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1.  Fungal Chitin Dampens Inflammation through IL-10 Induction Mediated by NOD2 and TLR9 Activation 
PLoS Pathogens  2014;10(4):e1004050.
Chitin is an essential structural polysaccharide of fungal pathogens and parasites, but its role in human immune responses remains largely unknown. It is the second most abundant polysaccharide in nature after cellulose and its derivatives today are widely used for medical and industrial purposes. We analysed the immunological properties of purified chitin particles derived from the opportunistic human fungal pathogen Candida albicans, which led to the selective secretion of the anti-inflammatory cytokine IL-10. We identified NOD2, TLR9 and the mannose receptor as essential fungal chitin-recognition receptors for the induction of this response. Chitin reduced LPS-induced inflammation in vivo and may therefore contribute to the resolution of the immune response once the pathogen has been defeated. Fungal chitin also induced eosinophilia in vivo, underpinning its ability to induce asthma. Polymorphisms in the identified chitin receptors, NOD2 and TLR9, predispose individuals to inflammatory conditions and dysregulated expression of chitinases and chitinase-like binding proteins, whose activity is essential to generate IL-10-inducing fungal chitin particles in vitro, have also been linked to inflammatory conditions and asthma. Chitin recognition is therefore critical for immune homeostasis and is likely to have a significant role in infectious and allergic disease.
Authors Summary
Chitin is the second most abundant polysaccharide in nature after cellulose and an essential component of the cell wall of all fungal pathogens. The discovery of human chitinases and chitinase-like binding proteins indicates that fungal chitin is recognised by cells of the human immune system, shaping the immune response towards the invading pathogen. We show that three immune cell receptors– the mannose receptor, NOD2 and TLR9 recognise chitin and act together to mediate an anti-inflammatory response via secretion of the cytokine IL-10. This mechanism may prevent inflammation-based damage during fungal infection and restore immune balance after an infection has been cleared. By increasing the chitin content in the cell wall pathogenic fungi may influence the immune system in their favour, by down-regulating protective inflammatory immune responses. Furthermore, gene mutations and dysregulated enzyme activity in the described chitin recognition pathway are implicated in inflammatory conditions such as Crohn's Disease and asthma, highlighting the importance of the discovered mechanism in human health.
PMCID: PMC3983064  PMID: 24722226
2.  Chitins and Chitosans as Immunoadjuvants and Non-Allergenic Drug Carriers 
Marine Drugs  2010;8(2):292-312.
Due to the fact that some individuals are allergic to crustaceans, the presumed relationship between allergy and the presence of chitin in crustaceans has been investigated. In vivo, chitin is part of complex structures with other organic and inorganic compounds: in arthropods chitin is covalently linked to proteins and tanned by quinones, in fungi it is covalently linked to glucans, while in bacteria chitin is diversely combined according to Gram(+/−) classification. On the other hand, isolated, purified chitin is a plain polysaccharide that, at the nano level, presents itself as a highly associated structure, recently refined in terms of regularity, nature of bonds, crystallinity degree and unusual colloidal behavior. Chitins and modified chitins exert a number of beneficial actions, i.e., (i) they stimulate macrophages by interacting with receptors on the macrophage surface that mediate the internalization of chitin particles to be degraded by lysozyme and N-acetyl-β-glucosaminidase (such as Nod-like, Toll-like, lectin, Dectin-1, leukotriene 134 and mannose receptors); (ii) the macrophages produce cytokines and other compounds that confer non-specific host resistance against bacterial and viral infections, and anti-tumor activity; (iii) chitin is a strong Th1 adjuvant that up-regulates Th1 immunity induced by heat-killed Mycobacterium bovis, while down- regulating Th2 immunity induced by mycobacterial protein; (iv) direct intranasal application of chitin microparticles into the lung was also able to significantly down-regulate allergic response to Dermatophagoids pteronyssinus and Aspergillus fumigatus in a murine model of allergy; (v) chitin microparticles had a beneficial effect in preventing and treating histopathologic changes in the airways of asthmatic mice; (vi) authors support the fact that chitin depresses the development of adaptive type 2 allergic responses. Since the expression of chitinases, chitrotriosidase and chitinase-like proteins is greatly amplified during many infections and diseases, the common feature of chitinase-like proteins and chitinase activity in all organisms appears to be the biochemical defense of the host. Unfortunately, conceptual and methodological errors are present in certain recent articles dealing with chitin and allergy, i.e., (1) omitted consideration of mammalian chitinase and/or chitotriosidase secretion, accompanied by inactive chitinase-like proteins, as an ancestral defensive means against invasion, capable to prevent the insurgence of allergy; (2) omitted consideration of the fact that the mammalian organism recognizes more promptly the secreted water soluble chitinase produced by a pathogen, rather than the insoluble and well protected chitin within the pathogen itself; (3) superficial and incomplete reports and investigations on chitin as an allergen, without mentioning the potent allergen from crustacean flesh, tropomyosine; (4) limited perception of the importance of the chemical/biochemical characteristics of the isolated chitin or chitosan for the replication of experiments and optimization of results; and (5) lack of interdisciplinarity. There is quite a large body of knowledge today on the use of chitosans as biomaterials, and more specifically as drug carriers for a variety of applications: the delivery routes being the same as those adopted for the immunological studies. Said articles, that devote attention to the safety and biocompatibility aspects, never reported intolerance or allergy in individuals and animals, even when the quantities of chitosan used in single experiments were quite large. Therefore, it is concluded that crab, shrimp, prawn and lobster chitins, as well as chitosans of all grades, once purified, should not be considered as “crustacean derivatives”, because the isolation procedures have removed proteins, fats and other contaminants to such an extent as to allow them to be classified as chemicals regardless of their origin.
PMCID: PMC2852840  PMID: 20390107
chitin; chitosan; chitinase; chitinase-like proteins; immunology
Chitin, is a ubiquitous polysaccharide in fungi, insects and parasites. To test the hypothesis that chitin is an important immune modulator, we characterized the ability of chitin fragments to regulate murine macrophage cytokine production in vitro and induce acute inflammation in vivo. Here we show that chitin is a size-dependent stimulator of macrophage interleukin (IL)-17A production and IL-17A receptor (R) expression and demonstrate that these responses are Toll-like Receptor (TLR)-2 and MyD88-dependent. We further demonstrate that IL-17A pathway activation is an essential event in the stimulation of some but not all chitin-stimulated cytokines and that chitin utilizes a TLR-2, MyD88- and IL-17A-dependent mechanism(s) to induce acute inflammation. These studies demonstrate that chitin is a size-dependent pathogen-associated molecular pattern (PAMP) that activates TLR-2 and MyD88 in a novel IL-17A / IL-17AR-based innate immunity pathway.
