• The role of epigenetics in the development of childhood asthma.

      Qi, Cancan; Xu, Cheng-Jian; Koppelman, Gerard H; TWINCORE, Zentrum für experimentelle und klinische Infektionsforschung GmbH,Feodor-Lynen Str. 7, 30625 Hannover, Germany. (2019-11-10)
      Introduction: The development of childhood asthma is caused by a combination of genetic factors and environmental exposures. Epigenetics describes mechanisms of (heritable) regulation of gene expression that occur without changes in DNA sequence. Epigenetics is strongly related to aging, is cell-type specific, and includes DNA methylation, noncoding RNAs, and histone modifications.Areas covered: This review summarizes recent epigenetic studies of childhood asthma in humans, which mostly involve studies of DNA methylation published in the recent five years. Environmental exposures, in particular cigarette smoking, have significant impact on epigenetic changes, but few of these epigenetic signals are also associated with asthma. Several asthma-associated genetic variants relate to DNA methylation. Epigenetic signals can be better understood by studying their correlation with gene expression, which revealed higher presence and activation of blood eosinophils in asthma. Strong associations of nasal methylation signatures and atopic asthma were identified, which were replicable across different populations.Expert commentary: Epigenetic markers have been strongly associated with asthma, and might serve as biomarker of asthma. The causal and longitudinal relationships between epigenetics and disease, and between environmental exposures and epigenetic changes need to be further investigated. Efforts should be made to understand cell-type-specific epigenetic mechanisms in asthma.
    • Sialylation Is Dispensable for Early Murine Embryonic Development in Vitro.

      Abeln, Markus; Borst, Kristina M; Cajic, Samanta; Thiesler, Hauke; Kats, Elina; Albers, Iris; Kuhn, Maike; Kaever, Volkhard; Rapp, Erdmann; Münster-Kühnel, Anja; et al. (2017-07-04)
      The negatively charged nonulose sialic acid (Sia) is essential for murine development in vivo. In order to elucidate the impact of sialylation on differentiation processes in the absence of maternal influences, we generated mouse embryonic stem cell (mESC) lines that lack CMP-Sia synthetase (CMAS) and thereby the ability to activate Sia to CMP-Sia. Loss of CMAS activity resulted in an asialo cell surface accompanied by an increase in glycoconjugates with terminal galactosyl and oligo-LacNAc residues, as well as intracellular accumulation of free Sia. Remarkably, these changes did not impact intracellular metabolites or the morphology and transcriptome of pluripotent mESC lines. Moreover, the capacity of Cmas
    • 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.
    • Strategic Anti-SARS-CoV-2 Serology Testing in a Low Prevalence Setting: The COVID-19 Contact (CoCo) Study in Healthcare Professionals.

      Behrens, Georg M N; Cossmann, Anne; Stankov, Metodi V; Schulte, Bianca; Streeck, Hendrik; Förster, Reinhold; Bosnjak, Berislav; Willenzon, Stefanie; Boeck, Anna-Lena; Thu Tran, Anh; et al. (Springer Healthcare, 2020-09-04)
      Background: Serology testing is explored for epidemiological research and to inform individuals after suspected infection. During the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, frontline healthcare professionals (HCP) may be at particular risk for infection. No longitudinal data on functional seroconversion in HCP in regions with low COVID-19 prevalence and low pre-test probability exist. Methods: In a large German university hospital, we performed weekly questionnaire assessments and anti-severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) immunoglobulin G (IgG) measurements with various commercial tests, a novel surrogate virus neutralisation test, and a neutralisation assay using live SARS-CoV-2. Results: From baseline to week 6, 1080 screening measurements for anti-SARS CoV-2 (S1) IgG from 217 frontline HCP (65% female) were performed. Overall, 75.6% of HCP reported at least one symptom of respiratory infection. Self-perceived infection probability declined over time (from mean 20.1% at baseline to 12.4% in week 6, p < 0.001). In sera of convalescent patients with PCR-confirmed COVID-19, we measured high anti-SARS-CoV-2 IgG levels, obtained highly concordant results from enzyme-linked immunosorbent assays (ELISA) using e.g. the spike 1 (S1) protein domain and the nucleocapsid protein (NCP) as targets, and confirmed antiviral neutralisation. However, in HCP the cumulative incidence for anti-SARS-CoV-2 (S1) IgG was 1.86% for positive and 0.93% for equivocal positive results over the study period of 6 weeks. Except for one HCP, none of the eight initial positive results were confirmed by alternative serology tests or showed in vitro neutralisation against live SARS-CoV-2. The only true seroconversion occurred without symptoms and mounted strong functional humoral immunity. Thus, the confirmed cumulative incidence for neutralizing anti-SARS-CoV-2 IgG was 0.47%. Conclusion: When assessing anti-SARS-CoV-2 immune status in individuals with low pre-test probability, we suggest confirming positive results from single measurements by alternative serology tests or functional assays. Our data highlight the need for a methodical serology screening approach in regions with low SARS-CoV-2 infection rates.
    • Targeting Antigens to Dendritic Cells the DC-Specific-ICAM3-Grabbing-Nonintegrin Receptor Induces Strong T-Helper 1 Immune Responses.

