Recent Submissions

  • Entropy-driven cell decision-making predicts ‘fluid-to-solid’ transition in multicellular systems

    Barua, Arnab; Syga, Simon; Mascheroni, Pietro; Kavallaris, Nikos; Meyer-Hermann, Michael; Deutsch, Andreas; Hatzikirou, Haralampos; BRICS, Braunschweiger Zentrum für Systembiologie, Rebenring 56,38106 Braunschweig, Germany. (Institute of Physics, 2020-12-01)
    Cellular decision making allows cells to assume functionally different phenotypes in response to microenvironmental cues, with or without genetic change. It is an open question, how individual cell decisions influence the dynamics at the tissue level. Here, we study spatio-temporal pattern formation in a population of cells exhibiting phenotypic plasticity, which is a paradigm of cell decision making. We focus on the migration/resting and the migration/proliferation plasticity which underly the epithelial-mesenchymal transition and the go or grow dichotomy. We assume that cells change their phenotype in order to minimize their microenvironmental entropy following the LEUP (Least microEnvironmental Uncertainty Principle) hypothesis. In turn, we study the impact of the LEUP-driven migration/resting and migration/proliferation plasticity on the corresponding multicellular spatio-temporal dynamics with a stochastic cell-based mathematical model for the spatio-temporal dynamics of the cell phenotypes. In the case of the go or rest plasticity, a corresponding mean-field approximation allows to identify a bistable switching mechanism between a diffusive (fluid) and an epithelial (solid) tissue phase which depends on the sensitivity of the phenotypes to the environment. For the go or grow plasticity, we show the possibility of Turing pattern formation for the ‘solid’ tissue phase and its relation with the parameters of the LEUP-driven cell decisions.
  • Influenza A virus-induced thymus atrophy differentially affects dynamics of conventional and regulatory T-cell development in mice.

    Elfaki, Yassin; Robert, Philippe A; Binz, Christoph; Falk, Christine S; Bruder, Dunja; Prinz, Immo; Floess, Stefan; Meyer-Hermann, Michael; Huehn, Jochen; HZI,Helmholtz-Zentrum für Infektionsforschung GmbH, Inhoffenstr. 7,38124 Braunschweig, Germany.; BRICS, Braunschweiger Zentrum für Systembiologie, Rebenring 56,38106 Braunschweig, Germany. (Wiley-VCH, 2021-02-26)
    Foxp3+ Treg cells, which are crucial for maintenance of self-tolerance, mainly develop within the thymus, where they arise from CD25+ Foxp3- or CD25- Foxp3+ Treg cell precursors. Although it is known that infections can cause transient thymic involution, the impact of infection-induced thymus atrophy on thymic Treg (tTreg) cell development is unknown. Here, we infected mice with influenza A virus (IAV) and studied thymocyte population dynamics post infection. IAV infection caused a massive, but transient thymic involution, dominated by a loss of CD4+ CD8+ double-positive (DP) thymocytes, which was accompanied by a significant increase in the frequency of CD25+ Foxp3+ tTreg cells. Differential apoptosis susceptibility could be experimentally excluded as a reason for the relative tTreg cell increase, and mathematical modeling suggested that enhanced tTreg cell generation cannot explain the increased frequency of tTreg cells. Yet, an increased death of DP thymocytes and augmented exit of single-positive (SP) thymocytes was suggested to be causative. Interestingly, IAV-induced thymus atrophy resulted in a significantly reduced T-cell receptor (TCR) repertoire diversity of newly produced tTreg cells. Taken together, IAV-induced thymus atrophy is substantially altering the dynamics of major thymocyte populations, finally resulting in a relative increase of tTreg cells with an altered TCR repertoire.
  • Evaluation of CD8 T cell killing models with computer simulations of 2-photon imaging experiments.

