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1.  Epstein-Barr Virus Evades CD4+ T Cell Responses in Lytic Cycle through BZLF1-mediated Downregulation of CD74 and the Cooperation of vBcl-2 
PLoS Pathogens  2011;7(12):e1002455.
Evasion of immune T cell responses is crucial for viruses to establish persistence in the infected host. Immune evasion mechanisms of Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) in the context of MHC-I antigen presentation have been well studied. In contrast, viral interference with MHC-II antigen presentation is less well understood, not only for EBV but also for other persistent viruses. Here we show that the EBV encoded BZLF1 can interfere with recognition by immune CD4+ effector T cells. This impaired T cell recognition occurred in the absence of a reduction in the expression of surface MHC-II, but correlated with a marked downregulation of surface CD74 on the target cells. Furthermore, impaired CD4+ T cell recognition was also observed with target cells where CD74 expression was downregulated by shRNA-mediated inhibition. BZLF1 downregulated surface CD74 via a post-transcriptional mechanism distinct from its previously reported effect on the CIITA promoter. In addition to being a chaperone for MHC-II αβ dimers, CD74 also functions as a surface receptor for macrophage Migration Inhibitory Factor and enhances cell survival through transcriptional upregulation of Bcl-2 family members. The immune-evasion function of BZLF1 therefore comes at a cost of induced toxicity. However, during EBV lytic cycle induced by BZLF1 expression, this toxicity can be overcome by expression of the vBcl-2, BHRF1, at an early stage of lytic infection. We conclude that by inhibiting apoptosis, the vBcl-2 not only maintains cell viability to allow sufficient time for synthesis and accumulation of infectious virus progeny, but also enables BZLF1 to effect its immune evasion function.
Author Summary
Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) is a herpesvirus and an important human pathogen that can cause diseases ranging from non-malignant proliferative disease to fully malignant cancers of lymphocytes and epithelial cells. The persistence of EBV in healthy individuals relies on the balance between host immune responses and viral immune evasion. As CD4+ immune T cell responses include both helper and cytotoxic functions, viral mechanisms for interfering with MHC class II antigen presentation to CD4+ T cells have the potential to greatly influence the outcome of viral infections. Our work on Epstein-Barr virus provides a new paradigm for viral immune evasion of MHC-II presented antigen by targeting CD74. CD74 is a dual function protein; it serves as a surviving receptor as well as a chaperone for MHC-II antigen presentation. Therefore, downregulation of CD74 as a T cell evasion strategy comes at the cost of potentially inducing cell death. However, EBV also encodes a vBcl-2 to attenuate the toxicity associated with reduced CD74, thus enabling the immune-impairment function to be effected. We expect that future studies will identify other viruses utilizing a similar strategy to evade CD4+ immune T cell responses.
PMCID: PMC3245307  PMID: 22216005
2.  A Systematic Analysis of Host Factors Reveals a Med23-Interferon-λ Regulatory Axis against Herpes Simplex Virus Type 1 Replication 
PLoS Pathogens  2013;9(8):e1003514.
Herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1) is a neurotropic virus causing vesicular oral or genital skin lesions, meningitis and other diseases particularly harmful in immunocompromised individuals. To comprehensively investigate the complex interaction between HSV-1 and its host we combined two genome-scale screens for host factors (HFs) involved in virus replication. A yeast two-hybrid screen for protein interactions and a RNA interference (RNAi) screen with a druggable genome small interfering RNA (siRNA) library confirmed existing and identified novel HFs which functionally influence HSV-1 infection. Bioinformatic analyses found the 358 HFs were enriched for several pathways and multi-protein complexes. Of particular interest was the identification of Med23 as a strongly anti-viral component of the largely pro-viral Mediator complex, which links specific transcription factors to RNA polymerase II. The anti-viral effect of Med23 on HSV-1 replication was confirmed in gain-of-function gene overexpression experiments, and this inhibitory effect was specific to HSV-1, as a range of other viruses including Vaccinia virus and Semliki Forest virus were unaffected by Med23 depletion. We found Med23 significantly upregulated expression of the type III interferon family (IFN-λ) at the mRNA and protein level by directly interacting with the transcription factor IRF7. The synergistic effect of Med23 and IRF7 on IFN-λ induction suggests this is the major transcription factor for IFN-λ expression. Genotypic analysis of patients suffering recurrent orofacial HSV-1 outbreaks, previously shown to be deficient in IFN-λ secretion, found a significant correlation with a single nucleotide polymorphism in the IFN-λ3 (IL28b) promoter strongly linked to Hepatitis C disease and treatment outcome. This paper describes a link between Med23 and IFN-λ, provides evidence for the crucial role of IFN-λ in HSV-1 immune control, and highlights the power of integrative genome-scale approaches to identify HFs critical for disease progression and outcome.
Author Summary
Herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1) infects the vast majority of the global population. Whilst most people experience the relatively mild symptoms of cold sores, some individuals suffer more serious diseases like viral meningitis and encephalitis. HSV-1 is also becoming more common as a cause of genital herpes, traditionally associated with HSV-2 infection. Co-infection with HSV-2 is a major contributor to HIV transmission, so a better understanding of HSV-1/HSV-2 disease has wide implications for global healthcare. After initial infection, all herpesviruses have the ability to remain dormant, and can awaken to cause a symptomatic infection at any stage. Whether the virus remains dormant or active is the result of a finely tuned balance between our immune system and evasion techniques developed by the virus. In this study we have found a new method by which the replication of the virus is counteracted. The cellular protein Med23 was found to actively induce an innate anti-viral immune response in the form of the Type III interferons (IFN-lambda), by binding IRF7, a key regulator of interferons, and modulating its activity. Interferon lambda is well known to be important in the control of Hepatitis C infection, and a genetic mutation correlating to an increase in interferon lambda levels is strongly linked to clearance of infection. Here we find the same association between this genetic mutation and the clinical severity of recurrent cases of HSV-1 infection (coldsores). These data identify a Med23-interferon lambda regulatory axis of innate immunity, show that interferon lambda plays a significant role in HSV-1 infection, and contribute to the expanding evidence for interferon lambda in disease control.
PMCID: PMC3738494  PMID: 23950709
3.  Enterovirus 71 Protease 2Apro Targets MAVS to Inhibit Anti-Viral Type I Interferon Responses 
PLoS Pathogens  2013;9(3):e1003231.
Enterovirus 71 (EV71) is the major causative pathogen of hand, foot, and mouth disease (HFMD). Its pathogenicity is not fully understood, but innate immune evasion is likely a key factor. Strategies to circumvent the initiation and effector phases of anti-viral innate immunity are well known; less well known is whether EV71 evades the signal transduction phase regulated by a sophisticated interplay of cellular and viral proteins. Here, we show that EV71 inhibits anti-viral type I interferon (IFN) responses by targeting the mitochondrial anti-viral signaling (MAVS) protein—a unique adaptor molecule activated upon retinoic acid induced gene-I (RIG-I) and melanoma differentiation associated gene (MDA-5) viral recognition receptor signaling—upstream of type I interferon production. MAVS was cleaved and released from mitochondria during EV71 infection. An in vitro cleavage assay demonstrated that the viral 2A protease (2Apro), but not the mutant 2Apro (2Apro-110) containing an inactivated catalytic site, cleaved MAVS. The Protease-Glo assay revealed that MAVS was cleaved at 3 residues between the proline-rich and transmembrane domains, and the resulting fragmentation effectively inactivated downstream signaling. In addition to MAVS cleavage, we found that EV71 infection also induced morphologic and functional changes to the mitochondria. The EV71 structural protein VP1 was detected on purified mitochondria, suggesting not only a novel role for mitochondria in the EV71 replication cycle but also an explanation of how EV71-derived 2Apro could approach MAVS. Taken together, our findings reveal a novel strategy employed by EV71 to escape host anti-viral innate immunity that complements the known EV71-mediated immune-evasion mechanisms.
