Neuromyelitis optica (NMO) is a central nervous system (CNS) inflammatory autoimmune disease caused by antibodies against aquaporin-4 (AQP4) expressed on astrocytes. Binding of AQP4-specific antibodies (NMO-IgG) triggers activation of the complement cascade, which is responsible for astrocyte loss and secondary demyelination. Although the role for the cytolytic complement proteins in astrocyte destruction in NMO is well established, little is known regarding the initial phase of astrocyte injury. In this issue of the JCI, Chen and colleagues evaluated the precytolytic phase when NMO-IgG binds astrocytes in vivo in the absence of exogenous complement. NMO-IgG alone caused astrocyte activation and AQP4 loss. Surprisingly, microglia, CNS-resident innate immune cells that produce endogenous complement, were required for clinical manifestations of disease, a finding that suggests microglia may serve as a therapeutic target in NMO.
Zahra Moinfar, Scott S. Zamvil
Allergic asthma is a chronic inflammatory lung disease associated with increased cytokine secretion. Aspects of airway inflammation are also linked to a common genetic variant that corresponds to the small GTPase, Rab27, a protein involved in vesicular trafficking in immune cells. However, the mechanisms by which Rab27 contributes to airway inflammation and cytokine release remain ambiguous. In this issue of the JCI, Okunishi et al. explored the role that the Rab27 effector, exophilin-5, has in allergic inflammation. Exophilin-5–deficient mice and asthma mouse models revealed that exophilin-5 regulates IL-33 production and the Th2 response. Notably, exophilin-5 deletion enhanced IL-33 release and pathogenic Th2 responsiveness through the mTOR pathway and altered intracellular IL-33 trafficking. This work provides insights into the molecular mechanisms that underlie inflammatory lung disease.
Michael Brusilovsky, Mark Rochman, Nurit P. Azouz, Lydia E. Mack, Marc E. Rothenberg
The mechanism by which maternal obesity influences fetal brain development and behavior is not well understood. In this issue of the JCI, Lippert et al. showed that feeding maternal mice a high-fat diet (HFD) during lactation attenuated the activity of dopamine (DA) midbrain neurons and altered the DA-related behavioral phenotype seen in the offspring. The authors further suggested that the altered excitatory and inhibitory balance between D1 medium spiny neurons (MSN) and D2 MSN mediates this behavioral phenotype. These mechanisms may provide strategies for preventing the negative effects of maternal obesity on offspring development and adult health.
Yuki Yasumoto, Tamas L. Horvath
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
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