PMCID: PMC2577310  PMID: 18768886
Monocytes/Macrophages; Cytokines; Inflammation; Lung; Rodent
4.  Chitin Modulates Innate Immune Responses of Keratinocytes 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(2):e16594.
Chitin, after cellulose the second most abundant polysaccharide in nature, is an essential component of exoskeletons of crabs, shrimps and insects and protects these organisms from harsh conditions in their environment. Unexpectedly, chitin has been found to activate innate immune cells and to elicit murine airway inflammation. The skin represents the outer barrier of the human host defense and is in frequent contact with chitin-bearing organisms, such as house-dust mites or flies. The effects of chitin on keratinocytes, however, are poorly understood.
Methodology/Principal Findings
We hypothesized that chitin stimulates keratinocytes and thereby modulates the innate immune response of the skin. Here we show that chitin is bioactive on primary and immortalized keratinocytes by triggering production of pro-inflammatory cytokines and chemokines. Chitin stimulation further induced the expression of the Toll-like receptor (TLR) TLR4 on keratinocytes at mRNA and protein level. Chitin-induced effects were mainly abrogated when TLR2 was blocked, suggesting that TLR2 senses chitin on keratinocytes.
We speculate that chitin-bearing organisms modulate the innate immune response towards pathogens by upregulating secretion of cytokines and chemokines and expression of MyD88-associated TLRs, two major components of innate immunity. The clinical relevance of this mechanism remains to be defined.
PMCID: PMC3044707  PMID: 21383982
5.  Complement Component 3C3 and C3a Receptor Are Required in Chitin-Dependent Allergic Sensitization to Aspergillus fumigatus but Dispensable in Chitin-Induced Innate Allergic Inflammation 
mBio  2013;4(2):e00162-13.
Levels of the anaphylatoxin C3a are increased in patients with asthma compared with those in nonasthmatics and increase further still during asthma exacerbations. However, the role of C3a during sensitization to allergen is poorly understood. Sensitization to fungal allergens, such as Aspergillus fumigatus, is a strong risk factor for the development of asthma. Exposure to chitin, a structural polysaccharide of the fungal cell wall, induces innate allergic inflammation and may promote sensitization to fungal allergens. Here, we found that coincubation of chitin with serum or intratracheal administration of chitin in mice resulted in the generation of C3a. We established a model of chitin-dependent sensitization to soluble Aspergillus antigens to test the contribution of complement to these events. C3−/− and C3aR−/− mice were protected from chitin-dependent sensitization to Aspergillus and had reduced lung eosinophilia and type 2 cytokines and serum IgE. In contrast, complement-deficient mice were not protected against chitin-induced innate allergic inflammation. In sensitized mice, plasmacytoid dendritic cells from complement-deficient animals acquired a tolerogenic profile associated with enhanced regulatory T cell responses and suppressed Th2 and Th17 responses specific for Aspergillus. Thus, chitin induces the generation of C3a in the lung, and chitin-dependent allergic sensitization to Aspergillus requires C3aR signaling, which suppresses regulatory dendritic cells and T cells and induces allergy-promoting T cells.
Asthma is one of the fastest growing chronic illnesses worldwide. Chitin, a ubiquitous polymer in our environment and a key component in the cell wall of fungal spores and the exoskeletons of insects, parasites, and crustaceans, triggers innate allergic inflammation. However, there is little understanding of how chitin is initially recognized by mammals and how early recognition of chitin affects sensitization to environmental allergens and development of allergic asthma. The complement system is evolutionarily one of the oldest facets of the early or innate warning systems in mammals. We studied whether and how complement components influence the recognition of chitin and shape the downstream sensitization toward fungal allergens. We show here that complement recognition of chitin plays a critical role in shaping the behavior of dendritic cells, which in turn regulate the function of T cells that mediate allergic responses to fungi.
PMCID: PMC3622928  PMID: 23549917
6.  Chitin Regulation of Immune Responses: An Old Molecule With New Roles 
Current opinion in immunology  2008;20(6):684-689.
Chitin, the second most abundant polysaccharide in nature, is commonly found in lower organisms such as fungi, crustaceans and insects, but not in mammals. Although the non-specific anti-viral and anti-tumor activities of chitin/chitin derivatives were described two decades ago, the immunological effects of chitin have been only recently been addressed. Recent studies demonstrated that chitin has complex and size-dependent effects on innate and adaptive immune responses including the ability to recruit and activate innate immune cells and induce cytokine and chemokine production via a variety of cell surface receptors including macrophage mannose receptor, toll-like receptor 2 (TLR-2), and Dectin-1. They also demonstrated adjuvant effects of chitin in allergen-induced Type 1 or Type 2 inflammation and provided insights into the important roles of chitinases and chitinase-like proteins (C/CLP) in pulmonary inflammation. The status of the field and areas of controversy are highlighted.
PMCID: PMC2605627  PMID: 18938241
chitin; chitinases; chitinase-like protein; innate and adaptive immunity
7.  Chitin, Chitinases and Chitinase-like Proteins in Allergic Inflammation and Tissue Remodeling 
Yonsei Medical Journal  2009;50(1):22-30.
Chitin, the second most abundant polysaccharide in nature after cellulose, consist exoskeleton of lower organisms such as fungi, crustaceans and insects except mammals. Recently, several studies evaluated immunologic effects of chitin in vivo and in vitro and revealed new aspects of chitin regulation of innate and adaptive immune responses. It has been shown that exogenous chitin activates macrophages and other innate immune cells and also modulates adaptive type 2 allergic inflammation. These studies further demonstrate that chitin stimulate macrophages by interacting with different cell surface receptors such as macrophage mannose receptor, toll-like receptor 2 (TLR-2), C-type lectin receptor Dectin-1, and leukotriene B4 recepptor (BLT1). On the other hand, a number of chitinase or chitinase-like proteins (C/CLP) are ubiquitously expressed in the airways and intestinal tracts from insects to mammals. In general, these chitinase family proteins confer protective functions to the host against exogenous chitin-containing pathogens. However, substantial body of recent studies also set light on new roles of C/CLP in the development and progression of allergic inflammation and tissue remodeling. In this review, recent findings on the role of chitin and C/CLP in allergic inflammation and tissue remodeling will be highlighted and controversial and unsolved issues in this field of studies will be discussed.