Author Summary
Enterovirus 71 (EV71) is the causative pathogen of hand, foot, and mouth disease (HFMD). Since the 2008 outbreak of HFMD in Fuyang, Anhui province, China, HFMD has been a severe public health concern affecting children. The major obstacle hindering HFMD prevention and control efforts is the lack of targeted anti-viral treatments and preventive vaccines due to the poorly understood pathogenic mechanisms underlying EV71. Viral evasion of host innate immunity is thought to be a key factor in viral pathogenicity, and many viruses have evolved diverse antagonistic mechanisms during virus-host co-evolution. Here, we show that EV71 has evolved an effective mechanism to inhibit the signal transduction pathway leading to the production of type I interferon, which plays a central role in anti-viral innate immunity. This inhibition is carried out by an EV71-encoded 2A protease (2Apro) that cleaves MAVS—an adaptor molecule critical in the signaling pathway activated by the viral recognition receptors RIG-I and MDA-5—to escape host innate immunity. These findings provide new insights to understand EV71 pathogenesis.
PMCID: PMC3605153  PMID: 23555247
4.  Herpes Simplex Virus Type 1 Evades the Effects of Antibody and Complement In Vivo 
Journal of Virology  2002;76(18):9232-9241.
Herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1) encodes a complement-interacting glycoprotein, gC, and an immunoglobulin G (IgG) Fc binding glycoprotein, gE, that mediate immune evasion by affecting multiple aspects of innate and acquired immunity, including interfering with complement components C1q, C3, C5, and properdin and blocking antibody-dependent cellular cytotoxicity. Previous studies evaluated the individual contributions of gC and gE to immune evasion. Experiments in a murine model that examines the combined effects of gC and gE immune evasion on pathogenesis are now reported. Virulence of wild-type HSV-1 is compared with mutant viruses defective in gC-mediated C3 binding, gE-mediated IgG Fc binding, or both immune evasion activities. Eliminating both activities greatly increased susceptibility of HSV-1 to antibody and complement neutralization in vitro and markedly reduced virulence in vivo as measured by disease scores, virus titers, and mortality. Studies with C3 knockout mice indicated that other activities attributed to these glycoproteins, such as gC-mediated virus attachment to heparan sulfate or gE-mediated cell-to-cell spread, do not account for the reduced virulence of mutant viruses. The results support the importance of gC and gE immune evasion in vivo and suggest potential new targets for prevention and treatment of HSV disease.
PMCID: PMC136467  PMID: 12186907
5.  Human Metapneumovirus SH and G Glycoproteins Inhibit Macropinocytosis-Mediated Entry into Human Dendritic Cells and Reduce CD4+ T Cell Activation 
Journal of Virology  2014;88(11):6453-6469.
Human metapneumovirus (HMPV) is a major etiologic agent of respiratory disease worldwide. HMPV reinfections are common in healthy adults and children, suggesting that the protective immune response to HMPV is incomplete and short-lived. We used gene-deletion viruses to evaluate the role of the attachment G and small hydrophobic SH glycoproteins on virus uptake by primary human monocyte-derived dendritic cells (MDDC) in vitro and on subsequent MDDC maturation and activation of autologous T cells. HMPV with deletion of G and SH (ΔSHG) exhibited increased infectivity but had little effect on MDDC maturation. However, MDDC stimulated with ΔSHG induced increased proliferation of autologous Th1-polarized CD4+ T cells. This effect was independent of virus replication. Increased T cell proliferation was strictly dependent on contact between virus-stimulated MDDC and CD4+ T cells. Confocal microscopy revealed that deletion of SH and G was associated with an increased number of immunological synapses between memory CD4+ T cells and virus-stimulated MDDC. Uptake of HMPV by MDDC was found to be primarily by macropinocytosis. Uptake of wild-type (WT) virus was reduced compared to that of ΔSHG, indicative of inhibition by the SH and G glycoproteins. In addition, DC-SIGN-mediated endocytosis provided a minor alternative pathway that depended on SH and/or G and thus operated only for WT. Altogether, our results show that SH and G glycoproteins reduce the ability of HMPV to be internalized by MDDC, resulting in a reduced ability of the HMPV-stimulated MDDC to activate CD4+ T cells. This study describes a previously unknown mechanism of virus immune evasion.
IMPORTANCE Human metapneumovirus (HMPV) is a major etiologic agent of respiratory disease worldwide. HMPV reinfections are common in healthy adults and children, suggesting that the protective immune response to HMPV is incomplete and short-lived. We found that HMPV attachment G and small hydrophobic SH glycoproteins reduce the ability of HMPV to be internalized by macropinocytosis into human dendritic cells (DC). This results in a reduced ability of the HMPV-stimulated DC to activate Th1-polarized CD4+ T cells. These results contribute to a better understanding of the nature of incomplete protection against this important human respiratory virus, provide new information on the entry of HMPV into human cells, and describe a new mechanism of virus immune evasion.
PMCID: PMC4093882  PMID: 24672038
6.  Morbillivirus Control of the Interferon Response: Relevance of STAT2 and mda5 but Not STAT1 for Canine Distemper Virus Virulence in Ferrets 
Journal of Virology  2014;88(5):2941-2950.
The V proteins of paramyxoviruses control the innate immune response. In particular, the V protein of the genus Morbillivirus interferes with the signal transducer and activator of transcription 1 (STAT1), STAT2, and melanoma differentiation-associated protein 5 (mda5) signaling pathways. To characterize the contributions of these pathways to canine distemper virus (CDV) pathogenesis, we took advantage of the knowledge about the mechanisms of interaction between the measles virus V protein with these key regulators of innate immunity. We generated recombinant CDVs with V proteins unable to properly interact with STAT1, STAT2, or mda5. A virus with combined STAT2 and mda5 deficiencies was also generated, and available wild-type and V-protein-knockout viruses were used as controls. Ferrets infected with wild-type and STAT1-blind viruses developed severe leukopenia and loss of lymphocyte proliferation activity and succumbed to the disease within 14 days. In contrast, animals infected with viruses with STAT2 or mda5 defect or both STAT2 and mda5 defects developed a mild self-limiting disease similar to that associated with the V-knockout virus. This study demonstrates the importance of interference with STAT2 and mda5 signaling for CDV immune evasion and provides a starting point for the development of morbillivirus vectors with reduced immunosuppressive properties.
IMPORTANCE The V proteins of paramyxoviruses interfere with the recognition of the virus by the immune system of the host. For morbilliviruses, the V protein is known to interact with the signal transducer and activator of transcription 1 (STAT1) and STAT2 and the melanoma differentiation-associated protein 5 (mda5), which are involved in interferon signaling. Here, we examined the contribution of each of these signaling pathways to the pathogenesis of the carnivore morbillivirus canine distemper virus. Using viruses selectively unable to interfere with the respective signaling pathway to infect ferrets, we found that inhibition of STAT2 and mda5 signaling was critical for lethal disease. Our findings provide new insights in the mechanisms of morbillivirus immune evasion and may lead to the development of new vaccines and oncolytic vectors.
PMCID: PMC3958063  PMID: 24371065
7.  Clinical implications of hepatitis B virus mutations: Recent advances 
Hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection is a major cause of acute and chronic hepatitis, and of its long-term complications. It is the most variable among DNA viruses, mostly because of its unique life cycle which includes the activity of error-prone enzyme, reverse transcriptase, and the very high virion production per day. In last two decades, numerous research studies have shown that the speed of disease progression, reliability of diagnostic methods and the success of antiviral therapy and immunization are all influenced by genetic variability of this virus. It was shown that mutations in specific regions of HBV genome could be responsible for unwanted clinical outcomes or evasion of detection by diagnostic tools, thus making the monitoring for these mutations a necessity in proper evaluation of patients. The success of the vaccination programs has now been challenged by the discovery of mutant viruses showing amino acid substitutions in hepatitis B surface antigen (HBsAg), which may lead to evasion of vaccine-induced immunity. However, the emergence of these mutations has not yet raised concern since it was shown that they develop slowly. Investigations of HBV genetic variability and clinical implications of specific mutations have resulted in significant advances over the past decade, particularly in regard to management of resistance to antiviral drugs. In the era of drugs with high genetic barrier for resistance, on-going monitoring for possible resistance is still essential since prolonged therapy is often necessary. Understanding the frequencies and clinical implications of viral mutations may contribute to improvement of diagnostic procedures, more proper planning of immunization programs and creating the most efficient therapeutic protocols.
PMCID: PMC4069294  PMID: 24976703
Hepatitis B virus; Hepatitis B virus variability; Mutation; Drug resistance; Vaccine escape
8.  Stage-Specific Inhibition of MHC Class I Presentation by the Epstein-Barr Virus BNLF2a Protein during Virus Lytic Cycle 
PLoS Pathogens  2009;5(6):e1000490.
