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1.  STING Recognition of Cytoplasmic DNA Instigates Cellular Defense 
Molecular cell  2013;50(1):10.1016/j.molcel.2013.01.039.
How the cell recognizes cytosolic DNA including DNA based microbes to trigger host defense related gene activation remains to be fully resolved. Here, we demonstrate that STING (for Stimulator of Interferon Genes), an endoplasmic reticulum (ER) translocon associated transmembrane protein, acts to detect cytoplasmic DNA species. STING homodimers were able to complex with self (apoptotic, necrotic) or pathogen related ssDNA and dsDNA and were indispensible for HSV-1-mediated transcriptional activation of a wide array of innate immune and pro-inflammatory genes in addition to type I IFN. Our data indicates that STING instigates cytoplasmic DNA-mediated cellular defense gene transcription and facilitates adoptive responses that are required for protection of the host. In contrast, chronic STING activation may manifest inflammatory responses and possibly autoimmune disease triggered by self-DNA.
PMCID: PMC3881179  PMID: 23478444
2.  Innate Immune DNA Sensing Pathways: STING, AIMII and the Regulation of Interferon Production and Inflammatory Responses 
Current opinion in immunology  2011;23(1):10.1016/j.coi.2010.12.015.
The early detection of microbes is the responsibility of the innate immune system which has evolved to sense pathogen derived molecules such as lipopolysaccharides and non-self nucleic acid, to trigger host defense countermeasures. These sensors include the RIG-I-like helicase family (RLH) that specifically recognizes viral RNA, as well as the cytoplasmic, nucleotide binding oligermerization domain (NOD)-like receptor and Toll-like receptor (TLR) pathways that sense a variety of microbial derived molecules. Comprehending how the cell senses foreign DNA, generated by certain viruses, bacteria and possibly parasites has proven elusive but is of significant importance since such information could shed insight into the causes of microbial related disease, including viral associated cancers and autoimmune disorders. Plasmacytoid dendritic cells are known to utilize TLR9 to detect pathogen-associated DNA and to trigger the production of type I interferon (IFN), as well as other cytokines, although alternate key DNA detecting sensors remain to be identified. Recently however, a molecule referred to as AIM2 (absent in melanoma 2) was found to be essential for mediating inflammatory reactions triggered by cytoplasmic DNA. In addition, an endoplasmic reticulum associated protein referred to as STING (for Stimulator of Interferon Genes) was demonstrated as being pivotal for facilitating IFN production in response to intracelleular DNA and a variety of DNA pathogens. Here, we review recent discoveries relating to the detection of foreign DNA, including the importance of the STING and AIM2 and the activation of innate signaling pathways.
PMCID: PMC3881186  PMID: 21239155
3.  PEGylation of Vesicular Stomatitis Virus Extends Virus Persistence in Blood Circulation of Passively Immunized Mice 
Journal of Virology  2013;87(7):3752-3759.
We are developing oncolytic vesicular stomatitis viruses (VSVs) for systemic treatment of multiple myeloma, an incurable malignancy of antibody-secreting plasma cells that are specifically localized in the bone marrow. One of the presumed advantages for using VSV as an oncolytic virus is that human infections are rare and preexisting anti-VSV immunity is typically lacking in cancer patients, which is very important for clinical success. However, our studies show that nonimmune human and mouse serum can neutralize clinical-grade VSV, reducing the titer by up to 4 log units in 60 min. In addition, we show that neutralizing anti-VSV antibodies negate the antitumor efficacy of VSV, a concern for repeat VSV administration. We have investigated the potential use of covalent modification of VSV with polyethylene glycol (PEG) or a function-spacer-lipid (FSL)–PEG construct to inhibit serum neutralization and to limit hepatosplenic sequestration of systemically delivered VSV. We report that in mice passively immunized with neutralizing anti-VSV antibodies, PEGylation of VSV improved the persistence of VSV in the blood circulation, maintaining a more than 1-log-unit increase in VSV genome copies for up to 1 h compared to the genome copy numbers for the non-PEGylated virus, which was mostly cleared within 10 min after intravenous injection. We are currently investigating if this increase in PEGylated VSV circulating half-life can translate to increased virus delivery and better efficacy in mouse models of multiple myeloma.
PMCID: PMC3624195  PMID: 23325695
4.  Potential of vesicular stomatitis virus as an oncolytic therapy for recurrent and drug-resistant ovarian cancer 
Chinese Journal of Cancer  2011;30(12):805-814.
In the last decade, we have gained significant understanding of the mechanism by which vesicular stomatitis virus (VSV) specifically kills cancer cells. Dysregulation of translation and defective innate immunity are both thought to contribute to VSV oncolysis. Safety and efficacy are important objectives to consider in evaluating VSV as a therapy for malignant disease. Ongoing efforts may enable VSV virotherapy to be considered in the near future to treat drug-resistant ovarian cancer when other options have been exhausted. In this article, we review the development of VSV as a potential therapeutic approach for recurrent or drug-resistant ovarian cancer.