PMCID: PMC2649864  PMID: 19259344
Chitin; chitinases; chitinase-like proteins; immunity; remodeling
8.  Th1 Adjuvant N-Acetyl-d-Glucosamine Polymer Up-Regulates Th1 Immunity but Down-Regulates Th2 Immunity against a Mycobacterial Protein (MPB-59) in Interleukin-10-Knockout and Wild-Type Mice 
Infection and Immunity  2001;69(10):6123-6130.
Treatment of mice with heat-killed (HK) Mycobacterium bovis BCG or 1- to 10-μm chitin particles (nonantigenic N-acetyl-d-glucosamine polymers) is known to induce innate immune responses, including gamma interferon (IFN-γ) production, which plays a Th1 adjuvant role. However, HK BCG further induces prostaglandin E2-releasing spleen macrophages (Mφ) (PGE2-Mφ), which potentially inhibit Th1 adjuvant activities. We found that chitin particles did not induce PGE2-Mφ formation. To further assess whether chitin has Th1 adjuvant effects, interleukin-10 (IL-10)-knockout (KO) mice and their wild-type (WT, C57BL/6) controls were immunized with a 30-kDa MPB-59 mycobacterial protein mixed with chitin. Immunization with MPB-59 alone induced Th2 responses, characterized by increases in total serum immunoglobulin E (IgE) and specific serum IgG1 levels and spleen Th2 cells producing IL-4, IL-5, and IL-10. No IFN-γ-producing spleen Th1 cells, specific serum IgG2a, or delayed-type hypersentivity (DTH) footpad reactions were detected. On the other hand, chitin–MPB-59 immunization significantly increased spleen Th1 responses, DTH reaction, and serum IgG2a levels along with decreases of Th2 responses. The magnitude of these Th1 adjuvant effects was greater in IL-10-KO mice than in WT mice. In contrast, immunization with HK BCG–MPB-59 showed little or no Th1 adjuvant effect. These data indicate that chitin has a unique Th1 adjuvant effect on the development of Th1 immunity against a mycobacterial antigen. IL-10 down-regulates the adjuvant effect of chitin.
PMCID: PMC98742  PMID: 11553551
9.  Robust Stimulation of Humoral and Cellular Immune Responses following Vaccination with Antigen-Loaded β-Glucan Particles 
mBio  2010;1(3):e00164-10.
β-Glucan particles (GPs) are purified Saccharomyces cerevisiae cell walls treated so that they are primarily β1,3-d-glucans and free of mannans and proteins. GPs are phagocytosed by dendritic cells (DCs) via the Dectin-1 receptor, and this interaction stimulates proinflammatory cytokine secretion by DCs. As the hollow, porous GP structure allows for high antigen loading, we hypothesized that antigen-loaded GPs could be exploited as a receptor-targeted vaccine delivery system. Ovalbumin (OVA) was electrostatically complexed inside the hollow GP shells (GP-OVA). Incubation of C57BL/6J mouse bone marrow-derived DCs with GP-OVA resulted in phagocytosis, upregulation of maturation markers, and rapid proteolysis of OVA. Compared with free OVA, GP-OVA was >100-fold more potent at stimulating the proliferation of OVA-reactive transgenic CD8+ OT-I and CD4+ OT-II T cells, as measured by in vitro [3H]thymidine incorporation using DCs as antigen-presenting cells. Next, immune responses in C57BL/6J mice following subcutaneous immunizations with GP-OVA were compared with those in C57BL/6J mice following subcutaneous immunizations with OVA absorbed onto the adjuvant alum (Alum/OVA). Vaccination with GP-OVA stimulated substantially higher antigen-specific CD4+ T-cell lymphoproliferative and enzyme-linked immunospot (ELISPOT) responses than that with Alum/OVA. Moreover, the T-cell responses induced by GP-OVA were Th1 biased (determined by gamma interferon [IFN-γ] ELISPOT assay) and Th17 biased (determined by interleukin-17a [IL-17a] ELISPOT assay). Finally, both the GP-OVA and Alum/OVA formulations induced strong secretions of IgG1 subclass anti-OVA antibodies, although only GP-OVA induced secretion of Th1-associated IgG2c antibodies. Thus, the GP-based vaccine platform combines adjuvanticity and antigen delivery to induce strong humoral and Th1- and Th17-biased CD4+ T-cell responses.
Most licensed vaccines work by promoting protective antibody responses. However, for many infectious diseases, antibody-mediated protection appears to play a relatively minor role, and vaccination has met with limited success. While live-attenuated organisms generally elicit T-cell responses, their use in vaccines is limited by the potential for causing disease. Thus, there is an urgent need for new vaccine platforms that deliver antigens in such a manner as to promote strong T-cell-mediated responses. Here we designed a novel vaccine platform consisting of yeast-derived β-glucan particles (GPs) that combines antigen delivery and adjuvant activity. GPs loaded with the model antigen ovalbumin (OVA) stimulated robust humoral and T-cell responses in mice. In addition, the cellular response was Th1 and Th17 biased. This work has implications for the design of vaccines that stimulate biased T-cell responses as well as for understanding how immunity to fungal pathogens develops.
PMCID: PMC2925077  PMID: 20802824
10.  Chitin-microparticles for the control of intestinal inflammation 
Inflammatory bowel diseases  2012;18(9):1698-1710.