    Rastogi, Ananya; Robert, Philippe A; Halle, Stephan; Meyer-Hermann, Michael; BRICS, Braunschweiger Zentrum für Systembiologie, Rebenring 56,38106 Braunschweig, Germany. (PLOS, 2020-12-28)
    In vivo imaging of cytotoxic T lymphocyte (CTL) killing activity revealed that infected cells have a higher observed probability of dying after multiple contacts with CTLs. We developed a three-dimensional agent-based model to discriminate different hypotheses about how infected cells get killed based on quantitative 2-photon in vivo observations. We compared a constant CTL killing probability with mechanisms of signal integration in CTL or infected cells. The most likely scenario implied increased susceptibility of infected cells with increasing number of CTL contacts where the total number of contacts was a critical factor. However, when allowing in silico T cells to initiate new interactions with apoptotic target cells (zombie contacts), a contact history independent killing mechanism was also in agreement with experimental datasets. The comparison of observed datasets to simulation results, revealed limitations in interpreting 2-photon data, and provided readouts to distinguish CTL killing models.
  • Multiscale Modeling of Germinal Center Recapitulates the Temporal Transition From Memory B Cells to Plasma Cells Differentiation as Regulated by Antigen Affinity-Based Tfh Cell Help.

    Merino Tejero, Elena; Lashgari, Danial; García-Valiente, Rodrigo; Gao, Xuefeng; Crauste, Fabien; Robert, Philippe A; Meyer-Hermann, Michael; Martínez, María Rodríguez; van Ham, S Marieke; Guikema, Jeroen E J; et al. (Frontiers, 2021-02-05)
    Germinal centers play a key role in the adaptive immune system since they are able to produce memory B cells and plasma cells that produce high affinity antibodies for an effective immune protection. The mechanisms underlying cell-fate decisions are not well understood but asymmetric division of antigen, B-cell receptor affinity, interactions between B-cells and T follicular helper cells (triggering CD40 signaling), and regulatory interactions of transcription factors have all been proposed to play a role. In addition, a temporal switch from memory B-cell to plasma cell differentiation during the germinal center reaction has been shown. To investigate if antigen affinity-based Tfh cell help recapitulates the temporal switch we implemented a multiscale model that integrates cellular interactions with a core gene regulatory network comprising BCL6, IRF4, and BLIMP1. Using this model we show that affinity-based CD40 signaling in combination with asymmetric division of B-cells result in switch from memory B-cell to plasma cell generation during the course of the germinal center reaction. We also show that cell fate division is unlikely to be (solely) based on asymmetric division of Ag but that BLIMP1 is a more important factor. Altogether, our model enables to test the influence of molecular modulations of the CD40 signaling pathway on the production of germinal center output cells.
  • Das gemeinsame Interesse von Gesundheit und Wirtschaft: Eine Szenarienrechnung zur Eindämmung der Corona Pandemie

    Dorn, Florian; et al.; BRICS, Braunschweiger Zentrum für Systembiologie, Rebenring 56,38106 Braunschweig, Germany.; HZI,Helmholtz-Zentrum für Infektionsforschung GmbH, Inhoffenstr. 7,38124 Braunschweig, Germany. (ifo Institut, 2020-05-12)
    [No Abstract available]
  • PD-1 Blockade Aggravates Epstein-Barr Virus Post-Transplant Lymphoproliferative Disorder in Humanized Mice Resulting in Central Nervous System Involvement and CD4 T Cell Dysregulations.