The gamma-herpesvirus Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) persists for life in infected individuals despite the presence of a strong immune response. During the lytic cycle of EBV many viral proteins are expressed, potentially allowing virally infected cells to be recognized and eliminated by CD8+ T cells. We have recently identified an immune evasion protein encoded by EBV, BNLF2a, which is expressed in early phase lytic replication and inhibits peptide- and ATP-binding functions of the transporter associated with antigen processing. Ectopic expression of BNLF2a causes decreased surface MHC class I expression and inhibits the presentation of indicator antigens to CD8+ T cells. Here we sought to examine the influence of BNLF2a when expressed naturally during EBV lytic replication. We generated a BNLF2a-deleted recombinant EBV (ΔBNLF2a) and compared the ability of ΔBNLF2a and wild-type EBV-transformed B cell lines to be recognized by CD8+ T cell clones specific for EBV-encoded immediate early, early and late lytic antigens. Epitopes derived from immediate early and early expressed proteins were better recognized when presented by ΔBNLF2a transformed cells compared to wild-type virus transformants. However, recognition of late antigens by CD8+ T cells remained equally poor when presented by both wild-type and ΔBNLF2a cell targets. Analysis of BNLF2a and target protein expression kinetics showed that although BNLF2a is expressed during early phase replication, it is expressed at a time when there is an upregulation of immediate early proteins and initiation of early protein synthesis. Interestingly, BNLF2a protein expression was found to be lost by late lytic cycle yet ΔBNLF2a-transformed cells in late stage replication downregulated surface MHC class I to a similar extent as wild-type EBV-transformed cells. These data show that BNLF2a-mediated expression is stage-specific, affecting presentation of immediate early and early proteins, and that other evasion mechanisms operate later in the lytic cycle.
Author Summary
Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) is carried by approximately 90% of the world's population, where it persists and is chronically shed despite a vigorous specific immune response, a key component of which are CD8+ T cells that recognize and kill infected cells. The mechanisms the virus uses to evade these responses are not clear. Recently we identified a gene encoded by EBV, BNLF2a, that when expressed ectopically in cells inhibited their recognition by CD8+ T cells. To determine the contribution of BNLF2a to evasion of EBV-specific CD8+ T cell recognition and whether EBV encoded additional immune evasion mechanisms, a recombinant EBV was constructed in which BNLF2a was deleted. We found that cells infected with the recombinant virus were better recognized by CD8+ T cells specific for targets expressed co-incidently with BNLF2a, compared to cells infected with a non-recombinant virus. However, proteins expressed at late stages of the viral infection cycle were poorly recognised by CD8+ T cells, suggesting EBV encodes additional immune evasion genes to prevent effective CD8+ T cell recognition. This study highlights the stage-specific nature of viral immune evasion mechanisms.
PMCID: PMC2695766  PMID: 19557156
9.  Two Novel Human Cytomegalovirus NK Cell Evasion Functions Target MICA for Lysosomal Degradation 
PLoS Pathogens  2014;10(5):e1004058.
NKG2D plays a major role in controlling immune responses through the regulation of natural killer (NK) cells, αβ and γδ T-cell function. This activating receptor recognizes eight distinct ligands (the MHC Class I polypeptide-related sequences (MIC) A andB, and UL16-binding proteins (ULBP)1–6) induced by cellular stress to promote recognition cells perturbed by malignant transformation or microbial infection. Studies into human cytomegalovirus (HCMV) have aided both the identification and characterization of NKG2D ligands (NKG2DLs). HCMV immediate early (IE) gene up regulates NKGDLs, and we now describe the differential activation of ULBP2 and MICA/B by IE1 and IE2 respectively. Despite activation by IE functions, HCMV effectively suppressed cell surface expression of NKGDLs through both the early and late phases of infection. The immune evasion functions UL16, UL142, and microRNA(miR)-UL112 are known to target NKG2DLs. While infection with a UL16 deletion mutant caused the expected increase in MICB and ULBP2 cell surface expression, deletion of UL142 did not have a similar impact on its target, MICA. We therefore performed a systematic screen of the viral genome to search of addition functions that targeted MICA. US18 and US20 were identified as novel NK cell evasion functions capable of acting independently to promote MICA degradation by lysosomal degradation. The most dramatic effect on MICA expression was achieved when US18 and US20 acted in concert. US18 and US20 are the first members of the US12 gene family to have been assigned a function. The US12 family has 10 members encoded sequentially through US12–US21; a genetic arrangement, which is suggestive of an ‘accordion’ expansion of an ancestral gene in response to a selective pressure. This expansion must have be an ancient event as the whole family is conserved across simian cytomegaloviruses from old world monkeys. The evolutionary benefit bestowed by the combinatorial effect of US18 and US20 on MICA may have contributed to sustaining the US12 gene family.
Author Summary
Human cytomegalovirus (HCMV) is a herpesvirus that infects most people in the world, usually without producing symptoms. However, infection is life-long and must be kept in check by the immune system. When the immune system is weakened, the outcome of HCMV infection can be very serious. Thus, HCMV is the major cause of birth defects resulting from infection of the fetus during pregnancy, and it can cause severe disease in people with a weakened immune system, especially transplant recipients and HIV/AIDS patients. One type of immune cell, the natural killer (NK) cell, is crucial in controlling cells in the body that are abnormal. They do this by recognizing cells, which have special stress proteins on their surface, and killing them. When cells are infected with HCMV, they start to make these stress proteins. However, the virus has evolved ways to stop NK cells from killing infected cells by quickly stopping the stress proteins from reaching the surface. We have now identified two HCMV genes that target a major stress protein (called MICA) and cause its rapid destruction. Removing these two genes from HCMV renders infected cells very susceptible to killing by NK cells. This discovery might help the development of new ways to fight HCMV.
PMCID: PMC4006889  PMID: 24787765
10.  Blocking Herpes Simplex Virus 2 Glycoprotein E Immune Evasion as an Approach To Enhance Efficacy of a Trivalent Subunit Antigen Vaccine for Genital Herpes 
Journal of Virology  2014;88(15):8421-8432.
Herpes simplex virus 2 (HSV-2) subunit antigen vaccines targeting virus entry molecules have failed to prevent genital herpes in human trials. Our approach is to include a virus entry molecule and add antigens that block HSV-2 immune evasion. HSV-2 glycoprotein C (gC2) is an immune evasion molecule that inhibits complement. We previously reported that adding gC2 to gD2 improved vaccine efficacy compared to the efficacy of either antigen alone in mice and guinea pigs. Here we demonstrate that HSV-2 glycoprotein E (gE2) functions as an immune evasion molecule by binding the IgG Fc domain. HSV-2 gE2 is synergistic with gC2 in protecting the virus from antibody and complement neutralization. Antibodies produced by immunization with gE2 blocked gE2-mediated IgG Fc binding and cell-to-cell spread. Mice immunized with gE2 were only partially protected against HSV-2 vaginal challenge in mice; however, when gE2 was added to gC2/gD2 to form a trivalent vaccine, neutralizing antibody titers with and without complement were significantly higher than those produced by gD2 alone. Importantly, the trivalent vaccine protected the dorsal root ganglia (DRG) of 32/33 (97%) mice between days 2 and 7 postchallenge, compared with 27/33 (82%) in the gD2 group. The HSV-2 DNA copy number was significantly lower in mice immunized with the trivalent vaccine than in those immunized with gD2 alone. The extent of DRG protection using the trivalent vaccine was better than what we previously reported for gC2/gD2 immunization. Therefore, gE2 is a candidate antigen for inclusion in a multivalent subunit vaccine that attempts to block HSV-2 immune evasion.
IMPORTANCE Herpes simplex virus is the most common cause of genital ulcer disease worldwide. Infection results in emotional distress for infected individuals and their partners, is life threatening for infants exposed to herpes during childbirth, and greatly increases the risk of individuals acquiring and transmitting HIV infection. A vaccine that prevents genital herpes infection will have major public health benefits. Our vaccine approach includes strategies to prevent the virus from evading immune attack. Mice were immunized with a trivalent vaccine containing an antigen that induces antibodies to block virus entry and two antigens that induce antibodies that block immune evasion from antibody and complement. Immunized mice demonstrated no genital disease, and 32/33 (97%) animals had no evidence of infection of dorsal root ganglia, suggesting that the vaccine may prevent the establishment of latency and recurrent infections.
