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1.  Prediction of Graft-Versus-Host Disease in Humans by Donor Gene-Expression Profiling 
PLoS Medicine  2007;4(1):e23.
Graft-versus-host disease (GVHD) results from recognition of host antigens by donor T cells following allogeneic hematopoietic cell transplantation (AHCT). Notably, histoincompatibility between donor and recipient is necessary but not sufficient to elicit GVHD. Therefore, we tested the hypothesis that some donors may be “stronger alloresponders” than others, and consequently more likely to elicit GVHD.
Methods and Findings
To this end, we measured the gene-expression profiles of CD4+ and CD8+ T cells from 50 AHCT donors with microarrays. We report that pre-AHCT gene-expression profiling segregates donors whose recipient suffered from GVHD or not. Using quantitative PCR, established statistical tests, and analysis of multiple independent training-test datasets, we found that for chronic GVHD the “dangerous donor” trait (occurrence of GVHD in the recipient) is under polygenic control and is shaped by the activity of genes that regulate transforming growth factor-β signaling and cell proliferation.
These findings strongly suggest that the donor gene-expression profile has a dominant influence on the occurrence of GVHD in the recipient. The ability to discriminate strong and weak alloresponders using gene-expression profiling could pave the way to personalized transplantation medicine.
The donor gene expression profile appears to have a dominant influence on the occurrence of graft-versus-host disease in the recipient.
Editors' Summary
Human blood contains red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets, which carry oxygen throughout the body, fight infections, and help blood clot, respectively. Normally, blood-forming (hematopoietic) stem cells in the bone marrow (and their offspring, peripheral blood stem cells) continually provide new blood cells. Tumors that arise from the bone marrow (such as leukemia and lymphoma, two types of hematopoietic tumor) are often treated by a bone marrow or peripheral blood stem cell transplant from a healthy donor to provide new blood-forming stem cells, as a follow-up to chemotherapy or radiotherapy designed to eradicate as much of the tumor as possible. This procedure is called allogeneic hematopoietic cell transplantation (AHCT)—the word allogeneic indicates that the donor and recipient are not genetically identical. When solid organs (for example, kidneys) are transplanted, the recipient's immune system can recognize alloantigens (proteins that vary between individuals) on the donor organ as foreign and reject it. To reduce the risk of rejection, the donor and recipient must have identical major histocompatibility complex (MHC) proteins. MHC matching is also important in AHCT but for further reasons. Here, donor T lymphocytes (a type of white blood cell) can attack the skin and other tissues of the host. This graft versus host disease (GVHD) affects many people undergoing AHCT despite MHC matching either soon after transplantation (acute GVHD) or months later (chronic GVHD). As an aside, the transplant may also act against the tumor itself—this is known as a graft versus leukemia effect.
Why Was This Study Done?
GVHD can usually be treated with drugs that damp down the immune system (immunosuppressive drugs), but it would be preferable to avoid GVHD altogether. Indeed, GVHD continues to be the leading cause of nonrelapse mortality following AHCT. Unfortunately, what determines who will develop GVHD after MHC-matched AHCT is unclear. Although GVHD only develops if there are some mismatches in histocompatibility antigens between the donor and host, it does not inevitably develop. Until now, scientists have mainly investigated whether differences between ACHT recipients might explain this observation. But, in this study, the researchers have examined the donors instead to see whether differences in their immune responses might make some donors stronger “alloresponders” than others and consequently more likely to cause GVHD.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers used a molecular biology technique called microarray expression profiling to examine gene expression patterns in the T lymphocytes of peripheral blood stem cell donors. From these patterns, they identified numerous genes whose expression levels discriminated between donors whose MHC-identical transplant recipient developed GVHD after AHCT (GVHD+ donors) and those whose recipient did not develop GVHD (GVHD− donors). The researchers confirmed that the expression levels of 17 of these genes discriminated between GVHD+ and GVHD− donors using a second technique called quantitative reverse transcriptase polymerase chain reaction. Many of these genes are involved in TGF-β signaling (TGF-β is a protein that helps to control the immune system), cell growth, or proliferation. The researchers also identified four gene pairs that interacted with each other to determine the likelihood that a given donor would induce GVHD. Finally, the researchers computationally retested their data and showed that the measurement of expression levels of each of these genes and of the four interacting gene pairs could correctly identify a donor sample likely to cause GVHD in up to 80% of samples.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings provide the first evidence that the donor's gene expression profile influences the development of GVHD in the recipient after AHCT. The researchers suggest that a “dangerous donor” (strong alloresponder) is a key factor in determining whether GVHD occurs after AHCT and propose that gene expression profiling of donor T lymphocytes might identify those donors likely to cause GVHD. Before this approach can be used to reduce the incidence of GVHD after AHCT, these findings need to be confirmed in many more donors. Also, the development of a test that is accurate enough for clinical use—one that does not miss dangerous donors but does not discard too many safe donors—may require the identification of larger groups of interacting genes. But, if it survives further investigation, the concept of a dangerous donor could represent an important advance in transplantation medicine, one that could help clinicians select low-risk donors for AHCT and tailor patients' immunosuppressive drug regimens according to their donor-determined risk of GVHD.
Additional Information.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at
• The National Marrow Donor Program provides information for patients and physicians on all aspects of hematopoietic stem cell transplantation, including GVHD
• The MedlinePlus encyclopedia has pages on bone marrow transplants, GVHD and transplant rejection
• The US National Cancer Institute has a factsheet on bone marrow and peripheral blood stem cell transplantation
PMCID: PMC1796639  PMID: 17378698
2.  BIM Mediates EGFR Tyrosine Kinase Inhibitor-Induced Apoptosis in Lung Cancers with Oncogenic EGFR Mutations  
PLoS Medicine  2007;4(10):e315.
Epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) mutations are present in the majority of patients with non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) responsive to the EGFR tyrosine kinase inhibitors (TKIs) gefitinib or erlotinib. These EGFR-dependent tumors eventually become TKI resistant, and the common secondary T790M mutation accounts for half the tumors with acquired resistance to gefitinib. However, the key proapoptotic proteins involved in TKI-induced cell death and other secondary mutations involved in resistance remain unclear. The objective of this study was to identify the mechanism of EGFR TKI-induced apoptosis and secondary resistant mutations that affect this process.
Methods and Findings
To study TKI-induced cell death and mechanisms of resistance, we used lung cancer cell lines (with or without EGFR mutations), Ba/F3 cells stably transfected with EGFR mutation constructs, and tumor samples from a gefitinib-resistant patient. Here we show that up-regulation of the BH3-only polypeptide BIM (also known as BCL2-like 11) correlated with gefitinib-induced apoptosis in gefitinib-sensitive EGFR-mutant lung cancer cells. The T790M mutation blocked gefitinib-induced up-regulation of BIM and apoptosis. This blockade was overcome by the irreversible TKI CL-387,785. Knockdown of BIM by small interfering RNA was able to attenuate apoptosis induced by EGFR TKIs. Furthermore, from a gefitinib-resistant patient carrying the activating L858R mutation, we identified a novel secondary resistant mutation, L747S in cis to the activating mutation, which attenuated the up-regulation of BIM and reduced apoptosis.
Our results provide evidence that BIM is involved in TKI-induced apoptosis in sensitive EGFR-mutant cells and that both attenuation of the up-regulation of BIM and resistance to gefitinib-induced apoptosis are seen in models that contain the common EGFR T790M and the novel L747S secondary resistance mutations. These findings also suggest that induction of BIM may have a role in the treatment of TKI-resistant tumors.
Susumu Kobayashi and colleagues provide evidence that the polypeptide BIM is involved in tyrosine kinase inhibitor (TKI)-induced apoptosis in sensitiveEGFR-mutant cells and suggest that induction of BIM may have a role in the treatment of TKI-resistant tumors.
