Aneuploidy and chromosome instability in
The National Institutes of Health and many of our biomedical institutions face significant budgetary challenges that are likely to persist for the foreseeable future. The paylines for Research Project Grant (RO1) applications to the NIH will be near or below the tenth percentile, and many investigators are growing increasingly concerned about maintaining their research programs. One of the most concerning potential results of limited grant dollars is the natural tendency for researchers to propose conservative projects that are more likely to succeed, to do well in peer review, and to be funded, but that may not dramatically advance the field, and a concurrent tendency among study sections to reward proposals that are seen as safe, if uninspiring. Established and well-respected investigators may be (perhaps appropriately) given the benefit of the doubt when compared with less-established colleagues and may therefore command a growing percentage of the total available grant dollars, while simultaneously avoiding bold and potentially groundbreaking approaches. At the same time, fewer dollars are available for new investigators with unproven track records and for the expansion of newly successful programs.
Mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) is a PI3K-related kinase that regulates cell growth, proliferation, and survival via mTOR complex 1 (mTORC1) and mTORC2. The mTOR pathway is often aberrantly activated in cancers. While hypoxia, nutrient deprivation, and DNA damage restrain mTORC1 activity, multiple genetic events constitutively activate mTOR in cancers. Here we provide a brief overview of the signaling pathways up- and downstream of mTORC1 and -2, and discuss the insights into therapeutic anticancer targets — both those that have been tried in the clinic with limited success and those currently under clinical development — that knowledge of these pathways gives us.
The PinX1 protein inhibits telomerase, an enzyme that lengthens telomeres — the structures that protect the ends of chromosomes. Loss of PinX1 leads to increased telomere length along with defects in chromosome dynamics. In this issue of the JCI, Zhou et al. present novel evidence from human tumors and mouse models indicating that PinX1 is a clinically significant tumor suppressor. Importantly, the genome-destabilizing effects of PinX1 loss appear to depend on telomerase activity, raising new models and questions for how telomeres and telomerase contribute to the development of cancer.
Resistance to antiangiogenic therapies in cancer involves both tumor cells and stromal components, but their relative contributions differ in each cancer subtype. In this issue of the JCI, Cascone et al. describe a stromal adaptation to antiangiogenic therapy in non–small cell lung carcinoma (NSCLC) models that include EGFR-driven vascular remodeling promoting resistance to VEGF inhibition. Their results suggest that the added benefit of dual VEGF/R and EGFR targeting in these models could be clinically relevant to fight resistance in NSCLC patients.
Cancer creates a peculiar inflammatory environment enriched for transcription factors with a negative influence on adaptive immunity. In this issue of the JCI, Watkins and colleagues identify Foxo3 as a master regulator of the tolerogenic program in tumor-associated, plasmacytoid DCs (pDCs). Foxo3 enables pDCs to induce tolerance in tumor antigen-specific CD8+ T cells, turning them into regulatory lymphocytes capable of inhibiting nearby CD8+ T lymphocytes. Provision of tumor-specific CD4+ T helper cells interrupts this circuit by inhibiting Foxo3 expression and fully licensing the antigen-presenting ability of pDCs. These data identify a new target for therapeutic intervention and provide insight into the transcription factor interplay in myeloid cells recruited to the cancer microenvironment.
Myocarditis, or inflammation of the heart, is a potentially devastating disease that can result from both viral infection and autoimmune attack of self antigens in the heart. In the current issue of the JCI, Lv and colleagues use a genetically susceptible mouse model to show that myocarditis is a T cell–mediated autoimmune disease that occurs due to insufficient thymic negative selection of α-myosin–reactive T cells.
The molecular basis for the preferential metastases of certain cancers to bone is not well understood. In this issue of the JCI, Shiozawa et al. provide compelling evidence that prostate cancer cells preferentially home to the osteoblastic niche in the bone marrow, where they compete with normal HSCs for niche support. Because signals from the niche may regulate tumor quiescence and sensitivity to chemotherapy, these observations have important implications for the treatment of metastatic prostate cancer in bone.
Acute promyelocytic leukemia (APL) is a malignancy of the bone marrow, in which there is a deficiency of myeloid cells and an excess of immature cells called promyelocytes. APL is most commonly caused by a translocation (15:17) and expression of the promyelocytic leukemia and the retinoic receptor α (PML-RARA) fusion product; however, the events that cooperate with PML-RARA in APL pathogenesis are not well understood. In this issue of the JCI, Wartman and colleagues use an innovative approach to find other relevant mutations in APL. They performed whole genome sequencing and copy number analysis of a well-characterized APL mouse model to uncover somatic mutations in Jak1 and lysine (K)-specific demethylase 6A (Kdm6a, also known as Utx) in mice with APL and validated the ability of Jak1 mutations to cooperate with PML-RARA in APL. The findings implicate the JAK/STAT pathway in the pathogenesis of APL and illustrate the power of whole genome sequencing to identify novel disease alleles in murine models of disease.
Endothelium-derived NO controls the contractility and growth state of the underlying vascular smooth muscle cells and regulates the interaction of the vessel wall with circulating blood elements. Acute injury of the vessel wall denudes the endothelial lining, removing homeostatic regulation and precipitating a wave of events leading to myointimal hyperplasia. In this issue of the JCI, Alef and colleagues provide evidence that in the injured vessel wall, the disruption of the NOS pathway is countered by induction of xanthine oxidoreductase, an enzyme capable of producing NO from nitrite. In addition, they link low dietary nitrite levels to increased severity of myointimal hyperplasia following vessel injury in mice.
Systemic anaphylaxis is generally recognized as a severe allergic reaction caused by IgE-mediated activation of mast cells, leading to massive release of vasoactive mediators that induce acute hypotension and shock. However, experimental evidence in mice suggests that this view is too simple. Using a variety of techniques to manipulate immune cell makeup, Jönsson et al. come to the conclusion in this issue of the JCI that recognition of IgG1 and IgG2 antibodies by FcγRIII and FcγRIV receptors on neutrophils is a major pathway for induction of anaphylaxis. These exciting results suggest that we have to reevaluate our models for anaphylaxis in humans, which will have a direct impact on our therapeutic approaches for prevention of this potential deadly hypersensitivity reaction.