PMCID: PMC4135967  PMID: 24829358
11.  Inhibition of MHC Class I Is a Virulence Factor in Herpes Simplex Virus Infection of Mice 
PLoS Pathogens  2005;1(1):e7.
Herpes simplex virus (HSV) has a number of genes devoted to immune evasion. One such gene, ICP47, binds to the transporter associated with antigen presentation (TAP) 1/2 thereby preventing transport of viral peptides into the endoplasmic reticulum, loading of peptides onto nascent major histocompatibility complex (MHC) class I molecules, and presentation of peptides to CD8 T cells. However, ICP47 binds poorly to murine TAP1/2 and so inhibits antigen presentation by MHC class I in mice much less efficiently than in humans, limiting the utility of murine models to address the importance of MHC class I inhibition in HSV immunopathogenesis. To address this limitation, we generated recombinant HSVs that efficiently inhibit antigen presentation by murine MHC class I. These recombinant viruses prevented cytotoxic T lymphocyte killing of infected cells in vitro, replicated to higher titers in the central nervous system, and induced paralysis more frequently than control HSV. This increase in virulence was due to inhibition of antigen presentation to CD8 T cells, since these differences were not evident in MHC class I-deficient mice or in mice in which CD8 T cells were depleted. Inhibition of MHC class I by the recombinant viruses did not impair the induction of the HSV-specific CD8 T-cell response, indicating that cross-presentation is the principal mechanism by which HSV-specific CD8 T cells are induced. This inhibition in turn facilitates greater viral entry, replication, and/or survival in the central nervous system, leading to an increased incidence of paralysis.
While animal models are often instructive in understanding human diseases, many factors that influence disease differ between mouse and man. Although mice can be experimentally infected with HSV-1, this virus has evolved as a human pathogen. One facet of this evolution is HSV's mechanisms to evade the immune response, allowing the virus to persist for the lifetime of the human host. This evasion includes preventing CD8 T cells from recognizing and killing infected cells by inhibiting the expression of the molecule that presents viral peptides to CD8 T cells: major histocompatibility complex (MHC) class I. HSV is unable to inhibit mouse MHC class I, thus rendering this immune-evasion strategy inoperative in the mouse. To better understand the biology of HSV infection and the immune response to this virus in humans, the authors corrected this deficiency by inserting a gene which inhibits murine MHC class I. This recombinant virus demonstrates that MHC class I inhibition is an important determinant of disease progression. The authors found that the recombinant HSV still effectively elicits a CD8 T-cell response, but this response is ineffective in controlling the infection. This finding reveals the important distinction between the size of the immune response and the effectiveness of the response, which may be important to HSV vaccine studies.
PMCID: PMC1238742  PMID: 16201019
12.  Scabies Mite Inactive Serine Proteases Are Potent Inhibitors of the Human Complement Lectin Pathway 
Scabies is an infectious skin disease caused by the mite Sarcoptes scabiei and has been classified as one of the six most prevalent epidermal parasitic skin diseases infecting populations living in poverty by the World Health Organisation. The role of the complement system, a pivotal component of human innate immunity, as an important defence against invading pathogens has been well documented and many parasites have an arsenal of anti-complement defences. We previously reported on a family of scabies mite proteolytically inactive serine protease paralogues (SMIPP-Ss) thought to be implicated in host defence evasion. We have since shown that two family members, SMIPP-S D1 and I1 have the ability to bind the human complement components C1q, mannose binding lectin (MBL) and properdin and are capable of inhibiting all three human complement pathways. This investigation focused on inhibition of the lectin pathway of complement activation as it is likely to be the primary pathway affecting scabies mites. Activation of the lectin pathway relies on the activation of MBL, and as SMIPP-S D1 and I1 have previously been shown to bind MBL, the nature of this interaction was examined using binding and mutagenesis studies. SMIPP-S D1 bound MBL in complex with MBL-associated serine proteases (MASPs) and released the MASP-2 enzyme from the complex. SMIPP-S I1 was also able to bind MBL in complex with MASPs, but MASP-1 and MASP-2 remained in the complex. Despite these differences in mechanism, both molecules inhibited activation of complement components downstream of MBL. Mutagenesis studies revealed that both SMIPP-Ss used an alternative site of the molecule from the residual active site region to inhibit the lectin pathway. We propose that SMIPP-Ss are potent lectin pathway inhibitors and that this mechanism represents an important tool in the immune evasion repertoire of the parasitic mite and a potential target for therapeutics.
Author Summary
Scabies is a skin infection caused by parasitic scabies mites. There are an estimated 300 million cases globally, with the majority of infections occurring in the world's poorest communities. In Australia, scabies is common in remote Indigenous communities where the infection rate is 16 times higher than the non-Indigenous population. Current treatments have remained relatively unchanged for years and consequently treatment resistance has inevitability emerged. Despite scabies being a well known and frequent infectious skin disease, scabies research has been neglected, resulting in a lack of basic scabies mite biological data. As a result no new therapeutics have been developed. Our research seeks to understand the relationship between the parasite and the human host and one key area of interest is how mites avoid destruction and survive in human skin. We have determined that to survive an attack by the skin's immune defence system the mites release counter defensive proteins that inhibit the skin's defences from activating. This strategy allows the mites to survive in the skin, reproduce and to establish an infection. With this information we can design therapeutics that target these mite proteins, allow the skin to mount an attack and potentially reduce infection.
PMCID: PMC4031079  PMID: 24854034
13.  Proteomic Screening of Human Targets of Viral microRNAs Reveals Functions Associated with Immune Evasion and Angiogenesis 
PLoS Pathogens  2013;9(9):e1003584.
Kaposi's sarcoma (KS) is caused by infection with Kaposi's sarcoma-associated herpesvirus (KSHV). The virus expresses unique microRNAs (miRNAs), but the targets and functions of these miRNAs are not completely understood. In order to identify human targets of viral miRNAs, we measured protein expression changes caused by multiple KSHV miRNAs using pulsed stable labeling with amino acids in cell culture (pSILAC) in primary endothelial cells. This led to the identification of multiple human genes that are repressed at the protein level, but not at the miRNA level. Further analysis also identified that KSHV miRNAs can modulate activity or expression of upstream regulatory factors, resulting in suppressed activation of a protein involved in leukocyte recruitment (ICAM1) following lysophosphatidic acid treatment, as well as up-regulation of a pro-angiogenic protein (HIF1α), and up-regulation of a protein involved in stimulating angiogenesis (HMOX1). This study aids in our understanding of miRNA mechanisms of repression and miRNA contributions to viral pathogenesis.
Author Summary
Kaposi's sarcoma-associated herpesvirus is the virus associated with multiple proliferative disorders, including Kaposi's sarcoma, primary effusion lymphoma and multicentric Castleman's disease. This virus expresses small nucleic acids (with sequences distinct from other organisms), called microRNAs, that can limit expression of specific genes. Currently, we only know a few validated targets of these viral microRNAs and the mechanisms of microRNA-mediated repression are still being actively debated. We used a method to look at protein expression changes induced by these viral microRNAs to better understand microRNA targets and functions. The method we describe here found microRNA targets that are missed by other approaches. In addition to identifying previous microRNA targets and discovering new microRNA targets, we found the function of specific viral microRNAs to be associated with immune evasion and the expansion of blood vessel networks, a hallmark of Kaposi's sarcoma. The results may be a resource for those studying microRNAs from other organisms, and furthermore, the microRNA functions described provide mechanistic insight into viral pathogenesis and immune evasion.
PMCID: PMC3764211  PMID: 24039573
14.  Blocking Immune Evasion as a Novel Approach for Prevention and Treatment of Herpes Simplex Virus Infection 
Journal of Virology  2003;77(23):12639-12645.
Many microorganisms encode immune evasion molecules to escape host defenses. Herpes simplex virus type 1 glycoprotein gC is an immunoevasin that inhibits complement activation by binding complement C3b. gC is expressed on the virus envelope and infected cell surface, which makes gC potentially accessible to blocking antibodies. Mice passively immunized with gC monoclonal antibodies prior to infection were protected against herpes simplex virus challenge only if the gC antibodies blocked C3b binding. Mice treated 1 or 2 days postinfection with gC monoclonal antibodies that block C3b binding had less severe disease than control mice treated with nonimmune immunoglobulin G (IgG). Mice immunized with gC protein produced antibodies that blocked C3b binding to gC. Immunized mice were significantly protected against challenge by wild-type virus, but not against a gC mutant virus lacking the C3b binding domain, suggesting that protection was mediated by antibodies that target the gC immune evasion domain. IgG and complement from subjects immunized with an experimental herpes simplex virus glycoprotein gD vaccine neutralized far more mutant virus defective in immune evasion than wild-type virus, supporting the importance of immune evasion molecules in reducing vaccine potency. These results suggest that it is possible to block immune evasion domains on herpes simplex virus and that this approach has therapeutic potential and may enhance vaccine efficacy.
