• Itaconate and derivatives reduce interferon responses and inflammation in influenza A virus infection.

      Sohail, Aaqib; Iqbal, Azeem A; Sahini, Nishika; Chen, Fangfang; Tantawy, Mohamed; Waqas, Fakhar; Winterhoff, Moritz; Ebensen, Thomas; Schultz, Kristin; Geffers, Robert; et al. (PLOS, 2022-01-13)
      Excessive inflammation is a major cause of morbidity and mortality in many viral infections including influenza. Therefore, there is a need for therapeutic interventions that dampen and redirect inflammatory responses and, ideally, exert antiviral effects. Itaconate is an immunomodulatory metabolite which also reprograms cell metabolism and inflammatory responses when applied exogenously. We evaluated effects of endogenous itaconate and exogenous application of itaconate and its variants dimethyl- and 4-octyl-itaconate (DI, 4OI) on host responses to influenza A virus (IAV). Infection induced expression of ACOD1, the enzyme catalyzing itaconate synthesis, in monocytes and macrophages, which correlated with viral replication and was abrogated by DI and 4OI treatment. In IAV-infected mice, pulmonary inflammation and weight loss were greater in Acod1-/- than in wild-type mice, and DI treatment reduced pulmonary inflammation and mortality. The compounds reversed infection-triggered interferon responses and modulated inflammation in human cells supporting non-productive and productive infection, in peripheral blood mononuclear cells, and in human lung tissue. Itaconates reduced ROS levels and STAT1 phosphorylation, whereas AKT phosphorylation was reduced by 4OI and DI but increased by itaconate. Single-cell RNA sequencing identified monocytes as the main target of infection and the exclusive source of ACOD1 mRNA in peripheral blood. DI treatment silenced IFN-responses predominantly in monocytes, but also in lymphocytes and natural killer cells. Ectopic synthesis of itaconate in A549 cells, which do not physiologically express ACOD1, reduced infection-driven inflammation, and DI reduced IAV- and IFNγ-induced CXCL10 expression in murine macrophages independent of the presence of endogenous ACOD1. The compounds differed greatly in their effects on cellular gene homeostasis and released cytokines/chemokines, but all three markedly reduced release of the pro-inflammatory chemokines CXCL10 (IP-10) and CCL2 (MCP-1). Viral replication did not increase under treatment despite the dramatically repressed IFN responses. In fact, 4OI strongly inhibited viral transcription in peripheral blood mononuclear cells, and the compounds reduced viral titers (4OI>Ita>DI) in A549 cells whereas viral transcription was unaffected. Taken together, these results reveal itaconates as immunomodulatory and antiviral interventions for influenza virus infection.
    • Symptom Burden and Factors Associated with Acute Respiratory Infections in the First Two Years of Life-Results from the LoewenKIDS Cohort.

      Langer, Susan; Horn, Johannes; Gottschick, Cornelia; Klee, Bianca; Purschke, Oliver; Caputo, Mahrrouz; Dorendorf, Evelyn; Meyer-Schlinkmann, Kristin Maria; Raupach-Rosin, Heike; Karch, André; et al. (MDPI, 2022-01-05)
      Acute respiratory infections (ARIs) are the most common childhood illnesses worldwide whereby the reported frequency varies widely, often depending on type of assessment. Symptom diaries are a powerful tool to counteract possible under-reporting, particularly of milder infections, and thus offer the possibility to assess the full burden of ARIs. The following analyses are based on symptom diaries from participants of the German birth cohort study LoewenKIDS. Primary analyses included frequencies of ARIs and specific symptoms. Factors, which might be associated with an increased number of ARIs, were identified using the Poisson regression. A subsample of two hundred eighty-eight participants were included. On average, 13.7 ARIs (SD: 5.2 median: 14.0 IQR: 10-17) were reported in the first two years of life with an average duration of 11 days per episode (SD: 5.8, median: 9.7, IQR: 7-14). The median age for the first ARI episode was 91 days (IQR: 57-128, mean: 107, SD: 84.5). Childcare attendance and having siblings were associated with an increased frequency of ARIs, while exclusive breastfeeding for the first three months was associated with less ARIs, compared to exclusive breastfeeding for a longer period. This study provides detailed insight into the symptom burden of ARIs in German infants.
    • A SARS-CoV-2 neutralizing antibody selected from COVID-19 patients binds to the ACE2-RBD interface and is tolerant to most known RBD mutations.

