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2.  Characterization of Circulating Natural Killer Cells in Neotropical Primates 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(11):e78793.
Despite extensive use of nonhuman primates as models for infectious diseases and reproductive biology, imprecise phenotypic and functional definitions exist for natural killer (NK) cells. This deficit is particularly significant in the burgeoning use of small, less expensive New World primate species. Using polychromatic flow cytometry, we identified peripheral blood NK cells as CD3-negative and expressing a cluster of cell surface molecules characteristic of NK cells (i.e., NKG2A, NKp46, NKp30) in three New World primate species – common marmosets, cotton-top tamarins, and squirrel monkeys. We then assessed subset distribution using the classical NK markers, CD56 and CD16. In all species, similar to Old World primates, only a minor subset of NK cells was CD56+, and the dominant subset was CD56–CD16+. Interestingly, CD56+ NK cells were primarily cytokine-secreting cells, whereas CD56–CD16+ NK cells expressed significantly greater levels of intracellular perforin, suggesting these cells might have greater potential for cytotoxicity. New World primate species, like Old World primates, also had a minor CD56–CD16– NK cell subset that has no obvious counterpart in humans. Herein we present phenotypic profiles of New World primate NK cell subpopulations that are generally analogous to those found in humans. This conservation among species should support the further use of these species for biomedical research.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0078793
PMCID: PMC3823947  PMID: 24244365
3.  The Hierarchical Process of Differentiation of Long-Lived Antibody-Secreting Cells Is Dependent on Integrated Signals Derived from Antigen and IL-17A 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(9):e74566.
Switched CD19-positive memory B cells purified from mice with chronic immune response against Thalassophrynenattereri venom proteins were cultured with venom or cytokines. Our results confirm the existence of a hierarchic process of differentiation: activated memory B cells progressively acquire increasing levels of CD138 and decreasing levels of CD45R/B220 to finally arrive at ASC with B220neg phenotype, which are IgG1-secreting cells. Only Bmem from peritoneal cavity or bone marrow of VTn immunized mice presented the capacity to generate ASC functionally active. IL-17A or IL-21/IL-23/IL-33 improves the ability of venom to induce intracellular IgG of peritoneal derived-ASC. Cognate stimulation with venom and IL-17A is sufficient to down-regulate the expression of CD45R/B220. BAFF-R is up-regulated in splenic or medullar derived-ASC stimulated by venom, CpG or cytokines. Only splenic derived-ASC up-regulate Bcl-2 expression after CpG or the combination of IL-21/IL-23/IL-33 stimulation. Finally, the activation of ASC for IgG1 secretion is triggered by venom proteins in peritoneal cavity and by IL-17A in medullar niche. These results show the importance of the integration of signals downstream of BCR and IL17-A receptors in modulating ASC differentiation, focusing in the microenvironment niche of their generation.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0074566
PMCID: PMC3776816  PMID: 24058589
4.  MHC Class I-Presented T Cell Epitopes Identified by Immunoproteomics Analysis Are Targets for a Cross Reactive Influenza-Specific T Cell Response 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(11):e48484.
Influenza virus infection and the resulting complications are a significant global public health problem. Improving humoral immunity to influenza is the target of current conventional influenza vaccines, however, these are generally not cross-protective. On the contrary, cell-mediated immunity generated by primary influenza infection provides substantial protection against serologically distinct viruses due to recognition of cross-reactive T cell epitopes, often from internal viral proteins conserved between viral subtypes. Efforts are underway to develop a universal flu vaccine that would stimulate both the humoral and cellular immune responses leading to long-lived memory. Such a universal vaccine should target conserved influenza virus antibody and T cell epitopes that do not vary from strain to strain. In the last decade, immunoproteomics, or the direct identification of HLA class I presented epitopes, has emerged as an alternative to the motif prediction method for the identification of T cell epitopes. In this study, we used this method to uncover several cross-specific MHC class I specific T cell epitopes naturally presented by influenza A-infected cells. These conserved T cell epitopes, when combined with a cross-reactive antibody epitope from the ectodomain of influenza M2, generate cross-strain specific cell mediated and humoral immunity. Overall, we have demonstrated that conserved epitope-specific CTLs could recognize multiple influenza strain infected target cells and, when combined with a universal antibody epitope, could generate virus specific humoral and T cell responses, a step toward a universal vaccine concept. These epitopes also have potential as new tools to characterize T cell immunity in influenza infection, and may serve as part of a universal vaccine candidate complementary to current vaccines.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0048484
PMCID: PMC3492461  PMID: 23144892
5.  Immunomodulation of Antigen Presenting Cells Promotes Natural Regulatory T Cells That Prevent Autoimmune Diabetes in NOD Mice 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(2):e31153.
