• Severe COVID-19 Is Marked by a Dysregulated Myeloid Cell Compartment.

      Schulte-Schrepping, Jonas; Reusch, Nico; Paclik, Daniela; Baßler, Kevin; Schlickeiser, Stephan; Zhang, Bowen; Krämer, Benjamin; Krammer, Tobias; Brumhard, Sophia; Bonaguro, Lorenzo; et al. (Elsevier /Cell Press), 2020-08-05)
      Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is a mild to moderate respiratory tract infection, however, a subset of patients progress to severe disease and respiratory failure. The mechanism of protective immunity in mild forms and the pathogenesis of severe COVID-19 associated with increased neutrophil counts and dysregulated immune responses remain unclear. In a dual-center, two-cohort study, we combined single-cell RNA-sequencing and single-cell proteomics of whole-blood and peripheral-blood mononuclear cells to determine changes in immune cell composition and activation in mild versus severe COVID-19 (242 samples from 109 individuals) over time. HLA-DRhiCD11chi inflammatory monocytes with an interferon-stimulated gene signature were elevated in mild COVID-19. Severe COVID-19 was marked by occurrence of neutrophil precursors, as evidence of emergency myelopoiesis, dysfunctional mature neutrophils, and HLA-DRlo monocytes. Our study provides detailed insights into the systemic immune response to SARS-CoV-2 infection and reveals profound alterations in the myeloid cell compartment associated with severe COVID-19.
    • Rare heterozygous GDF6 variants in patients with renal anomalies.

      Martens, Helge; Hennies, Imke; Getwan, Maike; Christians, Anne; Weiss, Anna-Carina; Brand, Frank; Gjerstad, Ann Christin; Christians, Arne; Gucev, Zoran; Geffers, Robert; et al. (Springer Nature, 2020-07-31)
      Although over 50 genes are known to cause renal malformation if mutated, the underlying genetic basis, most easily identified in syndromic cases, remains unsolved in most patients. In search of novel causative genes, whole-exome sequencing in a patient with renal, i.e., crossed fused renal ectopia, and extrarenal, i.e., skeletal, eye, and ear, malformations yielded a rare heterozygous variant in the GDF6 gene encoding growth differentiation factor 6, a member of the BMP family of ligands. Previously, GDF6 variants were reported to cause pleiotropic defects including skeletal, e.g., vertebral, carpal, tarsal fusions, and ocular, e.g., microphthalmia and coloboma, phenotypes. To assess the role of GDF6 in the pathogenesis of renal malformation, we performed targeted sequencing in 193 further patients identifying rare GDF6 variants in two cases with kidney hypodysplasia and extrarenal manifestations. During development, gdf6 was expressed in the pronephric tubule of Xenopus laevis, and Gdf6 expression was observed in the ureteric tree of the murine kidney by RNA in situ hybridization. CRISPR/Cas9-derived knockout of Gdf6 attenuated migration of murine IMCD3 cells, an effect rescued by expression of wild-type but not mutant GDF6, indicating affected variant function regarding a fundamental developmental process. Knockdown of gdf6 in Xenopus laevis resulted in impaired pronephros development. Altogether, we identified rare heterozygous GDF6 variants in 1.6% of all renal anomaly patients and 5.4% of renal anomaly patients additionally manifesting skeletal, ocular, or auricular abnormalities, adding renal hypodysplasia and fusion to the phenotype spectrum of GDF6 variant carriers and suggesting an involvement of GDF6 in nephrogenesis.
    • YB-1 Interferes with TNFα-TNFR Binding and Modulates Progranulin-Mediated Inhibition of TNFα Signaling.