      Bertoglio, Federico; Fühner, Viola; Ruschig, Maximilian; Heine, Philip Alexander; Abassi, Leila; Klünemann, Thomas; Rand, Ulfert; Meier, Doris; Langreder, Nora; Steinke, Stephan; et al. (Cell Press, 2021-07-07)
      The novel betacoronavirus severe acute respiratory syndrome-coronavirus-2 (SARS-CoV-2) causes a form of severe pneumonia disease called coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). To develop human neutralizing anti-SARS-CoV-2 antibodies, antibody gene libraries from convalescent COVID-19 patients were constructed and recombinant antibody fragments (scFv) against the receptor-binding domain (RBD) of the spike protein were selected by phage display. The antibody STE90-C11 shows a subnanometer IC50 in a plaque-based live SARS-CoV-2 neutralization assay. The in vivo efficacy of the antibody is demonstrated in the Syrian hamster and in the human angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (hACE2) mice model. The crystal structure of STE90-C11 Fab in complex with SARS-CoV-2-RBD is solved at 2.0 Å resolution showing that the antibody binds at the same region as ACE2 to RBD. The binding and inhibition of STE90-C11 is not blocked by many known emerging RBD mutations. STE90-C11-derived human IgG1 with FcγR-silenced Fc (COR-101) is undergoing Phase Ib/II clinical trials for the treatment of moderate to severe COVID-19.
    • Immune Responses to Pandemic H1N1 Influenza Virus Infection in Pigs Vaccinated with a Conserved Hemagglutinin HA1 Peptide Adjuvanted with CAF01 or CDA/αGalCerMPEG.

      López-Serrano, Sergi; Cordoba, Lorena; Pérez-Maillo, Mónica; Pleguezuelos, Patricia; Remarque, Edmond J; Ebensen, Thomas; Guzmán, Carlos A; Christensen, Dennis; Segalés, Joaquim; Darji, Ayub; et al. (MDPI, 2021-07-06)
      This study aimed to evaluate the immune response and protection correlates against influenza virus (IV) infection in pigs vaccinated with the novel NG34 HA1 vaccine candidate adjuvanted with either CAF®01 or CDA/αGalCerMPEG (αGCM). Two groups of six pigs each were vaccinated intramuscularly twice with either NG34 + CAF®01 or NG34 + CDA/αGCM. As controls, groups of animals (n = 6 or 4) either non-vaccinated or vaccinated with human seasonal trivalent influenza vaccine or NG34 + Freund's adjuvant were included in the study. All animal groups were challenged with the 2009 pandemic (pdm09) strain of H1N1 (total amount of 7 × 106 TCID50/mL) via intranasal and endotracheal routes 21 days after second vaccination. Reduced consolidated lung lesions were observed both on days three and seven post-challenge in the animals vaccinated with NG34 + CAF®01, whereas higher variability with relatively more severe lesions in pigs of the NG34 + CDA/αGCM group on day three post-infection. Among groups, animals vaccinated with NG34 + CDA/αGCM showed higher viral loads in the lung at seven days post infection whereas animals from NG34 + CAF®01 completely abolished virus from the lower respiratory tract. Similarly, higher IFNγ secretion and stronger IgG responses against the NG34 peptide in sera was observed in animals from the NG34 + CAF®01 group as compared to the NG34 + CDA/αGCM. NG34-vaccinated pigs with adjuvanted CAF®01 or CDA/αGCM combinations resulted in different immune responses as well as outcomes in pathology and viral shedding.
    • B cell depletion impairs vaccination-induced CD8 T cell responses in a type I interferon-dependent manner.