Editors' Summary
Most cases of lung cancer—the leading cause of cancer deaths worldwide—are “non-small cell lung cancer” (NSCLC). Many patients with NSCLC die within a year of their diagnosis, but recently, “targeted” therapies have increased the life expectancy of some of them. Like all cancers, NSCLC occurs when cells begin to divide uncontrollably because of changes (mutations) in their genes. Targeted therapies specifically attack these changes and, unlike standard chemotherapy drugs, kill cancer cells without damaging normal cells. The targeted drugs used to treat NSCLC are gefitinib and erlotinib, two epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) tyrosine kinase inhibitors (TKIs). In normal cells, messenger proteins bind to EGFR and activate its tyrosine kinase, an enzyme that sticks phosphate groups on tyrosine (an amino acid) in other proteins. These “phosphorylated” proteins then tell the cell to divide. In some NSCLCs, EGFR drives uncontrolled cell division because its tyrosine kinase is mutated and the cancer becomes dependent on or “addicted” to EGFR signaling for its survival. TKI treatment can dramatically shrink this subset of NSCLCs, most of which lack a specific part of EGFR (the gene that encodes EGFR) or have the amino acid leucine instead of arginine at position 858 (an L858R mutation) of EGFR.
Why Was This Study Done?
TKI-sensitive NSCLCs eventually become resistant to TKIs because they acquire additional (secondary) mutations. In half of these TKI-resistant tumors, the additional mutation is replacement of threonine by methionine at position 790 (T790M) in EGFR. However, the mutations responsible for the remaining cases of TKI resistance are not known. In addition, little is known about how TKIs induce cell death other than that they induce a type of cell death called apoptosis. A better understanding of how TKIs kill tumor cells and how secondary mutations block their effects could reveal ways to enhance their action and improve the outcome for patients with NSCLC. In this study, the researchers have studied the mechanism of TKI-induced cell death and of resistance to TKIs.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers first measured the ability of gefitinib to cause apoptosis (genetically programmed cell death) in NSCLC cell lines (tumor cells adapted to grow indefinitely in dishes) that had the EGFR deletion, the L858R mutation, or normal EGFR. Gefitinib caused apoptosis only in cell lines with altered EGFR. Then they asked whether a proapoptotic protein called BIM (a member of the BCL2 family of pro- and antiapoptotic proteins) is involved in TKI-induced cell death—BIM is known to be involved in this process in leukemia (blood cancer) cells. Gefitinib treatment increased the expression of BIM in TKI-sensitive NSCLC cell lines and reduced the phosphorylation of BIM (which makes BIM more active). By contrast, blocking BIM expression using a technique called RNA interference reduced TKI-induced apoptosis in TKI-sensitive NSCLC cells. Furthermore, introduction of the T790M resistance mutation into these cells blocked gefitinib-induced up-regulation of BIM and apoptosis. Finally, the researchers identified a new TKI resistance mutation (L747S, substitution of serine for leucine at position 747) in a patient whose TKI-sensitive NSCLC had become resistant to gefitinib, and showed that this resistance mutation also reduced TKI-induced apoptosis in cells growing in dishes by interfering with BIM up-regulation.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings (and those reported by Gong et al. and Cragg et al.) show that BIM is required for TKI-induced apoptosis in EGFR mutant NSCLC cells. They also show that mutations that make TKI-sensitive cells resistant to these drugs reduce TKI-induced apoptosis by preventing the upregulation of BIM. These results were obtained by examining the behavior of established cell lines growing in dishes and need to be confirmed in cells freshly isolated from tumors and in tumors themselves. However, they suggest that the efficacy of TKIs could be increased by finding ways to increase BIM expression or to activate other proteins involved in apoptosis Such approaches might be particularly beneficial for patients with NSCLC whose initially TKI-sensitive tumors have acquired mutations that make them resistant to TKIs.
Additional Information.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at
Ingo Mellinghoff discusses this paper and two related ones in a perspective article
US National Cancer Institute information for patients and professionals on lung cancer (in English and Spanish)
Information for patients from Cancer Research UK on lung cancer, including information on treatment with TKIs
CancerQuest information on all aspects of cancer from Emory University (in several languages)
Wikipedia pages on apoptosis, epidermal growth factor receptor, and BCL2 proteins (note that Wikipedia is a free online encyclopedia that anyone can edit; available in several languages)
Information for patients from Cancerbackup on erlotinib and gefitinib
PMCID: PMC2043012  PMID: 17973572
3.  Epstein-Barr Virus Latency in B Cells Leads to Epigenetic Repression and CpG Methylation of the Tumour Suppressor Gene Bim 
PLoS Pathogens  2009;5(6):e1000492.
In human B cells infected with Epstein-Barr virus (EBV), latency-associated virus gene products inhibit expression of the pro-apoptotic Bcl-2-family member Bim and enhance cell survival. This involves the activities of the EBV nuclear proteins EBNA3A and EBNA3C and appears to be predominantly directed at regulating Bim mRNA synthesis, although post-transcriptional regulation of Bim has been reported. Here we show that protein and RNA stability make little or no contribution to the EBV-associated repression of Bim in latently infected B cells. However, treatment of cells with inhibitors of histone deacetylase (HDAC) and DNA methyltransferase (DNMT) enzymes indicated that epigenetic mechanisms are involved in the down-regulation of Bim. This was initially confirmed by chromatin immunoprecipitation analysis of histone acetylation levels on the Bim promoter. Consistent with this, methylation-specific PCR (MSP) and bisulphite sequencing of regions within the large CpG island located at the 5′ end of Bim revealed significant methylation of CpG dinucleotides in all EBV-positive, but not EBV-negative B cells examined. Genomic DNA samples exhibiting methylation of the Bim promoter included extracts from a series of explanted EBV-positive Burkitt's lymphoma (BL) biopsies. Subsequent analyses of the histone modification H3K27-Me3 (trimethylation of histone H3 lysine 27) and CpG methylation at loci throughout the Bim promoter suggest that in EBV-positive B cells repression of Bim is initially associated with this repressive epigenetic histone mark gradually followed by DNA methylation at CpG dinucleotides. We conclude that latent EBV initiates a chain of events that leads to epigenetic repression of the tumour suppressor gene Bim in infected B cells and their progeny. This reprogramming of B cells could have important implications for our understanding of EBV persistence and the pathogenesis of EBV-associated disease, in particular BL.
Author Summary
Bim is a cellular inducer of programmed cell death (pcd), so the level of Bim is a critical regulator of lymphocyte survival and reduced expression enhances lymphomagenesis in mice and humans. Regulation of Bim is uniquely important in the pathogenesis of Burkitt's lymphoma (BL), since in this human childhood cancer the Myc gene is deregulated by chromosomal translocation and Myc can induce pcd via Bim. Latent EBV represses Bim expression, and here we have discovered that this involves mechanisms that reprogramme B cells and their progeny. EBV does not significantly alter Bim protein or RNA stability, but relief of EBV-mediated repression by specific inhibitors suggested it involves modifications to chromatin. Consistent with this, reduced histone acetylation and increased levels of DNA methylation on the Bim promoter were found after latent EBV infection. Further analysis suggested that the DNA methylation is preceded by repression mediated via a polycomb protein repressive complex targeting the Bim gene. By initiating the heritable suppression of Bim, EBV increases the likelihood of B lymphomagenesis in general and BL in particular. This reprogramming of B cells by EBV may also play a role in the development of other chronic disorders such as autoimmune disease and suggests a general mechanism that could contribute to the pathogenesis associated with other microorganisms.
PMCID: PMC2695769  PMID: 19557159
4.  Bim and Bmf Synergize To Induce Apoptosis in Neisseria Gonorrhoeae Infection 
PLoS Pathogens  2009;5(3):e1000348.
Bcl-2 family proteins including the pro-apoptotic BH3-only proteins are central regulators of apoptotic cell death. Here we show by a focused siRNA miniscreen that the synergistic action of the BH3-only proteins Bim and Bmf is required for apoptosis induced by infection with Neisseria gonorrhoeae (Ngo). While Bim and Bmf were associated with the cytoskeleton of healthy cells, they both were released upon Ngo infection. Loss of Bim and Bmf from the cytoskeleton fraction required the activation of Jun-N-terminal kinase-1 (JNK-1), which in turn depended on Rac-1. Depletion and inhibition of Rac-1, JNK-1, Bim, or Bmf prevented the activation of Bak and Bax and the subsequent activation of caspases. Apoptosis could be reconstituted in Bim-depleted and Bmf-depleted cells by additional silencing of antiapoptotic Mcl-1 and Bcl-XL, respectively. Our data indicate a synergistic role for both cytoskeletal-associated BH3-only proteins, Bim, and Bmf, in an apoptotic pathway leading to the clearance of Ngo-infected cells.
