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1.  Prostaglandin E2 constrains systemic inflammation through an innate lymphoid cell–IL-22 axis** 
Science (New York, N.Y.)  2016;351(6279):1333-1338.
Systemic inflammation, resulting from massive release of pro-inflammatory molecules into the circulatory system, is a major risk factor for severe illness, but the precise mechanisms underlying its control are incompletely understood. We observed that prostaglandin E2 (PGE2) through its receptor EP4 is down-regulated in human systemic inflammatory disease. Mice with reduced PGE2 synthesis develop systemic inflammation, associated with translocation of gut bacteria, which can be prevented by treating with EP4 agonists. Mechanistically, we demonstrate that PGE2–EP4 signaling directly acts on type 3 innate lymphoid cells (ILCs), promoting their homeostasis and driving them to produce interleukin-22 (IL-22). Disruption of the ILC/IL-22 axis impairs PGE2–mediated inhibition of systemic inflammation. Hence, PGE2–EP4 signaling inhibits systemic inflammation through ILC/IL-22 axis–dependent protection of gut barrier dysfunction.
PMCID: PMC4841390  PMID: 26989254
2.  An Interferon Regulated MicroRNA Provides Broad Cell-Intrinsic Antiviral Immunity through Multihit Host-Directed Targeting of the Sterol Pathway 
PLoS Biology  2016;14(3):e1002364.
In invertebrates, small interfering RNAs are at the vanguard of cell-autonomous antiviral immunity. In contrast, antiviral mechanisms initiated by interferon (IFN) signaling predominate in mammals. Whilst mammalian IFN-induced miRNA are known to inhibit specific viruses, it is not known whether host-directed microRNAs, downstream of IFN-signaling, have a role in mediating broad antiviral resistance. By performing an integrative, systematic, global analysis of RNA turnover utilizing 4-thiouridine labeling of newly transcribed RNA and pri/pre-miRNA in IFN-activated macrophages, we identify a new post-transcriptional viral defense mechanism mediated by miR-342-5p. On the basis of ChIP and site-directed promoter mutagenesis experiments, we find the synthesis of miR-342-5p is coupled to the antiviral IFN response via the IFN-induced transcription factor, IRF1. Strikingly, we find miR-342-5p targets mevalonate-sterol biosynthesis using a multihit mechanism suppressing the pathway at different functional levels: transcriptionally via SREBF2, post-transcriptionally via miR-33, and enzymatically via IDI1 and SC4MOL. Mass spectrometry-based lipidomics and enzymatic assays demonstrate the targeting mechanisms reduce intermediate sterol pathway metabolites and total cholesterol in macrophages. These results reveal a previously unrecognized mechanism by which IFN regulates the sterol pathway. The sterol pathway is known to be an integral part of the macrophage IFN antiviral response, and we show that miR-342-5p exerts broad antiviral effects against multiple, unrelated pathogenic viruses such Cytomegalovirus and Influenza A (H1N1). Metabolic rescue experiments confirm the specificity of these effects and demonstrate that unrelated viruses have differential mevalonate and sterol pathway requirements for their replication. This study, therefore, advances the general concept of broad antiviral defense through multihit targeting of a single host pathway.
An interferon-induced miRNA suppresses the sterol biosynthesis pathway via multiple targets, thereby helping establish broad cellular resistance to unrelated clinically significant viruses.
Author Summary
How infected cells respond to a virus during the first minutes to hours after infection can determine whether a disease develops and influences the host’s long-term survival. In mammals, unlike plants and flies that use small RNAs to fight viral infections, virus-induced interferon responses are a critical early event resulting in broad protection against infection. Interferon is a secreted host protein that binds to receptors on the surface of infected and uninfected cells and activates biochemical pathways that profoundly change the expression of hundreds of cellular genes, including those encoding microRNAs. The antiviral functions of only a handful of these genes are understood, and it is not known how the majority contribute to broadly protect against many different viruses. In this study, we uncover an interferon-regulated microRNA (miR-342-5p) that contributes to broad host cell immunity against infection through the cholesterol biosynthesis pathway. We show that miR-342-5p does this through a multihit strategy, turning down the master regulator of sterol biosynthesis as well as several specifically targeted enzymes within the pathway. A wide range of viruses depend on a number of the metabolite side-branches of the sterol biosynthesis pathway for their replication. Notably, our study reveals that by utilising multihit targeting of key branch-points in a single pathway, miR-342-5p is able to inhibit the replication of unrelated, clinically significant pathogens ranging from Herpes to Flu viruses.
PMCID: PMC4777525  PMID: 26938778
3.  Rapid proteasomal elimination of 3-hydroxy-3-methylglutaryl-CoA reductase by interferon-γ in primary macrophages requires endogenous 25-hydroxycholesterol synthesis 
Steroids  2015;99:219-229.
•IFN-γ leads to the proteasomal degradation of HMGCR.•IFN-γ and 25-HC can transcriptionally and post-translationally alter levels of HMGCR.•The reduction of HMGCR through the action of IFN-γ requires the de novo synthesis of 25-HC by CH25H.