      Graalmann, Theresa; Borst, Katharina; Manchanda, Himanshu; Vaas, Lea; Bruhn, Matthias; Graalmann, Lukas; Koster, Mario; Verboom, Murielle; Hallensleben, Michael; Guzmán, Carlos Alberto; et al. (BMJ Publishing Group, 2021-07-05)
      Objectives: The monoclonal anti-CD20 antibody rituximab is frequently applied in the treatment of lymphoma as well as autoimmune diseases and confers efficient depletion of recirculating B cells. Correspondingly, B cell-depleted patients barely mount de novo antibody responses during infections or vaccinations. Therefore, efficient immune responses of B cell-depleted patients largely depend on protective T cell responses. Methods: CD8+ T cell expansion was studied in rituximab-treated rheumatoid arthritis (RA) patients and B cell-deficient mice on vaccination/infection with different vaccines/pathogens. Results: Rituximab-treated RA patients vaccinated with Influvac showed reduced expansion of influenza-specific CD8+ T cells when compared with healthy controls. Moreover, B cell-deficient JHT mice infected with mouse-adapted Influenza or modified vaccinia virus Ankara showed less vigorous expansion of virus-specific CD8+ T cells than wild type mice. Of note, JHT mice do not have an intrinsic impairment of CD8+ T cell expansion, since infection with vaccinia virus induced similar T cell expansion in JHT and wild type mice. Direct type I interferon receptor signalling of B cells was necessary to induce several chemokines in B cells and to support T cell help by enhancing the expression of MHC-I. Conclusions: Depending on the stimulus, B cells can modulate CD8+ T cell responses. Thus, B cell depletion causes a deficiency of de novo antibody responses and affects the efficacy of cellular response including cytotoxic T cells. The choice of the appropriate vaccine to vaccinate B cell-depleted patients has to be re-evaluated in order to efficiently induce protective CD8+ T cell responses.
    • Prophylactic Multi-Subunit Vaccine against Chlamydia trachomatis In Vivo Evaluation in Mice.

      Lanfermann, Christian; Wintgens, Sebastian; Ebensen, Thomas; Kohn, Martin; Laudeley, Robert; Schulze, Kai; Rheinheimer, Claudia; Hegemann, Johannes H; Guzman, Carlos Alberto; Klos, Andreas; et al. (MDPI, 2021-06-06)
      Chlamydia trachomatis is the most frequent sexually-transmitted disease-causing bacterium. Urogenital serovars of this intracellular pathogen lead to urethritis and cervicitis. Ascending infections result in pelvic inflammatory disease, salpingitis, and oophoritis. One of 200 urogenital infections leads to tubal infertility. Serovars A-C cause trachoma with visual impairment. There is an urgent need for a vaccine. We characterized a new five-component subunit vaccine in a mouse vaccination-lung challenge infection model. Four recombinant Pmp family-members and Ctad1 from C. trachomatis serovar E, all of which participate in adhesion and binding of chlamydial elementary bodies to host cells, were combined with the mucosal adjuvant cyclic-di-adenosine monophosphate. Intranasal application led to a high degree of cross-serovar protection against urogenital and ocular strains of C. trachomatis, which lasted at least five months. Critical evaluated parameters were body weight, clinical score, chlamydial load, a granulocyte marker and the cytokines IFN-γ/TNF-α in lung homogenate. Vaccine antigen-specific antibodies and a mixed Th1/Th2/Th17 T cell response with multi-functional CD4+ and CD8+ T cells correlate with protection. However, serum-transfer did not protect the recipients suggesting that circulating antibodies play only a minor role. In the long run, our new vaccine might help to prevent the feared consequences of human C. trachomatis infections.
    • Advanced strategies for development of vaccines against human bacterial pathogens.

