The anterior pituitary gland integrates the repertoire of hormonal signals controlling thyroid, adrenal, reproductive, and growth functions. The gland responds to complex central and peripheral signals by trophic hormone secretion and by undergoing reversible plastic changes in cell growth leading to hyperplasia, involution, or benign adenomas arising from functional pituitary cells. Discussed herein are the mechanisms underlying hereditary pituitary hypoplasia, reversible pituitary hyperplasia, excess hormone production, and tumor initiation and promotion associated with normal and abnormal pituitary differentiation in health and disease.
Quorum sensing via the accessory gene regulator (agr) system has been assigned a central role in the pathogenesis of staphylococci, particularly Staphylococcus aureus. While the control of virulence gene expression in vitro by agr has been relatively straightforward to describe, regulation of both the quorum response itself and virulence genes in vivo is considerably more complex. The quorum response is highly dependent upon the environment in which the organism is grown and is strongly influenced by additional regulators that respond to signals other than cell density. There is increasing evidence that the agr phenotype may influence the behavior and pathogenesis of biofilm-associated S. aureus and S. epidermidis and may contribute to the chronic nature of some biofilm-associated infections.
Members of the bacterial genus Streptococcus are responsible for causing a wide variety of infections in humans. Many Streptococci use quorum-sensing systems to regulate several physiological properties, including the ability to incorporate foreign DNA, tolerate acid, form biofilms, and become virulent. These quorum-sensing systems are primarily made of small soluble signal peptides that are detected by neighboring cells via a histidine kinase/response regulator pair.
Obesity is arguably the world’s most prevalent nutritional disorder and is a substantial contributor to morbidity and early mortality. Obesity is known to have a strong genetic component, but the specific influential genes in humans are largely unknown. A new paper describes a genetic variant that appears as though it may cause some people to be fatter or thinner than others (see the related article beginning on page 1762). This commentary considers the strength of the evidence in support of this finding and discusses additional research questions that should be addressed in further evaluations of this genetic variant as a putative contributor to human obesity.
Mutations in a variety of genes can cause congenital agammaglobulinemia and a failure of B cell development. The currently known genes encode components of the pre–B cell receptor or proteins that are activated by cross-linking of the pre–B cell receptor. Defects in these genes result in a block in B cell differentiation at the pro–B to pre–B cell transition. A patient with a translocation involving a previously unknown gene, LRRC8, demonstrated a block at exactly the same point in B cell differentiation (see the related article beginning on page 1707). It will be interesting to determine whether the protein encoded by this gene interacts with the pre–B cell receptor signal transduction pathway or is involved in a new pathway.
The antiphospholipid syndrome is characterized clinically by fetal loss and thrombosis and serologically by the presence of autoantibodies to lipid-binding proteins. In a model of this procoagulant condition in which these antibodies are injected into pregnant mice, fetal loss was prevented by blocking of complement activation. Specifically, interaction of complement component 5a (C5a) with its receptor is necessary for thrombosis of placental vasculature (see the related article beginning on page 1644). Inhibition of complement activation may have a therapeutic role in this disease.
Familial neurohypophyseal diabetes insipidus (FNDI) in humans is an autosomal dominant disorder caused by a variety of mutations in the arginine vasopressin (AVP) precursor. A new report demonstrates how heterozygosity for an AVP mutation causes FNDI (see the related article beginning on page 1697). Using an AVP knock-in mutation in mice, the study shows that FNDI is caused by retention of AVP precursors and progressive loss of AVP-producing neurons.
Antiphospholipid syndrome (APS) is defined by recurrent pregnancy loss and thrombosis in the presence of antiphospholipid (aPL) Ab’s. Currently, therapy for pregnant women with APS is focused on preventing thrombosis, but anticoagulation is only partially successful in averting miscarriage. We hypothesized that complement activation is a central mechanism of pregnancy loss in APS and tested this in a model in which pregnant mice receive human IgG containing aPL Ab’s. Here we identify complement component C5 (and particularly its cleavage product C5a) and neutrophils as key mediators of fetal injury, and we show that Ab’s or peptides that block C5a–C5a receptor interactions prevent pregnancy complications. The fact that F(ab)′2 fragments of aPL Ab’s do not mediate fetal injury and that C4-deficient mice are protected from fetal injury suggests that activation of the complement cascade is initiated via the classical pathway. Studies in factor B–deficient mice, however, indicate that alternative pathway activation is required and amplifies complement activation. In contrast, activating FcγRs do not play an important role in mediating aPL Ab–induced fetal injury. Our findings identify the key innate immune effectors engaged by pathogenic autoantibodies that mediate poor pregnancy outcomes in APS and provide novel and important targets for prevention of pregnancy loss in APS.
Vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF), an established angiogenesis factor, is expressed in allografts undergoing rejection, but its function in the rejection process has not been defined. Here, we initially determined that VEGF is functional in the trafficking of human T cells into skin allografts in vivo in the humanized SCID mouse. In vitro, we found that VEGF enhanced endothelial cell expression of the chemokines monocyte chemoattractant protein 1 and IL-8, and in combination with IFN-γ synergistically induced endothelial cell production of the potent T cell chemoattractant IFN-inducible protein-10 (IP-10). Treatment of BALB/c (H-2d) recipients of fully MHC-mismatched C57BL/6 (H-2b) donor hearts with anti-VEGF markedly inhibited T cell infiltration of allografts and acute rejection. Anti-VEGF failed to inhibit T cell activation responses in vivo, but inhibited intragraft expression of several endothelial cell adhesion molecules and chemokines, including IP-10. In addition, whereas VEGF expression was increased, neovascularization was not associated with acute rejection, and treatment of allograft recipients with the angiogenesis inhibitor endostatin failed to inhibit leukocyte infiltration of the grafts. Thus, VEGF appears to be functional in acute allograft rejection via its effects on leukocyte trafficking. Together, these observations provide mechanistic insight into the proinflammatory function of VEGF in immunity.
Gastrointestinal allergic disorders represent a diverse spectrum of inflammatory diseases that are occurring with increasing incidence and severity. An essential question concerning these disorders is to determine the specific cells and mediators responsible for specific clinical manifestations. With this in mind, we developed a murine model of oral allergen–induced intestinal inflammation accompanied by strong Th2-associated humoral and cellular responses and focused on the immunopathogenesis of allergic diarrhea. Exposure of OVA/alum–sensitized mice to repeated doses of intragastric OVA induced genetically restricted, dose-dependent, acute diarrhea associated with increased intestinal permeability, eosinophilia, and mastocytosis. Mice developed limited systemic manifestations of anaphylaxis, even though they developed marked intestinal mucosal mast cell degranulation. Notably, experiments involving mast cell depletion (with anti–c-kit mAb), anti-IgE treatment, and FcεRI-deficient mice indicated a critical effector role for mast cells in mediating allergic diarrhea. Furthermore, allergic diarrhea was dependent upon synergistic signaling induced by serotonin and platelet-activating factor (PAF), but not histamine. These results demonstrate that oral allergen–induced diarrhea associated with experimental Th2 intestinal inflammation is largely mast cell, IgE, serotonin, and PAF dependent.
Farnesoid X receptor (FXR) is a bile acid–activated transcription factor that is a member of the nuclear hormone receptor superfamily. Fxr-null mice exhibit a phenotype similar to Byler disease, an inherited cholestatic liver disorder. In the liver, activation of FXR induces transcription of transporter genes involved in promoting bile acid clearance and represses genes involved in bile acid biosynthesis. We investigated whether the synthetic FXR agonist GW4064 could protect against cholestatic liver damage in rat models of extrahepatic and intrahepatic cholestasis. In the bile duct–ligation and α-naphthylisothiocyanate models of cholestasis, GW4064 treatment resulted in significant reductions in serum alanine aminotransferase, aspartate aminotransferase, and lactate dehydrogenase, as well as other markers of liver damage. Rats that received GW4064 treatment also had decreased incidence and extent of necrosis, decreased inflammatory cell infiltration, and decreased bile duct proliferation. Analysis of gene expression in livers from GW4064-treated cholestatic rats revealed decreased expression of bile acid biosynthetic genes and increased expression of genes involved in bile acid transport, including the phospholipid flippase MDR2. The hepatoprotection seen in these animal models by the synthetic FXR agonist suggests FXR agonists may be useful in the treatment of cholestatic liver disease.
CD4+CD25+ regulatory T cells (Treg’s) play a pivotal role in preventing organ-specific autoimmune diseases and in inducing tolerance to allogeneic organ transplants. We and others recently demonstrated that high numbers of Treg’s can also modulate graft-versus-host disease (GVHD) if administered in conjunction with allogeneic hematopoietic stem cell transplantation in mice. In a clinical setting, it would be impossible to obtain enough freshly purified Treg’s from a single donor to have a therapeutic effect. Thus, we performed regulatory T cell expansion ex vivo by stimulation with allogeneic APCs, which has the additional effect of producing alloantigen-specific regulatory T cells. Here we show that regulatory T cells specific for recipient-type alloantigens control GVHD while favoring immune reconstitution. Irrelevant regulatory T cells only mediate a partial protection from GVHD. Preferential survival of specific regulatory T cells, but not of irrelevant regulatory T cells, was observed in grafted animals. Additionally, the use of specific regulatory T cells was compatible with some form of graft-versus-tumor activity. These data suggest that recipient-type specific Treg’s could be preferentially used in the control of GVHD in future clinical trials.
