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group leader: Dr. Geffers

Recent Submissions

  • Loss of Hem1 disrupts macrophage function and impacts migration, phagocytosis, and integrin-mediated adhesion.

    Stahnke, Stephanie; Döring, Hermann; Kusch, Charly; de Gorter, David J J; Dütting, Sebastian; Guledani, Aleks; Pleines, Irina; Schnoor, Michael; Sixt, Michael; Geffers, Robert; et al. (Wiley-VCH, 2021-03-11)
    Hematopoietic-specific protein 1 (Hem1) is an essential subunit of the WAVE regulatory complex (WRC) in immune cells. WRC is crucial for Arp2/3 complex activation and the protrusion of branched actin filament networks. Moreover, Hem1 loss of function in immune cells causes autoimmune diseases in humans. Here, we show that genetic removal of Hem1 in macrophages diminishes frequency and efficacy of phagocytosis as well as phagocytic cup formation in addition to defects in lamellipodial protrusion and migration. Moreover, Hem1-null macrophages displayed strong defects in cell adhesion despite unaltered podosome formation and concomitant extracellular matrix degradation. Specifically, dynamics of both adhesion and de-adhesion as well as concomitant phosphorylation of paxillin and focal adhesion kinase (FAK) were significantly compromised. Accordingly, disruption of WRC function in non-hematopoietic cells coincided with both defects in adhesion turnover and altered FAK and paxillin phosphorylation. Consistently, platelets exhibited reduced adhesion and diminished integrin αIIbβ3 activation upon WRC removal. Interestingly, adhesion phenotypes, but not lamellipodia formation, were partially rescued by small molecule activation of FAK. A full rescue of the phenotype, including lamellipodia formation, required not only the presence of WRCs but also their binding to and activation by Rac. Collectively, our results uncover that WRC impacts on integrin-dependent processes in a FAK-dependent manner, controlling formation and dismantling of adhesions, relevant for properly grabbing onto extracellular surfaces and particles during cell edge expansion, like in migration or phagocytosis.
  • Fibroblast GATA-4 and GATA-6 promote myocardial adaptation to pressure overload by enhancing cardiac angiogenesis.

    Dittrich, Gesine M; Froese, Natali; Wang, Xue; Kroeger, Hannah; Wang, Honghui; Szaroszyk, Malgorzata; Malek-Mohammadi, Mona; Cordero, Julio; Keles, Merve; Korf-Klingebiel, Mortimer; et al. (Springer Nature, 2021-04-19)
    Heart failure due to high blood pressure or ischemic injury remains a major problem for millions of patients worldwide. Despite enormous advances in deciphering the molecular mechanisms underlying heart failure progression, the cell-type specific adaptations and especially intercellular signaling remain poorly understood. Cardiac fibroblasts express high levels of cardiogenic transcription factors such as GATA-4 and GATA-6, but their role in fibroblasts during stress is not known. Here, we show that fibroblast GATA-4 and GATA-6 promote adaptive remodeling in pressure overload induced cardiac hypertrophy. Using a mouse model with specific single or double deletion of Gata4 and Gata6 in stress activated fibroblasts, we found a reduced myocardial capillarization in mice with Gata4/6 double deletion following pressure overload, while single deletion of Gata4 or Gata6 had no effect. Importantly, we confirmed the reduced angiogenic response using an in vitro co-culture system with Gata4/6 deleted cardiac fibroblasts and endothelial cells. A comprehensive RNA-sequencing analysis revealed an upregulation of anti-angiogenic genes upon Gata4/6 deletion in fibroblasts, and siRNA mediated downregulation of these genes restored endothelial cell growth. In conclusion, we identified a novel role for the cardiogenic transcription factors GATA-4 and GATA-6 in heart fibroblasts, where both proteins act in concert to promote myocardial capillarization and heart function by directing intercellular crosstalk.
  • Role of endothelial microRNA 155 on capillary leakage in systemic inflammation.

