• Synthetic rewiring and boosting type I interferon responses for visualization and counteracting viral infections.

      Gödecke, Natascha; Riedel, Jan; Herrmann, Sabrina; Behme, Sara; Rand, Ulfert; Kubsch, Tobias; Cicin-Sain, Luka; Hauser, Hansjörg; Köster, Mario; Wirth, Dagmar; et al. (Oxford Academic, 2020-11-18)
      Mammalian first line of defense against viruses is accomplished by the interferon (IFN) system. Viruses have evolved numerous mechanisms to reduce the IFN action allowing them to invade the host and/or to establish latency. We generated an IFN responsive intracellular hub by integrating the synthetic transactivator tTA into the chromosomal Mx2 locus for IFN-based activation of tTA dependent expression modules. The additional implementation of a synthetic amplifier module with positive feedback even allowed for monitoring and reacting to infections of viruses that can antagonize the IFN system. Low and transient IFN amounts are sufficient to trigger these amplifier cells. This gives rise to higher and sustained-but optionally de-activatable-expression even when the initial stimulus has faded out. Amplification of the IFN response induced by IFN suppressing viruses is sufficient to protect cells from infection. Together, this interfaced sensor/actuator system provides a toolbox for robust sensing and counteracting viral infections.
    • Unsaturated Fatty Acids Control Biofilm Formation of and Other Gram-Positive Bacteria.

      Yuyama, Kamila Tomoko; Rohde, Manfred; Molinari, Gabriella; Stadler, Marc; Abraham, Wolf-Rainer; HZI,Helmholtz-Zentrum für Infektionsforschung GmbH, Inhoffenstr. 7,38124 Braunschweig, Germany. (MDPI, 2020-11-08)
      Infections involving biofilms are difficult to treat due to increased resistances against antibiotics and the immune system. Hence, there is an urgent demand for novel drugs against biofilm infections. During our search for novel biofilm inhibitors from fungi, we isolated linoleic acid from the ascomycete Hypoxylon fragiforme which showed biofilm inhibition of several bacteria at sub-MIC concentrations. Many fatty acids possess antimicrobial activities, but their minimum inhibitory concentrations (MIC) are high and reports on biofilm interferences are scarce. We demonstrated that not only linoleic acid but several unsaturated long-chain fatty acids inhibited biofilms at sub-MIC concentrations. The antibiofilm activity exerted by long-chain fatty acids was mainly against Gram-positive bacteria, especially against Staphylococcus aureus. Micrographs of treated S. aureus biofilms revealed a reduction in the extracellular polymeric substances, pointing to a possible mode of action of fatty acids on S. aureus biofilms. The fatty acids had a strong species specificity. Poly-unsaturated fatty acids had higher activities than saturated ones, but no obvious rule could be found for the optimal length and desaturation for maximal activity. As free fatty acids are non-toxic and ubiquitous in food, they may offer a novel tool, especially in combination with antibiotics, for the control of biofilm infections.
    • Characterization of Populations by Multilocus Variable Number of Tandem Repeats (MLVA) Genotyping from Drinking Water and Biofilm in Hospitals from Different Regions of the West Bank.