      Sharma, Abhinay; Sanduja, Pooja; Anand, Aparna; Mahajan, Pooja; Guzman, Carlos A; Yadav, Puja; Awasthi, Amit; Hanski, Emanuel; Dua, Meenakshi; Johri, Atul Kumar; et al. (Springer Nature, 2021-03-22)
      Infectious diseases are one of the main grounds of death and disabilities in human beings globally. Lack of effective treatment and immunization for many deadly infectious diseases and emerging drug resistance in pathogens underlines the need to either develop new vaccines or sufficiently improve the effectiveness of currently available drugs and vaccines. In this review, we discuss the application of advanced tools like bioinformatics, genomics, proteomics and associated techniques for a rational vaccine design.
    • Cyclic Di-Adenosine Monophosphate: A Promising Adjuvant Candidate for the Development of Neonatal Vaccines.

      Lirussi, Darío; Weissmann, Sebastian Felix; Ebensen, Thomas; Nitsche-Gloy, Ursula; Franz, Heiko B G; Guzmán, Carlos A; HZI,Helmholtz-Zentrum für Infektionsforschung GmbH, Inhoffenstr. 7,38124 Braunschweig, Germany. (MDPI, 2021-02-01)
      Underdeveloped immunity during the neonatal age makes this period one of the most dangerous during the human lifespan, with infection-related mortality being one of the highest of all age groups. It is also discussed that vaccination during this time window may result in tolerance rather than in productive immunity, thus raising concerns about the overall vaccine-mediated protective efficacy. Cyclic di-nucleotides (CDN) are bacterial second messengers that are rapidly sensed by the immune system as a danger signal, allowing the utilization of these molecules as potent activators of the immune response. We have previously shown that cyclic di-adenosine monophosphate (CDA) is a potent and versatile adjuvant capable of promoting humoral and cellular immunity. We characterize here the cytokine profiles elicited by CDA in neonatal cord blood in comparison with other promising neonatal adjuvants, such as the imidazoquinoline resiquimod (R848), which is a synthetic dual TLR7 and TLR8 agonist. We observed superior activity of CDA in eliciting T helper 1 (Th1) and T follicular helper (TfH) cytokines in cells from human cord blood when compared to R848. Additional in vivo studies in mice showed that neonatal priming in a three-dose vaccination schedule is beneficial when CDA is used as a vaccine adjuvant. Humoral antibody titers were significantly higher in mice that received a neonatal prime as compared to those that did not. This effect was absent when using other adjuvants that were reported as suitable for neonatal vaccination. The biological significance of this immune response was assessed by a challenge with a genetically modified influenza H1N1 PR8 virus. The obtained results confirmed that CDA performed better than any other adjuvant tested. Altogether, our results suggest that CDA is a potent adjuvant in vitro on human cord blood, and in vivo in newborn mice, and thus a suitable candidate for the development of neonatal vaccines. Keywords: cyclic di-adenosine monophosphate (CDA); cyclic di-nucleotides (CDN); first dose efficacy; neonatal vaccines; stimulator of interferon genes (STING).
    • Self-Amplifying Pestivirus Replicon RNA Encoding Influenza Virus Nucleoprotein and Hemagglutinin Promote Humoral and Cellular Immune Responses in Pigs.