    Volk, Valery; Theobald, Sebastian J; Danisch, Simon; Khailaie, Sahamoddin; Kalbarczyk, Maja; Schneider, Andreas; Bialek-Waldmann, Julia; Krönke, Nicole; Deng, Yun; Eiz-Vesper, Britta; et al. (Frontiers, 2021-01-12)
    Post-transplant lymphoproliferative disorder (PTLD) is one of the most common malignancies after solid organ or allogeneic stem cell transplantation. Most PTLD cases are B cell neoplasias carrying Epstein-Barr virus (EBV). A therapeutic approach is reduction of immunosuppression to allow T cells to develop and combat EBV. If this is not effective, approaches include immunotherapies such as monoclonal antibodies targeting CD20 and adoptive T cells. Immune checkpoint inhibition (ICI) to treat EBV+ PTLD was not established clinically due to the risks of organ rejection and graft-versus-host disease. Previously, blockade of the programmed death receptor (PD)-1 by a monoclonal antibody (mAb) during ex vivo infection of mononuclear cells with the EBV/M81+ strain showed lower xenografted lymphoma development in mice. Subsequently, fully humanized mice infected with the EBV/B95-8 strain and treated in vivo with a PD-1 blocking mAb showed aggravation of PTLD and lymphoma development. Here, we evaluated vis-a-vis in fully humanized mice after EBV/B95-8 or EBV/M81 infections the effects of a clinically used PD-1 blocker. Fifteen to 17 weeks after human CD34+ stem cell transplantation, Nod.Rag.Gamma mice were infected with two types of EBV laboratory strains expressing firefly luciferase. Dynamic optical imaging analyses showed systemic EBV infections and this triggered vigorous human CD8+ T cell expansion. Pembrolizumab administered from 2 to 5 weeks post-infections significantly aggravated EBV systemic spread and, for the M81 model, significantly increased the mortality of mice. ICI promoted Ki67+CD30+CD20+EBER+PD-L1+ PTLD with central nervous system (CNS) involvement, mirroring EBV+ CNS PTLD in humans. PD-1 blockade was associated with lower frequencies of circulating T cells in blood and with a profound collapse of CD4+ T cells in lymphatic tissues. Mice treated with pembrolizumab showed an escalation of exhausted T cells expressing TIM-3, and LAG-3 in tissues, higher levels of several human cytokines in plasma and high densities of FoxP3+ regulatory CD4+ and CD8+ T cells in the tumor microenvironment. We conclude that PD-1 blockade during acute EBV infections driving strong CD8+ T cell priming decompensates T cell development towards immunosuppression. Given the variety of preclinical models available, our models conferred a cautionary note indicating that PD-1 blockade aggravated the progression of EBV+ PTLD.
  • Development of the reproduction number from coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 case data in Germany and implications for political measures.

    Khailaie, Sahamoddin; Mitra, Tanmay; Bandyopadhyay, Arnab; Schips, Marta; Mascheroni, Pietro; Vanella, Patrizio; Lange, Berit; Binder, Sebastian C; Meyer-Hermann, Michael; BRICS, Braunschweiger Zentrum für Systembiologie, Rebenring 56,38106 Braunschweig, Germany.; HZI,Helmholtz-Zentrum für Infektionsforschung GmbH, Inhoffenstr. 7,38124 Braunschweig, Germany. (BioMedCentral, 2021-01-28)
    Background: SARS-CoV-2 has induced a worldwide pandemic and subsequent non-pharmaceutical interventions (NPIs) to control the spread of the virus. As in many countries, the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic in Germany has led to a consecutive roll-out of different NPIs. As these NPIs have (largely unknown) adverse effects, targeting them precisely and monitoring their effectiveness are essential. We developed a compartmental infection dynamics model with specific features of SARS-CoV-2 that allows daily estimation of a time-varying reproduction number and published this information openly since the beginning of April 2020. Here, we present the transmission dynamics in Germany over time to understand the effect of NPIs and allow adaptive forecasts of the epidemic progression. Methods: We used a data-driven estimation of the evolution of the reproduction number for viral spreading in Germany as well as in all its federal states using our model. Using parameter estimates from literature and, alternatively, with parameters derived from a fit to the initial phase of COVID-19 spread in different regions of Italy, the model was optimized to fit data from the Robert Koch Institute. Results: The time-varying reproduction number (Rt) in Germany decreased to <1 in early April 2020, 2-3 weeks after the implementation of NPIs. Partial release of NPIs both nationally and on federal state level correlated with moderate increases in Rt until August 2020. Implications of state-specific Rt on other states and on national level are characterized. Retrospective evaluation of the model shows excellent agreement with the data and usage of inpatient facilities well within the healthcare limit. While short-term predictions may work for a few weeks, long-term projections are complicated by unpredictable structural changes. Conclusions: The estimated fraction of immunized population by August 2020 warns of a renewed outbreak upon release of measures. A low detection rate prolongs the delay reaching a low case incidence number upon release, showing the importance of an effective testing-quarantine strategy. We show that real-time monitoring of transmission dynamics is important to evaluate the extent of the outbreak, short-term projections for the burden on the healthcare system, and their response to policy changes.
  • Permissive selection followed by affinity-based proliferation of GC light zone B cells dictates cell fate and ensures clonal breadth.