      Hessman, Christopher L; Hildebrandt, Josephine; Shah, Aneri; Brandt, Sabine; Bock, Antonia; Frye, Björn C; Raffetseder, Ute; Geffers, Robert; Brunner-Weinzierl, Monika C; Isermann, Berend; et al. (MDPI, 2020-09-25)
      Inflammation and an influx of macrophages are common elements in many diseases. Among pro-inflammatory cytokines, tumor necrosis factor α (TNFα) plays a central role by amplifying the cytokine network. Progranulin (PGRN) is a growth factor that binds to TNF receptors and interferes with TNFα-mediated signaling. Extracellular PGRN is processed into granulins by proteases released from immune cells. PGRN exerts anti-inflammatory effects, whereas granulins are pro-inflammatory. The factors coordinating these ambivalent functions remain unclear. In our study, we identify Y-box binding protein-1 (YB-1) as a candidate for this immune-modulating activity. Using a yeast-2-hybrid assay with YB-1 protein as bait, clones encoding for progranulin were selected using stringent criteria for strong interaction. We demonstrate that at physiological concentrations, YB-1 interferes with the binding of TNFα to its receptors in a dose-dependent manner using a flow cytometry-based binding assay. We show that YB-1 in combination with progranulin interferes with TNFα-mediated signaling, supporting the functionality with an NF-κB luciferase reporter assay. Together, we show that YB-1 displays immunomodulating functions by affecting the binding of TNFα to its receptors and influencing TNFα-mediated signaling via its interaction with progranulin.
    • Complete Genome Sequence and Manual Reannotation of Mycobacterium avium subsp. Strain DSM 44135.

      Goethe, Ralph; Basler, Tina; Meissner, Thorsten; Goethe, Elke; Spröer, Cathrin; Swiderski, Jolantha; Gerlach, Gerald-F; Weiss, Siegfried; Jarek, Michael; Bunk, Boyke; et al. (ASM, 2020-08-13)
      Here, we report the complete genome sequence of the Mycobacterium avium subsp. paratuberculosis reference strain DSM 44135, amended with a manual genome reannotation. The strain was originally described as M. paratuberculosis strain 6783. It was isolated from feces from a dairy cow in northern Germany.
    • Human airway mucus alters susceptibility of Pseudomonas aeruginosa biofilms to tobramycin, but not colistin.

      Müller, Laura; Murgia, Xabier; Siebenbürger, Lorenz; Börger, Carsten; Schwarzkopf, Konrad; Sewald, Katherina; Häussler, Susanne; Braun, Armin; Lehr, Claus-Michael; Hittinger, Marius; et al.
      Objectives: In the context of cystic fibrosis, Pseudomonas aeruginosa biofilms often develop in the vicinity of airway mucus, which acts as a protective physical barrier to inhaled matter. However, mucus can also adsorb small drug molecules administered as aerosols, including antibiotics, thereby reducing their bioavailability. The efficacy of antibiotics is typically assessed by determining the MIC using in vitro assays. This widespread technique, however, does not consider either bacterial biofilm formation or the influence of mucus, both of which may act as diffusion barriers, potentially limiting antibiotic efficacy. Methods: We grew P. aeruginosa biofilms in the presence or absence of human tracheal mucus and tested their susceptibility to tobramycin and colistin. Results: A significant reduction of tobramycin efficacy was observed when P. aeruginosa biofilms were grown in the presence of mucus compared with those grown in the absence of mucus. Diffusion of tobramycin through mucus was reduced; however, this reduction was more pronounced in biofilm/mucus mixtures, suggesting that biofilms in the presence of mucus respond differently to antibiotic treatment. In contrast, the influence of mucus on colistin efficacy was almost negligible and no differences in mucus permeability were observed. Conclusions: These findings underline the important role of mucus in the efficacy of anti-infective drugs.
    • Untargeted LC-MS Metabolomics Differentiates Between Virulent and Avirulent Clinical Strains of Pseudomonas aeruginosa

