• An Advanced Human Intestinal Coculture Model Reveals Compartmentalized Host and Pathogen Strategies during Infection.

      Schulte, Leon N; Schweinlin, Matthias; Westermann, Alexander J; Janga, Harshavardhan; Santos, Sara C; Appenzeller, Silke; Walles, Heike; Vogel, Jörg; Metzger, Marco; HIRI, Helmholtz-Institut für RNA-basierte Infektionsforschung, Josef-Shneider Strasse 2, 97080 Würzburg, Germany. (American Society for Microbiology (ASM), 2020-02-18)
      A major obstacle in infection biology is the limited ability to recapitulate human disease trajectories in traditional cell culture and animal models, which impedes the translation of basic research into clinics. Here, we introduce a three-dimensional (3D) intestinal tissue model to study human enteric infections at a level of detail that is not achieved by conventional two-dimensional monocultures. Our model comprises epithelial and endothelial layers, a primary intestinal collagen scaffold, and immune cells. Upon Salmonella infection, the model mimics human gastroenteritis, in that it restricts the pathogen to the epithelial compartment, an advantage over existing mouse models. Application of dual transcriptome sequencing to the Salmonella-infected model revealed the communication of epithelial, endothelial, monocytic, and natural killer cells among each other and with the pathogen. Our results suggest that Salmonella uses its type III secretion systems to manipulate STAT3-dependent inflammatory responses locally in the epithelium without accompanying alterations in the endothelial compartment. Our approach promises to reveal further human-specific infection strategies employed by Salmonella and other pathogens.IMPORTANCE Infection research routinely employs in vitro cell cultures or in vivo mouse models as surrogates of human hosts. Differences between murine and human immunity and the low level of complexity of traditional cell cultures, however, highlight the demand for alternative models that combine the in vivo-like properties of the human system with straightforward experimental perturbation. Here, we introduce a 3D tissue model comprising multiple cell types of the human intestinal barrier, a primary site of pathogen attack. During infection with the foodborne pathogen Salmonella enterica serovar Typhimurium, our model recapitulates human disease aspects, including pathogen restriction to the epithelial compartment, thereby deviating from the systemic infection in mice. Combination of our model with state-of-the-art genetics revealed Salmonella-mediated local manipulations of human immune responses, likely contributing to the establishment of the pathogen's infection niche. We propose the adoption of similar 3D tissue models to infection biology, to advance our understanding of molecular infection strategies employed by bacterial pathogens in their human host.
    • Longitudinal Multi-omics Analyses Identify Responses of Megakaryocytes, Erythroid Cells, and Plasmablasts as Hallmarks of Severe COVID-19.

      Bernardes, Joana P; Mishra, Neha; Tran, Florian; Bahmer, Thomas; Best, Lena; Blase, Johanna I; Bordoni, Dora; Franzenburg, Jeanette; Geisen, Ulf; Josephs-Spaulding, Jonathan; et al. (Elsevier (Cell Press), 2020-11-26)
      Temporal resolution of cellular features associated with a severe COVID-19 disease trajectory is needed for understanding skewed immune responses and defining predictors of outcome. Here, we performed a longitudinal multi-omics study using a two-center cohort of 14 patients. We analyzed the bulk transcriptome, bulk DNA methylome, and single-cell transcriptome (>358,000 cells, including BCR profiles) of peripheral blood samples harvested from up to 5 time points. Validation was performed in two independent cohorts of COVID-19 patients. Severe COVID-19 was characterized by an increase of proliferating, metabolically hyperactive plasmablasts. Coinciding with critical illness, we also identified an expansion of interferon-activated circulating megakaryocytes and increased erythropoiesis with features of hypoxic signaling. Megakaryocyte- and erythroid-cell-derived co-expression modules were predictive of fatal disease outcome. The study demonstrates broad cellular effects of SARS-CoV-2 infection beyond adaptive immune cells and provides an entry point toward developing biomarkers and targeted treatments of patients with COVID-19.
    • Transcriptome profiling and protease inhibition experiments identify proteases that activate H3N2 influenza A and influenza B viruses in murine airways.

      Harbig, Anne; Mernberger, Marco; Bittel, Linda; Pleschka, Stephan; Schughart, Klaus; Steinmetzer, Torsten; Stiewe, Thorsten; Nist, Andrea; Böttcher-Friebertshäuser, Eva; HIRI, Helmholtz-Institut für RNA-basierte Infektionsforschung, Josef-Shneider Strasse 2, 97080 Würzburg, Germany. (Elsevier, 2020-04-17)
      Cleavage of influenza virus hemagglutinin (HA) by host proteases is essential for virus infectivity. HA of most influenza A and B (IAV/IBV) viruses is cleaved at a monobasic motif by trypsin-like proteases. Previous studies have reported that transmembrane serine protease 2 (TMPRSS2) is essential for activation of H7N9 and H1N1pdm IAV in mice but that H3N2 IAV and IBV activation is independent of TMPRSS2 and carried out by as-yet-undetermined protease(s). Here, to identify additional H3 IAV- and IBV-activating proteases, we used RNA-Seq to investigate the protease repertoire of murine lower airway tissues, primary type II alveolar epithelial cells (AECIIs), and the mouse lung cell line MLE-15. Among 13 candidates identified, TMPRSS4, TMPRSS13, hepsin, and prostasin activated H3 and IBV HA in vitro IBV activation and replication was reduced in AECIIs from Tmprss2/Tmprss4-deficient mice compared with WT or Tmprss2-deficient mice, indicating that murine TMPRSS4 is involved in IBV activation. Multicycle replication of H3N2 IAV and IBV in AECIIs of Tmprss2/Tmprss4-deficient mice varied in sensitivity to protease inhibitors, indicating that different, but overlapping, sets of murine proteases facilitate H3 and IBV HA cleavages. Interestingly, human hepsin and prostasin orthologs did not activate H3, but they did activate IBV HA in vitro Our results indicate that TMPRSS4 is an IBV-activating protease in murine AECIIs and suggest that TMPRSS13, hepsin, and prostasin cleave H3 and IBV HA in mice. They further show that hepsin and prostasin orthologs might contribute to the differences observed in TMPRSS2-independent activation of H3 in murine and human airways.