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The Journal of Clinical Investigation RSS feed -- Current issue

The nonsense-mediated RNA decay pathway is disrupted in inflammatory myofibroblastic tumors
  By: JingWei Lu, Terra-Dawn Plank, Fang Su, XiuJuan Shi, Chen Liu, Yuan Ji, ShuaiJun Li, Andrew Huynh, Chao Shi, Bo Zhu, Guang Yang, YanMing Wu, Miles F. Wilkinson, YanJun Lu

Inflammatory myofibroblastic tumors (IMTs) are characterized by myofibroblast proliferation and an inflammatory cell infiltrate. Little is known about the molecular pathways that precipitate IMT formation. Here, we report the identification of somatic mutations in UPF1, a gene that encodes an essential component of the nonsense-mediated RNA decay (NMD) pathway, in 13 of 15 pulmonary IMT samples. The majority of mutations occurred in a specific region of UPF1 and triggered UPF1 alternative splicing. Several mRNA targets of the NMD pathway were upregulated in IMT samples, indicating that the UPF1 mutations led to reduced NMD magnitude. These upregulated NMD targets included NIK mRNA, which encodes a potent activator of NF-κB. In human lung cells, UPF1 depletion increased expression of chemokine-encoding genes in a NIK-dependent manner. Elevated chemokines and IgE class switching events were observed in IMT samples, consistent with NIK upregulation in these tumors. Together, these results support a model in which UPF1 mutations downregulate NMD, leading to NIK-dependent NF-κB induction, which contributes to the immune infiltration that is characteristic of IMTs. The molecular link between the NMD pathway and IMTs has implications for the diagnosis and treatment of these tumors.

Donor dendritic cell–derived exosomes promote allograft-targeting immune response
  By: Quan Liu, Darling M. Rojas-Canales, Sherrie J. Divito, William J. Shufesky, Donna Beer Stolz, Geza Erdos, Mara L.G. Sullivan, Gregory A. Gibson, Simon C. Watkins, Adriana T. Larregina, Adrian E. Morelli

The immune response against transplanted allografts is one of the most potent reactions mounted by the immune system. The acute rejection response has been attributed to donor dendritic cells (DCs), which migrate to recipient lymphoid tissues and directly activate alloreactive T cells against donor MHC molecules. Here, using a murine heart transplant model, we determined that only a small number of donor DCs reach lymphoid tissues and investigated how this limited population of donor DCs efficiently initiates the alloreactive T cell response that causes acute rejection. In our mouse model, efficient passage of donor MHC molecules to recipient conventional DCs (cDCs) was dependent on the transfer of extracellular vesicles (EVs) from donor DCs that migrated from the graft to lymphoid tissues. These EVs shared characteristics with exosomes and were internalized or remained attached to the recipient cDCs. Recipient cDCs that acquired exosomes became activated and triggered full activation of alloreactive T cells. Depletion of recipient cDCs after cardiac transplantation drastically decreased presentation of donor MHC molecules to directly alloreactive T cells and delayed graft rejection in mice. These findings support a key role for transfer of donor EVs in the generation of allograft-targeting immune responses and suggest that interrupting this process has potential to dampen the immune response to allografts.

Developmental SHP2 dysfunction underlies cardiac hypertrophy in Noonan syndrome with multiple lentigines
  By: Jessica Lauriol, Janel R. Cabrera, Ashbeel Roy, Kimberly Keith, Sara M. Hough, Federico Damilano, Bonnie Wang, Gabriel C. Segarra, Meaghan E. Flessa, Lauren E. Miller, Saumya Das, Roderick Bronson, Kyu-Ho Lee, Maria I. Kontaridis

Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy is a common cause of mortality in congenital heart disease (CHD). Many gene abnormalities are associated with cardiac hypertrophy, but their function in cardiac development is not well understood. Loss-of-function mutations in PTPN11, which encodes the protein tyrosine phosphatase (PTP) SHP2, are implicated in CHD and cause Noonan syndrome with multiple lentigines (NSML), a condition that often presents with cardiac hypertrophic defects. Here, we found that NSML-associated hypertrophy stems from aberrant signaling mechanisms originating in developing endocardium. Trabeculation and valvular hyperplasia were diminished in hearts of embryonic mice expressing a human NSML-associated variant of SHP2, and these defects were recapitulated in mice expressing NSML-associated SHP2 specifically in endothelial, but not myocardial or neural crest, cells. In contrast, mice with myocardial- but not endothelial-specific NSML SHP2 expression developed ventricular septal defects, suggesting that NSML-associated mutations have both cell-autonomous and nonautonomous functions in cardiac development. However, only endothelial-specific expression of NSML-associated SHP2 induced adult-onset cardiac hypertrophy. Further, embryos expressing the NSML-associated SHP2 mutation exhibited aberrant AKT activity and decreased downstream forkhead box P1 (FOXP1)/FGF and NOTCH1/EPHB2 signaling, indicating that SHP2 is required for regulating reciprocal crosstalk between developing endocardium and myocardium. Together, our data provide functional and disease-based evidence that aberrant SHP2 signaling during cardiac development leads to CHD and adult-onset heart hypertrophy.

Pneumococcal meningitis is promoted by single cocci expressing pilus adhesin RrgA
  By: Federico Iovino, Disa L. Hammarlöf, Genevieve Garriss, Sarah Brovall, Priyanka Nannapaneni, Birgitta Henriques-Normark

Streptococcus pneumoniae (pneumococcus) is the primary cause of bacterial meningitis. Pneumococcal bacteria penetrates the blood-brain barrier (BBB), but the bacterial factors that enable this process are not known. Here, we determined that expression of pneumococcal pilus-1, which includes the pilus adhesin RrgA, promotes bacterial penetration through the BBB in a mouse model. S. pneumoniae that colonized the respiratory epithelium and grew in the bloodstream were chains of variable lengths; however, the pneumococci that entered the brain were division-competent, spherical, single cocci that expressed adhesive RrgA–containing pili. The cell division protein DivIVA, which is required for an ovoid shape, was localized at the poles and septum of pneumococcal chains of ovoid, nonseparated bacteria, but was absent in spherical, single cocci. In the bloodstream, a small percentage of pneumococci appeared as piliated, RrgA-expressing, DivIVA-negative single cocci, suggesting that only a minority of S. pneumoniae are poised to cross the BBB. Together, our data indicate that small bacterial cell size, which is signified by the absence of DivIVA, and the presence of an adhesive RrgA-containing pilus-1 mediate pneumococcal passage from the bloodstream through the BBB into the brain to cause lethal meningitis.

PKCδ-targeted intervention relieves chronic pain in a murine sickle cell disease model
  By: Ying He, Diana J. Wilkie, Jonathan Nazari, Rui Wang, Robert O. Messing, Joseph DeSimone, Robert E. Molokie, Zaijie Jim Wang

Pain is a life-long symptom in sickle cell disease (SCD) and a predictor of disease progression and mortality, but little is known about its molecular mechanisms. Here, we characterized pain in a targeted knockin mouse model of SCD (TOW mouse) that exclusively expresses human alleles encoding normal α- and sickle β-globin. TOW mice exhibited ongoing spontaneous pain behavior and increased sensitivity to evoked pain compared with littermate control mice expressing normal human hemoglobins. PKCδ activation was elevated in the superficial laminae of the spinal cord dorsal horn in TOW mice, specifically in GABAergic inhibitory neurons. Functional inhibition and neuron-specific silencing of PKCδ attenuated spontaneous pain, mechanical allodynia, and heat hyperalgesia in TOW mice. Furthermore, we took a hematopoietic stem cell transplantation approach to generating a SCD model in PKCδ-deficient mice. Neither spontaneous pain nor evoked pain was detected in the mice lacking PKCδ despite full establishment of SCD phenotypes. These findings support a critical role of spinal PKCδ in the development of chronic pain in SCD, which may become a potential target for pharmacological interventions.

