Medical education needs to be redesigned so that it is an equally shared responsibility of clinicians and physician-scientists, with greatly enhanced opportunities for student-faculty bonding. Traditional departments and divisions must be restructured to provide more thoughtful and effective support for academic clinicians and physician-scientists. Existing infrastructure should be improved so that in exchange for the commitment of time and effort for teaching, the faculty members receive tangible services from their institutions (e.g., information technology that actually saves time, state-of-the art teaching aids that are user friendly, streamlined administrative oversight to avoid duplicate submissions to regulatory offices, more helpful grant management and accounting).
The creation of human embryonic stem cells through the destruction of a human embryo pits the value of a potential therapeutic tool against that of an early human life. This contest of values has resulted in a polarized debate that neglects areas of common interest and perspective. We suggest that a common ground for pursuing research on human embryonic stem cells can be found by reconsidering the death of the human embryo and by applying to this research the ethical norms of essential organ donation.
Patients requiring prolonged intensive care are at high risk for multiple organ failure and death. Insulin resistance and hyperglycemia accompany critical illness, and the severity of this “diabetes of stress” reflects the risk of death. Recently it was shown that preventing hyperglycemia with insulin substantially improves outcome of critical illness. This article examines some potential mechanisms underlying prevention of glucose toxicity as well as the effects of insulin independent of glucose control. Unraveling the molecular mechanisms will provide new insights into the pathogenesis of multiple organ failure and open avenues for novel therapeutic strategies.
The immune system evolved to protect organisms from a virtually infinite variety of disease-causing agents but to avoid harmful responses to self. Because immune protective mechanisms include the elaboration of potent inflammatory molecules, antibodies, and killer cell activation — which together can not only destroy invading microorganisms, pathogenic autoreactive cells, and tumors, but also mortally injure normal cells — the immune system is inherently a “double-edged sword” and must be tightly regulated. Immune response regulation includes homeostatic mechanisms intrinsic to the activation and differentiation of antigen-triggered immunocompetent cells and extrinsic mechanisms mediated by suppressor cells. This review series will focus on recent advances indicating that distinct subsets of regulatory CD4+ and CD8+ T cells as well as NK T cells control the outgrowth of potentially pathogenic antigen-reactive T cells and will highlight the evidence that these suppressor T cells may play potentially important clinical roles in preventing and treating immune-mediated disease. Here we provide a historical overview of suppressor cells and the experimental basis for the existence of functionally and phenotypically distinct suppressor subsets. Finally, we will speculate on how the distinct suppressor cell subsets may function in concert to regulate immune responses.
Recent years have seen Tregs become a popular subject of immunological research. Abundant experimental data have now confirmed that naturally occurring CD25+CD4+ Tregs in particular play a key role in the maintenance of self tolerance, with their dysfunction leading to severe or even fatal immunopathology. The sphere of influence of Tregs is now known to extend well beyond just the maintenance of immunological tolerance and to impinge on a host of clinically important areas from cancer to infectious diseases. The identification of specific molecular markers in both human and murine immune systems has enabled the unprecedented investigation of these cells and should prove key to ultimately unlocking their clinical potential.
There is increasing evidence that the immune response can be inhibited by several T cell subsets, including NK T cells, CD25+CD4+ T cells, and a subpopulation of CD8+ T cells. Animal model studies of multiple sclerosis have suggested an important role for suppressor CD8+ T cells in protection against disease recurrence and exacerbation. The molecular lynchpin of CD8+ suppressive activity is the murine MHC molecule Qa-1, termed HLA-E in humans. Here we summarize findings from work on Qa-1 that have begun to delineate suppressor CD8+ T cells and their mechanisms of action in the context of self tolerance and autoimmune disease.
Regulation of the immune response is a multifaceted process involving lymphocytes that function to maintain both self tolerance as well as homeostasis following productive immunity against microbes. There are 2 broad categories of Tregs that function in different immunological settings depending upon the context of antigen exposure and the nature of the inflammatory response. During massive inflammatory conditions such as microbial exposure in the gut or tissue transplantation, regulatory CD4+CD25+ Tregs broadly suppress priming and/or expansion of polyclonal autoreactive responses nonspecifically. In other immune settings where initially a limited repertoire of antigen-reactive T cells is activated and expanded, TCR-specific negative feedback mechanisms are able to achieve a fine homeostatic balance. Here I will describe experimental evidence for the existence of a Treg population specific for determinants that are derived from the TCR and are expressed by expanding myelin basic protein–reactive T cells mediating experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis, an animal prototype for multiple sclerosis. These mechanisms ensure induction of effective but appropriately limited responses against foreign antigens while preventing autoreactivity from inflicting escalating damage. In contrast to CD25+ Tregs, which are most efficient at suppressing priming or activation, these specific Tregs are most efficient in controlling T cells following their activation.