The evolutionarily conserved protein COP1 has been shown to operate as an E3 ubiquitin ligase complex, and a number of putative substrates have been identified, including the c-JUN oncoprotein and p53 tumor suppressor protein. New work by Migliorini and colleagues described in the current issue of JCI demonstrates that COP1 acts as a tumor suppressor in vivo and does so, at least in part, by promoting the destruction of c-JUN. These findings challenge the view that COP1 regulates p53 stability and call into question the wisdom of developing COP1 inhibitors as potential anticancer agents.
Telomerase is activated in most human cancers and is critical for cancer cell growth. However, little is known about the significance of telomerase activation in chromosome instability and cancer initiation. The gene encoding the potent endogenous telomerase inhibitor PinX1 (PIN2/TRF1-interacting, telomerase inhibitor 1) is located at human chromosome 8p23, a region frequently exhibiting heterozygosity in many common human cancers, but the function or functions of PinX1 in development and tumorigenesis are unknown. Here we have shown that PinX1 is a haploinsufficient tumor suppressor essential for chromosome stability in mice. We found that PinX1 expression was reduced in most human breast cancer tissues and cell lines. Furthermore, PinX1 heterozygosity and PinX1 knockdown in mouse embryonic fibroblasts activated telomerase and led to concomitant telomerase-dependent chromosomal instability. Moreover, while PinX1-null mice were embryonic lethal, most PinX1+/– mice spontaneously developed malignant tumors with evidence of chromosome instability. Notably, most PinX1 mutant tumors were carcinomas and shared tissues of origin with human cancer types linked to 8p23. PinX1 knockout also shifted the tumor spectrum of p53 mutant mice from lymphoma toward epithelial carcinomas. Thus, PinX1 is a major haploinsufficient tumor suppressor essential for maintaining telomerase activity and chromosome stability. These findings uncover what we believe to be a novel role for PinX1 and telomerase in chromosome instability and cancer initiation and suggest that telomerase inhibition may be potentially used to treat cancers that overexpress telomerase.
Oncolytic adenoviruses replicate selectively within and lyse malignant cells. As such, they are being developed as anticancer therapeutics. However, the sensitivity of ovarian cancers to adenovirus cytotoxicity varies greatly, even in cells of similar infectivity. Using both the adenovirus E1A-CR2 deletion mutant dl922-947 and WT adenovirus serotype 5 in a panel of human ovarian cancer cell lines that cover a 3-log range of sensitivity, we observed profound overreplication of genomic DNA only in highly sensitive cell lines. This was associated with the presence of extensive genomic DNA damage. Inhibition of ataxia telangiectasia and Rad3-related checkpoint kinase 1 (ATR-Chk1), but not ataxia telangiectasia mutated (ATM), promoted genomic DNA damage and overreplication in resistant and partially sensitive cells. This was accompanied by increased adenovirus cytotoxicity both in vitro and in vivo in tumor-bearing mice. We also demonstrated that Cdc25A was upregulated in highly sensitive ovarian cancer cell lines after adenovirus infection and was stabilized after loss of Chk1 activity. Knockdown of Cdc25A inhibited virus-induced DNA damage in highly sensitive cells and blocked the effects of Chk1 inhibition in resistant cells. Finally, inhibition of Chk1 decreased homologous recombination repair of virus-induced genomic DNA double-strand breaks. Thus, virus-induced host cell DNA damage signaling and repair are key determinants of oncolytic adenoviral activity, and promoting unscheduled DNA synthesis and/or impeding homologous recombination repair could potentiate the effects of oncolytic adenoviruses in the treatment of ovarian cancer.
HSC homing, quiescence, and self-renewal depend on the bone marrow HSC niche. A large proportion of solid tumor metastases are bone metastases, known to usurp HSC homing pathways to establish footholds in the bone marrow. However, it is not clear whether tumors target the HSC niche during metastasis. Here we have shown in a mouse model of metastasis that human prostate cancer (PCa) cells directly compete with HSCs for occupancy of the mouse HSC niche. Importantly, increasing the niche size promoted metastasis, whereas decreasing the niche size compromised dissemination. Furthermore, disseminated PCa cells could be mobilized out of the niche and back into the circulation using HSC mobilization protocols. Finally, once in the niche, tumor cells reduced HSC numbers by driving their terminal differentiation. These data provide what we believe to be the first evidence that the HSC niche serves as a direct target for PCa during dissemination and plays a central role in bone metastases. Our work may lead to better understanding of the molecular events involved in bone metastases and new therapeutic avenues for an incurable disease.
Angiogenesis is critical for tumor growth and metastasis, and several inhibitors of angiogenesis are currently in clinical use for the treatment of cancer. However, not all patients benefit from antiangiogenic therapy, and those tumors that initially respond to treatment ultimately become resistant. The mechanisms underlying this, and the relative contributions of tumor cells and stroma to resistance, are not completely understood. Here, using species-specific profiling of mouse xenograft models of human lung adenocarcinoma, we have shown that gene expression changes associated with acquired resistance to the VEGF inhibitor bevacizumab occurred predominantly in stromal and not tumor cells. In particular, components of the EGFR and FGFR pathways were upregulated in stroma, but not in tumor cells. Increased activated EGFR was detected on pericytes of xenografts that acquired resistance and on endothelium of tumors with relative primary resistance. Acquired resistance was associated with a pattern of pericyte-covered, normalized revascularization, whereas tortuous, uncovered vessels were observed in relative primary resistance. Importantly, dual targeting of the VEGF and EGFR pathways reduced pericyte coverage and increased progression-free survival. These findings demonstrated that alterations in tumor stromal pathways, including the EGFR and FGFR pathways, are associated with, and may contribute to, resistance to VEGF inhibitors and that targeting these pathways may improve therapeutic efficacy. Understanding stromal signaling may be critical for developing biomarkers for angiogenesis inhibitors and improving combination regimens.