    Nakagawa, Rinako; Toboso-Navasa, Amparo; Schips, Marta; Young, George; Bhaw-Rosun, Leena; Llorian-Sopena, Miriam; Chakravarty, Probir; Sesay, Abdul Karim; Kassiotis, George; Meyer-Hermann, Michael; et al. (National Academy of Sciences, 2021-01-12)
    Affinity maturation depends on how efficiently germinal centers (GCs) positively select B cells in the light zone (LZ). Positively selected GC B cells recirculate between LZs and dark zones (DZs) and ultimately differentiate into plasmablasts (PBs) and memory B cells (MBCs). Current understanding of the GC reaction presumes that cMyc-dependent positive selection of LZ B cells is a competitive affinity-dependent process; however, this cannot explain the production of GC-derived lower-affinity MBCs or retention of GC B cells with varied affinities. Here, by combining single-cell/bulk RNA sequencing and flow cytometry, we identified and characterized temporally and functionally distinct positively selected cMyc+ GC B cell subpopulations. cMyc+ LZ B cell subpopulations enriched with either higher- or lower-affinity cells diverged soon after permissive positive selection. The former subpopulation contained PB precursors, whereas the latter comprised less proliferative MBC precursors and future DZ entrants. The overall affinity of future DZ entrants was enhanced in the LZ through preferential proliferation of higher-affinity cells. Concurrently, lower-affinity cells were retained in GCs and protected from apoptosis. These findings redefine positive selection as a dynamic process generating three distinct B cell fates and elucidate how positive selection ensures clonal diversity for broad protection.
  • A least microenvironmental uncertainty principle (LEUP) as a generative model of collective cell migration mechanisms.

    Barua, Arnab; Nava-Sedeño, Josue M; Meyer-Hermann, Michael; Hatzikirou, Haralampos; BRICS, Braunschweiger Zentrum für Systembiologie, Rebenring 56,38106 Braunschweig, Germany. (Nature research, 2020-12-22)
    Collective migration is commonly observed in groups of migrating cells, in the form of swarms or aggregates. Mechanistic models have proven very useful in understanding collective cell migration. Such models, either explicitly consider the forces involved in the interaction and movement of individuals or phenomenologically define rules which mimic the observed behavior of cells. However, mechanisms leading to collective migration are varied and specific to the type of cells involved. Additionally, the precise and complete dynamics of many important chemomechanical factors influencing cell movement, from signalling pathways to substrate sensing, are typically either too complex or largely unknown. The question is how to make quantitative/qualitative predictions of collective behavior without exact mechanistic knowledge. Here we propose the least microenvironmental uncertainty principle (LEUP) that may serve as a generative model of collective migration without precise incorporation of full mechanistic details. Using statistical physics tools, we show that the famous Vicsek model is a special case of LEUP. Finally, to test the biological applicability of our theory, we apply LEUP to construct a model of the collective behavior of spherical Serratia marcescens bacteria, where the underlying migration mechanisms remain elusive.
  • Cyclin D3 drives inertial cell cycling in dark zone germinal center B cells.