    Etzrodt, Valerie; Idowu, Temitayo O; Schenk, Heiko; Seeliger, Benjamin; Prasse, Antje; Thamm, Kristina; Pape, Thorben; Müller-Deile, Janina; van Meurs, Matijs; Thum, Thomas; et al. (BMC, 2021-02-22)
    Background: Capillary leakage is a key contributor to the pathological host response to infections. The underlying mechanisms remain incompletely understood, and the role of microRNAs (MIR) has not been investigated in detail. We hypothesized that specific MIRs might be regulated directly in the endothelium thereby contributing to vascular leakage. Methods: SmallRNA sequencing of endotoxemic murine pulmonary endothelial cells (ECs) was done to detect regulated vascular MIRs. In vivo models: transgenic zebrafish (flk1:mCherry/l-fabp:eGFP-DPB), knockout/wildtype mouse (B6.Cg-Mir155tm1.1Rsky/J); disease models: LPS 17.5 mg/kgBW and cecal ligation and puncture (CLP); in vitro models: stimulated human umbilical vein EC (HUVECs), transendothelial electrical resistance. Results: Endothelial MIR155 was identified as a promising candidate in endotoxemic murine pulmonary ECs (25 × upregulation). Experimental overexpression in a transgenic zebrafish line and in HUVECs was sufficient to induce spontaneous vascular leakage. To the contrary, genetic MIR155 reduction protects against permeability both in vitro and in endotoxemia in vivo in MIR155 heterozygote knockout mice thereby improving survival by 40%. A tight junction protein, Claudin-1, was down-regulated both in endotoxemia and by experimental MIR155 overexpression. Translationally, MIR155 was detectable at high levels in bronchoalveolar fluid of patients with ARDS compared to healthy human subjects. Conclusions: We found that MIR155 is upregulated in the endothelium in mouse and men as part of a systemic inflammatory response and might contribute to the pathophysiology of vascular leakage in a Claudin-1-dependent manner. Future studies have to clarify whether MIR155 could be a potential therapeutic target.
  • No impact of a short-term climatic "El Niño" fluctuation on gut microbial diversity in populations of the Galápagos marine iguana (Amblyrhynchus cristatus).

    Ibáñez, Alejandro; Bletz, Molly C; Quezada, Galo; Geffers, Robert; Jarek, Michael; Vences, Miguel; Steinfartz, Sebastian; HIRI, Helmholtz-Institut für RNA-basierte Infektionsforschung, Josef-Shneider Strasse 2, 97080 Würzburg, Germany. (Springer, 2021-02-02)
    Gut microorganisms are crucial for many biological functions playing a pivotal role in the host's well-being. We studied gut bacterial community structure of marine iguana populations across the Galápagos archipelago. Marine iguanas depend heavily on their specialized gut microbiome for the digestion of dietary algae, a resource whose growth was strongly reduced by severe "El Niño"-related climatic fluctuations in 2015/2016. As a consequence, marine iguana populations showed signs of starvation as expressed by a poor body condition. Body condition indices (BCI) varied between island populations indicating that food resources (i.e., algae) are affected differently across the archipelago during 'El Niño' events. Though this event impacted food availability for marine iguanas, we found that reductions in body condition due to "El Niño"-related starvation did not result in differences in bacterial gut community structure. Species richness of gut microorganisms was instead correlated with levels of neutral genetic diversity in the distinct host populations. Our data suggest that marine iguana populations with a higher level of gene diversity and allelic richness may harbor a more diverse gut microbiome than those populations with lower genetic diversity. Since low values of these diversity parameters usually correlate with small census and effective population sizes, we use our results to propose a novel hypothesis according to which small and genetically less diverse host populations might be characterized by less diverse microbiomes. Whether such genetically depauperate populations may experience additional threats from reduced dietary flexibility due to a limited intestinal microbiome is currently unclear and calls for further investigation.
  • p53-Independent Induction of p21 Fails to Control Regeneration and Hepatocarcinogenesis in a Murine Liver Injury Model.