      Zayed, Ashraf R; Pecellin, Marina; Salah, Alaa; Alalam, Hanna; Butmeh, Suha; Steinert, Michael; Lesnik, Rene; Brettar, Ingrid; Höfle, Manfred G; Bitar, Dina M; et al. (MDPI, 2020-10-22)
      The West Bank can be considered a high-risk area for Legionnaires' disease (LD) due to its hot climate, intermittent water supply and roof storage of drinking water. Legionella, mostly L. pneumophila, are responsible for LD, a severe, community-acquired and nosocomial pneumonia. To date, no extensive assessment of Legionella spp and L. pneumophila using cultivation in combination with molecular approaches in the West Bank has been published. Two years of environmental surveillance of Legionella in water and biofilms in the drinking water distribution systems (DWDS) of eight hospitals was carried out; 180 L. pneumophila strains were isolated, mostly from biofilms in DWDS. Most of the isolates were identified as serogroup (Sg) 1 (60%) and 6 (30%), while a minor fraction comprised Sg 8 and 10. Multilocus Variable number of tandem repeats Analysis using 13 loci (MLVA-8(12)) was applied as a high-resolution genotyping method and compared to the standard Sequence Based Typing (SBT). The isolates were genotyped in 27 MLVA-8(12) genotypes (Gt), comprising four MLVA clonal complexes (VACC 1; 2; 5; 11). The major fraction of isolates constituted Sequence Type (ST)1 and ST461. Most of the MLVA-genotypes were highly diverse and often unique. The MLVA-genotype composition showed substantial regional variability. In general, the applied MLVA-method made it possible to reproducibly genotype the isolates, and was consistent with SBT but showed a higher resolution. The advantage of the higher resolution was most evident for the subdivision of the large strain sets of ST1 and ST461; these STs were shown to be highly pneumonia-relevant in a former study. This shows that the resolution by MLVA is advantageous for back-tracking risk sites and for the avoidance of outbreaks of L. pneumophila. Overall, our results provide important insights into the detailed population structure of L. pneumophila, allowing for better risk assessment for DWDS.
    • RovC - a novel type of hexameric transcriptional activator promoting type VI secretion gene expression.

      Knittel, Vanessa; Sadana, Pooja; Seekircher, Stephanie; Stolle, Anne-Sophie; Körner, Britta; Volk, Marcel; Jeffries, Cy M; Svergun, Dmitri I; Heroven, Ann Kathrin; Scrima, Andrea; et al. (PLOS, 2020-09-23)
      Type VI secretion systems (T6SSs) are complex macromolecular injection machines which are widespread in Gram-negative bacteria. They are involved in host-cell interactions and pathogenesis, required to eliminate competing bacteria, or are important for the adaptation to environmental stress conditions. Here we identified regulatory elements controlling the T6SS4 of Yersinia pseudotuberculosis and found a novel type of hexameric transcription factor, RovC. RovC directly interacts with the T6SS4 promoter region and activates T6SS4 transcription alone or in cooperation with the LysR-type regulator RovM. A higher complexity of regulation was achieved by the nutrient-responsive global regulator CsrA, which controls rovC expression on the transcriptional and post-transcriptional level. In summary, our work unveils a central mechanism in which RovC, a novel key activator, orchestrates the expression of the T6SS weapons together with a global regulator to deploy the system in response to the availability of nutrients in the species' native environment.
    • 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.
    • Impact of Von Willebrand Factor on Bacterial Pathogenesis.

      Steinert, Michael; Ramming, Isabell; Bergmann, Simone; HZI,Helmholtz-Zentrum für Infektionsforschung GmbH, Inhoffenstr. 7,38124 Braunschweig, Germany. (Frontiers, 2020-09-03)
      Von Willebrand factor (VWF) is a mechano-sensitive protein with crucial functions in normal hemostasis, which are strongly dependant on the shear-stress mediated defolding and multimerization of VWF in the blood stream. Apart from bleeding disorders, higher plasma levels of VWF are often associated with a higher risk of cardiovascular diseases. Herein, the disease symptoms are attributed to the inflammatory response of the activated endothelium and share high similarities to the reaction of the host vasculature to systemic infections caused by pathogenic bacteria such as Staphylococcus aureus and Streptococcus pneumoniae. The bacteria recruit circulating VWF, and by binding to immobilized VWF on activated endothelial cells in blood flow, they interfere with the physiological functions of VWF, including platelet recruitment and coagulation. Several bacterial VWF binding proteins have been identified and further characterized by biochemical analyses. Moreover, the development of a combination of sophisticated cell culture systems simulating shear stress levels of the blood flow with microscopic visualization also provided valuable insights into the interaction mechanism between bacteria and VWF-strings. In vivo studies using mouse models of bacterial infection and zebrafish larvae provided evidence that the interaction between bacteria and VWF promotes bacterial attachment, coagulation, and thrombus formation, and thereby contributes to the pathophysiology of severe infectious diseases such as infective endocarditis and bacterial sepsis. This mini-review summarizes the current knowledge of the interaction between bacteria and the mechano-responsive VWF, and corresponding pathophysiological disease symptoms.
    • Recombinant protein production-associated metabolic burden reflects anabolic constraints and reveals similarities to a carbon overfeeding response.