Author Summary
A variety of physiological death signals, as well as pathological insults, trigger apoptosis, a genetically programmed form of cell death. Pathogens often induce host cell apoptosis to establish a successful infection. Neisseria gonorrhoeae (Ngo), the etiological agent of the sexually transmitted disease gonorrhoea, is a highly adapted obligate human-specific pathogen and has been shown to induce apoptosis in infected cells. Here we unveil the molecular mechanisms leading to apoptosis of infected cells. We show that Ngo-mediated apoptosis requires a special subset of proapoptotic proteins from the group of BH3-only proteins. BH3-only proteins act as stress sensors to translate toxic environmental signals to the initiation of apoptosis. In a siRNA-based miniscreen, we found Bim and Bmf, BH3-only proteins associated with the cytoskeleton, necessary to induce host cell apoptosis upon infection. Bim and Bmf inactivated different inhibitors of apoptosis and thereby induced cell death in response to infection. Our data unveil a novel pathway of infection-induced apoptosis that enhances our understanding of the mechanism by which BH3-only proteins control apoptotic cell death.
PMCID: PMC2654407  PMID: 19300516
5.  T helper17 Cells Are Sufficient But Not Necessary to Induce Acute Graft-Versus-Host Disease 
T helper (Th)1 cells were considered responsible for the induction of graft-versus-host disease (GVHD), but recently the concept has been challenged. Th17 cells play a critical role in mediating autoimmune diseases, but their role in the pathogenesis of GVHD remains unclear. Herein we compare the ability of in vitro generated Th1 and Th17 cells from C57BL/6 mice to induce GVHD in lethally irradiated BALB/c recipients. Allogeneic Th17 cells had superior expansion and infiltration capabilities in GVHD target organs, which correlated with their increased pathogenicity when compared with naïve or Th1 controls. Th17 cells caused no pathology in the syngeneic recipients, indicating that antigen-activation was required for their pathogenicity. Polarized Th17 cells could not maintain their phenotype in vivo as they produced a significant amount of interferon (IFN)-γ after being transplanted into allogeneic recipients; however, IFN-γ was not required for Th17 cell-induced GVHD. Further, we evaluated the pathogenesis of Th17 cells in GVHD by using polyclonal nonprimed CD4 T cells in a clinically relevant allogeneic bone marrow transplantation (BMT) setting. We found that disruption of Th17-differentiation alone by targeting RORγt (Th17-specific transcription factor) had no significant effect on GVHD development. We conclude that Th17 cells are sufficient but not necessary to induce GVHD.
PMCID: PMC3876952  PMID: 19804837
Th1; Th17; BMT; GVHD
6.  Gefitinib-Induced Killing of NSCLC Cell Lines Expressing Mutant EGFR Requires BIM and Can Be Enhanced by BH3 Mimetics 
PLoS Medicine  2007;4(10):e316.
The epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) plays a critical role in the control of cellular proliferation, differentiation, and survival. Abnormalities in EGF-EGFR signaling, such as mutations that render the EGFR hyperactive or cause overexpression of the wild-type receptor, have been found in a broad range of cancers, including carcinomas of the lung, breast, and colon. EGFR inhibitors such as gefitinib have proven successful in the treatment of certain cancers, particularly non-small cell lung cancers (NSCLCs) harboring activating mutations within the EGFR gene, but the molecular mechanisms leading to tumor regression remain unknown. Therefore, we wished to delineate these mechanisms.
Methods and Findings
We performed biochemical and genetic studies to investigate the mechanisms by which inhibitors of EGFR tyrosine kinase activity, such as gefitinib, inhibit the growth of human NSCLCs. We found that gefitinib triggered intrinsic (also called “mitochondrial”) apoptosis signaling, involving the activation of BAX and mitochondrial release of cytochrome c, ultimately unleashing the caspase cascade. Gefitinib caused a rapid increase in the level of the proapoptotic BH3-only protein BIM (also called BCL2-like 11) through both transcriptional and post-translational mechanisms. Experiments with pharmacological inhibitors indicated that blockade of MEK–ERK1/2 (mitogen-activated protein kinase kinase–extracellular signal-regulated protein kinase 1/2) signaling, but not blockade of PI3K (phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase), JNK (c-Jun N-terminal kinase or mitogen-activated protein kinase 8), or AKT (protein kinase B), was critical for BIM activation. Using RNA interference, we demonstrated that BIM is essential for gefitinib-induced killing of NSCLC cells. Moreover, we found that gefitinib-induced apoptosis is enhanced by addition of the BH3 mimetic ABT-737.
Inhibitors of the EGFR tyrosine kinase have proven useful in the therapy of certain cancers, in particular NSCLCs possessing activating mutations in the EGFR kinase domain, but the mechanisms of tumor cell killing are still unclear. In this paper, we demonstrate that activation of the proapoptotic BH3-only protein BIM is essential for tumor cell killing and that shutdown of the EGFR–MEK–ERK signaling cascade is critical for BIM activation. Moreover, we demonstrate that addition of a BH3 mimetic significantly enhances killing of NSCLC cells by the EGFR tyrosine kinase inhibitor gefitinib. It appears likely that this approach represents a paradigm shared by many, and perhaps all, oncogenic tyrosine kinases and suggests a powerful new strategy for cancer therapy.
Andreas Strasser and colleagues demonstrate that activation of the proapoptotic BH3-only protein BIM is essential for tumor cell killing and that shutdown of the EGFR−MEK−ERK signaling cascade is critical for BIM activation.
Editors' Summary
Normally, cell division (which produces new cells) and cell death are finely balanced to keep the human body in good working order. But sometimes cells acquire changes (mutations) in their genetic material that allow them to divide uncontrollably to form cancers—life-threatening, disorganized masses of cells. One protein with a critical role in cell division that is often mutated in tumors is the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR). In normal cells, protein messengers bind to EGFR and activate its tyrosine kinase. This enzyme then adds phosphate groups to tyrosine (an amino acid) in proteins that form part of signaling cascades (for example, the MEK–ERK signaling cascade) that tell the cell to divide. In cancers that have mutations in EGFR, signaling is overactive so the cancer cells divide much more than they should. Some non-small cell lung cancers (NSCLC, the commonest type of lung cancer), for example, have activating mutations within the EGFR tyrosine kinase. Treatment with EGFR tyrosine kinase inhibitors (TKIs) such as gefitinib and erlotinib induces the cells in these tumors to stop growing and die. This cell death causes tumor shrinkage (regression) and increases the life expectancy of patients with this type of NSCLC.
Why Was This Study Done?
Unfortunately, treatment with TKIs rarely cures NSCLC, so it would be useful to find a way to augment the effect that TKIs have on cancer cells. To do this, the molecular mechanisms that cause cancer-cell death and tumor regression in response to these drugs need to be fully understood. In this study, the researchers have used a combination of biochemical and genetic approaches to investigate how gefitinib kills NSCLC cells with mutated EGFR.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers first measured the sensitivity of NSCLC cell lines (tumor cells that grow indefinitely in dishes) to gefitinib-induced apoptosis. Gefitinib caused extensive apoptosis in two cell lines expressing mutant EGFR but not in one expressing normal EGFR. Next, they investigated the mechanism of gefitinib-induced apoptosis in the most sensitive cell line (H3255). Apoptosis is activated via two major pathways. Hallmarks of the “intrinsic” pathway include activation of a protein called BAX and cytochrome c release from subcellular compartments known as mitochondria. Gefitinib treatment induced both these events in H3255 cells. BAX (a proapoptotic member of the BCL-2 family of proteins) is activated when proapoptotic BH3-only BCL-2 proteins (for example, BIM; “BH3-only” describes the structure of these proteins) bind to antiapoptotic BCL2 proteins. Gefitinib treatment rapidly increased BIM activity in H3255 and HCC827 cells (but not in gefitinib-resistant cells) by increasing the production of BIM protein and the removal of phosphate groups from it, which increases BIM activity. Pharmacological blockade of the MEK–ERK signaling cascade, but not of other EGFR signaling cascades, also caused the accumulation of BIM. By contrast, blocking BIM expression using a technique called RNA interference reduced gefitinib-induced apoptosis. Finally, a combination of gefitinib and a BH3-mimicking compound called ABT-737 (which, like BIM, binds to antiapoptotic BCL-2 proteins) caused more apoptosis than gefitinib alone.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings (and those reported by Gong et al. and Costa et al.) indicate that activation of the proapoptotic BH3-only protein BIM is essential for gefitinib-induced killing of NSCLC cells that carry EGFR tyrosine kinase mutations. They also show that inhibition of the EGFR–MEK–ERK signaling cascade by gefitinib is essential for BIM activation. Because these findings come from studies on NSCLC cell lines, they need confirming in freshly isolated tumor cells and in tumors growing in people. However, the demonstration that a compound that mimics BH3 action enhances gefitinib-induced killing of NSCLC cells suggests that combinations of TKIs and drugs that affect the intrinsic pathway of apoptosis activation might provide a powerful strategy for treating cancers in which tyrosine kinase mutations drive tumor growth.