Interferons (IFNs) play a central role in immunity and emerging evidence suggests that IFN-signalling coordinately regulates sterol biosynthesis in macrophages, via Sterol Regulatory Element-Binding Protein (SREBP) dependent and independent pathways. However, the precise mechanisms and kinetic steps by which IFN controls sterol biosynthesis are as yet not fully understood. Here, we elucidate the molecular circuitry governing how IFN controls the first regulated step in the mevalonate-sterol pathway, 3-hydroxy-3-methylglutaryl-CoA reductase (HMGCR), through the synthesis of 25-Hydroxycholesterol (25-HC) from cholesterol by the IFN-inducible Cholesterol-25-Hydroxylase (CH25H). We show for the first 30-min of IFN stimulation of macrophages the rate of de novo synthesis of the Ch25h transcript is markedly increased but by 120-min becomes transcriptionally curtailed, coincident with induction of the Activating Transcription Factor 3 (ATF3) repressor. We demonstrate ATF3 induction by Toll-like receptors is strictly dependent on IFN-signalling. While the SREBP-pathway dependent rates of de novo transcription of Hmgcr are relatively unchanged in the first 90-min of IFN treatment, we find HMGCR enzyme levels undergo a rapid proteasomal-mediated degradation, defining a previously unappreciated SREBP-independent mechanism for IFN-action. These events precede a sustained marked reduction in Hmgcr RNA levels involving SREBP-dependent mechanisms. We demonstrate that HMGCR proteasomal-degradation by IFN strictly requires the synthesis of endogenous 25-HC and functionally couples HMGCR to CH25H to coordinately suppress sterol biosynthesis. In conclusion, we quantitatively delineate proteomic and transcriptional levels of IFN-mediated control of HMGCR, the primary enzymatic step of the mevalonate-sterol biosynthesis pathway, providing a foundational framework for mathematically modelling the therapeutic outcome of immune-metabolic pathways.
PMCID: PMC4503878  PMID: 25759117
HMGCR, 3-hydroxy-3-methylglutaryl-CoA reductase; 25-HC, 25-hydroxycholesterol; IFN, interferon; SREBP, sterol regulatory element-binding protein; SCAP, SREBP cleavage activating protein; ER, endoplasmic reticulum; ERAD, ER-associated protein degradation; FBS, fetal bovine serum; LPDS, lipoprotein depleted serum; MEV, mevalonate; LS, lanosterol; CHO, cholesterol; CH25H, cholesterol 25-hydroxylase; TLR, Toll-like receptor; BMDMs, bone marrow derived macrophages; DCs, dendritic cells; SBGN, systems biology graphical notation; PRRs, Pattern recognition receptors; IFNAR1, IFN-α/β receptor; CH25H; Cholesterol biosynthesis; 25-Hydroxycholesterol; Macrophages; Immunity; Infection
4.  A Temporal Gate for Viral Enhancers to Co-opt Toll-Like-Receptor Transcriptional Activation Pathways upon Acute Infection 
PLoS Pathogens  2015;11(4):e1004737.
Viral engagement with macrophages activates Toll-Like-Receptors (TLRs) and viruses must contend with the ensuing inflammatory responses to successfully complete their replication cycle. To date, known counter-strategies involve the use of viral-encoded proteins that often employ mimicry mechanisms to block or redirect the host response to benefit the virus. Whether viral regulatory DNA sequences provide an opportunistic strategy by which viral enhancer elements functionally mimic innate immune enhancers is unknown. Here we find that host innate immune genes and the prototypical viral enhancer of cytomegalovirus (CMV) have comparable expression kinetics, and positively respond to common TLR agonists. In macrophages but not fibroblasts we show that activation of NFκB at immediate-early times of infection is independent of virion-associated protein, M45. We find upon virus infection or transfection of viral genomic DNA the TLR-agonist treatment results in significant enhancement of the virus transcription-replication cycle. In macrophage time-course infection experiments we demonstrate that TLR-agonist stimulation of the viral enhancer and replication cycle is strictly delimited by a temporal gate with a determined half-maximal time for enhancer-activation of 6 h; after which TLR-activation blocks the viral transcription-replication cycle. By performing a systematic siRNA screen of 149 innate immune regulatory factors we identify not only anticipated anti-viral and pro-viral contributions but also new factors involved in the CMV transcription-replication cycle. We identify a central convergent NFκB-SP1-RXR-IRF axis downstream of TLR-signalling. Activation of the RXR component potentiated direct and indirect TLR-induced activation of CMV transcription-replication cycle; whereas chromatin binding experiments using wild-type and enhancer-deletion virus revealed IRF3 and 5 as new pro-viral host transcription factor interactions with the CMV enhancer in macrophages. In a series of pharmacologic, siRNA and genetic loss-of-function experiments we determined that signalling mediated by the TLR-adaptor protein MyD88 plays a vital role for governing the inflammatory activation of the CMV enhancer in macrophages. Downstream TLR-regulated transcription factor binding motif disruption for NFκB, AP1 and CREB/ATF in the CMV enhancer demonstrated the requirement of these inflammatory signal-regulated elements in driving viral gene expression and growth in cells as well as in primary infection of neonatal mice. Thus, this study shows that the prototypical CMV enhancer, in a restricted time-gated manner, co-opts through DNA regulatory mimicry elements, innate-immune transcription factors to drive viral expression and replication in the face of on-going pro-inflammatory antiviral responses in vitro and in vivo and; suggests an unexpected role for inflammation in promoting acute infection and has important future implications for regulating latency.