      Li, Zhaopeng; Rinas, Ursula; HZI,Helmholtz-Zentrum für Infektionsforschung GmbH, Inhoffenstr. 7,38124 Braunschweig, Germany. (Wiley, 2020-09-03)
      A comparison of the metabolic response of Escherichia coli BL21 (DE3) towards the production of human basic fibroblast growth factor (hFGF-2) or towards carbon overfeeding revealed similarities which point to constraints in anabolic pathways. Contrary to expectations, neither energy generation (e.g., ATP) nor provision of precursor molecules for nucleotides (e.g., uracil) and amino acids (e.g., pyruvate, glutamate) limit host cell and plasmid-encoded functions. Growth inhibition is assumed to occur when hampered anabolic capacities do not match with the ongoing and overwhelming carbon catabolism. Excessive carbon uptake leads to by-product secretion, for example, pyruvate, acetate, glutamate, and energy spillage, for example, accumulation and degradation of adenine nucleotides with concomitant accumulation of extracellular hypoxanthine. The cellular response towards compromised anabolic capacities involves downregulation of cAMP formation, presumably responsible for subsequently better-controlled glucose uptake and resultant accumulation of glucose in the culture medium. Growth inhibition is neglectable under conditions of reduced carbon availability when hampered anabolic capacities also match with catabolic carbon processing. The growth inhibitory effect with accompanying energy spillage, respectively, hypoxanthine secretion and cessation of cAMP formation is not unique to the production of hFGF-2 but observed during the production of other proteins and also during overexpression of genes without transcript translation.
    • Epigenome-wide association study of DNA methylation and adult asthma in the Agricultural Lung Health Study.

      Hoang, Thanh T; Sikdar, Sinjini; Xu, Cheng-Jian; Lee, Mi Kyeong; Cardwell, Jonathan; Forno, Erick; Imboden, Medea; Jeong, Ayoung; Madore, Anne-Marie; Qi, Cancan; et al. (European Respiratory Society (ERS), 2020-09-03)
      Epigenome-wide studies of methylation in children support a role for epigenetic mechanisms in asthma; however, studies in adults are rare and few have examined non-atopic asthma. We conducted the largest epigenome-wide association study (EWAS) of blood DNA methylation in adults in relation to non-atopic and atopic asthma.We measured DNA methylation in blood using the Illumina MethylationEPIC array among 2286 participants in a case-control study of current adult asthma nested within a United States agricultural cohort. Atopy was defined by serum specific immunoglobulin E (IgE). Participants were categorised as atopy without asthma (n=185), non-atopic asthma (n=673), atopic asthma (n=271), or a reference group of neither atopy nor asthma (n=1157). Analyses were conducted using logistic regression.No associations were observed with atopy without asthma. Numerous cytosine-phosphate-guanine (CpG) sites were differentially methylated in non-atopic asthma (eight at family-wise error rate (FWER) p<9×10-8, 524 at false discovery rate (FDR) less than 0.05) and implicated 382 novel genes. More CpG sites were identified in atopic asthma (181 at FWER, 1086 at FDR) and implicated 569 novel genes. 104 FDR CpG sites overlapped. 35% of CpG sites in non-atopic asthma and 91% in atopic asthma replicated in studies of whole blood, eosinophils, airway epithelium, or nasal epithelium. Implicated genes were enriched in pathways related to the nervous system or inflammation.We identified numerous, distinct differentially methylated CpG sites in non-atopic and atopic asthma. Many CpG sites from blood replicated in asthma-relevant tissues. These circulating biomarkers reflect risk and sequelae of disease, as well as implicate novel genes associated with non-atopic and atopic asthma.
    • 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.
    • Purification of the human fibroblast growth factor 2 using novel animal-component free materials