PMCID: PMC4013328  PMID: 22059911
Ovarian cancer; therapy; VSV; oncolytic virus; innate immunity; STING; interferons
5.  Endoplasmic reticulum stress regulates the innate immunity critical transcription factor interferon regulatory factor 3 
Interferon regulatory factor 3 (IRF3) regulates early type I IFNs and other genes involved in innate immunity. We have previously shown that cells undergoing an endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stress response called the “Unfolded Protein Response” (UPR) produce synergistically augmented IFN-β when stimulated with pattern recognition receptor agonists such as LPS Concomitant ER stress and LPS stimulation resulted in greater recruitment of the IRF3 transcription factor to ifnb1 gene regulatory elements. In this study, we utilized murine cells to demonstrate that both oxygen-glucose deprivation and pharmacologic UPR inducers trigger phosphorylation and nuclear translocation of IRF3, even in the absence of exogenous LPS. Different ER stressors utilized distinct mechanisms to activate IRF3: IRF3 phosphorylation due to calcium-mobilizing ER stress (thapsigargin treatment, oxygen-glucose deprivation) critically depended upon Stimulator of interferon gene (STING), an ER-resident nucleic acid-responsive molecule. However, calcium mobilization alone by ionomycin was insufficient for IRF3 phosphorylation. In contrast, other forms of ER stress (e.g., tunicamycin treatment) promote IRF3 phosphorylation independently of STING and Tank binding kinase 1 (TBK1). Rather, IRF3 activation by tunicamycin and 2-deoxyglucose was inhibited by AEBSF, a serine protease inhibitor that blocks ATF6 processing. Interfering with ER stress-induced IRF3 activation abrogated IFN-β synergy. Together, these data suggest ER stress primes cells to respond to innate immune stimuli by activating the IRF3 transcription factor. Our results also suggest certain types of ER stress accomplish IRF3 phosphorylation by co-opting existing innate immune pathogen response pathways. These data have implications for diseases involving ER stress and type I IFN.
PMCID: PMC3478468  PMID: 23028052
6.  Explicit targeting of transformed cells by VSV in ovarian epithelial tumor-bearing Wv mouse models 
Gynecologic oncology  2009;116(2):269.
Current treatment options for epithelial ovarian cancer are limited and therapeutic development for recurrent and drug-resistant ovarian cancer is an urgent agenda. We investigated the potential use of genetically engineered Vesicular Stomatitis Virus (VSV) to treat ovarian cancer patients who fail to respond to available therapies. Specifically, we examined the toxicity to hosts and specificity of targeting ovarian tumors using a Wv ovarian tumor model.
We first tested recombinant VSV for oncolytic activity in a panel of human ovarian epithelial cancer, immortalized, and primary ovarian surface epithelial cells in culture. Then, we test VSV oncolytic therapy using the immune competent Wv mice that develop tubular adenomas, benign tumor lesions derived from ovarian surface epithelial cells.
The expression of GFP encoded by the recombinant VSV genome was detected in about 5% of primary ovarian surface epithelial cells (3 lines) up to 30 days without significantly altering the growth pattern of the cells, suggesting the lack of toxicity to the normal ovarian surface epithelial cells. However, VSV-GFP was detected in the majority (around 90%) of cells that are either “immortalized” by SV40 antigen expression or cancer lines. Some variation in killing time courses was observed, but all the transformed cell lines were killed within 3 days.
We found that regardless of the inoculation route (intra bursal, IP, or IV), VSV specifically infected and replicated in the in situ ovarian tumors in the Wv mice without significant activity in any other organs and tissues, and showed no detectable toxicity. The epithelial tumor lesions were greatly reduced in VSV-targeted ovarian tumors in the Wv mice.
VSV oncolytic activity depends on a cell autonomous property distinguishing primary and transformed cells. The efficient oncolytic activity of VSV for the “immortalized” non-tumorigenic ovarian surface epithelial cells suggests that the selective specificity extends from pre-neoplastic to overt cancer cells. The results demonstrated the explicit targeting of ovarian epithelial tumors by VSV in immune com petent, ovarian tumor-bearing mouse models, and further support the utility of VSV as an effective and safe anti-cancer agent.
PMCID: PMC2813895  PMID: 19932656
7.  DDX24 Negatively Regulates Cytosolic RNA-Mediated Innate Immune Signaling 
PLoS Pathogens  2013;9(10):e1003721.