Biochemical studies have suggested conflicting roles for the E3 ubiquitin ligase constitutive photomorphogenesis protein 1 (Cop1; also known as Rfwd2) in tumorigenesis, providing evidence for both the oncoprotein c-Jun and the tumor suppressor p53 as its targets. Here we present what we believe to be the first in vivo investigation of the role of Cop1 in cancer etiology. Using an innovative genetic approach to generate an allelic series of Cop1, we found that Cop1 hypomorphic mice spontaneously developed malignancy at a high frequency in the first year of life and were highly susceptible to radiation-induced lymphomagenesis. Further analysis revealed that c-Jun was a key physiological target for Cop1 and that Cop1 constitutively kept c-Jun at low levels in vivo and thereby modulated c-Jun/AP-1 transcriptional activity. Importantly, Cop1 deficiency stimulated cell proliferation in a c-Jun–dependent manner. Focal deletions of COP1 were observed at significant frequency across several cancer types, and COP1 loss was determined to be one of the mechanisms leading to c-Jun upregulation in human cancer. We therefore conclude that Cop1 is a tumor suppressor that functions, at least in part, by antagonizing c-Jun oncogenic activity. In the absence of evidence for a genetic interaction between Cop1 and p53, our data strongly argue against the use of Cop1-inhibitory drugs for cancer therapy.
Pilocytic astrocytoma (PA) is the most common type of primary brain tumor in children and the second most frequent cancer in childhood. Children with incompletely resected PA represent a clinically challenging patient cohort for whom conventional adjuvant therapies are only moderately effective. This has produced high clinical demand for testing of new molecularly targeted treatments. However, the development of new therapeutics for PA has been hampered by the lack of an adequate in vivo tumor model. Recent studies have identified activation of MAPK signaling, mainly by oncogenic BRAF activation, as a hallmark genetic event in the pathogenesis of human PA. Using in vivo retroviral somatic gene transfer into mouse neural progenitor cells, we have shown here that ectopic expression of the activated BRAF kinase domain is sufficient to induce PA in mice. Further in vitro analyses demonstrated that overexpression of activated BRAF led to increased proliferation of primary mouse astrocytes that could be inhibited by treatment with the kinase inhibitor sorafenib. Our in vivo model for PA shows that the activated BRAF kinase domain is sufficient to induce PA and highlights its role as a potential therapeutic target.
Fine tuning of the protein folding environment in subcellular organelles, such as mitochondria, is important for adaptive homeostasis and may participate in human diseases, but the regulators of this process are still largely elusive. Here, we have shown that selective targeting of heat shock protein-90 (Hsp90) chaperones in mitochondria of human tumor cells triggered compensatory autophagy and an organelle unfolded protein response (UPR) centered on upregulation of CCAAT enhancer binding protein (C/EBP) transcription factors. In turn, this transcriptional UPR repressed NF-κB–dependent gene expression, enhanced tumor cell apoptosis initiated by death receptor ligation, and inhibited intracranial glioblastoma growth in mice without detectable toxicity. These data reveal what we believe to be a novel role of Hsp90 chaperones in the regulation of the protein-folding environment in mitochondria of tumor cells. Disabling this general adaptive pathway could potentially be used in treatment of genetically heterogeneous human tumors.
The limited success of cancer immunotherapy is often attributed to the loss of antigen-specific T cell function in situ. However, the mechanism for this loss of function is unknown. In this study, we describe a population of tumor-associated DCs (TADCs) in both human and mouse prostate cancer that tolerizes and induces suppressive activity in tumor-specific T cells. In tumors from human prostate cancer patients and transgenic adenocarcinoma of the mouse prostate (TRAMP) mice, TADCs expressed elevated levels of FOXO3 and Foxo3, respectively, which correlated with expression of suppressive genes that negatively regulate T cell function. Silencing FOXO3 and Foxo3 with siRNAs abrogated the ability of human and mouse TADCs, respectively, to tolerize and induce suppressive activity by T cells. Silencing Foxo3 in mouse TADCs was also associated with diminished expression of tolerogenic mediators, such as indoleamine-2,3-dioxygenase, arginase, and TGF-β, and upregulated expression of costimulatory molecules and proinflammatory cytokines. Importantly, transfer of tumor-specific CD4+ Th cells into TRAMP mice abrogated TADC tolerogenicity, which was associated with reduced Foxo3 expression. These findings demonstrate that FOXO3 may play a critical role in mediating TADC-induced immune suppression. Moreover, our results identify what we believe to be a novel target for preventing CTL tolerance and enhancing immune responses to cancer by modulating the immunosuppressive activity of TADCs found in the tumor microenvironment.
Epithelial tumor cells transit to a mesenchymal state in response to extracellular cues, in a process known as epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition (EMT). The precise nature of these cues has not been fully defined, an important issue given that EMT is an early event in tumor metastasis. Here, we have found that a population of metastasis-prone mouse lung adenocarcinoma cells expresses Notch and Notch ligands and that the Notch ligand Jagged2 promotes metastasis. Mechanistically, Jagged2 was found to promote metastasis by increasing the expression of GATA-binding (Gata) factors, which suppressed expression of the microRNA-200 (miR-200) family of microRNAs that target the transcriptional repressors that drive EMT and thereby induced EMT. Reciprocally, miR-200 inhibited expression of Gata3, which reversed EMT and abrogated metastasis, suggesting that Gata3 and miR-200 are mutually inhibitory and have opposing effects on EMT and metastasis. Consistent with this, high levels of Gata3 expression correlated with EMT in primary tumors from 2 cohorts of lung adenocarcinoma patients. These findings reveal what we believe to be a novel Jagged2/miR-200–dependent pathway that mediates lung adenocarcinoma EMT and metastasis in mice and may have implications for the treatment of human epithelial tumors.
Systemic iron homeostasis is mainly controlled by the liver through synthesis of the peptide hormone hepcidin (encoded by Hamp), the key regulator of duodenal iron absorption and macrophage iron release. Here we show that the liver-specific microRNA miR-122 is important for regulating Hamp mRNA expression and tissue iron levels. Efficient and specific depletion of miR-122 by injection of a locked-nucleic-acid–modified (LNA-modified) anti-miR into WT mice caused systemic iron deficiency, characterized by reduced plasma and liver iron levels, mildly impaired hematopoiesis, and increased extramedullary erythropoiesis in the spleen. Moreover, miR-122 inhibition increased the amount of mRNA transcribed by genes that control systemic iron levels, such as hemochromatosis (Hfe), hemojuvelin (Hjv), bone morphogenetic protein receptor type 1A (Bmpr1a), and Hamp. Importantly, miR-122 directly targeted the 3′ untranslated region of 2 mRNAs that encode activators of hepcidin expression, Hfe and Hjv. These data help to explain the increased Hamp mRNA levels and subsequent iron deficiency in mice with reduced miR-122 levels and establish a direct mechanistic link between miR-122 and the regulation of systemic iron metabolism.
