Type I diabetes is caused when the body’s immune system attacks and destroys insulin-producing β cells within pancreatic islets. Cytotoxic T lymphocytes (CTLs) are thought to play the predominant role in destroying β cells. Coppieters and colleagues have now used intravital imaging to visualize the CTL-mediated killing of β cells in diabetic mice (page 119). Their observations indicate that diabetogenic CTLs move in a random manner and kill β cells at a relatively slow rate.
The practice of transplanting organs from executed prisoners in China appears to be widespread. We vigorously condemn this practice and, effective immediately, will not consider manuscripts on human organ transplantation for publication unless appropriate non-coerced consent of the donor is provided and substantiated.
The hormone glucagon has long been dismissed as a minor contributor to metabolic disease. Here we propose that glucagon excess, rather than insulin deficiency, is the sine qua non of diabetes. We base this on the following evidence: (a) glucagon increases hepatic glucose and ketone production, catabolic features present in insulin deficiency; (b) hyperglucagonemia is present in every form of poorly controlled diabetes; (c) the glucagon suppressors leptin and somatostatin suppress all catabolic manifestations of diabetes during total insulin deficiency; (d) total β cell destruction in glucagon receptor–null mice does not cause diabetes; and (e) perfusion of normal pancreas with anti-insulin serum causes marked hyperglucagonemia. From this and other evidence, we conclude that glucose-responsive β cells normally regulate juxtaposed α cells and that without intraislet insulin, unregulated α cells hypersecrete glucagon, which directly causes the symptoms of diabetes. This indicates that glucagon suppression or inactivation may provide therapeutic advantages over insulin monotherapy.
Glomerulosclerosis is a general term for scarring of the kidney glomerulus. It cannot be reversed. As glomerulosclerosis accumulates, the diseased kidney progresses to end-stage renal disease. Treatment with inhibitors of the renin-angiotensin system often decreases the rate of progression of glomerulosclerosis in chronic kidney diseases. Although the mechanisms by which these inhibitors mediate their beneficial effects are incompletely understood, it has been suggested that they act, at least in part, by reducing intraglomerular blood pressure and thereby shear stress–induced loss of podocytes, a key component of the glomerular filtration barrier. In this issue of the JCI, Sachs and colleagues provide experimental confirmation of the critical role of tight adhesion of podocytes to the glomerular basement membrane for maintaining glomerular integrity and provide evidence that inhibition of the renin-angiotensin system reduces glomerulosclerosis in animals with less tightly adherent podocytes, presumably by reducing intraglomerular blood pressure.
Chronic inflammation has long been appreciated to play a critical role in tumor development and maintenance. Among the mechanisms involved in coordinating the initiation and resolution of inflammation are those responsible for modifying mRNA stability and/or translation. Several studies have linked the RNA-binding protein HuR, which increases mRNA stability, with malignant transformation. However, in this issue of the JCI, Yiakouvaki et al. compellingly demonstrate in mice that increased HuR activity in myeloid cells has a protective role in the onset of pathologic intestinal inflammation (i.e., colitis) and colitis-associated cancer (CAC). These observations highlight the need to understand the roles of HuR in distinct cell populations in vivo and suggest that enhancing HuR activity may be of clinical benefit in protecting against pathologic inflammation and cancer.
Epoxyeicosatrienoic acids (EETs) generated from arachidonic acid by cytochrome P450 (CYP) epoxygenases have beneficial effects in certain cardiovascular and kidney diseases. Hence, great efforts have been made to develop drugs targeting the EET pathway. Some of these agents are currently under evaluation in clinical trials for treatment of hypertension and diabetes. In this issue of the JCI, Panigrahy et al. evaluate in a systematic way the role of CYP epoxygenases and the metabolites they generate in cancer progression. Their findings, along with previous studies, raise concerns about using these drugs in humans.
The number of people who suffer from obesity and one or more of its adverse complications is rapidly increasing. It is becoming clear that diet, exercise, and other lifestyle modifications are insufficient strategies to combat this growing problem. Greater understanding of the mechanisms controlling our desire to feed and our ability to balance energy intake with energy expenditure are key to the development of pharmacological approaches for treating obesity. Although great strides have been made in our understanding of how the hypothalamus regulates feeding and energy balance, much less is known about how obesity affects the structure of the hypothalamus. The authors of two papers in this issue of the JCI have addressed this issue by examining the effects of obesity on neurons and glia in the hypothalamus. These studies reveal that obesity may be in part due to hypothalamic injury, which leads to inflammation and reduced neurogenesis. These findings support the notion that obesity is a disease that affects multiple organs, including the brain, and that disruption of normal brain function leads to abnormal regulation of peripheral metabolism.
Human adenoviral vectors are being developed for use in candidate vaccines for HIV-1 and other pathogens. However, this approach suffered a setback when an HIV-1 vaccine using an adenovirus type 5 (Ad5) vector failed to reduce, and might even have increased, the rate of HIV infection in men who were uncircumcised and who had preexisting antibodies specific for Ad5. This increased interest in the evaluation of serologically distinct adenoviral vectors. In this issue of the JCI, Frahm and coworkers report evidence that preexisting cellular immune responses directed toward Ad5 reduce the immunogenicity of antigens expressed in Ad5-vectored vaccines and have cross-reacting potential with non-Ad5 adenoviral vectors. The implications of this observation need to be carefully evaluated in future clinical trials of all serotypes of adenovirus-vectored vaccines.
Inflammation is a critical component of atherosclerosis. IL-1 is a classic proinflammatory cytokine that has been linked to atherosclerosis. A clinical trial has been launched in which an antibody specific for IL-1β is being studied for its effects on cardiovascular events in patients with atherosclerosis. In this issue of the JCI, Alexander et al. report that mice lacking the receptor for IL-1 unexpectedly have features of advanced atherosclerosis that suggest the atherosclerotic plaques may be less stable. These findings illustrate the complexity of inflammatory pathways in atherosclerosis and suggest the need for careful calibration of antiinflammatory approaches to atherosclerosis.