Additional Information.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at
A perspective by Ingo Mellinghoff discusses this article and two related research articles
Wikipedia pages on epidermal growth factor receptor, apoptosis, and BCL2 proteins (note that Wikipedia is a free online encyclopedia that anyone can edit; available in several languages)
CancerQuest provides information on all aspects of cancer from Emory University (in several languages)
US National Cancer Institute information for patients and professionals on lung cancer (in English and Spanish)
Information for patients from Cancer Research UK on lung cancer including information on treatment with TKIs
Information for patients from Cancerbackup on erlotinib and gefitinib
PMCID: PMC2043013  PMID: 17973573
7.  The Major Isoforms of Bim Contribute to Distinct Biological Activities that Govern the Processes of Autophagy and Apoptosis in Interleukin-7 Dependent Lymphocytes 
Biochimica et biophysica acta  2012;1823(10):1877-1893.
Bim is a BH3-only member of the Bcl-2 family that enables the death of T-cells. Partial rescue of cytokine-deprived T-cells occurs when Bim and the receptor for the T-cell growth factor, interleukin-7 (IL-7), are deleted, implicating Bim as a possible target of IL-7-mediated signaling. Alternative splicing yields three major isoforms: BimEL, BimL and BimS. To study the effect of Bim deficiency and define the function of the major isoforms, Bim-containing and Bim-deficient T-cells, dependent on IL-7 for growth, were used. Loss of total Bim in IL-7-deprived T-cells resulted in delayed apoptosis. However, loss of Bim also impeded the later degradative phase of autophagy. p62, an autophagy-adaptor protein which is normally degraded, accumulated in Bim deficient cells. To explain this, BimL was found to support acidification of lysosomes that later may associate with autophagic vesicles. Key findings showed that inhibition of lysosomal acidification accelerated death upon IL-7 withdrawal only in Bim-containing T-cells. IL-7 dependent T-cells lacking Bim were less sensitive to inhibition of lysosomal acidification. BimL co-immunoprecipitated with dynein and Lamp1-containing vesicles, indicating BimL could be an adaptor for dynein to facilitate loading of lysosomes. In Bim deficient T-cells, lysosome-tracking probes revealed vesicles of less acidic pH. Over-expression of BimL restored acidic vesicles in Bim deficient T-cells, while other isoforms, BimEL and BimS, promoted intrinsic cell death. These results reveal a novel role for BimL in lysosomal positioning that may be required for the formation of degradative autolysosomes.
PMCID: PMC3432704  PMID: 22728771
bcl-2; cytokine; lysosome; fluorescence; acidification; dynein
8.  Bim Nuclear Translocation and Inactivation by Viral Interferon Regulatory Factor 
PLoS Pathogens  2010;6(8):e1001031.
Viral replication efficiency is in large part governed by the ability of viruses to counteract pro-apoptotic signals induced by infection of the host cell. Human herpesvirus 8 (HHV-8) uses several strategies to block the host's innate antiviral defenses via interference with interferon and apoptotic signaling. Contributors include the four viral interferon regulatory factors (vIRFs 1–4), which function in dominant negative fashion to block cellular IRF activities in addition to targeting IRF signaling-induced proteins such as p53 and inhibiting other inducers of apoptosis such as TGFβ receptor-activated Smad transcription factors. Here we identify direct targeting by vIRF-1 of BH3-only pro-apoptotic Bcl-2 family member Bim, a key negative regulator of HHV-8 replication, to effect its inactivation via nuclear translocation. vIRF-1-mediated relocalization of Bim was identified in transfected cells, by both immunofluorescence assay and western analysis of fractionated cell extracts. Also, co-localization of vIRF-1 and Bim was detected in nuclei of lytically infected endothelial cells. In vitro co-precipitation assays using purified vIRF-1 and Bim revealed direct interaction between the proteins, and Bim-binding residues of vIRF-1 were mapped by deletion and point mutagenesis. Generation and experimental utilization of Bim-refractory vIRF-1 variants revealed the importance of vIRF-1:Bim interaction, specifically, in pro-replication and anti-apoptotic activity of vIRF-1. Furthermore, blocking of the interaction with cell-permeable peptide corresponding to the Bim-binding region of vIRF-1 confirmed the relevance of vIRF-1:Bim association to vIRF-1 pro-replication activity. To our knowledge, this is the first report of an IRF protein that interacts with a Bcl-2 family member and of nuclear sequestration of Bim or any other member of the family as a means of inactivation. The data presented reveal a novel mechanism utilized by a virus to control replication-induced apoptosis and suggest that inhibitory targeting of vIRF-1:Bim interaction may provide an effective antiviral strategy.
Author Summary
Human herpesvirus 8 (HHV-8) is a pathogen associated with cancers Kaposi's sarcoma (KS), an endothelial cell disease, and B cell malignancies primary effusion lymphoma and multicentric Castleman's disease. KS is particularly prevalent amongst HIV-positive populations in Africa and is a major health concern. Virus productive replication, in addition to latency, is important for maintaining viral load within the host and also for KS pathogenesis. Essential to HHV-8 and other virus replication is the control of innate host defenses, which comprise stress-sensing cellular signaling pathways that result ultimately in programmed cell death (apoptosis). Here we identify a novel mechanism whereby a viral protein, viral interferon regulatory factor-1 (vIRF-1), mediates inhibition of a stress sensor and initiator of apoptosis, Bim, by inducing its translocation to the cell nucleus and thereby sequestration away from the cytoplasmic compartment where it exerts its pro-death activity. We show that vIRF-1:Bim interaction is necessary for efficient HHV-8 productive replication and that it can be blocked using a cell-permeable antagonist of vIRF-1:Bim binding. Our data not only identify previously unsuspected mechanisms of Bim inactivation and vIRF-1 function, but suggest that inhibitory targeting of vIRF-1 interaction with Bim may be of therapeutic benefit.
PMCID: PMC2916877  PMID: 20700448
9.  Multi-site Phosphorylation Regulates Bim Stability and Apoptotic Activity 
Molecular cell  2008;30(4):415-425.
The pro-apoptotic BH3-only protein Bim is established to be an important mediator of signaling pathways that induce cell death. Multi-site phosphorylation of Bim by several members of the MAP kinase group is implicated as a regulatory mechanism that controls the apoptotic activity of Bim. To test the role of Bim phosphorylation in vivo, we constructed mice with a series of mutant alleles that express phosphorylation-defective Bim proteins. We show that mutation of the phosphorylation site Thr-112 causes decreased binding of Bim to the anti-apoptotic protein Bcl2 and can increase cell survival. In contrast, mutation of the phosphorylation sites Ser-55, Ser-65, and Ser-73 can cause increased apoptosis because of reduced proteasomal degradation of Bim. Together, these data indicate that phosphorylation can regulate Bim by multiple mechanisms and that the phosphorylation of Bim on different sites can contribute to the sensitivity of cellular apoptotic responses.