      Depke, Tobias; Thöming, Janne Gesine; Kordes, Adrian; Häussler, Susanne; Brönstrup, Mark; HZI,Helmholtz-Zentrum für Infektionsforschung GmbH, Inhoffenstr. 7,38124 Braunschweig, Germany. (MDPI, 2020-07-13)
      Pseudomonas aeruginosa is a facultative pathogen that can cause, inter alia, acute or chronic pneumonia in predisposed individuals. The gram-negative bacterium displays considerable genomic and phenotypic diversity that is also shaped by small molecule secondary metabolites. The discrimination of virulence phenotypes is highly relevant to the diagnosis and prognosis of P. aeruginosa infections. In order to discover small molecule metabolites that distinguish different virulence phenotypes of P. aeruginosa, 35 clinical strains were cultivated under standard conditions, characterized in terms of virulence and biofilm phenotype, and their metabolomes were investigated by untargeted liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry. The data was both mined for individual candidate markers as well as used to construct statistical models to infer the virulence phenotype from metabolomics data. We found that clinical strains that differed in their virulence and biofilm phenotype also had pronounced divergence in their metabolomes, as underlined by 332 features that were significantly differentially abundant with fold changes greater than 1.5 in both directions. Important virulence-associated secondary metabolites like rhamnolipids, alkyl quinolones or phenazines were found to be strongly upregulated in virulent strains. In contrast, we observed little change in primary metabolism. A hitherto novel cationic metabolite with a sum formula of C12H15N2 could be identified as a candidate biomarker. A random forest model was able to classify strains according to their virulence and biofilm phenotype with an area under the Receiver Operation Characteristics curve of 0.84. These findings demonstrate that untargeted metabolomics is a valuable tool to characterize P. aeruginosa virulence, and to explore interrelations between clinically important phenotypic traits and the bacterial metabolome.
    • Low-load pathogen spillover predicts shifts in skin microbiome and survival of a terrestrial-breeding amphibian.

      Becker, C Guilherme; Bletz, Molly C; Greenspan, Sasha E; Rodriguez, David; Lambertini, Carolina; Jenkinson, Thomas S; Guimarães, Paulo R; Assis, Ana Paula A; Geffers, Robert; Jarek, Michael; et al. (Royal Society of London, 2019-08-14)
      Wildlife disease dynamics are strongly influenced by the structure of host communities and their symbiotic microbiota. Conspicuous amphibian declines associated with the waterborne fungal pathogen Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd) have been observed in aquatic-breeding frogs globally. However, less attention has been given to cryptic terrestrial-breeding amphibians that have also been declining in tropical regions. By experimentally manipulating multiple tropical amphibian assemblages harbouring natural microbial communities, we tested whether Bd spillover from naturally infected aquatic-breeding frogs could lead to Bd amplification and mortality in our focal terrestrial-breeding host: the pumpkin toadlet Brachycephalus pitanga. We also tested whether the strength of spillover could vary depending on skin bacterial transmission within host assemblages. Terrestrial-breeding toadlets acquired lethal spillover infections from neighbouring aquatic hosts and experienced dramatic but generally non-protective shifts in skin bacterial composition primarily attributable to their Bd infections. By contrast, aquatic-breeding amphibians maintained mild Bd infections and higher survival, with shifts in bacterial microbiomes that were unrelated to Bd infections. Our results indicate that Bd spillover from even mildly infected aquatic-breeding hosts may lead to dysbiosis and mortality in terrestrial-breeding species, underscoring the need to further investigate recent population declines of terrestrial-breeding amphibians in the tropics.
    • Integrative Bioinformatic Analyses of Global Transcriptome Data Decipher Novel Molecular Insights into Cardiac Anti-Fibrotic Therapies.

      Fuchs, Maximilian; Kreutzer, Fabian Philipp; Kapsner, Lorenz A; Mitzka, Saskia; Just, Annette; Perbellini, Filippo; Terracciano, Cesare M; Xiao, Ke; Geffers, Robert; Bogdan, Christian; et al. (MDPI, 2020-07-02)
      Integrative bioinformatics is an emerging field in the big data era, offering a steadily increasing number of algorithms and analysis tools. However, for researchers in experimental life sciences it is often difficult to follow and properly apply the bioinformatical methods in order to unravel the complexity and systemic effects of omics data. Here, we present an integrative bioinformatics pipeline to decipher crucial biological insights from global transcriptome profiling data to validate innovative therapeutics. It is available as a web application for an interactive and simplified analysis without the need for programming skills or deep bioinformatics background. The approach was applied to an ex vivo cardiac model treated with natural anti-fibrotic compounds and we obtained new mechanistic insights into their anti-fibrotic action and molecular interplay with miRNAs in cardiac fibrosis. Several gene pathways associated with proliferation, extracellular matrix processes and wound healing were altered, and we could identify micro (mi) RNA-21-5p and miRNA-223-3p as key molecular components related to the anti-fibrotic treatment. Importantly, our pipeline is not restricted to a specific cell type or disease and can be broadly applied to better understand the unprecedented level of complexity in big data research.
    • Microbial Community Structure Along a Horizontal Oxygen Gradient in a Costa Rican Volcanic Influenced Acid Rock Drainage System.