Cardiac ischemia-reperfusion (I-R) injury occurs upon prompt restoration of blood flow to the ischemic myocardium after an acute myocardial infarction. Interestingly, many of the features of I-R injury are related to impaired mitochondrial signaling and mitochondrial dysfunction. Restoring cardiac energy bioavailability and reduction-oxidation (redox) signaling are therefore important in recovery after I-R injury. In this issue of the JCI, Yoshioka and colleagues describe an important and unexpected role for thioredoxin-interacting protein (TXNIP) in the control of mitochondrial respiration and cell energy metabolism. Their findings could open the door for development of TXNIP-targeted therapeutic approaches for the treatment of cardiac I-R injury.
Constitutive activation of NF-κB is a frequent event in human cancers, playing important roles in cancer development and progression. In nontransformed cells, NF-κB activation is tightly controlled by IκBs. IκBs bind NF-κB in the cytoplasm, preventing it from translocating to the nucleus to modulate gene expression. Stimuli that activate NF-κB signaling trigger IκB degradation, enabling nuclear translocation of NF-κB. Among the genes regulated by NF-κB are those encoding the IκBs, providing a negative feedback loop that limits NF-κB activity. How transformed cells override this NF-κB/IκB negative feedback loop remains unclear. Here, we report in human glioma cell lines that microRNA-30e* (miR-30e*) directly targets the IκBα 3ι-UTR and suppresses IκBα expression. Overexpression of miR-30e* in human glioma cell lines led to hyperactivation of NF-κB and enhanced expression of NF-κB–regulated genes, which promoted glioma cell invasiveness in in vitro assays and in an orthotopic xenotransplantation model. These effects of miR-30e* were shown to be clinically relevant, as miR-30e* was found to be upregulated in primary human glioma cells and correlated with malignant progression and poor survival. Hence, miR-30e* provides an epigenetic mechanism that disrupts the NF-κB/IκBα loop and may represent a new therapeutic target and prognostic marker.
The innate immune response involves a variety of inflammatory reactions that can result in inflammatory disease and cancer if they are not resolved and instead are allowed to persist. The effective activation and resolution of innate immune responses relies on the production and posttranscriptional regulation of mRNAs encoding inflammatory effector proteins. The RNA-binding protein HuR binds to and regulates such mRNAs, but its exact role in inflammation remains unclear. Here we show that HuR maintains inflammatory homeostasis by controlling macrophage plasticity and migration. Mice lacking HuR in myeloid-lineage cells, which include many of the cells of the innate immune system, displayed enhanced sensitivity to endotoxemia, rapid progression of chemical-induced colitis, and severe susceptibility to colitis-associated cancer. The myeloid cell–specific HuR-deficient mice had an exacerbated inflammatory cytokine profile and showed enhanced CCR2-mediated macrophage chemotaxis. At the molecular level, activated macrophages from these mice showed enhancements in the use of inflammatory mRNAs (including Tnf, Tgfb, Il10, Ccr2, and Ccl2) due to a lack of inhibitory effects on their inducible translation and/or stability. Conversely, myeloid overexpression of HuR induced posttranscriptional silencing, reduced inflammatory profiles, and protected mice from colitis and cancer. Our results highlight the role of HuR as a homeostatic coordinator of mRNAs that encode molecules that guide innate inflammatory effects and demonstrate the potential of harnessing the effects of HuR for clinical benefit against pathologic inflammation and cancer.
Depletion of CD4+ T cells from the gut occurs rapidly during acute HIV-1 infection. This has been linked to systemic inflammation and disease progression as a result of translocation of microbial products from the gut lumen into the bloodstream. Combined antiretroviral therapy (cART) substantially restores CD4+ T cell numbers in peripheral blood, but the gut compartment remains largely depleted of such cells for poorly understood reasons. Here, we show that a lack of recruitment of CD4+ T cells to the gut could be involved in the incomplete mucosal immune reconstitution of cART-treated HIV-infected individuals. We investigated the trafficking of CD4+ T cells expressing the gut-homing receptors CCR9 and integrin α4β7 and found that many of these T cells remained in the circulation rather than repopulating the mucosa of the small intestine. This is likely because expression of the CCR9 ligand CCL25 was lower in the small intestine of HIV-infected individuals. The defective gut homing of CCR9+β7+ CD4+ T cells — a population that we found included most gut-homing Th17 cells, which have a critical role in mucosal immune defense — correlated with high plasma concentrations of markers of mucosal damage, microbial translocation, and systemic T cell activation. Our results thus describe alterations in CD4+ T cell homing to the gut that could prevent efficient mucosal immune reconstitution in HIV-infected individuals despite effective cART.
Clinical complications of atherosclerosis arise primarily as a result of luminal obstruction due to atherosclerotic plaque growth, with inadequate outward vessel remodeling and plaque destabilization leading to rupture. IL-1 is a proinflammatory cytokine that promotes atherogenesis in animal models, but its role in plaque destabilization and outward vessel remodeling is unclear. The studies presented herein show that advanced atherosclerotic plaques in mice lacking both IL-1 receptor type I and apolipoprotein E (Il1r1–/–Apoe–/– mice) unexpectedly exhibited multiple features of plaque instability as compared with those of Il1r1+/+Apoe–/– mice. These features included reduced plaque SMC content and coverage, reduced plaque collagen content, and increased intraplaque hemorrhage. In addition, the brachiocephalic arteries of Il1r1–/–Apoe–/– mice exhibited no difference in plaque size, but reduced vessel area and lumen size relative to controls, demonstrating a reduction in outward vessel remodeling. Interestingly, expression of MMP3 was dramatically reduced within the plaque and vessel wall of Il1r1–/–Apoe–/– mice, and Mmp3–/–Apoe–/– mice showed defective outward vessel remodeling compared with controls. In addition, MMP3 was required for IL-1–induced SMC invasion of Matrigel in vitro. Taken together, these results show that IL-1 signaling plays a surprising dual protective role in advanced atherosclerosis by promoting outward vessel remodeling and enhancing features of plaque stability, at least in part through MMP3-dependent mechanisms.
