price, J. C., French, A. L., Gange, S. J., Anastos, K. M., & Goldman, R. (2021). PloS One, 16(3). 10.1371/journal.pone.0247277
HIV coinfection is associated with more rapid liver fibrosis progression in hepatitis C (HCV) infection. Recently, much work has been done to improve outcomes of liver disease and to identify targets for pharmacological intervention in coinfected patients. In this study, we analyzed clinical data of 1,858 participants from the Women’s Interagency HIV Study (WIHS) to characterize risk factors associated with changes in the APRI and FIB-4 surrogate measurements for advanced fibrosis. We assessed 887 non-synonymous single nucleotide variants (nsSNV) in a subset of 661 coinfected participants for genetic associations with changes in liver fibrosis risk. The variants utilized produced amino acid substitutions that either altered an N-linked glycosylation (NxS/T) sequon or mapped to a gene related to glycosylation processes. Seven variants were associated with an increased likelihood of liver fibrosis. The most common variant, ALPK2 rs3809973, was associated with liver fibrosis in HIV/HCV coinfected patients; individuals homozygous for the rare C allele displayed elevated APRI (0.61, 95% CI, 0.334 to 0.875) and FIB-4 (0.74, 95% CI, 0.336 to 1.144) relative to those coinfected women without the variant. Although warranting replication, ALPK2 rs3809973 may show utility to detect individuals at increased risk for liver disease progression.

Model-Based Patterns of Lymphedema Symptomatology: Phenotypic and Biomarker Characterization

Fu, M. R., Aouizerat, B. E., Yu, G., Conley, Y., Axelrod, D., Guth, A. A., Gagner, J. P., Qiu, J. M., & Zagzag, D. (2021). Current Breast Cancer Reports, 13(1). 10.1007/s12609-020-00397-6
Purpose of the Study: More than 50% of breast cancer survivors without a diagnosis of lymphedema suffer daily from numerous and co-occurring lymphedema symptoms. This study aimed to identify lymphedema symptom patterns and the association of such patterns with phenotypic characteristics and biomarkers using latent class analysis (LCA). A prospective, descriptive, and repeated-measure design was used to enroll 140 women and collect data. Recent Findings: LCA identified three distinct lymphedema symptom classes at 8 weeks and 12 months post-surgery: low, moderate, and severe symptom classes and associated phenotypic characteristics. Participants were more likely to be in the severe symptom classes at 12 months post-surgery if they had lower education level, cording, an axillary syndrome at 8 weeks post-surgery, neoadjuvant chemotherapy, and radiation. Summary: Pre-surgery level of IL1-a, IL-6, IL-8, and VEGF was associated with the severe symptom class at 8 weeks post-surgery, suggesting that such biomarkers may be used to predict risk for lymphedema symptoms.

Prevalence and correlates of restless legs syndrome in men living with HIV

Wallace, D. M., Alcaide, M. L., Wohlgemuth, W. K., Jones Weiss, D. L., Starita, C. U., Patel, S. R., Stosor, V., Levine, A., Skvarca, C., Long, D. M., Rubtsova, A., Adimora, A. A., Gange, S. J., Spence, A. B., Anastos, K., Aouizerat, B. E., Anziska, Y., & Punjabi, N. M. (2021). PloS One, 16(10). 10.1371/journal.pone.0258139
Background Data on the prevalence and correlates of restless legs syndrome (RLS) in people with HIV are limited. This study sought to determine the prevalence of RLS, associated clinical correlates, and characterize sleep-related differences in men with and without HIV. Methods Sleep-related data were collected in men who have sex with men participating in the Multicenter AIDS Cohort Study (MACS). Demographic, health behaviors, HIV status, comorbidities, and serological data were obtained from the MACS visit coinciding with sleep assessments. Participants completed questionnaires, home polysomnography, and wrist actigraphy. RLS status was determined with the Cambridge-Hopkins RLS questionnaire. RLS prevalence was compared in men with and without HIV. Multinomial logistic regression was used to examine correlates of RLS among all participants and men with HIV alone. Sleep-related differences were examined in men with and without HIV by RLS status. Results The sample consisted of 942 men (56% HIV+; mean age 57 years; 69% white). The prevalence of definite RLS was comparable in men with and without HIV (9.1% vs 8.7%). In multinomial regression, HIV status was not associated with RLS prevalence. However, white race, anemia, depression, and antidepressant use were each independently associated with RLS. HIV disease duration was also associated with RLS. Men with HIV and RLS reported poorer sleep quality, greater sleepiness, and had worse objective sleep efficiency/ fragmentation than men without HIV/RLS. Conclusions The prevalence of RLS in men with and without HIV was similar. Screening for RLS may be considered among people with HIV with insomnia and with long-standing disease.

The REASON score: an epigenetic and clinicopathologic score to predict risk of poor survival in patients with early stage oral squamous cell carcinoma