      Bolten, Svenja Nicolin; Knoll, Anne-Sophie; Li, Zhaopeng; Gellermann, Pia; Pepelanova, Iliyana; Rinas, Ursula; Scheper, Thomas; HZI,Helmholtz-Zentrum für Infektionsforschung GmbH, Inhoffenstr. 7,38124 Braunschweig, Germany. (Elsevier BV, 2020-08)
      This paper analyzes the use of animal-component free chromatographic materials for the efficient purifi- cation of the human fibroblast growth factor 2 (hFGF-2). hFGF-2 is produced in Escherichia coli and pu- rified via three different chromatography steps, which include a strong cation exchange chromatography as a capture step, followed by heparin affinity chromatography and an anion exchange chromatography as a polishing step. The affinity chromatography step is based on the animal-derived material heparin. Chemically produced ligands provide a viable alternative to animal-derived components in production processes, since they are characterized by a defined structure which leads to reproducible results and a broad range of applications. The alternative ligands can be assigned to adsorber of the mixed-mode chromatography (MMC) and pseudo-affinity chromatography. Eight different animal-component free materials used as adsorbers in MMC or pseudo-affinity chromatog- raphy were tested as a substitute for heparin. The MMCs were cation exchangers characterized with fur- ther functional residues. The ligands of the pseudo-affinity chromatography were heparin-like ligands which are based on heparin’s molecular structure. The alternative methods were tested as a capture step and in combination with another chromatographic step in the purification procedure of hFGF-2. In each downstream step purity, recovery and yield were analysed and compared to the conventional downstream process. Two types of MMC –the column Foresight TM Nuvia TM cPrime TM from Bio-Rad Laboratories and the col- umn HiTrap TM Capto TM MMC from GE Healthcare Life Sciences - can be regarded as effective animal- component free alternatives to the heparin - based adsorber.
    • Notch and TLR signaling coordinate monocyte cell fate and inflammation.

      Gamrekelashvili, Jaba; Kapanadze, Tamar; Sablotny, Stefan; Ratiu, Corina; Dastagir, Khaled; Lochner, Matthias; Karbach, Susanne; Wenzel, Philip; Sitnow, Andre; Fleig, Susanne; et al. (elife Sciences, 2020-07-29)
      Conventional Ly6Chi monocytes have developmental plasticity for a spectrum of differentiated phagocytes. Here we show, using conditional deletion strategies in a mouse model of Toll-like receptor (TLR) 7-induced inflammation, that the spectrum of developmental cell fates of Ly6Chi monocytes, and the resultant inflammation, is coordinately regulated by TLR and Notch signaling. Cell-intrinsic Notch2 and TLR7-Myd88 pathways independently and synergistically promote Ly6Clo patrolling monocyte development from Ly6Chi monocytes under inflammatory conditions, while impairment in either signaling axis impairs Ly6Clo monocyte development. At the same time, TLR7 stimulation in the absence of functional Notch2 signaling promotes resident tissue macrophage gene expression signatures in monocytes in the blood and ectopic differentiation of Ly6Chi monocytes into macrophages and dendritic cells, which infiltrate the spleen and major blood vessels and are accompanied by aberrant systemic inflammation. Thus, Notch2 is a master regulator of Ly6Chi monocyte cell fate and inflammation in response to TLR signaling.
    • Varying the sustained release of BMP-2 from chitosan nanogel-functionalized polycaprolactone fiber mats by different polycaprolactone surface modifications.

      Sundermann, Julius; Oehmichen, Sarah; Sydow, Steffen; Burmeister, Laura; Quaas, Bastian; Hänsch, Robert; Rinas, Ursula; Hoffmann, Andrea; Menzel, Henning; Bunjes, Heike; et al. (Wiley and sons, 2020-06-30)
      Polycaprolactone (PCL) fiber mats with different surface modifications were functionalized with a chitosan nanogel coating to attach the growth factor human bone morphogenetic protein 2 (BMP-2). Three different hydrophilic surface modifications were compared with regard to the binding and in vitro release of BMP-2. The type of surface modification and the specific surface area derived from the fiber thickness had an important influence on the degree of protein loading. Coating the PCL fibers with polydopamine resulted in the binding of the largest BMP-2 quantity per surface area. However, most of the binding was irreversible over the investigated period of time, causing a low release in vitro. PCL fiber mats with a chitosan-graft-PCL coating and an additional alginate layer, as well as PCL fiber mats with an air plasma surface modification boundless BMP-2, but the immobilized protein could almost completely be released. With polydopamine and plasma modifications as well as with unmodified PCL, high amounts of BMP-2 could also be attached directly to the surface. Integration of BMP-2 into the chitosan nanogel functionalization considerably increased binding on all hydrophilized surfaces and resulted in a sustained release with an initial burst release of BMP-2 without detectable loss of bioactivity in vitro.
    • Deconvolution of bulk blood eQTL effects into immune cell subpopulations.