      Arce-Rodríguez, Alejandro; Puente-Sánchez, Fernando; Avendaño, Roberto; Libby, Eduardo; Mora-Amador, Raúl; Rojas-Jimenez, Keilor; Martínez, María; Pieper, Dietmar H; Chavarría, Max; HZI,Helmholtz-Zentrum für Infektionsforschung GmbH, Inhoffenstr. 7,38124 Braunschweig, Germany. (Springer Nature, 2020-06-22)
      We describe the geochemistry and microbial diversity of a pristine environment that resembles an acid rock drainage (ARD) but it is actually the result of hydrothermal and volcanic influences. We designate this environment, and other comparable sites, as volcanic influenced acid rock drainage (VARD) systems. The metal content and sulfuric acid in this ecosystem stem from the volcanic milieu and not from the product of pyrite oxidation. Based on the analysis of 16S rRNA gene amplicons, we report the microbial community structure in the pristine San Cayetano Costa Rican VARD environment (pH = 2.94-3.06, sulfate ~ 0.87-1.19 g L-1, iron ~ 35-61 mg L-1 (waters), and ~ 8-293 g kg-1 (sediments)). San Cayetano was found to be dominated by microorganisms involved in the geochemical cycling of iron, sulfur, and nitrogen; however, the identity and abundance of the species changed with the oxygen content (0.40-6.06 mg L-1) along the river course. The hypoxic source of San Cayetano is dominated by a putative anaerobic sulfate-reducing Deltaproteobacterium. Sulfur-oxidizing bacteria such as Acidithiobacillus or Sulfobacillus are found in smaller proportions with respect to typical ARD. In the oxic downstream, we identified aerobic iron-oxidizers (Leptospirillum, Acidithrix, Ferrovum) and heterotrophic bacteria (Burkholderiaceae bacterium, Trichococcus, Acidocella). Thermoplasmatales archaea closely related to environmental phylotypes found in other ARD niches were also observed throughout the entire ecosystem. Overall, our study shows the differences and similarities in the diversity and distribution of the microbial communities between an ARD and a VARD system at the source and along the oxygen gradient that establishes on the course of the river.
    • Worlds Apart - Transcriptome Profiles of Key Oral Microbes in the Periodontal Pocket Compared to Single Laboratory Culture Reflect Synergistic Interactions.

      Deng, Zhi-Luo; Sztajer, Helena; Jarek, Michael; Bhuju, Sabin; Wagner-Döbler, Irene; HZI,Helmholtz-Zentrum für Infektionsforschung GmbH, Inhoffenstr. 7,38124 Braunschweig, Germany. (Frontiers, 2018-02-06)
      Periodontitis is a worldwide prevalent oral disease which results from dysbiosis of the periodontal microbiome. Some of the most active microbial players, e.g., Porphyromonas gingivalis, Treponema denticola, and Fusobacterium nucleatum, have extensively been studied in the laboratory, but it is unclear to which extend these findings can be transferred to in vivo conditions. Here we show that the transcriptional profiles of P. gingivalis, T. denticola, and F. nucleatum in the periodontal niche are distinct from those in single laboratory culture and exhibit functional similarities. GO (gene ontology) term enrichment analysis showed up-regulation of transporters, pathogenicity related traits and hemin/heme uptake mechanisms for all three species in vivo. Differential gene expression analysis revealed that cysteine proteases, transporters and hemin/heme-binding proteins were highly up-regulated in the periodontal niche, while genes involved in DNA modification were down-regulated. The data suggest strong interactions between those three species regarding protein degradation, iron up-take, and mobility in vivo, explaining their enhanced synergistic pathogenicity. We discovered a strikingly high frequency of Single Nucleotide Polymorphisms (SNPs) in vivo. For F. nucleatum we discovered a total of 127,729 SNPs in periodontal niche transcripts, which were found in similar frequency in health and disease and covered the entire genome, suggesting continuous evolution in the host. We conclude that metabolic interactions shape gene expression in vivo. Great caution is required when inferring pathogenicity of microbes from laboratory data, and microdiversity is an important adaptive trait of natural communities.
    • Long-Term Neuroinflammation Induced by Influenza A Virus Infection and the Impact on Hippocampal Neuron Morphology and Function.