Author Summary
Here we discover how inflammatory signalling may unintentionally promote infection, as a result of viruses evolving DNA sequences, known as enhancers, which act as a bait to prey on the infected cell transcription factors induced by inflammation. The major inflammatory transcription factors activated are part of the TLR-signalling pathway. We find the prototypical viral enhancer of cytomegalovirus can be paradoxically boosted by activation of inflammatory “anti-viral” TLR-signalling independent of viral structural proteins. This leads to an increase in viral gene expression and replication in cell-culture and upon infection of mice. We identify an axis of inflammatory transcription factors, acting downstream of TLR-signalling but upstream of interferon inhibition. Mechanistically, the central TLR-adapter protein MyD88 is shown to play a critical role in promoting viral enhancer activity in the first 6h of infection. The co-option of TLR-signalling exceeds the usage of NFκB, and we identify IRF3 and 5 as newly found viral-enhancer interacting inflammatory transcription factors. Taken together this study reveals how virus enhancers, employ a path of least resistance by directly harnessing within a short temporal window, the activation of anti-viral signalling in macrophages to drive viral gene expression and replication to an extent that has not been recognised before.
PMCID: PMC4391941  PMID: 25856589
5.  Infection homeostasis: implications for therapeutic and immune programming of metabolism in controlling infection 
Medical Microbiology and Immunology  2015;204(3):395-407.
Homeostasis underpins at a systems level the regulatory control of immunity and metabolism. While physiologically these systems are often viewed as independent, there is increasing evidence showing a tight coupling between immune and metabolic functions. Critically upon infection, the homeostatic regulation for both immune and metabolic pathways is altered yet these changes are often investigated in isolation. Here, we summarise our current understanding of these processes in the context of a clinically relevant pathogen, cytomegalovirus. We synthesise from the literature an integrative view of a coupled immune–metabolic infection process, centred on sugar and lipid metabolism. We put forward the notion that understanding immune control of key metabolic enzymatic steps in infection will promote the future development of novel therapeutic modalities based on metabolic modifiers that either enhance protection or inhibit infection.
PMCID: PMC4439431  PMID: 25800350
Infection; Glycolysis; CMV; Fatty acid synthesis; Metabolism; Inflammation
6.  CD200 Receptor Restriction of Myeloid Cell Responses Antagonizes Antiviral Immunity and Facilitates Cytomegalovirus Persistence within Mucosal Tissue 
PLoS Pathogens  2015;11(2):e1004641.
CD200 receptor (CD200R) negatively regulates peripheral and mucosal innate immune responses. Viruses, including herpesviruses, have acquired functional CD200 orthologs, implying that viral exploitation of this pathway is evolutionary advantageous. However, the role that CD200R signaling plays during herpesvirus infection in vivo requires clarification. Utilizing the murine cytomegalovirus (MCMV) model, we demonstrate that CD200R facilitates virus persistence within mucosal tissue. Specifically, MCMV infection of CD200R-deficient mice (CD200R-/-) elicited heightened mucosal virus-specific CD4 T cell responses that restricted virus persistence in the salivary glands. CD200R did not directly inhibit lymphocyte effector function. Instead, CD200R-/- mice exhibited enhanced APC accumulation that in the mucosa was a consequence of elevated cellular proliferation. Although MCMV does not encode an obvious CD200 homolog, productive replication in macrophages induced expression of cellular CD200. CD200 from hematopoietic and non-hematopoietic cells contributed independently to suppression of antiviral control in vivo. These results highlight the CD200-CD200R pathway as an important regulator of antiviral immunity during cytomegalovirus infection that is exploited by MCMV to establish chronicity within mucosal tissue.
Author Summary
Immune inhibitory receptors, including CD200 receptor (CD200R), can limit immune responses in the mucosa to restrict reactivity to the plethora of harmless antigens that mucosal surfaces are continually exposed to. However, viruses may exploit these suppressive mechanisms to enable their persistence and spread. Many viruses, including herpesviruses, have acquired functional homologs of CD200, the ligand of CD200R, implying that viral exploitation of this pathway is evolutionary advantageous. We now show that the β-herpesvirus murine cytomegalovirus (MCMV) takes advantage of the CD200R inhibitory pathway to persist within a mucosal site of MCMV persistence, the salivary glands. Mice deficient in CD200R mounted elevated antiviral immune responses that were driven by the increased division and accumulation of myeloid cells that function to orchestrate the generation of antiviral effector immune responses. Interestingly, MCMV infection of myeloid cells up-regulated CD200 expression. Thus, MCMV exploits the CD200 pathway to persist within mucosal tissue.
PMCID: PMC4412112  PMID: 25654642
7.  Whole blood gene expression profiling of neonates with confirmed bacterial sepsis 
Genomics Data  2014;3:41-48.