Hemolytic transfusion reactions (HTRs) can produce serious and potentially life-threatening complications in sickle cell disease (SCD) patients; however, the mechanisms underlying these complications remain undetermined. We established a model of alloimmune, IgG-mediated HTRs in a well-characterized humanized murine model of SCD. HTRs induced acute vaso-occlusive crisis (VOC), resulting in shortened survival of SCD mice. Acute VOC was associated with elevated circulating inflammatory chemokine levels, including striking elevation of the levels of the neutrophil chemoattractant CXCL1. Recombinant CXCL1 administration was sufficient to induce acute VOC in SCD mice, characterized by leukocyte recruitment in venules, capture of circulating red blood cells, reduction of venular flow, and shortened survival. In contrast, blockade of the CXCL1 receptor, CXCR2, prevented HTR-elicited acute VOC and prolonged survival in SCD mice. These results indicate that CXCL1 is a key inflammatory mediator of acute VOC in SCD mice. Targeted inhibition of CXCL1 and/or CXCR2 may therefore represent a new therapeutic approach for acute VOC in SCD patients.
Dyslipidemia is an independent risk factor for type 2 diabetes, although exactly which of the many plasma lipids contribute to this remains unclear. We therefore investigated whether lipid profiling can inform diabetes prediction by performing liquid chromatography/mass spectrometry–based lipid profiling in 189 individuals who developed type 2 diabetes and 189 matched disease-free individuals, with over 12 years of follow up in the Framingham Heart Study. We found that lipids of lower carbon number and double bond content were associated with an increased risk of diabetes, whereas lipids of higher carbon number and double bond content were associated with decreased risk. This pattern was strongest for triacylglycerols (TAGs) and persisted after multivariable adjustment for age, sex, BMI, fasting glucose, fasting insulin, total triglycerides, and HDL cholesterol. A combination of 2 TAGs further improved diabetes prediction. To explore potential mechanisms that modulate the distribution of plasma lipids, we performed lipid profiling during oral glucose tolerance testing, pharmacologic interventions, and acute exercise testing. Levels of TAGs associated with increased risk for diabetes decreased in response to insulin action and were elevated in the setting of insulin resistance. Conversely, levels of TAGs associated with decreased diabetes risk rose in response to insulin and were poorly correlated with insulin resistance. These studies identify a relationship between lipid acyl chain content and diabetes risk and demonstrate how lipid profiling could aid in clinical risk assessment.
Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease is associated with multiple comorbid conditions, including diabetes, obesity, infection, and malnutrition. Mice with hepatocyte-specific disruption of growth hormone (GH) signaling develop fatty liver (FL), although the precise mechanism underlying this finding remains unknown. Because GH signals through JAK2, we developed mice bearing hepatocyte-specific deletion of JAK2 (referred to herein as JAK2L mice). These mice were lean, but displayed markedly elevated levels of GH, liver triglycerides (TGs), and plasma FFAs. Because GH is known to promote lipolysis, we crossed GH-deficient little mice to JAK2L mice, and this rescued the FL phenotype. Expression of the fatty acid transporter CD36 was dramatically increased in livers of JAK2L mice, as was expression of Pparg. Since GH signaling represses PPARγ expression and Cd36 is a known transcriptional target of PPARγ, we treated JAK2L mice with the PPARγ-specific antagonist GW9662. This resulted in reduced expression of liver Cd36 and decreased liver TG content. These results provide a mechanism for the FL observed in mice with liver-specific disruption in GH signaling and suggest that the development of FL depends on both GH-dependent increases in plasma FFA and increased hepatic uptake of FFA, likely mediated by increased expression of CD36.
Several different neuronal populations are involved in regulating energy homeostasis. Among these, agouti-related protein (AgRP) neurons are thought to promote feeding and weight gain; however, the evidence supporting this view is incomplete. Using designer receptors exclusively activated by designer drugs (DREADD) technology to provide specific and reversible regulation of neuronal activity in mice, we have demonstrated that acute activation of AgRP neurons rapidly and dramatically induces feeding, reduces energy expenditure, and ultimately increases fat stores. All these effects returned to baseline after stimulation was withdrawn. In contrast, inhibiting AgRP neuronal activity in hungry mice reduced food intake. Together, these findings demonstrate that AgRP neuron activity is both necessary and sufficient for feeding. Of interest, activating AgRP neurons potently increased motivation for feeding and also drove intense food-seeking behavior, demonstrating that AgRP neurons engage brain sites controlling multiple levels of feeding behavior. Due to its ease of use and suitability for both acute and chronic regulation, DREADD technology is ideally suited for investigating the neural circuits hypothesized to regulate energy balance.
Glaucoma is one of the most common neurodegenerative diseases. Despite this, the earliest stages of this complex disease are still unclear. This study was specifically designed to identify early stages of glaucoma in DBA/2J mice. To do this, we used genome-wide expression profiling of optic nerve head and retina and a series of computational methods. Eyes with no detectable glaucoma by conventional assays were grouped into molecularly defined stages of disease using unbiased hierarchical clustering. These stages represent a temporally ordered sequence of glaucoma states. We then determined networks and biological processes that were altered at these early stages. Early-stage expression changes included upregulation of both the complement cascade and the endothelin system, and so we tested the therapeutic value of separately inhibiting them. Mice with a mutation in complement component 1a (C1qa) were protected from glaucoma. Similarly, inhibition of the endothelin system with bosentan, an endothelin receptor antagonist, was strongly protective against glaucomatous damage. Since endothelin 2 is potently vasoconstrictive and was produced by microglia/macrophages, our data provide what we believe to be a novel link between these cell types and vascular dysfunction in glaucoma. Targeting early molecular events, such as complement and endothelin induction, may provide effective new treatments for human glaucoma.
