• 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.
    • Commentary: "Can Selective MHC Downregulation Explain the Specificity and Genetic Diversity of NK Cell Receptors?".

      Robert, Philippe A; Helmholtz Centre for infection research, Inhoffenstr. 7, D-38124 Braunschweig, Germany. (2015)
    • 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.
    • F-Actin-Driven CD28-CD80 Localization in the Immune Synapse.

      Siokis, Anastasios; Robert, Philippe A; Demetriou, Philippos; Dustin, Michael L; Meyer-Hermann, Michael; BRICS, Braunschweiger Zentrum für Systembiologie, Rebenring 56,38106 Braunschweig, Germany. (Elsevier, 2018-07-31)
      During immunological synapse (IS) formation, T cell receptor (TCR) signaling complexes, integrins, and costimulatory molecules exhibit a particular spatial localization. Here, we develop an agent-based model for the IS formation based on TCR peptide-bound major histocompatibility complex (pMHC) and leukocyte-function-associated antigen 1 (LFA-1) intracellular activation molecule 1 (ICAM-1) dynamics, including CD28 binding to a costimulatory ligand, coupling of molecules to the centripetal actin flow, and size-based segregation (SBS). A radial gradient of LFA-1 in the peripheral supramolecular activation cluster (pSMAC) toward the central supramolecular activation cluster (cSMAC) emerged as a combined consequence of actin binding and diffusion and modified the positioning of other molecules. The simulations predict a mechanism of CD28 movement, according to which CD28-CD80 complexes passively follow TCR-pMHC microclusters. However, the characteristic CD28-CD80 localization in a ring pattern around the cSMAC only emerges with a particular CD28-actin coupling strength that induces a centripetal motion. These results have implications for the understanding of T cell activation and fate decisions.
    • Germinal Centre Shutdown.

      Arulraj, Theinmozhi; Binder, Sebastian C; Robert, Philippe A; Meyer-Hermann, Michael; BRICS, Braunschweiger Zentrum für Systembiologie, Rebenring 56,38106 Braunschweig, Germany.; HZI,Helmholtz-Zentrum für Infektionsforschung GmbH, Inhoffenstr. 7,38124 Braunschweig, Germany. (Frontiers, 2021-07-07)
      Germinal Centres (GCs) are transient structures in secondary lymphoid organs, where affinity maturation of B cells takes place following an infection. While GCs are responsible for protective antibody responses, dysregulated GC reactions are associated with autoimmune disease and B cell lymphoma. Typically, 'normal' GCs persist for a limited period of time and eventually undergo shutdown. In this review, we focus on an important but unanswered question - what causes the natural termination of the GC reaction? In murine experiments, lack of antigen, absence or constitutive T cell help leads to premature termination of the GC reaction. Consequently, our present understanding is limited to the idea that GCs are terminated due to a decrease in antigen access or changes in the nature of T cell help. However, there is no direct evidence on which biological signals are primarily responsible for natural termination of GCs and a mechanistic understanding is clearly lacking. We discuss the present understanding of the GC shutdown, from factors impacting GC dynamics to changes in cellular interactions/dynamics during the GC lifetime. We also address potential missing links and remaining questions in GC biology, to facilitate further studies to promote a better understanding of GC shutdown in infection and immune dysregulation.
    • IFN-γ Producing Th1 Cells Induce Different Transcriptional Profiles in Microglia and Astrocytes.

      Prajeeth, Chittappen K; Dittrich-Breiholz, Oliver; Talbot, Steven R; Robert, Philippe A; Huehn, Jochen; Stangel, Martin; HZI,Helmholtz-Zentrum für Infektionsforschung GmbH, Inhoffenstr. 7,38124 Braunschweig, Germany.; BRICS, Braunschweiger Zentrum für Systembiologie, Rebenring 56,38106 Braunschweig, Germany. (2018-01-01)
      Autoreactive T cells that infiltrate into the central nervous system (CNS) are believed to have a significant role in mediating the pathology of neuroinflammatory diseases like multiple sclerosis. Their interaction with microglia and astrocytes in the CNS is crucial for the regulation of neuroinflammatory processes. Our previous work demonstrated that effectors secreted by Th1 and Th17 cells have different capacities to influence the phenotype and function of glial cells. We have shown that Th1-derived effectors altered the phenotype and function of both microglia and astrocytes whereas Th17-derived effectors induced direct effects only on astrocytes but not on microglia. Here we investigated if effector molecules associated with IFN-γ producing Th1 cells induced different gene expression profiles in microglia and astrocytes. We performed a microarray analysis of RNA isolated from microglia and astrocytes treated with medium and Th-derived culture supernatants and compared the gene expression data. By using the criteria of 2-fold change and a false discovery rate of 0.01 (corrected
    • 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.
    • Multidimensional Analysis Integrating Human T-Cell Signatures in Lymphatic Tissues with Sex of Humanized Mice for Prediction of Responses after Dendritic Cell Immunization.