T cell vaccination (TCV) activates Tregs of 2 kinds: anti-idiotypic (anti-id) and anti-ergotypic (anti-erg). These regulators furnish a useful view of the physiology of T cell regulation of the immune response. Anti-id Tregs recognize specific effector clones by their unique TCR CDR3 peptides; anti-id networks of CD4+ and CD8+ Tregs have been described in detail. Here we shall focus on anti-erg T regulators. Anti-erg T cells, unlike anti-id T cells, do not recognize the clonal identity of effector T cells; rather, anti-erg T cells recognize the state of activation of target effector T cells, irrespective of their TCR specificity. We consider several features of anti-erg T cells: their ontogeny, subset markers, and target ergotope molecules; mechanisms by which they regulate other T cells; mechanisms by which they get regulated; and therapeutic prospects for anti-erg upregulation and downregulation.
Kinase suppressor of Ras-1 (KSR1) is a recently identified member of the EGFR–Ras–Raf-1–MAPK signaling pathway. A new study demonstrates that KSR1 protects intestinal epithelium from TNF-α–induced apoptosis, abrogating inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). Since its discovery, there has been disagreement as to whether KSR1 possesses intrinsic kinase activity. Using transgenic mouse models and genetically modified mouse colon epithelial cells, Polk and coworkers show that the kinase activity of KSR1 is off in normal colon epithelial cells, becoming activated only at the onset of IBD. They also provide strong evidence that KSR1 kinase activity is essential for anti-apoptotic protection of the intestinal epithelium. These new data in support of KSR1 as a kinase highlight an ongoing debate as to whether KSR1 does indeed serve as a specific kinase in transphosphorylating and transactivating c-Raf–1 toward MEK1.
Cellular senescence induced by different stresses and telomere shortening appears to play an important role in the aging process. The products of the INK4a/ARF locus — p16INK4a and ARF — arrest cell proliferation at the senescence stage by exerting their effects on retinoblastoma protein– and p53-mediated responsive pathways. A study in this issue of the JCI provides experimental evidence of a specific upregulation of these cell cycle inhibitors in a variety of organs during mammalian aging.
DNA vaccination is a novel immunization strategy that has great potential for the development of vaccines and immune therapeutics. This strategy has been highly effective in mice, while less immunogenic in nonhuman primates and humans. Enhancing DNA vaccine potency remains a challenge. It is likely that APCs, and especially DCs, play a paramount role in the presentation of vaccine antigen to the immune system. A new study reports the synergistic recruitment, expansion, and activation of DCs in vivo in a mouse model through covaccination with plasmids encoding macrophage inflammatory protein-1α (MIP-1α), fms-like tyrosine kinase 3 ligand (Flt3L), and the DNA vaccine. Such cooperative strategies delivering vaccine in a single, simple platform result in improved cellular immunity in vivo, including enhanced tetramer responses and IFN-γ secretion by antigen-specific cells.
HDL has a key role in reverse cholesterol transport, mobilizing cholesterol from the peripheral tissues to liver. In this process, the ABC transporter A1 (ABCA1) protein controls the efflux of intracellular cholesterol to apoAI, the major apolipoprotein of HDL. Since ABCA1 mutations were discovered to cause Tangier disease, a rare recessive HDL deficiency, it has been speculated that sequence variants in ABCA1 might also contribute to variations in plasma HDL cholesterol levels in the general population. A new study provides genetic evidence supporting this hypothesis.