Neonatal infection remains a primary cause of infant morbidity and mortality worldwide and yet our understanding of how human neonates respond to infection remains incomplete. Changes in host gene expression in response to infection may occur in any part of the body, with the continuous interaction between blood and tissues allowing blood cells to act as biosensors for the changes. In this study we have used whole blood transcriptome profiling to systematically identify signatures and the pathway biology underlying the pathogenesis of neonatal infection. Blood samples were collected from neonates at the first clinical signs of suspected sepsis alongside age matched healthy control subjects. Here we report a detailed description of the study design, including clinical data collected, experimental methods used and data analysis workflows and which correspond with data in Gene Expression Omnibus (GEO) data sets (GSE25504). Our data set has allowed identification of a patient invariant 52-gene classifier that predicts bacterial infection with high accuracy and lays the foundation for advancing diagnostic, prognostic and therapeutic strategies for neonatal sepsis.
PMCID: PMC4535963  PMID: 26484146
Neonatal sepsis; Whole blood; Gene expression profiling; Microarray
8.  Identification of a human neonatal immune-metabolic network associated with bacterial infection 
Nature Communications  2014;5:4649.
Understanding how human neonates respond to infection remains incomplete. Here, a system-level investigation of neonatal systemic responses to infection shows a surprisingly strong but unbalanced homeostatic immune response; developing an elevated set-point of myeloid regulatory signalling and sugar-lipid metabolism with concomitant inhibition of lymphoid responses. Innate immune-negative feedback opposes innate immune activation while suppression of T-cell co-stimulation is coincident with selective upregulation of CD85 co-inhibitory pathways. By deriving modules of co-expressed RNAs, we identify a limited set of networks associated with bacterial infection that exhibit high levels of inter-patient variability. Whereas, by integrating immune and metabolic pathways, we infer a patient-invariant 52-gene-classifier that predicts bacterial infection with high accuracy using a new independent patient population. This is further shown to have predictive value in identifying infection in suspected cases with blood culture-negative tests. Our results lay the foundation for future translation of host pathways in advancing diagnostic, prognostic and therapeutic strategies for neonatal sepsis.
Infection remains a leading cause of morbidity and mortality in neonates worldwide. Here the authors report disproportionate immune stimulatory, co-inhibitory and metabolic pathway responses that specifically mark bacterial infection and can be used to predict sepsis in neonatal patients at the first clinical signs of infection.
PMCID: PMC4143936  PMID: 25120092
9.  A Loss of Function Analysis of Host Factors Influencing Vaccinia virus Replication by RNA Interference 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(6):e98431.
Vaccinia virus (VACV) is a large, cytoplasmic, double-stranded DNA virus that requires complex interactions with host proteins in order to replicate. To explore these interactions a functional high throughput small interfering RNA (siRNA) screen targeting 6719 druggable cellular genes was undertaken to identify host factors (HF) influencing the replication and spread of an eGFP-tagged VACV. The experimental design incorporated a low multiplicity of infection, thereby enhancing detection of cellular proteins involved in cell-to-cell spread of VACV. The screen revealed 153 pro- and 149 anti-viral HFs that strongly influenced VACV replication. These HFs were investigated further by comparisons with transcriptional profiling data sets and HFs identified in RNAi screens of other viruses. In addition, functional and pathway analysis of the entire screen was carried out to highlight cellular mechanisms involved in VACV replication. This revealed, as anticipated, that many pro-viral HFs are involved in translation of mRNA and, unexpectedly, suggested that a range of proteins involved in cellular transcriptional processes and several DNA repair pathways possess anti-viral activity. Multiple components of the AMPK complex were found to act as pro-viral HFs, while several septins, a group of highly conserved GTP binding proteins with a role in sequestering intracellular bacteria, were identified as strong anti-viral VACV HFs. This screen has identified novel and previously unexplored roles for cellular factors in poxvirus replication. This advancement in our understanding of the VACV life cycle provides a reliable knowledge base for the improvement of poxvirus-based vaccine vectors and development of anti-viral theraputics.
PMCID: PMC4047015  PMID: 24901222
10.  Parallel classification and feature selection in microarray data using SPRINT 
The statistical language R is favoured by many biostatisticians for processing microarray data. In recent times, the quantity of data that can be obtained in experiments has risen significantly, making previously fast analyses time consuming or even not possible at all with the existing software infrastructure. High performance computing (HPC) systems offer a solution to these problems but at the expense of increased complexity for the end user. The Simple Parallel R Interface is a library for R that aims to reduce the complexity of using HPC systems by providing biostatisticians with drop-in parallelised replacements of existing R functions. In this paper we describe parallel implementations of two popular techniques: exploratory clustering analyses using the random forest classifier and feature selection through identification of differentially expressed genes using the rank product method.
PMCID: PMC4038771  PMID: 24883047
HPC; Genomics; Parallel programming
11.  Uterine Natural Killer cells regulate endometrial bleeding in women and are suppressed by the progesterone receptor modulator asoprisnil 
Journal of immunology (Baltimore, Md. : 1950)  2013;191(5):10.4049/jimmunol.1300958.