    Buitrago-Molina, Laura Elisa; Marhenke, Silke; Becker, Diana; Geffers, Robert; Itzel, Timo; Teufel, Andreas; Jaeschke, Hartmut; Lechel, André; Unger, Kristian; Markovic, Jovana; et al. (Elsevier, 2021-01-21)
    Background & aims: A coordinated stress and regenerative response is important after hepatocyte damage. Here, we investigate the phenotypes that result from genetic abrogation of individual components of the checkpoint kinase 2/transformation-related protein 53 (p53)/cyclin-dependent kinase inhibitor 1A (p21) pathway in a murine model of metabolic liver injury. Methods: Nitisinone was reduced or withdrawn in Fah-/- mice lacking Chk2, p53, or p21, and survival, tumor development, liver injury, and regeneration were analyzed. Partial hepatectomies were performed and mice were challenged with the Fas antibody Jo2. Results: In a model of metabolic liver injury, loss of p53, but not Chk2, impairs the oxidative stress response and aggravates liver damage, indicative of a direct p53-dependent protective effect on hepatocytes. Cell-cycle control during chronic liver injury critically depends on the presence of both p53 and its downstream effector p21. In p53-deficient hepatocytes, unchecked proliferation occurs despite a strong induction of p21, showing a complex interdependency between p21 and p53. The increased regenerative potential in the absence of p53 cannot fully compensate the surplus injury and is not sufficient to promote survival. Despite the distinct phenotypes associated with the loss of individual components of the DNA damage response, gene expression patterns are dominated by the severity of liver injury, but reflect distinct effects of p53 on proliferation and the anti-oxidative stress response. Conclusions: Characteristic phenotypes result from the genetic abrogation of individual components of the DNA damage-response cascade in a liver injury model. The extent to which loss of gene function can be compensated, or affects injury and proliferation, is related to the level at which the cascade is interrupted. Accession numbers of repository for expression microarray data: GSE156983, GSE156263, GSE156852, and GSE156252.
  • Serum Response Factor (SRF) Drives the Transcriptional Upregulation of the MDM4 Oncogene in HCC.

    Pellegrino, Rossella; Thavamani, Abhishek; Calvisi, Diego F; Budczies, Jan; Neumann, Ariane; Geffers, Robert; Kroemer, Jasmin; Greule, Damaris; Schirmacher, Peter; Nordheim, Alfred; et al. (MDPI, 2021-01-08)
    Different molecular mechanisms support the overexpression of the mouse double minute homolog 4 (MDM4), a functional p53 inhibitor, in human hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). However, the transcription factors (TFs) leading to its transcriptional upregulation remain unknown. Following promoter and gene expression analyses, putative TFs were investigated using gene-specific siRNAs, cDNAs, luciferase reporter assays, chromatin immunoprecipitation, and XI-011 drug treatment in vitro. Additionally, MDM4 expression was investigated in SRF-VP16iHep transgenic mice. We observed a copy-number-independent upregulation of MDM4 in human HCCs. Serum response factor (SRF), ELK1 and ELK4 were identified as TFs activating MDM4 transcription. While SRF was constitutively detected in TF complexes at the MDM4 promoter, presence of ELK1 and ELK4 was cell-type dependent. Furthermore, MDM4 was upregulated in SRF-VP16-driven murine liver tumors. The pharmacological inhibitor XI-011 exhibited anti-MDM4 activity by downregulating the TFs driving MDM4 transcription, which decreased HCC cell viability and increased apoptosis. In conclusion, SRF drives transcriptional MDM4 upregulation in HCC, acting in concert with either ELK1 or ELK4. The transcriptional regulation of MDM4 may be a promising target for precision oncology of human HCC, as XI-011 treatment exerts anti-MDM4 activity independent from the MDM4 copy number and the p53 status.
  • 3D culture conditions support Kaposi's sarcoma herpesvirus (KSHV) maintenance and viral spread in endothelial cells.

    Dubich, Tatyana; Dittrich, Anne; Bousset, Kristine; Geffers, Robert; Büsche, Guntram; Köster, Mario; Hauser, Hansjörg; Schulz, Thomas F; Wirth, Dagmar; HZI,Helmholtz-Zentrum für Infektionsforschung GmbH, Inhoffenstr. 7,38124 Braunschweig, Germany. (Springer International, 2021-01-23)
    Kaposi's sarcoma-associated herpesvirus (KSHV) is a human tumorigenic virus and the etiological agent of an endothelial tumor (Kaposi's sarcoma) and two B cell proliferative diseases (primary effusion lymphoma and multicentric Castleman's disease). While in patients with late stage of Kaposi's sarcoma the majority of spindle cells are KSHV-infected, viral copies are rapidly lost in vitro, both upon culture of tumor-derived cells or from newly infected endothelial cells. We addressed this discrepancy by investigating a KSHV-infected endothelial cell line in various culture conditions and in tumors of xenografted mice. We show that, in contrast to two-dimensional endothelial cell cultures, KSHV genomes are maintained under 3D cell culture conditions and in vivo. Additionally, an increased rate of newly infected cells was detected in 3D cell culture. Furthermore, we show that the PI3K/Akt/mTOR and ATM/γH2AX pathways are modulated and support an improved KSHV persistence in 3D cell culture. These mechanisms may contribute to the persistence of KSHV in tumor tissue in vivo and provide a novel target for KS specific therapeutic interventions. KEY MESSAGES: In vivo maintenance of episomal KSHV can be mimicked in 3D spheroid cultures 3D maintenance of KSHV is associated with an increased de novo infection frequency PI3K/Akt/mTOR and ATM/ γH2AX pathways contribute to viral maintenance.
  • Germline variation of Ribonuclease H2 genes in ovarian cancer patients.