Spinal cord injury (SCI) often leads to persistent functional deficits due to loss of neurons and glia and to limited axonal regeneration after injury. Here we report that transplantation of human dental pulp stem cells into the completely transected adult rat spinal cord resulted in marked recovery of hind limb locomotor functions. Transplantation of human bone marrow stromal cells or skin-derived fibroblasts led to substantially less recovery of locomotor function. The human dental pulp stem cells exhibited three major neuroregenerative activities. First, they inhibited the SCI-induced apoptosis of neurons, astrocytes, and oligodendrocytes, which improved the preservation of neuronal filaments and myelin sheaths. Second, they promoted the regeneration of transected axons by directly inhibiting multiple axon growth inhibitors, including chondroitin sulfate proteoglycan and myelin-associated glycoprotein, via paracrine mechanisms. Last, they replaced lost cells by differentiating into mature oligodendrocytes under the extreme conditions of SCI. Our data demonstrate that tooth-derived stem cells may provide therapeutic benefits for treating SCI through both cell-autonomous and paracrine neuroregenerative activities.
Mutations in the coactivator CREB-binding protein (CBP) are a major cause of the human skeletal dysplasia Rubinstein-Taybi syndrome (RTS); however, the mechanism by which these mutations affect skeletal mineralization and patterning is unknown. Here, we report the identification of 3-phosphoinositide-dependent kinase 1 (PDK1) as a key regulator of CBP activity and demonstrate that its functions map to both osteoprogenitor cells and mature osteoblasts. In osteoblasts, PDK1 activated the CREB/CBP complex, which in turn controlled runt-related transcription factor 2 (RUNX2) activation and expression of bone morphogenetic protein 2 (BMP2). These pathways also operated in vivo, as evidenced by recapitulation of RTS spectrum phenotypes with osteoblast-specific Pdk1 deletion in mice (Pdk1osx mice) and by the genetic interactions observed in mice heterozygous for both osteoblast-specific Pdk1 deletion and either Runx2 or Creb deletion. Finally, treatment of Pdk1osx and Cbp+/– embryos with BMPs in utero partially reversed their skeletal anomalies at birth. These findings illustrate the in vivo function of the PDK1-AKT-CREB/CBP pathway in bone formation and provide proof of principle for in utero growth factor supplementation as a potential therapy for skeletal dysplasias.
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is characterized by progressive motor neuron degeneration, which ultimately leads to paralysis and death. Mutation of TAR DNA binding protein 43 (TDP-43) has been linked to the development of an inherited form of ALS. Existing TDP-43 transgenic animals develop a limited loss of motor neurons and therefore do not faithfully reproduce the core phenotype of ALS. Here, we report the creation of multiple lines of transgenic rats in which expression of ALS-associated mutant human TDP-43 is restricted to either motor neurons or other types of neurons and skeletal muscle and can be switched on and off. All of these rats developed progressive paralysis reminiscent of ALS when the transgene was switched on. Rats expressing mutant TDP-43 in motor neurons alone lost more spinal motor neurons than rats expressing the disease gene in varying neurons and muscle cells, although these rats all developed remarkable denervation atrophy of skeletal muscles. Intriguingly, progression of the disease was halted after transgene expression was switched off; in rats with limited loss of motor neurons, we observed a dramatic recovery of motor function, but in rats with profound loss of motor neurons, we only observed a moderate recovery of motor function. Our finding suggests that mutant TDP-43 in motor neurons is sufficient to promote the onset and progression of ALS and that motor neuron degeneration is partially reversible, at least in mutant TDP-43 transgenic rats.
Type 1 diabetes (T1D) is caused by autoimmune destruction of the insulin-producing β cells in the pancreatic islets, which are essentially mini-organs embedded in exocrine tissue. CTLs are considered to have a predominant role in the autoimmune destruction underlying T1D. Visualization of CTL-mediated killing of β cells would provide new insight into the pathogenesis of T1D, but has been technically challenging to achieve. Here, we report our use of intravital 2-photon imaging in mice to visualize the dynamic behavior of a virally expanded, diabetogenic CTL population in the pancreas at cellular resolution. Following vascular arrest and extravasation, CTLs adopted a random motility pattern throughout the compact exocrine tissue and displayed unimpeded yet nonlinear migration between anatomically nearby islets. Upon antigen encounter within islets, a confined motility pattern was acquired that allowed the CTLs to scan the target cell surface. A minority of infiltrating CTLs subsequently arrested at the β cell junction, while duration of stable CTL–target cell contact was on the order of hours. Slow-rate killing occurred in the sustained local presence of substantial numbers of effector cells. Collectively, these data portray the kinetics of CTL homing to and between antigenic target sites as a stochastic process at the sub-organ level and argue against a dominant influence of chemotactic gradients.
The autoimmune type 1 diabetes (T1D) that arises spontaneously in NOD mice is considered to be a model of T1D in humans. It is characterized by the invasion of pancreatic islets by mononuclear cells (MNCs), which ultimately leads to destruction of insulin-producing β cells. Although T cell dependent, the molecular mechanisms triggering β cell death have not been fully elucidated. Here, we report that a glycosaminoglycan, heparan sulfate (HS), is expressed at extraordinarily high levels within mouse islets and is essential for β cell survival. In vitro, β cells rapidly lost their HS and died. β Cell death was prevented by HS replacement, a treatment that also rendered the β cells resistant to damage from ROS. In vivo, autoimmune destruction of islets in NOD mice was associated with production of catalytically active heparanase, an HS-degrading enzyme, by islet-infiltrating MNCs and loss of islet HS. Furthermore, in vivo treatment with the heparanase inhibitor PI-88 preserved intraislet HS and protected NOD mice from T1D. Our results identified HS as a critical molecular requirement for islet β cell survival and HS degradation as a mechanism for β cell destruction. Our findings suggest that preservation of islet HS could be a therapeutic strategy for preventing T1D.
In the CNS, the hypothalamic arcuate nucleus (ARN) energy-balance circuit plays a key role in regulating body weight. Recent studies have shown that neurogenesis occurs in the adult hypothalamus, revealing that the ARN energy-balance circuit is more plastic than originally believed. Changes in diet result in altered gene expression and neuronal activity in the ARN, some of which may reflect hypothalamic plasticity. To explore this possibility, we examined the turnover of hypothalamic neurons in mice with obesity secondary to either high-fat diet (HFD) consumption or leptin deficiency. We found substantial turnover of neurons in the ARN that resulted in ongoing cellular remodeling. Feeding mice HFD suppressed neurogenesis, as demonstrated by the observation that these mice both generated fewer new neurons and retained more old neurons. This suppression of neuronal turnover was associated with increased apoptosis of newborn neurons. Leptin-deficient mice also generated fewer new neurons, an observation that was explained in part by a loss of hypothalamic neural stem cells. These data demonstrate that there is substantial postnatal turnover of the arcuate neuronal circuitry in the mouse and reveal the unexpected capacity of diet and leptin deficiency to inhibit this neuronal remodeling. This insight has important implications for our understanding of nutritional regulation of energy balance and brain function.