    Pae, Juhee; Ersching, Jonatan; Castro, Tiago B R; Schips, Marta; Mesin, Luka; Allon, Samuel J; Ordovas-Montanes, Jose; Mlynarczyk, Coraline; Melnick, Ari; Efeyan, Alejo; et al. (Rockefeller University Press, 2021-04-01)
    During affinity maturation, germinal center (GC) B cells alternate between proliferation and somatic hypermutation in the dark zone (DZ) and affinity-dependent selection in the light zone (LZ). This anatomical segregation imposes that the vigorous proliferation that allows clonal expansion of positively selected GC B cells takes place ostensibly in the absence of the signals that triggered selection in the LZ, as if by "inertia." We find that such inertial cycles specifically require the cell cycle regulator cyclin D3. Cyclin D3 dose-dependently controls the extent to which B cells proliferate in the DZ and is essential for effective clonal expansion of GC B cells in response to strong T follicular helper (Tfh) cell help. Introduction into the Ccnd3 gene of a Burkitt lymphoma-associated gain-of-function mutation (T283A) leads to larger GCs with increased DZ proliferation and, in older mice, clonal B cell lymphoproliferation, suggesting that the DZ inertial cell cycle program can be coopted by B cells undergoing malignant transformation.
  • Attaching and effacing pathogens: the effector ABC of immune subversion.

    Riebisch, Anna Katharina; Mühlen, Sabrina; BRICS, Braunschweiger Zentrum für Systembiologie, Rebenring 56,38106 Braunschweig, Germany. (Future Medicine Ltd., 2020-07-27)
    The innate immune response resembles an essential barrier to bacterial infection. Many bacterial pathogens have, therefore, evolved mechanisms to evade from or subvert the host immune response in order to colonize, survive and multiply. The attaching and effacing pathogens enteropathogenic Escherichia coli, enterohaemorrhagic E. coli, Escherichia albertii and Citrobacter rodentium are Gram-negative extracellular gastrointestinal pathogens. They use a type III secretion system to inject effector proteins into the host cell to manipulate a variety of cellular processes. Over the last decade, considerable progress was made in identifying and characterizing the effector proteins of attaching and effacing pathogens that are involved in the inhibition of innate immune signaling pathways, in determining their host cell targets and elucidating the mechanisms they employ. Their functions will be reviewed here.
  • An Adaptive Control Scheme for Interleukin-2 Therapy.

    Khailaie, Sahamoddin; Montaseri, Ghazal; Meyer-Hermann, Michael; BRICS, Braunschweiger Zentrum für Systembiologie, Rebenring 56,38106 Braunschweig, Germany. (Elsevier (Cell Press), 2020-10-12)
    Regulatory T cells (Treg) are suppressor cells that control self-reactive and excessive effector conventional T helper cell (Tconv) responses. Breakdown of the balance between Tregs and Tconvs is a hallmark of autoimmune and inflammatory diseases. Interleukin-2 (IL-2) is a growth factor for both populations and subtle leverage to restore the healthy immune balance in IL-2 therapy. By using a mechanistic mathematical model, we introduced an adaptive control strategy to design the minimal therapeutic IL-2 dosage required to increase and stabilize Treg population and restrict inflammatory response. This adaptive protocol allows for dose adjustments based on the feedback of the immune kinetics of the patient. Our simulation results showed that a minimal Treg population was required to restrict the transient side effect of IL-2 injections on the effector Tconv response. In silico results suggested that a combination of IL-2 and adoptive Treg transfer therapies can limit this side effect.
  • Solving the nonlinear boundary layer flow equations with pressure gradient and radiation

    Xenos, Michalis A.; Petropoulou, Eugenia N.; Siokis, Anastasios; Mahabaleshwar, U. S.; BRICS, Braunschweiger Zentrum für Systembiologie, Rebenring 56,38106 Braunschweig, Germany. (MDPI, 2020-05-01)
    The physical problem under consideration is the boundary layer problem of an incompressible, laminar flow, taking place over a flat plate in the presence of a pressure gradient and radiation. For the mathematical formulation of the problem, the partial differential equations of continuity, energy, and momentum are taken into consideration with the boundary layer simplifications. Using the dimensionless Falkner–Skan transformation, a nonlinear, nonhomogeneous, coupled system of partial differential equations (PDEs) is obtained, which is solved via the homotopy analysis method. The obtained analytical solution describes radiation and pressure gradient effects on the boundary layer flow. These analytical results reveal that the adverse or favorable pressure gradient influences the dimensionless velocity and the dimensionless temperature of the boundary layer. An adverse pressure gradient causes significant changes on the dimensionless wall shear parameter and the dimensionless wall heat-transfer parameter. Thermal radiation influences the thermal boundary layer. The analytical results are in very good agreement with the corresponding numerical ones obtained using a modification of the Keller’s-box method.
  • B Cell Speed and B-FDC Contacts in Germinal Centers Determine Plasma Cell Output via Swiprosin-1/EFhd2.

