Tissue injury disrupts the mechanical homeostasis that underlies normal tissue architecture and function. The failure to resolve injury and restore homeostasis gives rise to progressive fibrosis that is accompanied by persistent alterations in the mechanical environment as a consequence of pathological matrix deposition and stiffening. This Review focuses on our rapidly growing understanding of the molecular mechanisms linking the altered mechanical environment in injury, repair, and fibrosis to cellular activation. In particular, our focus is on the mechanisms by which cells transduce mechanical signals, leading to transcriptional and epigenetic responses that underlie both transient and persistent alterations in cell state that contribute to fibrosis. Translation of these mechanobiological insights may enable new approaches to promote tissue repair and arrest or reverse fibrotic tissue remodeling.
Daniel J. Tschumperlin, Giovanni Ligresti, Moira B. Hilscher, Vijay H. Shah
Epithelial cell loss alters a tissue’s optimal function and awakens evolutionarily adapted healing mechanisms to reestablish homeostasis. Although adult mammalian organs have a limited regeneration potential, the liver stands out as one remarkable exception. Following injury, the liver mounts a dynamic multicellular response wherein stromal cells are activated in situ and/or recruited from the bloodstream, the extracellular matrix (ECM) is remodeled, and epithelial cells expand to replenish their lost numbers. Chronic damage makes this response persistent instead of transient, tipping the system into an abnormal steady state known as fibrosis, in which ECM accumulates excessively and tissue function degenerates. Here we explore the cellular and molecular switches that balance hepatic regeneration and fibrosis, with a focus on uncovering avenues of disease modeling and therapeutic intervention.
Lucía Cordero-Espinoza, Meritxell Huch
Fibrosis is the excessive accumulation of extracellular matrix that often occurs as a wound healing response to repeated or chronic tissue injury, and may lead to the disruption of organ architecture and loss of function. Although fibrosis was previously thought to be irreversible, recent evidence indicates that certain circumstances permit the resolution of fibrosis when the underlying causes of injury are eradicated. The mechanism of fibrosis resolution encompasses degradation of the fibrotic extracellular matrix as well as elimination of fibrogenic myofibroblasts through their adaptation of various cell fates, including apoptosis, senescence, dedifferentiation, and reprogramming. In this Review, we discuss the present knowledge and gaps in our understanding of how matrix degradation is regulated and how myofibroblast cell fates can be manipulated, areas that may identify potential therapeutic approaches for fibrosis.
Joon-Il Jun, Lester F. Lau
There is an increasing recognition that inflammation plays a critical role in neurodegenerative diseases of the CNS, including Alzheimer’s disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, and the prototypic neuroinflammatory disease multiple sclerosis (MS). Differential immune responses involving the adaptive versus the innate immune system are observed at various stages of neurodegenerative diseases, and may not only drive disease processes but could serve as therapeutic targets. Ongoing investigations into the specific inflammatory mechanisms that play roles in disease causation and progression have revealed lessons about inflammation-driven neurodegeneration that can be applied to other neurodegenerative diseases. An increasing number of immunotherapeutic strategies that have been successful in MS are now being applied to other neurodegenerative diseases. Some approaches suppress CNS immune mechanisms, while others harness the immune system to clear deleterious products and cells. This Review focuses on the mechanisms by which inflammation, mediated either by the peripheral immune response or by endogenous CNS immune mechanisms, can affect CNS neurodegeneration.
Tanuja Chitnis, Howard L. Weiner
Recent discoveries of the glymphatic system and of meningeal lymphatic vessels have generated a lot of excitement, along with some degree of skepticism. Here, we summarize the state of the field and point out the gaps of knowledge that should be filled through further research. We discuss the glymphatic system as a system that allows CNS perfusion by the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) and interstitial fluid (ISF). We also describe the recently characterized meningeal lymphatic vessels and their role in drainage of the brain ISF, CSF, CNS-derived molecules, and immune cells from the CNS and meninges to the peripheral (CNS-draining) lymph nodes. We speculate on the relationship between the two systems and their malfunction that may underlie some neurological diseases. Although much remains to be investigated, these new discoveries have changed our understanding of mechanisms underlying CNS immune privilege and CNS drainage. Future studies should explore the communications between the glymphatic system and meningeal lymphatics in CNS disorders and develop new therapeutic modalities targeting these systems.