Familial neurohypophyseal diabetes insipidus (FNDI) is an autosomal dominant disorder caused by mutations in the arginine vasopressin (AVP) precursor. The pathogenesis of FNDI is proposed to involve mutant protein–induced loss of AVP-producing neurons. We established murine knock-in models of two different naturally occurring human mutations that cause FNDI. A mutation in the AVP signal sequence [A(–1)T] is associated with a relatively mild phenotype or delayed presentation in humans. This mutation caused no apparent phenotype in mice. In contrast, heterozygous mice expressing a mutation that truncates the AVP precursor (C67X) exhibited polyuria and polydipsia by 2 months of age and these features of DI progressively worsened with age. Studies of the paraventricular and supraoptic nuclei revealed induction of the chaperone protein BiP and progressive loss of AVP-producing neurons relative to oxytocin-producing neurons. In addition, Avp gene products were not detected in the neuronal projections, suggesting retention of WT and mutant AVP precursors within the cell bodies. In summary, this murine model of FNDI recapitulates many features of the human disorder and demonstrates that expression of the mutant AVP precursor leads to progressive neuronal cell loss.
A girl with congenital agammaglobulinemia and minor facial anomalies lacked B cells in peripheral blood: karyotypic analysis of white blood cells showed balanced translocation, t(9;20)(q33.2;q12). In the current study, we isolated a novel gene, leucine-rich repeat–containing 8 (LRRC8), at the translocation site on chromosome 9. It has four transmembrane helixes with one isolated and eight sequentially located leucine-rich repeats (LRRs) and constitutes a new protein family. It is expressed on T cells as well as on B-lineage cells. Translocation truncates the LRRC8 gene, resulting in deletion of the eighth, ninth, and half of the seventh LRR domains located close to the C-terminal. The truncated form of the LRRC8 gene is transcribed with sequences from the noncoding region adjacent to the truncated seventh LRR. Protein products derived from the truncated gene are coexpressed on white blood cells with the intact LRRC8 protein from the untranslocated allele. Transplantation experiments with murine bone marrow cells that were forced to express the truncated LRRC8 show that expression of the truncated protein inhibited B cell development. These results indicate that LRRC8 is responsible for the B cell deficiency in this patient and is required for B cell development.
T cell homing to sites of injury and inflammation is a critical step for adaptive immune responses. While much has been learned regarding T cell homing to lymphoid tissues, few studies have directly observed trafficking events during an effector response. In this study, we developed a model that uses intravital fluorescence videomicroscopy to determine the molecules critical to T cell rolling within skin allograft microvasculature during the effector phase of the rejection response. Additional studies were performed to quantify T cell infiltrates as rejection progressed. We found that P-selectin and E-selectin expressed on postcapillary venules play overlapping roles in the recruitment of activated T cells in a SCID reconstitution model of skin graft rejection and are important in T cell accumulation at the graft site. Surprisingly, we also found that naive T cells are recruited and accumulate via constitutive T cell L-selectin and upregulated L-selectin ligands on rejecting allograft vasculature. These data indicated that a specific retinue of molecules is upregulated during the rejection response, and they suggest potential future therapeutic targets.
Prostate cancer is one of the most diagnosed and mortal cancers in western countries. A major clinical problem is the development of androgen-independent prostate cancer (AIPC) during antihormonal treatment. The molecular mechanisms underlying the change from androgen dependence to independence of these tumors are poorly understood and represent a challenge to develop new therapies. Based on genetic data showing amplification of the c-myc gene in AIPC, we studied the ability of c-myc to confer AIPC cell growth. Human androgen-dependent prostate cancer cells overexpressing c-myc grew independently of androgens and presented tumorigenic properties in androgen-depleted conditions. Analysis of signalling pathways by pharmacological inhibitors of the androgen receptor (AR) or by RNA interference directed against AR or c-myc showed that c-myc acted downstream of AR through multiple growth effectors. Thus c-myc is required for androgen-dependent growth and following ectopic expression can induce androgen-independent growth. Moreover, RNA interference directed against c-myc showed that growth of human AIPC cells, AR-positive or -negative, required c-myc expression. Furthermore, we showed that c-myc–overexpressing cells retain a functional p53 pathway and thus respond to etoposide.