Uterine NK cells (uNK) play a role in the regulation of placentation but their functions in non-pregnant endometrium are not understood. We have previously reported suppression of endometrial bleeding and alteration of spiral artery morphology in women exposed to asoprisnil, a progesterone receptor modulator. We now compare global endometrial gene expression in asoprisnil-treated versus control women, and we demonstrate a statistically significant reduction of genes in the IL-15 pathway, known to play a key role in uNK development and function. Suppression of IL-15 by asoprisnil was also observed at mRNA level (p<0.05), and immunostaining for NK cell marker CD56 revealed a striking reduction of uNK in asoprisnil-treated endometrium (p<0.001). IL-15 levels in normal endometrium are progesterone-responsive. Progesterone receptor (PR) positive stromal cells transcribe both IL-15 and IL-15RA. Thus, the response of stromal cells to progesterone will be to increase IL-15 trans-presentation to uNK, supporting their expansion and differentiation. In asoprisnil-treated endometrium, there is a marked down-regulation of stromal PR expression and virtual absence of uNK. These novel findings indicate that the IL-15 pathway provides a missing link in the complex interplay between endometrial stromal cells, uNK and spiral arteries affecting physiological and pathological endometrial bleeding.
PMCID: PMC3843142  PMID: 23913972
Endometrium; spiral arteries; NK cells; IL-15
12.  Viral Enhancer Mimicry of Host Innate-Immune Promoters 
PLoS Pathogens  2014;10(2):e1003804.
PMCID: PMC3916337  PMID: 24516378
13.  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
14.  Deciphering the modulation of gene expression by type I and II interferons combining 4sU-tagging, translational arrest and in silico promoter analysis 
Nucleic Acids Research  2013;41(17):8107-8125.
Interferons (IFN) play a pivotal role in innate immunity, orchestrating a cell-intrinsic anti-pathogenic state and stimulating adaptive immune responses. The complex interplay between the primary response to IFNs and its modulation by positive and negative feedback loops is incompletely understood. Here, we implement the combination of high-resolution gene-expression profiling of nascent RNA with translational inhibition of secondary feedback by cycloheximide. Unexpectedly, this approach revealed a prominent role of negative feedback mechanisms during the immediate (≤60 min) IFNα response. In contrast, a more complex picture involving both negative and positive feedback loops was observed on IFNγ treatment. IFNγ-induced repression of genes associated with regulation of gene expression, cellular development, apoptosis and cell growth resulted from cycloheximide-resistant primary IFNγ signalling. In silico promoter analysis revealed significant overrepresentation of SP1/SP3-binding sites and/or GC-rich stretches. Although signal transducer and activator of transcription 1 (STAT1)-binding sites were not overrepresented, repression was lost in absence of STAT1. Interestingly, basal expression of the majority of these IFNγ-repressed genes was dependent on STAT1 in IFN-naïve fibroblasts. Finally, IFNγ-mediated repression was also found to be evident in primary murine macrophages. IFN-repressed genes include negative regulators of innate and stress response, and their decrease may thus aid the establishment of a signalling perceptive milieu.
PMCID: PMC3783172  PMID: 23832230
15.  A comprehensive machine-readable view of the mammalian cholesterol biosynthesis pathway 
Biochemical Pharmacology  2013;86(1):56-66.
Graphical abstract
We present the pathways leading to cholesterol, epoxy-cholesterol and oxysterol synthesis.
Cholesterol biosynthesis serves as a central metabolic hub for numerous biological processes in health and disease. A detailed, integrative single-view description of how the cholesterol pathway is structured and how it interacts with other pathway systems is lacking in the existing literature. Here we provide a systematic review of the existing literature and present a detailed pathway diagram that describes the cholesterol biosynthesis pathway (the mevalonate, the Kandutch-Russell and the Bloch pathway) and shunt pathway that leads to 24(S),25-epoxycholesterol synthesis. The diagram has been produced using the Systems Biology Graphical Notation (SBGN) and is available in the SBGN-ML format, a human readable and machine semantically parsable open community file format.
PMCID: PMC3912678  PMID: 23583456
Cholesterol; Sterol; SBGN; Metabolic network; Pathway map
16.  A model of flux regulation in the cholesterol biosynthesis pathway: Immune mediated graduated flux reduction versus statin-like led stepped flux reduction 
Biochimie  2013;95(3):613-621.
The cholesterol biosynthesis pathway has recently been shown to play an important role in the innate immune response to viral infection with host protection occurring through a coordinate down regulation of the enzymes catalysing each metabolic step. In contrast, statin based drugs, which form the principle pharmaceutical agents for decreasing the activity of this pathway, target a single enzyme. Here, we build an ordinary differential equation model of the cholesterol biosynthesis pathway in order to investigate how the two regulatory strategies impact upon the behaviour of the pathway. We employ a modest set of assumptions: that the pathway operates away from saturation, that each metabolite is involved in multiple cellular interactions and that mRNA levels reflect enzyme concentrations. Using data taken from primary bone marrow derived macrophage cells infected with murine cytomegalovirus or treated with IFNγ, we show that, under these assumptions, coordinate down-regulation of enzyme activity imparts a graduated reduction in flux along the pathway. In contrast, modelling a statin-like treatment that achieves the same degree of down-regulation in cholesterol production, we show that this delivers a step change in flux along the pathway. The graduated reduction mediated by physiological coordinate regulation of multiple enzymes supports a mechanism that allows a greater level of specificity, altering cholesterol levels with less impact upon interactions branching from the pathway, than pharmacological step reductions. We argue that coordinate regulation is likely to show a long-term evolutionary advantage over single enzyme regulation. Finally, the results from our models have implications for future pharmaceutical therapies intended to target cholesterol production with greater specificity and fewer off target effects, suggesting that this can be achieved by mimicking the coordinated down-regulation observed in immunological responses.