    Polaczek, Rahel; Schürmann, Peter; Speith, Lisa-Marie; Geffers, Robert; Dürst, Matthias; Hillemanns, Peter; Park-Simon, Tjoung-Won; Liebrich, Clemens; Dörk, Thilo; HZI,Helmholtz-Zentrum für Infektionsforschung GmbH, Inhoffenstr. 7,38124 Braunschweig, Germany. (BMC, 2020-12-22)
    Epithelial ovarian carcinoma (EOC) is a genetically heterogeneous disease that is partly driven by molecular defects in mismatch repair (MMR) or homology-directed DNA repair (HDR). Ribonuclease H2 serves to remove mis-incorporated ribonucleotides from DNA which alleviates HDR mechanisms and guides the MMR machinery. Although Ribonuclease H2 has been implicated in cancer, the role of germline variants for ovarian cancer is unknown. In the present case-control study, we sequenced the coding and flanking untranslated regions of the RNASEH2A, RNASEH2B and RNASEH2C genes, encoding all three subunits of Ribonuclease H2, in a total of 602 German patients with EOC and of 940 healthy females from the same population. We identified one patient with a truncating variant in RNASEH2B, p.C44X, resulting in a premature stop codon. This patient had high-grade serous EOC with an 8 years survival after platinum/taxane-based therapy. Subsequent analysis of TCGA data similarly showed a significantly longer progression-free survival in ovarian cancer patients with low RNASEH2B or RNASEH2C expression levels. In conclusion, loss-of-function variants in Ribonuclease H2 genes are not common predisposing factors in ovarian cancer but the possibility that they modulate therapeutic platinum response deserves further investigation.
  • Simultaneous Presence of Bacteriochlorophyll and Xanthorhodopsin Genes in a Freshwater Bacterium.

    Kopejtka, Karel; Tomasch, Jürgen; Zeng, Yonghui; Selyanin, Vadim; Dachev, Marko; Piwosz, Kasia; Tichý, Martin; Bína, David; Gardian, Zdenko; Bunk, Boyke; et al. (ASM, 2020-12-22)
    Photoheterotrophic bacteria represent an important part of aquatic microbial communities. There exist two fundamentally different light-harvesting systems: bacteriochlorophyll-containing reaction centers or rhodopsins. Here, we report a photoheterotrophic Sphingomonas strain isolated from an oligotrophic lake, which contains complete sets of genes for both rhodopsin-based and bacteriochlorophyll-based phototrophy. Interestingly, the identified genes were not expressed when cultured in liquid organic media. Using reverse transcription quantitative PCR (RT-qPCR), RNA sequencing, and bacteriochlorophyll a quantification, we document that bacteriochlorophyll synthesis was repressed by high concentrations of glucose or galactose in the medium. Coactivation of photosynthesis genes together with genes for TonB-dependent transporters suggests the utilization of light energy for nutrient import. The photosynthetic units were formed by ring-shaped light-harvesting complex 1 and reaction centers with bacteriochlorophyll a and spirilloxanthin as the main light-harvesting pigments. The identified rhodopsin gene belonged to the xanthorhodopsin family, but it lacks salinixanthin antenna. In contrast to bacteriochlorophyll, the expression of xanthorhodopsin remained minimal under all experimental conditions tested. Since the gene was found in the same operon as a histidine kinase, we propose that it might serve as a light sensor. Our results document that photoheterotrophic Sphingomonas bacteria use the energy of light under carbon-limited conditions, while under carbon-replete conditions, they cover all their metabolic needs through oxidative phosphorylation.IMPORTANCE Phototrophic organisms are key components of many natural environments. There exist two main phototrophic groups: species that collect light energy using various kinds of (bacterio)chlorophylls and species that utilize rhodopsins. Here, we present a freshwater bacterium Sphingomonas sp. strain AAP5 which contains genes for both light-harvesting systems. We show that bacteriochlorophyll-based reaction centers are repressed by light and/or glucose. On the other hand, the rhodopsin gene was not expressed significantly under any of the experimental conditions. This may indicate that rhodopsin in Sphingomonas may have other functions not linked to bioenergetics.
  • Opuntisines, 14-membered cyclopeptide alkaloids from fruits of Opuntia stricta var. dillenii isolated by high-performance countercurrent chromatography.

