Neuropathic pain is a debilitating condition for which the development of effective treatments has been limited by an incomplete understanding of its chemical basis. We show by using untargeted metabolomics that sphingomyelin-ceramide metabolism is altered in the dorsal horn of rats with neuropathic pain and that the up-regulated, endogenous metabolite N,N-dimethylsphingosine induces mechanical hypersensitivity in vivo. These results demonstrate the utility of metabolomics to implicate unexplored biochemical pathways in disease.
Lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus (LCMV) infection of mice is non-cytopathic, producing well-characterized changes reflecting host immune response. Untargeted metabolomics using mass spectrometry identified endogenous small molecule changes in blood from mice inoculated with LCMV, sampled at days 1, 3, 7 and 14 post infection. These represent well-characterized time points in acute LCMV infection and the immune response. Diverse pathways were altered, including TCA cycle intermediates, γ-glutamyl dipeptides, lysophosphatidyl cholines, and fatty acids. The kynurenine pathway was activated, surprising because it is stimulated by IFN-γ, which LCMV suppresses, thus suggesting alternative activators. In contrast, biopterin/neopterin, another IFN-γ stimulated pathway, was not activated. Many metabolites followed “response and recovery” kinetics, decreasing after infection to a minimum at days 3–7, and returning to normal by day 14. The TCA pathway followed this pattern, including citrate, cis-aconitate and α-ketoglutarate, intriguing because succinate has been shown to mediate cellular immunity. This response and recovery dynamic tracks the immune response, including the rise and fall of natural killer cell populations, serum TNF receptor concentration, and viral clearance. Metabolomics can provide target pathways for molecular diagnostics or therapeutics of viral infection and immunity.
untargeted metabolomics; systems biology; mass spectrometry; metabolism; innate immunity
Vimentin, a type III intermediate filament, is upregulated during epithelial–mesenchymal transition and tumor progression. Vimentin is surface-expressed on cells involved in inflammation; the function remains unknown. We investigated the expression of surface vimentin on cancer cells and evaluated targeting nanoparticles to tumors exploiting vimentin.
Materials & methods
Cowpea mosaic virus nanoparticles that interact with surface vimentin were used as probes. Tumor homing was tested using the chick chorioallantoic membrane model with human tumor xenografts.
Results & discussion
Surface vimentin levels varied during cell cycle and among the cell lines tested. Surface vimentin expression correlated with cowpea mosaic virus uptake, underscoring the utility of cowpea mosaic virus to detect invasive cancer cells. Targeting to tumor xenografts was observed; homing was based on the enhanced permeability and retention effect. Our data provide novel insights into the role of surface vimentin in cancer and targeting nanoparticles in vivo.
CAM model; cancer; cell cycle; CPMV; EPR effects; PEGylation; vimentin; viral nanoparticles
Multivalent display of heterologous proteins on viral nanoparticles forms a basis for numerous applications in nanotechnology, including vaccine development, targeted therapeutic delivery and tissue-specific bio-imaging. In many instances, precise placement of proteins is required for optimal functioning of the supramolecular assemblies, but orientation- and site-specific coupling of proteins to viral scaffolds remains a significant technical challenge. We have developed two strategies that allow for controlled attachment of a variety of proteins on viral particles using covalent and noncovalent principles. In one strategy, an interaction between domain 4 of anthrax protective antigen and its receptor was used to display multiple copies of a target protein on virus-like particles. In the other, expressed protein ligation and aniline-catalyzed oximation was used to covalently display a model protein. The latter strategy, in particular, yielded nanoparticles that induced potent immune responses to the coupled protein, suggesting potential applications in vaccine development.
Viral nanoparticle; Flock House virus; virus-like particle; anthrax protective antigen; expressed protein ligation; aniline-catalyzed oxime ligation; vaccine development
Soluble receptor decoy inhibitors, including receptor-immunogloubulin (Ig) fusion proteins, have shown promise as candidate anthrax toxin therapeutics. These agents act by binding to the receptor-interaction site on the protective antigen (PA) toxin subunit, thereby blocking toxin binding to cell surface receptors. Here we have made the surprising observation that co-administration of receptor decoy-Ig fusion proteins significantly delayed, but did not protect, rats challenged with anthrax lethal toxin. The delayed toxicity was associated with the in vivo assembly of a long-lived complex comprised of anthrax lethal toxin and the receptor decoy-Ig inhibitor. Intoxication in this system presumably results from the slow dissociation of the toxin complex from the inhibitor following their prolonged circulation. We conclude that while receptor decoy-Ig proteins represent promising candidates for the early treatment of B. anthracis infection, they may not be suitable for therapeutic use at later stages when fatal levels of toxin have already accumulated in the bloodstream.