Probing chromatin landscape reveals roles of endocardial TBX20 in septation
  By: Cornelis J. Boogerd, Ivy Aneas, Noboru Sakabe, Ralph J. Dirschinger, Quen J. Cheng, Bin Zhou, Ju Chen, Marcelo A. Nobrega, Sylvia M. Evans

Mutations in the T-box transcription factor TBX20 are associated with multiple forms of congenital heart defects, including cardiac septal abnormalities, but our understanding of the contributions of endocardial TBX20 to heart development remains incomplete. Here, we investigated how TBX20 interacts with endocardial gene networks to drive the mesenchymal and myocardial movements that are essential for outflow tract and atrioventricular septation. Selective ablation of Tbx20 in murine endocardial lineages reduced the expression of extracellular matrix and cell migration genes that are critical for septation. Using the assay for transposase-accessible chromatin with high-throughput sequencing (ATAC-seq), we identified accessible chromatin within endocardial lineages and intersected these data with TBX20 ChIP-seq and chromatin loop maps to determine that TBX20 binds a conserved long-range enhancer to regulate versican (Vcan) expression. We also observed reduced Vcan expression in Tbx20-deficient mice, supporting a direct role for TBX20 in Vcan regulation. Further, we show that the Vcan enhancer drove reporter gene expression in endocardial lineages in a TBX20–binding site–dependent manner. This work illuminates gene networks that interact with TBX20 to orchestrate cardiac septation and provides insight into the chromatin landscape of endocardial lineages during septation.

Activation of tyrosine kinase c-Abl contributes to α-synuclein–induced neurodegeneration
  By: Saurav Brahmachari, Preston Ge, Su Hyun Lee, Donghoon Kim, Senthilkumar S. Karuppagounder, Manoj Kumar, Xiaobo Mao, Joo Ho Shin, Yunjong Lee, Olga Pletnikova, Juan C. Troncoso, Valina L. Dawson, Ted M. Dawson, Han Seok Ko

Aggregation of α-synuclein contributes to the formation of Lewy bodies and neurites, the pathologic hallmarks of Parkinson disease (PD) and α-synucleinopathies. Although a number of human mutations have been identified in familial PD, the mechanisms that promote α-synuclein accumulation and toxicity are poorly understood. Here, we report that hyperactivity of the nonreceptor tyrosine kinase c-Abl critically regulates α-synuclein–induced neuropathology. In mice expressing a human α-synucleinopathy–associated mutation (hA53Tα-syn mice), deletion of the gene encoding c-Abl reduced α-synuclein aggregation, neuropathology, and neurobehavioral deficits. Conversely, overexpression of constitutively active c-Abl in hA53Tα-syn mice accelerated α-synuclein aggregation, neuropathology, and neurobehavioral deficits. Moreover, c-Abl activation led to an age-dependent increase in phosphotyrosine 39 α-synuclein. In human postmortem samples, there was an accumulation of phosphotyrosine 39 α-synuclein in brain tissues and Lewy bodies of PD patients compared with age-matched controls. Furthermore, in vitro studies show that c-Abl phosphorylation of α-synuclein at tyrosine 39 enhances α-synuclein aggregation. Taken together, this work establishes a critical role for c-Abl in α-synuclein–induced neurodegeneration and demonstrates that selective inhibition of c-Abl may be neuroprotective. This study further indicates that phosphotyrosine 39 α-synuclein is a potential disease indicator for PD and related α-synucleinopathies.

Transcription factor TBX4 regulates myofibroblast accumulation and lung fibrosis
  By: Ting Xie, Jiurong Liang, Ningshan Liu, Caijuan Huan, Yanli Zhang, Weijia Liu, Maya Kumar, Rui Xiao, Jeanine D’Armiento, Daniel Metzger, Pierre Chambon, Virginia E. Papaioannou, Barry R. Stripp, Dianhua Jiang, Paul W. Noble

Progressive tissue fibrosis is a major cause of the morbidity and mortality associated with repeated epithelial injuries and accumulation of myofibroblasts. Successful treatment options are limited by an incomplete understanding of the molecular mechanisms that regulate myofibroblast accumulation. Here, we employed in vivo lineage tracing and real-time gene expression transgenic reporting methods to analyze the early embryonic transcription factor T-box gene 4 (TBX4), and determined that TBX4-lineage mesenchymal progenitors are the predominant source of myofibroblasts in injured adult lung. In a murine model, ablation of TBX4-expressing cells or disruption of TBX4 signaling attenuated lung fibrosis after bleomycin-induced injury. Furthermore, TBX4 regulated hyaluronan synthase 2 production to enable fibroblast invasion of matrix both in murine models and in fibroblasts from patients with severe pulmonary fibrosis. These data identify TBX4 as a mesenchymal transcription factor that drives accumulation of myofibroblasts and the development of lung fibrosis. Targeting TBX4 and downstream factors that regulate fibroblast invasiveness could lead to therapeutic approaches in lung fibrosis.