    Surup, Frank; Minh Thi Tran, Thu; Pfütze, Sebastian; Budde, Jarmo; Moussa-Ayoub, Tamer E; Rohn, Sascha; Jerz, Gerold; HZI,Helmholtz-Zentrum für Infektionsforschung GmbH, Inhoffenstr. 7,38124 Braunschweig, Germany. (Elsevier, 2020-07-13)
    Extracts of Opuntia stricta var. dillenii fruits were fractionated by semi-preparative high-performance countercurrent chromatography (HPCCC) to study the secondary metabolite formation, whereby HPCCC showed a superior separation capacity to fractionate minor metabolites compared to HPLC. A family of new peptides was detected in semi-polar fractions when monitoring the HPCCC separation by off-line injections of fractions to ESI-MS/MS. Planar structures of the major compounds, two 14-ring-membered cyclopeptide alkaloids, which were named opuntisines A and B, were elucidated by 1D- and 2D-NMR spectroscopy and HR-ESI-MS/MS spectrometry, while a combination of chemical derivatisation and degradation revealed the stereo-configurations. Specifically, the methods of Marfey and Mosher indicated l-Glu, l-Ile, l-Phe and 1S-configurations, respectively; ROESY correlations revealed 8S, 9S. The novel opuntisine A showed moderate activity against the Gram-negative bacterium Escherichia coli, but no further antibacterial, antifungal nor cytotoxic effects. This bioactive natural product class is reported for the first time in the plant family Cactaceae.
  • Combined high-throughput library screening and next generation RNA sequencing uncover microRNAs controlling human cardiac fibroblast biology

    Schimmel, Katharina; Stojanović, Stevan D.; Huang, Cheng Kai; Jung, Mira; Meyer, Martin H.; Xiao, Ke; Grote-Levi, Lea; Bär, Christian; Pfanne, Angelika; Mitzka, Saskia; et al. (Elsevier, 2021-01-01)
    Background: Myocardial fibrosis is a hallmark of the failing heart, contributing to the most common causes of deaths worldwide. Several microRNAs (miRNAs, miRs) controlling cardiac fibrosis were identified in recent years; however, a more global approach to identify miRNAs involved in fibrosis is missing. Methods and results: Functional miRNA mimic library screens were applied in human cardiac fibroblasts (HCFs) to identify annotated miRNAs inducing proliferation. In parallel, miRNA deep sequencing was performed after subjecting HCFs to proliferating and resting stimuli, additionally enabling discovery of novel miRNAs. In-depth in vitro analysis confirmed the pro-fibrotic nature of selected, highly conserved miRNAs miR-20a-5p and miR-132-3p. To determine downstream cellular pathways and their role in the fibrotic response, targets of the annotated miRNA candidates were modulated by synthetic siRNA. We here provide evidence that repression of autophagy and detoxification of reactive oxygen species by miR-20a-5p and miR-132-3p explain some of their pro-fibrotic nature on a mechanistic level. Conclusion: We here identified both miR-20a-5p and miR-132-3p as crucial regulators of fibrotic pathways in an in vitro model of human cardiac fibroblast biology.
  • Determining the effects of trastuzumab, cetuximab and afatinib by phosphoprotein, gene expression and phenotypic analysis in gastric cancer cell lines.

