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1.  miR-148a is upregulated by Twist1 and T-bet and promotes Th1-cell survival by regulating the proapoptotic gene Bim 
European Journal of Immunology  2015;45(4):1192-1205.
Repeatedly activated T helper 1 (Th1) cells present during chronic inflammation can efficiently adapt to the inflammatory milieu, for example, by expressing the transcription factor Twist1, which limits the immunopathology caused by Th1 cells. Here, we show that in repeatedly activated murine Th1 cells, Twist1 and T-bet induce expression of microRNA-148a (miR-148a). miR-148a regulates expression of the proapoptotic gene Bim, resulting in a decreased Bim/Bcl2 ratio. Inhibition of miR-148a by antagomirs in repeatedly activated Th1 cells increases the expression of Bim, leading to enhanced apoptosis. Knockdown of Bim expression by siRNA in miR-148a antagomir-treated cells restores viability of the Th1 cells, demonstrating that miR-148a controls survival by regulating Bim expression. Thus, Twist1 and T-bet not only control the differentiation and function of Th1 cells, but also their persistence in chronic inflammation.
PMCID: PMC4406154  PMID: 25486906
Bim; miR-148a; T-bet; Th1; Twist1
2.  Nuclear Factor of Activated T Cells Regulates the Expression of Interleukin-4 in Th2 Cells in an All-or-none Fashion* 
The Journal of Biological Chemistry  2014;289(39):26752-26761.
Background: Not every T helper type 2 (Th2) lymphocyte imprinted to express interleukin-4 (IL-4) does so when activated.
Results: Preventing nuclear translocation of the nuclear factor of activated T cells (NFAT) reduces the number of Th2 lymphocytes reexpressing IL-4.
Conclusion: NFAT is the limiting factor determining digital IL-4 expression in Th2 lymphocytes.
Significance: This might help us to understand the regulation of immunopathology in allergy and asthma.
Th2 memory lymphocytes have imprinted their Il4 genes epigenetically for expression in dependence of T cell receptor restimulation. However, in a given restimulation, not all Th cells with a memory for IL-4 expression express IL-4. Here, we show that in reactivated Th2 cells, the transcription factors NFATc2, NF-kB p65, c-Maf, p300, Brg1, STAT6, and GATA-3 assemble at the Il4 promoter in Th2 cells expressing IL-4 but not in Th2 cells not expressing it. NFATc2 is critical for assembly of this transcription factor complex. Because NFATc2 translocation into the nucleus occurs in an all-or-none fashion, dependent on complete dephosphorylation by calcineurin, NFATc2 controls the frequencies of cells reexpressing Il4, translates analog differences in T cell receptor stimulation into a digital decision for Il4 reexpression, and instructs all reexpressing cells to express the same amount of IL-4. This analog-to-digital conversion may be critical for the immune system to respond to low concentrations of antigens.
PMCID: PMC4175318  PMID: 25037220
Calcineurin; Cytokine; NFAT Transcription Factor; T-cell; T-cell Receptor (TCR)
3.  IL-2 Expression in Activated Human Memory FOXP3+ Cells Critically Depends on the Cellular Levels of FOXP3 as Well as of Four Transcription Factors of  T Cell Activation 
The human CD4+FOXP3+ T cell population is heterogeneous and consists of various subpopulations which remain poorly defined. Anergy and suppression are two main functional characteristics of FOXP3+Treg cells. We used the anergic behavior of FOXP3+Treg cells for a better discrimination and characterization of such subpopulations. We compared IL-2-expressing with IL-2-non-expressing cells within the memory FOXP3+ T cell population. In contrast to IL-2-non-expressing FOXP3+ cells, IL-2-expressing FOXP3+ cells exhibit intermediate characteristics of Treg and Th cells concerning the Treg cell markers CD25, GITR, and Helios. Besides lower levels of FOXP3, they also have higher levels of the transcription factors NFATc2, c-Fos, NF-κBp65, and c-Jun. An approach combining flow cytometric measurements with statistical interpretation for quantitative transcription factor analysis suggests that the physiological expression levels not only of FOXP3 but also of NFATc2, c-Jun, c-Fos, and NF-κBp65 are limiting for the decision whether IL-2 is expressed or not in activated peripheral human memory FOXP3+ cells. These findings demonstrate that concomitant high levels of NFATc2, c-Jun, c-Fos, and NF-κBp65 lead in addition to potential IL-2 expression in those FOXP3+ cells with low levels of FOXP3. We hypothesize that not only the level of FOXP3 expression but also the amounts of the four transcription factors studied represent determining factors for the anergic phenotype of FOXP3+ Treg cells.