PMCID: PMC262598  PMID: 14610186
15.  Hepatitis C Virus-Induced Cytoplasmic Organelles Use the Nuclear Transport Machinery to Establish an Environment Conducive to Virus Replication 
PLoS Pathogens  2013;9(10):e1003744.
Hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection induces formation of a membranous web structure in the host cell cytoplasm where the viral genome replicates and virions assemble. The membranous web is thought to concentrate viral components and hide viral RNA from pattern recognition receptors. We have uncovered a role for nuclear pore complex proteins (Nups) and nuclear transport factors (NTFs) in the membranous web. We show that HCV infection leads to increased levels of cytoplasmic Nups that accumulate at sites enriched for HCV proteins. Moreover, we detected interactions between specific HCV proteins and both Nups and NTFs. We hypothesize that cytoplasmically positioned Nups facilitate formation of the membranous web and contribute to the compartmentalization of viral replication. Accordingly, we show that transport cargo proteins normally targeted to the nucleus are capable of entering regions of the membranous web, and that depletion of specific Nups or Kaps inhibits HCV replication and assembly.
Author Summary
Hepatitis C virus (HCV) is a positive strand RNA virus and is a major cause of liver disease worldwide, affecting more than 170 million individuals. Infection of cells with HCV leads to rearrangement of cytoplasmic host cell membranes into viral replication and assembly complexes collectively known as the membranous web. This membranous web is thought to be involved in concentrating viral components and immune evasion, though the mechanisms by which these functions are achieved remains an important question in the field. Here, we report that nuclear envelope structures that transport macromolecules into and out of the nucleus, termed nuclear pore complexes (NPCs), are also present in the membranous web of cells infected with HCV and other positive strand RNA viruses. Our results suggest that these NPCs function to regulate access of proteins into the interior of the membranous web, thus contributing to the establishment of an environment conducive to viral replication and viral immune evasion. Consistent with this idea, we show that NPC proteins are required for HCV assembly. Our discovery that nuclear transport proteins play a role in HCV replication, and potentially other viral infections, may lead to the discovery of new targets for antiviral therapies.
PMCID: PMC3814334  PMID: 24204278
16.  Mycobacterium tuberculosis Controls MicroRNA-99b (miR-99b) Expression in Infected Murine Dendritic Cells to Modulate Host Immunity* 
The Journal of Biological Chemistry  2012;288(7):5056-5061.
Background: Modulation of host miRNAs coincides with increased pathogenicity in various infectious diseases.
Results: miR-99b is up-regulated in M. tuberculosis-infected dendritic cells, which inhibits production of proinflammatory cytokines.
Conclusion: Our findings unfold a novel immune evasion strategy of M. tuberculosis by modulating miRNAs.
Significance: Our study opens up the possibility to design vaccines and immunotherapies for tuberculosis by targeting specific miRNAs.
Mycobacterium tuberculosis resides and replicates within host phagocytes by modulating host microbicidal responses. In addition, it suppresses the production of host protective cytokines to prevent activation of and antigen presentation by M. tuberculosis-infected cells, causing dysregulation of host protective adaptive immune responses. Many cytokines are regulated by microRNAs (miRNAs), a newly discovered class of small noncoding RNAs, which have been implicated in modulating host immune responses in many bacterial and viral diseases. Here, we show that miRNA-99b (miR-99b), an orphan miRNA, plays a key role in the pathogenesis of M. tuberculosis infection. We found that miR-99b expression was highly up-regulated in M. tuberculosis strain H37Rv-infected dendritic cells (DCs) and macrophages. Blockade of miR-99b expression by antagomirs resulted in significantly reduced bacterial growth in DCs. Interestingly, knockdown of miR-99b in DCs significantly up-regulated proinflammatory cytokines such as IL-6, IL-12, and IL-1β. Furthermore, mRNA and membrane-bound protein data indicated that inhibition of miR-99b augments TNF-α and TNFRSF-4 production. Thus, miR-99b targets TNF-α and TNFRSF-4 receptor genes. Treatment of anti-miR-99b-transfected DCs with anti-TNF-α antibody resulted in increased bacterial burden. Thus, our findings unveil a novel host evasion mechanism adopted by M. tuberculosis via miR-99b, which may open up new avenues for designing miRNA-based vaccines and therapies.
PMCID: PMC3576108  PMID: 23233675
Innate immunity; MicroRNA; Mycobacterium tuberculosis; T cell; Tumor necrosis factor (TNF); DCs
17.  Evasion of the Interferon-Mediated Antiviral Response by Filoviruses 
Viruses  2010;2(1):262-282.
The members of the filoviruses are recognized as some of the most lethal viruses affecting human and non-human primates. The only two genera of the Filoviridae family, Marburg virus (MARV) and Ebola virus (EBOV), comprise the main etiologic agents of severe hemorrhagic fever outbreaks in central Africa, with case fatality rates ranging from 25 to 90%. Fatal outcomes have been associated with a late and dysregulated immune response to infection, very likely due to the virus targeting key host immune cells, such as macrophages and dendritic cells (DCs) that are necessary to mediate effective innate and adaptive immune responses. Despite major progress in the development of vaccine candidates for filovirus infections, a licensed vaccine or therapy for human use is still not available. During the last ten years, important progress has been made in understanding the molecular mechanisms of filovirus pathogenesis. Several lines of evidence implicate the impairment of the host interferon (IFN) antiviral innate immune response by MARV or EBOV as an important determinant of virulence. In vitro and in vivo experimental infections with recombinant Zaire Ebola virus (ZEBOV), the best characterized filovirus, demonstrated that the viral protein VP35 plays a key role in inhibiting the production of IFN-α/β. Further, the action of VP35 is synergized by the inhibition of cellular responses to IFN-α/β by the minor matrix viral protein VP24. The dual action of these viral proteins may contribute to an efficient initial virus replication and dissemination in the host. Noticeably, the analogous function of these viral proteins in MARV has not been reported. Because the IFN response is a major component of the innate immune response to virus infection, this chapter reviews recent findings on the molecular mechanisms of IFN-mediated antiviral evasion by filovirus infection.
PMCID: PMC3185555  PMID: 21994610
IFN; VP35; VP24; filovirus
18.  The Bacterial Defensin Resistance Protein MprF Consists of Separable Domains for Lipid Lysinylation and Antimicrobial Peptide Repulsion 
PLoS Pathogens  2009;5(11):e1000660.
Many bacterial pathogens achieve resistance to defensin-like cationic antimicrobial peptides (CAMPs) by the multiple peptide resistance factor (MprF) protein. MprF plays a crucial role in Staphylococcus aureus virulence and it is involved in resistance to the CAMP-like antibiotic daptomycin. MprF is a large membrane protein that modifies the anionic phospholipid phosphatidylglycerol with l-lysine, thereby diminishing the bacterial affinity for CAMPs. Its widespread occurrence recommends MprF as a target for novel antimicrobials, although the mode of action of MprF has remained incompletely understood. We demonstrate that the hydrophilic C-terminal domain and six of the fourteen proposed trans-membrane segments of MprF are sufficient for full-level lysyl-phosphatidylglycerol (Lys-PG) production and that several conserved amino acid positions in MprF are indispensable for Lys-PG production. Notably, Lys-PG production did not lead to efficient CAMP resistance and most of the Lys-PG remained in the inner leaflet of the cytoplasmic membrane when the large N-terminal hydrophobic domain of MprF was absent, indicating a crucial role of this protein part. The N-terminal domain alone did not confer CAMP resistance or repulsion of the cationic test protein cytochrome c. However, when the N-terminal domain was coexpressed with the Lys-PG synthase domain either in one protein or as two separate proteins, full-level CAMP resistance was achieved. Moreover, only coexpression of the two domains led to efficient Lys-PG translocation to the outer leaflet of the membrane and to full-level cytochrome c repulsion, indicating that the N-terminal domain facilitates the flipping of Lys-PG. Thus, MprF represents a new class of lipid-biosynthetic enzymes with two separable functional domains that synthesize Lys-PG and facilitate Lys-PG translocation. Our study unravels crucial details on the molecular basis of an important bacterial immune evasion mechanism and it may help to employ MprF as a target for new anti-virulence drugs.