EPHB4 kinase–inactivating mutations cause autosomal dominant lymphatic-related hydrops fetalis
  By: Silvia Martin-Almedina, Ines Martinez-Corral, Rita Holdhus, Andres Vicente, Elisavet Fotiou, Shin Lin, Kjell Petersen, Michael A. Simpson, Alexander Hoischen, Christian Gilissen, Heather Jeffery, Giles Atton, Christina Karapouliou, Glen Brice, Kristiana Gordon, John W. Wiseman, Marianne Wedin, Stanley G. Rockson, Steve Jeffery, Peter S. Mortimer, Michael P. Snyder, Siren Berland, Sahar Mansour, Taija Makinen, Pia Ostergaard

Hydrops fetalis describes fluid accumulation in at least 2 fetal compartments, including abdominal cavities, pleura, and pericardium, or in body tissue. The majority of hydrops fetalis cases are nonimmune conditions that present with generalized edema of the fetus, and approximately 15% of these nonimmune cases result from a lymphatic abnormality. Here, we have identified an autosomal dominant, inherited form of lymphatic-related (nonimmune) hydrops fetalis (LRHF). Independent exome sequencing projects on 2 families with a history of in utero and neonatal deaths associated with nonimmune hydrops fetalis uncovered 2 heterozygous missense variants in the gene encoding Eph receptor B4 (EPHB4). Biochemical analysis determined that the mutant EPHB4 proteins are devoid of tyrosine kinase activity, indicating that loss of EPHB4 signaling contributes to LRHF pathogenesis. Further, inactivation of Ephb4 in lymphatic endothelial cells of developing mouse embryos led to defective lymphovenous valve formation and consequent subcutaneous edema. Together, these findings identify EPHB4 as a critical regulator of early lymphatic vascular development and demonstrate that mutations in the gene can cause an autosomal dominant form of LRHF that is associated with a high mortality rate.

Natural allelic variation of the IL-21 receptor modulates ischemic stroke infarct volume
  By: Han Kyu Lee, Sehoon Keum, Huaxin Sheng, David S. Warner, Donald C. Lo, Douglas A. Marchuk

Risk for ischemic stroke has a strong genetic basis, but heritable factors also contribute to the extent of damage after a stroke has occurred. We previously identified a locus on distal mouse chromosome 7 that contributes over 50% of the variation in postischemic cerebral infarct volume observed between inbred strains. Here, we used ancestral haplotype analysis to fine-map this locus to 12 candidate genes. The gene encoding the IL-21 receptor (Il21r) showed a marked difference in strain-specific transcription levels and coding variants in neonatal and adult cortical tissue. Collateral vessel connections were moderately reduced in Il21r-deficient mice, and cerebral infarct volume increased 2.3-fold, suggesting that Il21r modulates both collateral vessel anatomy and innate neuroprotection. In brain slice explants, oxygen deprivation (OD) activated apoptotic pathways and increased neuronal cell death in IL-21 receptor–deficient (IL-21R–deficient) mice compared with control animals. We determined that the neuroprotective effects of IL-21R arose from signaling through JAK/STAT pathways and upregulation of caspase 3. Thus, natural genetic variation in murine Il21r influences neuronal cell viability after ischemia by modulating receptor function and downstream signal transduction. The identification of neuroprotective genes based on naturally occurring allelic variations has the potential to inform the development of drug targets for ischemic stroke treatment.

ApoC-III inhibits clearance of triglyceride-rich lipoproteins through LDL family receptors
  By: Philip L.S.M. Gordts, Ryan Nock, Ni-Huiping Son, Bastian Ramms, Irene Lew, Jon C. Gonzales, Bryan E. Thacker, Debapriya Basu, Richard G. Lee, Adam E. Mullick, Mark J. Graham, Ira J. Goldberg, Rosanne M. Crooke, Joseph L. Witztum, Jeffrey D. Esko