Rodent models of obesity induced by consuming high-fat diet (HFD) are characterized by inflammation both in peripheral tissues and in hypothalamic areas critical for energy homeostasis. Here we report that unlike inflammation in peripheral tissues, which develops as a consequence of obesity, hypothalamic inflammatory signaling was evident in both rats and mice within 1 to 3 days of HFD onset, prior to substantial weight gain. Furthermore, both reactive gliosis and markers suggestive of neuron injury were evident in the hypothalamic arcuate nucleus of rats and mice within the first week of HFD feeding. Although these responses temporarily subsided, suggesting that neuroprotective mechanisms may initially limit the damage, with continued HFD feeding, inflammation and gliosis returned permanently to the mediobasal hypothalamus. Consistent with these data in rodents, we found evidence of increased gliosis in the mediobasal hypothalamus of obese humans, as assessed by MRI. These findings collectively suggest that, in both humans and rodent models, obesity is associated with neuronal injury in a brain area crucial for body weight control.
DNA methyltransferase 3B (Dnmt3b) belongs to a family of enzymes responsible for methylation of cytosine residues in mammals. DNA methylation contributes to the epigenetic control of gene transcription and is deregulated in virtually all human tumors. To better understand the generation of cancer-specific methylation patterns, we genetically inactivated Dnmt3b in a mouse model of MYC-induced lymphomagenesis. Ablation of Dnmt3b function using a conditional knockout in T cells accelerated lymphomagenesis by increasing cellular proliferation, which suggests that Dnmt3b functions as a tumor suppressor. Global methylation profiling revealed numerous gene promoters as potential targets of Dnmt3b activity, the majority of which were demethylated in Dnmt3b–/– lymphomas, but not in Dnmt3b–/– pretumor thymocytes, implicating Dnmt3b in maintenance of cytosine methylation in cancer. Functional analysis identified the gene Gm128 (which we termed herein methylated in normal thymocytes [Ment]) as a target of Dnmt3b activity. We found that Ment was gradually demethylated and overexpressed during tumor progression in Dnmt3b–/– lymphomas. Similarly, MENT was overexpressed in 67% of human lymphomas, and its transcription inversely correlated with methylation and levels of DNMT3B. Importantly, knockdown of Ment inhibited growth of mouse and human cells, whereas overexpression of Ment provided Dnmt3b+/+ cells with a proliferative advantage. Our findings identify Ment as an enhancer of lymphomagenesis that contributes to the tumor suppressor function of Dnmt3b and suggest it could be a potential target for anticancer therapies.
Epoxyeicosatrienoic acids (EETs) are small molecules produced by cytochrome P450 epoxygenases. They are lipid mediators that act as autocrine or paracrine factors to regulate inflammation and vascular tone. As a result, drugs that raise EET levels are in clinical trials for the treatment of hypertension and many other diseases. However, despite their pleiotropic effects on cells, little is known about the role of these epoxyeicosanoids in cancer. Here, using genetic and pharmacological manipulation of endogenous EET levels, we demonstrate that EETs are critical for primary tumor growth and metastasis in a variety of mouse models of cancer. Remarkably, we found that EETs stimulated extensive multiorgan metastasis and escape from tumor dormancy in several tumor models. This systemic metastasis was not caused by excessive primary tumor growth but depended on endothelium-derived EETs at the site of metastasis. Administration of synthetic EETs recapitulated these results, while EET antagonists suppressed tumor growth and metastasis, demonstrating in vivo that pharmacological modulation of EETs can affect cancer growth. Furthermore, inhibitors of soluble epoxide hydrolase (sEH), the enzyme that metabolizes EETs, elevated endogenous EET levels and promoted primary tumor growth and metastasis. Thus, our data indicate a central role for EETs in tumorigenesis, offering a mechanistic link between lipid signaling and cancer and emphasizing the critical importance of considering possible effects of EET-modulating drugs on cancer.
Insulin like growth factor–1 (IGF-1) stimulates increased proliferation and survival of mammary epithelial cells and also promotes mammary tumorigenesis. To study the effects of IGF-1 on the mammary gland in vivo, we used BK5.IGF-1 transgenic (Tg) mice. In these mice, IGF-1 overexpression is controlled by the bovine keratin 5 promoter and recapitulates the paracrine exposure of breast epithelium to stromal IGF-1 that is seen in women. Studies have shown that BK5.IGF-1 Tg mice are more susceptible to mammary tumorigenesis than wild-type littermates. Investigation of the mechanisms underlying increased mammary cancer risk, reported here, revealed that IGF-1 preferentially activated the PI3K/Akt pathway in glands from prepubertal Tg mice, resulting in increased cyclin D1 expression and hyperplasia. However, in glands from postpubertal Tg mice, a pathway switch occurred and activation of the Ras/Raf/MAPK pathway predominated, without increased cyclin D1 expression or proliferation. We further showed that in prepubertal Tg glands, signaling was mediated by formation of an ERα/IRS-1 complex, which activated IRS-1 and directed signaling via the PI3K/Akt pathway. Conversely, in postpubertal Tg glands, reduced ERα expression failed to stimulate formation of the ERα/IRS-1 complex, allowing signaling to proceed via the alternate Ras/Raf/MAPK pathway. These in vivo data demonstrate that changes in ERα expression at different stages of development direct IGF-1 signaling and the resulting tissue responses. As ERα levels are elevated during the prepubertal and postmenopausal stages, these may represent windows of susceptibility during which increased IGF-1 exposure maximally enhances breast cancer risk.