The discovery that an apoptosis-like, programmed cell death (PCD) occurs in a broad range of protozoan parasites offers novel therapeutic tools to treat some of the most serious infectious diseases of humans, companion animals, wildlife, and livestock. Whilst apoptosis is an essential part of normal development, maintenance, and defence in multicellular organisms, its occurrence in unicellular parasites appears counter-intuitive and has proved highly controversial: according to the Darwinian notion of “survival of the fittest”, parasites are expected to evolve strategies to maximise their proliferation, not death. The prevailing, and untested, opinion in the literature is that parasites employ apoptosis to “altruistically” self-regulate the intensity of infection in the host/vector. However, evolutionary theory tells us that at most, this can only be part of the explanation, and other non-mutually exclusive hypotheses must also be tested. Here, we explain the evolutionary concepts that can explain apoptosis in unicellular parasites, highlight the key questions, and outline the approaches required to resolve the controversy over whether parasites “commit suicide”. We highlight the need for integration of proximate and functional approaches into an evolutionary framework to understand apoptosis in unicellular parasites. Understanding how, when, and why parasites employ apoptosis is central to targeting this process with interventions that are sustainable in the face of parasite evolution.
ATP is an extracellular signal for the immune system, particularly during an inflammatory response. It is sensed by the P2X7 receptor, the expression of which is upregulated by pro-inflammatory cytokines. Activation of the P2X7 receptor opens a cation-specific channel that alters the ionic environment of the cell, activating several pathways, including (i) the inflammasome, leading to production of IL-1β and IL-18; (ii) the stress-activated protein kinase pathway, resulting in apoptosis; (iii) the mitogen-activated protein kinase pathway, leading to generation of reactive oxygen and nitrogen intermediates; and (iv) phospholipase D, stimulating phagosome-lysosome fusion. The P2X7 receptor can initiate host mechanisms to remove pathogens, most particularly those that parasitise macrophages. At the same time, the P2X7 receptor may be subverted by pathogens to modulate host responses. Moreover, recent genetic studies have demonstrated significant associations between susceptibility or resistance to parasites and bacteria, and loss-of-function or gain-of-function polymorphisms in the P2X7 receptor, underscoring its importance in infectious disease.
Next-generation targeted nanodevices are currently under development for imaging and therapeutic applications. We engineered HK97 viral nanoparticles (VNPs) for tumor cell-specific targeting.
A combination of genetic and chemical engineering methods were developed and applied to generate dual-labeled HK97 cysteine mutant particles displaying transferrin and fluorescent labels. The targeting properties of transferrin-conjugated VNPs were evaluated by in vitro experiments using different cancer cell lines.
We found that HK97–tranferrin formulations were indeed targeted to cancer cells in vitro via the transferrin receptor. These studies highlight the utility and facilitate the further development of HK97-based VNPs.
cancer; HK97; protein conjugation; targeted cellular entry; transferrin; viral nanoparticles
Cholesterol is an essential component of cellular membranes that is required for normal lipid organization and cell signaling. While the mechanisms associated with maintaining cholesterol homeostasis in the plasma and peripheral tissues have been well studied, the role and regulation of cholesterol biosynthesis in normal brain function and development have proven much more challenging to investigate. Smith-Lemli-Opitz syndrome (SLOS) is a disorder of cholesterol synthesis characterized by mutations of DHCR7 (7-dehydrocholesterol reductase) that impair the reduction of 7-dehydrocholesterol (7DHC) to cholesterol and lead to neurocognitive deficits, including cerebellar hypoplasia and austism behaviors. Here we have used a novel mass spectrometry-based imaging technique called cation-enhanced nanostructure-initiator mass spectrometry (NIMS) for the in situ detection of intact cholesterol molecules from biological tissues. We provide the first images of brain sterol localization in a mouse model for SLOS (Dhcr7−/−). In SLOS mice, there is a striking localization of both 7DHC and residual cholesterol in the abnormally developing cerebellum and brainstem. In contrast, the distribution of cholesterol in 1-day old healthy pups was diffuse throughout the cerebrum and comparable to that of adult mice. This study represents the first application of NIMS to localize perturbations in metabolism within pathological tissues and demonstrates that abnormal cholesterol biosynthesis may be particularly important for the development of these brain regions.