Antoine Louveau, Benjamin A. Plog, Salli Antila, Kari Alitalo, Maiken Nedergaard, Jonathan Kipnis
Microglia are brain-resident myeloid cells that mediate key functions to support the CNS. Microglia express a wide range of receptors that act as molecular sensors, which recognize exogenous or endogenous CNS insults and initiate an immune response. In addition to their classical immune cell function, microglia act as guardians of the brain by promoting phagocytic clearance and providing trophic support to ensure tissue repair and maintain cerebral homeostasis. Conditions associated with loss of homeostasis or tissue changes induce several dynamic microglial processes, including changes of cellular morphology, surface phenotype, secretory mediators, and proliferative responses (referred to as an “activated state”). Activated microglia represent a common pathological feature of several neurodegenerative diseases, including Alzheimer’s disease (AD). Cumulative evidence suggests that microglial inflammatory activity in AD is increased while microglial-mediated clearance mechanisms are compromised. Microglia are perpetually engaged in a mutual interaction with the surrounding environment in CNS; thus, diverse microglial reactions at different disease stages may open new avenues for therapeutic intervention and modification of inflammatory activities. In this Review, the role of microglia in the pathogenesis of AD and the modulation of microglia activity as a therapeutic modality will be discussed.
Heela Sarlus, Michael T. Heneka
Oligodendrocytes are glial cells that populate the entire CNS after they have differentiated from oligodendrocyte progenitor cells. From birth onward, oligodendrocytes initiate wrapping of neuronal axons with a multilamellar lipid structure called myelin. Apart from their well-established function in action potential propagation, more recent data indicate that oligodendrocytes are essential for providing metabolic support to neurons. Oligodendrocytes transfer energy metabolites to neurons through cytoplasmic “myelinic” channels and monocarboxylate transporters, which allow for the fast delivery of short-carbon-chain energy metabolites like pyruvate and lactate to neurons. These substrates are metabolized and contribute to ATP synthesis in neurons. This Review will discuss our current understanding of this metabolic supportive function of oligodendrocytes and its potential impact in human neurodegenerative disease and related animal models.
Thomas Philips, Jeffrey D. Rothstein
Type 1 diabetes (T1D) is a chronic autoimmune disease that causes severe loss of pancreatic β cells. Autoreactive T cells are key mediators of β cell destruction. Studies of organ donors with T1D that have examined T cells in pancreas, the diabetogenic insulitis lesion, and lymphoid tissues have revealed a broad repertoire of target antigens and T cell receptor (TCR) usage, with initial evidence of public TCR sequences that are shared by individuals with T1D. Neoepitopes derived from post-translational modifications of native antigens are emerging as novel targets that are more likely to evade self-tolerance. Further studies will determine whether T cell responses to neoepitopes are major disease drivers that could impact prediction, prevention, and therapy. This Review provides an overview of recent progress in our knowledge of autoreactive T cells that has emerged from experimental and clinical research as well as pathology investigations.
Microglia are the main resident macrophage population of the CNS and perform numerous functions required for CNS development, homeostasis, immunity, and repair. Many lines of evidence also indicate that dysregulation of microglia contributes to the pathogenesis of neurodegenerative and behavioral diseases. These observations provide a compelling argument to more clearly define the mechanisms that control microglia identity and function in health and disease. In this Review, we present a conceptual framework for how different classes of transcription factors interact to select and activate regulatory elements that control microglia development and their responses to internal and external signals. We then describe functions of specific transcription factors in normal and pathological contexts and conclude with a consideration of open questions to be addressed in the future.
Inge R. Holtman, Dylan Skola, Christopher K. Glass
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is a degenerative disorder that is characterized by loss of motor neurons and shows clinical, pathological, and genetic overlap with frontotemporal dementia (FTD). Activated microglia are a universal feature of ALS/FTD pathology; however, their role in disease pathogenesis remains incompletely understood. The recent discovery that ORF 72 on chromosome 9 (C9orf72), the gene most commonly mutated in ALS/FTD, has an important role in myeloid cells opened the possibility that altered microglial function plays an active role in disease. This Review highlights the contribution of microglia to ALS/FTD pathogenesis, discusses the connection between autoimmunity and ALS/FTD, and explores the possibility that C9orf72 and other ALS/FTD genes may have a “dual effect” on both neuronal and myeloid cell function that could explain a shared propensity for altered systemic immunity and neurodegeneration.
Deepti Lall, Robert H. Baloh
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