      Aguirre-Gamboa, Raúl; de Klein, Niek; di Tommaso, Jennifer; Claringbould, Annique; van der Wijst, Monique Gp; de Vries, Dylan; Brugge, Harm; Oelen, Roy; Võsa, Urmo; Zorro, Maria M; et al. (BMC, 2020-06-12)
      A novel planctomycetal strain, designated Pla85_3_4T, was isolated from the surface of wood incubated at the discharge of a wastewater treatment plant in the Warnow river near Rostock, Germany. Cells of the novel strain have a cell envelope architecture resembling that of Gram-negative bacteria, are round to pear-shaped (length: 2.2 ± 0.4 µm, width: 1.2 ± 0.3 µm), form aggregates and divide by polar budding. Colonies have a cream colour. Strain Pla85_3_4T grows at ranges of 10-30 °C (optimum 26 °C) and at pH 6.5-10.0 (optimum 7.5), and has a doubling time of 26 h. Phylogenetically, strain Pla85_3_4T (DSM 103796T = LMG 29741T) is concluded to represent a novel species of a novel genus within the family Pirellulaceae, for which we propose the name Lignipirellula cremea gen. nov., sp. nov.
    • Pathological mechanism and antisense oligonucleotide-mediated rescue of a non-coding variant suppressing factor 9 RNA biogenesis leading to hemophilia B.

      Krooss, Simon; Werwitzke, Sonja; Kopp, Johannes; Rovai, Alice; Varnholt, Dirk; Wachs, Amelie S; Goyenvalle, Aurelie; Aarstma-Rus, Annemieke; Ott, Michael; Tiede, Andreas; et al. (PLOS, 2020-04-08)
      Loss-of-function mutations in the human coagulation factor 9 (F9) gene lead to hemophilia B. Here, we dissected the consequences and the pathomechanism of a non-coding mutation (c.2545A>G) in the F9 3' untranslated region. Using wild type and mutant factor IX (FIX) minigenes we revealed that the mutation leads to reduced F9 mRNA and FIX protein levels and to lower coagulation activity of cell culture supernatants. The phenotype could not be compensated by increased transcription. The pathomechanism comprises the de novo creation of a binding site for the spliceosomal component U1snRNP, which is able to suppress the nearby F9 poly(A) site. This second, splicing-independent function of U1snRNP was discovered previously and blockade of U1snRNP restored mutant F9 mRNA expression. In addition, we explored the vice versa approach and masked the mutation by antisense oligonucleotides resulting in significantly increased F9 mRNA expression and coagulation activity. This treatment may transform the moderate/severe hemophilia B into a mild or subclinical form in the patients. This antisense based strategy is applicable to other mutations in untranslated regions creating deleterious binding sites for cellular proteins.
    • 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.
    • Glutathione Restricts Serine Metabolism to Preserve Regulatory T Cell Function.

      Kurniawan, Henry; Franchina, Davide G; Guerra, Luana; Bonetti, Lynn; -Baguet, Leticia Soriano; Grusdat, Melanie; Schlicker, Lisa; Hunewald, Oliver; Dostert, Catherine; Merz, Myriam P; et al. (Elsevier (Cell Press), 2020-03-25)
      Regulatory T cells (Tregs) maintain immune homeostasis and prevent autoimmunity. Serine stimulates glutathione (GSH) synthesis and feeds into the one-carbon metabolic network (1CMet) essential for effector T cell (Teff) responses. However, serine's functions, linkage to GSH, and role in stress responses in Tregs are unknown. Here, we show, using mice with Treg-specific ablation of the catalytic subunit of glutamate cysteine ligase (Gclc), that GSH loss in Tregs alters serine import and synthesis and that the integrity of this feedback loop is critical for Treg suppressive capacity. Although Gclc ablation does not impair Treg differentiation, mutant mice exhibit severe autoimmunity and enhanced anti-tumor responses. Gclc-deficient Tregs show increased serine metabolism, mTOR activation, and proliferation but downregulated FoxP3. Limitation of cellular serine in vitro and in vivo restores FoxP3 expression and suppressive capacity of Gclc-deficient Tregs. Our work reveals an unexpected role for GSH in restricting serine availability to preserve Treg functionality.
    • Variations in microbiota composition of laboratory mice influence Citrobacter rodentium infection via variable short-chain fatty acid production.