Smith-Lemli-Opitz syndrome; brain imaging; nanostructure-initiator mass spectrometry; cholesterol; metabolism; mass spectrometry
The copper-catalyzed azide-alkyne cycloaddition (CuAAC) reaction, optimized for biological molecules in aqueous buffers, has been shown to rapidly label mammalian cells in culture with no loss in cell viability. Metabolic uptake and display of the azide derivative of N-acetylmannosamine developed by Bertozzi, followed by CuAAC ligation using sodium ascorbate and the ligand tris(hydroxypropyltriazolyl)methylamine (THPTA), gave rise to abundant covalent attachment of dye-alkyne reactants. THPTA serves both to accelerate the CuAAC reaction and to protect the cells from damage by oxidative agents produced by the Cu-catalyzed reduction of oxygen by ascorbate, which is required to maintain the metal in the active +1 oxidation state. This procedure extends the application of this fastest of azide-based bioorthogonal reactions to the exterior of living cells.
click chemistry; cell labeling; metabolic labeling; bioconjugation
Coral disease has emerged over recent decades as a significant threat to coral reef ecosystems, with declines in coral cover and diversity of Caribbean reefs providing an example of the potential impacts of disease at regional scales. If similar trends are to be mitigated or avoided on reefs worldwide, a deeper understanding of the factors underlying the origin and spread of coral diseases and the steps that can be taken to prevent, control, or reduce their impacts is required. In recent years, an increased focus on coral microbiology and the application of classic culture techniques and emerging molecular technologies has revealed several coral pathogens that could serve as targets for novel coral disease diagnostic tools. The ability to detect and quantify microbial agents identified as indicators of coral disease will aid in the elucidation of disease causation and facilitate coral disease detection and diagnosis, pathogen monitoring in individuals and ecosystems, and identification of pathogen sources, vectors, and reservoirs. This information will advance the field of coral disease research and contribute knowledge necessary for effective coral reef management. This paper establishes the need for sensitive and specific molecular-based coral pathogen detection, outlines the emerging technologies that could serve as the basis of a new generation of coral disease diagnostic assays, and addresses the unique challenges inherent to the application of these techniques to environmentally derived coral samples.
Plague is enzootic in wildlife populations of small mammals in central and eastern Asia, Africa, South and North America, and has been recognized recently as a reemerging threat to humans. Its causative agent Yersinia pestis relies on wild rodent hosts and flea vectors for its maintenance in nature. Climate influences all three components (i.e., bacteria, vectors, and hosts) of the plague system and is a likely factor to explain some of plague's variability from small and regional to large scales. Here, we review effects of climate variables on plague hosts and vectors from individual or population scales to studies on the whole plague system at a large scale. Upscaled versions of small-scale processes are often invoked to explain plague variability in time and space at larger scales, presumably because similar scale-independent mechanisms underlie these relationships. This linearity assumption is discussed in the light of recent research that suggests some of its limitations.
Multiple sclerosis is an inflammatory demyelinating disease of the central nervous system and a leading cause of neurological disability. The complex immunopathology and variable disease course of multiple sclerosis have limited effective treatment of all patients. Altering the metabolism of immune cells may be an attractive strategy to modify their function during autoimmunity. We examined the effect of inhibiting fatty acid metabolism in experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis (EAE), a mouse model of multiple sclerosis. Mice treated with an inhibitor of carnitine palmitoyltransferase 1 (CPT-1), the rate-limiting enzyme in the beta-oxidation of fatty acids, showed a reduction in disease severity as well as less inflammation and demyelination. Inhibition of CPT-1 in encephalitogenic T-cells resulted in increased apoptosis and reduced inflammatory cytokine production. These results suggest that disruption of fatty acid metabolism promotes downregulation of inflammation in the CNS and that this metabolic pathway is a potential therapeutic target for multiple sclerosis.
Viral nanoparticles are a novel class of biomolecular agents that take advantage of the natural circulatory and targeting properties of viruses to allow the development of therapeutics, vaccines and imaging tools. We have developed a multivalent nanoparticle platform based on the cowpea mosaic virus (CPMV) that facilitates particle labeling at high density with fluorescent dyes and other functional groups. Compared with other technologies, CPMV-based viral nanoparticles are particularly suited for long-term intravital vascular imaging because of their biocompatibility and retention in the endothelium with minimal side effects. The stable, long-term labeling of the endothelium allows the identification of vasculature undergoing active remodeling in real time. In this study, we describe the synthesis, purification and fluorescent labeling of cpMV nanoparticles, along with their use for imaging of vascular structure and for intravital vascular mapping in developmental and tumor angiogenesis models. Dye-labeled viral nanoparticles can be synthesized and purified in a single day, and imaging studies can be conducted over hours, days or weeks, depending on the application.