Chitin is a polymer of N-acetylglucosamine with the ability to regulate innate and adaptive immune responses. However, the detailed mechanisms of chitin-mediated regulation of intestinal inflammation are only partially known. In this study, Chitin-microparticles (CMPs) or PBS were orally administered to acute and chronic colitis models every three days for six consecutive weeks beginning at weaning age. The effects of this treatment were evaluated by histology, cytokine production, co-culture study and enteric bacterial analysis in DSS-induced colitis or TCRα knockout chronic colitis models. Histologically, chitin-treated mice showed significantly suppressed colitis as compared to PBS-treated mice in both animal models. The production of IFNγ was upregulated in the mucosa of chitin-treated mice compared to control mice. The major source of IFNγ-producing cells was CD4+ T cells. In mouse dendritic cells (DCs), we found that CMPs were efficiently internalized and processed within 48 hours. Mesenteric lymph nodes (MLNs) CD4+ T cells isolated from chitin-treated mice produced 7-fold higher amount of IFNγ in the culture supernatant after being co-cultured with DCs and chitin as compared to the control. Proliferation of CFSElow CD4+ T cells in MLNs and enteric bacterial translocation rates were significantly reduced in chitin-treated mice when compared to the control. In addition, CMPs improved the imbalance of enteric bacterial compositions and significantly increased IL-10-producing cells in non-inflamed colon, indicating the immunoregulatory effects of CMPs in intestinal mucosa. In conclusion, CMPs significantly suppress the development of inflammation by modulating cytokine balance and microbial environment in colon.
PMCID: PMC3586600  PMID: 22241684
chitin; chitinase; colitis; cytokine; animal model
11.  Flagellin induces antibody responses through a TLR5- and inflammasome-independent pathway1 
Flagellin is a potent immunogen that activates the innate immune system via TLR5 and Naip5/6, and generates strong T and B cell responses. The adaptor protein MyD88 is critical for signaling by TLR5, as well as IL-1 and IL-18 receptors, major downstream mediators of the Naip5/6 Nlrc4-inflammasome. Herein we define roles of known flagellin receptors and MyD88 in antibody responses generated towards flagellin. We used mice genetically deficient in flagellin recognition pathways to characterize innate immune components that regulate isotype specific antibody responses. Using purified flagellin from Salmonella, we dissected the contribution of innate flagellin recognition pathways to promote antibody responses towards flagellin and co-administered ovalbumin in C57BL/6 mice. We demonstrate IgG2c responses towards flagellin were TLR5- and inflammasome-dependent; IgG1 was the dominant isotype and partially TLR5- and inflammasome-dependent. Our data indicates a substantial flagellin-specific IgG1 response was induced through a TLR5-, inflammasome-, and MyD88-independent pathway. IgA anti-FliC responses were TLR5- & MyD88-dependent and caspase-1-independent. Unlike C57BL/6 mice, flagellin immunized A/J mice induced co-dominant IgG1 and IgG2a responses. Furthermore, MyD88-independent flagellin-induced antibody responses were even more pronounced in A/J MyD88−/− mice, and IgA anti-FliC responses were suppressed by MyD88. Flagellin also worked as an adjuvant toward co-administered ovalbumin, but it only promoted IgG1 anti-OVA responses. Our results demonstrate that a novel pathway for flagellin recognition contributes to antibody production. Characterization of this pathway will be useful for understanding immunity to flagellin and the rationale design of flagellin-based vaccines.
PMCID: PMC3925749  PMID: 24442437
12.  Impaired Innate Immunity in Tlr4−/− Mice but Preserved CD8+ T Cell Responses against Trypanosoma cruzi in Tlr4-, Tlr2-, Tlr9- or Myd88-Deficient Mice 
PLoS Pathogens  2010;6(4):e1000870.
The murine model of T. cruzi infection has provided compelling evidence that development of host resistance against intracellular protozoans critically depends on the activation of members of the Toll-like receptor (TLR) family via the MyD88 adaptor molecule. However, the possibility that TLR/MyD88 signaling pathways also control the induction of immunoprotective CD8+ T cell-mediated effector functions has not been investigated to date. We addressed this question by measuring the frequencies of IFN-γ secreting CD8+ T cells specific for H-2Kb-restricted immunodominant peptides as well as the in vivo Ag-specific cytotoxic response in infected animals that are deficient either in TLR2, TLR4, TLR9 or MyD88 signaling pathways. Strikingly, we found that T. cruzi-infected Tlr2−/−, Tlr4−/−, Tlr9−/− or Myd88−/− mice generated both specific cytotoxic responses and IFN-γ secreting CD8+ T cells at levels comparable to WT mice, although the frequency of IFN-γ+CD4+ cells was diminished in infected Myd88−/− mice. We also analyzed the efficiency of TLR4-driven immune responses against T. cruzi using TLR4-deficient mice on the C57BL genetic background (B6 and B10). Our studies demonstrated that TLR4 signaling is required for optimal production of IFN-γ, TNF-α and nitric oxide (NO) in the spleen of infected animals and, as a consequence, Tlr4−/− mice display higher parasitemia levels. Collectively, our results indicate that TLR4, as well as previously shown for TLR2, TLR9 and MyD88, contributes to the innate immune response and, consequently, resistance in the acute phase of infection, although each of these pathways is not individually essential for the generation of class I-restricted responses against T. cruzi.
Author Summary
Innate and acquired immune responses are triggered during infection with T. cruzi, the etiologic agent of Chagas' disease, and are critical for host survival. Parasite burden is usually controlled by the time the adaptive response becomes operational. Nevertheless, T. cruzi manages to subsist within intracellular niches and establishes a chronic infection, leading to the development of cardiomyopathy in approximately one-third of infected individuals. Recently, Toll-like receptors (TLRs) have been shown to recognize T. cruzi molecules and mice lacking MyD88, the key adaptor for most TLRs, are extremely susceptible to infection. Although TLRs are known to link innate and adaptive responses, their role in the establishment of crucial effector mechanisms mediated by CD8+ T cells during T. cruzi infection has not yet been determined. We analyzed the induction of IFN-γ and cytotoxic activity in vivo in TLR2-, TLR4-, TLR9- or MyD88-deficient mice during infection, and found intact responses compared to WT mice. We also demonstrated that TLR4 is required for optimal production of inflammatory cytokines and nitric oxide and, consequently, for a better control of parasitemia levels. Understanding how TLR activation leads to resistance to infection might contribute to the development of better strategies to improve immune responses against this pathogen.
PMCID: PMC2861687  PMID: 20442858
13.  Innate Immune Sensing of Modified Vaccinia Virus Ankara (MVA) Is Mediated by TLR2-TLR6, MDA-5 and the NALP3 Inflammasome 
PLoS Pathogens  2009;5(6):e1000480.