      Hosseini, Shirin; Wilk, Esther; Michaelsen-Preusse, Kristin; Gerhauser, Ingo; Baumgärtner, Wolfgang; Geffers, Robert; Schughart, Klaus; Korte, Martin; HZI,Helmholtz-Zentrum für Infektionsforschung GmbH, Inhoffenstr. 7,38124 Braunschweig, Germany. (Society for Neuroscience, 2018-02-27)
      Acute influenza infection has been reported to be associated with neurological symptoms. However, the long-term consequences of an infection with neurotropic and non-neurotropic influenza A virus (IAV) variants for the CNS remain elusive. We can show that spine loss in the hippocampus after infection with neurotropic H7N7 (rSC35M) and non-neurotropic H3N2 (maHK68) in female C57BL/6 mice persists well beyond the acute phase of the disease. Although spine number was significantly reduced at 30 d postinfection (dpi) with H7N7 or H3N2, full recovery could only be observed much later at 120 dpi. Infection with H1N1 virus, which was shown previously to affect spine number and hippocampus-dependent learning acutely, had no significant long-term effects. Spine loss was associated with an increase in the number of activated microglia, reduced long-term potentiation in the hippocampus, and impairment in spatial memory formation, indicating that IAV-associated inflammation induced functional and structural alterations in hippocampal networks. Transcriptome analyses revealed regulation of many inflammatory and neuron- and glia-specific genes in H3N2- and H7N7-infected mice at day 18 and in H7N7-infected mice at day 30 pi that related to the structural and functional alterations. Our data provide evidence that neuroinflammation induced by neurotropic H7N7 and infection of the lung with a non-neurotropic H3N2 IAV result in long-term impairments in the CNS. IAV infection in humans may therefore not only lead to short-term responses in infected organs, but may also trigger neuroinflammation and associated chronic alterations in the CNS.SIGNIFICANCE STATEMENT In the acute phase of influenza infection, neuroinflammation can lead to alterations in hippocampal neuronal morphology and cognitive deficits. The results of this study now also provide evidence that neuroinflammation induced by influenza A virus (IAV) infection can induce longer-lasting, virus-specific alterations in neuronal connectivity that are still detectable 1 month after infection and are associated with impairments in spatial memory formation. IAV infection in humans may therefore not only lead to short-term responses in infected organs, but may also trigger neuroinflammation and associated chronic alterations in the CNS.
    • Antisense transcription in Pseudomonas aeruginosa.

      Eckweiler, Denitsa; Häussler, Susanne; HZI,Helmholtz-Zentrum für Infektionsforschung GmbH, Inhoffenstr. 7,38124 Braunschweig, Germany. (Microbiology Society, 2018-05-08)
      A large number of antisense transcripts have been detected in diverse microbial genomes and considerable effort has been devoted to elucidating the functional role of antisense transcription. In this study, we reanalysed extensive RNA sequencing data from the opportunistic pathogen Pseudomonas aeruginosa and found that the majority of genes have a propensity for antisense transcription. Although antisense transcripts were found in more than 80 % of the genes of the P. aeruginosa genome, the majority of sequencing reads were mapping sense and only a minority (<2 %) were mapping antisense to genes. Similarly to the sense expression levels, the antisense expression levels varied under different environmental conditions, with the sense and antisense expression levels often being inversely regulated and modulated by the activity of alternative sigma factors. Environment-modulated antisense transcription showed a bias towards being antisense to genes within regions of genomic plasticity and to those encoding small regulatory RNAs. In the future, the validation and functional characterization of antisense transcripts, and novel transcripts that are antisense to small regulatory RNAs in particular, have the potential to contribute to our understanding of the various levels of transcriptional regulation and its dynamics in the bacterial pathogen P. aeruginosa.
    • Synergistic activity of IDH1 inhibitor BAY1436032 with azacitidine in IDH1 mutant acute myeloid leukemia.