Progression towards type 1 diabetes (T1D) in susceptible patients is linked to a progressive decline in the capacity of regulatory T cells (Treg) to maintain tolerance. As such, therapies aimed at redressing the failing Treg compartment have been the subject of intense investigation. Treg dysfunction in T1D has recently been linked to a reduced capacity of antigen presenting cells (APCs) to maintain Treg function rather than Treg intrinsic defects. This suggests that therapies aimed simply at addressing the failing Treg compartment are unlikely to provide long-term protection. Here, we demonstrate that modulation of the inflammatory status of CD11b+CD11c− APCs favors the upregulation of protective Tregs in a mouse model of T1D. We further demonstrate that reduced expression of the costimulatory molecule CD40 plays a role in this increased immunoregulatory capacity. Strikingly, Treg upregulation resulted exclusively from an increase in natural Tregs rather than the peripheral conversion of conventional T cells. This suggests that modulation of CD11b+ CD11c− APCs inflammatory properties favors the establishment of natural Treg responses that, unlike adaptive Treg responses, are likely to maintain tolerance to a broad range of antigens. As such, modulation of this APC subset represents a potential therapeutic avenue to reestablish peripheral tolerance and protect from autoimmune diseases such as T1D.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0031153
PMCID: PMC3280284  PMID: 22355341
6.  Vaccination against Endogenous Retrotransposable Element Consensus Sequences Does Not Protect Rhesus Macaques from SIVsmE660 Infection and Replication 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(3):e92012.
The enormous sequence diversity of HIV remains a major roadblock to the development of a prophylactic vaccine and new approaches to induce protective immunity are needed. Endogenous retrotransposable elements (ERE) such as endogenous retrovirus K (ERV)-K and long interspersed nuclear element-1 (LINE-1) are activated during HIV-1-infection and could represent stable, surrogate targets to eliminate HIV-1-infected cells. Here, we explored the hypothesis that vaccination against ERE would protect macaques from acquisition and replication of simian immunodeficiency virus (SIV). Following vaccination with antigens derived from LINE-1 and ERV-K consensus sequences, animals mounted immune responses that failed to delay acquisition of SIVsmE660. We observed no differences in acute or set point viral loads between ERE-vaccinated and control animals suggesting that ERE-specific responses were not protective. Indeed, ERE-specific T cells failed to expand anamnestically in vivo following infection with SIVsmE660 and did not recognize SIV-infected targets in vitro, in agreement with no significant induction of targeted ERE mRNA by SIV in macaque CD4+ T cells. Instead, lower infection rates and viral loads correlated significantly to protective TRIM5α alleles. Cumulatively, these data demonstrate that vaccination against the selected ERE consensus sequences in macaques did not lead to immune-mediated recognition and killing of SIV-infected cells, as has been shown for HIV-infected human cells using patient-derived HERV-K-specific T cells. Thus, further research is required to identify the specific nonhuman primate EREs and retroviruses that recapitulate the activity of HIV-1 in human cells. These results also highlight the complexity in translating observations of the interplay between HIV-1 and human EREs to animal models.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0092012
PMCID: PMC3961289  PMID: 24651676
7.  Clinical and Immunological Markers of Dengue Progression in a Study Cohort from a Hyperendemic Area in Malaysia 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(3):e92021.
Background
With its elusive pathogenesis, dengue imposes serious healthcare, economic and social burden on endemic countries. This study describes the clinical and immunological parameters of a dengue cohort in a Malaysian city, the first according to the WHO 2009 dengue classification.
Methodology and Findings
This longitudinal descriptive study was conducted in two Malaysian hospitals where patients aged 14 and above with clinical symptoms suggestive of dengue were recruited with informed consent. Among the 504 participants, 9.3% were classified as non-dengue, 12.7% without warning signs, 77.0% with warning signs and 1.0% with severe dengue based on clinical diagnosis. Of these, 37% were misdiagnosed as non-dengue, highlighting the importance of both clinical diagnosis and laboratory findings. Thrombocytopenia, prolonged clotting time, liver enzymes, ALT and AST served as good markers for dengue progression but could not distinguish between patients with and without warning signs. HLA-A*24 and -B*57 were positively associated with Chinese and Indians patients with warning signs, respectively, whereas A*03 may be protective in the Malays. HLA-A*33 was also positively associated in patients with warning signs when compared to those without. Dengue NS1, NS2A, NS4A and NS4B were found to be important T cell epitopes; however with no apparent difference between with and without warning signs patients. Distinction between the 2 groups of patients was also not observed in any of the cytokines analyzed; nevertheless, 12 were significantly differentially expressed at the different phases of illness.
Conclusion
The new dengue classification system has allowed more specific detection of dengue patients, however, none of the clinical parameters allowed distinction of patients with and without warning signs. While the HLA-A*33 may be predictive marker for development of warning signs; larger studies will be needed to support this findings.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0092021
PMCID: PMC3960168  PMID: 24647042
8.  Neutrophil Gelatinase-Associated Lipocalin Increases HLA-G+/FoxP3+ T-Regulatory Cell Population in an In Vitro Model of PBMC 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(2):e89497.