      Démoulins, Thomas; Ruggli, Nicolas; Gerber, Markus; Thomann-Harwood, Lisa J; Ebensen, Thomas; Schulze, Kai; Guzmán, Carlos A; McCullough, Kenneth C; HZI,Helmholtz-Zentrum für Infektionsforschung GmbH, Inhoffenstr. 7,38124 Braunschweig, Germany. (Frontiers, 2021-01-28)
      Self-amplifying replicon RNA (RepRNA) promotes expansion of mRNA templates encoding genes of interest through their replicative nature, thus providing increased antigen payloads. RepRNA derived from the non-cytopathogenic classical swine fever virus (CSFV) targets monocytes and dendritic cells (DCs), potentially promoting prolonged antigen expression in the DCs, contrasting with cytopathogenic RepRNA. We engineered pestivirus RepRNA constructs encoding influenza virus H5N1 (A/chicken/Yamaguchi/7/2004) nucleoprotein (Rep-NP) or hemagglutinin (Rep-HA). The inherent RNase-sensitivity of RepRNA had to be circumvented to ensure efficient delivery to DCs for intracellular release and RepRNA translation; we have reported how only particular synthetic delivery vehicle formulations are appropriate. The question remained concerning RepRNA packaged in virus replicon particles (VRPs); we have now compared an efficient polyethylenimine (PEI)-based formulation (polyplex) with VRP-delivery as well as naked RepRNA co-administered with the potent bis-(3',5')-cyclic dimeric adenosine monophosphate (c-di-AMP) adjuvant. All formulations contained a Rep-HA/Rep-NP mix, to assess the breadth of both humoral and cell-mediated defences against the influenza virus antigens. Assessment employed pigs for their close immunological relationship to humans, and as natural hosts for influenza virus. Animals receiving the VRPs, as well as PEI-delivered RepRNA, displayed strong humoral and cellular responses against both HA and NP, but with VRPs proving to be more efficacious. In contrast, naked RepRNA plus c-di-AMP could induce only low-level immune responses, in one out of five pigs. In conclusion, RepRNA encoding different influenza virus antigens are efficacious for inducing both humoral and cellular immune defences in pigs. Comparisons showed that packaging within VRP remains the most efficacious for delivery leading to induction of immune defences; however, this technology necessitates employment of expensive complementing cell cultures, and VRPs do not target human cells. Therefore, choosing the appropriate synthetic delivery vehicle still offers potential for rapid vaccine design, particularly in the context of the current coronavirus pandemic.
    • Monte Carlo Simulation of SARS-CoV-2 Radiation-Induced Inactivation for Vaccine Development.

      Francis, Ziad; Incerti, Sebastien; Zein, Sara A; Lampe, Nathanael; Guzman, Carlos A; Durante, Marco; HZI,Helmholtz-Zentrum für Infektionsforschung GmbH, Inhoffenstr. 7,38124 Braunschweig, Germany. (Radiation Research Society, 2021-01-07)
      Immunization with an inactivated virus is one of the strategies currently being tested towards developing a SARS-CoV-2 vaccine. One of the methods used to inactivate viruses is exposure to high doses of ionizing radiation to damage their nucleic acids. While gamma (γ) rays effectively induce lesions in the RNA, envelope proteins are also highly damaged in the process. This in turn may alter their antigenic properties, affecting their capacity to induce an adaptive immune response able to confer effective protection. Here, we modeled the effect of sparsely and densely ionizing radiation on SARS-CoV-2 using the Monte Carlo toolkit Geant4-DNA. With a realistic 3D target virus model, we calculated the expected number of lesions in the spike and membrane proteins, as well as in the viral RNA. Our findings showed that γ rays produced significant spike protein damage, but densely ionizing charged particles induced less membrane damage for the same level of RNA lesions, because a single ion traversal through the nuclear envelope was sufficient to inactivate the virus. We propose that accelerated charged particles produce inactivated viruses with little structural damage to envelope proteins, thereby representing a new and effective tool for developing vaccines against SARS-CoV-2 and other enveloped viruses.
    • Virus Irradiation and COVID-19 Disease