      Chaturvedi, Anuhar; Gupta, Charu; Gabdoulline, Razif; Borchert, Nora M; Goparaju, Ramya; Kaulfuss, Stefan; Görlich, Kerstin; Schottmann, Renate; Othman, Basem; Welzenbach, Julia; et al. (Ferrraata Storti Foundation, 2020-04-02)
      Mutant IDH1 (mIDH1) inhibitors have shown single-agent activity in relapsed/refractory AML, though most patients eventually relapse. We evaluated the efficacy and molecular mechanism of the combination treatment with azacitidine, which is currently the standard of care in older AML patients, and mIDH1 inhibitor BAY1436032. Both compounds were evaluated in vivo as single agents and in combination with sequential (azacitidine, followed by BAY1436032) or simultaneous application in two human IDH1 mutated AML xenograft models. Combination treatment significantly prolonged survival compared to single agent or control treatment (P<.005). The sequential combination treatment depleted leukemia stem cells (LSC) by 470-fold. Interestingly, the simultaneous combination treatment depleted LSCs by 33,150-fold compared to control mice. This strong synergy is mediated through inhibition of MAPK/ERK and RB/E2F signaling. Our data strongly argues for the concurrent application of mIDH1 inhibitors and azacitidine and predicts improved outcome of this regimen in IDH1 mutated AML patients.
    • Donor-derived IL-17A and IL-17F deficiency triggers Th1 allo-responses and increases gut leakage during acute GVHD.

      Odak, Ivan; Depkat-Jakob, Alina; Beck, Maleen; Jarek, Michael; Yu, Yan; Seidler, Ursula; David, Sascha; Ganser, Arnold; Förster, Reinhold; Prinz, Immo; et al. (PLOS, 2020-04-06)
      s Metrics Comments Media Coverage Abstract Introduction Material and methods Results Discussion Supporting information Acknowledgments References Reader Comments (0) Media Coverage (0) Figures Abstract IL-17A and IL-17F cytokines are important regulators of acute graft-versus-host-disease (GVHD). However, contrary effects of these cytokines in inflammatory diseases have been reported. To investigate the effects of donor-derived IL-17A and IL-17F on GVHD, we made use of single (Il17a-/- or Il17f-/-) and double deficient (Il17af-/-) allogeneic donor CD4+ T cells. We could demonstrate that transplantation of Il17af-/- CD4+ donor T cells led to aggravated GVHD. However, this phenotype was not observed after transplantation of single, Il17a-/- or Il17f-/-, deficient CD4+ T cells, suggesting redundant effects of IL-17A and IL-17F. Moreover, Il17af-/- cell recipients showed an increase of systemic IFNγ, indicating a heightened pro-inflammatory state, as well as infiltration of IFNγ-secreting CD4+ T cells in the recipients’ intestinal tract. These recipients exhibited significant gut leakage, and markedly macrophage infiltration in the gastrointestinal epithelial layer. Moreover, we saw evidence of impaired recovery of gut epithelial cells in recipients of Il17af-/- CD4+ T cells. In this study, we show that IL-17A/F double deficiency of donor CD4+ T cells leads to accelerated GVHD and therefore highlight the importance of these cytokines. Together, IL-17 cytokines might serve as a brake to an intensified Th1 response, leading to the exacerbated gut damage in acute GVHD.
    • Single-nucleotide polymorphism-based genetic diversity analysis of clinical Pseudomonas aeruginosa isolates.