Author Summary
Certain bacterial immune-evasion factors such as the MprF protein are highly conserved in many bacterial pathogens and represent attractive targets for new ‘anti-virulence’ drugs. MprF, initially discovered in the major human pathogen Staphylococcus aureus, protects bacteria against ‘innate human antibiotics’ such as the defensin peptides. In addition, MprF has recently been implicated in resistance to the new defensin-like antibiotic daptomycin. MprF modifies bacterial membrane lipids with the amino acid l-lysine, which leads to electrostatic repulsion of the membrane-damaging peptides. The molecular mechanism of MprF has remained largely unknown. We demonstrate that MprF represents a novel bifunctional type of enzyme. The N- and C-terminal domains of MprF are both required for mediating antimicrobial peptide resistance but they can be expressed as two separate proteins without loss of function indicating that they represent distinct functional modules. While the C-terminal domain accomplishes lipid lysinylation the N-terminal membrane-embedded domain is required to expose the lysine lipid at the outer surface of the bacterial membrane where it is able to repulse the antimicrobial peptides. These findings unravel the molecular basis of an important bacterial immune evasion mechanism and they may help to employ MprF as a target for new anti-virulence drugs.
PMCID: PMC2774229  PMID: 19915718
19.  Messenger RNA Sequence Rather than Protein Sequence Determines the Level of Self-synthesis and Antigen Presentation of the EBV-encoded Antigen, EBNA1 
PLoS Pathogens  2012;8(12):e1003112.
Unique purine-rich mRNA sequences embedded in the coding sequences of a distinct group of gammaherpesvirus maintenance proteins underlie the ability of the latently infected cell to minimize immune recognition. The Epstein-Barr virus nuclear antigen, EBNA1, a well characterized lymphocryptovirus maintenance protein has been shown to inhibit in cis antigen presentation, due in part to a large internal repeat domain encoding glycine and alanine residues (GAr) encoded by a purine-rich mRNA sequence. Recent studies have suggested that it is the purine-rich mRNA sequence of this repeat region rather than the encoded GAr polypeptide that directly inhibits EBNA1 self-synthesis and contributes to immune evasion. To test this hypothesis, we generated a series of EBNA1 internal repeat frameshift constructs and assessed their effects on cis-translation and endogenous antigen presentation. Diverse peptide sequences resulting from alternative repeat reading frames did not alleviate the translational inhibition characteristic of EBNA1 self-synthesis or the ensuing reduced surface presentation of EBNA1-specific peptide-MHC class I complexes. Human cells expressing the EBNA1 frameshift variants were also poorly recognized by antigen-specific T-cells. Furthermore, a comparative analysis of the mRNA sequences of the corresponding repeat regions of different viral maintenance homologues highlights the high degree of identity between the nucleotide sequences despite very little homology in the encoded amino acid sequences. Based on these combined observations, we propose that the cis-translational inhibitory effect of the EBNA1 internal repeat sequence operates mechanistically at the nucleotide level, potentially through RNA secondary structural elements, and is unlikely to be mediated through the GAr polypeptide. The demonstration that the EBNA1 repeat mRNA sequence and not the encoded protein sequence underlies immune evasion in this class of virus suggests a novel approach to therapeutic development through the use of anti-sense strategies or small molecules targeting EBNA1 mRNA structure.
Author Summary
Viruses establishing persistent latent infections have evolved various mechanisms to avoid immune surveillance. The Epstein-Barr virus-encoded nuclear antigen, EBNA1, expressed in all EBV-associated malignancies, modulates its own protein levels at quantities sufficient to maintain viral infection but low enough so as to minimize an immune response by the infected host cell. This evasion mechanism is regulated through an internal purine-rich mRNA repeat sequence encoding glycine and alanine residues. In this study we assess the impact of the repeat's nucleotide versus peptide sequence on inhibiting EBNA1 self-synthesis and antigen presentation. We demonstrate that altered peptide sequences resulting from frameshift mutations within the repeat do not alleviate the immune-evasive function of EBNA1, suggesting that the repetitive purine-rich mRNA sequence itself is responsible for inhibiting EBNA1 synthesis and subsequent poor immunogenicity. Our comparative analysis of the mRNA sequences of the corresponding repeat regions of different gammaherpesvirus maintenance homologues to EBNA1 highlights the high degree of identity between the nucleotide sequences despite very little homology in the encoded amino acid sequences. These studies demonstrate the importance of gammaherpesvirus purine-rich mRNA repeat sequences on antigenic epitope generation and evasion from T-cell mediated immune control, suggesting novel approaches to prevention and treatment of latent infection by this class of virus.
PMCID: PMC3531512  PMID: 23300450
20.  Hepatitis B Virus Polymerase Blocks Pattern Recognition Receptor Signaling via Interaction with DDX3: Implications for Immune Evasion 
PLoS Pathogens  2010;6(7):e1000986.
Viral infection leads to induction of pattern-recognition receptor signaling, which leads to interferon regulatory factor (IRF) activation and ultimately interferon (IFN) production. To establish infection, many viruses have strategies to evade the innate immunity. For the hepatitis B virus (HBV), which causes chronic infection in the liver, the evasion strategy remains uncertain. We now show that HBV polymerase (Pol) blocks IRF signaling, indicating that HBV Pol is the viral molecule that effectively counteracts host innate immune response. In particular, HBV Pol inhibits TANK-binding kinase 1 (TBK1)/IκB kinase-ε (IKKε), the effector kinases of IRF signaling. Intriguingly, HBV Pol inhibits TBK1/IKKε activity by disrupting the interaction between IKKε and DDX3 DEAD box RNA helicase, which was recently shown to augment TBK1/IKKε activity. This unexpected role of HBV Pol may explain how HBV evades innate immune response in the early phase of the infection. A therapeutic implication of this work is that a strategy to interfere with the HBV Pol-DDX3 interaction might lead to the resolution of life-long persistent infection.
Author Summary
Viral infection is sensed by the host innate immune system, which acts to limit viral infection by inducing antiviral cytokines such as the interferons. To establish infection, many viruses have strategies to evade the innate immunity. For the hepatitis B virus (HBV), which causes chronic infection in the liver, the evasion strategy remains mysterious. An earlier study using the chimpanzee as a model suggested that the host innate immune system failed to detect HBV. As a result, it was dubbed “stealth virus”. In contrast, subsequent studies performed in vitro have suggested that HBV is, in fact, detected by the innate immune system but can effectively counteract this response. Whether HBV is detected by the innate immune system remains controversial; however, it is widely accepted that, regardless of detection, HBV effectively inhibits the host innate immune response early in infection through an unknown mechanism. The data presented here indicate that HBV Pol (polymerase or reverse transcriptase) blocks the innate immune response. This unexpected role of HBV Pol may explain why HBV appears to act as a “stealth virus” in the early phase of the infection.
PMCID: PMC2904777  PMID: 20657822
21.  Viral Sequestration of Antigen Subverts Cross Presentation to CD8+ T Cells 
PLoS Pathogens  2009;5(5):e1000457.
Virus-specific CD8+ T cells (TCD8+) are initially triggered by peptide-MHC Class I complexes on the surface of professional antigen presenting cells (pAPC). Peptide-MHC complexes are produced by two spatially distinct pathways during virus infection. Endogenous antigens synthesized within virus-infected pAPC are presented via the direct-presentation pathway. Many viruses have developed strategies to subvert direct presentation. When direct presentation is blocked, the cross-presentation pathway, in which antigen is transferred from virus-infected cells to uninfected pAPC, is thought to compensate and allow the generation of effector TCD8+. Direct presentation of vaccinia virus (VACV) antigens driven by late promoters does not occur, as an abortive infection of pAPC prevents production of these late antigens. This lack of direct presentation results in a greatly diminished or ablated TCD8+ response to late antigens. We demonstrate that late poxvirus antigens do not enter the cross-presentation pathway, even when identical antigens driven by early promoters access this pathway efficiently. The mechanism mediating this novel means of viral modulation of antigen presentation involves the sequestration of late antigens within virus factories. Early antigens and cellular antigens are cross-presented from virus-infected cells, as are late antigens that are targeted to compartments outside of the virus factories. This virus-mediated blockade specifically targets the cross-presentation pathway, since late antigen that is not cross-presented efficiently enters the MHC Class II presentation pathway. These data are the first to describe an evasion mechanism employed by pathogens to prevent entry into the cross-presentation pathway. In the absence of direct presentation, this evasion mechanism leads to a complete ablation of the TCD8+ response and a potential replicative advantage for the virus. Such mechanisms of viral modulation of antigen presentation must also be taken into account during the rational design of antiviral vaccines.