PMCID: PMC2453504  PMID: 18498746
10.  Critical roles of Bim in T cell activation and T cell–mediated autoimmune inflammation in mice 
The Journal of Clinical Investigation  2009;119(6):1706-1713.
Bim, the B cell lymphoma 2–interacting (Bcl2-interacting) mediator, maintains immunological tolerance by deleting autoreactive lymphocytes through apoptosis. We report here that Bim is also, paradoxically, required for the activation of autoreactive T cells. Deletion of Bim in hematopoietic cells rendered mice resistant to autoimmune encephalomyelitis and diabetes, and Bim-deficient T cells had diminished cytokine production. Upon T cell receptor activation, Bim-deficient T cells exhibited severe defects in both calcium release and dephosphorylation of nuclear factor of activated T cells (NFAT) but maintained normal levels of activation of NF-κB and MAPKs. The defective calcium signaling in Bim-deficient T cells was associated with a significant increase in the formation of an inhibitory complex containing Bcl2 and the inositol triphosphate receptor (IP3R). Thus, in addition to mediating the death of autoreactive T cells, Bim also controlled T cell activation through the IP3R/calcium/NFAT pathway. These results indicate that a single protein is used to control both the activation and apoptosis of autoreactive T cells and may explain why Bim-deficient mice do not reject their own organs despite lacking thymic negative selection.
PMCID: PMC2689102  PMID: 19411758
11.  Induction of BIM Is Essential for Apoptosis Triggered by EGFR Kinase Inhibitors in Mutant EGFR-Dependent Lung Adenocarcinomas 
PLoS Medicine  2007;4(10):e294.
Mutations in the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) gene are associated with increased sensitivity of lung cancers to kinase inhibitors like erlotinib. Mechanisms of cell death that occur after kinase inhibition in these oncogene-dependent tumors have not been well delineated. We sought to improve understanding of this process in order to provide insight into mechanisms of sensitivity and/or resistance to tyrosine kinase inhibitors and to uncover new targets for therapy.
Methods and Findings
Using a panel of human lung cancer cell lines that harbor EGFR mutations and a variety of biochemical, molecular, and cellular techniques, we show that EGFR kinase inhibition in drug-sensitive cells provokes apoptosis via the intrinsic pathway of caspase activation. The process requires induction of the proapoptotic BH3-only BCL2 family member BIM (i.e., BCL2-like 11, or BCL2L11); erlotinib dramatically induces BIM levels in sensitive but not in resistant cell lines, and knockdown of BIM expression by RNA interference virtually eliminates drug-induced cell killing in vitro. BIM status is regulated at both transcriptional and posttranscriptional levels and is influenced by the extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK) signaling cascade downstream of EGFR. Consistent with these findings, lung tumors and xenografts from mice bearing mutant EGFR-dependent lung adenocarcinomas display increased concentrations of Bim after erlotinib treatment. Moreover, an inhibitor of antiapoptotic proteins, ABT-737, enhances erlotinib-induced cell death in vitro.
In drug-sensitive EGFR mutant lung cancer cells, induction of BIM is essential for apoptosis triggered by EGFR kinase inhibitors. This finding implies that the intrinsic pathway of caspase activation may influence sensitivity and/or resistance of EGFR mutant lung tumor cells to EGFR kinase inhibition. Manipulation of the intrinsic pathway could be a therapeutic strategy to enhance further the clinical outcomes of patients with EGFR mutant lung tumors.
Using a panel of human drug-sensitive EGFR mutant lung cancer cells, William Pao and colleagues show that induction of BIM, a member of the BCL2 family, is essential for apoptosis triggered by EGFR kinase inhibitors.
Editors' Summary
Lung cancer, a common type of cancer, has a very low cure rate. Like all cancers, it occurs when cells begin to divide uncontrollably because of changes (mutations) in their genes. Chemotherapy drugs kill these rapidly dividing cells but, because some normal tissues are sensitive to these agents, it is hard to destroy the cancer without causing serious side effects. Recently, “targeted” therapies have brought new hope to some patients with cancer. These therapies attack the changes in cancer cells that allow them to divide uncontrollably but leave normal cells unscathed. One of the first molecules for which a targeted therapy was developed was the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR). In normal cells, messenger proteins bind to EGFR and activate its “tyrosine kinase,” an enzyme that sticks phosphate groups on tyrosine (an amino acid) in other proteins. These proteins then tell the cell to divide. Alterations to this signaling system drive uncontrolled cell division in some cancers so blocking the EGFR signaling pathway should stop these cancers growing. Indeed, some lung cancers with mutations in the tyrosine kinase of EGFR shrink dramatically when treated with gefitinib or erlotinib, two tyrosine kinase inhibitors (TKIs).
Why Was This Study Done?
TKI-sensitive lung cancers shrink when treated with TKIs because of drug-induced cell death, but what are the molecular mechanisms underlying this death? A better understanding of how TKIs kill cancer cells might provide new insights into why not all cancer cells with mutations in EGFR (the gene from which EGFR is made) are sensitive to TKIs. It might also uncover new targets for therapy. TKIs do not completely kill lung cancers, but if the mechanism of TKI-induced cell death were understood, it might be possible to enhance their effects. In this study, the researchers have investigated how cell death occurs after kinase inhibition in a panel of human lung cancer cell lines (cells isolated from human tumors that grow indefinitely in dishes) that carry EGFR mutations.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers show, first, that erlotinib induces a type of cell death called apoptosis in erlotinib-sensitive cell lines but not in resistant cell lines. Apoptosis can be activated by two major pathways. In this instance, the researchers report, the so-called “intrinsic” pathway activates apoptosis. This pathway is stimulated by proapoptotic members of the BCL2 family of proteins and is blocked by antiapoptotic members, so the researchers examined the effect of erlotinib treatment on the expression of BCL2 family members in the EGFR mutant cell lines. Erlotinib treatment increased the expression of the proapoptotic protein BIM in sensitive but not in resistant cell lines. It also removed phosphate groups from BIM—dephosphorylated BIM is a more potent proapoptotic protein. Conversely, blocking BIM expression using a technique called RNA interference virtually eliminated the ability of erlotinib to kill EGFR mutant cell lines. The researchers also report that erlotinib treatment increased BIM expression in erlotinib-sensitive lung tumors growing in mice and that an inhibitor of the anti-apoptotic protein BCL2 enhanced erlotinib-induced death in drug-sensitive cells growing in dishes.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings indicate that BIM activity is essential for the apoptosis triggered by TKIs in drug-sensitive lung cancer cells that carry EGFR mutations, and that treatment of these cells with TKIs induces both the expression and dephosphorylation of BIM. The finding that the intrinsic pathway of apoptosis activation is involved in TKI-induced cell death suggests that changes in this pathway (possibly mutations in some of its components) might influence the sensitivity of EGFR mutant lung cancers to TKIs. Finally, these findings suggest that giving drugs that affect the intrinsic pathway of apoptosis activation at the same time as TKIs might further improve the clinical outcome for patients with EGFR mutant tumors. Such combinations will have to be tested in clinical trials before being used routinely.
Additional Information.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at
US National Cancer Institute information for patients and professionals on lung cancer (in English and Spanish)
Information for patients from Cancer Research UK on lung cancer including information on treatment with TKIs
Wikipedia pages on apoptosis, epidermal growth factor receptor, and BCL-2 proteins (note that Wikipedia is a free online encyclopedia that anyone can edit; available in several languages)
Information for patients from Cancerbackup on erlotinib and gefitinib
PMCID: PMC2001209  PMID: 17927446
12.  Dynamic Change and Impact of Myeloid Derived Suppressor Cells in Allogeneic Bone Marrow Transplantation in Mice 
Myeloid-derived suppressor cells (MDSCs) are a group of myeloid cells comprised of hematopoietic progenitor cells, immature macrophages, dendritic cells and granulocytes, which accumulate in inflammatory diseases and various cancers. Here, we investigated the dynamic changes and effects of MDSCs in graft-versus-host disease (GVHD) development and/or tumor relapse after syngeneic and allogeneic bone marrow transplantation (BMT). We found that adding functional MDSCs in donor graft alleviated GVHD, whereas removal of MDSCs in vivo exacerbated GVHD. Following T cell-deplete BMT, MDSCs transiently accumulated in the blood and spleen of recipients without GVHD; In contrast, after T cell-replete BMT, the levels of blood MDSCs were constantly elevated in recipients with GVHD. MDSC accumulation positively correlated with the severity of GVHD. Additionally, MDSC accumulation was further increased upon tumor relapse. Although MDSCs isolated from both syngeneic and allogeneic BMT recipients inhibited T-cell proliferation in response to alloantigen stimulation ex vivo, MDSCs from the recipients with GVHD showed much higher suppressive potency compared to those from recipients without GVHD. These results indicate that MDSCs can regulate the immune response in acute GVHD, and possibly tumor relapse, subsequent to allogeneic BMT.