Defining the genetic contribution of rare variants to common diseases is a major basic and clinical science challenge that could offer new insights into disease etiology and provide potential for directed gene- and pathway-based prevention and treatment. Common and rare nonsynonymous variants in the GCKR gene are associated with alterations in metabolic traits, most notably serum triglyceride levels. GCKR encodes glucokinase regulatory protein (GKRP), a predominantly nuclear protein that inhibits hepatic glucokinase (GCK) and plays a critical role in glucose homeostasis. The mode of action of rare GCKR variants remains unexplored. We identified 19 nonsynonymous GCKR variants among 800 individuals from the ClinSeq medical sequencing project. Excluding the previously described common missense variant p.Pro446Leu, all variants were rare in the cohort. Accordingly, we functionally characterized all variants to evaluate their potential phenotypic effects. Defects were observed for the majority of the rare variants after assessment of cellular localization, ability to interact with GCK, and kinetic activity of the encoded proteins. Comparing the individuals with functional rare variants to those without such variants showed associations with lipid phenotypes. Our findings suggest that, while nonsynonymous GCKR variants, excluding p.Pro446Leu, are rare in individuals of mixed European descent, the majority do affect protein function. In sum, this study utilizes computational, cell biological, and biochemical methods to present a model for interpreting the clinical significance of rare genetic variants in common disease.
IgE-mediated activation of mast cells and basophils underlies allergic diseases such as asthma. Histamine-releasing factor (HRF; also known as translationally controlled tumor protein [TCTP] and fortilin) has been implicated in late-phase allergic reactions (LPRs) and chronic allergic inflammation, but its functions during asthma are not well understood. Here, we identified a subset of IgE and IgG antibodies as HRF-interacting molecules in vitro. HRF was able to dimerize and bind to Igs via interactions of its N-terminal and internal regions with the Fab region of Igs. Therefore, HRF together with HRF-reactive IgE was able to activate mast cells in vitro. In mouse models of asthma and allergy, Ig-interacting HRF peptides that were shown to block HRF/Ig interactions in vitro inhibited IgE/HRF-induced mast cell activation and in vivo cutaneous anaphylaxis and airway inflammation. Intranasally administered HRF recruited inflammatory immune cells to the lung in naive mice in a mast cell– and Fc receptor–dependent manner. These results indicate that HRF has a proinflammatory role in asthma and skin immediate hypersensitivity, leading us to suggest HRF as a potential therapeutic target.
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a prevalent smoking-related disease for which no disease-altering therapies currently exist. As dysregulated TGF-β signaling associates with lung pathology in patients with COPD and in animal models of lung injury induced by chronic exposure to cigarette smoke (CS), we postulated that inhibiting TGF-β signaling would protect against CS-induced lung injury. We first confirmed that TGF-β signaling was induced in the lungs of mice chronically exposed to CS as well as in COPD patient samples. Importantly, key pathological features of smoking-associated lung disease in patients, e.g., alveolar injury with overt emphysema and airway epithelial hyperplasia with fibrosis, accompanied CS-induced alveolar cell apoptosis caused by enhanced TGF-β signaling in CS-exposed mice. Systemic administration of a TGF-β–specific neutralizing antibody normalized TGF-β signaling and alveolar cell death, conferring improved lung architecture and lung mechanics in CS-exposed mice. Use of losartan, an angiotensin receptor type 1 blocker used widely in the clinic and known to antagonize TGF-β signaling, also improved oxidative stress, inflammation, metalloprotease activation and elastin remodeling. These data support our hypothesis that inhibition of TGF-β signaling through angiotensin receptor blockade can attenuate CS-induced lung injury in an established murine model. More importantly, our findings provide a preclinical platform for the development of other TGF-β–targeted therapies for patients with COPD.
Oncogenic Ras and p53 loss-of-function mutations are common in many advanced sporadic malignancies and together predict a limited responsiveness to conventional chemotherapy. Notably, studies in cultured cells have indicated that each of these genetic alterations creates a selective sensitivity to ataxia telangiectasia and Rad3-related (ATR) pathway inhibition. Here, we describe a genetic system to conditionally reduce ATR expression to 10% of normal levels in adult mice to compare the impact of this suppression on normal tissues and cancers in vivo. Hypomorphic suppression of ATR minimally affected normal bone marrow and intestinal homeostasis, indicating that this level of ATR expression was sufficient for highly proliferative adult tissues. In contrast, hypomorphic ATR reduction potently inhibited the growth of both p53-deficient fibrosarcomas expressing H-rasG12V and acute myeloid leukemias (AMLs) driven by MLL-ENL and N-rasG12D. Notably, DNA damage increased in a greater-than-additive fashion upon combining ATR suppression with oncogenic stress (H-rasG12V, K-rasG12D, or c-Myc overexpression), indicating that this cooperative genome-destabilizing interaction may contribute to tumor selectivity in vivo. This toxic interaction between ATR suppression and oncogenic stress occurred without regard to p53 status. These studies define a level of ATR pathway inhibition in which the growth of malignancies harboring oncogenic mutations can be suppressed with minimal impact on normal tissue homeostasis, highlighting ATR inhibition as a promising therapeutic strategy.
Glioblastoma multiforme (GBM) is the most common and lethal of all gliomas. The current standard of care includes surgery followed by concomitant radiation and chemotherapy with the DNA alkylating agent temozolomide (TMZ). O6-methylguanine–DNA methyltransferase (MGMT) repairs the most cytotoxic of lesions generated by TMZ, O6-methylguanine. Methylation of the MGMT promoter in GBM correlates with increased therapeutic sensitivity to alkylating agent therapy. However, several aspects of TMZ sensitivity are not explained by MGMT promoter methylation. Here, we investigated our hypothesis that the base excision repair enzyme alkylpurine–DNA–N-glycosylase (APNG), which repairs the cytotoxic lesions N3-methyladenine and N7-methylguanine, may contribute to TMZ resistance. Silencing of APNG in established and primary TMZ-resistant GBM cell lines endogenously expressing MGMT and APNG attenuated repair of TMZ-induced DNA damage and enhanced apoptosis. Reintroducing expression of APNG in TMZ-sensitive GBM lines conferred resistance to TMZ in vitro and in orthotopic xenograft mouse models. In addition, resistance was enhanced with coexpression of MGMT. Evaluation of APNG protein levels in several clinical datasets demonstrated that in patients, high nuclear APNG expression correlated with poorer overall survival compared with patients lacking APNG expression. Loss of APNG expression in a subset of patients was also associated with increased APNG promoter methylation. Collectively, our data demonstrate that APNG contributes to TMZ resistance in GBM and may be useful in the diagnosis and treatment of the disease.
