Mechanical stretch of baroreceptors in the wall of the aortic arch and carotid sinus initiates autonomic reflexes to change heart rate and blood pressure for cardiovascular homeostasis. In this issue of the JCI, Lu et al. show that tentonin 3 (TTN3), a recently identified stretch-sensitive ion channel, was present at the vagus afferent nerve endings innervating the aortic arch to function as a baroreceptor. This study expands the molecular profiles of baroreceptors and provides new insights into molecular mechanisms underlying the regulation of cardiovascular functions through baroreceptor function.
Jianguo G. Gu, Dan E. Berkowitz
Th17 cells (producing IL-17) and Th9 cells (producing IL-9) exhibit functional plasticity, and their role in tumorigenicity is controversial. Th17/IL-17 and Th9/IL-9 exhibit critical, but often opposing, roles in tumor progression. In this issue of the JCI, Salazar et al. show that while IL-17 and IL-9 induced distinct but complementary molecular pathways, both cytokines also induced epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT) in lung cancer cells and promoted metastatic spreading. A key question before us now is whether IL-9 and IL-17 contribute to tumor progression in a sequential and stage-specific manner within the tumor microenvironment.
Chi Yan, Ann Richmond
AMPK is a heterotrimeric complex that serves as a major sensor of energy status in eukaryotic cells. Accumulating evidence depicts a complex role of dysregulated AMPK signaling in Alzheimer’s disease (AD). In this issue of the JCI, Zimmermann et al. report on their investigation of AD-specific differential expression of AMPKα1 and AMPKα2 isoforms of the catalytic subunit and demonstrate that genetic reduction of AMPKα1, but not AMPKα2, rescued cognitive decline in AD mouse models. These findings reveal an isoform-specific role of AMPKα in the pathogenesis of AD, which likely provides a more precise target for future therapeutic development.
Fanpeng Zhao, Chunyu Wang, Xiongwei Zhu
Since it was shown in the early 1950s that it is possible to induce transplantation tolerance in neonates, immune tolerance strategies have been actively pursued. It was found that T cells play a critical role in graft rejection, but can also be major players in mediating transplantation tolerance. Consequently, many experimental systems focused on T cells, often with a complete exclusion of B cells from in vivo animal models. It is now becoming clear that in addition to T cells, B cells can mediate graft rejection and transplantation tolerance. In this issue of the JCI, Khiew et al. investigated the contribution of alloreactive B cells to transplantation tolerance using a mouse cardiac transplantation model. The authors revealed a distinct tolerant B cell phenotype possessing the ability to suppress naive B cells. These data lead to a better understanding of B cell contributions to transplantation tolerance, and may inform the development of future immune tolerance protocols.
Phosphoglycerate dehydrogenase (PHGDH) catalyzes the first step in the synthesis of the amino acid serine, important for protein synthesis, one-carbon metabolism, lipid production, redox homeostasis, and other key processes of normal and cancer metabolism. While PHGDH is often overexpressed in cancer cells, how it is regulated has been unclear. In this issue of the JCI, Liu and colleagues describe a new aspect of PHGDH regulation, demonstrating that the Parkinson disease gene and tumor suppressor Parkin bound and ubiquitinated PHGDH. Parkin promoted PHGDH degradation, suppressed serine synthesis, and inhibited tumor growth in human cancer cell line xenografts. Conversely, inactivation of Parkin not only accelerated tumor growth, but also sensitized tumors to small molecule inhibitors of PHGDH. These results offer a new link between Parkin and the serine synthesis pathway, and they bear translational potential that warrants further study in Parkin-deficient human cancers.
W. Brian Dalton
Treatment for hepatitis C virus (HCV) with direct-acting antivirals (DAAs) in hepatitis B virus (HBV) coinfection can result in HBV reactivation. In this issue of the JCI, Cheng and colleagues explored the role of interferon signaling in the complex interaction between HBV and HCV using cell lines, mouse models, and samples from people with coinfection. Notably, HCV enhanced interferon signaling, as measured by interferon-stimulated gene (ISG) expression, and decreased HBV transcription and replication. Blockade of interferon signaling reversed the effects on HBV replication. Further, pharmacologic inhibition of HCV replication in vitro and in coinfected humanized mice also reduced interferon signaling and, correspondingly, increased HBV replication. Intriguingly, baseline serum levels of the ISG CXCL10 predicted HBV reactivation in a cohort of coinfected people taking DAAs. Determining how interferon signaling silences HBV transcription and whether serum CXCL10 predicts HBV reactivation in a clinical setting are questions that warrant further investigation.
