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1.  FRA2 Is a STAT5 Target Gene Regulated by IL-2 in Human CD4 T Cells 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(2):e90370.
Signal transducers and activators of transcription 5(STAT5) are cytokine induced signaling proteins, which regulate key immunological processes, such as tolerance induction, maintenance of homeostasis, and CD4 T-effector cell differentiation. In this study, transcriptional targets of STAT5 in CD4 T cells were studied by Chromatin Immunoprecipitation (ChIP). Genomic mapping of the sites cloned and identified in this study revealed the striking observation that the majority of STAT5-binding sites mapped to intergenic (>50 kb upstream) or intronic, rather than promoter proximal regions. Of the 105 STAT5 responsive binding sites identified, 94% contained the canonical (IFN-γ activation site) GAS motifs.
A number of putative target genes identified here are associated with tumor biology. Here, we identified Fos-related antigen 2 (FRA2) as a transcriptional target of IL-2 regulated STAT5. FRA2 is a basic -leucine zipper (bZIP) motif ‘Fos’ family transcription factor that is part of the AP-1 transcription factor complex and is also known to play a critical role in the progression of human tumours and more recently as a determinant of T cell plasticity. The binding site mapped to an internal intron within the FRA2 gene. The epigenetic architecture of FRA2, characterizes a transcriptionally active promoter as indicated by enrichment for histone methylation marks H3K4me1, H3K4me2, H3K4me3, and transcription/elongation associated marks H2BK5me1 and H4K20me1. FRA2 is regulated by IL-2 in activated CD4 T cells. Consistently, STAT5 bound to GAS sequence in the internal intron of FRA2 and reporter gene assays confirmed IL-2 induced STAT5 binding and transcriptional activation. Furthermore, addition of JAK3 inhibitor (R333) or Daclizumab inhibited the induction in TCR stimulated cells. Taken together, our data suggest that FRA2 is a novel STAT5 target gene, regulated by IL-2 in activated CD4 T cells.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0090370
PMCID: PMC3938719  PMID: 24587342
2.  Protection Against Epithelial Damage During Candida albicans Infection Is Mediated by PI3K/Akt and Mammalian Target of Rapamycin Signaling 
The Journal of Infectious Diseases  2013;209(11):1816-1826.
Background. The ability of epithelial cells (ECs) to discriminate between commensal and pathogenic microbes is essential for healthy living. Key to these interactions are mucosal epithelial responses to pathogen-induced damage.
Methods. Using reconstituted oral epithelium, we assessed epithelial gene transcriptional responses to Candida albicans infection by microarray. Signal pathway activation was monitored by Western blotting and transcription factor enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay, and the role of these pathways in C. albicans–induced damage protection was determined using chemical inhibitors.
Results. Transcript profiling demonstrated early upregulation of epithelial genes involved in immune responses. Many of these genes constituted components of signaling pathways, but only NF-κB, MAPK, and PI3K/Akt pathways were functionally activated. We demonstrate that PI3K/Akt signaling is independent of NF-κB and MAPK signaling and plays a key role in epithelial immune activation and damage protection via mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) activation.
Conclusions. PI3K/Akt/mTOR signaling may play a critical role in protecting epithelial cells from damage during mucosal fungal infections independent of NF-κB or MAPK signaling.
doi:10.1093/infdis/jit824
PMCID: PMC4017362  PMID: 24357630
Akt; Candida albicans; epithelial; inflammation; fungal; PI3 kinase; damage; MAPK; c-Fos; microarray; mTOR
3.  Candida albicans Cell Wall Glycosylation May Be Indirectly Required for Activation of Epithelial Cell Proinflammatory Responses ▿  
Infection and Immunity  2011;79(12):4902-4911.
Oral epithelial cells discriminate between the yeast and hyphal forms of Candida albicans via the mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) signaling pathway. This occurs through phosphorylation of the MAPK phosphatase MKP1 and activation of the c-Fos transcription factor by the hyphal form. Given that fungal cell wall polysaccharides are critical in host recognition and immune activation in myeloid cells, we sought to determine whether β-glucan and N- or O-glycosylation was important in activating the MAPK/MKP1/c-Fos hypha-mediated response mechanism and proinflammatory cytokines in oral epithelial cells. Using a series of β-glucan and N- and O-mannan mutants, we found that N-mannosylation (via Δoch1 and Δpmr1 mutants) and O-mannosylation (via Δpmt1 and Δmnt1 Δmnt2 mutants), but not phosphomannan (via a Δmnn4 mutant) or β-1,2 mannosylation (via Δbmt1 to Δbmt6 mutants), were required for MKP1/c-Fos activation, proinflammatory cytokine production, and cell damage induction. However, the N- and O-mannan mutants showed reduced adhesion or lack of initial hypha formation at 2 h, resulting in little MKP1/c-Fos activation, or restricted hypha formation/pseudohyphal formation at 24 h, resulting in minimal proinflammatory cytokine production and cell damage. Further, the α-1,6-mannose backbone of the N-linked outer chain (corresponding to a Δmnn9 mutant) may be required for epithelial adhesion, while the α-1,2-mannose component of phospholipomannan (corresponding to a Δmit1 mutant) may contribute to epithelial cell damage. β-Glucan appeared to play no role in adhesion, epithelial activation, or cell damage. In summary, N- and O-mannosylation defects affect the ability of C. albicans to induce proinflammatory cytokines and damage in oral epithelial cells, but this may be due to indirect effects on fungal pathogenicity rather than mannose residues being direct activators of the MAPK/MKP1/c-Fos hypha-mediated immune response.