Graphical abstract
► We model the cholesterol biosynthesis pathway and its regulation. ► The innate immune response leads to a suppression of flux through the pathway. ► Statin inhibitors show a different mode of suppression to the immune response. ► Statin inhibitor suppression is less robust and less specific than immune suppression.
PMCID: PMC3585962  PMID: 22664637
Cholesterol; Systems biology; Regulation; Anti-viral; Statin
17.  The Transcription Factor STAT-1 Couples Macrophage Synthesis of 25-Hydroxycholesterol to the Interferon Antiviral Response 
Immunity  2013;38(1):106-118.
Recent studies suggest that the sterol metabolic network participates in the interferon (IFN) antiviral response. However, the molecular mechanisms linking IFN with the sterol network and the identity of sterol mediators remain unknown. Here we report a cellular antiviral role for macrophage production of 25-hydroxycholesterol (cholest-5-en-3β,25-diol, 25HC) as a component of the sterol metabolic network linked to the IFN response via Stat1. By utilizing quantitative metabolome profiling of all naturally occurring oxysterols upon infection or IFN-stimulation, we reveal 25HC as the only macrophage-synthesized and -secreted oxysterol. We show that 25HC can act at multiple levels as a potent paracrine inhibitor of viral infection for a broad range of viruses. We also demonstrate, using transcriptional regulatory-network analyses, genetic interventions and chromatin immunoprecipitation experiments that Stat1 directly coupled Ch25h regulation to IFN in macrophages. Our studies describe a physiological role for 25HC as a sterol-lipid effector of an innate immune pathway.
Graphical Abstract
► Macrophage PRR sensing of virus or IFN activation induce 25HC synthesis and secretion ► Stat1 rapidly binds and activates the promoter of cholesterol-25-hydroxylase (Ch25h) ► 25HC exerts multilevel antiviral function for a range of different viruses ► 25HC is an intrinsic paracrine and autocrine effector of the IFN antiviral response
PMCID: PMC3556782  PMID: 23273843
19.  Ablation of the Regulatory IE1 Protein of Murine Cytomegalovirus Alters In Vivo Pro-inflammatory TNF-alpha Production during Acute Infection 
PLoS Pathogens  2012;8(8):e1002901.
Little is known about the role of viral genes in modulating host cytokine responses. Here we report a new functional role of the viral encoded IE1 protein of the murine cytomegalovirus in sculpting the inflammatory response in an acute infection. In time course experiments of infected primary macrophages (MΦs) measuring cytokine production levels, genetic ablation of the immediate-early 1 (ie1) gene results in a significant increase in TNFα production. Intracellular staining for cytokine production and viral early gene expression shows that TNFα production is highly associated with the productively infected MΦ population of cells. The ie1- dependent phenotype of enhanced MΦ TNFα production occurs at both protein and RNA levels. Noticeably, we show in a series of in vivo infection experiments that in multiple organs the presence of ie1 potently inhibits the pro-inflammatory cytokine response. From these experiments, levels of TNFα, and to a lesser extent IFNβ, but not the anti-inflammatory cytokine IL10, are moderated in the presence of ie1. The ie1- mediated inhibition of TNFα production has a similar quantitative phenotype profile in infection of susceptible (BALB/c) and resistant (C57BL/6) mouse strains as well as in a severe immuno-ablative model of infection. In vitro experiments with infected macrophages reveal that deletion of ie1 results in increased sensitivity of viral replication to TNFα inhibition. However, in vivo infection studies show that genetic ablation of TNFα or TNFRp55 receptor is not sufficient to rescue the restricted replication phenotype of the ie1 mutant virus. These results provide, for the first time, evidence for a role of IE1 as a regulator of the pro-inflammatory response and demonstrate a specific pathogen gene capable of moderating the host production of TNFα in vivo.
Author Summary
The suppression of the production rather than the blockage of action of the potent inflammatory mediator TNFα is a particular hallmark of anti-TNFα mechanisms associated with microbial and parasitic infections. Whether this mode of counter-regulation is an important feature of infection by viruses is not clear. Also, it remains to be determined whether a specific pathogen gene in the context of an infection in vivo is capable of modulating levels of TNFα production. In this study we disclose a virus-mediated moderation of TNFα production, dependent on the ie1 gene of murine cytomegalovirus (MCMV). The ie1 gene product IE1 is a well-characterized nuclear protein capable of altering levels of host and viral gene expression although its biological role in the context of a natural infection is to date unknown. We provide evidence showing that ie1 is associated with a moderated pro-inflammatory cytokine response, in particular with TNFα production. Further, we show that the viral moderation of this cytokine is not only readily apparent in vitro but also in the natural host. The identification of a viral gene responsible for this mode of regulation in vivo may have therapeutic potential in the future in both anti-viral and anti-inflammatory strategies.
