The cardiomyopathy of Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) is an important cause of morbidity and mortality in affected males with this dreaded muscle disease. Previous studies have implicated changes in expression and subcellular localization of connexin-43 (Cx43), the major ventricular gap junction protein, in DMD cardiomyopathy. In this issue of the JCI, Himelman et al. explore how hypophosphorylation of Cx43 at a triplet of serine residues (S325/S328/S330) in the regulatory C-terminus contributes to multiple features of the cardiomyopathy phenotype. Using a mouse model of DMD cardiomyopathy in which phosphomimetic glutamic acids are substituted for serines at these residues in Cx43, Himelman et al. observed reduced gap junction remodeling and lateralization of Cx43 immunosignals, protection against isoproterenol-induced arrhythmias, and improved Ca2+ homeostasis. This study contributes to the understanding of pathologic Cx43 remodeling and encourages further research into developing strategic interventions to mitigate cardiac dysfunction and arrhythmias in DMD patients.
Robin M. Shaw, Jeffrey E. Saffitz
The ATP-sensitive K+ channel (KATP) is formed by the association of four inwardly rectifying K+ channel (Kir6.x) pore subunits with four sulphonylurea receptor (SUR) regulatory subunits. Kir6.x or SUR mutations result in KATP channelopathies, which reflect the physiological roles of these channels, including but not limited to insulin secretion, cardiac protection, and blood flow regulation. In this issue of the JCI, McClenaghan et al. explored one of the channelopathies, namely Cantu syndrome (CS), which is a result of one kind of KATP channel mutation. Using a knockin mouse model, the authors demonstrated that gain-of-function KATP mutations in vascular smooth muscle resulted in cardiac remodeling. Moreover, they were able to reverse the cardiovascular phenotypes by administering the KATP channel blocker glibenclamide. These results exemplify how genetic mutations can have an impact on developmental trajectories, and provide a therapeutic approach to mitigate cardiac hypertrophy in cases of CS.
Guiling Zhao, Aaron Kaplan, Maura Greiser, W. Jonathan Lederer
Mosquito-transmitted Plasmodium falciparum infection can cause human cerebral malaria (HCM) with high mortality rates. The abundance of infected red blood cells that accumulate in the cerebral vasculature of patients has led to the belief that these brain-sequestered cells solely cause pathogenesis. However, animal models suggest that CD8+ T cells migrate to and accumulate in the brain, directly contributing to experimental cerebral malaria (ECM) mortality. In this issue of the JCI, Riggle et al. explored the brain vasculature from 34 children who died from HCM or other causes and frequently found CD3+ CD8+ T cells in contact with endothelial cells. Further, the authors show that coinfection with HIV enhanced such CD3+ CD8+ T cell luminal distribution. These findings suggest that the mouse model for cerebral malaria may accurately reflect human disease pathology. This study sheds new light on the mechanisms behind blood-brain barrier breakdown in this complicated neurological disease and opens up alternative approaches for treatment.
Laurent Rénia, Georges E.R. Grau, Samuel C. Wassmer
The rapid rise in circulating fibroblast growth factor 23 (FGF23) associated with kidney injury results in calcitriol deficiency, altered calcium homeostasis, and secondary hyperparathyroidism, and may contribute to cardiovascular complications and death. However, the mechanisms of increased FGF23 in states of kidney injury remain unclear. In this issue of the JCI, Simic et al. screened plasma taken from the renal vein of patients undergoing cardiac catheterization and identified glycerol-3-phosphate (G-3-P) as the most significant correlate of simultaneous arterial FGF23 levels. When G-3-P was administered to mice, FGF23 production increased in bone. In a series of elegant mouse studies, the authors discovered a pathway linking increased G-3-P to increased FGF23 via increases in lysophosphatidic acid (LPA), which activates the LPA receptor 1 in FGF23-secreting cells in the bone and bone marrow. Although the authors present human data that broadly support the results from the mouse models, further research is needed to determine whether targeting the G-3-P/FGF23 pathway has the potential to modify FGF23-related complications in the clinic.
Alexander Grabner, Myles Wolf
Myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS) is a highly debilitating disease with heterogeneous constitutional and neurological complaints. Infection-like symptoms often herald disease onset, but no pathogen or immune defect has been conclusively linked. In this issue of the JCI, Mandarano et al. illuminate bioenergetic derangements of ME/CFS T cell subsets. CD4+ and CD8+ T cells had impaired resting glycolysis. CD8+ cells additionally showed activation-related metabolic remodeling deficits and decreased mitochondrial membrane potential; a subset had increased resting mitochondrial mass. Immune senescence and exhaustion paradigms offer only partial explanations. Hence, unique mechanisms of disrupted immunometabolism may underlie the complex neuroimmune dysfunction of ME/CFS.