doi:10.1128/IAI.05591-11
PMCID: PMC3232641  PMID: 21930756
4.  Evaluation of the Role of Candida albicans Agglutinin-Like Sequence (Als) Proteins in Human Oral Epithelial Cell Interactions 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(3):e33362.
The fungus C. albicans uses adhesins to interact with human epithelial surfaces in the processes of colonization and pathogenesis. The C. albicans ALS (agglutinin-like sequence) gene family encodes eight large cell-surface glycoproteins (Als1-Als7 and Als9) that have adhesive function. This study utilized C. albicans Δals mutant strains to investigate the role of the Als family in oral epithelial cell adhesion and damage, cytokine induction and activation of a MAPK-based (MKP1/c-Fos) signaling pathway that discriminates between yeast and hyphae. Of the eight Δals mutants tested, only the Δals3 strain showed significant reductions in oral epithelial cell adhesion and damage, and cytokine production. High fungal:epithelial cell multiplicities of infection were able to rescue the cell damage and cytokine production phenotypes, demonstrating the importance of fungal burden in mucosal infections. Despite its adhesion, damage and cytokine induction phenotypes, the Δals3 strain induced MKP1 phosphorylation and c-Fos production to a similar extent as control cells. Our data demonstrate that Als3 is involved directly in epithelial adhesion but indirectly in cell damage and cytokine induction, and is not the factor targeted by oral epithelial cells to discriminate between the yeast and hyphal form of C. albicans.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0033362
PMCID: PMC3299778  PMID: 22428031
5.  Activation of MAPK/c-Fos induced responses in oral epithelial cells is specific to Candida albicans and Candida dubliniensis hyphae 
Oral epithelial cells detect the human pathogenic fungus Candida albicans via NF-κB and a bi-phasic mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) signaling response. However, discrimination between C. albicans yeast and hyphal forms is mediated only by the MAPK pathway, which constitutes activation of the MAPK phosphatase MKP1 and the c-Fos transcription factor and is targeted against the hyphal form. Given that C. albicans is not the only Candida species capable of filamentation or causing mucosal infections, we sought to determine whether this MAPK/MKP1/c-Fos mediated response mechanism was activated by other pathogenic Candida species, including C. dubliniensis, C. tropicalis, C. parapsilosis, C. glabrata and C. krusei. Although all Candida species activated the NF-κB signaling pathway, only C. albicans and C. dubliniensis were capable of inducing MKP1 and c-Fos activation, which directly correlated with hypha formation. However, only C. albicans strongly induced cytokine production (G-CSF, GM-CSF, IL-6 and IL-1α) and cell damage. Candida dubliniensis, C. tropicalis and C. parapsilosis were also capable of inducing IL-1α and this correlated with mild cell damage and was dependent upon fungal burdens. Our data demonstrate that activation of the MAPK/MKP1/c-Fos pathway in oral epithelial cells is specific to C. dubliniensis and C. albicans hyphae.
doi:10.1007/s00430-011-0209-y
PMCID: PMC3257392  PMID: 21706283
Candida albicans; Candida dubliniensis; Hypha formation; MAPK; MKP1; c-Fos; NF-κB; Oral epithelium; Innate immunity
6.  Candida albicans Yeast and Hyphae are Discriminated by MAPK Signaling in Vaginal Epithelial Cells 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(11):e26580.
We previously reported that a bi-phasic innate immune MAPK response, constituting activation of the mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) phosphatase MKP1 and c-Fos transcription factor, discriminates between the yeast and hyphal forms of Candida albicans in oral epithelial cells (ECs). Since the vast majority of mucosal Candida infections are vaginal, we sought to determine whether a similar bi-phasic MAPK-based immune response was activated by C. albicans in vaginal ECs. Here, we demonstrate that vaginal ECs orchestrate an innate response to C. albicans via NF-κB and MAPK signaling pathways. However, unlike in oral ECs, the first MAPK response, defined by c-Jun transcription factor activation, is delayed until 2 h in vaginal ECs but is still independent of hypha formation. The ‘second’ or ‘late’ MAPK response, constituting MKP1 and c-Fos transcription factor activation, is identical to oral ECs and is dependent upon both hypha formation and fungal burdens. NF-κB activation is immediate but independent of morphology. Furthermore, the proinflammatory response in vaginal ECs is different to oral ECs, with an absence of G-CSF and CCL20 and low level IL-6 production. Therefore, differences exist in how C. albicans activates signaling mechanisms in oral and vaginal ECs; however, the activation of MAPK-based pathways that discriminate between yeast and hyphal forms is retained between these mucosal sites. We conclude that this MAPK-based signaling pathway is a common mechanism enabling different human epithelial tissues to orchestrate innate immune responses specifically against C. albicans hyphae.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0026580
PMCID: PMC3210759  PMID: 22087232
7.  MAPK, MKP1 and c-Fos Discriminate Candida albicans Yeast from Hyphae in Epithelial Cells 
Cell host & microbe  2010;8(3):225-235.