Background
Neutrophil gelatinase-associated lipocalin (NGAL) is emerging as a mediator of various biological and pathological states. However, the specific biological role of this molecule remains unclear, as it serves as a biomarker for many conditions. The high sensitivity of NGAL as a biomarker coupled with relatively low specificity may hide important biological roles. Data point toward an acute compensatory, protective role for NGAL in response to adverse cellular stresses, including inflammatory and oxidative stress. The aim of this study was to understand whether NGAL modulates the T-cell response through regulation of the human leukocyte antigen G (HLA-G) complex, which is a mediator of tolerance.
Methodology/Principal Findings
Peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) were obtained from eight healthy donors and isolated by centrifugation on a Ficoll gradient. All donors gave informed consent. PBMCs were treated with four different concentrations of NGAL (40–320 ng/ml) in an iron-loaded or iron-free form. Changes in cell phenotype were analyzed by flow cytometry. NGAL stimulated expression of HLA-G on CD4+ T cells in a dose- and iron-dependent manner. Iron deficiency prevented NGAL-mediated effects, such that HLA-G expression was unaltered. Furthermore, NGAL treatment affected stimulation of regulatory T cells and in vitro expansion of CD4+ CD25+ FoxP3+ cells. An NGAL neutralizing antibody limited HLA-G expression and significantly decreased the percentage of CD4+ CD25+ FoxP3+ cells.
Conclusions/Significance
We provide in vitro evidence that NGAL is involved in cellular immunity. The potential role of NGAL as an immunomodulatory molecule is based on its ability to induce immune tolerance by upregulating HLA-G expression and expansion of T-regulatory cells in healthy donors. Future studies should further evaluate the role of NGAL in immunology and immunomodulation and its possible relationship to immunosuppressive therapy efficacy, tolerance induction in transplant patients, and other immunological disorders.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0089497
PMCID: PMC3937322  PMID: 24586826
9.  Molecular Characterization of Antigen-Peptide Pulsed Dendritic Cells: Immature Dendritic Cells Develop a Distinct Molecular Profile when Pulsed with Antigen Peptide 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(1):e86306.
As dendritic cells (DCs) are the most potent professional antigen-presenting cells, they are being tested as cancer vaccines for immunotherapy of established cancers. Although numerous studies have characterized DCs by their phenotype and function, few have identified potential molecular markers of antigen presentation prior to vaccination of host. In this study we generated pre-immature DC (piDC), immature DC (iDC), and mature DC (mDC) from human peripheral blood monocytes (PBMC) obtained from HLA-A2 healthy donors, and pulsed them with human papillomavirus E7 peptide (p11-20), a class I HLA-A2 binding antigen. We then characterized DCs for cell surface phenotype and gene expression profile by microarray technology. We identified a set of 59 genes that distinguished three differentiation stages of DCs (piDC, iDC and mDC). When piDC, iDC and mDC were pulsed with E7 peptide for 2 hrs, the surface phenotype did not change, however, iDCs rather than mDCs showed transcriptional response by up-regulation of a set of genes. A total of 52 genes were modulated in iDC upon antigen pulsing. Elongation of pulse time for iDCs to 10 and 24 hrs did not significantly bring further changes in gene expression. The E7 peptide up-modulated immune response (KPNA7, IGSF6, NCR3, TREM2, TUBAL3, IL8, NFKBIA), pro-apoptosis (BTG1, SEMA6A, IGFBP3 and SRGN), anti-apoptosis (NFKBIA), DNA repair (MRPS11, RAD21, TXNRD1), and cell adhesion and cell migration genes (EPHA1, PGF, IL8 and CYR61) in iDCs. We confirmed our results by Q-PCR analysis. The E7 peptide but not control peptide (PADRE) induced up-regulation of NFKB1A gene only in HLA-A2 positive iDCs and not in HLA-A2 negative iDCs. These results suggest that E7 up-regulation of genes is specific and HLA restricted and that these genes may represent markers of antigen presentation and help rapidly assess the quality of dendritic cells prior to administration to the host.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0086306
PMCID: PMC3903525  PMID: 24475103
10.  A Quantitative Assessment of Costimulation and Phosphatase Activity on Microclusters in Early T Cell Signaling 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(10):e79277.
