This is the institutional Repository of the Helmholtz Centre for Infection Research in Braunschweig/Germany (HZI), the Helmholtz Institute for Pharmaceutical Research Saarland (HIPS), Saarbrücken/Germany, the TWINCORE Zentrum für Exprerimentelle und Klinische Infektionsforschung, Hannover/Germany,Helmholtz-Institut für RNA-basierte Infektionsforschung (HIRI), Würzburg/Germany, Braunschweig Integrated Centre for Systems biology (BRICS), Centre for Structural Systems Biology (CSSB) the Study Centre Hannover, Hannover/Germany and the Centre for Individualised Infection Medicine (CiiM).


  • A Custom-Made Device for Reproducibly Depositing Pre-metered Doses of Nebulized Drugs on Pulmonary Cells .

    Horstmann, Justus C; Thorn, Chelsea R; Carius, Patrick; Graef, Florian; Murgia, Xabier; de Souza Carvalho-Wodarz, Cristiane; Lehr, Claus-Michael; HIPS, Helmholtz-Institut für Pharmazeutische Forschung Saarland, Universitätscampus E8.1 66123 Saarbrücken, Germany. (Frontiers, 2021-04-21)
    The deposition of pre-metered doses (i.e., defined before and not after exposition) at the air-liquid interface of viable pulmonary epithelial cells remains an important but challenging task for developing aerosol medicines. While some devices allow quantification of the deposited dose after or during the experiment, e.g., gravimetrically, there is still no generally accepted way to deposit small pre-metered doses of aerosolized drugs or pharmaceutical formulations, e.g., nanomedicines. Here, we describe a straightforward custom-made device, allowing connection to commercially available nebulizers with standard cell culture plates. Designed to tightly fit into the approximately 12-mm opening of either a 12-well Transwell® insert or a single 24-well plate, a defined dose of an aerosolized liquid can be directly deposited precisely and reproducibly (4.8% deviation) at the air-liquid interface (ALI) of pulmonary cell cultures. The deposited dose can be controlled by the volume of the nebulized solution, which may vary in a range from 20 to 200 μl. The entire nebulization-deposition maneuver is completed after 30 s and is spatially homogenous. After phosphate-buffered saline (PBS) deposition, the viability and barrier properties transepithelial electrical resistance (TEER) of human bronchial epithelial Calu-3 cells were not negatively affected. Straightforward in manufacture and use, the device enables reproducible deposition of metered doses of aerosolized drugs to study the interactions with pulmonary cell cultures grown at ALI conditions.
  • Cell-Free Glycoengineering of the Recombinant SARS-CoV-2 Spike Glycoprotein.

    Ruhnau, Johannes; Grote, Valerian; Juarez-Osorio, Mariana; Bruder, Dunja; Mahour, Reza; Rapp, Erdmann; Rexer, Thomas F T; Reichl, Udo; HZI,Helmholtz-Zentrum für Infektionsforschung GmbH, Inhoffenstr. 7,38124 Braunschweig, Germany. (Frontiers, 2021-08-16)
    The baculovirus-insect cell expression system is readily utilized to produce viral glycoproteins for research as well as for subunit vaccines and vaccine candidates, for instance against SARS-CoV-2 infections. However, the glycoforms of recombinant proteins derived from this expression system are inherently different from mammalian cell-derived glycoforms with mainly complex-type N-glycans attached, and the impact of these differences in protein glycosylation on the immunogenicity is severely under investigated. This applies also to the SARS-CoV-2 spike glycoprotein, which is the antigen target of all licensed vaccines and vaccine candidates including virus like particles and subunit vaccines that are variants of the spike protein. Here, we expressed the transmembrane-deleted human β-1,2 N-acetlyglucosamintransferases I and II (MGAT1ΔTM and MGAT2ΔTM) and the β-1,4-galactosyltransferase (GalTΔTM) in E. coli to in-vitro remodel the N-glycans of a recombinant SARS-CoV-2 spike glycoprotein derived from insect cells. In a cell-free sequential one-pot reaction, fucosylated and afucosylated paucimannose-type N-glycans were converted to complex-type galactosylated N-glycans. In the future, this in-vitro glycoengineering approach can be used to efficiently generate a wide range of N-glycans on antigens considered as vaccine candidates for animal trials and preclinical testing to better characterize the impact of N-glycosylation on immunity and to improve the efficacy of protein subunit vaccines.
  • The Immunological Factors Predisposing to Severe Covid-19 Are Already Present in Healthy Elderly and Men.