SUMMARY
Host mechanisms enabling discrimination between the commensal and pathogenic states of opportunistic pathogens are critical in mucosal defense and homeostasis. Here, we demonstrate that oral epithelial cells orchestrate an innate response to the human fungal pathogen Candida albicans via NF-κB and a bi-phasic MAPK response. Activation of NF-κB and the first MAPK phase, constituting c-Jun activation, is independent of morphology and due to the recognition of fungal cell wall structures. Activation of the second MAPK phase, constituting MKP1 and c-Fos activation, is dependent upon hypha-formation and fungal burdens, and correlates with proinflammatory responses. This MAPK-based discriminatory pathway may provide a mechanism for epithelial tissues to remain quiescent in the presence of low fungal burdens whilst responding specifically and strongly to damage-inducing hyphae when burdens increase. MAPK/MKP1/c-Fos activation may thus comprise a `danger response' pathway in vivo and may be critical in identifying when this normally commensal fungus has become pathogenic.
doi:10.1016/j.chom.2010.08.002
PMCID: PMC2991069  PMID: 20833374
8.  Neutralization of Malaria Glycosylphosphatidylinositol In Vitro by Serum IgG from Malaria-Exposed Individuals▿  
Infection and Immunity  2010;78(9):3920-3929.
Parasite-derived glycosylphosphatidylinositol (GPI) is believed to be a major inducer of the pathways leading to pathology and morbidity during Plasmodium falciparum infection and has been termed a malaria “toxin.” The generation of neutralizing anti-GPI (“antitoxic”) antibodies has therefore been hypothesized to be an important step in the acquisition of antidisease immunity to malaria; however, to date the GPI-neutralizing capacity of antibodies induced during natural Plasmodium falciparum infection has not been evaluated. Here we describe the development of an in vitro macrophage-based assay to assess the neutralizing capacity of malarial GPI-specific IgG. We demonstrate that IgG from Plasmodium falciparum-exposed individuals can significantly inhibit the GPI-induced activation of macrophages in vitro, as shown by reduced levels of tumor necrosis factor production and attenuation of CD40 expression. The GPI-neutralizing capacity of individual IgG samples was directly correlated with the anti-GPI antibody titer. IgG from malaria-exposed individuals also neutralized the macrophage-activating effects of P. falciparum schizont extract (PfSE), but there was only a poor correlation between PfSE-neutralizing activity and the anti-GPI antibody titer, suggesting that PfSE contains other macrophage-activating moieties, in addition to GPI. In conclusion, we have established an in vitro assay to test the toxin-neutralizing activities of antimalarial antibodies and have shown that anti-GPI antibodies from malaria-immune individuals are able to neutralize GPI-induced macrophage activation; however, the clinical relevance of anti-GPI antibodies remains to be proven, given that malarial schizonts contain other proinflammatory moieties, in addition to GPI.
doi:10.1128/IAI.00359-10
PMCID: PMC2937451  PMID: 20566691
9.  A Biphasic Innate Immune MAPK Response Discriminates between the Yeast and Hyphal Forms of Candida albicans in Epithelial Cells 
Cell Host & Microbe  2010;8(3):225-235.
Summary
Discriminating between commensal and pathogenic states of opportunistic pathogens is critical for host mucosal defense and homeostasis. The opportunistic human fungal pathogen Candida albicans is also a constituent of the normal oral flora and grows either as yeasts or hyphae. We demonstrate that oral epithelial cells orchestrate an innate response to C. albicans via NF-κB and a biphasic MAPK response. Activation of NF-κB and the first MAPK phase, constituting c-Jun activation, is independent of morphology and due to fungal cell wall recognition. Activation of the second MAPK phase, constituting MKP1 and c-Fos activation, is dependent upon hypha formation and fungal burdens and correlates with proinflammatory responses. Such biphasic response may allow epithelial tissues to remain quiescent under low fungal burdens while responding specifically and strongly to damage-inducing hyphae when burdens increase. MAPK/MKP1/c-Fos activation may represent a “danger response” pathway that is critical for identifying and responding to the pathogenic switch of commensal microbes.
Highlights
► NF-κB and MAPK control epithelial effector responses against Candida albicans ► c-Jun activation is independent of morphology and due to fungal cell wall recognition ► MAPK/MKP-1/c-Fos pathway activation is dependent on fungal hyphae and burdens ► MAPK discriminatory response may dictate C. albicans mucosal colonization in vivo
doi:10.1016/j.chom.2010.08.002
PMCID: PMC2991069  PMID: 20833374

Results 1-9 (9)