T cell signaling is triggered through stimulation of the T cell receptor and costimulatory receptors. Receptor activation leads to the formation of membrane-proximal protein microclusters. These clusters undergo tyrosine phosphorylation and organize multiprotein complexes thereby acting as molecular signaling platforms. Little is known about how the quantity and phosphorylation levels of microclusters are affected by costimulatory signals and the activity of specific signaling proteins. We combined micrometer-sized, microcontact printed, striped patterns of different stimuli and simultaneous analysis of different cell strains with image processing protocols to address this problem. First, we validated the stimulation protocol by showing that high expression levels CD28 result in increased cell spreading. Subsequently, we addressed the role of costimulation and a specific phosphotyrosine phosphatase in cluster formation by including a SHP2 knock-down strain in our system. Distinguishing cell strains using carboxyfluorescein succinimidyl ester enabled a comparison within single samples. SHP2 exerted its effect by lowering phosphorylation levels of individual clusters while CD28 costimulation mainly increased the number of signaling clusters and cell spreading. These effects were observed for general tyrosine phosphorylation of clusters and for phosphorylated PLCγ1. Our analysis enables a clear distinction between factors determining the number of microclusters and those that act on these signaling platforms.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0079277
PMCID: PMC3813591  PMID: 24205378
11.  Expression of the Memory Marker CD45RO on Helper T Cells in Macaques 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(9):e73969.
Background
In humans it has been reported that a major site of the latent reservoir of HIV is within CD4+ T cells expressing the memory marker CD45RO, defined by the mAb UCHL1. There are conflicting reports regarding the expression of this antigen in macaques, the most relevant animal species for studying HIV pathogenesis and testing new therapies. There is now a major effort to eradicate HIV reservoirs and cure the infection. One approach is to eliminate subsets of cells housing the latent reservoir, using UCHL1 to target these cells. So that such studies may be performed in macaques, it is essential to determine expression of CD45RO.
Methods
We have used immunofluorescence and flow cytometry to study cell surface expression of CD45RO on lymphocytes from PBMC, lymphoid, and GI organs of rhesus, pigtailed, and cynomolgus macaques. Both direct and indirect immunofluorescence experiments were performed.
Findings
CD45RO is expressed on a subset of CD4+ lymphocytes of all pigtailed, a fraction of rhesus, and neither of the cynomolgus macaques studied. The binding of UCHL1 to macaque cells was of lower avidity than to human cells. This could be overcome by forming UCHL1 multimers. Directly conjugating fluors to UCHL1 can inhibit UCHL1 binding to macaque cells. Patterns of UCHL1 expression differ somewhat in macaques and humans, and from that of other memory markers often used in macaques.
Conclusions
CD45RO, defined with mAb UCHL1, is well expressed on CD4+ cells in pigtailed macaques. Using tissues recovered from latently infected pigtailed macaques we are determining whether UCHL1, or other memory markers, can define the cellular locus of the reservoir. The low avidity of this interaction could limit the utility of UCHL1, in its conventional form, to eliminate cells in vivo and test this approach in macaque models of HIV infection.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0073969
PMCID: PMC3762710  PMID: 24023920
12.  The Expression of the Beta Cell-Derived Autoimmune Ligand for the Killer Receptor Nkp46 Is Attenuated in Type 2 Diabetes 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(8):e74033.
NK cells rapidly kill tumor cells, virus infected cells and even self cells. This is mediated via killer receptors, among which NKp46 (NCR1 in mice) is prominent. We have recently demonstrated that in type 1 diabetes (T1D) NK cells accumulate in the diseased pancreas and that they manifest a hyporesponsive phenotype. In addition, we found that NKp46 recognizes an unknown ligand expressed by beta cells derived from humans and mice and that blocking of NKp46 activity prevented diabetes development. Here we investigated the properties of the unknown NKp46 ligand. We show that the NKp46 ligand is mainly located in insulin granules and that it is constitutively secreted. Following glucose stimulation the NKp46 ligand translocates to the cell membrane and its secretion decreases. We further demonstrate by using several modalities that the unknown NKp46 ligand is not insulin. Finally, we studied the expression of the NKp46 ligand in type 2 diabetes (T2D) using 3 different in vivo models and 2 species; mice and gerbils. We demonstrate that the expression of the NKp46 ligand is decreased in all models of T2D studied, suggesting that NKp46 is not involved in T2D.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0074033
PMCID: PMC3757008  PMID: 24009765
13.  Immunogenic and Invasive Properties of Brucella melitensis 16M Outer Membrane Protein Vaccine Candidates Identified via a Reverse Vaccinology Approach 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(3):e59751.