Viet, C. T., Yu, G., Asam, K., Thomas, C. M., Yoon, A. J., Wongworawat, Y. C., Haghighiabyaneh, M., Kilkuts, C. A., McGue, C. M., Couey, M. A., Callahan, N. F., Doan, C., Walker, P. C., Nguyen, K., Kidd, S. C., Lee, S. C., Grandhi, A., Cheng, A. C., Patel, A. A., Philipone, E., Ricks, O. L., Allen, C. T., & Aouizerat, B. E. (2021). Biomarker Research, 9(1). 10.1186/s40364-021-00292-x
Background: Oral squamous cell carcinoma (OSCC) is a capricious cancer with poor survival rates, even for early-stage patients. There is a pressing need to develop more precise risk assessment methods to appropriately tailor clinical treatment. Genome-wide association studies have not produced a viable biomarker. However, these studies are limited by using heterogeneous cohorts, not focusing on methylation although OSCC is a heavily epigenetically-regulated cancer, and not combining molecular data with clinicopathologic data for risk prediction. In this study we focused on early-stage (I/II) OSCC and created a risk score called the REASON score, which combines clinicopathologic characteristics with a 12-gene methylation signature, to predict the risk of 5-year mortality. Methods: We combined data from an internal cohort (n = 515) and The Cancer Genome Atlas (TCGA) cohort (n = 58). We collected clinicopathologic data from both cohorts to derive the non-molecular portion of the REASON score. We then analyzed the TCGA cohort DNA methylation data to derive the molecular portion of the risk score. Results: 5-year disease specific survival was 63% for the internal cohort and 86% for the TCGA cohort. The clinicopathologic features with the highest predictive ability among the two the cohorts were age, race, sex, tobacco use, alcohol use, histologic grade, stage, perineural invasion (PNI), lymphovascular invasion (LVI), and margin status. This panel of 10 non-molecular features predicted 5-year mortality risk with a concordance (c)-index = 0.67. Our molecular panel consisted of a 12-gene methylation signature (i.e., HORMAD2, MYLK, GPR133, SOX8, TRPA1, ABCA2, HGFAC, MCPH1, WDR86, CACNA1H, RNF216, CCNJL), which had the most significant differential methylation between patients who survived vs. died by 5 years. All 12 genes have already been linked to survival in other cancers. Of the genes, only SOX8 was previously associated with OSCC; our study was the first to link the remaining 11 genes to OSCC survival. The combined molecular and non-molecular panel formed the REASON score, which predicted risk of death with a c-index = 0.915. Conclusions: The REASON score is a promising biomarker to predict risk of mortality in early-stage OSCC patients. Validation of the REASON score in a larger independent cohort is warranted.

Sleep disruption and duration are associated with variants in genes involved in energy homeostasis in adults with HIV/AIDS

Aouizerat, B. E., Byun, E., Pullinger, C. R., Gay, C., Lerdal, A., & Lee, K. A. (2021). Sleep Medicine, 82, 84-95. 10.1016/j.sleep.2020.08.028
Objective: To determine whether selected genes and plasma markers involved in energy homeostasis are associated with sleep disruption or duration in adults with HIV/AIDS. Methods: A sample of 289 adults with HIV/AIDS wore a wrist actigraph for 72 h to estimate total sleep time (TST) and wake after sleep onset (WASO). Twenty-three single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNP) spanning 5 energy homeostasis genes (adiponectin [ADIPOQ], ghrelin [GHRL], leptin [LEP], peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor-alpha [PPARA], and -gamma [PPARG]) were genotyped using a custom array. Plasma markers of energy homeostasis (adiponectin, ghrelin, leptin) were measured by commercial multiplex assay. Results: After adjusting for demographic and clinical characteristics (race/ethnicity, gender, CD4 cell count, waist circumference, medications), both WASO and TST were associated with SNPs in ADIPOQ (rs182052), LEP (rs10244329, rs3828942), PPARA (rs135551, rs4253655), and PPARG (rs709151). Additional SNPs in ADIPOQ were associated with WASO (rs1501299, rs3821799, rs6773957) and TST (rs2241766). TST was also associated with SNPs in GHRL (rs26802), LEP (rs11760956), PPARA (rs135547, rs8138102, rs4253776), and PPARG (rs12490265, rs796313). Many covariate-adjusted associations involved a significant interaction with markers of HIV (viral load, years since diagnosis). Among plasma markers, higher adiponectin was associated with less WASO, higher ghrelin and glucose levels with shorter TST, and higher leptin with longer TST. Conclusions: Replication of SNPs in all five genes and three plasma markers of energy homeostasis were associated with objective sleep measures. HIV disease influenced many of the associations. Findings strengthen evidence for associations between energy homeostasis genetics and poor sleep, and provide direction for pharmacological intervention research.

TNFα promotes oral cancer growth, pain, and Schwann cell activation

Salvo, E., Tu, N. H., Scheff, N. N., Dubeykovskaya, Z. A., Chavan, S. A., Aouizerat, B. E., & Ye, Y. (2021). Scientific Reports, 11(1). 10.1038/s41598-021-81500-4
Oral cancer is very painful and impairs a patient’s ability to eat, talk, and drink. Mediators secreted from oral cancer can excite and sensitize sensory neurons inducing pain. Cancer mediators can also activate Schwann cells, the peripheral glia that regulates neuronal function and repair. The contribution of Schwann cells to oral cancer pain is unclear. We hypothesize that the oral cancer mediator TNFα activates Schwann cells, which further promotes cancer progression and pain. We demonstrate that TNFα is overexpressed in human oral cancer tissues and correlates with increased self-reported pain in patients. Antagonizing TNFα reduces oral cancer proliferation, cytokine production, and nociception in mice with oral cancer. Oral cancer or TNFα alone increases Schwann cell activation (measured by Schwann cell proliferation, migration, and activation markers), which can be inhibited by neutralizing TNFα. Cancer- or TNFα-activated Schwann cells release pro-nociceptive mediators such as TNFα and nerve growth factor (NGF). Activated Schwann cells induce nociceptive behaviors in mice, which is alleviated by blocking TNFα. Our study suggests that TNFα promotes cancer proliferation, progression, and nociception at least partially by activating Schwann cells. Inhibiting TNFα or Schwann cell activation might serve as therapeutic approaches for the treatment of oral cancer and associated pain.