Hypertriglyceridemia is an independent risk factor for cardiovascular disease, and plasma triglycerides (TGs) correlate strongly with plasma apolipoprotein C-III (ApoC-III) levels. Antisense oligonucleotides (ASOs) for ApoC-III reduce plasma TGs in primates and mice, but the underlying mechanism of action remains controversial. We determined that a murine-specific ApoC-III–targeting ASO reduces fasting TG levels through a mechanism that is dependent on low-density lipoprotein receptors (LDLRs) and LDLR-related protein 1 (LRP1). ApoC-III ASO treatment lowered plasma TGs in mice lacking lipoprotein lipase (LPL), hepatic heparan sulfate proteoglycan (HSPG) receptors, LDLR, or LRP1 and in animals with combined deletion of the genes encoding HSPG receptors and LDLRs or LRP1. However, the ApoC-III ASO did not lower TG levels in mice lacking both LDLR and LRP1. LDLR and LRP1 were also required for ApoC-III ASO–induced reduction of plasma TGs in mice fed a high-fat diet, in postprandial clearance studies, and when ApoC-III–rich or ApoC-III–depleted lipoproteins were injected into mice. ASO reduction of ApoC-III had no effect on VLDL secretion, heparin-induced TG reduction, or uptake of lipids into heart and skeletal muscle. Our data indicate that ApoC-III inhibits turnover of TG-rich lipoproteins primarily through a hepatic clearance mechanism mediated by the LDLR/LRP1 axis.

IRF3 promotes adipose inflammation and insulin resistance and represses browning
  By: Manju Kumari, Xun Wang, Louise Lantier, Anna Lyubetskaya, Jun Eguchi, Sona Kang, Danielle Tenen, Hyun Cheol Roh, Xingxing Kong, Lawrence Kazak, Rasheed Ahmad, Evan D. Rosen

The chronic inflammatory state that accompanies obesity is a major contributor to insulin resistance and other dysfunctional adaptations in adipose tissue. Cellular and secreted factors promote the inflammatory milieu of obesity, but the transcriptional pathways that drive these processes are not well described. Although the canonical inflammatory transcription factor NF-κB is considered to be the major driver of adipocyte inflammation, members of the interferon regulatory factor (IRF) family may also play a role in this process. Here, we determined that IRF3 expression is upregulated in the adipocytes of obese mice and humans. Signaling through TLR3 and TLR4, which lie upstream of IRF3, induced insulin resistance in murine adipocytes, while IRF3 knockdown prevented insulin resistance. Furthermore, improved insulin sensitivity in IRF3-deficient mice was associated with reductions in intra-adipose and systemic inflammation in the high fat–fed state, enhanced browning of subcutaneous fat, and increased adipose expression of GLUT4. Taken together, the data indicate that IRF3 is a major transcriptional regulator of adipose inflammation and is involved in maintaining systemic glucose and energy homeostasis.

Truncated netrin-1 contributes to pathological vascular permeability in diabetic retinopathy
  By: Khalil Miloudi, François Binet, Ariel Wilson, Agustin Cerani, Malika Oubaha, Catherine Menard, Sullivan Henriques, Gaelle Mawambo, Agnieszka Dejda, Phuong Trang Nguyen, Flavio A. Rezende, Steve Bourgault, Timothy E. Kennedy, Przemyslaw Sapieha

Diabetic retinopathy (DR) is a major complication of diabetes and a leading cause of blindness in the working-age population. Impaired blood-retinal barrier function leads to macular edema that is closely associated with the deterioration of central vision. We previously demonstrated that the neuronal guidance cue netrin-1 activates a program of reparative angiogenesis in microglia within the ischemic retina. Here, we provide evidence in both vitreous humor of diabetic patients and in retina of a murine model of diabetes that netrin-1 is metabolized into a bioactive fragment corresponding to domains VI and V of the full-length molecule. In contrast to the protective effects of full-length netrin-1 on retinal microvasculature, the VI-V fragment promoted vascular permeability through the uncoordinated 5B (UNC5B) receptor. The collagenase matrix metalloprotease 9 (MMP-9), which is increased in patients with diabetic macular edema, was capable of cleaving netrin-1 into the VI-V fragment. Thus, MMP-9 may release netrin-1 fragments from the extracellular matrix and facilitate diffusion. Nonspecific inhibition of collagenases or selective inhibition of MMP-9 decreased pathological vascular permeability in a murine model of diabetic retinal edema. This study reveals that netrin-1 degradation products are capable of modulating vascular permeability, suggesting that these fragments are of potential therapeutic interest for the treatment of DR.