Cytokines play a central role in the pathogenesis of many diseases, including HIV infection. However, the role of the cytokine network in early HIV infection is only now starting to be elucidated. A number of studies conducted in recent years have indicated that cytokines of the acute/early stages of HIV and SIV infection can impact viral set-point months later, and this is of critical importance since viral set-point during chronic HIV infection affects virus transmission and disease progression. This raises the question whether modulating the cytokine environment during acute/early HIV infection can be a target for novel approaches to develop a vaccine and therapeutics. In this review we focus on the kinetics and function of cytokines during acute HIV and SIV infection and how these may impact viral set-point. We also discuss unresolved questions that are essential for our understanding of the role of acute infection cytokines in HIV infection and that, if answered, may suggest novel therapeutic and vaccine strategies to control the worldwide HIV pandemic.
Mycobacterium tuberculosis (Mtb) has evolved into a highly successful human pathogen. It deftly subverts the bactericidal mechanisms of alveolar macrophages, ultimately inducing granuloma formation and establishing long-term residence in the host. These hallmarks of Mtb infection are facilitated by the metabolic adaptation of the pathogen to its surrounding environment and the biosynthesis of molecules that mediate its interactions with host immune cells. The sulfate assimilation pathway of Mtb produces a number of sulfur-containing metabolites with important contributions to pathogenesis and survival. This pathway is regulated by diverse environmental cues and regulatory proteins that mediate sulfur transactions in the cell. Here, we discuss the transcriptional and biochemical mechanisms of sulfur metabolism regulation in Mtb and potential small molecule regulators of the sulfate assimilation pathway that are collectively poised to aid this intracellular pathogen in its expert manipulation of the host. From this global analysis, we have identified a subset of sulfur-metabolizing enzymes that are sensitive to multiple regulatory cues and may be strong candidates for therapeutic intervention.
Measles virus (MeV), a member of the paramyxovirus family of enveloped RNA viruses and one of the most infectious viral pathogens identified, accounts for major pediatric morbidity and mortality worldwide although coordinated efforts to achieve global measles control are in place. Target cell entry is mediated by two viral envelope glycoproteins, the attachment (H) and fusion (F) proteins, which form a complex that achieves merger of the envelope with target cell membranes. Despite continually expanding knowledge of the entry strategies employed by enveloped viruses, our molecular insight into the organization of functional paramyxovirus fusion complexes and the mechanisms by which the receptor binding by the attachment protein triggers the required conformational rearrangements of the fusion protein remain incomplete. Recently reported crystal structures of the MeV attachment protein in complex with its cellular receptors CD46 or SLAM and newly developed functional assays have now illuminated some of the fundamental principles that govern cell entry by this archetype member of the paramyxovirus family. Here, we review these advances in our molecular understanding of MeV entry in the context of diverse entry strategies employed by other members of the paramyxovirus family.
Mycoplasma genitalium is an emerging sexually transmitted pathogen implicated in urethritis in men and several inflammatory reproductive tract syndromes in women including cervicitis, pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), and infertility. This comprehensive review critically examines epidemiologic studies of M. genitalium infections in women with the goal of assessing the associations with reproductive tract disease and enhancing awareness of this emerging pathogen. Over 27,000 women from 48 published reports have been screened for M. genitalium urogenital infection in high- or low-risk populations worldwide with an overall prevalence of 7.3% and 2.0%, respectively. M. genitalium was present in the general population at rates between those of Chlamydia trachomatis and Neisseria gonorrhoeae. Considering more than 20 studies of lower tract inflammation, M. genitalium has been positively associated with urethritis, vaginal discharge, and microscopic signs of cervicitis and/or mucopurulent cervical discharge in seven of 14 studies. A consistent case definition of cervicitis is lacking and will be required for comprehensive understanding of these associations. Importantly, evidence for M. genitalium PID and infertility are quite convincing and indicate that a significant proportion of upper tract inflammation may be attributed to this elusive pathogen. Collectively, M. genitalium is highly prevalent in high- and low-risk populations, and should be considered an etiologic agent of select reproductive tract disease syndromes in women.