Chikungunya virus (CHIKV) is an emerging arbovirus, endemic in many parts of the world, that is spread by travelers and adapts to new mosquito vectors that live in temperate climates. CHIKV replicates in many host tissues and initially causes a self-limiting febrile illness similar to dengue. However, in 30%–40% of cases, CHIKV also causes long-term painful and debilitating muscle and joint pain, the pathogenesis of which remains unknown. In this issue of the JCI, Lentscher et al. engineered a skeletal muscle–restricted CHIKV to show that while musculoskeletal disease requires viral replication in affected muscle, muscular pathology is mediated by host immunological factors. These findings de-link viral replication and disease symptoms, illuminate the virus-host interplay in CHIKV symptomatology, and raise the possibility that immune modulation is a therapeutic option. The results also highlight possible solutions to existing vaccine barriers and provide insights that may apply to other viral diseases.
Aneurysms are common in the abdominal and thoracic regions of the aorta and can cause death due to dissection or rupture. Traditionally, thoracic aortic aneurysms have been labeled as a degenerative disease, characterized by alterations in extracellular matrix and loss of smooth muscle cells (SMCs) in the medial layer of the aortic wall. In this issue of the JCI, Li and colleagues introduce an unconventional concept by demonstrating that mTOR-dependent proliferative SMCs render the aortic wall vulnerable to dilatation and dissection rather than prevent disease progression. These vascular SMCs, termed degradative SMCs, compromise the medial properties and function of the aortic wall by enhanced proteolytic and phagocytic activity; however, the cells do not transdifferentiate into macrophages. The degradative SMC phenotype also worsens atherosclerotic disease and could thus be considered as a therapeutic target for diverse aortic diseases.
Maarten Hulsmans, Matthias Nahrendorf
Certain matrix metalloproteinase (MMP) family proteins have been associated with cell proliferation and invasion in aggressive cancers. However, attempts to target the MMPs with the hope of treating tumors have thus far failed. In this issue of the JCI, Ragusa and coworkers identified an intestinal cancer subgroup of slow-growing, chemotherapy-resistant, and very aggressive matrix-rich tumors that mimic a hard-to-treat colorectal cancer subtype in humans. These tumors showed downregulated levels of the transcription factor prospero homeobox protein 1 (PROX1), which relieved repression of the matrix metalloproteinase MMP14. Upregulated MMP14 levels correlated with blood vessel dysfunction and a lack of cytotoxic T cells. Notably, blockade of proangiogenic factors in combination with stimulation of the CD40 pathway in the mouse cancer model boosted cytotoxic T cell infiltration. The study illustrates how combinatorial treatments for aggressive, T cell–deficient cancers can launch an antitumor immune response.
Therapy with antineoplastic agents that inhibit EGFR and MEK is frequently limited by cutaneous adverse reactions, most commonly acne-like eruptions. In this issue of the JCI, Satoh et al. define a mechanism for acneiform skin toxicity wherein EGFR/MEK inhibitors cooperate with the skin commensal Cutibacterium acnes to induce IL-36γ in keratinocytes via the combined actions of Krüppel-like factor 4 and NF-κB transcription factors at the IL-36γ promoter, resulting in neutrophil recruitment. In addition to elucidating why EGFR/MEK inhibitor–induced rashes are often pustular and folliculocentric, this mechanism provides justification for the long-standing practice of management with antibiotic therapy.
Allison C. Billi, Mrinal K. Sarkar, Johann E. Gudjonsson
The human lipidome comprises over tens of thousands of distinct lipid species in addition to total cholesterol and the other conventional lipid traits that are routinely measurable in the peripheral circulation. Of the lipid species considered to exhibit bioactive functions, sphingolipids are a class of molecules that have shown relevance to human disease risk and cardiovascular outcomes in particular. In this issue of the JCI, Poss et al. conducted targeted lipidomics in a case-control study involving over 600 individuals and found a sphingolipid profile that predicted coronary artery disease status. In the context of emerging evidence linking sphingolipid biology with cardiovascular pathophysiology, these results suggest the potential utility of serum sphingolipids as cholesterol-independent markers of risk and even future targets for optimizing cardiovascular health.
Justin B. Echouffo-Tcheugui, Mohit Jain, Susan Cheng
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