Author Summary
Understanding the pathways by which protective immunity is mediated against viral pathogens is essential to allow the design of effective vaccines. No effective vaccine has been designed to activate killer cells of the immune system expressing CD8, although CD8+ T cells are the most effective cells at modulating anti-viral immunity. We have studied the process that activates the CD8+ T cell to better understand how the cells are triggered so future vaccines might readily activate these cells. CD8+ T cells are activated following recognition of small peptides derived from a virus that binds to a cell surface MHC molecule. Many viruses have evolved to prevent the presentation of these peptide-MHC complexes to CD8+ T cells. However, the immune system avoids these viral “evasion” mechanisms by allowing virus-derived peptides to be generated from viral proteins that are taken up by uninfected cells, a process termed “cross presentation”. We have shown that a poxvirus can specifically prevent the presentation of its proteins by uninfected cells, the first demonstration of evasion of cross presentation. This knowledge is vital in the use of certain viral vectors during vaccine design and adds to the numerous ways in which viruses can evade the immune system.
PMCID: PMC2680035  PMID: 19478869
22.  Diverse Specificities, Phenotypes, and Antiviral Activities of Cytomegalovirus-Specific CD8+ T Cells 
Journal of Virology  2014;88(18):10894-10908.
CD8+ T cells specific for pp65, IE1, and IE2 are present at high frequencies in human cytomegalovirus (HCMV)-seropositive individuals, and these have been shown to have phenotypes associated with terminal differentiation, as well as both cytokine and proliferative dysfunctions, especially in the elderly. However, more recently, T cell responses to many other HCMV proteins have been described, but little is known about their phenotypes and functions. Consequently, in this study, we chose to determine the diversity of HCMV-specific CD8+ T cell responses to the products of 11 HCMV open reading frames (ORFs) in a cohort of donors aged 20 to 80 years old as well as the ability of the T cells to secrete gamma interferon (IFN-γ). Finally, we also tested their functional antiviral capacity using a novel viral dissemination assay. We identified substantial CD8+ T cell responses by IFN-γ enzyme-linked immunospot (ELISPOT) assays to all 11 of these HCMV proteins, and across the cohort, individuals displayed a range of responses, from tightly focused to highly diverse, which were stable over time. CD8+ T cell responses to the HCMV ORFs were highly differentiated and predominantly CD45RA+, CD57+, and CD28−, across the cohort. These highly differentiated cells had the ability to inhibit viral spread even following direct ex vivo isolation. Taken together, our data argue that HCMV-specific CD8+ T cells have effective antiviral activity irrespective of the viral protein recognized across the whole cohort and despite viral immune evasion.
IMPORTANCE Human cytomegalovirus (HCMV) is normally carried without clinical symptoms and is widely prevalent in the population; however, it often causes severe clinical disease in individuals with compromised immune responses. HCMV is never cleared after primary infection but persists in the host for life. In HCMV carriers, the immune response to HCMV includes large numbers of virus-specific immune cells, and the virus has evolved many mechanisms to evade the immune response. While this immune response seems to protect healthy people from subsequent disease, the virus is never eliminated. It has been suggested that this continuous surveillance by the immune system may have deleterious effects in later life. The study presented in this paper examined immune responses from a cohort of donors and shows that these immune cells are effective at controlling the virus and can overcome the virus' lytic cycle immune evasion mechanisms.
PMCID: PMC4178885  PMID: 25008941
23.  HMGB1 Mediates Endogenous TLR2 Activation and Brain Tumor Regression 
PLoS Medicine  2009;6(1):e1000010.
Glioblastoma multiforme (GBM) is the most aggressive primary brain tumor that carries a 5-y survival rate of 5%. Attempts at eliciting a clinically relevant anti-GBM immune response in brain tumor patients have met with limited success, which is due to brain immune privilege, tumor immune evasion, and a paucity of dendritic cells (DCs) within the central nervous system. Herein we uncovered a novel pathway for the activation of an effective anti-GBM immune response mediated by high-mobility-group box 1 (HMGB1), an alarmin protein released from dying tumor cells, which acts as an endogenous ligand for Toll-like receptor 2 (TLR2) signaling on bone marrow-derived GBM-infiltrating DCs.
Methods and Findings
Using a combined immunotherapy/conditional cytotoxic approach that utilizes adenoviral vectors (Ad) expressing Fms-like tyrosine kinase 3 ligand (Flt3L) and thymidine kinase (TK) delivered into the tumor mass, we demonstrated that CD4+ and CD8+ T cells were required for tumor regression and immunological memory. Increased numbers of bone marrow-derived, tumor-infiltrating myeloid DCs (mDCs) were observed in response to the therapy. Infiltration of mDCs into the GBM, clonal expansion of antitumor T cells, and induction of an effective anti-GBM immune response were TLR2 dependent. We then proceeded to identify the endogenous ligand responsible for TLR2 signaling on tumor-infiltrating mDCs. We demonstrated that HMGB1 was released from dying tumor cells, in response to Ad-TK (+ gancyclovir [GCV]) treatment. Increased levels of HMGB1 were also detected in the serum of tumor-bearing Ad-Flt3L/Ad-TK (+GCV)-treated mice. Specific activation of TLR2 signaling was induced by supernatants from Ad-TK (+GCV)-treated GBM cells; this activation was blocked by glycyrrhizin (a specific HMGB1 inhibitor) or with antibodies to HMGB1. HMGB1 was also released from melanoma, small cell lung carcinoma, and glioma cells treated with radiation or temozolomide. Administration of either glycyrrhizin or anti-HMGB1 immunoglobulins to tumor-bearing Ad-Flt3L and Ad-TK treated mice, abolished therapeutic efficacy, highlighting the critical role played by HMGB1-mediated TLR2 signaling to elicit tumor regression. Therapeutic efficacy of Ad-Flt3L and Ad-TK (+GCV) treatment was demonstrated in a second glioma model and in an intracranial melanoma model with concomitant increases in the levels of circulating HMGB1.
Our data provide evidence for the molecular and cellular mechanisms that support the rationale for the clinical implementation of antibrain cancer immunotherapies in combination with tumor killing approaches in order to elicit effective antitumor immune responses, and thus, will impact clinical neuro-oncology practice.
Maria Castro and colleagues use cell line and transgenic mouse approaches to study the mechanisms underlying the immune response to glioblastoma multiforme.
Editors' Summary
Every year, more than 175,000 people develop a primary brain tumor (a cancer that starts in the brain rather than spreading in from elsewhere). Like all cancers, brain tumors develop when a cell acquires genetic changes that allow it to grow uncontrollably and that change other aspects of its behavior, including the proteins it makes. There are many different types of cells in the brain and, as a result, there are many different types of brain tumors. However, one in five primary brain tumors is glioblastoma multiforme (GBM; also known as grade 4 astrocytoma), a particularly aggressive cancer. With GBM, the average time from diagnosis to death is one year and only one person in 20 survives for five years after a diagnosis of GBM. Symptoms of GBM include headaches, seizures, and changes in memory, mood, or mental capacity. Treatments for GBM, which include surgery, radiotherapy, and chemotherapy, do not “cure” the tumor but they can ease these symptoms.
Why Was This Study Done?