      Muthukumarasamy, Uthayakumar; Preusse, Matthias; Kordes, Adrian; Koska, Michal; Schniederjans, Monika; Khaledi, Ariane; Häussler, Susanne; TWINCORE, Zentrum für experimentelle und klinische Infektionsforschung GmbH,Feodor-Lynen Str. 7, 30625 Hannover, Germany. (Oxford Academic, 2020-03-20)
      Extensive use of next-generation sequencing has the potential to transform our knowledge on how genomic variation within bacterial species impacts phenotypic versatility. Since different environments have unique selection pressures, they drive divergent evolution. However, there is also parallel or convergent evolution of traits in independent bacterial isolates inhabiting similar environments. The application of tools to describe population-wide genomic diversity provides an opportunity to measure the predictability of genetic changes underlying adaptation. Here we describe patterns of sequence variations in the core genome among 99 individual Pseudomonas aeruginosa clinical isolates and identified single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) that are the basis for branching of the phylogenetic tree. We also identified SNPs that were acquired independently, in separate lineages, and not through inheritance from a common ancestor. While our results demonstrate that the P. aeruginosa core genome is highly conserved and in general, not subject to adaptive evolution, instances of parallel evolution will provide an opportunity to uncover genetic changes that underlie phenotypic diversity.
    • Natural Compound Library Screening Identifies New Molecules for the Treatment of Cardiac Fibrosis and Diastolic Dysfunction.

      Schimmel, Katharina; Jung, Mira; Foinquinos, Ariana; José, Gorka San; Beaumont, Javier; Bock, Katharina; Grote-Levi, Lea; Xiao, Ke; Bär, Christian; Pfanne, Angelika; et al. (Lippincott, Williams & Wilkins, 2020-01-17)
      High-throughput natural compound library screening identified 15 substances with antiproliferative effects in human cardiac fibroblasts. Using multiple in vitro fibrosis assays and stringent selection algorithms, we identified the steroid bufalin (from Chinese toad venom) and the alkaloid lycorine (from Amaryllidaceae species) to be effective antifibrotic molecules both in vitro and in vivo, leading to improvement in diastolic function in 2 hypertension-dependent rodent models of cardiac fibrosis. Administration at effective doses did not change plasma damage markers or the morphology of kidney and liver, providing the first toxicological safety data. Using next-generation sequencing, we identified the conserved microRNA 671-5p and downstream the antifibrotic selenoprotein P1 as common effectors of the antifibrotic compounds.
    • Chimeric antigen receptor-induced BCL11B suppression propagates NK-like cell development.

      Maluski, Marcel; Ghosh, Arnab; Herbst, Jessica; Scholl, Vanessa; Baumann, Rolf; Huehn, Jochen; Geffers, Robert; Meyer, Johann; Maul, Holger; Eiz-Vesper, Britta; et al. (American Society for Clinical Investigation, 2019-12-02)
      The transcription factor B cell CLL/lymphoma 11B (BCL11B) is indispensable for T lineage development of lymphoid progenitors. Here, we show that chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) expression during early phases of ex vivo generation of lymphoid progenitors suppressed BCL11B, leading to suppression of T cell-associated gene expression and acquisition of NK cell-like properties. Upon adoptive transfer into hematopoietic stem cell transplant recipients, CAR-expressing lymphoid progenitors differentiated into CAR-induced killer (CARiK) cells that mediated potent antigen-directed antileukemic activity even across MHC barriers. CD28 and active immunoreceptor tyrosine-based activation motifs were critical for a functional CARiK phenotype. These results give important insights into differentiation of murine and human lymphoid progenitors driven by synthetic CAR transgene expression and encourage further evaluation of ex vivo-generated CARiK cells for targeted immunotherapy.
    • Parallel evolutionary paths to produce more than one biofilm phenotype.