    Kilic, Gizem; Bulut, Ozlem; Jaeger, Martin; Ter Horst, Rob; Koeken, Valerie A C M; Moorlag, Simone J C F M; Mourits, Vera P; de Bree, Charlotte; Domínguez-Andrés, Jorge; Joosten, Leo A B; et al. (Frontiers, 2021-08-09)
    Male sex and old age are risk factors for COVID-19 severity, but the underlying causes are unknown. A possible explanation for this might be the differences in immunological profiles in males and the elderly before the infection. With this in mind, we analyzed the abundance of circulating proteins and immune populations associated with severe COVID-19 in 2 healthy cohorts. Besides, given the seasonal profile of COVID-19, the seasonal response against SARS-CoV-2 could also be different in the elderly and males. Therefore, PBMCs of female, male, young, and old subjects in different seasons of the year were stimulated with heat-inactivated SARS-CoV-2 to investigate the season-dependent anti-SARS-CoV-2 immune response. We found that several T cell subsets, which are known to be depleted in severe COVID-19 patients, were intrinsically less abundant in men and older individuals. Plasma proteins increasing with disease severity, including HGF, IL-8, and MCP-1, were more abundant in the elderly and males. Upon in vitro SARS-CoV-2 stimulation, the elderly produced significantly more IL-1RA and had a dysregulated IFNγ response with lower production in the fall compared with young individuals. Our results suggest that the immune characteristics of severe COVID-19, described by a differential abundance of immune cells and circulating inflammatory proteins, are intrinsically present in healthy men and the elderly. This might explain the susceptibility of men and the elderly to SARS-CoV-2 infection.
  • Long-Term Consequence of Non-neurotropic H3N2 Influenza A Virus Infection for the Progression of Alzheimer's Disease Symptoms.

    Hosseini, Shirin; Michaelsen-Preusse, Kristin; Schughart, Klaus; Korte, Martin; HZI,Helmholtz-Zentrum für Infektionsforschung GmbH, Inhoffenstr. 7,38124 Braunschweig, Germany. (Frontiers, 2021-04-28)
    Influenza viruses until today are a leading cause of worldwide severe pandemics and represent a major threat to human and animal health. Although the primary target of influenza viruses is the lung, infection may manifest with acute and even chronic neurological complications (e.g., status epilepticus, encephalopathies, and encephalitis) potentially increasing the long-term risk for neurodegenerative diseases. We previously described that a peripheral influenza A virus (IAV) infection caused by non-neurotropic H3N2 (maHK68) variant leads to long-term neuroinflammation and synapse loss together with impaired memory formation in young adult mice. Processes of neuroinflammation have been associated with neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's disease (AD) and prolonged or excessive innate immune responses are considered a risk factor for AD. Here, the role of purely peripheral IAV infection for the development and progression of AD in a transgenic mouse model (APP/PS1) was investigated. At 2 months of age, mice were infected with H3N2 IAV and the detailed analysis of microglia morphology revealed neuroinflammation in the hippocampus already of 6 months old non-infected APP/PS1 mice together with impaired spatial learning, however, microglia activation, amyloid-β plaques load and cognitive impairments were even more pronounced in APP/PS1 mice upon H3N2 infection. Moreover, CA1 hippocampal dendritic spine density was reduced even at 120 dpi compared to wild-type and also to non-infected APP/PS1 mice, whereas neuronal cells number was not altered. These findings demonstrate that non-neurotropic H3N2 IAV infection as a peripheral immune stimulation may exacerbate AD symptoms possibly by triggering microglial hyperactivation.
  • Human-Relevant Sensitivity of iPSC-Derived Human Motor Neurons to BoNT/A1 and B1.

    Schenke, Maren; Prause, Hélène-Christine; Bergforth, Wiebke; Przykopanski, Adina; Rummel, Andreas; Klawonn, Frank; Seeger, Bettina; HZI,Helmholtz-Zentrum für Infektionsforschung GmbH, Inhoffenstr. 7,38124 Braunschweig, Germany. (MDPI, 2021-08-22)
    The application of botulinum neurotoxins (BoNTs) for medical treatments necessitates a potency quantification of these lethal bacterial toxins, resulting in the use of a large number of test animals. Available alternative methods are limited in their relevance, as they are based on rodent cells or neuroblastoma cell lines or applicable for single toxin serotypes only. Here, human motor neurons (MNs), which are the physiological target of BoNTs, were generated from induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) and compared to the neuroblastoma cell line SiMa, which is often used in cell-based assays for BoNT potency determination. In comparison with the mouse bioassay, human MNs exhibit a superior sensitivity to the BoNT serotypes A1 and B1 at levels that are reflective of human sensitivity. SiMa cells were able to detect BoNT/A1, but with much lower sensitivity than human MNs and appear unsuitable to detect any BoNT/B1 activity. The MNs used for these experiments were generated according to three differentiation protocols, which resulted in distinct sensitivity levels. Molecular parameters such as receptor protein concentration and electrical activity of the MNs were analyzed, but are not predictive for BoNT sensitivity. These results show that human MNs from several sources should be considered in BoNT testing and that human MNs are a physiologically relevant model, which could be used to optimize current BoNT potency testing.

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