Modified vaccinia virus Ankara (MVA) is an attenuated double-stranded DNA poxvirus currently developed as a vaccine vector against HIV/AIDS. Profiling of the innate immune responses induced by MVA is essential for the design of vaccine vectors and for anticipating potential adverse interactions between naturally acquired and vaccine-induced immune responses. Here we report on innate immune sensing of MVA and cytokine responses in human THP-1 cells, primary human macrophages and mouse bone marrow-derived macrophages (BMDMs). The innate immune responses elicited by MVA in human macrophages were characterized by a robust chemokine production and a fairly weak pro-inflammatory cytokine response. Analyses of the cytokine production profile of macrophages isolated from knockout mice deficient in Toll-like receptors (TLRs) or in the adapter molecules MyD88 and TRIF revealed a critical role for TLR2, TLR6 and MyD88 in the production of IFNβ-independent chemokines. MVA induced a marked up-regulation of the expression of RIG-I like receptors (RLR) and the IPS-1 adapter (also known as Cardif, MAVS or VISA). Reduced expression of RIG-I, MDA-5 and IPS-1 by shRNAs indicated that sensing of MVA by RLR and production of IFNβ and IFNβ-dependent chemokines was controlled by the MDA-5 and IPS-1 pathway in the macrophage. Crosstalk between TLR2-MyD88 and the NALP3 inflammasome was essential for expression and processing of IL-1β. Transcription of the Il1b gene was markedly impaired in TLR2−/− and MyD88−/− BMDM, whereas mature and secreted IL-1β was massively reduced in NALP3−/− BMDMs or in human THP-1 macrophages with reduced expression of NALP3, ASC or caspase-1 by shRNAs. Innate immune sensing of MVA and production of chemokines, IFNβ and IL-1β by macrophages is mediated by the TLR2-TLR6-MyD88, MDA-5-IPS-1 and NALP3 inflammasome pathways. Delineation of the host response induced by MVA is critical for improving our understanding of poxvirus antiviral escape mechanisms and for designing new MVA vaccine vectors with improved immunogenicity.
Author Summary
Modified vaccinia virus Ankara (MVA) is a highly attenuated, replication-deficient, poxvirus currently developed as a vaccine vector against a broad spectrum of infectious diseases including HIV, tuberculosis and malaria. It is well known that robust activation of innate immunity is essential to achieve an efficient vaccine response, and that poxviruses have developed numerous strategies to block the innate immune response. Yet, the precise mechanisms underlying innate immune sensing of MVA are poorly characterized. Toll-like receptors (TLR), RIG-I-like receptors (RLR) and NOD-like receptors (NLR) are families of membrane-bound and cytosolic sensors that detect the presence of microbial products and initiate host innate and adaptive immune responses. Here, we report the first comprehensive study of MVA sensing by innate immune cells, demonstrating that TLR2-TLR6-MyD88, MDA-5-IPS-1 and NALP3 inflammasome pathways play specific and coordinated roles in regulating cytokine, chemokine and interferon response to MVA poxvirus infection. Delineation of the pathways involved in the sensing of MVA by the host could help designing modified vectors with increased immunogenicity, which would be of particular importance since MVA is considered as a leading vaccine for HIV/AIDS vaccine following the recent failure of an adenovirus-mediated HIV vaccine trial.
PMCID: PMC2691956  PMID: 19543380
14.  Vibrio cholerae Proteome-Wide Screen for Immunostimulatory Proteins Identifies Phosphatidylserine Decarboxylase as a Novel Toll-Like Receptor 4 Agonist 
PLoS Pathogens  2009;5(8):e1000556.
Recognition of conserved bacterial components provides immediate and efficient immune responses and plays a critical role in triggering antigen-specific adaptive immunity. To date, most microbial components that are detected by host innate immune system are non-proteinaceous structural components. In order to identify novel bacterial immunostimulatory proteins, we developed a new high-throughput approach called “EPSIA”, Expressed Protein Screen for Immune Activators. Out of 3,882 Vibrio cholerae proteins, we identified phosphatidylserine decarboxylase (PSD) as a conserved bacterial protein capable of activating host innate immunity. PSD in concentrations as low as 100 ng/ml stimulated RAW264.7 murine macrophage cells and primary peritoneal macrophage cells to secrete TNFα and IL-6, respectively. PSD-induced proinflammatory response was dependent on the presence of MyD88, a known adaptor molecule for innate immune response. An enzymatically inactive PSD mutant and heat-inactivated PSD induced ∼40% and ∼15% of IL-6 production compared to that by native PSD, respectively. This suggests that PSD induces the production of IL-6, in part, via its enzymatic activity. Subsequent receptor screening determined TLR4 as a receptor mediating the PSD-induced proinflammatory response. Moreover, no detectable IL-6 was produced in TLR4-deficient mouse macrophages by PSD. PSD also exhibited a strong adjuvant activity against a co-administered antigen, BSA. Anti-BSA response was decreased in TLR4-deficient mice immunized with BSA in combination with PSD, further proving the role of TLR4 in PSD signaling in vivo. Taken together, these results provide evidence for the identification of V. cholerae PSD as a novel TLR4 agonist and further demonstrate the potential application of PSD as a vaccine adjuvant.
Author Summary
Innate immune responses are the first line of defense and involve the early recognition of pathogenic microorganisms. Furthermore, these early innate responses can help shape and influence the development of more specific adaptive immune responses. One way that innate immunity is triggered is by activation of TLRs, or Toll-like Receptors. TLRs recognize a wide spectrum of microbes by binding to pathogen-associated molecular patterns (PAMPs), which are conserved microbial products. Here, we have used a high-throughput method to understand more about how a pathogen can trigger early innate immune responses and also how these early responses to infection can influence the adaptive, more specific, immune response. This technique can also be utilized for adjuvant discovery which is important in vaccine development since different adjuvants can induce or enhance different kinds of immune responses to a particular antigen. Using this method, we identified a novel bacterial protein that activates a TLR and further characterized its role as an adjuvant. Identifying the TLRs, their ligands, and the signal transduction events that they initiate has provided insight into our understanding of how the immune response to infection begins, and how these factors also collectively influence the adaptive immune response.
PMCID: PMC2722020  PMID: 19696891
15.  In Vivo and In Vitro Characterization of the Immune Stimulating Activity of the Neisserial Porin PorB 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(12):e82171.