Human neutrophil adherence to ECMs induces an initial inhibition of stimulated reactive oxygen species (ROS) formation, followed by an enhanced phase of oxidant production. The initial integrin-mediated suppression of ROS constitutes a mechanism to prevent inappropriate tissue damage as leukocytes migrate to inflammatory sites. The Rac2 guanosine 5′-triphosphatase (GTPase) is a critical regulatory component of the phagocyte NADPH oxidase. We show that activation of Rac2 is inhibited in adherent neutrophils, correlating with inhibition of ROS formation. Conversely, NADPH oxidase components p47 and p67 assemble normally, suggesting a specific action of adhesion on the Rac2 molecular switch. Reconstitution with activated Rac2 restored rapid NADPH oxidase activation kinetics to adherent neutrophils, establishing that inhibition was due to defective Rac2 activity. We provide evidence that integrins inhibit Rac2 activation via a membrane-associated guanine nucleotide exchange factor, likely to be Vav1. Activation of Vav1, but not its upstream activator, Syk, is suppressed by cell adhesion. Vav1 activity is inhibited due to dephosphorylation of the regulatory Tyr174 via enhanced tyrosine phosphatase activity in adherent cells. These studies identify an integrin-mediated pathway in which Vav1 is as a strong candidate for the critical regulatory point in suppression of Rac2 activation and ROS generation during inflammatory responses.
Notch signaling plays a fundamental role in determining the outcome of differentiation processes in many tissues. Notch signaling has been implicated in T versus B cell lineage commitment, thymic differentiation, and bone marrow hematopoietic precursor renewal and differentiation. Notch receptors and their ligands are also expressed on the surface of mature lymphocytes and APCs, but the effects of Notch signaling in the peripheral immune system remain poorly defined. The aim of the studies reported here was to investigate the effects of signaling through the Notch receptor using a ligand of the Delta-like family. We show that Notch ligation in the mature immune system markedly decreases responses to transplantation antigens. Constitutive expression of Delta-like 1 on alloantigen-bearing cells renders them nonimmunogenic and able to induce specific unresponsiveness to a challenge with the same alloantigen, even in the form of a cardiac allograft. These effects could be reversed by depletion of CD8+ cells at the time of transplantation. Ligation of Notch on splenic CD8+ cells results in a dramatic decrease in IFN-γ with a concomitant enhancement of IL-10 production, suggesting that Notch signaling can alter the differentiation potential of CD8+ cells. These data implicate Notch signaling in regulation of peripheral immunity and suggest a novel approach for manipulating deleterious immune responses.
Acute myelogenous leukemias (AMLs) are genetically heterogeneous and characterized by chromosomal rearrangements that produce fusion proteins with aberrant transcriptional regulatory activities. Expression of AML fusion proteins in transgenic mice increases the risk of myeloid leukemias, suggesting that they induce a preleukemic state. The underlying molecular and biological mechanisms are, however, unknown. To address this issue, we performed a systematic analysis of fusion protein transcriptional targets. We expressed AML1/ETO, PML/RAR, and PLZF/RAR in U937 hemopoietic precursor cells and measured global gene expression using oligonucleotide chips. We identified 1,555 genes regulated concordantly by at least two fusion proteins that were further validated in patient samples and finally classified according to available functional information. Strikingly, we found that AML fusion proteins induce genes involved in the maintenance of the stem cell phenotype and repress DNA repair genes, mainly of the base excision repair pathway. Functional studies confirmed that ectopic expression of fusion proteins constitutively activates pathways leading to increased stem cell renewal (e.g., the Jagged1/Notch pathway) and provokes accumulation of DNA damage. We propose that expansion of the stem cell compartment and induction of a mutator phenotype are relevant features underlying the leukemic potential of AML-associated fusion proteins.
In our previous genome-wide scan of Finnish nuclear families, obesity was linked to chromosome Xq24. Here we analyzed this 15-Mb region by genotyping 9 microsatellite markers and 36 single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) for 11 positional and functional candidate genes in an extended sample of 218 obese Finnish sibling pairs (sibpairs) (BMI > 30 kg/m2). Evidence of linkage emerged mainly from the obese male sibpairs, suggesting a gender-specific effect for the underlying gene. By constructing haplotypes among the obese male sibpairs, we restricted the region from 15 Mb to 4 Mb, between markers DXS8088 and DXS8067. Regional functional candidate genes were tested for association in an initial sample of 117 cases and 182 controls. Significant evidence was observed for association for an SNP in the 3′-untranslated region of the solute carrier family 6 member 14 (SLC6A14) gene (P = 0.0002) and for SNP haplotypes of the SLC6A14 gene (P = 0.0007–0.006). Furthermore, an independent replication study sample of 837 cases and 968 controls from Finland and Sweden also showed significant differences in allele frequencies between obese and non-obese individuals (P = 0.003). The SLC6A14 gene is an interesting novel candidate for obesity because it encodes an amino acid transporter, which potentially regulates tryptophan availability for serotonin synthesis and thus possibly affects appetite control.
Copyright © 2014 American Society for Clinical Investigation