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1.  Modulation of CD14 and TLR4.MD-2 activities by a synthetic lipid A mimetic 
Monosaccharide lipid A mimetics composed by a glucosamine core linked to two fatty acid chains and bearing one or two phosphates have been synthesized. While compounds 1 and 2, with one phosphate group, were practically inactive in inhibiting LPS-induced TLR4 signaling and cytokine production in HEK-blue™ cells and murine macrophages, compound 3 with two phosphates was found to be active in efficiently inhibiting TLR4 signal in both cell types. The direct interaction of molecule 3 with MD-2 co-receptor has been investigated by means of NMR and molecular modeling/docking analysis. This compound also interacts directly with CD14 receptor, stimulating its internalization by endocytosis. Experiments on macrophages show that the effect on CD14 reinforces the activity on MD-2.TLR4, because compound 3 activity is higher when CD14 is important for TLR4 signaling i,e, at low LPS concentration. The dual MD-2 and CD14 targeting, accompanied by good solubility in water and lack of toxicity, suggests the use of monosaccharide 3 as a lead compound to develop drugs directed against TLR4-related syndromes.
PMCID: PMC4040397  PMID: 24339336
drugs; carbohydrates; bioorganic chemistry; NMR; molecular modeling
2.  The Nature of Activatory and Tolerogenic Dendritic Cell-Derived Signal 2 
PMCID: PMC3915285  PMID: 24567734
dendritic cells; T cell priming; tolerance; costimulatory molecules; danger signals; regulatory T cells
3.  Modeling Leukocyte-Leukocyte Non-Contact Interactions in a Lymph Node 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(10):e76756.
The interaction among leukocytes is at the basis of the innate and adaptive immune-response and it is largely ascribed to direct cell-cell contacts. However, the exchange of a number of chemical stimuli (chemokines) allows also non-contact interaction during the immunological response. We want here to evaluate the extent of the effect of the non-contact interactions on the observed leukocyte-leukocyte kinematics and their interaction duration. To this aim we adopt a simplified mean field description inspired by the Keller-Segel chemotaxis model, of which we report an analytical solution suited for slowly varying sources of chemokines. Since our focus is on the non-contact interactions, leukocyte-leukocyte contact interactions are simulated only by means of a space dependent friction coefficient of the cells. The analytical solution of the Keller-Segel model is then taken as the basis of numerical simulations of interactions between leukocytes and their duration. The mean field interaction force that we derive has a time-space separable form and depends on the chemotaxis sensitivity parameter as well as on the chemokines diffusion coefficient and their degradation rate. All these parameters affect the distribution of the interaction durations. We draw a successful qualitative comparison between simulated data and sets of experimental data for DC-NK cells interaction duration and other kinematic parameters. Remarkably, the predicted percentage of the leukocyte-leukocyte interactions falls in the experimental range and depends (≅25% increase) upon the chemotactic parameter indicating a non-negligible direct effect of the non-contact interaction on the leukocyte interactions.
PMCID: PMC3810259  PMID: 24204669
5.  Role of CD14 in host protection against infections and in metabolism regulation 
CD14 is a glycosylphosphatidylinositol (GPI)-anchored receptor known to serve as a co-receptor for several Toll-like Receptors (TLRs) both at the cell surface and in the endosomal compartment. CD14 can be expressed by cells of both hematopoietic and non-hematopoietic origin as a cell membrane or secreted protein. Although CD14 was discovered more than 20 years ago, its activities remain largely to be defined. Most of the information available concerns CD14's role as a co-receptor working with TLR4 and facilitating cellular responses to low doses of lipopolysaccharide (LPS). Recent studies have highlighted and molecularly defined many other functions of this pattern recognition receptor (PRR). These functions include the mechanisms through which CD14 allows the activation of the TLR4-TRAM-TRIF pathway upon LPS stimulation; the capacity of CD14 to transduce a TLR4-independent signaling pathway leading to the activation of NFAT transcription factor family members with important consequences in myeloid cells; the CD14 influence on cell metabolism in conditions predisposing to obesity. In this review, we summarize recent progresses toward the molecular definition of the multiple roles exerted by CD14 in innate immune cells in response to LPS and the consequences of CD14 activation in physiologic and pathologic conditions.