      Durante, Marco; Schulze, Kai; Incerti, Sebastien; Francis, Ziad; Zein, Sara; Guzmán, Carlos Alberto; HZI,Helmholtz-Zentrum für Infektionsforschung GmbH, Inhoffenstr. 7,38124 Braunschweig, Germany. (Frontiers, 2020-10-20)
      Virus irradiation has been performed for many decades for basic research studies, sterilization, and vaccine development. The COVID-19 outbreak is currently causing an enormous effort worldwide for finding a vaccine against coronavirus. High doses of γ-rays can be used for the development of vaccines that exploit inactivated virus. This technique has been gradually replaced by more practical methods, in particular the use of chemicals, but irradiation remains a simple and effective method used in some cases. The technique employed for inactivating a virus has an impact on its ability to induce an adaptive immune response able to confer effective protection. We propose here that accelerated heavy ions can be used to inactivate SARS-CoV-2 viruses with small damage to the spike proteins of the envelope and can then provide an intact virion for vaccine development.
    • Towards Reduction or Substitution of Cytotoxic DMSO in Biobanking of Functional Bioengineered Megakaryocytes.

      Pogozhykh, Denys; Eicke, Dorothee; Gryshkov, Oleksandr; Wolkers, Willem F; Schulze, Kai; Guzmán, Carlos A; Blasczyk, Rainer; Figueiredo, Constança; HZI,Helmholtz-Zentrum für Infektionsforschung GmbH, Inhoffenstr. 7,38124 Braunschweig, Germany. (MDPI, 2020-10-16)
      Donor platelet transfusion is currently the only efficient treatment of life-threatening thrombocytopenia, but it is highly challenged by immunological, quality, and contamination issues, as well as short shelf life of the donor material. Ex vivo produced megakaryocytes and platelets represent a promising alternative strategy to the conventional platelet transfusion. However, practical implementation of such strategy demands availability of reliable biobanking techniques, which would permit eliminating continuous cell culture maintenance, ensure time for quality testing, enable stock management and logistics, as well as availability in a ready-to-use manner. At the same time, protocols applying DMSO-based cryopreservation media were associated with increased risks of adverse long-term side effects after patient use. Here, we show the possibility to develop cryopreservation techniques for iPSC-derived megakaryocytes under defined xeno-free conditions with significant reduction or complete elimination of DMSO. Comprehensive phenotypic and functional in vitro characterization of megakaryocytes has been performed before and after cryopreservation. Megakaryocytes cryopreserved DMSO-free, or using low DMSO concentrations, showed the capability to produce platelets in vivo after transfusion in a mouse model. These findings propose biobanking approaches essential for development of megakaryocyte-based replacement and regenerative therapies.
    • Next Generation Influenza Vaccines: Looking into the Crystal Ball.

      Guzmán, Carlos Alberto; HZI,Helmholtz-Zentrum für Infektionsforschung GmbH, Inhoffenstr. 7,38124 Braunschweig, Germany. (MDPI, 2020-08-21)
      Influenza infections are responsible for significant number of deaths and overwhelming costs worldwide every year. Vaccination represents the only cost-efficient alternative to address this major problem in human health. However, current vaccines are fraught by many limitations, being far from optimal. Among them, the need to upgrade vaccines every year through a time-consuming process open to different caveats, and the critical fact that they exhibit poorer efficacy in individuals who are at high risk for severe infections. Where are we? How can knowledge and technologies contribute towards removing current roadblocks? What does the future offer in terms of next generation vaccines?
    • Seropositivity for pathogens associated with chronic infections is a risk factor for all-cause mortality in the elderly: findings from the Memory and Morbidity in Augsburg Elderly (MEMO) Study.