Classic therapeutics for ischemic heart disease are less effective in individuals with the metabolic syndrome. As the prevalence of the metabolic syndrome is increasing, better understanding of cardiac metabolism is needed to identify potential new targets for therapeutic intervention. Thioredoxin-interacting protein (Txnip) is a regulator of metabolism and an inhibitor of the antioxidant thioredoxins, but little is known about its roles in the myocardium. We examined hearts from Txnip-KO mice by polony multiplex analysis of gene expression and an independent proteomic approach; both methods indicated suppression of genes and proteins participating in mitochondrial metabolism. Consistently, Txnip-KO mitochondria were functionally and structurally altered, showing reduced oxygen consumption and ultrastructural derangements. Given the central role that mitochondria play during hypoxia, we hypothesized that Txnip deletion would enhance ischemia-reperfusion damage. Surprisingly, Txnip-KO hearts had greater recovery of cardiac function after an ischemia-reperfusion insult. Similarly, cardiomyocyte-specific Txnip deletion reduced infarct size after reversible coronary ligation. Coordinated with reduced mitochondrial function, deletion of Txnip enhanced anaerobic glycolysis. Whereas mitochondrial ATP synthesis was minimally decreased by Txnip deletion, cellular ATP content and lactate formation were higher in Txnip-KO hearts after ischemia-reperfusion injury. Pharmacologic inhibition of glycolytic metabolism completely abolished the protection afforded the heart by Txnip deficiency under hypoxic conditions. Thus, although Txnip deletion suppresses mitochondrial function, protection from myocardial ischemia is enhanced as a result of a coordinated shift to enhanced anaerobic metabolism, which provides an energy source outside of mitochondria.
Antagonists of L-type Ca2+ channels (LTCCs) have been used to treat human cardiovascular diseases for decades. However, these inhibitors can have untoward effects in patients with heart failure, and their overall therapeutic profile remains nebulous given differential effects in the vasculature when compared with those in cardiomyocytes. To investigate this issue, we examined mice heterozygous for the gene encoding the pore-forming subunit of LTCC (calcium channel, voltage-dependent, L type, α1C subunit [Cacna1c mice; referred to herein as α1C–/+ mice]) and mice in which this gene was loxP targeted to achieve graded heart-specific gene deletion (termed herein α1C-loxP mice). Adult cardiomyocytes from the hearts of α1C–/+ mice at 10 weeks of age showed a decrease in LTCC current and a modest decrease in cardiac function, which we initially hypothesized would be cardioprotective. However, α1C–/+ mice subjected to pressure overload stimulation, isoproterenol infusion, and swimming showed greater cardiac hypertrophy, greater reductions in ventricular performance, and greater ventricular dilation than α1C+/+ controls. The same detrimental effects were observed in α1C-loxP animals with a cardiomyocyte-specific deletion of one allele. More severe reductions in α1C protein levels with combinatorial deleted alleles produced spontaneous cardiac hypertrophy before 3 months of age, with early adulthood lethality. Mechanistically, our data suggest that a reduction in LTCC current leads to neuroendocrine stress, with sensitized and leaky sarcoplasmic reticulum Ca2+ release as a compensatory mechanism to preserve contractility. This state results in calcineurin/nuclear factor of activated T cells signaling that promotes hypertrophy and disease.
ATP is required for normal cardiac contractile function, and it has long been hypothesized that reduced energy delivery contributes to the contractile dysfunction of heart failure (HF). Despite experimental and clinical HF data showing reduced metabolism through cardiac creatine kinase (CK), the major myocardial energy reserve and temporal ATP buffer, a causal relationship between reduced ATP-CK metabolism and contractile dysfunction in HF has never been demonstrated. Here, we generated mice conditionally overexpressing the myofibrillar isoform of CK (CK-M) to test the hypothesis that augmenting impaired CK-related energy metabolism improves contractile function in HF. CK-M overexpression significantly increased ATP flux through CK ex vivo and in vivo but did not alter contractile function in normal mice. It also led to significantly increased contractile function at baseline and during adrenergic stimulation and increased survival after thoracic aortic constriction (TAC) surgery–induced HF. Withdrawal of CK-M overexpression after TAC resulted in a significant decline in contractile function as compared with animals in which CK-M overexpression was maintained. These observations provide direct evidence that the failing heart is “energy starved” as it relates to CK. In addition, these data identify CK as a promising therapeutic target for preventing and treating HF and possibly diseases involving energy-dependent dysfunction in other organs with temporally varying energy demands.
It is estimated that one-third of the world’s population is infected with Mycobacterium tuberculosis. Infection typically remains latent, but it can reactivate to cause clinical disease. The only vaccine, Mycobacterium bovis bacillus Calmette-Guérin (BCG), is largely ineffective, and ways to enhance its efficacy are being developed. Of note, the candidate booster vaccines currently under clinical development have been designed to improve BCG efficacy but not prevent reactivation of latent infection. Here, we demonstrate that administering a multistage vaccine that we term H56 in the adjuvant IC31 as a boost to vaccination with BCG delays and reduces clinical disease in cynomolgus macaques challenged with M. tuberculosis and prevents reactivation of latent infection. H56 contains Ag85B and ESAT-6, which are two of the M. tuberculosis antigens secreted in the acute phase of infection, and the nutrient stress–induced antigen Rv2660c. Boosting with H56/IC31 resulted in efficient containment of M. tuberculosis infection and reduced rates of clinical disease, as measured by clinical parameters, inflammatory markers, and improved survival of the animals compared with BCG alone. Boosted animals showed reduced pulmonary pathology and extrapulmonary dissemination, and protection correlated with a strong recall response against ESAT-6 and Rv2660c. Importantly, BCG/H56-vaccinated monkeys did not reactivate latent infection after treatment with anti-TNF antibody. Our results indicate that H56/IC31 boosting is able to control late-stage infection with M. tuberculosis and contain latent tuberculosis, providing a rationale for the clinical development of H56.