PMCID: PMC3721004  PMID: 23898465
pattern recognition receptors; CD14; lipopolysaccharide; NFAT; innate immunity
6.  Uniform LPS-Loaded Magnetic Nanoparticles for the Investigation of LPS/TLR4 Signaling** 
PMCID: PMC3517008  PMID: 21226138
Lipopolysaccharide; Toll-Like Receptor 4; Magnetic nanoparticles; Dendritic cells; Macrophages
8.  The Timing of IFNβ Production Affects Early Innate Responses to Listeria monocytogenes and Determines the Overall Outcome of Lethal Infection 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(8):e43455.
Dendritic cells (DCs) and natural killer (NK) cells are essential components of the innate immunity and play a crucial role in the first phase of host defense against infections and tumors. Listeria monocytogenes (Lm) is an intracellular pathogen that colonizes the cytosol of eukaryotic cells. Recent findings have shown Lm specifically in splenic CD8a+ DCs shortly after intravenous infection. We examined gene expression profiles of mouse DCs exposed to Lm to elucidate the molecular mechanisms underlying DCs interaction with Lm. Using a functional genomics approach, we found that Lm infection induced a cluster of late response genes including type I IFNs and interferon responsive genes (IRGs) in DCs. Type I INFs were produced at the maximal level only at 24 h post infection indicating that the regulation of IFNs in the context of Lm infection is delayed compared to the rapid response observed with viral pathogens. We showed that during Lm infection, IFNγ production and cytotoxic activity were severely impaired in NK cells compared to E. coli infection. These defects were restored by providing an exogenous source of IFNβ during the initial phase of bacterial challenge. Moreover, when treated with IFNβ during early infection, NK cells were able to reduce bacterial titer in the spleen and significantly improve survival of infected mice. These findings show that the timing of IFNβ production is fundamental to the efficient control of the bacterium during the early innate phase of Lm infection.
PMCID: PMC3422257  PMID: 22912878
9.  CD14 and NFAT mediate lipopolysaccharide-induced skin edema formation in mice 
The Journal of Clinical Investigation  2012;122(5):1747-1757.
Inflammation is a multistep process triggered when innate immune cells — for example, DCs — sense a pathogen or injured cell or tissue. Edema formation is one of the first steps in the inflammatory response; it is fundamental for the local accumulation of inflammatory mediators. Injection of LPS into the skin provides a model for studying the mechanisms of inflammation and edema formation. While it is known that innate immune recognition of LPS leads to activation of numerous transcriptional activators, including nuclear factor of activated T cells (NFAT) isoforms, the molecular pathways that lead to edema formation have not been determined. As PGE2 regulates many proinflammatory processes, including swelling and pain, and it is induced by LPS, we hypothesized that PGE2 mediates the local generation of edema following LPS exposure. Here, we show that tissue-resident DCs are the main source of PGE2 and the main controllers of tissue edema formation in a mouse model of LPS-induced inflammation. LPS exposure induced expression of microsomal PGE synthase-1 (mPGES-1), a key enzyme in PGE2 biosynthesis. mPGES-1 activation, PGE2 production, and edema formation required CD14 (a component of the LPS receptor) and NFAT. Therefore, tissue edema formation induced by LPS is DC and CD14/NFAT dependent. Moreover, DCs can regulate free antigen arrival at the draining lymph nodes by controlling edema formation and interstitial fluid pressure in the presence of LPS. We therefore suggest that the CD14/NFAT/mPGES-1 pathway represents a possible target for antiinflammatory therapies.
PMCID: PMC3336986  PMID: 22466648
10.  A Dairy Bacterium Displays In Vitro Probiotic Properties for the Pharyngeal Mucosa by Antagonizing Group A Streptococci and Modulating the Immune Response▿  
Infection and Immunity  2010;78(11):4734-4743.