    Reimer, Dorothea; Meyer-Hermann, Michael; Rakhymzhan, Asylkhan; Steinmetz, Tobit; Tripal, Philipp; Thomas, Jana; Boettcher, Martin; Mougiakakos, Dimitrios; Schulz, Sebastian R; Urbanczyk, Sophia; et al. (Elsevier (CellPress), 2020-08-11)
    Plasma cells secreting affinity-matured antibodies develop in germinal centers (GCs), where B cells migrate persistently and directionally over defined periods of time. How modes of GC B cell migration influence plasma cell development remained unclear. Through genetic deletion of the F-actin bundling protein Swiprosin-1/EF-hand domain family member 2 (EFhd2) and by two-photon microscopy, we show that EFhd2 restrains B cell speed in GCs and hapten-specific plasma cell output. Modeling the GC reaction reveals that increasing GC B cell speed promotes plasma cell generation. Lack of EFhd2 also reduces contacts of GC B cells with follicular dendritic cells in vivo. Computational modeling uncovers that both GC output and antibody affinity depend quantitatively on contacts of GC B cells with follicular dendritic cells when B cells migrate more persistently. Collectively, our data explain how GC B cells integrate speed and persistence of cell migration with B cell receptor affinity.
  • Mathematical Model Shows How Sleep May Affect Amyloid-β Fibrillization.

    Hoore, Masoud; Khailaie, Sahamoddin; Montaseri, Ghazal; Mitra, Tanmay; Meyer-Hermann, Michael; BRICS, Braunschweiger Zentrum für Systembiologie, Rebenring 56,38106 Braunschweig, Germany; HZI,Helmholtz-Zentrum für Infektionsforschung GmbH, Inhoffenstr. 7,38124 Braunschweig, Germany. (Elsevier (CellPress), 2020-07-22)
    Deposition of amyloid-β (Aβ) fibers in the extracellular matrix of the brain is a ubiquitous feature associated with several neurodegenerative disorders, especially Alzheimer's disease (AD). Although many of the biological aspects that contribute to the formation of Aβ plaques are well addressed at the intra- and intercellular levels in short timescales, an understanding of how Aβ fibrillization usually starts to dominate at a longer timescale despite the presence of mechanisms dedicated to Aβ clearance is still lacking. Furthermore, no existing mathematical model integrates the impact of diurnal neural activity as emanated from circadian regulation to predict disease progression due to a disruption in the sleep-wake cycle. In this study, we develop a minimal model of Aβ fibrillization to investigate the onset of AD over a long timescale. Our results suggest that the diseased state is a manifestation of a phase change of the system from soluble Aβ (sAβ) to fibrillar Aβ (fAβ) domination upon surpassing a threshold in the production rate of sAβ. By incorporating the circadian rhythm into our model, we reveal that fAβ accumulation is crucially dependent on the regulation of the sleep-wake cycle, thereby indicating the importance of good sleep hygiene in averting AD onset. We also discuss potential intervention schemes to reduce fAβ accumulation in the brain by modification of the critical sAβ production rate.
  • Mechanical Control of Cell Proliferation Increases Resistance to Chemotherapeutic Agents.