For many pathogens with environmental stages, or those carried by vectors or intermediate hosts, disease transmission is strongly influenced by pathogen, host, and vector movements across complex landscapes, and thus quantitative measures of movement rate and direction can reveal new opportunities for disease management and intervention. Genetic assignment methods are a set of powerful statistical approaches useful for establishing population membership of individuals. Recent theoretical improvements allow these techniques to be used to cost-effectively estimate the magnitude and direction of key movements in infectious disease systems, revealing important ecological and environmental features that facilitate or limit transmission. Here, we review the theory, statistical framework, and molecular markers that underlie assignment methods, and we critically examine recent applications of assignment tests in infectious disease epidemiology. Research directions that capitalize on use of the techniques are discussed, focusing on key parameters needing study for improved understanding of patterns of disease.
Staphylococcus aureus is a major human pathogen causing a wide spectrum of nosocomial and community-associated infections with high morbidity and mortality. S. aureus generates a large number of virulence factors whose timing and expression levels are precisely tuned by regulatory proteins and RNAs. The aptitude of bacteria to use RNAs to rapidly modify gene expression, including virulence factors in response to stress or environmental changes, and to survive in a host is an evolving concept. Here, we focus on the recently inventoried S. aureus regulatory RNAs, with emphasis on those with identified functions, two of which are directly involved in pathogenicity.
From which host did the most malignant human malaria come: birds, primates, or rodents? When did the transfer occur? Over the last half century, these have been some of the questions up for debate about the origin of Plasmodium falciparum, the most common and deadliest human malaria parasite, which is responsible for at least one million deaths every year. Recent findings bring elements in favor of a transfer from great apes, but are these evidences really solid? What are the grey areas that remain to be clarified? Here, we examine in depth these new elements and discuss how they modify our perception of the origin and evolution of P. falciparum. We also discuss the perspectives these new discoveries open.
Several candidate gene studies have provided evidence for a role of host genetics in susceptibility to tuberculosis (TB). However, the results of these studies have been very inconsistent, even within a study population. Here, we review the design of these studies from a genetic epidemiological perspective, illustrating important differences in phenotype definition in both cases and controls, consideration of latent M. tuberculosis infection versus active TB disease, population genetic factors such as population substructure and linkage disequilibrium, polymorphism selection, and potential global differences in M. tuberculosis strain. These considerable differences between studies should be accounted for when examining the current literature. Recommendations are made for future studies to further clarify the host genetics of TB.
Nanostructure-initiator mass spectrometry (NIMS) is a highly sensitive, matrix-free technique that is well suited for biofluid analysis and imaging of biological tissues. Here we provide a new technical variation of NIMS to analyze carbohydrates and steroids, molecules that are challenging to detect with traditional mass spectrometric approaches. Analysis of carbohydrates and steroids was accomplished by spray depositing NaCl or AgNO3 on the NIMS porous silicon surface to provide a uniform environment rich with cationization agents prior to desporption of the fluorinated polymer initiator. Laser desorption/ionization of the ion-coated NIMS surface allowed for Na+ cationization of carbohydrates and Ag+ cationization of steroids. The reliability of the approach is quantitatively demonstrated with a calibration curve over the physiological range of glucose and cholesterol concentrations in human serum (1 – 200 μM). Additionally we illustrate the sensitivity of the method by showing its ability to detect carbohydrates and steroids down to the 800-amol and 100-fmol levels, respectively. The technique developed is well suited for tissue imaging of biologically significant metabolites such as sucrose and cholesterol. To highlight its applicability, we used cation-enhanced NIMS to image the distribution of sucrose in a Gerbera jamesonii flower stem and the distribution of cholesterol in a mouse brain. The flower stem and brain sections were placed directly on the ion-coated NIMS surface without further preparation and analyzed directly. The overall results reported underscore the potential of NIMS to analyze and image chemically diverse compounds that have been traditionally challenging to observe with mass spectrometry-based techniques.
We demonstrate that nanoparticles formed from the rod-shaped plant virus Potato virus X (PVX) can serve as a novel platform for biomedical applications. Bioconjugation protocols including amine modification and “click” chemistry allowed the efficient functionalization of PVX with biotins, dyes, and PEGs. Fluorescent-labeled and PEGylated PVX particles revealed that different fluorescent labels have a profound effect on PVX–cell interactions. Applying bioconjugation chemistries to PVX opens the door for chemical functionalization with targeting and therapeutic molecules.