Brucella is the etiologic agent of brucellosis, one of the most common and widely distributed zoonotic diseases. Its highly infectious nature, the insidious, systemic, chronic, debilitating aspects of the disease and the lack of an approved vaccine for human use in the United States are features that make Brucella a viable threat to public health. One of the main impediments to vaccine development is identification of suitable antigens. In order to identify antigens that could potentially be used in a vaccine formulation, we describe a multi-step antigen selection approach. We initially used an algorithm (Vaxign) to predict ORF encoding outer membrane proteins with antigenic determinants. Differential gene expression during acute infection and published evidence for a role in virulence were used as criteria for down-selection of the candidate antigens that resulted from in silico prediction. This approach resulted in the identification of nine Brucella melitensis outer membrane proteins, 5 of which were recombinantly expressed and used for validation. Omp22 and Hia had the highest in silico scores for adhesin probability and also conferred invasive capacity to E. coli overexpressing recombinant proteins. With the exception of FlgK in the goat, all proteins reacted to pooled sera from exposed goats, mice, and humans. BtuB, Hia and FlgK stimulated a mixed Th1–Th2 response in splenocytes from immunized mice while BtuB and Hia elicited NO release from splenocytes of S19 immunized mice. The results support the applicability of the current approach to the identification of antigens with immunogenic and invasive properties. Studies to assess immunogenicity and protective efficacy of individual proteins in the mouse are currently underway.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0059751
PMCID: PMC3606113  PMID: 23533646
14.  Suppression of the Macrophage Proteasome by Ethanol Impairs MHC Class I Antigen Processing and Presentation 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(2):e56890.
Alcohol binge-drinking (acute ethanol consumption) is immunosuppressive and alters both the innate and adaptive arms of the immune system. Antigen presentation by macrophages (and other antigen presenting cells) represents an important function of the innate immune system that, in part, determines the outcome of the host immune response. Ethanol has been shown to suppress antigen presentation in antigen presenting cells though mechanisms of this impairment are not well understood. The constitutive and immunoproteasomes are important components of the cellular proteolytic machinery responsible for the initial steps critical to the generation of MHC Class I peptides for antigen presentation. In this study, we used an in-vitro cell culture model of acute alcohol exposure to study the effect of ethanol on the proteasome function in RAW 264.7 cells. Additionally, primary murine peritoneal macrophages obtained by peritoneal lavage from C57BL/6 mice were used to confirm our cell culture findings. We demonstrate that ethanol impairs proteasome function in peritoneal macrophages through suppression of chymotrypsin-like (Cht-L) proteasome activity as well as composition of the immunoproteasome subunit LMP7. Using primary murine peritoneal macrophages, we have further demonstrated that, ethanol-induced impairment of the proteasome function suppresses processing of antigenic proteins and peptides by the macrophage and in turn suppresses the presentation of these antigens to cells of adaptive immunity. The results of this study provide an important mechanism to explain the immunosuppressive effects of acute ethanol exposure.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0056890
PMCID: PMC3581560  PMID: 23451104
15.  M89V Sialic Acid Acetyl Esterase (SIAE) and All Other Non-Synonymous Common Variants of This Gene Are Catalytically Normal 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(1):e53453.
Catalytically defective rare variants of Sialic acid Acetyl Esterase (SIAE) have previously been linked to autoimmunity. Studies presented here confirm that the M89V SIAE protein and all other products of common variant alleles of SIAE are catalytically normal. Although overexpressing transfected non-lymphoid cells secrete small amounts of SIAE that can associate with the cell surface, normal human lymphocytes do not exhibit cell surface SIAE, supporting genetic evidence in mice that indicates that this protein functions in a lymphocyte intrinsic manner. Analyses of the plasma proteome also indicate that SIAE is not secreted in vivo. A re-analysis exclusively of catalytically defective rare variant alleles of SIAE in subjects in which this gene was completely sequenced confirmed an association of SIAE with autoimmunity. A subset of catalytically defective rare variant SIAE alleles has previously been typed in a large genotyping study comparing a diverse group of disease subjects and controls; our re-analysis of this data shows that catalytically defective alleles are enriched in disease subjects. These data suggest that SIAE may be associated with autoimmunity and that further study of catalytically defective rare variant SIAE alleles in terms of autoimmune disease susceptibility is strongly warranted.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0053453
PMCID: PMC3538537  PMID: 23308225
16.  An Optimized Method for Manufacturing a Clinical Scale Dendritic Cell-Based Vaccine for the Treatment of Glioblastoma 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(12):e52301.
Immune-based treatments represent a promising new class of therapy designed to boost the immune system to specifically eradicate malignant cells. Immunotherapy may generate specific anti-tumor immune responses, and dendritic cells (DC), professional antigen-presenting cells, are widely used in experimental cancer immunotherapy. Several reports describe methods for the generation of mature, antigen-pulsed DC for clinical use. Improved quality and standardization are desirable to obtain GMP-compliant protocols. In this study we describe the generation of DC from 31 Glioblastoma (GB) patients starting from their monocytes isolated by immunomagnetic CD14 selection using the CliniMACS® device. Upon differentiation of CD14+ with IL-4 and GM-CSF, DC were induced to maturation with TNF-α, PGE2, IL-1β, and IL-6. Whole tumor lysate was obtained, for the first time, in a closed system using the semi-automated dissociator GentleMACS®. The yield of proteins improved by 130% compared to the manual dissociation method. Interestingly the Mean Fluorescence Intensity for CD83 increased significantly in DC pulsed with “new method” lysate compared to DC pulsed with “classical method” lysate. Our results indicate that immunomagnetic isolation of CD14+ monocytes using the CliniMACS® device and their pulsing with whole tumor lysate proteins is a suitable method for clinical-scale generation of high quality, functional DC under GMP-grade conditions.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0052301
PMCID: PMC3527532  PMID: 23284979
17.  Increased Synapse Formation Obtained by T Cell Epitopes Containing a CxxC Motif in Flanking Residues Convert CD4+ T Cells into Cytolytic Effectors 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(10):e45366.