    Ebert, Karolin; Zwingenberger, Gwen; Barbaria, Elena; Keller, Simone; Heck, Corinna; Arnold, Rouven; Hollerieth, Vanessa; Mattes, Julian; Geffers, Robert; Raimúndez, Elba; et al. (BMC, 2020-10-28)
    Background: Gastric cancer is the fifth most frequently diagnosed cancer and the third leading cause of cancer death worldwide. The molecular mechanisms of action for anti-HER-family drugs in gastric cancer cells are incompletely understood. We compared the molecular effects of trastuzumab and the other HER-family targeting drugs cetuximab and afatinib on phosphoprotein and gene expression level to gain insights into the regulated pathways. Moreover, we intended to identify genes involved in phenotypic effects of anti-HER therapies. Methods: A time-resolved analysis of downstream intracellular kinases following EGF, cetuximab, trastuzumab and afatinib treatment was performed by Luminex analysis in the gastric cancer cell lines Hs746T, MKN1, MKN7 and NCI-N87. The changes in gene expression after treatment of the gastric cancer cell lines with EGF, cetuximab, trastuzumab or afatinib for 4 or 24 h were analyzed by RNA sequencing. Significantly enriched pathways and gene ontology terms were identified by functional enrichment analysis. Furthermore, effects of trastuzumab and afatinib on cell motility and apoptosis were analyzed by time-lapse microscopy and western blot for cleaved caspase 3. Results: The Luminex analysis of kinase activity revealed no effects of trastuzumab, while alterations of AKT1, MAPK3, MEK1 and p70S6K1 activations were observed under cetuximab and afatinib treatment. On gene expression level, cetuximab mainly affected the signaling pathways, whereas afatinib had an effect on both signaling and cell cycle pathways. In contrast, trastuzumab had little effects on gene expression. Afatinib reduced average speed in MKN1 and MKN7 cells and induced apoptosis in NCI-N87 cells. Following treatment with afatinib, a list of 14 genes that might be involved in the decrease of cell motility and a list of 44 genes that might have a potential role in induction of apoptosis was suggested. The importance of one of these genes (HBEGF) as regulator of motility was confirmed by knockdown experiments. Conclusions: Taken together, we described the different molecular effects of trastuzumab, cetuximab and afatinib on kinase activity and gene expression. The phenotypic changes following afatinib treatment were reflected by altered biological functions indicated by overrepresentation of gene ontology terms. The importance of identified genes for cell motility was validated in case of HBEGF.
  • IDH1/2 mutations in acute myeloid leukemia patients and risk of coronary artery disease and cardiac dysfunction—a retrospective propensity score analysis

    Kattih, Badder; Shirvani, Amir; Klement, Piroska; Garrido, Abel Martin; Gabdoulline, Razif; Liebich, Alessandro; Brandes, Maximilian; Chaturvedi, Anuhar; Seeger, Timon; Thol, Felicitas; et al. (Springer Nature, 2020-01-01)
    Clonal hematopoiesis of indeterminate potential (CHIP) is linked to leukemia gene mutations and associates with an increased risk for coronary artery disease and poor prognosis in ischemic cardiomyopathy. Two recurrently mutated genes in CHIP and adult acute myeloid leukemia (AML) encode for isocitrate dehydrogenases 1 and 2 (IDH1 and IDH2). Global expression of mutant IDH2 in transgenic mice-induced dilated cardiomyopathy and muscular dystrophy. In this retrospective observational study, we investigated whether mutant IDH1/2 predisposes to cardiovascular disease in AML patients. Among 363 AML patients, IDH1 and IDH2 mutations were detected in 26 (7.2%) and 39 patients (10.7%), respectively. Mutant IDH1 patients exhibited a significantly higher prevalence of coronary artery disease (26.1% vs. 6.4%, p = 0.002). Applying inverse probability-weighting analysis, patients with IDH1/2 mutations had a higher risk for a declining cardiac function during AML treatment compared to IDH1/2 wild type patients [left ventricular ejection fraction pretreatment compared to 10 months after diagnosis: 59.2% to 41.9% (p < 0.001) vs 58.5% to 55.4% (p = 0.27), respectively]. Mechanistically, RNA sequencing and immunostaining in hiPS-derived cardiomyocytes indicated that the oncometabolite R-2HG exacerbated doxorubicin mediated cardiotoxicity. Evaluation of IDH1/2 mutation status may therefore help identifying AML patients at risk for cardiovascular complications during cytotoxic treatment. Similar articles
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.

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