Acute promyelocytic leukemia (APL) is a subtype of acute myeloid leukemia (AML). It is characterized by the t(15;17)(q22;q11.2) chromosomal translocation that creates the promyelocytic leukemia–retinoic acid receptor α (PML-RARA) fusion oncogene. Although this fusion oncogene is known to initiate APL in mice, other cooperating mutations, as yet ill defined, are important for disease pathogenesis. To identify these, we used a mouse model of APL, whereby PML-RARA expressed in myeloid cells leads to a myeloproliferative disease that ultimately evolves into APL. Sequencing of a mouse APL genome revealed 3 somatic, nonsynonymous mutations relevant to APL pathogenesis, of which 1 (Jak1 V657F) was found to be recurrent in other affected mice. This mutation was identical to the JAK1 V658F mutation previously found in human APL and acute lymphoblastic leukemia samples. Further analysis showed that JAK1 V658F cooperated in vivo with PML-RARA, causing a rapidly fatal leukemia in mice. We also discovered a somatic 150-kb deletion involving the lysine (K)-specific demethylase 6A (Kdm6a, also known as Utx) gene, in the mouse APL genome. Similar deletions were observed in 3 out of 14 additional mouse APL samples and 1 out of 150 human AML samples. In conclusion, whole genome sequencing of mouse cancer genomes can provide an unbiased and comprehensive approach for discovering functionally relevant mutations that are also present in human leukemias.
IL-15 may have a role in the development of T cell large granular lymphocyte (T-LGL) or NKT leukemias. However, the mechanisms of action and the identity of the cell subset that undergoes leukemic transformation remain elusive. Here we show that in both mice and humans, NKp46 expression marks a minute population of WT NKT cells with higher activity and potency to become leukemic. Virtually 100% of T-LGL leukemias in IL-15 transgenic mice expressed NKp46, as did a majority of human T-LGL leukemias. The minute NKp46+ NKT population, but not the NKp46– NKT population, was selectively expanded by overexpression of endogenous IL-15. Importantly, IL-15 transgenic NKp46– NKT cells did not become NKp46+ in vivo, suggesting that NKp46+ T-LGL leukemia cells were the malignant counterpart of the minute WT NKp46+ NKT population. Mechanistically, NKp46+ NKT cells possessed higher responsiveness to IL-15 in vitro and in vivo compared with that of their NKp46– NKT counterparts. Furthermore, interruption of IL-15 signaling using a neutralizing antibody could prevent LGL leukemia in IL-15 transgenic mice. Collectively, our data demonstrate that NKp46 identifies a functionally distinct NKT subset in mice and humans that appears to be directly susceptible to leukemic transformation when IL-15 is overexpressed. Thus, IL-15 signaling and NKp46 may be useful targets in the treatment of patients with T-LGL or NKT leukemia.
Bacteria naturally release membrane vesicles (MVs) under a variety of growth environments. Their production is associated with virulence due to their capacity to concentrate toxins and immunomodulatory molecules. In this report, we show that the 2 medically important species of mycobacteria, Mycobacterium tuberculosis and Mycobacterium bovis bacille Calmette-Guérin, release MVs when growing in both liquid culture and within murine phagocytic cells in vitro and in vivo. We documented MV production in a variety of virulent and nonvirulent mycobacterial species, indicating that release of MVs is a property conserved among mycobacterial species. Extensive proteomic analysis revealed that only MVs from the virulent strains contained TLR2 lipoprotein agonists. The interaction of MVs with macrophages isolated from mice stimulated the release of cytokines and chemokines in a TLR2-dependent fashion, and infusion of MVs into mouse lungs elicited a florid inflammatory response in WT but not TLR2-deficient mice. When MVs were administered to mice before M. tuberculosis pulmonary infection, an accelerated local inflammatory response with increased bacterial replication was seen in the lungs and spleens. Our results provide strong evidence that actively released mycobacterial vesicles are a delivery mechanism for immunologically active molecules that contribute to mycobacterial virulence. These findings may open up new horizons for understanding the pathogenesis of tuberculosis and developing vaccines.
Anaphylaxis is a life-threatening hyperacute immediate hypersensitivity reaction. Classically, it depends on IgE, FcεRI, mast cells, and histamine. However, anaphylaxis can also be induced by IgG antibodies, and an IgG1-induced passive type of systemic anaphylaxis has been reported to depend on basophils. In addition, it was found that neither mast cells nor basophils were required in mouse models of active systemic anaphylaxis. Therefore, we investigated what antibodies, receptors, and cells are involved in active systemic anaphylaxis in mice. We found that IgG antibodies, FcγRIIIA and FcγRIV, platelet-activating factor, neutrophils, and, to a lesser extent, basophils were involved. Neutrophil activation could be monitored in vivo during anaphylaxis. Neutrophil depletion inhibited active, and also passive, systemic anaphylaxis. Importantly, mouse and human neutrophils each restored anaphylaxis in anaphylaxis-resistant mice, demonstrating that neutrophils are sufficient to induce anaphylaxis in mice and suggesting that neutrophils can contribute to anaphylaxis in humans. Our results therefore reveal an unexpected role for IgG, IgG receptors, and neutrophils in anaphylaxis in mice. These molecules and cells could be potential new targets for the development of anaphylaxis therapeutics if the same mechanism is responsible for anaphylaxis in humans.
Viral infections have been linked to the onset of type I diabetes (T1D), with viruses postulated to induce disease directly by causing β cell injury and subsequent release of autoantigens and indirectly via the host type I interferon (IFN-I) response triggered by the virus. Consistent with this, resistance to T1D is associated with polymorphisms that impair the function of melanoma differentiation associated gene-5 (MDA5), a sensor of viral RNA that elicits IFN-I responses. In animal models, triggering of another viral sensor, TLR3, has been implicated in diabetes. Here, we found that MDA5 and TLR3 are both required to prevent diabetes in mice infected with encephalomyocarditis virus strain D (EMCV-D), which has tropism for the insulin-producing β cells of the pancreas. Infection of Tlr3–/– mice caused diabetes due to impaired IFN-I responses and virus-induced β cell damage rather than T cell–mediated autoimmunity. Mice lacking just 1 copy of Mda5 developed transient hyperglycemia when infected with EMCV-D, whereas homozygous Mda5–/– mice developed severe cardiac pathology. TLR3 and MDA5 controlled EMCV-D infection and diabetes by acting in hematopoietic and stromal cells, respectively, inducing IFN-I responses at kinetically distinct time points. We therefore conclude that optimal functioning of viral sensors and prompt IFN-I responses are required to prevent diabetes when caused by a virus that infects and damages the β cells of the pancreas.