PMCID: PMC3431344  PMID: 22952450
20.  Digital clocks: simple Boolean models can quantitatively describe circadian systems 
The gene networks that comprise the circadian clock modulate biological function across a range of scales, from gene expression to performance and adaptive behaviour. The clock functions by generating endogenous rhythms that can be entrained to the external 24-h day–night cycle, enabling organisms to optimally time biochemical processes relative to dawn and dusk. In recent years, computational models based on differential equations have become useful tools for dissecting and quantifying the complex regulatory relationships underlying the clock's oscillatory dynamics. However, optimizing the large parameter sets characteristic of these models places intense demands on both computational and experimental resources, limiting the scope of in silico studies. Here, we develop an approach based on Boolean logic that dramatically reduces the parametrization, making the state and parameter spaces finite and tractable. We introduce efficient methods for fitting Boolean models to molecular data, successfully demonstrating their application to synthetic time courses generated by a number of established clock models, as well as experimental expression levels measured using luciferase imaging. Our results indicate that despite their relative simplicity, logic models can (i) simulate circadian oscillations with the correct, experimentally observed phase relationships among genes and (ii) flexibly entrain to light stimuli, reproducing the complex responses to variations in daylength generated by more detailed differential equation formulations. Our work also demonstrates that logic models have sufficient predictive power to identify optimal regulatory structures from experimental data. By presenting the first Boolean models of circadian circuits together with general techniques for their optimization, we hope to establish a new framework for the systematic modelling of more complex clocks, as well as other circuits with different qualitative dynamics. In particular, we anticipate that the ability of logic models to provide a computationally efficient representation of system behaviour could greatly facilitate the reverse-engineering of large-scale biochemical networks.
PMCID: PMC3405750  PMID: 22499125
systems biology; circadian gene networks; Boolean logic; photoperiodism; Arabidopsis thaliana
21.  Reversible Inhibition of Murine Cytomegalovirus Replication by Gamma Interferon (IFN-γ) in Primary Macrophages Involves a Primed Type I IFN-Signaling Subnetwork for Full Establishment of an Immediate-Early Antiviral State ▿ †  
Journal of Virology  2011;85(19):10286-10299.
Activated macrophages play a central role in controlling inflammatory responses to infection and are tightly regulated to rapidly mount responses to infectious challenge. Type I interferon (alpha/beta interferon [IFN-α/β]) and type II interferon (IFN-γ) play a crucial role in activating macrophages and subsequently restricting viral infections. Both types of IFNs signal through related but distinct signaling pathways, inducing a vast number of interferon-stimulated genes that are overlapping but distinguishable. The exact mechanism by which IFNs, particularly IFN-γ, inhibit DNA viruses such as cytomegalovirus (CMV) is still not fully understood. Here, we investigate the antiviral state developed in macrophages upon reversible inhibition of murine CMV by IFN-γ. On the basis of molecular profiling of the reversible inhibition, we identify a significant contribution of a restricted type I IFN subnetwork linked with IFN-γ activation. Genetic knockout of the type I-signaling pathway, in the context of IFN-γ stimulation, revealed an essential requirement for a primed type I-signaling process in developing a full refractory state in macrophages. A minimal transient induction of IFN-β upon macrophage activation with IFN-γ is also detectable. In dose and kinetic viral replication inhibition experiments with IFN-γ, the establishment of an antiviral effect is demonstrated to occur within the first hours of infection. We show that the inhibitory mechanisms at these very early times involve a blockade of the viral major immediate-early promoter activity. Altogether our results show that a primed type I IFN subnetwork contributes to an immediate-early antiviral state induced by type II IFN activation of macrophages, with a potential further amplification loop contributed by transient induction of IFN-β.
PMCID: PMC3196417  PMID: 21775459
22.  Viral Mediated Redirection of NEMO/IKKγ to Autophagosomes Curtails the Inflammatory Cascade 
PLoS Pathogens  2012;8(2):e1002517.
The early host response to viral infections involves transient activation of pattern recognition receptors leading to an induction of inflammatory cytokines such as interleukin-1β (IL-1β) and tumor necrosis factor α (TNFα). Subsequent activation of cytokine receptors in an autocrine and paracrine manner results in an inflammatory cascade. The precise mechanisms by which viruses avert an inflammatory cascade are incompletely understood. Nuclear factor (NF)-κB is a central regulator of the inflammatory signaling cascade that is controlled by inhibitor of NF-κB (IκB) proteins and the IκB kinase (IKK) complex. In this study we show that murine cytomegalovirus inhibits the inflammatory cascade by blocking Toll-like receptor (TLR) and IL-1 receptor-dependent NF-κB activation. Inhibition occurs through an interaction of the viral M45 protein with the NF-κB essential modulator (NEMO), the regulatory subunit of the IKK complex. M45 induces proteasome-independent degradation of NEMO by targeting NEMO to autophagosomes for subsequent degradation in lysosomes. We propose that the selective and irreversible degradation of a central regulatory protein by autophagy represents a new viral strategy to dampen the inflammatory response.