p21 mediates macrophage reprogramming through regulation of p50-p50 NF-κB and IFN-β
  By: Gorjana Rackov, Enrique Hernández-Jiménez, Rahman Shokri, Lorena Carmona-Rodríguez, Santos Mañes, Melchor Álvarez-Mon, Eduardo López-Collazo, Carlos Martínez-A, Dimitrios Balomenos

M1 and M2 macrophage phenotypes, which mediate proinflammatory and antiinflammatory functions, respectively, represent the extremes of immunoregulatory plasticity in the macrophage population. This plasticity can also result in intermediate macrophage states that support a balance between these opposing functions. In sepsis, M1 macrophages can compensate for hyperinflammation by acquiring an M2-like immunosuppressed status that increases the risk of secondary infection and death. The M1 to M2 macrophage reprogramming that develops during LPS tolerance resembles the pathological antiinflammatory response to sepsis. Here, we determined that p21 regulates macrophage reprogramming by shifting the balance between active p65-p50 and inhibitory p50-p50 NF-κB pathways. p21 deficiency reduced the DNA-binding affinity of the p50-p50 homodimer in LPS-primed and -rechallenged macrophages, impairing their ability to attenuate IFN-β production and acquire an M2-like hyporesponsive status. High p21 levels in sepsis patients correlated with low IFN-β expression, and p21 knockdown in human monocytes corroborated its role in IFN-β regulation. The data demonstrate that p21 adjusts the equilibrium between p65-p50 and p50-p50 NF-κB pathways to mediate macrophage plasticity in LPS tolerance. Identifying p21-related pathways involved in monocyte reprogramming may lead to potential targets for sepsis treatment.

Tandem CAR T cells targeting HER2 and IL13Rα2 mitigate tumor antigen escape
  By: Meenakshi Hegde, Malini Mukherjee, Zakaria Grada, Antonella Pignata, Daniel Landi, Shoba A. Navai, Amanda Wakefield, Kristen Fousek, Kevin Bielamowicz, Kevin K.H. Chow, Vita S. Brawley, Tiara T. Byrd, Simone Krebs, Stephen Gottschalk, Winfried S. Wels, Matthew L. Baker, Gianpietro Dotti, Maksim Mamonkin, Malcolm K. Brenner, Jordan S. Orange, Nabil Ahmed

In preclinical models of glioblastoma, antigen escape variants can lead to tumor recurrence after treatment with CAR T cells that are redirected to single tumor antigens. Given the heterogeneous expression of antigens on glioblastomas, we hypothesized that a bispecific CAR molecule would mitigate antigen escape and improve the antitumor activity of T cells. Here, we created a CAR that joins a HER2-binding scFv and an IL13Rα2-binding IL-13 mutein to make a tandem CAR exodomain (TanCAR) and a CD28.ζ endodomain. We determined that patient TanCAR T cells showed distinct binding to HER2 or IL13Rα2 and had the capability to lyse autologous glioblastoma. TanCAR T cells exhibited activation dynamics that were comparable to those of single CAR T cells upon encounter of HER2 or IL13Rα2. We observed that TanCARs engaged HER2 and IL13Rα2 simultaneously by inducing HER2-IL13Rα2 heterodimers, which promoted superadditive T cell activation when both antigens were encountered concurrently. TanCAR T cell activity was more sustained but not more exhaustible than that of T cells that coexpressed a HER2 CAR and an IL13Rα2 CAR, T cells with a unispecific CAR, or a pooled product. In a murine glioblastoma model, TanCAR T cells mitigated antigen escape, displayed enhanced antitumor efficacy, and improved animal survival. Thus, TanCAR T cells show therapeutic potential to improve glioblastoma control by coengaging HER2 and IL13Rα2 in an augmented, bivalent immune synapse that enhances T cell functionality and reduces antigen escape.