Wilson disease (WD) is a rare hereditary condition that is caused by a genetic defect in the copper-transporting ATPase ATP7B that results in hepatic copper accumulation and lethal liver failure. The present study focuses on the structural mitochondrial alterations that precede clinical symptoms in the livers of rats lacking Atp7b, an animal model for WD. Liver mitochondria from these Atp7b–/– rats contained enlarged cristae and widened intermembrane spaces, which coincided with a massive mitochondrial accumulation of copper. These changes, however, preceded detectable deficits in oxidative phosphorylation and biochemical signs of oxidative damage, suggesting that the ultrastructural modifications were not the result of oxidative stress imposed by copper-dependent Fenton chemistry. In a cell-free system containing a reducing dithiol agent, isolated mitochondria exposed to copper underwent modifications that were closely related to those observed in vivo. In this cell-free system, copper induced thiol modifications of three abundant mitochondrial membrane proteins, and this correlated with reversible intramitochondrial membrane crosslinking, which was also observed in liver mitochondria from Atp7b–/– rats. In vivo, copper-chelating agents reversed mitochondrial accumulation of copper, as well as signs of intra-mitochondrial membrane crosslinking, thereby preserving the functional and structural integrity of mitochondria. Together, these findings suggest that the mitochondrion constitutes a pivotal target of copper in WD.
Huntington disease (HD) is a degenerative disorder caused by expanded CAG repeats in exon 1 of the huntingtin gene (HTT). Patients with late-stage HD are known to have abnormal auditory processing, but the peripheral auditory functions of HD patients have yet to be thoroughly assessed. In this study, 19 HD patients (aged 40–59 years) were assessed for hearing impairment using pure-tone audiometry and assessment of auditory brainstem responses (ABRs). PTA thresholds were markedly elevated in HD patients. Consistent with this, elevated ABR thresholds were also detected in two mouse models of HD. Hearing loss thus appears to be an authentic symptom of HD. Immunohistochemical analyses demonstrated the presence of mutant huntingtin that formed intranuclear inclusions in the organ of Corti of HD mice, which might interfere with normal auditory function. Quantitative RT-PCR and Western blot analyses further revealed reduced expression of brain creatine kinase (CKB), a major enzyme responsible for ATP regeneration via the phosphocreatine–creatine kinase (PCr-CK) system, in the cochlea of HD mice. Treatment with creatine supplements ameliorated the hearing impairment of HD mice, suggesting that the impaired PCr-CK system in the cochlea of HD mice may contribute to their hearing impairment. These data also suggest that creatine may be useful for treating the hearing abnormalities of patients with HD.
The in vivo therapeutic efficacy of DC-based cancer vaccines is limited by suboptimal DC maturation protocols. Although delivery of TLR adjuvants systemically boosts DC-based cancer vaccine efficacy, it could also increase toxicity. Here, we have engineered a drug-inducible, composite activation receptor for DCs (referred to herein as DC-CAR) comprising the TLR adaptor MyD88, the CD40 cytoplasmic region, and 2 ligand-binding FKBP12 domains. Administration of a lipid-permeant dimerizing ligand (AP1903) induced oligomerization and activation of this fusion protein, which we termed iMyD88/CD40. AP1903 administration to vaccinated mice enabled prolonged and targeted activation of iMyD88/CD40-modified DCs. Compared with conventionally matured DCs, AP1903-activated iMyD88/CD40-DCs had increased activation of proinflammatory MAPKs. AP1903-activated iMyD88/CD40-transduced human or mouse DCs also produced higher levels of Th1 cytokines, showed improved migration in vivo, and enhanced both antigen-specific CD8+ T cell responses and innate NK cell responses. Furthermore, treatment with AP1903 in vaccinated mice led to robust antitumor immunity against preestablished E.G7-OVA lymphomas and aggressive B16.F10 tumors. Thus, the iMyD88/CD40 unified “switch” effectively and safely replaced exogenous adjuvant cocktails, allowing remote and sustained DC activation in vivo. DC “licensing” through iMyD88/CD40 may represent a mechanism by which to exploit the natural synergy between the TLR and CD40 signaling pathways in DCs using a single small molecule drug and could augment the efficacy of antitumor DC-based vaccines.
Wiskott-Aldrich syndrome (WAS) is a primary immunodeficiency associated with an increased susceptibility to herpesvirus infection and hematologic malignancy as well as a deficiency of NK cell function. It is caused by defective WAS protein (WASp). WASp facilitates filamentous actin (F-actin) branching and is required for F-actin accumulation at the NK cell immunological synapse and NK cell cytotoxicity ex vivo. Importantly, the function of WASp-deficient NK cells can be restored in vitro after exposure to IL-2, but the mechanisms underlying this remain unknown. Using a WASp inhibitor as well as cells from patients with WAS, we have defined a direct effect of IL-2 signaling upon F-actin that is independent of WASp function. We found that IL-2 treatment of a patient with WAS enhanced the cytotoxicity of their NK cells and the F-actin content at the immunological synapses formed by their NK cells. IL-2 stimulation of NK cells in vitro activated the WASp homolog WAVE2, which was required for inducing WASp-independent NK cell function, but not for baseline activity. Thus, WAVE2 and WASp define parallel pathways to F-actin reorganization and function in human NK cells; although WAVE2 was not required for NK cell innate function, it was accessible through adaptive immunity via IL-2. These results demonstrate how overlapping cytoskeletal activities can utilize immunologically distinct pathways to achieve synonymous immune function.
