• Activation of Innate and Adaptive Immunity by a Recombinant Human Cytomegalovirus Strain Expressing an NKG2D Ligand.

      Tomić, Adriana; Varanasi, Pavankumar R; Golemac, Mijo; Malić, Suzana; Riese, Peggy; Borst, Eva M; Mischak-Weissinger, Eva; Guzmán, Carlos A; Krmpotić, Astrid; Jonjić, Stipan; et al. (2016-12)
      Development of an effective vaccine against human cytomegalovirus (HCMV) is a need of utmost medical importance. Generally, it is believed that a live attenuated vaccine would best provide protective immunity against this tenacious pathogen. Here, we propose a strategy for an HCMV vaccine that aims at the simultaneous activation of innate and adaptive immune responses. An HCMV strain expressing the host ligand ULBP2 for the NKG2D receptor was found to be susceptible to control by natural killer (NK) cells, and preserved the ability to stimulate HCMV-specific T cells. Infection with the ULBP2-expressing HCMV strain caused diminished cell surface levels of MHC class I molecules. While expression of the NKG2D ligand increased the cytolytic activity of NK cells, NKG2D engagement in CD8+ T cells provided co-stimulation and compensated for lower MHC class I expression. Altogether, our data indicate that triggering of both arms of the immune system is a promising approach applicable to the generation of a live attenuated HCMV vaccine.
    • 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.
    • Vaccines: from empirical development to rational design.

      Rueckert, Christine; Guzmán, Carlos A; Department of Vaccinology and Applied Microbiology, Helmholtz Centre for Infection Research, Braunschweig, Germany. (2012-11)
      Infectious diseases are responsible for an overwhelming number of deaths worldwide and their clinical management is often hampered by the emergence of multi-drug-resistant strains. Therefore, prevention through vaccination currently represents the best course of action to combat them. However, immune escape and evasion by pathogens often render vaccine development difficult. Furthermore, most currently available vaccines were empirically designed. In this review, we discuss why rational design of vaccines is not only desirable but also necessary. We introduce recent developments towards specifically tailored antigens, adjuvants, and delivery systems, and discuss the methodological gaps and lack of knowledge still hampering true rational vaccine design. Finally, we address the potential and limitations of different strategies and technologies for advancing vaccine development.