PMCID: PMC3428033  PMID: 22969764
cytokine expression; transcription factors; T cell activation; IL-2 expression; lymphocyte; flow cytometry; human Treg cells; memory Th cells
4.  Methylation matters: binding of Ets-1 to the demethylated Foxp3 gene contributes to the stabilization of Foxp3 expression in regulatory T cells 
The forkhead-box protein P3 (Foxp3) is a key transcription factor for the development and suppressive activity of regulatory T cells (Tregs), a T cell subset critically involved in the maintenance of self-tolerance and prevention of over-shooting immune responses. However, the transcriptional regulation of Foxp3 expression remains incompletely understood. We have previously shown that epigenetic modifications in the CpG-rich Treg-specific demethylated region (TSDR) in the Foxp3 locus are associated with stable Foxp3 expression. We now demonstrate that the methylation state of the CpG motifs within the TSDR controls its transcriptional activity rather than a Treg-specific transcription factor network. By systematically mutating every CpG motif within the TSDR, we could identify four CpG motifs, which are critically determining the transcriptional activity of the TSDR and which serve as binding sites for essential transcription factors, such as CREB/ATF and NF-κB, which have previously been shown to bind to this element. The transcription factor Ets-1 was here identified as an additional molecular player that specifically binds to the TSDR in a demethylation-dependent manner in vitro. Disruption of the Ets-1 binding sites within the TSDR drastically reduced its transcriptional enhancer activity. In addition, we found Ets-1 bound to the demethylated TSDR in ex vivo isolated Tregs, but not to the methylated TSDR in conventional CD4+ T cells. We therefore propose that Ets-1 is part of a larger protein complex, which binds to the TSDR only in its demethylated state, thereby restricting stable Foxp3 expression to the Treg lineage.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1007/s00109-010-0642-1) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC2943068  PMID: 20574810
Epigenetic control; DNA methylation; Gene expression; Transcription factors
5.  Signal transduction, receptors, mediators and genes: younger than ever - the 13th meeting of the Signal Transduction Society focused on aging and immunology 
The 13th meeting of the Signal Transduction Society was held in Weimar, from October 28 to 30, 2009. Special focus of the 2009 conference was "Aging and Senescence", which was co-organized by the SFB 728 "Environmentally-Induced Aging Processes" of the University of Düsseldorf and the study group 'Signal Transduction' of the German Society for Cell Biology (DGZ). In addition, several other areas of signal transduction research were covered and supported by different consortia associated with the Signal Transduction Society including the long-term associated study groups of the German Society for Immunology and the Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, and for instance the SFB/Transregio 52 "Transcriptional Programming of Individual T Cell Subsets" located in Würzburg, Mainz and Berlin. The different research areas that were introduced by outstanding keynote speakers attracted more than 250 scientists, showing the timeliness and relevance of the interdisciplinary concept and exchange of knowledge during the three days of the scientific program. This report gives an overview of the presentations of the conference.
PMCID: PMC2833152  PMID: 20181226
6.  Novel inhibitors of the calcineurin/NFATc hub - alternatives to CsA and FK506? 
The drugs cyclosporine A (CsA) and tacrolimus (FK506) revolutionized organ transplantation. Both compounds are still widely used in the clinic as well as for basic research, even though they have dramatic side effects and modulate other pathways than calcineurin-NFATc, too. To answer the major open question - whether the adverse side effects are secondary to the actions of the drugs on the calcineurin-NFATc pathway - alternative inhibitors were developed. Ideal inhibitors should discriminate between the inhibition of (i) calcineurin and peptidyl-prolyl cis-trans isomerases (PPIases; the matchmaker proteins of CsA and FK506), (ii) calcineurin and the other Ser/Thr protein phosphatases, and (iii) NFATc and other transcription factors. In this review we summarize the current knowledge about novel inhibitors, synthesized or identified in the last decades, and focus on their mode of action, specificity, and biological effects.
PMCID: PMC2774854  PMID: 19860902
7.  SiPaGene: A new repository for instant online retrieval, sharing and meta-analyses of GeneChip® expression data 
BMC Genomics  2009;10:98.