Better treatments for GBM are badly needed, and one avenue that is being explored is immunotherapy—a treatment in which the immune system is used to fight the cancer. Because many tumors make unusual proteins, the immune system can sometimes be encouraged to recognize tumor cells as foreign invaders and kill them. Unfortunately, attempts to induce a clinically useful anti-GBM immune response have been unsuccessful, partly because the brain contains very few dendritic cells, a type of immune system cell that kick-starts effective immune responses by presenting foreign proteins to other immune system cells. Another barrier to immunotherapy for GBM is immune evasion by the tumor. Many tumors develop ways to avoid the immune response as they grow. For example, they sometimes reduce the expression of proteins that the immune system might recognize as foreign. In this study, the researchers test a new combined treatment strategy for GBM in which dendritic cells are encouraged to enter the brain and tumor cells are killed to release proteins capable of stimulating an effective antitumor immune response.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers first established brain tumors in mice. Then, they injected harmless viruses carrying the genes for Fms-like tyrosine kinase 3 ligand (Ftl3L; a protein that attracts dendritic cells) and for thymidine kinase (TK; cells expressing TK are killed by a drug called gancyclovir) into the tumor. Expression of both Flt3L and TK (but not of either protein alone) plus gancyclovir treatment shrank the tumors and greatly improved the survival of the mice. The researchers show that their strategy increased the migration of dendritic cells into the tumor provided they expressed an immune system protein called Toll-like receptor 2 (TLR2). TLR2 expression on the dendritic cells was also needed for an effective anti-tumor immune response and for tumor regression. TLR2 normally activates dendritic cells by binding to specific proteins on invading pathogens, so what was TLR2 binding to in the mouse tumors? The researchers reveal that TLR2 was responding to high-mobility-group box 1 (HMGB1), a protein released by the dying tumor cells by showing that treatment of the tumor-bearing mice with the HMGB1 inhibitor glycyrrhizin blocked the therapeutic effect of Flt3L/TK expression. Finally, the researchers report that other tumor cell types release HMGB1 when they are killed and that the Flt3L/TK expression strategy can also kill other tumors growing in mouse brains.
What Do These Findings Mean?
Results obtained in mouse models of human diseases do not always lead to effective treatments for human patients. Nevertheless, the findings of this study provide new insights into how an effective immune response against brain tumors might be brought about. Most importantly, they show that an effective strategy might need to both attract dendritic cells into the brain tumor and to kill tumor cells, so they release proteins that can activate the dendritic cells. That is, the authors suggest it's important to combine immunotherapies with tumor-killing strategies to provide effective treatments for primary and metastatic brain tumors
Additional Information.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at
The US National Cancer Institute provides information about brain tumors for patients and health professionals and about the the immune system and how it can be harnessed to fight cancer (in English and Spanish)
Cancer Research UK provides information on all aspects of brain tumors for patients and their caregivers
MedlinePlus provides links to further information about brain cancer, (including some links to information in Spanish)
The American Brain Tumor Association provides brain tumor resources and information
The National Brain Tumor Society provides educational and support services regarding brain tumors
PMCID: PMC2621261  PMID: 19143470
24.  Rapid Evolution of PARP Genes Suggests a Broad Role for ADP-Ribosylation in Host-Virus Conflicts 
PLoS Genetics  2014;10(5):e1004403.
Post-translational protein modifications such as phosphorylation and ubiquitinylation are common molecular targets of conflict between viruses and their hosts. However, the role of other post-translational modifications, such as ADP-ribosylation, in host-virus interactions is less well characterized. ADP-ribosylation is carried out by proteins encoded by the PARP (also called ARTD) gene family. The majority of the 17 human PARP genes are poorly characterized. However, one PARP protein, PARP13/ZAP, has broad antiviral activity and has evolved under positive (diversifying) selection in primates. Such evolution is typical of domains that are locked in antagonistic ‘arms races’ with viral factors. To identify additional PARP genes that may be involved in host-virus interactions, we performed evolutionary analyses on all primate PARP genes to search for signatures of rapid evolution. Contrary to expectations that most PARP genes are involved in ‘housekeeping’ functions, we found that nearly one-third of PARP genes are evolving under strong recurrent positive selection. We identified a >300 amino acid disordered region of PARP4, a component of cytoplasmic vault structures, to be rapidly evolving in several mammalian lineages, suggesting this region serves as an important host-pathogen specificity interface. We also found positive selection of PARP9, 14 and 15, the only three human genes that contain both PARP domains and macrodomains. Macrodomains uniquely recognize, and in some cases can reverse, protein mono-ADP-ribosylation, and we observed strong signatures of recurrent positive selection throughout the macro-PARP macrodomains. Furthermore, PARP14 and PARP15 have undergone repeated rounds of gene birth and loss during vertebrate evolution, consistent with recurrent gene innovation. Together with previous studies that implicated several PARPs in immunity, as well as those that demonstrated a role for virally encoded macrodomains in host immune evasion, our evolutionary analyses suggest that addition, recognition and removal of ADP-ribosylation is a critical, underappreciated currency in host-virus conflicts.
Author Summary
The outcome of viral infections is determined by the repertoire and specificity of the antiviral genes in a particular animal species. The identification of candidate immunity genes and mechanisms is a key step in describing this repertoire. Despite advances in genome sequencing, identification of antiviral genes has largely remained dependent on demonstration of their activity against candidate viruses. However, antiviral proteins that directly interact with viral targets or antagonists also bear signatures of recurrent evolutionary adaptation, which can be used to identify candidate antivirals. Here, we find that five out of seventeen genes that contain a domain that can catalyze the post-translational addition ADP-ribose to proteins bear such signatures of recurrent genetic innovation. In particular, we find that all the genes that encode both ADP-ribose addition (via PARP domains) as well as recognition and/or removal (via macro domains) activities have evolved under extremely strong diversifying selection in mammals. Furthermore, such genes have undergone multiple episodes of gene duplications and losses throughout mammalian evolution. Combined with the knowledge that some viruses also encode macro domains to counteract host immunity, our evolutionary analyses therefore implicate ADP-ribosylation as an underappreciated key step in antiviral defense in mammalian genomes.
PMCID: PMC4038475  PMID: 24875882
25.  Chikungunya Virus Neutralization Antigens and Direct Cell-to-Cell Transmission Are Revealed by Human Antibody-Escape Mutants 
PLoS Pathogens  2011;7(12):e1002390.
Chikungunya virus (CHIKV) is an alphavirus responsible for numerous epidemics throughout Africa and Asia, causing infectious arthritis and reportedly linked with fatal infections in newborns and elderly. Previous studies in animal models indicate that humoral immunity can protect against CHIKV infection, but despite the potential efficacy of B-cell-driven intervention strategies, there are no virus-specific vaccines or therapies currently available. In addition, CHIKV has been reported to elicit long-lasting virus-specific IgM in humans, and to establish long-term persistence in non-human primates, suggesting that the virus might evade immune defenses to establish chronic infections in man. However, the mechanisms of immune evasion potentially employed by CHIKV remain uncharacterized. We previously described two human monoclonal antibodies that potently neutralize CHIKV infection. In the current report, we have characterized CHIKV mutants that escape antibody-dependent neutralization to identify the CHIKV E2 domain B and fusion loop “groove” as the primary determinants of CHIKV interaction with these antibodies. Furthermore, for the first time, we have also demonstrated direct CHIKV cell-to-cell transmission, as a mechanism that involves the E2 domain A and that is associated with viral resistance to antibody-dependent neutralization. Identification of CHIKV sub-domains that are associated with human protective immunity, will pave the way for the development of CHIKV-specific sub-domain vaccination strategies. Moreover, the clear demonstration of CHIKV cell-to-cell transmission and its possible role in the establishment of CHIKV persistence, will also inform the development of future anti-viral interventions. These data shed new light on CHIKV-host interactions that will help to combat human CHIKV infection and inform future studies of CHIKV pathogenesis.
Author Summary
Chikungunya virus (CHIKV) is transmitted by mosquito bites and causes a febrile disease that is often characterized by persistent joint pain. Until recently, CHIKV outbreaks were limited to tropical areas of Africa and Asia. However, since 2007, following a large CHIKV epidemic in the Indian Ocean and South-East Asia, CHIKV has also been reported in temperate European regions. As mosquito habitats expand, virus dissemination may become more prevalent, but there are currently no vaccines or CHIKV-specific treatments available. We previously described two human antibodies that potently block cellular CHIKV infection. In the current report, we have characterized CHIKV mutants that escape neutralization to identify sub-domains of the virus envelope which are involved in CHIKV interaction with these antibodies, thereby opening the door for the development of CHIKV-specific sub-domain vaccination strategies. For the first time, we have also demonstrated that CHIKV can be directly transmitted between cells, bypassing transport through the extra-cellular space. This mode of dissemination, which is associated with viral resistance to antibody neutralization, may play a critical role in the establishment of persistent CHIKV infection. Together, these findings will aid the design of new strategies to combat CHIKV infection and will inform future studies of CHIKV pathogenesis.
PMCID: PMC3228792  PMID: 22144891

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