      Volk, Valery; Reppas, Andreas I; Robert, Philippe A; Spineli, Loukia M; Sundarasetty, Bala Sai; Theobald, Sebastian J; Schneider, Andreas; Gerasch, Laura; Deves Roth, Candida; Klöss, Stephan; et al. (2017)
      Mice transplanted with human cord blood-derived hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs) became a powerful experimental tool for studying the heterogeneity of human immune reconstitution and immune responses in vivo. Yet, analyses of human T cell maturation in humanized models have been hampered by an overall low immune reactivity and lack of methods to define predictive markers of responsiveness. Long-lived human lentiviral induced dendritic cells expressing the cytomegalovirus pp65 protein (iDCpp65) promoted the development of pp65-specific human CD8+ T cell responses in NOD.Cg-Rag1 tm1Mom -Il2rγ tm1Wj humanized mice through the presentation of immune-dominant antigenic epitopes (signal 1), expression of co-stimulatory molecules (signal 2), and inflammatory cytokines (signal 3). We exploited this validated system to evaluate the effects of mouse sex in the dynamics of T cell homing and maturation status in thymus, blood, bone marrow, spleen, and lymph nodes. Statistical analyses of cell relative frequencies and absolute numbers demonstrated higher CD8+ memory T cell reactivity in spleen and lymph nodes of immunized female mice. In order to understand to which extent the multidimensional relation between organ-specific markers predicted the immunization status, the immunophenotypic profiles of individual mice were used to train an artificial neural network designed to discriminate immunized and non-immunized mice. The highest accuracy of immune reactivity prediction could be obtained from lymph node markers of female mice (77.3%). Principal component analyses further identified clusters of markers best suited to describe the heterogeneity of immunization responses in vivo. A correlation analysis of these markers reflected a tissue-specific impact of immunization. This allowed for an organ-resolved characterization of the immunization status of individual mice based on the identified set of markers. This new modality of multidimensional analyses can be used as a framework for defining minimal but predictive signatures of human immune responses in mice and suggests critical markers to characterize responses to immunization after HSC transplantation.
    • 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.
    • Nitric oxide controls proliferation of Leishmania major by inhibiting the recruitment of permissive host cells.

      Formaglio, Pauline; Alabdullah, Mohamad; Siokis, Anastasios; Handschuh, Juliane; Sauerland, Ina; Fu, Yan; Krone, Anna; Gintschel, Patricia; Stettin, Juliane; Heyde, Sandrina; et al. (Cell Press, 2021-10-15)
      Nitric oxide (NO) is an important antimicrobial effector but also prevents unnecessary tissue damage by shutting down the recruitment of monocyte-derived phagocytes. Intracellular pathogens such as Leishmania major can hijack these cells as a niche for replication. Thus, NO might exert containment by restricting the availability of the cellular niche required for efficient pathogen proliferation. However, such indirect modes of action remain to be established. By combining mathematical modeling with intravital 2-photon biosensors of pathogen viability and proliferation, we show that low L. major proliferation results not from direct NO impact on the pathogen but from reduced availability of proliferation-permissive host cells. Although inhibiting NO production increases recruitment of these cells, and thus pathogen proliferation, blocking cell recruitment uncouples the NO effect from pathogen proliferation. Therefore, NO fulfills two distinct functions for L. major containment: permitting direct killing and restricting the supply of proliferation-permissive host cells.
    • 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.
    • Synchronous Germinal Center Onset Impacts the Efficiency of Antibody Responses.

      Arulraj, Theinmozhi; Binder, Sebastian C; Robert, Philippe A; Meyer-Hermann, Michael; BRICS, Braunschweiger Zentrum für Systembiologie, Rebenring 56,38106 Braunschweig, Germany. (Frontiers, 2019-01-01)
      The germinal center reaction is an important target for modulating antibody responses. Antibody production from germinal centers is regulated by a negative feedback mechanism termed antibody feedback. By imposing antibody feedback, germinal centers can interact and regulate the output of other germinal centers. Using an agent-based model of the germinal center reaction, we studied the impact of antibody feedback on kinetics and efficiency of a germinal center. Our simulations predict that high feedback of antibodies from germinal centers reduces the production of plasma cells and subsequently the efficiency of the germinal center reaction by promoting earlier termination. Affinity maturation is only weakly improved by increased antibody feedback and ultimately interrupted because of premature termination of the reaction. The model predicts that the asynchronous onset and changes in number of germinal centers could alter the efficiency of antibody response due to changes in feedback by soluble antibodies. Consequently, late initialized germinal centers have a compromised output due to higher antibody feedback from the germinal centers formed earlier. The results demonstrate potential effects of germinal center intercommunication and highlight the importance of understanding germinal center interactions for optimizing the antibody response, in particular, in the elderly and in the context of vaccination.