• Selective Host Cell Death by Staphylococcus aureus : A Strategy for Bacterial Persistence.

      Missiakas, Dominique; Winstel, Volker; TWINCORE, Zentrum für experimentelle und klinische Infektionsforschung GmbH,Feodor-Lynen Str. 7, 30625 Hannover, Germany. (Frontiers, 2021-01-21)
      Host cell death programs are fundamental processes that shape cellular homeostasis, embryonic development, and tissue regeneration. Death signaling and downstream host cell responses are not only critical to guide mammalian development, they often act as terminal responses to invading pathogens. Here, we briefly review and contrast how invading pathogens and specifically Staphylococcus aureus manipulate apoptotic, necroptotic, and pyroptotic cell death modes to establish infection. Rather than invading host cells, S. aureus subverts these cells to produce diffusible molecules that cause death of neighboring hematopoietic cells and thus shapes an immune environment conducive to persistence. The exploitation of cell death pathways by S. aureus is yet another virulence strategy that must be juxtaposed to mechanisms of immune evasion, autophagy escape, and tolerance to intracellular killing, and brings us closer to the true portrait of this pathogen for the design of effective therapeutics and intervention strategies.
    • 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.
    • Staphylococcus epidermidis Phages Transduce Antimicrobial Resistance Plasmids and Mobilize Chromosomal Islands.

      Fišarová, Lenka; Botka, Tibor; Du, Xin; Mašlaňová, Ivana; Bárdy, Pavol; Pantůček, Roman; Benešík, Martin; Roudnický, Pavel; Winstel, Volker; Larsen, Jesper; et al. (American Society of Microbiology, 2021-05-12)
      Staphylococcus epidermidis is a leading opportunistic pathogen causing nosocomial infections that is notable for its ability to form a biofilm and for its high rates of antibiotic resistance. It serves as a reservoir of multiple antimicrobial resistance genes that spread among the staphylococcal population by horizontal gene transfer such as transduction. While phage-mediated transduction is well studied in Staphylococcus aureus, S. epidermidis transducing phages have not been described in detail yet. Here, we report the characteristics of four phages, 27, 48, 456, and 459, previously used for S. epidermidis phage typing, and the newly isolated phage E72, from a clinical S. epidermidis strain. The phages, classified in the family Siphoviridae and genus Phietavirus, exhibited an S. epidermidis-specific host range, and together they infected 49% of the 35 strains tested. A whole-genome comparison revealed evolutionary relatedness to transducing S. aureus phietaviruses. In accordance with this, all the tested phages were capable of transduction with high frequencies up to 10-4 among S. epidermidis strains from different clonal complexes. Plasmids with sizes from 4 to 19 kb encoding resistance to streptomycin, tetracycline, and chloramphenicol were transferred. We provide here the first evidence of a phage-inducible chromosomal island transfer in S. epidermidis Similarly to S. aureus pathogenicity islands, the transfer was accompanied by phage capsid remodeling; however, the interfering protein encoded by the island was distinct. Our findings underline the role of S. epidermidis temperate phages in the evolution of S. epidermidis strains by horizontal gene transfer, which can also be utilized for S. epidermidis genetic studies.IMPORTANCE Multidrug-resistant strains of S. epidermidis emerge in both nosocomial and livestock environments as the most important pathogens among coagulase-negative staphylococcal species. The study of transduction by phages is essential to understanding how virulence and antimicrobial resistance genes spread in originally commensal bacterial populations. In this work, we provide a detailed description of transducing S. epidermidis phages. The high transduction frequencies of antimicrobial resistance plasmids and the first evidence of chromosomal island transfer emphasize the decisive role of S. epidermidis phages in attaining a higher pathogenic potential of host strains. To date, such importance has been attributed only to S. aureus phages, not to those of coagulase-negative staphylococci. This study also proved that the described transducing bacteriophages represent valuable genetic modification tools in S. epidermidis strains where other methods for gene transfer fail.
    • 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.
    • Structure-Activity Relationship and Mode-of-Action Studies Highlight 1-(4-Biphenylylmethyl)-1H-imidazole-Derived Small Molecules as Potent CYP121 Inhibitors.

      Walter, Isabell; Adam, Sebastian; Gentilini, Maria Virginia; Kany, Andreas M; Brengel, Christian; Thomann, Andreas; Sparwasser, Tim; Köhnke, Jesko; Hartmann, Rolf W; HIPS, Helmholtz-Institut für Pharmazeutische Forschung Saarland, Universitätscampus E8.1 66123 Saarbrücken, Germany.; TWINCORE, Zentrum für experimentelle und klinische Infektionsforschung GmbH,Feodor-Lynen Str. 7, 30625 Hannover, Germany. (Wiley-VCH, 2021-05-19)
      CYP121 of Mycobacterium tuberculosis (Mtb) is an essential target for the development of novel potent drugs against tuberculosis (TB). Besides known antifungal azoles, further compounds of the azole class were recently identified as CYP121 inhibitors with antimycobacterial activity. Herein, we report the screening of a similarity-oriented library based on the former hit compound, the evaluation of affinity toward CYP121, and activity against M. bovis BCG. The results enabled a comprehensive SAR study, which was extended through the synthesis of promising compounds and led to the identification of favorable features for affinity and/or activity and hit compounds with 2.7-fold improved potency. Mode of action studies show that the hit compounds inhibit substrate conversion and highlighted CYP121 as the main antimycobacterial target of our compounds. Exemplified complex crystal structures of CYP121 with three inhibitors reveal a common binding site. Engaging in both hydrophobic interactions as well as hydrogen bonding to the sixth iron ligand, our compounds block a solvent channel leading to the active site heme. Additionally, we report the first CYP inhibitors that are able to reduce the intracellular replication of M. bovis BCG in macrophages, emphasizing their potential as future drug candidates against TB.
    • 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.
    • Therapeutic HNF4A mRNA attenuates liver fibrosis in a preclinical model.