Vaccines play a vital role in modern medicine. The development of novel vaccines for emerging and resistant pathogens has been aided in recent years by the use of novel adjuvants in subunit vaccines. A deeper understanding of the molecular pathways behind adjuvanticity is required to better select immunostimulatory molecules for use in individual vaccines. To this end, we have undertaken a study of the essential signaling pathways involved in the innate and adaptive immune responses to the Neisseria meningitidis outer membrane protein Porin B (PorB). We have previously demonstrated that PorB is an agonist of Toll-Like Receptor 2 (TLR2) and acts as an adjuvant in vaccines for protein, carbohydrate and lipopolysaccharide antigens using murine models. Here we demonstrate NFκB translocation following stimulation with PorB only occurs in the presence of TLR2. IL-6 and TNF-α secretion was shown to be MAPK dependent. Surface expression of activation markers on macrophages, including CD40, CD69, and CD86, was increased following PorB stimulation in vitro. Interestingly, some upregulation of CD54 and CD69 was still observed in macrophages obtained from TLR2 KO mice, indicating a possible non-TLR2 mediated activation pathway induced by PorB. In a murine vaccination model, using ovalbumin as the antigen and PorB as the adjuvant, a decreased antigen-specific IgG production was observed in TLR2 KO mice; adjuvant-dependent increased IgG production was entirely ablated in MyD88 KO mice. These observations demonstrate the importance of the above pathways to the adjuvant activity of PorB. The potential TLR2 independent effect is currently being explored.
PMCID: PMC3859593  PMID: 24349212
16.  Periodontal Bacterial DNA Suppresses the Immune Response to Mutans Streptococcal Glucosyltransferase▿  
Infection and Immunity  2007;75(8):4088-4096.
Certain CpG motifs found in bacterial DNA enhance immune responses through Toll-like receptor 9 (TLR-9) and may also demonstrate adjuvant properties. Our objective was to determine if DNA from bacteria associated with periodontal disease could affect the immune response to other bacterial antigens in the oral cavity. Streptococcus sobrinus glucosyltransferase (GTF), an enzyme involved in dental caries pathogenesis, was used as a test antigen. Rowett rats were injected with aluminum hydroxide (alum) with buffer, alum-GTF, or alum-GTF together with either Escherichia coli DNA, Fusobacterium nucleatum DNA, or Porphyromonas gingivalis DNA. Contrary to expectation, animals receiving alum-GTF plus bacterial DNA (P. gingivalis in particular) demonstrated significantly reduced serum immunoglobulin G (IgG) antibody, salivary IgA antibody, and T-cell proliferation to GTF compared to animals immunized with alum-GTF alone. A diminished antibody response was also observed after administration of alum-GTF with the P. gingivalis DNA either together or separately, indicating that physical complexing of antigen and DNA was not responsible for the reduction in antibody. Since TLR triggering by DNA induces synthesis of prospective suppressive factors (e.g., suppressor of cytokine signaling [SOCS]), the effects of P. gingivalis DNA and GTF exposure on rat splenocyte production of SOCS family molecules and inflammatory cytokines were investigated in vitro. P. gingivalis DNA significantly up-regulated SOCS1 and SOCS5 expression and down-regulated interleukin-10 expression by cultured splenocytes. These results suggested that DNA from periodontal disease-associated bacteria did not enhance, but in fact suppressed, the immune response to a protein antigen from cariogenic streptococci, potentially through suppressive SOCS components triggered by innate mechanisms.
PMCID: PMC1952018  PMID: 17517867
17.  Immunization with the Chlamydia trachomatis Mouse Pneumonitis Major Outer Membrane Protein by Use of CpG Oligodeoxynucleotides as an Adjuvant Induces a Protective Immune Response against an Intranasal Chlamydial Challenge  
Infection and Immunity  2002;70(9):4812-4817.
Recently, we have shown that a vaccine consisting of a purified preparation of the Chlamydia trachomatis mouse pneumonitis (MoPn) major outer membrane protein (MOMP) and Freund's adjuvant can protect mice against a genital challenge. Here, we wanted to determine if CpG motifs could be used as an immune modulator to the MOMP to induce protection in mice against an intranasal (i.n.) challenge. One-week-old BALB/c mice were immunized intramuscularly and subcutaneously either once or three times at 2-week intervals with MOMP and CpG suspended in aluminum hydroxide (alum). Negative controls received ovalbumin, CpG, and alum. Positive controls were immunized i.n. with C. trachomatis MoPn elementary bodies (EB). Six weeks after the last immunization, mice were challenged i.n. with 104 inclusion-forming units (IFU) of the C. trachomatis MoPn serovar. Mice that received MOMP, CpG, and alum had a strong immune response, as shown by a high titer of serum antibodies to Chlamydia and significant lymphoproliferation of T-cells following stimulation with C. trachomatis EB. After the i.n. challenge mice immunized with MOMP, CpG, and alum showed significantly less body weight loss than the corresponding control mice immunized with ovalbumin, CpG, and alum. Ten days after the challenge the animals were euthanized, their lungs were weighed, and the numbers of IFU in the lungs were determined. The average weight of the lungs of the mice immunized with MOMP, CpG, and alum was significantly less than average weight of the lungs of the mice immunized with ovalbumin, CpG, and alum. Also, the average number of IFU recovered per mouse immunized with MOMP, CpG, and alum was significantly less than the average number of IFU per mouse detected in the mice inoculated with ovalbumin, CpG, and alum. In conclusion, our data show that CpG sequences can be used as an effective adjuvant with the C. trachomatis MoPn MOMP to elicit a protective immune response in mice against a chlamydial respiratory challenge.
PMCID: PMC128273  PMID: 12183524
18.  Recognition and Blocking of Innate Immunity Cells by Candida albicans Chitin ▿ †  
Infection and Immunity  2011;79(5):1961-1970.
Chitin is a skeletal cell wall polysaccharide of the inner cell wall of fungal pathogens. As yet, little about its role during fungus-host immune cell interactions is known. We show here that ultrapurified chitin from Candida albicans cell walls did not stimulate cytokine production directly but blocked the recognition of C. albicans by human peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) and murine macrophages, leading to significant reductions in cytokine production. Chitin did not affect the induction of cytokines stimulated by bacterial cells or lipopolysaccharide (LPS), indicating that blocking was not due to steric masking of specific receptors. Toll-like receptor 2 (TLR2), TLR4, and Mincle (the macrophage-inducible C-type lectin) were not required for interactions with chitin. Dectin-1 was required for immune blocking but did not bind chitin directly. Cytokine stimulation was significantly reduced upon stimulation of PBMCs with heat-killed chitin-deficient C. albicans cells but not with live cells. Therefore, chitin is normally not exposed to cells of the innate immune system but is capable of influencing immune recognition by blocking dectin-1-mediated engagement with fungal cell walls.