The nature of MHC class II-binding epitopes not only determines the specificity of T cell responses, but may also alter effector cell functions. Cytolytic CD4+ T cells have been observed primarily in anti-viral responses, but very little is known about the conditions under which they can be elicited. Their potential as regulators of immune responses, however, deserves investigations. We describe here that inclusion of a thiol-disulfide oxidoreductase motif within flanking residues of class II-restricted epitopes results, both in vitro and in vivo, in elicitation of antigen-specific cytolytic CD4+ T cells through increased synapse formation. We show that both naïve and polarized CD4+ T cells, including Th17 cells, can be converted by cognate recognition of such modified epitopes. Cytolytic CD4+ T cells induce apoptosis on APCs by Fas-FasL interaction. These findings potentially open the way towards a novel form of antigen-specific immunosuppression.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0045366
PMCID: PMC3467281  PMID: 23056200
18.  Anti-HIV Double Variable Domain Immunoglobulins Binding Both gp41 and gp120 for Targeted Delivery of Immunoconjugates 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(10):e46778.
Background
Anti-HIV immunoconjugates targeted to the HIV envelope protein may be used to eradicate the latent reservoir of HIV infection using activate-and-purge protocols. Previous studies have identified the two target epitopes most effective for the delivery of cytotoxic immunoconjugates the CD4-binding site of gp120, and the hairpin loop of gp41. Here we construct and test tetravalent double variable domain immunoglobulin molecules (DVD-Igs) that bind to both epitopes.
Methods
Synthetic genes that encode DVD-Igs utilizing V-domains derived from human anti-gp120 and anti-gp41 Abs were designed and expressed in 293F cells. A series of constructs tested different inter-V-linker domains and orientations of the two V domains. Antibodies were tested for binding to recombinant Ag and native Env expressed on infected cells, for neutralization of infectious HIV, and for their ability to deliver cytotoxic immunoconjugates to infected cells.
Findings
The outer V-domain was the major determinant of binding and functional activity of the DVD-Ig. Function of the inner V-domain and bifunctional binding required at least 15 AA in the inter-V-domain linker. A molecular model showing the spatial orientation of the two epitopes is consistent with this observation. Linkers that incorporated helical domains (A[EAAAK]nA) resulted in more effective DVD-Igs than those based solely on flexible domains ([GGGGS]n). In general, the DVD-Igs outperformed the less effective parental antibody and equaled the activity of the more effective. The ability of the DVD-Igs to deliver cytotoxic immunoconjugates in the absence of soluble CD4 was improved over that of either parent.
Conclusions
DVD-Igs can be designed that bind to both gp120 and gp41 on the HIV envelope. DVD-Igs are effective in delivering cytotoxic immunoconjugates. The optimal design of these DVD-Igs, in which both domains are fully functional, has not yet been achieved.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0046778
PMCID: PMC3464217  PMID: 23056448
19.  Direct Engagement of TLR4 in Invariant NKT Cells Regulates Immune Diseases by Differential IL-4 and IFN-γ Production in Mice 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(9):e45348.
During interaction with APCs, invariant (i) NKT cells are thought to be indirectly activated by TLR4-dependently activated APCs. However, whether TLR4 directly activates iNKT cells is unknown. Therefore, the expression and function of TLR4 in iNKT cells were investigated. Flow cytometric and confocal microscopic analysis revealed TLR4 expression on the surface and in the endosome of iNKT cells. Upon LPS stimulation, iNKT cells enhanced IFN-γ production, but reduced IL-4 production, in the presence of TCR signals, depending on TLR4, MyD88, TRIF, and the endosome. However, enhanced TLR4-mediated IFN-γ production by iNKT cells did not affect IL-12 production or CD1d expression by DCs. Adoptive transfer of WT, but not TLR4-deficient, iNKT cells promoted antibody-induced arthritis in CD1d−/− mice, suggesting that endogenous TLR4 ligands modulate iNKT cell function in arthritis. Furthermore, LPS-pretreated WT, but not TLR4-deficient, iNKT cells suppressed pulmonary fibrosis, but worsened hypersensitivity pneumonitis more than untreated WT iNKT cells, indicating that exogenous TLR4 ligands regulate iNKT cell functions in pulmonary diseases. Taken together, we propose a novel direct activation pathway of iNKT cells in the presence of TCR signals via endogenous or exogenous ligand-mediated engagement of TLR4 in iNKT cells, which regulates immune diseases by altering IFN-γ and IL-4 production.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0045348
PMCID: PMC3446883  PMID: 23028952
20.  Regulatory T Cells in γ Irradiation-Induced Immune Suppression 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(6):e39092.