Elite controllers represent a unique group of HIV-1–infected persons with undetectable HIV-1 replication in the absence of antiretroviral therapy. However, the mechanisms contributing to effective viral immune defense in these patients remain unclear. Here, we show that compared with HIV-1 progressors and HIV-1–negative persons, CD4+ T cells from elite controllers are less susceptible to HIV-1 infection. This partial resistance to HIV-1 infection involved less effective reverse transcription and mRNA transcription from proviral DNA and was associated with strong and selective upregulation of the cyclin-dependent kinase inhibitor p21 (also known as cip-1 and waf-1). Experimental blockade of p21 in CD4+ T cells from elite controllers resulted in a marked increase of viral reverse transcripts and mRNA production and led to higher enzymatic activities of cyclin-dependent kinase 9 (CDK9), which serves as a transcriptional coactivator of HIV-1 gene expression. This suggests that p21 acts as a barrier against HIV-1 infection in CD4+ T cells from elite controllers by inhibiting a cyclin-dependent kinase required for effective HIV-1 replication. These data demonstrate a mechanism of host resistance to HIV-1 in elite controllers and may open novel perspectives for clinical strategies to prevent or treat HIV-1 infection.
Autoimmunity has long been linked to myocarditis and its sequela, dilated cardiomyopathy, the leading causes of heart failure in young patients. However, the underlying mechanisms are poorly defined, with most clinical investigations focused on humoral autoimmunity as the target for intervention. Here, we show that the α-isoform of myosin heavy chain (α-MyHC, which is encoded by the gene Myh6) is the pathogenic autoantigen for CD4+ T cells in a spontaneous mouse model of myocarditis. Further, we found that Myh6 transcripts were absent in mouse medullary thymic epithelial cells (mTECs) and peripheral lymphoid stromal cells, which have been implicated in mediating central and peripheral T cell tolerance, respectively. Transgenic expression of α-MyHC in thymic epithelium conferred tolerance to cardiac myosin and prevented myocarditis, demonstrating that α-MyHC is a primary autoantigen in this disease process. Remarkably, we found that humans also lacked α-MyHC in mTECs and had high frequencies of α-MyHC–specific T cells in peripheral blood, with markedly augmented T cell responses to α-MyHC in patients with myocarditis. Since α-MyHC constitutes a small fraction of MyHC in human heart, these findings challenge the longstanding notion that autoimmune targeting of MyHC is due to its cardiac abundance and instead suggest that it is targeted as a result of impaired T cell tolerance mechanisms. These results thus support a role for T cell–specific therapies for myocarditis.
Donor lymphocyte infusion (DLI), whereby donor mononuclear cells are infused into patients, is one of the few effective immunotherapeutic strategies that generate long-lasting tumor remissions. We previously demonstrated that chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML) patients treated with DLI develop high-titer plasma antibodies specific for CML-associated antigens, the majority of which have been reported to bind nucleic acids These observations led us to predict that circulating antibody-antigen complexes in DLI-responsive patients carry nucleic acids that can engage innate immune sensors. Consistent with this, we report here that post-DLI plasma from 5 CML patients that responded to DLI treatment induced massive upregulation of MIP-1α, IP-10, and IFN-α in normal blood mononuclear cells. Importantly, this was not observed with plasma obtained before DLI and from DLI nonresponders and imatinib-treated patients. This endogenous immunostimulatory activity required nucleic acid and protein for its adjuvant effect and activated antigen-presenting cells through the RNA and DNA sensors TLR8 and TLR9. Presence of the immunoglobulin Fc receptor CD32 enhanced cellular responses, suggesting that immunoglobulins associate with this activity. Finally, a TLR-induced expression signature was detectable in post-DLI but not pre-DLI blood, consistent with an active circulating TLR8/9-stimulating factor. We have therefore demonstrated that effective tumor immunity correlates with the presence of endogenous nucleic acid–immunoglobulin complexes in patient plasma, thus providing a putative mechanism for the induction of potent antigen-specific immunity against malignant cells.
Shared molecular programs govern the formation of heart and head during mammalian embryogenesis. Development of both structures is disrupted in human chromosomal microdeletion of 22q11.2 (del22q11), which causes DiGeorge syndrome (DGS) and velo-cardio-facial syndrome (VCFS). Here, we have identified a genetic pathway involving the Six1/Eya1 transcription complex that regulates cardiovascular and craniofacial development. We demonstrate that murine mutation of both Six1 and Eya1 recapitulated most features of human del22q11 syndromes, including craniofacial, cardiac outflow tract, and aortic arch malformations. The mutant phenotypes were attributable in part to a reduction of fibroblast growth factor 8 (Fgf8), which was shown to be a direct downstream effector of Six1 and Eya1. Furthermore, we showed that Six1 and Eya1 genetically interacted with Fgf8 and the critical del22q11 gene T-box transcription factor 1 (Tbx1) in mice. Together, these findings reveal a Tbx1-Six1/Eya1-Fgf8 genetic pathway that is crucial for mammalian cardiocraniofacial morphogenesis and provide insights into the pathogenesis of human del22q11 syndromes.
Tuberous sclerosis complex (TSC) is an autosomal dominant disorder characterized by mutations in Tsc1 or Tsc2 that lead to mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) hyperactivity. Patients with TSC suffer from intractable seizures resulting from cortical malformations known as tubers, but research into how these tubers form has been limited because of the lack of an animal model. To address this limitation, we used in utero electroporation to knock out Tsc1 in selected neuronal populations in mice heterozygous for a mutant Tsc1 allele that eliminates the Tsc1 gene product at a precise developmental time point. Knockout of Tsc1 in single cells led to increased mTOR activity and soma size in the affected neurons. The mice exhibited white matter heterotopic nodules and discrete cortical tuber-like lesions containing cytomegalic and multinucleated neurons with abnormal dendritic trees resembling giant cells. Cortical tubers in the mutant mice did not exhibit signs of gliosis. Furthermore, phospho-S6 immunoreactivity was not upregulated in Tsc1-null astrocytes despite a lower seizure threshold. Collectively, these data suggest that a double-hit strategy to eliminate Tsc1 in discrete neuronal populations generates TSC-associated cortical lesions, providing a model to uncover the mechanisms of lesion formation and cortical hyperexcitability. In addition, the absence of glial reactivity argues against a contribution of astrocytes to lesion-associated hyperexcitability.