PMCID: PMC3088140  PMID: 21357722
19.  TRIF Is Required for TLR4 Mediated Adjuvant Effects on T Cell Clonal Expansion 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(2):e56855.
Toll like receptor 4 (TLR4) is an important pattern recognition receptor with the ability to drive potent innate immune responses and also to modulate adaptive immune responses needed for long term protection. Activation of TLR4 by its ligands is mediated by engagement of the adapter proteins MyD88 (myeloid differentiation factor 88) and TRIF (Toll-interleukin 1 receptor domain-containing adapter inducing interferon-beta). Previously, we showed that TRIF, but not MyD88, plays an important role in allowing TLR4 agonists to adjuvant early T cell responses. In this study, we investigated the T cell priming events that are regulated specifically by the TRIF signaling branch of TLR4. We found that TRIF deficiency prevented the TLR4 agonist lipid A from enhancing T cell proliferation and survival in an adoptive transfer model of T cell priming. TRIF deficient DC showed defective maturation as evidenced by their failure to upregulate co-stimulatory molecules in response to lipid A stimulation. Importantly, TRIF alone caused CD86 and CD40 upregulation on splenic DC, but both TRIF and MyD88 were required for CD80 upregulation. The impairment of T cell adjuvant effects and defective DC maturation in TRIF lps/lps mice after TLR4 stimulation was mainly due to loss of type I IFN production, indicating that type I interferons are central to TLR4's adjuvant effects. These results are useful for the continued development of TLR4 based vaccine adjuvants that avoid inflammatory risks while retaining beneficial immune response.
PMCID: PMC3574014  PMID: 23457630
20.  Scavenger Receptors in Human Airway Epithelial Cells: Role in Response to Double-Stranded RNA 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(8):e41952.
Scavenger receptors and Toll-like receptors (TLRs) cooperate in response to danger signals to adjust the host immune response. The TLR3 agonist double stranded (ds)RNA is an efficient activator of innate signalling in bronchial epithelial cells. In this study, we aimed at defining the role played by scavenger receptors expressed by bronchial epithelial cells in the control of the innate response to dsRNA both in vitro and in vivo. Expression of several scavenger receptor involved in pathogen recognition was first evaluated in human bronchial epithelial cells in steady-state and inflammatory conditions. Their implication in the uptake of dsRNA and the subsequent cell activation was evaluated in vitro by competition with ligand of scavenger receptors including maleylated ovalbumin and by RNA silencing. The capacity of maleylated ovalbumin to modulate lung inflammation induced by dsRNA was also investigated in mice. Exposure to tumor necrosis factor-α increased expression of the scavenger receptors LOX-1 and CXCL16 and the capacity to internalize maleylated ovalbumin, whereas activation by TLR ligands did not. In contrast, the expression of SR-B1 was not modulated in these conditions. Interestingly, supplementation with maleylated ovalbumin limited dsRNA uptake and inhibited subsequent activation of bronchial epithelial cells. RNA silencing of LOX-1 and SR-B1 strongly blocked the dsRNA-induced cytokine production. Finally, administration of maleylated ovalbumin in mice inhibited the dsRNA-induced infiltration and activation of inflammatory cells in bronchoalveolar spaces and lung draining lymph nodes. Together, our data characterize the function of SR-B1 and LOX-1 in bronchial epithelial cells and their implication in dsRNA-induced responses, a finding that might be relevant during respiratory viral infections.
PMCID: PMC3413698  PMID: 22879901
21.  Archaeosome Vaccine Adjuvants Induce Strong Humoral, Cell-Mediated, and Memory Responses: Comparison to Conventional Liposomes and Alum† 
Infection and Immunity  2000;68(1):54-63.
Ether glycerolipids extracted from various archaeobacteria were formulated into liposomes (archaeosomes) possessing strong adjuvant properties. Mice of varying genetic backgrounds, immunized by different parenteral routes with bovine serum albumin (BSA) entrapped in archaeosomes (∼200-nm vesicles), demonstrated markedly enhanced serum anti-BSA antibody titers. These titers were often comparable to those achieved with Freund's adjuvant and considerably more than those with alum or conventional liposomes (phosphatidylcholine-phosphatidylglycerol-cholesterol, 1.8:0.2:1.5 molar ratio). Furthermore, antigen-specific immunoglobulin G1 (IgG1), IgG2a, and IgG2b isotype antibodies were all induced. Association of BSA with the lipid vesicles was required for induction of a strong response, and >80% of the protein was internalized within most archaeosome types, suggesting efficient release of antigen in vivo. Encapsulation of ovalbumin and hen egg lysozyme within archaeosomes showed similar immune responses. Antigen-archaeosome immunizations also induced a strong cell-mediated immune response: antigen-dependent proliferation and substantial production of cytokines gamma interferon (Th1) and interleukin-4 (IL-4) (Th2) by spleen cells in vitro. In contrast, conventional liposomes induced little cell-mediated immunity, whereas alum stimulated only an IL-4 response. In contrast to alum and Freund's adjuvant, archaeosomes composed of Thermoplasma acidophilum lipids evoked a dramatic memory antibody response to the encapsulated protein (at ∼300 days) after only two initial immunizations (days 0 and 14). This correlated with increased antigen-specific cell cycling of CD4+ T cells: increase in synthetic (S) and mitotic (G2/M) and decrease in resting (G1) phases. Thus, archaeosomes may be potent vaccine carriers capable of facilitating strong primary and memory humoral, and cell-mediated immune responses to the entrapped antigen.