Ashwin Balagopal, Chloe L. Thio
Glioblastoma is the most common human brain cancer entity and is maintained by a glioblastoma stem cell (GSC) subpopulation. In this issue of the JCI, El-Sehemy and colleagues explored the effects that Norrin, a well-characterized activator of Wnt/β-catenin signaling, had on tumor growth. Norrin inhibited cell growth via β-catenin signaling in GSCs that had low expression levels of the transcription factor ASCL1. However, Norrin had the opposite effect in GSCs with high ASCL1 expression levels. The modulation of Norrin expression, with respect to high or low ASCL1 levels in GSCs, significantly reduced tumor growth in vivo, and subsequently increased the survival rate of mice. Notably, Norrin mediates enhanced tumor growth of glioblastomas by activating the Notch pathway. This study clarifies the opposing effects of Norrin on glioblastoma tumor growth and provides potential therapeutic targets for glioblastoma treatment.
Stefan Kassumeh, Siegfried G. Priglinger, Andreas Ohlmann
Programmed cell death protein 1 (PD-1) has become one of the most investigated targets for cancer immunotherapy. Most research has centered on inhibiting PD-1 on T cells, but there is increased interest in understanding the role of PD-1 on NK cells. While the expression of PD-1 on NK cells has been controversial, with papers publishing contradictory results in multiple models, there is increased clinical interest in NK and PD-1 immunotherapy. In this issue of the JCI, Judge et al. comprehensively explore the lack of PD-1 expression on murine, canine, and human NK cells and the clinical implication of these findings.
Monica M. Cho, Aicha E. Quamine, Mallery R. Olsen, Christian M. Capitini
Class IIa histone deacetylases (HDACs) repress cardiomyocyte hypertrophy through association with the prohypertrophic transcription factor (TF) myocyte enhancer factor-2 (MEF2). The four class IIa HDACs — HDAC4, -5, -7, and -9 — are subject to signal-dependent phosphorylation by members of the Ca2+/calmodulin-dependent protein kinase (CaMK) group. In response to stress, HDAC4, HDAC5, and HDAC9 undergo phosphorylation-induced nuclear export in cardiomyocytes, freeing MEF2 to stimulate progrowth genes; it was generally assumed that HDAC7 is also antihypertrophic. However, in this issue of the JCI, Hsu and colleagues demonstrate that, in sharp contrast to the other class IIa HDACs, HDAC7 is constitutively localized to the cardiomyocyte cytoplasm, where it promotes cardiac hypertrophy. Phosphorylation of HDAC7 by the CaMK group member salt-inducible kinase 1 (SIK1) stabilized the deacetylase, leading to increased expression of c-Myc, which in turn stimulated a pathological gene program. These unexpected findings highlight the SIK1/HDAC7 signaling axis as a promising target for the treatment of cardiac hypertrophy and heart failure.
Joshua G. Travers, Tianjing Hu, Timothy A. McKinsey
Sustained persistence of chimeric antigen receptor T (CAR-T) cells is a key characteristic associated with long-term remission in patients with hematologic malignancies. Attempts to uncover mechanisms that enhance persistence and thus functionality will have a substantial impact in broadening application of CAR-T cell therapy, especially for solid tumors. In this issue of the JCI, Guedan et al. describe a promising strategy to limit T cell exhaustion and improve persistence by changing a single amino acid in the costimulatory domain of CD28. The authors demonstrated that this single amino acid substitution in CD28-based mesothelin CAR-T cells results in improved persistence and functionality in a xenograft model of pancreatic cancer. Furthermore, reciprocal alteration of the same residue in inducible costimulator–containing (ICOS-containing) CAR-T cells resulted in limited antitumor activity and persistence. These findings suggest that simple alterations in the costimulatory domain may enhance CAR-T cell persistence, warranting future evaluation in other CD28-costimulatory CARs in an effort to improve durable antitumor effects.
Emily M. Hsieh, Lauren D. Scherer, Rayne H. Rouce
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