Although inflammation and protease/antiprotease imbalance have been postulated to be critical in cigarette smoke–induced (CS-induced) emphysema, oxidative stress has been suspected to play an important role in chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases. Susceptibility of the lung to oxidative injury, such as that originating from inhalation of CS, depends largely on its upregulation of antioxidant systems. Nuclear factor, erythroid-derived 2, like 2 (Nrf2) is a redox-sensitive basic leucine zipper protein transcription factor that is involved in the regulation of many detoxification and antioxidant genes. Disruption of the Nrf2 gene in mice led to earlier-onset and more extensive CS-induced emphysema than was found in wild-type littermates. Emphysema in Nrf2-deficient mice exposed to CS for 6 months was associated with more pronounced bronchoalveolar inflammation; with enhanced alveolar expression of 8-oxo-7,8-dihydro-2′-deoxyguanosine, a marker of oxidative stress; and with an increased number of apoptotic alveolar septal cells — predominantly endothelial and type II epithelial cells — as compared with wild-type mice. Microarray analysis identified the expression of nearly 50 Nrf2-dependent antioxidant and cytoprotective genes in the lung that may work in concert to counteract CS-induced oxidative stress and inflammation. The responsiveness of the Nrf2 pathway may act as a major determinant of susceptibility to tobacco smoke–induced emphysema by upregulating antioxidant defenses and decreasing lung inflammation and alveolar cell apoptosis.
Melanoma is the most lethal skin cancer. Most deaths from melanoma result from metastases. Semaphorins have been shown to inhibit neuronal and endothelial cell migration, but the effects of semaphorins on tumor metastasis have not been documented. We found that semaphorin 3F (SEMA3F) was markedly downregulated in highly metastatic human cell lines in vitro and in vivo, which suggested that it may be a metastasis inhibitor. Metastatic human melanoma cells were transfected with SEMA3F and implanted into mice; the resultant tumors did not metastasize. Rather, the primary tumors resembled benign nevi characterized by large areas of apoptosis, diminished vascularity, inhibition of hyperplasia in overlying epidermal cells, and encapsulated tumor borders delineated by thick layers of fibroblasts and collagen matrix. This phenotype is in stark contrast to highly invasive, vascular mock-transfected tumors. In vitro, tumor cells expressing SEMA3F had a diminished capacity to adhere and migrate on fibronectin. Consistent with semaphorin-mediated chemorepulsion of neurons, tumor cells expressing SEMA3F were chemorepulsive for vascular and lymphatic endothelial cells expressing neuropilin-2 (NRP2), a novel mechanism for a tumor angiogenesis inhibitor. The repulsive activity was abrogated by NRP2 RNA interference. Together these results indicate that SEMA3F is a potent metastasis inhibitor that targets both tumor and stromal cells and raise the possibility of SEMA3F having therapeutic potential.
TNF plays a pathogenic role in inflammatory bowel diseases (IBDs), which are characterized by altered cytokine production and increased intestinal epithelial cell apoptosis. In vitro studies suggest that kinase suppressor of Ras-1 (KSR1) is an essential regulatory kinase for TNF-stimulated survival pathways in intestinal epithelial cell lines. Here we use a KSR1-deficient mouse model to study the role of KSR1 in regulating intestinal cell fate during cytokine-mediated inflammation. We show that KSR1 and its target signaling pathways are activated in inflamed colon mucosa. Loss of KSR1 increases susceptibility to chronic colitis and TNF-induced apoptosis in the intestinal epithelial cell. Furthermore, disruption of KSR1 expression enhances TNF-induced apoptosis in mouse colon epithelial cells and is associated with a failure to activate antiapoptotic signals including Raf-1/MEK/ERK, NF-κB, and Akt/protein kinase B. These effects are reversed by WT, but not kinase-inactive, KSR1. We conclude that KSR1 has an essential protective role in the intestinal epithelial cell during inflammation through activation of cell survival pathways.
Adipose tissue plays a central role in the control of energy homeostasis through the storage and turnover of triglycerides and through the secretion of factors that affect satiety and fuel utilization. Agents that enhance insulin sensitivity, such as rosiglitazone, appear to exert their therapeutic effect through adipose tissue, but the precise mechanisms of their actions are unclear. Rosiglitazone changes the morphological features and protein profiles of mitochondria in 3T3-L1 adipocytes. To examine the relevance of these effects in vivo, we studied white adipocytes from ob/ob mice during the development of obesity and after treatment with rosiglitazone. The levels of approximately 50% of gene transcripts encoding mitochondrial proteins were decreased with the onset of obesity. About half of those genes were upregulated after treatment with rosiglitazone, and this was accompanied by an increase in mitochondrial mass and changes in mitochondrial structure. Functionally, adipocytes from rosiglitazone-treated mice displayed markedly enhanced oxygen consumption and significantly increased palmitate oxidation. These data reveal mitochondrial remodeling and increased energy expenditure in white fat in response to rosiglitazone treatment in vivo and suggest that enhanced lipid utilization in this tissue may affect whole-body energy homeostasis and insulin sensitivity.