      Velasquez, Lis Noelia; Stüve, Philipp; Gentilini, Maria Virginia; Swallow, Maxine; Bartel, Judith; Lycke, Nils Yngve; Barkan, Daniel; Martina, Mariana; Lujan, Hugo D; Kalay, Hakan; et al. (2018-01-01)
      Tuberculosis remains a major global health problem and efforts to develop a more effective vaccine have been unsuccessful so far. Targeting antigens (Ags) to dendritic cells (DCs) in vivo has emerged as a new promising vaccine strategy. In this approach, Ags are delivered directly to DCs via antibodies that bind to endocytic cell-surface receptors. Here, we explored DC-specifc-ICAM3-grabbing-nonintegrin (DC-SIGN) targeting as a potential vaccine against tuberculosis. For this, we made use of the hSIGN mouse model that expresses human DC-SIGN under the control of the murine CD11c promoter. We show that in vitro and in vivo delivery of anti-DC-SIGN antibodies conjugated to Ag85B and peptide 25 of Ag85B in combination with anti-CD40, the fungal cell wall component zymosan, and the cholera toxin-derived fusion protein CTA1-DD induces strong Ag-specifc CD4+ T-cell responses. Improved anti-mycobacterial immunity was accompanied by increased frequencies of Ag-specifc IFN-γ+ IL-2+ TNF-α+ polyfunctional CD4+ T cells in vaccinated mice compared with controls. Taken together, in this study we provide the proof of concept that the human DC-SIGN receptor can be effciently exploited for vaccine purposes to promote immunity against mycobacterial infections.
    • TGFβ-activation by dendritic cells drives Th17 induction and intestinal contractility and augments the expulsion of the parasite Trichinella spiralis in mice.

      Steel, Nicola; Faniyi, Aduragbemi A; Rahman, Sayema; Swietlik, Stefanie; Czajkowska, Beata I; Chan, Bethany T; Hardgrave, Alexander; Steel, Anthony; Sparwasser, Tim D; Assas, Mushref B; et al. (PLOS, 2019-01-01)
      Helminths are highly prevalent metazoan parasites that infect over a billion of the world’s population. Hosts have evolved numerous mechanisms to drive the expulsion of these parasites via Th2-driven immunity, but these responses must be tightly controlled to prevent equally devastating immunopathology. However, mechanisms that regulate this balance are still unclear. Here we show that the vigorous Th2 immune response driven by the small intestinal helminth Trichinella spiralis, is associated with increased TGFβ signalling responses in CD4+ T-cells. Mechanistically, enhanced TGFβ signalling in CD4+ T-cells is dependent on dendritic cell-mediated TGFβ activation which requires expression of the integrin αvβ8. Importantly, mice lacking integrin αvβ8 on DCs had a delayed ability to expel a T. spiralis infection, indicating an important functional role for integrin αvβ8-mediated TGFβ activation in promoting parasite expulsion. In addition to maintaining regulatory T-cell responses, the CD4+ T-cell signalling of this pleiotropic cytokine induces a Th17 response which is crucial in promoting the intestinal muscle hypercontractility that drives worm expulsion. Collectively, these results provide novel insights into intestinal helminth expulsion beyond that of classical Th2 driven immunity, and highlight the importance of IL-17 in intestinal contraction which may aid therapeutics to numerous diseases of the intestine.
    • TLR4 abrogates the Th1 immune response through IRF1 and IFN-β to prevent immunopathology during L. infantum infection.