      Zeeb, Marius; Kerrinnes, Tobias; Cicin-Sain, Luka; Guzman, Carlos A; Puppe, Wolfram; Schulz, Thomas F; Peters, Annette; Berger, Klaus; Castell, Stefanie; Karch, André; et al. (Springer, 2020-07-09)
      Immunostimulation by chronic infection has been linked to an increased risk for different non-communicable diseases, which in turn are leading causes of death in high- and middle-income countries. Thus, we investigated if a positive serostatus for pathogens responsible for common chronic infections is individually or synergistically related to reduced overall survival in community dwelling elderly. We used data of 365 individuals from the German MEMO (Memory and Morbidity in Augsburg Elderly) cohort study with a median age of 73 years at baseline and a median follow-up of 14 years. We examined the effect of a positive serostatus at baseline for selected pathogens associated with chronic infections (Helicobacter pylori, Borrelia burgdorferi sensu lato, Toxoplasma gondii, cytomegalovirus, Epstein-Barr virus, herpes simplex virus 1/2, and human herpesvirus 6) on all-cause mortality with multivariable parametric survival models. We found a reduced survival time in individuals with a positive serostatus for Helicobacter pylori (accelerated failure time (AFT) - 15.92, 95% CI - 29.96; - 1.88), cytomegalovirus (AFT - 22.81, 95% CI - 36.41; - 9.22) and Borrelia burgdorferi sensu lato (AFT - 25.25, 95% CI - 43.40; - 7.10), after adjusting for potential confounders. The number of infectious agents an individual was seropositive for had a linear effect on all-cause mortality (AFT per additional infection - 12.42 95% CI - 18.55; - 6.30). Our results suggest an effect of seropositivity for Helicobacter pylori, cytomegalovirus, and Borrelia burgdorferi sensu lato on all-cause mortality in older community dwelling individuals. Further research with larger cohorts and additional biomarkers is required, to assess mediators and molecular pathways of this effect.
    • Peptidoglycan-treated tumor antigen-pulsed dendritic cells impart complete resistance against tumor rechallenge.

      Patidar, A; Selvaraj, S; Chauhan, P; Guzman, C A; Ebensen, T; Sarkar, A; Chattopadhyay, D; Saha, B (2020-06-26)
    • Responsiveness to Influenza Vaccination Correlates with NKG2C-Expression on NK Cells.

      Riese, Peggy; Trittel, Stephanie; Pathirana, Rishi D; Klawonn, Frank; Cox, Rebecca J; Guzmán, Carlos A; HZI,Helmholtz-Zentrum für Infektionsforschung GmbH, Inhoffenstr. 7,38124 Braunschweig, Germany. (MDPI, 2020-06-05)
      Influenza vaccination often results in a large percentage of low responders, especially in high-risk groups. As a first line of defense, natural killer (NK) cells play a crucial role in the fight against infections. However, their implication with regard to vaccine responsiveness is insufficiently assessed. Therefore, this study aimed at the validation of essential NK cell features potentially associated with differential vaccine responsiveness with a special focus on NKG2C- and/or CD57-expressing NK cells considered to harbor memory-like functions. To this end, 16 healthy volunteers were vaccinated with an adjuvanted pandemic influenza vaccine. Vaccine responders and low responders were classified according to their hemagglutination inhibition antibody titers. A majority of responders displayed enhanced frequencies of NKG2C-expressing NK cells 7- or 14-days post-vaccination as compared to low responders, whereas the expression of CD57 was not differentially modulated. The NK cell cytotoxic potential was found to be confined to CD56dimCD16+ NKG2C-expressing NK cells in the responders but not in the low responders, which was further confirmed by stochastic neighbor embedding analysis. The presented study is the first of its kind that ascribes CD56dimCD16+ NKG2C-expressing NK cells a crucial role in biasing adaptive immune responses upon influenza vaccination and suggests NKG2C as a potential biomarker in predicting pandemic influenza vaccine responsiveness.
    • Role of Autophagy in Von Willebrand Factor Secretion by Endothelial Cells and in the In Vivo Thrombin-Antithrombin Complex Formation Promoted by the HIV-1 Matrix Protein p17.

      Bugatti, Antonella; Marsico, Stefania; Mazzuca, Pietro; Schulze, Kai; Ebensen, Thomas; Giagulli, Cinzia; Peña, Esther; Badimón, Lina; Slevin, Mark; Caruso, Arnaldo; et al. (MDPI, 2020-03-16)
    • Mucosal Heterologous Prime/Boost Vaccination Induces Polyfunctional Systemic Immunity, Improving Protection Against .