α-Amino-3-hydroxy-5-methyl-4-isoxazolepropionic acid–type (AMPA-type) glutamate receptors (AMPARs) play an important role in plasticity at central synapses. Although there is anatomical evidence for AMPAR expression in the peripheral nervous system, the functional role of such receptors in vivo is not clear. To address this issue, we generated mice specifically lacking either of the key AMPAR subunits, GluA1 or GluA2, in peripheral, pain-sensing neurons (nociceptors), while preserving expression of these subunits in the central nervous system. Nociceptor-specific deletion of GluA1 led to disruption of calcium permeability and reduced capsaicin-evoked activation of nociceptors. Deletion of GluA1, but not GluA2, led to reduced mechanical hypersensitivity and sensitization in models of chronic inflammatory pain and arthritis. Further analysis revealed that GluA1-containing AMPARs regulated the responses of nociceptors to painful stimuli in inflamed tissues and controlled the excitatory drive from the periphery into the spinal cord. Consequently, peripherally applied AMPAR antagonists alleviated inflammatory pain by specifically blocking calcium-permeable AMPARs, without affecting physiological pain or eliciting central side effects. These findings indicate an important pathophysiological role for calcium-permeable AMPARs in nociceptors and may have therapeutic implications for the treatment chronic inflammatory pain states.
Although the response of endothelial cells to the disturbed blood flow in the vicinity of atherosclerotic lesions is known to be distinct from that elicited by nonatherogenic laminar flow, the mechanisms involved are poorly understood. Our initial studies confirmed that expression of the endothelial receptor tyrosine kinase Tie1 was evident at regions of atherogenic flow in mature animals. We therefore hypothesized that Tie1 plays a role in the endothelial response to atherogenic shear stress. Consistent with this, we found that Tie1+/– mice bred to the apoE-deficient background displayed a 35% reduction in atherosclerosis relative to Tie1+/+;Apoe–/– mice. Since deletion of Tie1 results in embryonic lethality secondary to vascular dysfunction, we used conditional and inducible mutagenesis to study the effect of endothelial-specific Tie1 attenuation on atherogenesis in Apoe–/– mice and found a dose-dependent decrease in atherosclerotic lesions. Analysis of primary aortic endothelial cells indicated that atheroprotective laminar flow decreased Tie1 expression in vitro. Attenuation of Tie1 was associated with an increase in eNOS expression and Tie2 phosphorylation. In addition, Tie1 attenuation increased IkBα expression while decreasing ICAM levels. In summary, we have found that shear stress conditions that modulate atherogenic events also regulate Tie1 expression. Therefore, Tie1 may play a novel proinflammatory role in atherosclerosis.
Acute promyelocytic leukemia (APL) is characterized by the t(15;17) translocation that generates the fusion protein promyelocytic leukemia–retinoic acid receptor α (PML-RARA) in nearly all cases. Multiple prior mouse models of APL constitutively express PML-RARA from a variety of non-Pml loci. Typically, all animals develop a myeloproliferative disease, followed by leukemia in a subset of animals after a long latent period. In contrast, human APL is not associated with an antecedent stage of myeloproliferation. To address this discrepancy, we have generated a system whereby PML-RARA expression is somatically acquired from the mouse Pml locus in the context of Pml haploinsufficiency. We found that physiologic PML-RARA expression was sufficient to direct a hematopoietic progenitor self-renewal program in vitro and in vivo. However, this expansion was not associated with evidence of myeloproliferation, more accurately reflecting the clinical presentation of human APL. Thus, at physiologic doses, PML-RARA primarily acts to increase hematopoietic progenitor self-renewal, expanding a population of cells that are susceptible to acquiring secondary mutations that cause progression to leukemia. This mouse model provides a platform for more accurately dissecting the early events in APL pathogenesis.
Vascular disease, a significant cause of morbidity and mortality in the developed world, results from vascular injury. Following vascular injury, damaged or dysfunctional endothelial cells and activated SMCs engage in vasoproliferative remodeling and the formation of flow-limiting intimal hyperplasia (IH). We hypothesized that vascular injury results in decreased bioavailability of NO secondary to dysregulated arginine-dependent NO generation. Furthermore, we postulated that nitrite-dependent NO generation is augmented as an adaptive response to limit vascular injury/proliferation and can be harnessed for its protective effects. Here we report that sodium nitrite (intraperitoneal, inhaled, or oral) limited the development of IH in a rat model of vascular injury. Additionally, nitrite led to the generation of NO in vessels and SMCs, as well as limited SMC proliferation via p21Waf1/Cip1 signaling. These data demonstrate that IH is associated with increased arginase-1 levels, which leads to decreased NO production and bioavailability. Vascular injury also was associated with increased levels of xanthine oxidoreductase (XOR), a known nitrite reductase. Chronic inhibition of XOR and a diet deficient in nitrate/nitrite each exacerbated vascular injury. Moreover, established IH was reversed by dietary supplementation of nitrite. The vasoprotective effects of nitrite were counteracted by inhibition of XOR. These data illustrate the importance of nitrite-generated NO as an endogenous adaptive response and as a pathway that can be harnessed for therapeutic benefit.
Mucin-type O-linked oligosaccharides (O-glycans) are primary components of the intestinal mucins that form the mucus gel layer overlying the gut epithelium. Impaired expression of intestinal O-glycans has been observed in patients with ulcerative colitis (UC), but its role in the etiology of this disease is unknown. Here, we report that mice with intestinal epithelial cell–specific deficiency of core 1–derived O-glycans, the predominant form of O-glycans, developed spontaneous colitis that resembled human UC, including massive myeloid infiltrates and crypt abscesses. The colitis manifested in these mice was also characterized by TNF-producing myeloid infiltrates in colon mucosa in the absence of lymphocytes, supporting an essential role for myeloid cells in colitis initiation. Furthermore, induced deletion of intestinal core 1–derived O-glycans caused spontaneous colitis in adult mice. These data indicate a causal role for the loss of core 1–derived O-glycans in colitis. Finally, we detected a biosynthetic intermediate typically exposed in the absence of core 1 O-glycan, Tn antigen, in the colon epithelium of a subset of UC patients. Somatic mutations in the X-linked gene that encodes core 1 β1,3-galactosyltransferase–specific chaperone 1 (C1GALT1C1, also known as Cosmc), which is essential for core 1 O-glycosylation, were found in Tn-positive epithelia. These data suggest what we believe to be a new molecular mechanism for the pathogenesis of UC.
Copyright © 2014 American Society for Clinical Investigation