      Sacramento, Laís Amorim; Benevides, Luciana; Maruyama, Sandra Regina; Tavares, Lucas; Fukutani, Kiyoshi Ferreira; Francozo, Marcela; Sparwasser, Tim; Cunha, Fernando Queiroz; Almeida, Roque Pacheco; da Silva, João Santana; et al. (PLOS, 2020-03-25)
      A striking feature of human visceral leishmaniasis (VL) is chronic inflammation in the spleen and liver, and VL patients present increased production levels of multiple inflammatory mediators, which contribute to tissue damage and disease severity. Here, we combined an experimental model with the transcriptional profile of human VL to demonstrate that the TLR4-IFN-β pathway regulates the chronic inflammatory process and is associated with the asymptomatic form of the disease. Tlr4-deficient mice harbored fewer parasites in their spleen and liver than wild-type mice. TLR4 deficiency enhanced the Th1 immune response against the parasite, which was correlated with an increased activation of dendritic cells (DCs). Gene expression analyses demonstrated that IRF1 and IFN-β were expressed downstream of TLR4 after infection. Accordingly, IRF1- and IFNAR-deficient mice harbored fewer parasites in the target organs than wild-type mice due to having an increased Th1 immune response. However, the absence of TLR4 or IFNAR increased the serum transaminase levels in infected mice, indicating the presence of liver damage in these animals. In addition, IFN-β limits IFN-γ production by acting directly on Th1 cells. Using RNA sequencing analysis of human samples, we demonstrated that the transcriptional signature for the TLR4 and type I IFN (IFN-I) pathways was positively modulated in asymptomatic subjects compared with VL patients and thus provide direct evidence demonstrating that the TLR4-IFN-I pathway is related to the nondevelopment of the disease. In conclusion, our results demonstrate that the TLR4-IRF1 pathway culminates in IFN-β production as a mechanism for dampening the chronic inflammatory process and preventing immunopathology development.
    • TLR7 Controls VSV Replication in CD169 SCS Macrophages and Associated Viral Neuroinvasion.

      Solmaz, Gülhas; Puttur, Franz; Francozo, Marcela; Lindenberg, Marc; Guderian, Melanie; Swallow, Maxine; Duhan, Vikas; Khairnar, Vishal; Kalinke, Ulrich; Ludewig, Burkhard; et al. (Frontiers, 2019-01-01)
      Vesicular stomatitis virus (VSV) is an insect-transmitted rhabdovirus that is neurovirulent in mice. Upon peripheral VSV infection, CD169+ subcapsular sinus (SCS) macrophages capture VSV in the lymph, support viral replication, and prevent CNS neuroinvasion. To date, the precise mechanisms controlling VSV infection in SCS macrophages remain incompletely understood. Here, we show that Toll-like receptor-7 (TLR7), the main sensing receptor for VSV, is central in controlling lymph-borne VSV infection. Following VSV skin infection, TLR7-/- mice display significantly less VSV titers in the draining lymph nodes (dLN) and viral replication is attenuated in SCS macrophages. In contrast to effects of TLR7 in impeding VSV replication in the dLN, TLR7-/- mice present elevated viral load in the brain and spinal cord highlighting their susceptibility to VSV neuroinvasion. By generating novel TLR7 floxed mice, we interrogate the impact of cell-specific TLR7 function in anti-viral immunity after VSV skin infection. Our data suggests that TLR7 signaling in SCS macrophages supports VSV replication in these cells, increasing LN infection and may account for the delayed onset of VSV-induced neurovirulence observed in TLR7-/- mice. Overall, we identify TLR7 as a novel and essential host factor that critically controls anti-viral immunity to VSV. Furthermore, the novel mouse model generated in our study will be of valuable importance to shed light on cell-intrinsic TLR7 biology in future studies.