PMCID: PMC4011929  PMID: 23376089
13.  Targeting of saporin to CD25-positive normal and neoplastic lymphocytes by an anti-saporin/anti-CD25 bispecific monoclonal antibody: in vitro evaluation. 
British Journal of Cancer  1993;67(6):1248-1253.
This study has been designed to verify the specific toxicity of saporin, a type 1 ribosome-inactivating protein (RIP), with the same activity as ricin A chain, targeted by a bispecific monoclonal antibody (bimAb) recognising both the CD25 antigen and the RIP. The CD25 antigen is expressed by lymphoid populations upon activation and by leukaemias and lymphomas with an activated membrane phenotype (Hodgkin's lymphoma, anaplastic large cell lymphoma, adult T cell leukaemia). The bimAb-saporin mixture was tested on CD25+ targets at different bimAb and saporin concentrations. Saporin, in the presence of a bimAb concentration of 10(-9) M, inhibited protein synthesis by CD25+ neoplastic lymphocytes (L540 and MT2 cell lines) with IC50S (concentrations giving 50% of inhibition) ranging from 8 x 10(-12) M to 3 x 10(-11) M. The saporin-bimAb mixture was also effective in blocking the phytohaemagglutinin-driven proliferation of normal lymphocytes, whereas it displayed the same level of toxicity exerted by saporin alone on an irrelevant CD25-negative cell line (EBV-infected B lymphoblastoid cell line). From these results it is possible to envisage a clinical use of this bimAb as a cytotoxic agent for CD25+ leukaemias and lymphomas, as well as an immunosuppressive agent for severe immune disorders such as graft-vs-host disease (GVHD) and transplanted organ rejection.
PMCID: PMC1968507  PMID: 8512810
14.  Suppression of graft-versus-host disease and amplification of graft-versus-tumor effects by activated natural killer cells after allogeneic bone marrow transplantation. 
Journal of Clinical Investigation  1998;101(9):1835-1842.
Bone marrow transplantation (BMT) is currently used for the treatment of a variety of neoplastic diseases. However, significant obstacles limiting the efficacy of allogeneic BMT are the occurrence of graft-versus-host disease (GvHD) and tumor relapse. Natural killer (NK) cells exert a variety of immunologic and homoeostatic functions. We examined whether adoptive transfer of activated NK cells of donor type would prevent GvHD after allogeneic BMT in mice. Lethally irradiated C57BL/6 (H-2(b)) mice, were transplanted with MHC incompatible BALB/c (H-2(d)) bone marrow cells and spleen cells and rapidly succumbed to acute GvHD. In contrast, mice that also received activated NK cells of donor type exhibited significant increases in survival. In determining the mechanism by which the NK cells prevented GvHD, mice were concurrently treated with a neutralizing antibodies to the immunosuppressive cytokine TGFbeta. Anti-TGFbeta completely abrogated the protective effects of the activated donor NK cells indicating that TGFbeta plays an important role in the prevention of GvHD by NK cells. We then examined whether activated NK cells of donor type after allogeneic BMT would induce graft-versus-tumor (GvT) effects without GvHD in mice bearing a murine colon adenocarcinoma (MCA-38). 10 d after receiving the tumor, in which the mice had demonstrable lung metastases, recipients received an allogeneic BMT with or without activated NK cells. Administration of activated NK cells resulted in significant GvT effects after allogeneic BMT as evidenced by increases in median survival and fewer lung metastasis. No evidence of GVHD was detected compared with recipients receiving spleen cells alone which also developed fewer lung metastases but in which all had succumbed to GVHD. Thus, our findings suggest that adoptive immunotherapy using activated donor NK cells combined with allogeneic BMT inhibits GvHD and promotes GvT in advanced tumor-bearing mice. These results also suggest that GvT and GvHD can be dissociable phenomena.
PMCID: PMC508768  PMID: 9576746
15.  Proapoptotic Bcl-2 Family Member Bim Promotes Persistent Infection and Limits Protective Immunity▿  
Infection and Immunity  2007;76(3):1179-1185.
Following the peak of the T-cell response, most of the activated effector T cells die by apoptosis driven by the proapoptotic Bcl-2 family member Bim (Bcl-2-interacting mediator of death). Whether the absence of Bim-mediated T-cell apoptosis can affect protective immunity remains unclear. Here, we used a mouse model of Leishmania major infection, in which parasite persistence and protective immunity are controlled by an equilibrium reached between parasite-specific gamma interferon (IFN-γ)-producing effector T cells and interleukin-10 (IL-10)-producing CD4+ CD25+ T regulatory cells. To further understand the role of Bim-mediated apoptosis in persistent infection and protective immunity, we infected Bim−/− mice with L. major. We found that the initial parasite growth and lesion development were similar in Bim−/− and wild-type mice after primary L. major infection. However, at later times after infection, Bim−/− mice had significantly increased L. major-specific CD4+ T-cell responses and were resistant to persistent infection. Interestingly, despite their resistance to primary L. major infection, Bim−/− mice displayed significantly enhanced protection against challenge with L. major. Increased resistance to challenge in Bim−/− mice was associated with a significant increase in the number of L. major-specific IFN-γ-producing CD4+ T cells and a lack of IL-10 production at the challenge site. Taken together, these data suggest that Bim limits protective immunity and that the absence of Bim allows the host to bypass antigen persistence for maintenance of immunity against reinfection.
PMCID: PMC2258821  PMID: 18086806
16.  T cell-specific inhibition of multiple apoptotic pathways blocks negative selection and causes autoimmunity 
eLife  2014;3:e03468.
T cell self-tolerance is thought to involve peripheral tolerance and negative selection, involving apoptosis of autoreactive thymocytes. However, evidence supporting an essential role for negative selection is limited. Loss of Bim, a Bcl-2 BH3-only protein essential for thymocyte apoptosis, rarely results in autoimmunity on the C57BL/6 background. Mice with T cell-specific over-expression of Bcl-2, that blocks multiple BH3-only proteins, are also largely normal. The nuclear receptor Nur77, also implicated in negative selection, might function redundantly to promote apoptosis by associating with Bcl-2 and exposing its potentially pro-apoptotic BH3 domain. Here, we report that T cell-specific expression of a Bcl2 BH3 mutant transgene results in enhanced rescue of thymocytes from negative selection. Concomitantly, Treg development is increased. However, aged BH3 mutant mice progressively accumulate activated, autoreactive T cells, culminating in development of multi-organ autoimmunity and lethality. These data provide strong evidence that negative selection is crucial for establishing T cell tolerance.
eLife digest
Our immune system protects us from disease by recognizing and mounting a defence against harmful pathogens that enter our bodies. T cells, a type of white blood cell, play a key role in this process. Each T cell has a unique protein called a T cell receptor on its surface that is able to recognize particular pieces of pathogens. Together, the millions of T cells in our bodies, each with its own unique T cell receptor, can initiate an immune response to eliminate a vast array of potential pathogens.
T cells are made in an organ called the thymus. During this production process, immature T cells are generated, including some with T cell receptors that recognize the harmless molecules that make up our bodies. If allowed to enter the bloodstream and left to their own devices, these T cells could trigger an immune response against the body, leading to the development of autoimmune disease.