      Thöming, Janne G; Tomasch, Jürgen; Preusse, Matthias; Koska, Michal; Grahl, Nora; Pohl, Sarah; Willger, Sven D; Kaever, Volkhard; Müsken, Mathias; Häussler, Susanne; et al. (Nature publishing group, 2020-01-01)
      Studying parallel evolution of similar traits in independent within-species lineages provides an opportunity to address evolutionary predictability of molecular changes underlying adaptation. In this study, we monitored biofilm forming capabilities, motility, and virulence phenotypes of a plethora of phylogenetically diverse clinical isolates of the opportunistic pathogen Pseudomonas aeruginosa. We also recorded biofilm-specific and planktonic transcriptional responses. We found that P. aeruginosa isolates could be stratified based on the production of distinct organismal traits. Three major biofilm phenotypes, which shared motility and virulence phenotypes, were produced repeatedly in several isolates, indicating that the phenotypes evolved via parallel or convergent evolution. Of note, while we found a restricted general response to the biofilm environment, the individual groups of biofilm phenotypes reproduced biofilm transcriptional profiles that included the expression of well-known biofilm features, such as surface adhesive structures and extracellular matrix components. Our results provide insights into distinct ways to make a biofilm and indicate that genetic adaptations can modulate multiple pathways for biofilm development that are followed by several independent clinical isolates. Uncovering core regulatory pathways that drive biofilm-associated growth and tolerance towards environmental stressors promises to give clues to host and environmental interactions and could provide useful targets for new clinical interventions.
    • Identification of Ppar-modulated miRNA hubs that target the fibrotic tumor microenvironment.

      Winkler, Ivana; Bitter, Catrin; Winkler, Sebastian; Weichenhan, Dieter; Thavamani, Abhishek; Hengstler, Jan G; Borkham-Kamphorst, Erawan; Kohlbacher, Oliver; Plass, Christoph; Geffers, Robert; et al. (National Academy of Sciences, 2020-01-07)
      Liver fibrosis interferes with normal liver function and facilitates hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) development, representing a major threat to human health. Here, we present a comprehensive perspective of microRNA (miRNA) function on targeting the fibrotic microenvironment. Starting from a murine HCC model, we identify a miRNA network composed of 8 miRNA hubs and 54 target genes. We show that let-7, miR-30, miR-29c, miR-335, and miR-338 (collectively termed antifibrotic microRNAs [AF-miRNAs]) down-regulate key structural, signaling, and remodeling components of the extracellular matrix. During fibrogenic transition, these miRNAs are transcriptionally regulated by the transcription factor Pparγ and thus we identify a role of Pparγ as regulator of a functionally related class of AF-miRNAs. The miRNA network is active in human HCC, breast, and lung carcinomas, as well as in 2 independent mouse liver fibrosis models. Therefore, we identify a miRNA:mRNA network that contributes to formation of fibrosis in tumorous and nontumorous organs of mice and humans.
    • Antiviral potential of human IFN-α subtypes against influenza A H3N2 infection in human lung explants reveals subtype-specific activities.

      Matos, Aline da Rocha; Wunderlich, Katharina; Schloer, Sebastian; Schughart, Klaus; Geffers, Robert; Seders, Martine; Witt, Marlous de; Christersson, Anmari; Wiewrodt, Rainer; Wiebe, Karsten; et al. (Taylor & Francis Open, 2019-01-01)
      Influenza is an acute respiratory infection causing high morbidity and mortality in annual outbreaks worldwide. Antiviral drugs are limited and pose the risk of resistance development, calling for new treatment options. IFN-α subtypes are immune-stimulatory cytokines with strong antiviral activities against IAV in vitro and in vivo. However, the clinical use of IFN-α2, the only licensed subtype of this multi-gene family, could not prevent or limit IAV infections in humans. However, the other subtypes were not investigated.Therefore, this study evaluated the induction and antiviral potential of all human IFN-α subtypes during H3N2 IAV infection in human lung explants. We found that subtypes with weak antiviral activities were preferentially induced during IAV infection in human lungs. Intriguingly, non-induced subtypes α16, α5 and α4 suppressed viral replication up to 230-fold more efficiently than α2. Furthermore, our results demonstrate that subtypes with stronger antiviral activities induce higher expression of IAV-specific restriction factors and that MxA expression is a determinant of the subtype-specific antiviral activity towards H3N2 IAV. These results corroborate that IFN-α subtypes exhibit differential antiviral activities and emphasize that subtypes α16, α5 and α4 should be further investigated for the prevention and treatment of severe infections with seasonal H3N2 IAV.