We document here that infection of prediabetic mice with a virus expressing an H-2Kb–restricted mimic ligand to a self epitope present on β cells accelerates the development of autoimmune diabetes. Immunization with the mimic ligand expanded autoreactive T cell populations, which was followed by their trafficking to the islets, as visualized in situ by tetramer staining. In contrast, the mimic ligand did not generate sufficient autoreactive T cells in naive mice to initiate disease. Diabetes acceleration did not occur in H-2Kb–deficient mice or in mice tolerized to the mimic ligand. Thus, arenavirus-expressed mimics of self antigens accelerate a previously established autoimmune process. Sequential heterologous viral infections might therefore act in concert to precipitate clinical autoimmune disease, even if single exposure to a viral mimic does not always cause sufficient tissue destruction.
The Ink4a/Arf locus encodes 2 tumor suppressor molecules, p16INK4a and Arf, which are principal mediators of cellular senescence. To study the links between senescence and aging in vivo, we examined Ink4a/Arf expression in rodent models of aging. We show that expression of p16INK4a and Arf markedly increases in almost all rodent tissues with advancing age, while there is little or no change in the expression of other related cell cycle inhibitors. The increase in expression is restricted to well-defined compartments within each organ studied and occurs in both epithelial and stromal cells of diverse lineages. The age-associated increase in expression of p16INK4a and Arf is attenuated in the kidney, ovary, and heart by caloric restriction, and this decrease correlates with diminished expression of an in vivo marker of senescence, as well as decreased pathology of those organs. Last, the age-related increase in Ink4a/Arf expression can be independently attributed to the expression of Ets-1, a known p16INK4a transcriptional activator, as well as unknown Ink4a/Arf coregulatory molecules. These data suggest that expression of the Ink4a/Arf tumor suppressor locus is a robust biomarker, and possible effector, of mammalian aging.
Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis is a progressive and fatal fibrotic disease of the lungs with unclear etiology. Prior efforts to treat idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis that focused on anti-inflammatory therapy have not proven to be effective. Recent insight suggests that the pathogenesis is mediated through foci of dysregulated fibroblasts driven by profibrotic cytokine signaling. TGF-β and PDGF are 2 of the most potent of these cytokines. In the current study, we investigated the role of TGF-β–induced fibrosis mediated by activation of the Abelson (Abl) tyrosine kinase. Our data indicate that fibroblasts respond to TGF-β by stimulating c-Abl kinase activity independently of Smad2/3 phosphorylation or PDGFR activation. Moreover, inhibition of c-Abl by imatinib prevented TGF-β–induced ECM gene expression, morphologic transformation, and cell proliferation independently of any effect on Smad signaling. Further, using a mouse model of bleomycin-induced pulmonary fibrosis, we found a significant inhibition of lung fibrosis by imatinib. Thus, Abl family members represent common targets for the modulation of profibrotic cytokine signaling.
Multiple myeloma in humans is frequently associated with mast cell infiltration and neovascularization, which correlate directly with disease severity, but the mechanisms underlying this relationship remain unclear. Here, we report that primary murine mast cells express angiopoietin-1 (Ang-1) and low levels of VEGF-A but not Ang-2 and that 2 established murine plasmacytoma cell lines express high levels of VEGF-A but little or no Ang-1 or Ang-2. An in vivo angiogenesis assay using extracellular matrix components shows that mast cells and plasmacytoma cells, together, promote marked neovascularization composed of dilated vessels, which is prevented by neutralization of VEGF-A and Ang-1 but is only partially reduced by neutralization of either VEGF-A or Ang-1. Mast cells within extracellular matrix components express Ang-1, and recombinant Ang-1 together with plasmacytoma cells promotes extracellular matrix neovascularization similar to that induced by mast cells. A transplantation assay shows that primary mast cells accelerate tumor growth by established plasmacytoma cell lines and that neutralization of Ang-1 alone or with VEGF-A reduces significantly the growth of plasmacytomas containing mast cells. These results demonstrate that mast cell–derived Ang-1 promotes the growth of plasmacytomas by stimulating neovascularization and provide further evidence supporting a causal relationship between inflammation and tumor growth.