The probiotic approach represents an alternative strategy in the prevention and treatment of infectious diseases, not only at the intestinal level but also at other sites of the body where the microbiota plays a role in the maintenance of physiological homeostasis. In this context, we evaluated in vitro the potential abilities of probiotic and dairy bacteria in controlling Streptococcus pyogenes infections at the pharyngeal level. Initially, we analyzed bacterial adhesion to FaDu hypopharyngeal carcinoma cells and the ability to antagonize S. pyogenes on FaDu cell layers and HaCat keratinocytes. Due to its promising adhesive and antagonistic features, we studied the dairy strain Lactobacillus helveticus MIMLh5, also through in vitro immunological experiments. First, we performed quantification of several cytokines and measurement of NF-κB activation in FaDu cells. MIMLh5 efficiently reduced the induction of interleukin-6 (IL-6), IL-8, and tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-α), in a dose-dependent manner. After stimulation of cells with IL-1β, active NF-κB was still markedly lowered. Nevertheless, we observed an increased secretion of IL-6, gamma interferon (IFN-γ), and granulocyte-macrophage colony-stimulating factor (GM-CSF) under these conditions. These effects were associated with the ability of MIMLh5 to enhance the expression of the heat shock protein coding gene hsp70. In addition, MIMLh5 increased the GM-CSF/G-CSF ratio. This is compatible with a switch of the immune response toward a TH1 pathway, as supported by our observation that MIMLh5, once in contact with bone marrow-derived dendritic cells, triggered the secretion of TNF-α and IL-2. In conclusion, we propose MIMLh5 as a potential probiotic bacterium for the human pharynx, with promising antagonistic and immunomodulatory properties.
PMCID: PMC2976356  PMID: 20732995
11.  DC-ATLAS: a systems biology resource to dissect receptor specific signal transduction in dendritic cells 
Immunome Research  2010;6:10.
The advent of Systems Biology has been accompanied by the blooming of pathway databases. Currently pathways are defined generically with respect to the organ or cell type where a reaction takes place. The cell type specificity of the reactions is the foundation of immunological research, and capturing this specificity is of paramount importance when using pathway-based analyses to decipher complex immunological datasets. Here, we present DC-ATLAS, a novel and versatile resource for the interpretation of high-throughput data generated perturbing the signaling network of dendritic cells (DCs).
Pathways are annotated using a novel data model, the Biological Connection Markup Language (BCML), a SBGN-compliant data format developed to store the large amount of information collected. The application of DC-ATLAS to pathway-based analysis of the transcriptional program of DCs stimulated with agonists of the toll-like receptor family allows an integrated description of the flow of information from the cellular sensors to the functional outcome, capturing the temporal series of activation events by grouping sets of reactions that occur at different time points in well-defined functional modules.
The initiative significantly improves our understanding of DC biology and regulatory networks. Developing a systems biology approach for immune system holds the promise of translating knowledge on the immune system into more successful immunotherapy strategies.
PMCID: PMC3000836  PMID: 21092113
12.  Accumulative Difference Image Protocol for Particle Tracking in Fluorescence Microscopy Tested in Mouse Lymphonodes 
PLoS ONE  2010;5(8):e12216.
The basic research in cell biology and in medical sciences makes large use of imaging tools mainly based on confocal fluorescence and, more recently, on non-linear excitation microscopy. Substantially the aim is the recognition of selected targets in the image and their tracking in time. We have developed a particle tracking algorithm optimized for low signal/noise images with a minimum set of requirements on the target size and with no a priori knowledge of the type of motion. The image segmentation, based on a combination of size sensitive filters, does not rely on edge detection and is tailored for targets acquired at low resolution as in most of the in-vivo studies. The particle tracking is performed by building, from a stack of Accumulative Difference Images, a single 2D image in which the motion of the whole set of the particles is coded in time by a color level. This algorithm, tested here on solid-lipid nanoparticles diffusing within cells and on lymphocytes diffusing in lymphonodes, appears to be particularly useful for the cellular and the in-vivo microscopy image processing in which few a priori assumption on the type, the extent and the variability of particle motions, can be done.
PMCID: PMC2923183  PMID: 20808918
13.  A Contribution of Mouse Dendritic Cell–Derived IL-2 for NK Cell Activation 
Dendritic cells (DCs) play a predominant role in activation of natural killer (NK) cells that exert their functions against pathogen-infected and tumor cells. Here, we used a murine model to investigate the molecular mechanisms responsible for this process. Two soluble molecules produced by bacterially activated myeloid DCs are required for optimal priming of NK cells. Type I interferons (IFNs) promote the cytotoxic functions of NK cells. IL-2 is necessary both in vitro and in vivo for the efficient production of IFNγ, which has an important antimetastatic and antibacterial function. These findings provide new information about the mechanisms that mediate DC–NK cell interactions and define a novel and fundamental role for IL-2 in innate immunity.
PMCID: PMC2211974  PMID: 15289500
NK cells; dendritic cells; innate immune response; interleukin 2; interferon γ

Results 1-13 (13)