Destabilized SMC5/6 complex leads to chromosome breakage syndrome with severe lung disease
  By: Saskia N. van der Crabben, Marije P. Hennus, Grant A. McGregor, Deborah I. Ritter, Sandesh C.S. Nagamani, Owen S. Wells, Magdalena Harakalova, Ivan K. Chinn, Aaron Alt, Lucie Vondrova, Ron Hochstenbach, Joris M. van Montfrans, Suzanne W. Terheggen-Lagro, Stef van Lieshout, Markus J. van Roosmalen, Ivo Renkens, Karen Duran, Isaac J. Nijman, Wigard P. Kloosterman, Eric Hennekam, Jordan S. Orange, Peter M. van Hasselt, David A. Wheeler, Jan J. Palecek, Alan R. Lehmann, Antony W. Oliver, Laurence H. Pearl, Sharon E. Plon, Johanne M. Murray, Gijs van Haaften

The structural maintenance of chromosomes (SMC) family of proteins supports mitotic proliferation, meiosis, and DNA repair to control genomic stability. Impairments in chromosome maintenance are linked to rare chromosome breakage disorders. Here, we have identified a chromosome breakage syndrome associated with severe lung disease in early childhood. Four children from two unrelated kindreds died of severe pulmonary disease during infancy following viral pneumonia with evidence of combined T and B cell immunodeficiency. Whole exome sequencing revealed biallelic missense mutations in the NSMCE3 (also known as NDNL2) gene, which encodes a subunit of the SMC5/6 complex that is essential for DNA damage response and chromosome segregation. The NSMCE3 mutations disrupted interactions within the SMC5/6 complex, leading to destabilization of the complex. Patient cells showed chromosome rearrangements, micronuclei, sensitivity to replication stress and DNA damage, and defective homologous recombination. This work associates missense mutations in NSMCE3 with an autosomal recessive chromosome breakage syndrome that leads to defective T and B cell function and acute respiratory distress syndrome in early childhood.

Schlafen 4–expressing myeloid-derived suppressor cells are induced during murine gastric metaplasia
  By: Lin Ding, Michael M. Hayes, Amanda Photenhauer, Kathryn A. Eaton, Qian Li, Ramon Ocadiz-Ruiz, Juanita L. Merchant

Chronic Helicobacter pylori infection triggers neoplastic transformation of the gastric mucosa in a small subset of patients, but the risk factors that induce progression to gastric metaplasia have not been identified. Prior to cancer development, the oxyntic gastric glands atrophy and are replaced by metaplastic cells in response to chronic gastritis. Previously, we identified schlafen 4 (Slfn4) as a GLI1 target gene and myeloid differentiation factor that correlates with spasmolytic polypeptide-expressing metaplasia (SPEM) in mice. Here, we tested the hypothesis that migration of SLFN4-expressing cells from the bone marrow to peripheral organs predicts preneoplastic changes in the gastric microenvironment. Lineage tracing in Helicobacter-infected Slfn4 reporter mice revealed that SLFN4+ cells migrated to the stomach, where they exhibited myeloid-derived suppressor cell (MDSC) markers and acquired the ability to inhibit T cell proliferation. SLFN4+ MDSCs were not observed in infected GLI1-deficient mice. Overexpression of sonic hedgehog ligand (SHH) in infected WT mice accelerated the appearance of SLFN4+ MDSCs in the gastric corpus. Similarly, in the stomachs of H. pylori–infected patients, the human SLFN4 ortholog SLFN12L colocalized to cells that expressed MDSC surface markers CD15+CD33+HLA-DRlo. Together, these results indicate that SLFN4 marks a GLI1-dependent population of MDSCs that predict a shift in the gastric mucosa to a metaplastic phenotype.

Induced superficial chondrocyte death reduces catabolic cartilage damage in murine posttraumatic osteoarthritis
  By: Minjie Zhang, Sriniwasan B. Mani, Yao He, Amber M. Hall, Lin Xu, Yefu Li, David Zurakowski, Gregory D. Jay, Matthew L. Warman

Joints that have degenerated as a result of aging or injury contain dead chondrocytes and damaged cartilage. Some studies have suggested that chondrocyte death precedes cartilage damage, but how the loss of chondrocytes affects cartilage integrity is not clear. In this study, we examined whether chondrocyte death undermines cartilage integrity in aging and injury using a rapid 3D confocal cartilage imaging technique coupled with standard histology. We induced autonomous expression of diphtheria toxin to kill articular surface chondrocytes in mice and determined that chondrocyte death did not lead to cartilage damage. Moreover, cartilage damage after surgical destabilization of the medial meniscus of the knee was increased in mice with intact chondrocytes compared with animals whose chondrocytes had been killed, suggesting that chondrocyte death does not drive cartilage damage in response to injury. These data imply that chondrocyte catabolism, not death, contributes to articular cartilage damage following injury. Therefore, therapies targeted at reducing the catabolic phenotype may protect against degenerative joint disease.