Ectodermal dysplasia with immune deficiency (EDI) is an immunological and developmental disorder caused by alterations in the gene encoding NF-κB essential modulator (NEMO; also known as IκB kinase γ subunit [IKKγ]). Missense mutations in the gene encoding NEMO are associated with reduced signal-induced nuclear translocation of NF-κB proteins, resulting in defective expression of NF-κB target genes. Here, we report 2 unrelated male patients with EDI, both of whom have normal NEMO coding sequences, but exhibit a marked reduction in expression of full-length NEMO protein. TLR4 stimulation of APCs from these patients induced normal cytoplasmic activation and nuclear translocation of NF-κB. However, cells deficient in full-length NEMO were defective in expression of NF-κB–regulated cytokines, such as IL-12, suggesting a downstream defect in chromatin accessibility for NF-κB transcription factors. TLR4-stimulated APCs from the patients were defective in IKKα-dependent H3 histone phosphorylation at the IL-12 promoter and recruitment of NF-κB heterodimers RelA and cRel to the promoter. Expression of a super-active form of IKKα restored IL-12 production in a NEMO knockdown human monocytic cell line following LPS treatment. Our findings suggest that NEMO regulates the nuclear function of IKKα and offer new insights into the mechanisms underlying diminished NF-κB signaling in patients with EDI.
Suppression of immune responses is necessary to limit damage to host tissue during inflammation, but it can be detrimental in specific immune responses, such as sepsis and antitumor immunity. Recently, immature myeloid cells have been implicated in the suppression of immune responses in mouse models of cancer, infectious disease, bone marrow transplantation, and autoimmune disease. Here, we report the identification of a subset of mature human neutrophils (CD11cbright/CD62Ldim/CD11bbright/CD16bright) as what we believe to be a unique circulating population of myeloid cells, capable of suppressing human T cell proliferation. These cells were observed in humans in vivo during acute systemic inflammation induced by endotoxin challenge or by severe injury. Local release of hydrogen peroxide from the neutrophils into the immunological synapse between the neutrophils and T cells mediated the suppression of T cell proliferation and required neutrophil expression of the integrin Mac-1 (αMβ2). Our data demonstrate that suppression of T cell function can be accomplished by a subset of human neutrophils that can be systemically induced in response to acute inflammation. Identification of the pivotal role of neutrophil Mac-1 and ROS in this process provides a potential target for modulating immune responses in humans.
The most abundant immune cell type is the neutrophil, a key first responder after pathogen invasion. Neutrophil numbers in the periphery are tightly regulated to prevent opportunistic infections and aberrant inflammation. In healthy individuals, more than 1 × 109 neutrophils per kilogram body weight are released from the bone marrow every 24 hours. To maintain homeostatic levels, an equivalent number of senescent cells must be cleared from circulation. Recent studies indicate that clearance of senescent neutrophils by resident tissue macrophages and DCs helps to set homeostatic levels of neutrophils via effects on the IL-23/IL-17/G-CSF cytokine axis, which stimulates neutrophil production in the bone marrow. However, the molecular events in phagocytes underlying this feedback loop have remained indeterminate. Liver X receptors (LXRs) are members of the nuclear receptor superfamily that regulate both lipid metabolic and inflammatory gene expression. Here, we demonstrate that LXRs contribute to the control of neutrophil homeostasis. Using gain- and loss-of-function models, we found that LXR signaling regulated the efficient clearance of senescent neutrophils by peripheral tissue APCs in a Mer-dependent manner. Furthermore, activation of LXR by engulfed neutrophils directly repressed the IL-23/IL-17/G-CSF granulopoietic cytokine cascade. These results provide mechanistic insight into the molecular events orchestrating neutrophil homeostasis and advance our understanding of LXRs as integrators of phagocyte function, lipid metabolism, and cytokine gene expression.
Podocytes of the kidney adhere tightly to the underlying glomerular basement membrane (GBM) in order to maintain a functional filtration barrier. The clinical importance of podocyte binding to the GBM via an integrin-laminin-actin axis has been illustrated in models with altered function of α3β1 integrin, integrin-linked kinase, laminin-521, and α-actinin 4. Here we expanded on the podocyte-GBM binding model by showing that the main podocyte adhesion receptor, integrin α3β1, interacts with the tetraspanin CD151 in situ in humans. Deletion of Cd151 in mouse glomerular epithelial cells led to reduced adhesive strength to laminin by redistributing α3β1 at the cell-matrix interface. Moreover, in vivo podocyte-specific deletion of Cd151 led to glomerular nephropathy. Although global Cd151-null B6 mice were not susceptible to renal disease, as has been shown previously, increasing blood and transcapillary filtration pressure induced nephropathy in these mice. Importantly, blocking the angiotensin-converting enzyme in renal disease–susceptible global Cd151-null FVB mice prolonged their median life span. Together, these results establish CD151 as a crucial modifier of integrin-mediated adhesion of podocytes to the GBM and show that blood pressure is an important factor in the initiation and progression of Cd151 knockout–induced nephropathy.
Recombinant viruses hold promise as vectors for vaccines to prevent infectious diseases with significant global health impacts. One of their major limitations is that preexisting anti-vector neutralizing antibodies can reduce T cell responses to the insert antigens; however, the impact of vector-specific cellular immunity on subsequent insert-specific T cell responses has not been assessed in humans. Here, we have identified and compared adenovirus-specific and HIV-specific T cell responses in subjects participating in two HIV-1 vaccine trials using a vaccine vectored by adenovirus serotype 5 (Ad5). Higher frequencies of pre-immunization adenovirus-specific CD4+ T cells were associated with substantially decreased magnitude of HIV-specific CD4+ T cell responses and decreased breadth of HIV-specific CD8+ T cell responses in vaccine recipients, independent of type-specific preexisting Ad5-specific neutralizing antibody titers. Further, epitopes recognized by adenovirus-specific T cells were commonly conserved across many adenovirus serotypes, suggesting that cross-reactivity of preexisting adenovirus-specific T cells can extend to adenovirus vectors derived from rare serotypes. These findings provide what we believe to be a new understanding of how preexisting viral immunity may impact the efficacy of vaccines under current evaluation for prevention of HIV, tuberculosis, and malaria.