    Rizzuti, Ilaria Francesca; Mascheroni, Pietro; Arcucci, Silvia; Ben-Mériem, Zacchari; Prunet, Audrey; Barentin, Catherine; Rivière, Charlotte; Delanoë-Ayari, Hélène; Hatzikirou, Haralampos; Guillermet-Guibert, Julie; et al. (American Physical Society, 2020-09-18)
    While many cellular mechanisms leading to chemotherapeutic resistance have been identified, there is an increasing realization that tumor-stroma interactions also play an important role. In particular, mechanical alterations are inherent to solid cancer progression and profoundly impact cell physiology. Here, we explore the influence of compressive stress on the efficacy of chemotherapeutics in pancreatic cancer spheroids. We find that increased compressive stress leads to decreased drug efficacy. Theoretical modeling and experiments suggest that mechanical stress decreases cell proliferation which in turn reduces the efficacy of chemotherapeutics that target proliferating cells. Our work highlights a mechanical form of drug resistance and suggests new strategies for therapy.
  • Repertoire characterization and validation of gB-specific human IgGs directly cloned from humanized mice vaccinated with dendritic cells and protected against HCMV.

    Theobald, Sebastian J; Kreer, Christoph; Khailaie, Sahamoddin; Bonifacius, Agnes; Eiz-Vesper, Britta; Figueiredo, Constanca; Mach, Michael; Backovic, Marija; Ballmaier, Matthias; Koenig, Johannes; et al. (2020-07-15)
    Human cytomegalovirus (HCMV) causes serious complications to immune compromised hosts. Dendritic cells (iDCgB) expressing granulocyte-macrophage colony-stimulating factor, interferon-alpha and HCMV-gB were developed to promote de novo antiviral adaptive responses. Mice reconstituted with a human immune system (HIS) were immunized with iDCgB and challenged with HCMV, resulting into 93% protection. Immunization stimulated the expansion of functional effector memory CD8+ and CD4+ T cells recognizing gB. Machine learning analyses confirmed bone marrow T/CD4+, liver B/IgA+ and spleen B/IgG+ cells as predictive biomarkers of immunization (≈87% accuracy). CD8+ and CD4+ T cell responses against gB were validated. Splenic gB-binding IgM-/IgG+ B cells were sorted and analyzed at a single cell level. iDCgB immunizations elicited human-like IgG responses with a broad usage of various IgG heavy chain V gene segments harboring variable levels of somatic hypermutation. From this search, two gB-binding human monoclonal IgGs were generated that neutralized HCMV infection in vitro. Passive immunization with these antibodies provided proof-of-concept evidence of protection against HCMV infection. This HIS/HCMV in vivo model system supported the validation of novel active and passive immune therapies for future clinical translation.
  • Agent-Based Modeling of T Cell Receptor Cooperativity.

    Siokis, Anastasios; Robert, Philippe A; Meyer-Hermann, Michael; BRICS, Braunschweiger Zentrum für Systembiologie, Rebenring 56,38106 Braunschweig, Germany. (MDPI, 2020-09-04)
    Immunological synapse (IS) formation is a key event during antigen recognition by T cells. Recent experimental evidence suggests that the affinity between T cell receptors (TCRs) and antigen is actively modulated during the early steps of TCR signaling. In this work, we used an agent-based model to study possible mechanisms for affinity modulation during IS formation. We show that, without any specific active mechanism, the observed affinity between receptors and ligands evolves over time and depends on the density of ligands of the antigen peptide presented by major histocompatibility complexes (pMHC) and TCR molecules. A comparison between the presence or absence of TCR-pMHC centrally directed flow due to F-actin coupling suggests that centripetal transport is a potential mechanism for affinity modulation. The model further suggests that the time point of affinity measurement during immune synapse formation is critical. Finally, a mathematical model of F-actin foci formation incorporated in the agent-based model shows that TCR affinity can potentially be actively modulated by positive/negative feedback of the F-actin foci on the TCR-pMHC association rate kon.
  • Staphylococcus aureus Alpha-Toxin Limits Type 1 While Fostering Type 3 Immune Responses.