Normally, many of these ‘auto-reactive’ T cells are instructed to die in the thymus by a process called negative selection. Furthermore, auto-reactive cells that escape into the blood can also be shut down by additional failsafe mechanisms. Given the success of these failsafe mechanisms, notably the effectiveness of a class of T cells called T regulatory cells, some researchers have begun to ask if negative selection is necessary to prevent autoimmunity.
During negative selection T cells die as a result of a process called apoptosis. Multiple proteins have been implicated in T cell apoptosis, including Bim, Puma and the Nur77 family of nuclear receptors. Blocking the function of some these proteins individually can rescue some autoreactive T cells from death: however, this rarely results in the development of autoimmune disease.
Burger et al. have now created a mouse strain with T cells that produce large amounts of a mutant form of the anti-apoptotic protein, Bcl-2, which can block the function of multiple pro-apoptotic proteins, including Bim and Puma. Additionally, it has been proposed that Bcl-2 can be converted to a pro-apoptotic protein by Nur77 proteins, but the Bcl-2 proteins in the mutant strain are able to resist this process.
T cells in the thymus of the mutant mice were highly resistant to apoptosis accompanying negative selection. Moreover, as the mice aged, they accumulated autoreactive T cells in the blood, which led to symptoms of autoimmune disease and early death. While various failsafe mechanisms were engaged, they did not provide sufficient protection. The work of Burger et al. thus provides strong evidence that negative selection in the thymus is crucial for the prevention of autoimmune disease.
PMCID: PMC4171708  PMID: 25182415
Nur77; Bcl-2; autoimmunity; negative selection; T cell tolerance; mouse
17.  Bim Inhibits Autophagy by Recruiting Beclin 1 to Microtubules 
Molecular Cell  2012;47(3-8):359-370.
Bim is a proapoptotic BH3-only Bcl-2 family member. In response to death stimuli, Bim dissociates from the dynein light chain 1 (DYNLL1/LC8), where it is inactive, and can then initiate Bax/Bak-mediated mitochondria-dependent apoptosis. We found that Bim depletion increases autophagosome synthesis in cells and in vivo, and this effect is inhibited by overexpression of cell death-deficient Bim. Bim inhibits autophagy by interacting with Beclin 1, an autophagy regulator, and this interaction is facilitated by LC8. Bim bridges the Beclin 1-LC8 interaction and thereby inhibits autophagy by mislocalizing Beclin 1 to the dynein motor complex. Starvation, an autophagic stimulus, induces Bim phosphorylation, which abrogates LC8 binding to Bim, leading to dissociation of Bim and Beclin 1. Our data suggest that Bim switches locations between apoptosis-inactive/autophagy-inhibitory and apoptosis-active/autophagy-permissive sites.
Graphical Abstract
► Bim negatively regulates autophagy in cell culture and in vivo ► Bim inhibits autophagosome formation by interacting with Beclin 1 ► Bim inhibits autophagy by mislocalizing Beclin 1 from the ER to microtubules ► Starvation induces autophagy and dissociates the Bim-Beclin1 interaction
PMCID: PMC3419265  PMID: 22742832
18.  Inhibition of Calcineurin Abrogates While Inhibition of mTOR Promotes Regulatory T Cell Expansion and Graft-Versus-Host Disease Protection by IL-2 in Allogeneic Bone Marrow Transplantation 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(3):e92888.
Regulatory T cells (Treg)s attenuate excessive immune responses, making their expansion beneficial in immune-mediated diseases including allogeneic bone marrow transplantation (BMT)-associated graft-versus-host disease (GVHD). We have recently reported that Treg expansion does not require phospholipase Cγ activation when IL-2 is provided. As such, the combination of IL-2 and a calcineurin inhibitor (Cyclosporine A; CsA) expands Tregs while inhibiting Tconv proliferation and protects against a mouse model of multiple sclerosis. However, CsA inhibits Treg proliferation in the presence of a TCR stimulus, suggesting that CsA may negatively impact Treg proliferation when they receive strong allogeneic MHC-mediated TCR signals. In this study, we show that CsA inhibits Treg proliferation and inducible Treg generation in allogeneic but not in syngeneic BMT when IL-2 is provided. In contrast to CsA, the mTOR inhibitor (Rapamycin) almost completely suppressed IL-2-mediated Treg proliferation. However, CsA and Rapamycin inhibited Treg proliferation to a similar extent when TCR stimulation was provided. Furthermore, Rapamycin promoted Treg expansion and inducible Treg generation in allogeneic BMT recipients treated with IL-2. Consistent with these observations, CsA abrogated while Rapamycin promoted the protective effect of IL-2 on allogeneic BMT-induced GVHD. These results suggest that while CsA permits IL-2-induced Treg proliferation in the syngeneic setting (absence of strong TCR signals), CsA in combination with IL-2 may be detrimental for Treg proliferation in an allogeneic setting. Thus, in allogeneic settings, an mTOR inhibitor such as Rapamycin is a better choice for adjunct therapy with IL-2 in expansion of Tregs and protection against allogeneic BMT-induced GVHD.
PMCID: PMC3962458  PMID: 24658577
19.  Ceacam1 Separates Graft-versus-Host-Disease from Graft-versus-Tumor Activity after Experimental Allogeneic Bone Marrow Transplantation 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(7):e21611.
Allogeneic bone marrow transplantation (allo-BMT) is a potentially curative therapy for a variety of hematologic diseases, but benefits, including graft-versus-tumor (GVT) activity are limited by graft-versus-host-disease (GVHD). Carcinoembryonic antigen related cell adhesion molecule 1 (Ceacam1) is a transmembrane glycoprotein found on epithelium, T cells, and many tumors. It regulates a variety of physiologic and pathological processes such as tumor biology, leukocyte activation, and energy homeostasis. Previous studies suggest that Ceacam1 negatively regulates inflammation in inflammatory bowel disease models.
We studied Ceacam1 as a regulator of GVHD and GVT after allogeneic bone marrow transplantation (allo-BMT) in mouse models. In vivo, Ceacam1−/− T cells caused increased GVHD mortality and GVHD of the colon, and greater numbers of donor T cells were positive for activation markers (CD25hi, CD62Llo). Additionally, Ceacam1−/− CD8 T cells had greater expression of the gut-trafficking integrin α4β7, though both CD4 and CD8 T cells were found increased numbers in the gut post-transplant. Ceacam1−/− recipients also experienced increased GVHD mortality and GVHD of the colon, and alloreactive T cells displayed increased activation. Additionally, Ceacam1−/− mice had increased mortality and decreased numbers of regenerating small intestinal crypts upon radiation exposure. Conversely, Ceacam1-overexpressing T cells caused attenuated target-organ and systemic GVHD, which correlated with decreased donor T cell numbers in target tissues, and mortality. Finally, graft-versus-tumor survival in a Ceacam1+ lymphoma model was improved in animals receiving Ceacam1−/− vs. control T cells.
We conclude that Ceacam1 regulates T cell activation, GVHD target organ damage, and numbers of donor T cells in lymphoid organs and GVHD target tissues. In recipients of allo-BMT, Ceacam1 may also regulate tissue radiosensitivity. Because of its expression on both the donor graft and host tissues, this suggests that targeting Ceacam1 may represent a potent strategy for the regulation of GVHD and GVT after allogeneic transplantation.
PMCID: PMC3130781  PMID: 21760897
20.  C-Rel is an essential transcription factor for the development of acute graft-versus-host disease in mice 
European journal of immunology  2013;43(9):2327-2337.
Transcription factor of the Rel/NF-κB family are known to play different roles in immunity and inflammation, although the putative role of c-Rel in transplant tolerance and GVHD remains elusive. We report here that T cells deficient for c-Rel have a dramatically reduced ability to cause acute graft-versus-host disease (GVHD) after allogeneic bone marrow transplantation (BMT) using major and minor histocompatibility mismatched murine models. In the study to understand the underlying mechanisms, we found that c-Rel-/- T cells had reduced ability to expand in lymphoid organs and to infiltrate in GVHD target organs in allogeneic recipients. c-Rel-/- T cells were defective in the differentiation into Th1 cells after encountering alloantigens, but were enhanced in the differentiation towards Foxp3+ regulatory T cells (Tregs). Furthermore, c-Rel-/- T cells had largely preserved activity to mediate graft-versus leukemia (GVL) response. Taken together, our findings indicate that c-Rel plays an essential role in T cells in the induction of acute GVHD, and suggest that c-Rel can be a potential target for therapeutic intervention in allogeneic HCT in clinic.