Sublethal total body γ irradiation (TBI) of mammals causes generalized immunosuppression, in part by induction of lymphocyte apoptosis. Here, we provide evidence that a part of this immune suppression may be attributable to dysfunction of immune regulation. We investigated the effects of sublethal TBI on T cell memory responses to gain insight into the potential for loss of vaccine immunity following such exposure. We show that in mice primed to an MHC class I alloantigen, the accelerated graft rejection T memory response is specifically lost several weeks following TBI, whereas identically treated naïve mice at the same time point had completely recovered normal rejection kinetics. Depletion in vivo with anti-CD4 or anti-CD25 showed that the mechanism involved cells consistent with a regulatory T cell (T reg) phenotype. The loss of the T memory response following TBI was associated with a relative increase of CD4+CD25+ Foxp3+ expressing T regs, as compared to the CD8+ T effector cells requisite for skin graft rejection. The radiation-induced T memory suppression was shown to be antigen-specific in that a third party ipsilateral graft rejected with normal kinetics. Remarkably, following the eventual rejection of the first MHC class I disparate skin graft, the suppressive environment was maintained, with markedly prolonged survival of a second identical allograft. These findings have potential importance as regards the immunologic status of T memory responses in victims of ionizing radiation exposure and apoptosis-inducing therapies.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0039092
PMCID: PMC3378522  PMID: 22723935
21.  Evaluation of the Potency of the Anti-Idiotypic Antibody Ab2/3H6 Mimicking gp41 as an HIV-1 Vaccine in a Rabbit Prime/Boost Study 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(6):e39063.
The HIV-1 envelope protein harbors several conserved epitopes that are recognized by broadly neutralizing antibodies. One of these neutralizing sites, the MPER region of gp41, is targeted by one of the most potent and broadly neutralizing monoclonal antibody, 2F5. Different vaccination strategies and a lot of efforts have been undertaken to induce MPER neutralizing antibodies but little success has been achieved so far. We tried to consider the alternative anti-idiotypic vaccination approach for induction of 2F5-like antibodies. The previously developed and characterized anti-idiotypic antibody Ab2/3H6 was expressed as antibody fragment fusion protein with C-terminally attached immune-modulators and used for immunization of rabbits to induce antibodies specific for HIV-1. Only those rabbits immunized with immunogens fused with the immune-modulators developed HIV-1 specific antibodies. Anti-anti-idiotypic antibodies were affinity purified using a two-step affinity purification protocol which revealed that only little amount of the total rabbit IgG fraction contained HIV-1 specific antibodies. The characterization of the induced anti-anti-idiotypic antibodies showed specificity for the linear epitope of 2F5 GGGELDKWASL and the HIV-1 envelope protein gp140. Despite specificity for the linear epitope and the truncated HIV-1 envelope protein these antibodies were not able to exhibit virus neutralization activities. These results suggest that Ab2/3H6 alone might not be suitable as a vaccine.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0039063
PMCID: PMC3376109  PMID: 22720027
22.  Patients with Asthma and Comorbid Allergic Rhinitis: Is Optimal Quality of Life Achievable in Real Life? 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(2):e31178.
Objectives
Asthma trials suggest that patients reaching total disease control have an optimal Health Related Quality of Life (HRQoL). Moreover, rhinitis is present in almost 80% of asthmatics and impacts asthma control and patient HRQoL. We explored whether optimal HRQoL was reachable in a real-life setting, and evaluated the disease and patient related patterns associated to optimal HRQoL achievement.
Methods and Findings
Asthma and rhinitis HRQoL, illness perception, mood profiles, rhinitis symptoms and asthma control were assessed by means of validated tools in patients classified according to GINA and ARIA guidelines. Optimal HRQoL, identified by a Rhinasthma Global Summary (GS) score ≤20 (score ranging from 0 to 100, where 100 represents the worst possible HRQoL), was reached by 78/209 (37.32%). With the exception of age, no associations were found between clinical and demographic characteristics and optimal HRQoL achievement. Patients reaching an optimal HRQoL differed in disease perception and mood compared to those not reaching an optimal HRQoL. Asthma control was significantly associated with optimal HRQoL (χ2 = 49.599; p<0.001) and well-controlled and totally controlled patients significantly differed in achieving optimal HRQoL (χ2 = 7.617; p<0.006).