Following organ transplantation, lifelong immunosuppressive therapy is required to prevent the host immune system from destroying the allograft. This can cause severe side effects and increased recipient morbidity and mortality. Complete cessation of immunosuppressive drugs has been successfully accomplished in selected transplant recipients, providing proof of principle that operational allograft tolerance is attainable in clinical transplantation. The intra-graft molecular pathways associated with successful drug withdrawal, however, are not well defined. In this study, we analyzed sequential blood and liver tissue samples collected from liver transplant recipients enrolled in a prospective multicenter immunosuppressive drug withdrawal clinical trial. Before initiation of drug withdrawal, operationally tolerant and non-tolerant recipients differed in the intra-graft expression of genes involved in the regulation of iron homeostasis. Furthermore, as compared with non-tolerant recipients, operationally tolerant patients exhibited higher serum levels of hepcidin and ferritin and increased hepatocyte iron deposition. Finally, liver tissue gene expression measurements accurately predicted the outcome of immunosuppressive withdrawal in an independent set of patients. These results point to a critical role for iron metabolism in the regulation of intra-graft alloimmune responses in humans and provide a set of biomarkers to conduct drug-weaning trials in liver transplantation.
Immune tolerance to transplanted organs is impaired when the innate immune system is activated in response to the tissue necrosis that occurs during harvesting and implantation procedures. A key molecule in this immune pathway is the intracellular TLR signal adaptor known as myeloid differentiation primary response gene 88 (MyD88). After transplantation, MyD88 induces DC maturation as well as the production of inflammatory mediators, such as IL-6 and TNF-α. However, upstream activators of MyD88 function in response to transplantation have not been identified. Here, we show that haptoglobin, an acute phase protein, is an initiator of this MyD88-dependent inflammatory process in a mouse model of skin transplantation. Necrotic lysates from transplanted skin elicited higher inflammatory responses in DCs than did nontransplanted lysates, suggesting DC-mediated responses are triggered by factors released during transplantation. Analysis of transplanted lysates identified haptoglobin as one of the proteins upregulated during transplantation. Expression of donor haptoglobin enhanced the onset of acute skin transplant rejection, whereas haptoglobin-deficient skin grafts showed delayed acute rejection and antidonor T cell priming in a MyD88-dependent graft rejection model. Thus, our results show that haptoglobin release following skin necrosis contributes to accelerated transplant rejection, with potential implications for the development of localized immunosuppressive therapies.
Glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) circulates at low levels and acts as an incretin hormone, potentiating glucose-dependent insulin secretion from islet β cells. GLP-1 also modulates gastric emptying and engages neural circuits in the portal region and CNS that contribute to GLP-1 receptor–dependent (GLP-1R–dependent) regulation of glucose homeostasis. To elucidate the importance of pancreatic GLP-1R signaling for glucose homeostasis, we generated transgenic mice that expressed the human GLP-1R in islets and pancreatic ductal cells (Pdx1-hGLP1R:Glp1r–/– mice). Transgene expression restored GLP-1R–dependent stimulation of cAMP and Akt phosphorylation in isolated islets, conferred GLP-1R–dependent stimulation of β cell proliferation, and was sufficient for restoration of GLP-1–stimulated insulin secretion in perifused islets. Systemic GLP-1R activation with the GLP-1R agonist exendin-4 had no effect on food intake, hindbrain c-fos expression, or gastric emptying but improved glucose tolerance and stimulated insulin secretion in Pdx1-hGLP1R:Glp1r–/– mice. i.c.v. GLP-1R blockade with the antagonist exendin(9–39) impaired glucose tolerance in WT mice but had no effect in Pdx1-hGLP1R:Glp1r–/– mice. Nevertheless, transgenic expression of the pancreatic GLP-1R was sufficient to normalize both oral and i.p. glucose tolerance in Glp1r–/– mice. These findings illustrate that low levels of endogenous GLP-1 secreted from gut endocrine cells are capable of augmenting glucoregulatory activity via pancreatic GLP-1Rs independent of communication with neural pathways.
Rhabdomyosarcoma (RMS) is a malignancy of muscle myoblasts, which fail to exit the cell cycle, resist terminal differentiation, and are blocked from fusing into syncytial skeletal muscle. In some patients, RMS is caused by a translocation that generates the fusion oncoprotein PAX-FOXO1, but the underlying RMS pathogenetic mechanisms that impede differentiation and promote neoplastic transformation remain unclear. Using a Drosophila model of PAX-FOXO1–mediated transformation, we show here that mutation in the myoblast fusion gene rolling pebbles (rols) dominantly suppresses PAX-FOXO1 lethality. Further analysis indicated that PAX-FOXO1 expression caused upregulation of rols, which suggests that Rols acts downstream of PAX-FOXO1. In mammalian myoblasts, gene silencing of Tanc1, an ortholog of rols, revealed that it is essential for myoblast fusion, but is dispensable for terminal differentiation. Misexpression of PAX-FOXO1 in myoblasts upregulated Tanc1 and blocked differentiation, whereas subsequent reduction of Tanc1 expression to native levels by RNAi restored both fusion and differentiation. Furthermore, decreasing human TANC1 gene expression caused RMS cancer cells to lose their neoplastic state, undergo fusion, and form differentiated syncytial muscle. Taken together, these findings identify misregulated myoblast fusion caused by ectopic TANC1 expression as a RMS neoplasia mechanism and suggest fusion molecules as candidates for targeted RMS therapy.
In hematologic diseases, such as sickle cell disease (SCD) and hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), pathological biophysical interactions among blood cells, endothelial cells, and soluble factors lead to microvascular occlusion and thrombosis. Here, we report an in vitro “endothelialized” microfluidic microvasculature model that recapitulates and integrates this ensemble of pathophysiological processes. Under controlled flow conditions, the model enabled quantitative investigation of how biophysical alterations in hematologic disease collectively lead to microvascular occlusion and thrombosis. Using blood samples from patients with SCD, we investigated how the drug hydroxyurea quantitatively affects microvascular obstruction in SCD, an unresolved issue pivotal to understanding its clinical efficacy in such patients. In addition, we demonstrated that our microsystem can function as an in vitro model of HUS and showed that shear stress influences microvascular thrombosis/obstruction and the efficacy of the drug eptifibatide, which decreases platelet aggregation, in the context of HUS. These experiments establish the versatility and clinical relevance of our microvasculature-on-a-chip model as a biophysical assay of hematologic pathophysiology as well as a drug discovery platform.
Copyright © 2014 American Society for Clinical Investigation