Microarray expression profiling is becoming a routine technology for medical research and generates enormous amounts of data. However, reanalysis of public data and comparison with own results is laborious. Although many different tools exist, there is a need for more convenience and online analysis with restriction of access and user specific sharing options. Furthermore, most of the currently existing tools do not use the whole range of statistical power provided by the MAS5.0/GCOS algorithms.
With a current focus on immunology, infection, inflammation, tissue regeneration and cancer we developed a database platform that can load preprocessed Affymetrix GeneChip expression data for immediate access. Group or subgroup comparisons can be calculated online, retrieved for candidate genes, transcriptional activity in various biological conditions and compared with different experiments. The system is based on Oracle 9i with algorithms in java and graphical user interfaces implemented as java servlets. Signals, detection calls, signal log ratios, change calls and corresponding p-values were calculated with MAS5.0/GCOS algorithms. MIAME information and gene annotations are provided via links to GEO and EntrezGene. Users access via https protocol their own, shared or public data. Sharing is comparison- and user-specific with different levels of rights. Arrays for group comparisons can be selected individually. Twenty-two different group comparison parameters can be applied in user-defined combinations on single or multiple group comparisons. Identified genes can be reviewed online or downloaded. Optimized selection criteria were developed and reliability was demonstrated with the "Latin Square" data set. Currently more than 1,000 arrays, 10,000 pairwise comparisons and 500 group comparisons are presented with public or restricted access by different research networks or individual users.
SiPaGene is a repository and a high quality tool for primary analysis of GeneChips. It exploits the MAS5.0/GCOS pairwise comparison algorithm, enables restricted access and user specific sharing. It does not aim for a complete representation of all public arrays but for high quality analysis with stepwise integration of reference signatures for detailed meta-analyses. Development of additional tools like functional annotation networks based on expression information will be future steps towards a systematic biological analysis of expression profiles.
PMCID: PMC2657156  PMID: 19265543
8.  Autoregulation of Th1-mediated inflammation by twist1 
The Journal of Experimental Medicine  2008;205(8):1889-1901.
The basic helix-loop-helix transcriptional repressor twist1, as an antagonist of nuclear factor κB (NF-κB)–dependent cytokine expression, is involved in the regulation of inflammation-induced immunopathology. We show that twist1 is expressed by activated T helper (Th) 1 effector memory (EM) cells. Induction of twist1 in Th cells depended on NF-κB, nuclear factor of activated T cells (NFAT), and interleukin (IL)-12 signaling via signal transducer and activator of transcription (STAT) 4. Expression of twist1 was transient after T cell receptor engagement, and increased upon repeated stimulation of Th1 cells. Imprinting for enhanced twist1 expression was characteristic of repeatedly restimulated EM Th cells, and thus of the pathogenic memory Th cells characteristic of chronic inflammation. Th lymphocytes from the inflamed joint or gut tissue of patients with rheumatic diseases, Crohn's disease or ulcerative colitis expressed high levels of twist1. Expression of twist1 in Th1 lymphocytes limited the expression of the cytokines interferon-γ, IL-2, and tumor necrosis factor-α, and ameliorated Th1-mediated immunopathology in delayed-type hypersensitivity and antigen-induced arthritis.
PMCID: PMC2525589  PMID: 18663125
9.  Digital NFATc2 Activation per Cell Transforms Graded T Cell Receptor Activation into an All-or-None IL-2 Expression 
PLoS ONE  2007;2(9):e935.
The expression of interleukin-2 (IL-2) is a key event in T helper (Th) lymphocyte activation, controlling both, the expansion and differentiation of effector Th cells as well as the activation of regulatory T cells. We demonstrate that the strength of TCR stimulation is translated into the frequency of memory Th cells expressing IL-2 but not into the amount of IL-2 per cell. This molecular switch decision for IL-2 expression per cell is located downstream of the cytosolic Ca2+ level. Here we show that in a single activated Th cell, NFATc2 activation is digital but NF-κB activation is graded after graded T cell receptor (TCR) signaling. Subsequently, NFATc2 translocates into the nucleus in an all-or-none fashion per cell, transforming the strength of TCR-stimulation into the number of nuclei positive for NFATc2 and IL-2 transcription. Thus, the described NFATc2 switch regulates the number of Th cells actively participating in an immune response.
PMCID: PMC1978524  PMID: 17895976

Results 1-9 (9)