Reprogramming Müller glia via in vivo cell fusion regenerates murine photoreceptors
  By: Daniela Sanges, Giacoma Simonte, Umberto Di Vicino, Neus Romo, Isabel Pinilla, Marta Nicolás Farrés, Maria Pia Cosma

Vision impairments and blindness caused by retinitis pigmentosa result from severe neurodegeneration that leads to a loss of photoreceptors, the specialized light-sensitive neurons that enable vision. Although the mammalian nervous system is unable to replace neurons lost due to degeneration, therapeutic approaches to reprogram resident glial cells to replace retinal neurons have been proposed. Here, we demonstrate that retinal Müller glia can be reprogrammed in vivo into retinal precursors that then differentiate into photoreceptors. We transplanted hematopoietic stem and progenitor cells (HSPCs) into retinas affected by photoreceptor degeneration and observed spontaneous cell fusion events between Müller glia and the transplanted cells. Activation of Wnt signaling in the transplanted HSPCs enhanced survival and proliferation of Müller-HSPC hybrids as well as their reprogramming into intermediate photoreceptor precursors. This suggests that Wnt signaling drives the reprogrammed cells toward a photoreceptor progenitor fate. Finally, Müller-HSPC hybrids differentiated into photoreceptors. Transplantation of HSPCs with activated Wnt functionally rescued the retinal degeneration phenotype in rd10 mice, a model for inherited retinitis pigmentosa. Together, these results suggest that photoreceptors can be generated by reprogramming Müller glia and that this approach may have potential as a strategy for reversing retinal degeneration.

BRCA1185delAG tumors may acquire therapy resistance through expression of RING-less BRCA1
  By: Rinske Drost, Kiranjit K. Dhillon, Hanneke van der Gulden, Ingrid van der Heijden, Inger Brandsma, Cristina Cruz, Dafni Chondronasiou, Marta Castroviejo-Bermejo, Ute Boon, Eva Schut, Eline van der Burg, Ellen Wientjens, Mark Pieterse, Christiaan Klijn, Sjoerd Klarenbeek, Fabricio Loayza-Puch, Ran Elkon, Liesbeth van Deemter, Sven Rottenberg, Marieke van de Ven, Dick H.W. Dekkers, Jeroen A.A. Demmers, Dik C. van Gent, Reuven Agami, Judith Balmaña, Violeta Serra, Toshiyasu Taniguchi, Peter Bouwman, Jos Jonkers

Heterozygous germline mutations in breast cancer 1 (BRCA1) strongly predispose women to breast cancer. BRCA1 plays an important role in DNA double-strand break (DSB) repair via homologous recombination (HR), which is important for tumor suppression. Although BRCA1-deficient cells are highly sensitive to treatment with DSB-inducing agents through their HR deficiency (HRD), BRCA1-associated tumors display heterogeneous responses to platinum drugs and poly(ADP-ribose) polymerase (PARP) inhibitors in clinical trials. It is unclear whether all pathogenic BRCA1 mutations have similar effects on the response to therapy. Here, we have investigated mammary tumorigenesis and therapy sensitivity in mice carrying the Brca1185stop and Brca15382stop alleles, which respectively mimic the 2 most common BRCA1 founder mutations, BRCA1185delAG and BRCA15382insC. Both the Brca1185stop and Brca15382stop mutations predisposed animals to mammary tumors, but Brca1185stop tumors responded markedly worse to HRD-targeted therapy than did Brca15382stop tumors. Mice expressing Brca1185stop mutations also developed therapy resistance more rapidly than did mice expressing Brca15382stop. We determined that both murine Brca1185stop tumors and human BRCA1185delAG breast cancer cells expressed a really interesting new gene domain–less (RING-less) BRCA1 protein that mediated resistance to HRD-targeted therapies. Together, these results suggest that expression of RING-less BRCA1 may serve as a marker to predict poor response to DSB-inducing therapy in human cancer patients.

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