    Bonifacius, Agnes; Goldmann, Oliver; Floess, Stefan; Holtfreter, Silva; Robert, Philippe A; Nordengrün, Maria; Kruse, Friederike; Lochner, Matthias; Falk, Christine S; Schmitz, Ingo; et al. (Frontiers, 2020-08-07)
    Staphylococcus aureus can cause life-threatening diseases, and hospital- as well as community-associated antibiotic-resistant strains are an emerging global public health problem. Therefore, prophylactic vaccines or immune-based therapies are considered as alternative treatment opportunities. To develop such novel treatment approaches, a better understanding of the bacterial virulence and immune evasion mechanisms and their potential effects on immune-based therapies is essential. One important staphylococcal virulence factor is alpha-toxin, which is able to disrupt the epithelial barrier in order to establish infection. In addition, alpha-toxin has been reported to modulate other cell types including immune cells. Since CD4+ T cell-mediated immunity is required for protection against S. aureus infection, we were interested in the ability of alpha-toxin to directly modulate CD4+ T cells. To address this, murine naïve CD4+ T cells were differentiated in vitro into effector T cell subsets in the presence of alpha-toxin. Interestingly, alpha-toxin induced death of Th1-polarized cells, while cells polarized under Th17 conditions showed a high resistance toward increasing concentrations of this toxin. These effects could neither be explained by differential expression of the cellular alpha-toxin receptor ADAM10 nor by differential activation of caspases, but might result from an increased susceptibility of Th1 cells toward Ca2+-mediated activation-induced cell death. In accordance with the in vitro findings, an alpha-toxin-dependent decrease of Th1 and concomitant increase of Th17 cells was observed in vivo during S. aureus bacteremia. Interestingly, corresponding subsets of innate lymphoid cells and γδ T cells were similarly affected, suggesting a more general effect of alpha-toxin on the modulation of type 1 and type 3 immune responses. In conclusion, we have identified a novel alpha-toxin-dependent immunomodulatory strategy of S. aureus, which can directly act on CD4+ T cells and might be exploited for the development of novel immune-based therapeutic approaches to treat infections with antibiotic-resistant S. aureus strains.
  • Assortative mating by population of origin in a mechanistic model of admixture

    Goldberg, Amy; Rastogi, Ananya; Rosenberg, Noah A.; BRICS, Braunschweiger Zentrum für Systembiologie, Rebenring 56, 38106 Braunschweig, Germany. (Elsevier BV, 2020-04-07)
    Populations whose mating pairs have levels of similarity in phenotypes or genotypes that differ systematically from the level expected under random mating are described as experiencing assortative mating. Excess similarity in mating pairs is termed positive assortative mating, and excess dissimilarity is negative assortative mating. In humans, empirical studies suggest that mating pairs from various admixed populations-whose ancestry derives from two or more source populations-possess correlated ancestry components that indicate the occurrence of positive assortative mating on the basis of ancestry. Generalizing a two-sex mechanistic admixture model, we devise a model of one form of ancestry-assortative mating that occurs through preferential mating based on source population. Under the model, we study the moments of the admixture fraction distribution for different assumptions about mating preferences, including both positive and negative assortative mating by population. We demonstrate that whereas the mean admixture under assortative mating is equivalent to that of a corresponding randomly mating population, the variance of admixture depends on the level and direction of assortative mating. We consider two special cases of assortative mating by population: first, a single admixture event, and second, constant contributions to the admixed population over time In contrast to standard settings in which positive assortment increases variation within a population, certain assortative mating scenarios allow the variance of admixture to decrease relative to a corresponding randomly mating population: with the three populations we consider, the variance-increasing effect of positive assortative mating within a population might be overwhelmed by a variance-decreasing effect emerging from mating preferences involving other pairs of populations. The effect of assortative mating is smaller on the X chromosome than on the autosomes because inheritance of the X in males depends only on the mother's ancestry, not on the mating pair. Because the variance of admixture is informative about the timing of admixture and possibly about sex-biased admixture contributions, the effects of assortative mating are important to consider in inferring features of population history from distributions of admixture values. Our model provides a framework to quantitatively study assortative mating under flexible scenarios of admixture over time.

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