- The costimulatory molecule CD226 signals through VAV1 to amplify TCR signals and promote IL-17 production by CD4+ T cells
- Modeling of patient virus titers suggests that availability of a vaccine could reduce hepatitis C virus transmission among injecting drug users
- TORC1 inhibition enhances immune function and reduces infections in the elderly
- Mitochondrial redox sensing by the kinase ATM maintains cellular antioxidant capacity
- IKK promotes cytokine-induced and cancer-associated AMPK activity and attenuates phenformin-induced cell death in LKB1-deficient cells
1. The costimulatory molecule CD226 signals through VAV1 to amplify TCR signals and promote IL-17 production by CD4+ T cells
The activation of T cells requires the guanine nucleotide exchange factor VAV1. Using mice in which a tag for affinity purification was attached to endogenous VAV1 molecules, Guillaume Gaud at Université de Toulouse in Toulouse, France and his colleagues analyzed by quantitative mass spectrometry the signaling complex that assembles around activated VAV1. Fifty VAV1-binding partners were identified, most of which had not been previously reported to participate in VAV1 signaling. Among these was CD226, a costimulatory molecule of immune cells. Engagement of CD226 induced the tyrosine phosphorylation of VAV1 and synergized with T cell receptor (TCR) signals to specifically enhance the production of interleukin-17 (IL-17) by primary human CD4+ T cells. Moreover, co-engagement of the TCR and a risk variant of CD226 that is associated with autoimmunity (rs763361) further enhanced VAV1 activation and IL-17 production. Thus, their study reveals that a VAV1-based, synergistic cross-talk exists between the TCR and CD226 during both physiological and pathological T cell responses and provides a rational basis for targeting CD226 for the management of autoimmune diseases.
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2. Modeling of patient virus titers suggests that availability of a vaccine could reduce hepatitis C virus transmission among injecting drug users
The major route of hepatitis C virus (HCV) transmission in the United States is injection drug use. Marian Major at Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research in Silver Spring, USA and her colleagues hypothesized that if an HCV vaccine were available, vaccination could affect HCV transmission among people who inject drugs by reducing HCV titers after viral exposure without necessarily achieving sterilizing immunity. To investigate this possibility, they developed a mathematical model to determine transmission probabilities relative to the HCV RNA titers of needle/syringe-sharing donors. They simulated sharing of two types of syringes fitted with needles that retain either large or small amounts of fluid after expulsion. Using previously published viral kinetics data from both naïve subjects infected with HCV and reinfected individuals who had previously cleared an HCV infection, they estimated transmission risk between pairs of serodiscordant injecting drug users, accounting for syringe type, rinsing, and sharing frequency. They calculated that the risk of HCV transmission through syringe sharing increased ~10-fold as viral titers (log10 IU/ml) increased ~25-fold. Cumulative analyses showed that, assuming sharing episodes every 7 days, the mean transmission risk over the first 6 months was >90% between two people sharing syringes when one had an HCV RNA titer >5 log10 IU/ml. For those with preexisting immunity that rapidly controlled HCV, the cumulative risk decreased to 1 to 25% depending on HCV titer and syringe type. Their modeling approach demonstrates that, even with transient viral replication after exposure during injection drug use, HCV transmission among people sharing syringes could be reduced through vaccination if an HCV vaccine were available.
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3. TORC1 inhibition enhances immune function and reduces infections in the elderly
Inhibition of the mechanistic target of rapamycin (mTOR) protein kinase extends life span and ameliorates aging-related pathologies including declining immune function in model organisms. The objective of this phase 2a randomized, placebo-controlled clinical trial was to determine whether low-dose mTOR inhibitor therapy enhanced immune function and decreased infection rates in 264 elderly subjects given the study drugs for 6 weeks. A low-dose combination of a catalytic (BEZ235) plus an allosteric (RAD001) mTOR inhibitor that selectively inhibits target of rapamycin complex 1 (TORC1) downstream of mTOR was safe and was associated with a significant (P = 0.001) decrease in the rate of infections reported by elderly subjects for a year after study drug initiation. In addition, Joan B. Mannick at Novartis Institutes for Biomedical Research in Cambridge, USA and his colleagues observed an up-regulation of antiviral gene expression and an improvement in the response to influenza vaccination in this treatment group. Thus, selective TORC1 inhibition has the potential to improve immune function and reduce infections in the elderly.
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4. Mitochondrial redox sensing by the kinase ATM maintains cellular antioxidant capacity
Mitochondria are integral to cellular energy metabolism and ATP production and are involved in regulating many cellular processes. Mitochondria produce reactive oxygen species (ROS), which not only can damage cellular components but also participate in signal transduction. The kinase ATM, which is mutated in the neurodegenerative, autosomal recessive disease ataxia-telangiectasia (A-T), is a key player in the nuclear DNA damage response. However, ATM also performs a redox-sensing function mediated through formation of ROS-dependent disulfide-linked dimers. Yichong Zhang at Yale School of Medicine in New Haven, USA and his colleagues found that mitochondria-derived hydrogen peroxide promoted ATM dimerization. In HeLa cells, ATM dimers were localized to the nucleus and inhibited by the redox regulatory protein thioredoxin 1 (TRX1), suggesting the existence of a ROS-mediated, stress-signaling relay from mitochondria to the nucleus. ATM dimer formation did not affect its association with chromatin in the absence or presence of nuclear DNA damage, consistent with the separation of its redox and DNA damage signaling functions. Comparative analysis of U2OS cells expressing either wild-type ATM or the redox sensing–deficient C2991L mutant revealed that one function of ATM redox sensing is to promote glucose flux through the pentose phosphate pathway (PPP) by increasing the abundance and activity of glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase (G6PD), thereby increasing cellular antioxidant capacity. The PPP produces the coenzyme NADPH needed for a robust antioxidant response, including the regeneration of TRX1, indicating the existence of a regulatory feedback loop involving ATM and TRX1. They propose that loss of the mitochondrial ROS-sensing function of ATM may cause cellular ROS accumulation and oxidative stress in A-T.
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5. IKK promotes cytokine-induced and cancer-associated AMPK activity and attenuates phenformin-induced cell death in LKB1-deficient cells
The 5′ AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK) is an energy sensor that is activated upon phosphorylation of Thr172 in its activation loop by the kinase LKB1, CAMKK2, or TAK1. TAK1-dependent AMPK phosphorylation of Thr172 is less well characterized than phosphorylation of this site by LKB1 or CAMKK2. An important target of TAK1 is IκB kinase (IKK), which controls the activation of the transcription factor NF-κB. Ricardo J. Antonia at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in Chapel Hill, USA and his colleagues tested the hypothesis that IKK acted downstream of TAK1 to activate AMPK by phosphorylating Thr172. IKK was required for the phosphorylation of Thr172 in AMPK in response to treatment with the inflammatory cytokine IL-1β or TNF-α or upon TAK1 overexpression. In addition, IKK regulated basal AMPK Thr172 phosphorylation in several cancer cell types independently of TAK1, indicating that other modes of IKK activation could stimulate AMPK. They found that IKK directly phosphorylated AMPK at Thr172 independently of the tumor suppressor LKB1 or energy stress. Accordingly, in LKB1-deficient cells, IKK inhibition reduced AMPK Thr172 phosphorylation in response to the mitochondrial inhibitor phenformin. This response led to enhanced apoptosis and suggests that IKK inhibition in combination with phenformin could be used clinically to treat patients with LKB1-deficient cancers.
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