Enteroviruses, including subtype EV-A71, infect the brain, liver, heart, and other organs, causing a myriad of human diseases. This spectrum of disease is thought to be due, in part, to differential binding to host cells, and additional knowledge of enterovirus cell entry is essential for therapeutic development. In this issue of the JCI, Yeung et al. provide evidence of a novel EV-A71 entry factor, a host-produced tryptophan tRNA synthetase (hWARS), that facilitates entry of multiple subtypes of enteroviruses. hWARS is a cytoplasmic enzyme that is essential for translation but also upregulated and secreted during inflammatory processes. The results of this study support the notion of secreted hWARS as an unconventional virus entry factor that raises interesting questions about mechanisms by which inflammation and a tRNA synthetase facilitate viral pathogenesis.
Stanley Perlman, Tom Gallagher
The stroma of solid tumors can exclude or limit immune infiltration, or lead to the recruitment of tumor-promoting rather than tumor-attacking immune cells. This finding was reported by Jayaprakash et al. in this issue of the JCI, and it was particularly prominent in the hypoxic zones of tumors in the transgenic adenocarcinoma of the mouse prostate (TRAMP) cancer models. A current clinical goal of immune checkpoint blockade (ICB) is to extend its utility to more patients by converting immunologically “cold” tumors that do not provoke a strong immunological response to “hot” tumors that are invaded by swarms of T cells. When the underlying cause is hypoxia linked, the therapeutic combination of simultaneous targeting of hypoxia and immune checkpoints merits exploration in future clinical trials.
Paul R. Walker
The introduction of anti-TNF antibody therapy has changed the course of treatment for Crohn’s disease. However, the fundamental mechanism for the onset of Crohn’s disease is still unknown, and the treatment strategy for this disease remains suboptimal. The assessment of the disease phenotype based on key environmental factors and genetic background may indicate options for the personalized treatment of Crohn’s disease. In this issue of the JCI, Liu et al. show that consumption of tobacco and the mutation of ATG16L1T300A, a prevalent Crohn’s disease susceptibility allele, drive defects in cells at the bottom of the intestinal crypt, the Paneth cells. These factors may provide novel targets for personalized medicine.
Shigeru Oshima, Mamoru Watanabe
In critically ill patients, disruption of intestinal epithelial cell function occurs due to exposure of the epithelium to toxic internal and external inflammatory stimuli, which are key factors that trigger sepsis and multi-organ dysfunction syndrome (MODS). A greater understanding of how trauma and gut failure lead to sepsis and progression to MODS is much needed. In this issue of the JCI, Armacki and colleagues identify mechanisms by which thirty-eight-negative kinase 1 (TNK1) promotes the progression from intestinal apoptosis and gut failure to bacterial translocation, sepsis, and MODS. Moreover, the results of this study suggest TNK1 as a potential therapeutic target to prevent sepsis and MODS.
QiQi Zhou, G. Nicholas Verne
In the vascular wall, endothelial nitric oxide synthase (eNOS) produces NO to regulate peripheral vascular resistance, tissue perfusion, and blood pressure. In resistance arteries, eNOS couples with α-globin and, through chemical reactions, modulates NO diffusion needed for vascular smooth muscle relaxation. While α-globin protein alone is known to be unstable, the mechanisms that enable α-globin protein expression remain elusive. Here, Lechauve et al. report that arterial endothelium expresses α hemoglobin–stabilizing protein, which acts as a critical chaperone protein for α-globin expression and vascular function.
Adam C. Straub, Mark T. Gladwin
The current inactivated influenza vaccines rely on the induction of neutralizing antibodies against the head domain of the viral hemagglutinin (HA). The HA head contains five immunodominant antigenic sites, all of which are subject to antigenic drift, thereby limiting vaccine efficacy. Bypassing the immune system’s tendency to focus on the most variable regions of the HA may be a step toward more broadly protective influenza vaccines. However, this requires a better understanding of the biological meaning of immunodominance, and of the hierarchy between different antigenic sites. In this issue of the JCI, Liu et al. determined the immunodominance of the five antigenic sites of the HA head in experimentally infected mice, guinea pigs, and ferrets. All three species exhibited different preferences for the five sites of the 2009 pandemic H1N1 strain. Moreover, human subjects exhibited yet a different pattern of immunodominance following immunization with the standard inactivated influenza vaccine. Together, these results have important implications for influenza vaccine design and interpretation of animal models.
Kristien Van Reeth
Bone metabolism is controlled by endocrine, paracrine, and inflammatory signals that continuously operate in health and disease. While these signals are critical for skeletal adaptation during development, longitudinal growth, and repair, disturbances such as sex hormone deficiency or chronic inflammation have unambiguously been linked to bone loss and skeletal fragility across species. In the current issue of the JCI, Khosla et al. evaluated the role of sympathetic outflow and present evidence to support the idea that the sympathetic nervous system regulates bone metabolism in humans, primarily via the β1-adrenergic receptor.
Lorenz C. Hofbauer, Holger Henneicke
Renin-expressing cells have been conserved through evolution and maintain blood pressure and fluid homeostasis. Lack of availability of tools to study the specifics of renin regulation has limited advances in this field. In the current issue of the Journal of Clinical Investigation, Martinez and colleagues used the genome-wide assessment of the chromatin status of cells and uncovered a unique set of super-enhancers that determine the identity of renin cells. The renin super-enhancers play a key role in the molecular memory of renin cell function, a mechanism at the core of preserving homeostasis.
Steven D. Crowley
Hepatitis B virus–specific (HBV-specific) T cells have been identified as main effector cells in HBV clearance. In contrast, B cells producing neutralizing antibodies against the HBV surface antigen (HBsAg) have been studied in little detail, mainly due to methodical limitations. In this issue of the JCI, two reports use a new technique to specifically detect and characterize HBsAg-specific B cells ex vivo. Indeed, these cells are present, but show phenotypic alterations and impaired function during acute and chronic HBV infection. Thus, HBsAg-specific B cells are a novel attractive target for antiviral strategies toward functional cure of chronic HBV infection.
Christoph Neumann-Haefelin, Robert Thimme
The polyamine metabolic pathway has been considered a rational target for antineoplastic therapy since it was discovered that polyamines are absolute requirements for tumor initiation, growth, and, in some instances, survival. Although several promising preclinical studies have demonstrated the critical nature of polyamines for tumor growth, the clinical success of agents targeting polyamine metabolism have been lacking. In the accompanying article, Bianchi-Smiraglia et al. identify both a new target and new drug that inhibits polyamine biosynthesis, reduces intracellular polyamines, and inhibits the growth of several models of human multiple myeloma. These results are both intriguing and provide promise for moving such a strategy to the clinic.
Robert A. Casero Jr.
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