Author Summary
Upon viral infection cells immediately induce an innate immune response which involves the production of inflammatory cytokines. These cytokines activate specific receptors on infected and surrounding cells leading to local signal amplification as well as signal broadcasting beyond the original site of infection. Inflammatory cytokine production depends on transcription factor NF-κB, whose activity is controlled by a kinase complex that includes the NF-κB essential modulator (NEMO). In order to replicate and spread in their hosts, viruses have evolved numerous strategies to counteract innate immune defenses. In this study we identify a highly effective viral strategy to blunt the host inflammatory response: The murine cytomegalovirus M45 protein binds to NEMO and redirects it to autophagosomes, vesicular structures that deliver cytoplasmic constituents to lysosomes for degradation and recycling. By this means, the virus installs a sustained block to all classical NF-κB activation pathways, which include signaling cascades originating from pattern recognition receptors and inflammatory cytokine receptors. Redirection of an essential component of the host cell defense machinery to the autophagic degradation pathway is a previously unrecognized viral immune evasion strategy whose principle is likely shared by other pathogens.
PMCID: PMC3271075  PMID: 22319449
23.  The in silico macrophage: toward a better understanding of inflammatory disease 
Genome Medicine  2011;3(1):4.
Macrophages function as sentinel, cell-regulatory 'hubs' capable of initiating, perpetuating and contributing to the resolution of an inflammatory response, following their activation from a resting state. Highly complex and varied gene expression programs within the macrophage enable such functional diversity. To investigate how programs of gene expression relate to the phenotypic attributes of the macrophage, the development of in silico modeling methods is needed. Such models need to cover multiple scales, from molecular pathways in cell-autonomous immunity and intercellular communication pathways in tissue inflammation to whole organism response pathways in systemic disease. Here, we highlight the potential of in silico macrophage modeling as an amenable and important yet under-exploited tool in aiding in our understanding of the immune inflammatory response. We also discuss how in silico macrophage modeling can help in future therapeutic strategies for modulating both the acute protective effects of inflammation (such as host defense and tissue repair) and the harmful chronic effects (such as autoimmune diseases).
PMCID: PMC3092089  PMID: 21349141
24.  Temporal Profiling of the Coding and Noncoding Murine Cytomegalovirus Transcriptomes▿† 
Journal of Virology  2011;85(12):6065-6076.
The global transcriptional program of murine cytomegalovirus (MCMV), involving coding, noncoding, and antisense transcription, remains unknown. Here we report an oligonucleotide custom microarray platform capable of measuring both coding and noncoding transcription on a genome-wide scale. By profiling MCMV wild-type and immediate-early mutant strains in fibroblasts, we found rapid activation of the transcriptome by 6.5 h postinfection, with absolute dependency on ie3, but not ie1 or ie2, for genomic programming of viral gene expression. Evidence is also presented to show, for the first time, genome-wide noncoding and bidirectional transcription at late stages of MCMV infection.
PMCID: PMC3126304  PMID: 21471238
25.  The Activator Protein 1 Binding Motifs within the Human Cytomegalovirus Major Immediate-Early Enhancer Are Functionally Redundant and Act in a Cooperative Manner with the NF-κB Sites during Acute Infection ▿ §  
Journal of Virology  2010;85(4):1732-1746.
Human cytomegalovirus (HCMV) infection causes a rapid induction of c-Fos and c-Jun, the major subunits of activator protein 1 (AP-1), which in turn have been postulated to activate the viral immediate-early (IE) genes. Accordingly, the major IE promoter (MIEP) enhancer, a critical control region for initiating lytic HCMV infection and reactivation from the latent state, contains one well-characterized AP-1 site and a second candidate interaction site. In this study we explored the role of these AP-1 elements in the context of the infection. We first show that the distal candidate AP-1 motif binds c-Fos/c-Jun heterodimers (AP-1 complex) and confers c-Fos/c-Jun-mediated activity to a core promoter. Site-directed mutagenesis studies indicate that both AP-1 response elements are critical for 12-O-tetradecanoylphorbol-13-acetate (TPA)-enhanced MIEP activity in transient-transfection assays. In marked contrast to the results obtained with the isolated promoter, disruption of the AP-1 recognition sites of the MIEP in the context of the infectious HCMV genome has no significant influence on the expression of the MIE protein IE1 or viral replication in different cell types. Moreover, a chimeric murine CMV driven by the HCMV MIEP (hMCMV-ES) with the two AP-1 binding sites mutated is not compromised in virulence, is able to grow and disseminate to different organs of the newborn mice as efficiently as the parental virus, and is competent in reactivation. We show, however, that combined inactivation of the enhancer AP-1 and NF-κB recognition sites leads to an attenuation of the hMCMV-ES in the neonatal murine infection model, not observed when each single element is abolished. Altogether, these results underline the functional redundancy of the MIEP elements, highlighting the plasticity of this region, which probably evolved to ensure maximal transcriptional performance across many diverse environments.
PMCID: PMC3028895  PMID: 21106746

Results 1-25 (59)