PMCID: PMC3940138  PMID: 23716202
c-Rel; BMT; GVHD
21.  PKCθ is required for alloreactivity and GVHD but not for immune responses toward leukemia and infection in mice 
The Journal of Clinical Investigation  2009;119(12):3774-3786.
When used as therapy for hematopoietic malignancies, allogeneic BM transplantation (BMT) relies on the graft-versus-leukemia (GVL) effect to eradicate residual tumor cells through immunologic mechanisms. However, graft-versus-host disease (GVHD), which is initiated by alloreactive donor T cells that recognize mismatched major and/or minor histocompatibility antigens and cause severe damage to hematopoietic and epithelial tissues, is a potentially lethal complication of allogeneic BMT. To enhance the therapeutic potential of BMT, we sought to find therapeutic targets that could inhibit GVHD while preserving GVL and immune responses to infectious agents. We show here that T cell responses triggered in mice by either Listeria monocytogenes or administration of antigen and adjuvant were relatively well preserved in the absence of PKC isoform θ (PKCθ), a key regulator of TCR signaling. In contrast, PKCθ was required for alloreactivity and GVHD induction. Furthermore, absence of PKCθ raised the threshold for T cell activation, which selectively affected alloresponses. Most importantly, PKCθ-deficient T cells retained the ability to respond to virus infection and to induce GVL effect after BMT. These findings suggest PKCθ is a potentially unique therapeutic target required for GVHD induction but not for GVL or protective responses to infectious agents.
PMCID: PMC2786796  PMID: 19907075
22.  Combined loss of proapoptotic genes Bak or Bax with Bim synergizes to cause defects in hematopoiesis and in thymocyte apoptosis 
The Journal of Experimental Medicine  2005;201(12):1949-1960.
The proapoptotic members of the Bcl-2 family can be subdivided into members that contain several Bcl-2 homology (BH) domains and those that contain only the BH3 domain. Although it is known that BH3-only proteins and the multi-BH domain proteins, Bak and Bax, are essential for programmed cell death, the overlapping role of these two subgroups has not been examined in vivo. To investigate this, we generated Bak/Bim and Bax/Bim double deficient mice. We found that although Bax−/−Bim−/−, but not Bak−/−Bim−/−, mice display webbed hind and front paws and malocclusion of the incisors, both groups of mice present with dysregulated hematopoiesis. Combined loss of Bak and Bim or Bax and Bim causes defects in myeloid and B-lymphoid development that are more severe than those found in the single knock-out mice. Bak−/−Bim−/− mice have a complement of thymocytes that resembles those in control mice, whereas Bax−/−Bim−/− mice are more similar to Bim−/− mice. However, thymocytes isolated from Bak−/−Bim−/− or Bax−/−Bim−/− mice are markedly more resistant to apoptotic stimuli mediated by the intrinsic pathway as compared with thymocytes from single-knockout mice. These data suggest an essential overlapping role for Bak or Bax and Bim in the intrinsic apoptotic pathway.
PMCID: PMC2212027  PMID: 15967824
23.  Bcl-2 Allows Effector and Memory CD8+ T Cells To Tolerate Higher Expression of Bim 
As acute infections resolve, most effector CD8+ T cells die, whereas some persist and become memory T cells. Recent work showed that subsets of effector CD8+ T cells, identified by reciprocal expression of killer cell lectin-like receptor G1 (KLRG1) and CD127, have different lifespans. Similar to previous reports, we found that effector CD8+ T cells reported to have a longer lifespan (i.e., KLRG1lowCD127high) have increased levels of Bcl-2 compared with their shorter-lived KLRG1highCD127low counterparts. Surprisingly, we found that these effector KLRG1lowCD127high CD8+ T cells also had increased levels of Bim compared with KLRG1highCD127low cells. Similar effects were observed in memory cells, in which CD8+ central memory T cells expressed higher levels of Bim and Bcl-2 than did CD8+ effector memory T cells. Using both pharmacologic and genetic approaches, we found that survival of both subsets of effector and memory CD8+ T cells required Bcl-2 to combat the proapoptotic activity of Bim. Interestingly, inhibition or absence of Bcl-2 led to significantly decreased expression of Bim in surviving effector and memory T cells. In addition, manipulation of Bcl-2 levels by IL-7 or IL-15 also affected expression of Bim in effector CD8+ T cells. Finally, we found that Bim levels were significantly increased in effector CD8+ T cells lacking Bax and Bak. Together, these data indicate that cells having the highest levels of Bim are selected against during contraction of the response and that Bcl-2 determines the level of Bim that effector and memory T cells can tolerate.
PMCID: PMC4222684  PMID: 21451108
24.  Enhanced allostimulatory activity of host antigen-presenting cells in old mice intensifies acute graft-versus-host disease 
The Journal of Clinical Investigation  2002;109(9):1249-1256.
Older bone marrow transplantation (BMT) recipients are at heightened risk for acute graft-versus-host disease (GVHD) after allogeneic BMT, but the causes of this association are poorly understood. Using well-characterized murine BMT models we have explored the mechanisms of increased GVHD in older mice. GVHD mortality, morbidity, and pathologic and biochemical indices were all worse in old recipients. Donor T cell responses were significantly increased in old recipients both in vivo and in vitro when stimulated by antigen-presenting cells (APCs) from old mice, which also secreted more TNF-α and IL-12 after LPS stimulation. In a B6 → B6D2F1 model, CD4+ donor T cells but not CD8+ T cells mediated more severe GVHD in old mice. We confirmed the role of aged APCs in GVHD using B6D2F1 BM chimeras created with either old or young BM. Four months after chimera creation, allogeneic BMT from B6 donors caused significantly worse GVHD in old BM chimeras. APCs from these mice also stimulated greater responses from allogeneic cells in vitro. These data demonstrate a hitherto unsuspected mechanism of amplified donor T cell responses by aged allogeneic host APCs that increases acute GVHD in aged recipients in this BMT model.
PMCID: PMC150964  PMID: 11994414
25.  Clinical Significance of BIM Deletion Polymorphism in Non–Small-Cell Lung Cancer with Epidermal Growth Factor Receptor Mutation 
Journal of Thoracic Oncology  2014;9(4):483-487.
Germline alterations in the proapoptotic protein Bcl-2–like 11 (BIM) can have a crucial role in tumor response to treatment. To determine the clinical utility of detecting BIM deletion polymorphism in non–small-cell lung cancer positive for epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) mutation, we examined outcomes of patients with and without BIM alterations.
We studied 70 patients with EGFR mutation-positive non–small-cell lung cancer who were treated with an EGFR tyrosine kinase inhibitor between January 2008 and January 2013. BIM deletion was analyzed by polymerase chain reaction in 58 samples of peripheral blood and 24 formalin-fixed paraffin-embedded slides of surgical specimens (20 of lung tissue and four of brain tissue); both blood and tissue specimens were available for 12 patients. We retrospectively analyzed clinical characteristics, response rate, toxicity, and outcomes among patients with and without BIM deletion.
BIM deletion was present in 13 of 70 patients (18.6%). There were no significant differences between patients with and without BIM deletion in clinical characteristics, rate of response to EGFR tyrosine kinase inhibitor, or incidence of adverse events. Patients with BIM deletion had significantly shorter progression-free survival (PFS) than those without BIM deletion (median, 227 versus 533 days; p < 0.001). Multivariate Cox regression analysis showed that BIM deletion was an independent indicator of shorter PFS (hazard ratio, 3.99; 95% confidence interval, 1.864–8.547; p < 0.001).
Polymerase chain reaction successfully detected BIM deletion in samples of peripheral blood and formalin-fixed paraffin-embedded slides of surgical specimens. BIM deletion was the most important independent prognostic factor in shorter PFS.
PMCID: PMC4132037  PMID: 24736070
BIM; Non–small-cell lung cancer; Epidermal growth factor receptor tyrosine kinase inhibitor

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