Casitas b-lineage lymphoma (c-Cbl) is an E3 ubiquitin ligase that has an important role in regulating the degradation of cell surface receptors. In the present study we have examined the role of c-Cbl in whole-body energy homeostasis. c-Cbl–/– mice exhibited a profound increase in whole-body energy expenditure as determined by increased core temperature and whole-body oxygen consumption. As a consequence, these mice displayed a decrease in adiposity, primarily due to a reduction in cell size despite an increase in food intake. These changes were accompanied by a significant increase in activity (2- to 3-fold). In addition, c-Cbl–/– mice displayed a marked improvement in whole-body insulin action, primarily due to changes in muscle metabolism. We observed increased protein levels of the insulin receptor (4-fold) and uncoupling protein-3 (2-fold) in skeletal muscle and a significant increase in the phosphorylation of AMP-activated protein kinase and acetyl-CoA carboxylase. These findings suggest that c-Cbl plays an integral role in whole-body fuel homeostasis by regulating whole-body energy expenditure and insulin action.
DCs are critical for priming adaptive immune responses to foreign antigens. However, the utility of harnessing these cells in vivo to optimize the immunogenicity of vaccines has not been fully explored. Here we investigate a novel vaccine approach that involves delivering synergistic signals that both recruit and expand DC populations at the site of antigen production. Intramuscular injection of an unadjuvanted HIV-1 envelope (env) DNA vaccine recruited few DCs to the injection site and elicited low-frequency, env-specific immune responses in mice. Coadministration of plasmids encoding the chemokine macrophage inflammatory protein-1α (MIP-1α) and the DC-specific growth factor fms-like tyrosine kinase 3 ligand with the DNA vaccine resulted in the recruitment, expansion, and activation of large numbers of DCs at the site of inoculation. Consistent with these findings, coadministration of these plasmid cytokines also markedly augmented DNA vaccine--–elicited cellular and humoral immune responses and increased protective efficacy against challenge with recombinant vaccinia virus. These data suggest that the availability of mature DCs at the site of inoculation is a critical rate-limiting factor for DNA vaccine immunogenicity. Synergistic recruitment and expansion of DCs in vivo may prove a practical strategy for overcoming this limitation and potentiating immune responses to vaccines as well as other immunotherapeutic strategies.
Homozygosity for mutations in ABC transporter A1 (ABCA1) causes Tangier disease, a rare HDL-deficiency syndrome. Whether heterozygosity for genetic variation in ABCA1 also contributes to HDL cholesterol (HDL-C) levels in the general population is presently unclear. We determined whether mutations or single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in ABCA1 were overrepresented in individuals with the lowest 1% (n = 95) or highest 1% (n = 95) HDL-C levels in the general population by screening the core promoter and coding region of ABCA1. For all nonsynonymous SNPs identified, we determined the effect of genotype on lipid traits in 9,259 individuals from the general population. Heterozygosity for ABCA1 mutations was identified in 10% of individuals with low HDL-C only. Three of 6 nonsynonymous SNPs (V771M, V825I, and R1587K) were associated with increases or decreases in HDL-C in women in the general population and some with consistent trends in men, determined as isolated single-site effects varying only at the relevant SNP. Finally, these results were consistent over time. In conclusion, we show that at least 10% of individuals with low HDL-C in the general population are heterozygous for mutations in ABCA1 and that both mutations and SNPs in ABCA1 contribute to HDL-C levels in the general population.
The accurate matching of caloric intake to caloric expenditure involves a complex system of peripheral signals and numerous CNS neurotransmitter systems. Syndecans are a family of membrane-bound heparan sulfate proteoglycans that modulate ligand-receptor interactions. Syndecan-3 is heavily expressed in several areas of the brain, including hypothalamic nuclei, which are known to regulate energy balance. In particular, syndecans have been implicated in modulation of the activity of the melanocortin system, which potently regulates energy intake, energy expenditure, and peripheral glucose metabolism. Our data demonstrate that syndecan-3–null mice have reduced adipose content compared with wild-type mice. On a high-fat diet, syndecan-3–null male and female mice exhibited a partial resistance to obesity due to reduced food intake in males and increased energy expenditure in females relative to that of wild-type mice. As a result, syndecan-3–null mice on a high-fat diet accumulated less adipose mass and showed improved glucose tolerance compared with wild-type controls. The data implicate syndecan-3 in the regulation of body weight and suggest that inhibition of syndecan-3 may provide a therapeutic approach for the treatment of obesity resulting from exposure to high-fat diets.
Copyright © 2014 American Society for Clinical Investigation