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1.  The NALP3 inflammasome is involved in the innate immune response to amyloid-β 
Nature immunology  2008;9(8):857-865.
The fibrillar peptide amyloid-β (Aβ) has a chief function in the pathogenesis of Alzheimer’s disease. Interleukin 1β (IL-1β) is a key cytokine in the inflammatory response to Aβ. Insoluble materials such as crystals activate the inflammasome formed by the cytoplasmic receptor NALP3, which results in the release of IL-1β. Here we identify the NALP3 inflammasome as a sensor of Aβ in a process involving the phagocytosis of Aβ and subsequent lysosomal damage and release of cathepsin B. Furthermore, the IL-1β pathway was essential for the microglial synthesis of proinflammatory and neurotoxic factors, and the inflammasome, caspase-1 and IL-1β were critical for the recruitment of microglia to exogenous Aβ in the brain. Our findings suggest that activation of the NALP3 inflammasome is important for inflammation and tissue damage in Alzheimer’s disease.
PMCID: PMC3101478  PMID: 18604209
2.  The AIM2 inflammasome is essential for host-defense against cytosolic bacteria and DNA viruses 
Nature immunology  2010;11(5):395-402.
Inflammasomes regulate the activity of capase-1 and maturation of interleukin-1β and interleukin-18. Recently, AIM2 was shown to bind DNA and engage ASC to form a caspase-1 activating inflammasome. Using Aim2-deficient mice, we reveal a central role for AIM2 in regulating caspase-1-dependent maturation of IL-1β and IL-18, as well as pyroptosis in response to synthetic dsDNA. AIM2 is essential for inflammasome activation in response to Fransicella tularensis, vaccinia virus, mouse cytomegalovirus and plays a partial role in sensing Listeria monocytogenes. Moreover, production of IL-18 and NK cell-dependent IFN-γ production, events critical in early control of virus replication were dependent on AIM2 during mCMV infection in vivo. Collectively, these observations reveal the importance of AIM2 in sensing both bacterial and viral pathogens and triggering innate immunity.
PMCID: PMC2887480  PMID: 20351692
3.  Cell-type specific recognition of human Metapneumoviruses by RIG-I and TLR7 and viral interference of RIG-I ligand recognition by HMPVB1 Phosphoprotein 
Human Metapneumoviruses (HMPV) are recently identified Paramyxoviridae that contribute to respiratory tract infections in children. No effective treatments or vaccines are available. Successful defense against virus infection relies on early detection by germline encoded pattern recognition receptors and activation of cytokine and type I interferon genes. Recently, the RNA helicase Retinoic acid inducible gene (RIG-I) has been shown to sense HMPV. In this study, we investigated the ability of two prototype strains of HMPV (A1 [NL\1\00] and B1 [NL\1\99]) to activate RIG-I and induce type I interferons (IFN). Despite the ability of both HMPV-A1 and B1 to infect and replicate in cell lines and primary cells, only the HMPV-A1 strain triggered RIG-I to induce IFNA/B gene transcription. The failure of the HMPV-B1 strain to elicit type I IFN production was dependent on the B1 phosphoprotein, which specifically prevented RIG-I-mediated sensing of HMPV viral 5’ triphosphate RNA. In contrast to most cell types, plasmacytoid dendritic cells (PDC) displayed a unique ability to sense both the A1 and B1 strains and in this case sensing was via Toll-like receptor (TLR)-7 rather than RIG-I. Collectively, these data reveal differential mechanisms of sensing for two closely related viruses, which operate in cell-type specific manners.
PMCID: PMC2834787  PMID: 20042593
Viral; Signal Transduction; Knockout mouse
4.  NF-kB activating pattern recognition and cytokine receptors license NLRP3 inflammasome activation by regulating NLRP3 expression 
The interleukin (IL)-1 family cytokines are regulated on transcriptional and posttranscriptional levels. Pattern recognition and cytokine receptors control pro-IL-1β transcription while inflammasomes regulate the proteolytic processing of pro-IL-1β. The NLRP3 inflammasome, however, assembles in response to extracellular ATP, poreforming toxins or crystals only in the presence of proinflammatory stimuli. How activation of gene transcription by signaling receptors enables the NLRP3 activation remains elusive and controversial. Here, we show that cell priming through multiple signaling receptors induce NLRP3 expression, which we identified to be a critical checkpoint for NLRP3 activation. Signals provided by NF-κB activators are necessary but not sufficient for NLRP3 activation and a second stimulus, such as ATP or crystal-induced damage is required for NLRP3 activation.