Conclusion
Approximately one third of the patients in our survey were found to have an optimal HRQoL. While unsatisfactory disease control was the primary reason why the remainder failed to attain optimal HRQoL, it is clear that illness perception and mood also played parts. Therefore, therapeutic plans should be directed not only toward achieving the best possible clinical control of asthma and comorbid rhinitis, but also to incorporating individualized elements according to patient-related characteristics.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0031178
PMCID: PMC3281945  PMID: 22363573
23.  Nitration of the Pollen Allergen Bet v 1.0101 Enhances the Presentation of Bet v 1-Derived Peptides by HLA-DR on Human Dendritic Cells 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(2):e31483.
Nitration of pollen derived allergens can occur by NO2 and ozone in polluted air and it has already been shown that nitrated major birch (Betula verrucosa) pollen allergen Bet v 1.0101 (Bet v 1) exhibits an increased potency to trigger an immune response. However, the mechanisms by which nitration might contribute to the induction of allergy are still unknown. In this study, we assessed the effect of chemically induced nitration of Bet v 1 on the generation of HLA-DR associated peptides. Human dendritic cells were loaded with unmodified Bet v 1 or nitrated Bet v 1, and the naturally processed HLA-DR associated peptides were subsequently identified by liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry. Nitration of Bet v 1 resulted in enhanced presentation of allergen-derived HLA-DR-associated peptides. Both the copy number of Bet v 1 derived peptides as well as the number of nested clusters was increased. Our study shows that nitration of Bet v 1 alters antigen processing and presentation via HLA-DR, by enhancing both the quality and the quantity of the Bet v 1-specific peptide repertoire. These findings indicate that air pollution can contribute to allergic diseases and might also shed light on the analogous events concerning the nitration of self-proteins.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0031483
PMCID: PMC3279363  PMID: 22348091
24.  Correlation of Group C Meningococcal Conjugate Vaccine Response with B- and T-Lymphocyte Activity 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(2):e31160.
Despite the success of conjugate vaccination against meningococcal group C (MenC) disease, post-vaccination, some individuals still exhibit rapid waning of initially protective bactericidal antibody levels. The mechanism of this relative loss of humoral protection remains undetermined. In this report we have investigated the relationship between T- and B-cell activation and co-stimulation and the loss of protective antibody titers. We have found that healthy volunteers who lose protective MenC antibody levels one year after receipt of glycoconjugate vaccine exhibit no detectable cellular defect in polyclonal B- or T-cell activation, proliferation or the B-memory pool. This suggests that the processes underlying the more rapid loss of antibody levels are independent of defects in either initial T- or B-cell activation.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0031160
PMCID: PMC3275607  PMID: 22347446
25.  Evaluation of Cellular Phenotypes Implicated in Immunopathogenesis and Monitoring Immune Reconstitution Inflammatory Syndrome in HIV/Leprosy Cases 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(12):e28735.
Background
It is now evident that HAART-associated immunological improvement often leads to a variety of new clinical manifestations, collectively termed immune reconstitution inflammatory syndrome, or IRIS. This phenomenon has already been described in cases of HIV coinfection with Mycobacterium leprae, most of them belonging to the tuberculoid spectrum of leprosy disease, as observed in leprosy reversal reaction (RR). However, the events related to the pathogenesis of this association need to be clarified. This study investigated the immunological profile of HIV/leprosy patients, with special attention to the cellular activation status, to better understand the mechanisms related to IRIS/RR immunopathogenesis, identifying any potential biomarkers for IRIS/RR intercurrence.
Methods/Principal Findings
Eighty-five individuals were assessed in this study: HIV/leprosy and HIV-monoinfected patients, grouped according to HIV-viral load levels, leprosy patients without HIV coinfection, and healthy controls. Phenotypes were evaluated by flow cytometry for T cell subsets and immune differentiation/activation markers. As expected, absolute counts of the CD4+ and CD8+ T cells from the HIV-infected individuals changed in relation to those of the leprosy patients and controls. However, there were no significant differences among the groups, whether in the expression of cellular differentiation phenotypes or cellular activation, as reflected by the expression of CD38 and HLA-DR. Six HIV/leprosy patients identified as IRIS/RR were analyzed during IRIS/RR episodes and after prednisone treatment. These patients presented high cellular activation levels regarding the expression of CD38 in CD8+ cells T during IRIS/RR (median: 77,15%), dropping significantly (p<0,05) during post-IRIS/RR moments (median: 29,7%). Furthermore, an increase of cellular activation seems to occur prior to IRIS/RR.
Conclusion/Significance
These data suggest CD38 expression in CD8+ T cells interesting tool identifying HIV/leprosy individuals at risk for IRIS/RR. So, a comparative investigation to leprosy patients at RR should be conducted.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0028735
PMCID: PMC3244401  PMID: 22205964

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