      Yang, Taihua; Poenisch, Marion; Khanal, Rajendra; Hu, Qingluan; Dai, Zhen; Li, Ruomeng; Song, Guangqi; Yuan, Qinggong; Yao, Qunyan; Shen, Xizhong; et al. (Elsevier, 2021-08-25)
      Background & aims: Therapeutic targeting of injuries that require transient restoration of proteins by mRNA delivery is an attractive approach that, until recently, has remained poorly explored. In this study, we examined the therapeutic utility of mRNA delivery for liver fibrosis and cirrhosis. Specifically, we aimed to demonstrate the therapeutic efficacy of human hepatocyte nuclear factor alpha (HNF4A) mRNA in mouse models of fibrosis and cirrhosis. Methods: We investigated restoration of hepatocyte functions by HNF4A mRNA transfection in vitro, and analyzed the attenuation of liver fibrosis and cirrhosis in multiple mouse models, by delivering hepatocyte-targeted biodegradable lipid nanoparticles (LNPs) encapsulating HNF4A mRNA. To identify potential mechanisms of action, we performed microarray-based gene expression profiling, single-cell RNA sequencing, and chromatin immunoprecipitation. We used primary liver cells and human liver buds for additional functional validation. Results: Expression of HNF4A mRNA led to restoration of the metabolic activity of fibrotic primary murine and human hepatocytes in vitro. Repeated in vivo delivery of LNP-encapsulated HNF4A mRNA induced a robust inhibition of fibrogenesis in 4 independent mouse models of hepatotoxin- and cholestasis-induced liver fibrosis. Mechanistically, we discovered that paraoxonase 1 is a direct target of HNF4A and it contributes to HNF4A-mediated attenuation of liver fibrosis via modulation of liver macrophages and hepatic stellate cells. Conclusion: Collectively, our findings provide the first direct preclinical evidence of the applicability of HNF4A mRNA therapeutics for the treatment of fibrosis in the liver. Lay summary: Liver fibrosis and cirrhosis remain unmet medical needs and contribute to high mortality worldwide. Herein, we take advantage of a promising therapeutic approach to treat liver fibrosis and cirrhosis. We demonstrate that restoration of a key gene, HNF4A, via mRNA encapsulated in lipid nanoparticles decreased injury in multiple mouse models of fibrosis and cirrhosis. Our study provides proof-of-concept that mRNA therapy is a promising strategy for reversing liver fibrosis and cirrhosis.
    • 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.
    • Transient Depletion of Foxp3 Regulatory T Cells Selectively Promotes Aggressive β Cell Autoimmunity in Genetically Susceptible DEREG Mice.

      Watts, Deepika; Janßen, Marthe; Jaykar, Mangesh; Palmucci, Francesco; Weigelt, Marc; Petzold, Cathleen; Hommel, Angela; Sparwasser, Tim; Bonifacio, Ezio; Kretschmer, Karsten; et al. (Frontiers, 2021-08-10)
      Type 1 diabetes (T1D) represents a hallmark of the fatal multiorgan autoimmune syndrome affecting humans with abrogated Foxp3+ regulatory T (Treg) cell function due to Foxp3 gene mutations, but whether the loss of Foxp3+ Treg cell activity is indeed sufficient to promote β cell autoimmunity requires further scrutiny. As opposed to human Treg cell deficiency, β cell autoimmunity has not been observed in non-autoimmune-prone mice with constitutive Foxp3 deficiency or after diphtheria toxin receptor (DTR)-mediated ablation of Foxp3+ Treg cells. In the spontaneous nonobese diabetic (NOD) mouse model of T1D, constitutive Foxp3 deficiency did not result in invasive insulitis and hyperglycemia, and previous studies on Foxp3+ Treg cell ablation focused on Foxp3DTR NOD mice, in which expression of a transgenic BDC2.5 T cell receptor (TCR) restricted the CD4+ TCR repertoire to a single diabetogenic specificity. Here we revisited the effect of acute Foxp3+ Treg cell ablation on β cell autoimmunity in NOD mice in the context of a polyclonal TCR repertoire. For this, we took advantage of the well-established DTR/GFP transgene of DEREG mice, which allows for specific ablation of Foxp3+ Treg cells without promoting catastrophic autoimmune diseases. We show that the transient loss of Foxp3+ Treg cells in prediabetic NOD.DEREG mice is sufficient to precipitate severe insulitis and persistent hyperglycemia within 5 days after DT administration. Importantly, DT-treated NOD.DEREG mice preserved many clinical features of spontaneous diabetes progression in the NOD model, including a prominent role of diabetogenic CD8+ T cells in terminal β cell destruction. Despite the severity of destructive β cell autoimmunity, anti-CD3 mAb therapy of DT-treated mice interfered with the progression to overt diabetes, indicating that the novel NOD.DEREG model can be exploited for preclinical studies on T1D under experimental conditions of synchronized, advanced β cell autoimmunity. Overall, our studies highlight the continuous requirement of Foxp3+ Treg cell activity for the control of genetically pre-installed autoimmune diabetes.