      Osbelt, Lisa; Thiemann, Sophie; Smit, Nathiana; Lesker, Till Robin; Schröter, Madita; Gálvez, Eric J C; Schmidt-Hohagen, Kerstin; Pils, Marina C; Mühlen, Sabrina; Dersch, Petra; et al. (PLOS, 2020-03-24)
      The composition of the intestinal microbiota influences the outcome of enteric infections in human and mice. However, the role of specific members and their metabolites contributing to disease severity is largely unknown. Using isogenic mouse lines harboring distinct microbiota communities, we observed highly variable disease kinetics of enteric Citrobacter rodentium colonization after infection. Transfer of communities from susceptible and resistant mice into germ-free mice verified that the varying susceptibilities are determined by microbiota composition. The strongest differences in colonization were observed in the cecum and could be maintained in vitro by coculturing cecal bacteria with C. rodentium. Cohousing of animals as well as the transfer of cultivable bacteria from resistant to susceptible mice led to variable outcomes in the recipient mice. Microbiome analysis revealed that a higher abundance of butyrate-producing bacteria was associated with the resistant phenotype. Quantification of short-chain fatty acid (SCFA) levels before and after infection revealed increased concentrations of acetate, butyrate and propionate in mice with delayed colonization. Addition of physiological concentrations of butyrate, but not of acetate and/or propionate strongly impaired growth of C. rodentium in vitro. In vivo supplementation of susceptible, antibiotic-treated and germ-free mice with butyrate led to the same level of protection, notably only when cecal butyrate concentration reached a concentration higher than 50 nmol/mg indicating a critical threshold for protection. In the recent years, commensal-derived primary and secondary bacterial metabolites emerged as potent modulators of hosts susceptibility to infection. Our results provide evidence that variations in SCFA production in mice fed fibre-rich chow-based diets modulate susceptibility to colonization with Enterobacteriaceae not only in antibiotic-disturbed ecosystems but even in undisturbed microbial communities. These findings emphasise the need for microbiota normalization across laboratory mouse lines for infection experiments with the model-pathogen C. rodentium independent of investigations of diet and antibiotic usage.
    • Characterization of a transcriptional TPP riboswitch in the human pathogen Neisseriameningitidis.

      Righetti, Francesco; Materne, Solange Lise; Boss, John; Eichner, Hannes; Charpentier, Emmanuelle; Loh, Edmund; HZI,Helmholtz-Zentrum für Infektionsforschung GmbH, Inhoffenstr. 7,38124 Braunschweig, Germany. (Taylor & Francis, 2020-02-20)
      Increasing evidence has demonstrated that regulatory RNA elements such as riboswitches (RS) play a pivotal role in the fine-tuning of bacterial gene expression. In this study, we investigated and characterized a novel transcriptional thiamine pyrophosphate (TPP) RS in the obligate human pathogen N. meningitidis MC58 (serogroup B). This RS is located in the 5´ untranslated region upstream of thiC gene, encoding a protein involved in TPP biosynthesis, an essential cofactor for all living beings. Primer extension revealed the transcriptional start site of thiC. Northern blot analysis of thiC mRNA and reporter gene studies confirmed the presence of an active TPP-sensing RS. Expression patterns of the wild-type RS and site-specific mutants showed that it is an OFF switch that controls transcription elongation of thiC mRNA. Interestingly, the regulatory mechanism of the meningococcal thiC RS resembles the Gram-positive Bacillus subtilis thiC RS rather than the Gram-negative Escherichia coli thiC RS. Therefore, the meningococcal thiC RS represents a rare example of transcriptional RS in a Gram-negative bacterium. We further observed that the RS is actively involved in modulating gene expression in response to different growth media and to supplemented bacterial and eukaryotic cell lysates as possible sources of nutrients in the nasopharynx. Our results suggest that RS-mediated gene regulation could influence meningococcal fitness, through the fine-tuning of biosynthesis and scavenging of nutrients and cofactors, such as thiamine.
    • MAIT cells are enriched and highly functional in ascites of patients with decompensated liver cirrhosis.