      Sanchez Alberti, Andrés; Bivona, Augusto E; Matos, Marina N; Cerny, Natacha; Schulze, Kai; Weißmann, Sebastian; Ebensen, Thomas; González, Germán; Morales, Celina; Cardoso, Alejandro C; et al. (Frontiers, 2020-02-21)
      There are several unmet needs in modern immunology. Among them, vaccines against parasitic diseases and chronic infections lead. Trypanosoma cruzi, the causative agent of Chagas disease, is an excellent example of a silent parasitic invasion that affects millions of people worldwide due to its progression into the symptomatic chronic phase of infection. In search for novel vaccine candidates, we have previously introduced Traspain, an engineered trivalent immunogen that was designed to address some of the known mechanisms of T. cruzi immune evasion. Here, we analyzed its performance in different DNA prime/protein boost protocols and characterized the systemic immune response associated with diverse levels of protection. Formulations that include a STING agonist, like c-di-AMP in the boost doses, were able to prime a Th1/Th17 immune response. Moreover, comparison between them showed that vaccines that were able to prime polyfunctional cell-mediated immunity at the CD4 and CD8 compartment enhanced protection levels in the murine model. These findings contribute to a better knowledge of the desired vaccine-elicited immunity against T. cruzi and promote the definition of a vaccine correlate of protection against the infection.
    • Knockdown of Virus Antigen Expression Increases Therapeutic Vaccine Efficacy in High-titer HBV Carrier Mice.

      Michler, Thomas; Kosinska, Anna D; Festag, Julia; Bunse, Till; Su, Jinpeng; Ringelhan, Marc; Imhof, Hortenzia; Grimm, Dirk; Steiger, Katja; Mogler, Carolin; et al. (Elsevier, 2020-01-28)
      In both models of HBV infection, mice that express hepatocyte-specific small hairpin RNAs or that were given subcutaneous injections of siRNAs had reduced levels of HBV antigens, HBV replication, and viremia (1-3 log10 reduction), compared to mice given control RNAs. Vaccination induced production of HBV-neutralizing antibodies, and increased numbers and functionality of HBV-specific, CD8+ T-cells in mice with low, but not in mice with high levels of HBV antigen. Mice with initially high titers of HBV and knockdown of HBV antigen expression, but not mice with reduced viremia following administration of entecavir, developed polyfunctional, HBV-specific CD8+ T cells and HBV was eliminated.
    • PD-1 expression affects cytokine production by ILC2 and is influenced by peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor-γ.

      Batyrova, Banu; Luwaert, Fien; Maravelia, Panagiota; Miyabayashi, Yuria; Vashist, Neha; Stark, Julian M; Soori, Sara Y; Tibbitt, Christopher A; Riese, Peggy; Coquet, Jonathan M; et al. (Wiley, 2019-11-19)
      Innate lymphoid cells (ILCs) can provide early cytokine help against a variety of pathogens in the lungs and gastrointestinal tract. Type 2 ILC (ILC2) are comparable to T helper 2 cells found in the adaptive immune system, which secrete cytokines such as interleukin 5 (IL-5) and IL-13 and have been found to play roles in host defense against helminth infections and in allergic responses. Recent studies have identified that programmed cell death protein 1 (PD-1) and peroxisome proliferator activated receptor-γ (PPAR-γ) are highly expressed by ILC2. We examined whether PD-1 plays a role in ILC2 function and whether there was any connection between PD-1 and PPAR-γ METHODS: To ensure that only innate immune cells were present, ILC2 cells were examined from RAG1-/- and PD-1-/- xRAG1-/- mice under steady-state or following inoculation with IL-33. We also tested ILC2 generated from bone marrow of RAG1-/- and PD-1-/- xRAG1-/- mice for their production of cytokines. These in vitro-derived ILC2 were also exposed to agonist and antagonist of PPAR-γ.