PMCID: PMC97101  PMID: 10603368
22.  The FomA Porin from Fusobacterium nucleatum Is a Toll-Like Receptor 2 Agonist with Immune Adjuvant Activity 
Many bacterial components selectively activate immune and nonhematopoietic target cells via Toll-like receptor (TLR) signaling; modulation of such host responses defines the immune adjuvant properties of these bacterial products. For example, the outer membrane protein porins from Neisseria, Salmonella, and Shigella are known TLR2 agonists with established systemic and mucosal immune adjuvanticity. Early work indicated that the FomA porin from Fusobacterium nucleatum has immune adjuvant activity in mice. Using a purified recombinant FomA, we have verified its immune stimulatory properties and have defined a role for TLR2 signaling in its in vitro and in vivo activity. FomA induces interleukin 8 (IL-8) secretion and NF-κB-dependent luciferase activity in HEK cells expressing TLR2, IL-6 secretion, and cell surface upregulation of CD86 and major histocompatibility complex (MHC) II in primary B cells from wild-type mice, but it fails to activate cells from TLR2 knockout mice. Accordingly, the immune adjuvant activity of FomA is also TLR2 dependent. In a mouse model of immunization with ovalbumin (OVA), FomA induces enhanced production of OVA-specific IgM and IgG, including IgG1 and IgG2b antibodies, as well as enhanced secretion of IL-10 and IL-6, consistent with a Th2-type adjuvant effect. We also observe a moderate production of anti-FomA antibodies, suggesting that FomA is also immunogenic, a quality that is also TLR2 dependent. Therefore, modulation of host immune responses by FomA may be effective for targeting general host immunity not only to pathogens (as a novel TLR2 adjuvant) but also to F. nucleatum itself (as an antigen), expanding its use as a self-adjuvanted antigen in an immunization strategy against polymicrobial infections, including those by F. nucleatum.
PMCID: PMC3393365  PMID: 22623652
23.  TLR3 and TLR7 Modulate IgE Production in Antigen Induced Pulmonary Inflammation via Influencing IL-4 Expression in Immune Organs 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(2):e17252.
Toll-like receptors (TLRs) as pattern recognition receptors, participate in both innate and adaptive immune responses, and seem to play an important role in the pathogenesis of asthma. This study aimed to identify key TLRs involved in antigen induced pulmonary inflammation (AIPI), a rat model for asthma, and to explore the role of TLRs in the disease development.
Methods and Findings
E3 rats were sensitized with ovalbumin (OVA)/alum intraperitoneally and intranasally challenged with OVA to induce AIPI model. TLR1-9 and cytokine mRNA expression in spleen, lung and mediastinal lymph node (mLN) tissues were screened by quantitative real-time polymerase chain reaction. TLR7 expression was found to be significantly down-regulated in spleen while TLR3 and TLR8 expression was up-regulated in mLN of AIPI rats. Furthermore, imiquimod (a ligand of TLR7) and TLR3 specific short-hairpin RNA plasmid for RNA interference were administrated, respectively, in vivo to AIPI rats to observe their effects on the disease by assessing various asthmatic parameters. The numbers of total cells, eosinophils, macrophages and lymphocytes were counted according to differential morphology in bronchoalveolar lavage fluid. Serum IgE and OVA specific IgG1 concentration was detected by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay. The results showed that both TLR7 ligand treatment and TLR3 RNAi in vivo decreased serum IgE level and interleukin-4 mRNA expression.
TLR3 in mLN and TLR7 in spleen both systemically modulate disease development in AIPI rats via altering serum IgE concentration relevant to Th2 responses. And these findings may provide an important clue for further research in the asthma pathogenesis and suggest a new remedy for asthma treatment.
PMCID: PMC3045401  PMID: 21364926
24.  Chitin elicits CCL2 from airway epithelial cells and induces CCR2-dependent innate allergic inflammation in the lung 
Chitin exposure in the lung induces eosinophilia and alternative activation of macrophages, and is correlated with allergic airway disease. However, the mechanism underlying chitin-induced polarization of macrophages is poorly understood. Here, we show that chitin induces alternative activation of macrophages in vivo, but does not do so directly in vitro. We further show that airway epithelial cells bind chitin in vitro and produce CCL2 in response to chitin both in vitro and in vivo. Supernatants of chitin exposed epithelial cells promoted alternative activation of macrophages in vitro, whereas antibody neutralization of CCL2 in the supernate abolished the alternative activation of macrophages. CCL2 acted redundantly in vivo, but mice lacking the CCL2 receptor, CCR2, showed impaired alternative activation of macrophages in response to chitin, as measured by arginase I, CCL17 and CCL22 expression. Furthermore, CCR2KO mice exposed to chitin had diminished ROS products in the lung, blunted eosinophil and monocyte recruitment, and impaired eosinophil functions as measured by expression of CCL5, IL13 and CCL11. Thus, airway epithelial cells secrete CCL2 in response to chitin and CCR2 signaling mediates chitin-induced alternative activation of macrophages and allergic inflammation in vivo.
PMCID: PMC3424300  PMID: 22851704
CCL2; CCR2; chitin; macrophage; eosinophil; epithelial; airway; lung; asthma; allergy
25.  Antigen-Specific T-Cell Responses to a Recombinant Fowlpox Virus Are Dependent on MyD88 and Interleukin-18 and Independent of Toll-Like Receptor 7 (TLR7)- and TLR9-Mediated Innate Immune Recognition▿  
Journal of Virology  2011;85(7):3385-3396.
Fowlpox virus (FWPV) is a double-stranded DNA virus long used as a live-attenuated vaccine against poultry diseases, but more recent interest has focused on its use as a mammalian vaccine vector. Here, in a mouse model system using FWPV encoding the nominal target antigen chicken ovalbumin (OVA) (FWPVOVA), we describe for the first time some of the fundamental processes by which FWPV engages both the innate and adaptive immune systems. We show that Toll-like receptor 7 (TLR7) and TLR9 are important for type I interferon secretion by dendritic cells, while TLR9 is solely required for proinflammatory cytokine secretion. Despite this functional role for TLR7 and TLR9 in vitro, only the adapter protein myeloid differentiation primary response gene 88 (MyD88) was shown to be essential for the formation of adaptive immunity to FWPVOVA in vivo. The dependence on MyD88 was confined only to the T-cell compartment and was not related to its contribution to TLR signaling, dendritic cell maturation, or the capture and presentation of FWPV-derived OVA antigen. We demonstrate that this is not by means of mediating T-cell-dependent interleukin-1 (IL-1) signaling, but rather, we suggest that MyD88 functions to support T-cell-specific IL-18 receptor signaling, which in turn is essential for the formation of adaptive immunity to FWPV-encoded OVA.
PMCID: PMC3067835  PMID: 21248035

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