PMCID: PMC2824855  PMID: 19570822
5.  Molecular Genetic Analysis of an Endotoxin Nonresponder Mutant Cell Line 
Somatic cell mutagenesis is a powerful tool for characterizing receptor systems. We reported previously two complementation groups of mutant cell lines derived from CD14-transfected Chinese hamster ovary–K1 fibroblasts defective in responses to bacterial endotoxin. Both classes of mutants expressed a normal gene product for Toll-like receptor (TLR)4, and fully responded to stimulation by tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-α or interleukin (IL)-1β. We identified the lesion in one of the complementation groups in the gene for MD-2, a putative TLR4 coreceptor. The nonresponder phenotype of this mutant was reversed by transfection with MD-2. Cloning of MD-2 from the nonresponder cell line revealed a point mutation in a highly conserved region resulting in a C95Y amino acid exchange. Both forms of MD-2 colocalized with TLR4 on the cell surface after transfection, but only the wild-type cDNA reverted the lipopolysaccharide (LPS) nonresponder phenotype. Furthermore, soluble MD-2, but not soluble MD-2C95Y, functioned to enable LPS responses in cells that expressed TLR4. Thus, MD-2 is a required component of the LPS signaling complex and can function as a soluble receptor for cells that do not otherwise express it. We hypothesize that MD-2 conformationally affects the extracellular domain of TLR4, perhaps resulting in a change in affinity for LPS or functioning as a portion of the true ligand for TLR4.
PMCID: PMC2193443  PMID: 11435474
sepsis; signal transduction; Toll-like receptors; Gram-negative bacteria; lipopolysaccharide
6.  Binding of C4b-Binding Protein to Porin 
We screened 29 strains of Neisseria gonorrhoeae and found 16/21 strains that resisted killing by normal human serum and 0/8 serum sensitive strains that bound the complement regulator, C4b-binding protein (C4bp). Microbial surface–bound C4bp demonstrated cofactor activity. We constructed gonococcal strains with hybrid porin (Por) molecules derived from each of the major serogroups (Por1A and Por1B) of N. gonorrhoeae, and showed that the loop 1 of Por1A is required for C4bp binding. Por1B loops 5 and 7 of serum-resistant gonococci together formed a negatively charged C4bp-binding domain. C4bp–Por1B interactions were ionic in nature (inhibited by high salt or by heparin), whereas the C4bp–Por1A bond was hydrophobic. Only recombinant C4bp mutant molecules containing the NH2-terminal α-chain short consensus repeat (SCR1) bound to both Por1A and Por1B gonococci, suggesting that SCR1 contained Por binding sites. C4bp α-chain monomers did not bind gonococci, indicating that the polymeric form of C4bp was required for binding. Using fAb fragments against C4bp SCR1, C4bp binding to Por1A and Por1B strains was inhibited in a complement-dependent serum bactericidal assay. This resulted in complete killing of these otherwise fully serum resistant strains in only 10% normal serum, underscoring the importance of C4bp in mediating gonococcal serum resistance.
PMCID: PMC2195916  PMID: 11157049
Neisseria gonorrhoeae; C4b-binding protein; porin; serum resistance; short consensus repeat
7.  Targeted Deletion of the Lipopolysaccharide (LPS)-binding Protein Gene Leads to Profound Suppression of LPS Responses Ex Vivo, whereas In Vivo Responses Remain Intact  
The Journal of Experimental Medicine  1997;186(12):2051-2056.
Gram-negative bacterial lipopolysaccharide (LPS) stimulates phagocytic leukocytes by interacting with the cell surface protein CD14. Cellular responses to LPS are markedly potentiated by the LPS-binding protein (LBP), a lipid-transfer protein that binds LPS aggregates and transfers LPS monomers to CD14. LBP also transfers LPS to lipoproteins, thereby promoting the neutralization of LPS. LBP present in normal plasma has been shown to enhance the LPS responsiveness of cells in vitro. The role of LBP in promoting LPS responsiveness in vivo was tested in LBP-deficient mice produced by gene targeting in embryonic stem cells. Whole blood from LBP-deficient animals was 1,000-fold less responsive to LPS as assessed by the release of tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-α. Blood from gene-targeted mice was devoid of immunoreactive LBP, essentially incapable of transferring LPS to CD14 in vitro, and failed to support cellular responses to LPS. These activities were restored by the addition of exogenous recombinant murine LBP to the plasma. Despite these striking in vitro findings, no significant differences in TNF-α levels were observed in plasma from wild-type and LBP-deficient mice injected with LPS. These data suggest the presence of an LBP-independent mechanism for responding to LPS. These LBP knockout mice may provide a tool for discovering the nature of the presumed second mechanism for transferring LPS to responsive cells.
PMCID: PMC2199164  PMID: 9396775

Results 1-7 (7)