      Niehaus, Christian E; Strunz, Benedikt; Cornillet, Martin; Falk, Christine S; Schnieders, Ansgar; Maasoumy, Benjamin; Hardtke, Svenja; Manns, Michael P; Rm Kraft, Anke; Björkström, Niklas K; et al. (Wiley Online Open, 2020-02-03)
      Patients with advanced liver cirrhosis have an increased susceptibility to infections. As part of the cirrhosis-associated immune dysfunction, mucosal associated invariant T (MAIT) cells, that have the capacity to respond towards bacteria, are severely diminished in circulation and liver tissue. However, MAIT cell presence and function in the peritoneal cavity, a common anatomical site for infections in cirrhosis, remain elusive. To study this, matched peripheral blood and ascites fluid were collected from 35 patients with decompensated cirrhosis, with or without spontaneous bacterial peritonitis (SBP). MAIT cell phenotype and function were analyzed using high-dimensional flow cytometry and obtained data was compared to blood samples of healthy controls (n=24) and patients with compensated cirrhosis (n=11). We found circulating MAIT cells to be severely decreased in cirrhotic patients as compared to controls. In contrast, in ascites fluid, MAIT cells were significantly increased together with CD14+ CD16+ monocytes, ILCs, and NK cells. This was paralleled by elevated levels of several pro-inflammatory cytokines and chemokines in ascites fluid as compared to plasma. Peritoneal MAIT cells displayed an activated tissue-resident phenotype and this was corroborated by increased functional responses following stimulation with E. coli or lL-12 + IL-18 as compared to circulating MAIT cells. During SBP, peritoneal MAIT cell frequencies increased most among all major immune cell subsets, suggestive of active homing of MAIT cells to the site of infection. CONCLUSIONS: Despite severely diminished MAIT cell numbers and impaired phenotype in circulation, peritoneal MAIT cells remain abundant, activated, and highly functional in decompensated cirrhosis and are further enriched in SBP. This suggests that peritoneal MAIT cells could be of interest for immune intervention strategies in patients with decompensated liver cirrhosis and SBP.
    • Ex Vivo/In vivo Gene Editing in Hepatocytes Using "All-in-One" CRISPR-Adeno-Associated Virus Vectors with a Self-Linearizing Repair Template.

      Krooss, Simon Alexander; Dai, Zhen; Schmidt, Florian; Rovai, Alice; Fakhiri, Julia; Dhingra, Akshay; Yuan, Qinggong; Yang, Taihua; Balakrishnan, Asha; Steinbrück, Lars; et al. (Cell Press/Elsevier, 2020-01-24)
      Adeno-associated virus (AAV)-based vectors are considered efficient and safe gene delivery systems in gene therapy. We combined two guide RNA genes, Cas9, and a self-linearizing repair template in one vector (AIO-SL) to correct fumarylacetoacetate hydrolase (FAH) deficiency in mice. The vector genome of 5.73 kb was packaged into VP2-depleted AAV particles (AAV2/8ΔVP2), which, however, did not improve cargo capacity. Reprogrammed hepatocytes were treated with AIO-SL.AAV2ΔVP2 and subsequently transplanted, resulting in large clusters of FAH-positive hepatocytes. Direct injection of AIO-SL.AAV8ΔVP2 likewise led to FAH expression and long-term survival. The AIO-SL vector achieved an ∼6-fold higher degree of template integration than vectors without template self-linearization. Subsequent analysis revealed that AAV8 particles, in contrast to AAV2, incorporate oversized genomes distinctly greater than 5.2 kb. Finally, our AAV8-based vector represents a promising tool for gene editing strategies to correct monogenic liver diseases requiring (large) fragment removal and/or simultaneous sequence replacement.