RIG-I-Like Receptors (RLRs) sense cytosolic viral RNA to transiently activate type I IFN production. Here, we report that a type I IFN inducible DExD/H helicase, DDX24, exerts a negative-regulatory effect on RLR function. Expression of DDX24 specifically suppressed RLR activity, while DDX24 loss, which caused embryonic lethality, augmented cytosolic RNA-mediated innate signaling and facilitated RNA virus replication. DDX24 preferentially bound to RNA rather than DNA species and influenced signaling by associating with adaptor proteins FADD and RIP1. These events preferentially impeded IRF7 activity, an essential transcription factor for type I IFN production. Our data provide a new function for DDX24 and help explain innate immune gene regulation, mechanisms that may additionally provide insight into the causes of inflammatory disease.
Author Summary
Innate immunity is the first and most rapid host defense against virus infection. Viral RNAs, which are generated during RNA virus replication in host cells, can be recognized through RIG-I-Like Receptors (RLRs) to transiently produce type I interferon, which further induce abundant interferon stimulated genes (ISGs) to clear viral infection. However, uncontrolled innate immune responses cause inflammatory diseases that are detrimental to the host. Therefore, a balanced innate immune response is critical to maintain homeostasis of the host. Thus, RLR signaling is tightly regulated by both positive and negative regulators. DDX24, a helicase reported in this study, is an ISG that exerts an inhibitory effect on RLR dependent signaling. DDX24 hijacked adaptor proteins FADD and RIP1 in host cells to suppress viral RNA dependent interferon production and facilitated RNA virus replication in certain cells. Moreover, DDX24 deficient mouse embryos exerted early embryonic lethality, suggesting an important role for this helicase, perhaps in addition to regulating RLR signaling. In all, our results elucidate the role of DDX24 in RLR dependent signaling, and may shed light on innate immune gene regulation.
PMCID: PMC3814876  PMID: 24204270
8.  STING an Endoplasmic Reticulum Adaptor that Facilitates Innate Immune Signaling 
Nature  2008;455(7213):674-678.
We report here the identification, following expression cloning, of a molecule, STING (STimulator of INterferon Genes) that regulates innate immune signaling processes. STING, comprising 5 putative transmembrane (TM) regions, predominantly resides in the endoplasmic reticulum (ER) and is able to activate both NF-κB and IRF3 transcription pathways to induce type I IFN and exert a potent anti-viral state following expression. In contrast, loss of STING rendered murine embryonic fibroblasts (STING −/−MEFs) extremely susceptible to negative-stranded virus infection, including vesicular stomatitis virus, VSV. Further, STING ablation abrogated the ability of intracellular B-form DNA, as well as members of the herpes virus family, to induce IFNβ, but did not significantly affect the Toll-like receptor (TLR pathway). Yeast-two hybrid and co-immunprecipitation studies indicated that STING interacts with RIG-I and with Ssr2/TRAPβ, a member of the translocon-associated protein (TRAP) complex required for protein translocation across the ER membrane following translation[1, 2]. RNAi ablation of TRAPβ and translocon adaptor Sec61β was subsequently found to inhibit STING’s ability to stimulate IFNβ. Thus, aside from identifying a novel regulator of innate immune signaling, this data implicates for the first time a potential role for the translocon in innate signaling pathways activated by select viruses as well as intracellular DNA.
PMCID: PMC2804933  PMID: 18724357
9.  Retargeting Vesicular Stomatitis Virus Using Measles Virus Envelope Glycoproteins 
Human Gene Therapy  2011;23(5):484-491.
Oncolytic vesicular stomatitis virus (VSV) has potent antitumor activity, but infects a broad range of cell types. Here, we used the measles virus (MV) hemagglutinin (H) and fusion (F) envelope glycoproteins to redirect VSV entry and infection specifically to tumor-associated receptors. Replication-defective VSV, deleted of its glycoprotein gene (VSVΔG), was pseudotyped with MV-F and MV-H displaying single-chain antibodies (scFv) specific for epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR), folate receptor (FR), or prostate membrane-specific antigen (PSMA). Viral titers were ∼105 PFU/ml, but could be concentrated to 107 PFU/ml. Immunoblotting confirmed incorporation of the MV-H-scFv and MV-F into functional VSV virions. Although VSV-G was able to infect all tumor cell lines tested, the retargeted VSV infected only cells that expressed the targeted receptor. In vivo specificities of the EGFR-, FR-, and PSMA-retargeted VSV were assessed by intratumoral injection into human tumor xenografts. Analysis of green fluorescent protein reporter gene expression indicated that VSV infection was restricted to receptor-positive tumors. In summary, we have demonstrated for the first time that VSV can be efficiently retargeted to different cellular receptors using the measles display technology, yielding retargeted VSV vectors that are highly specific for tumors that express the relevant receptor.
Ayala-Breton and colleagues use the measles virus (MV) hemagglutinin (H) and fusion (F) envelope glycoproteins to redirect vesicular stomatitis virus (VSV) entry and infection specifically to tumor-associated receptors such as epidermal growth factor receptor, folate receptor, and prostate membrane-specific antigen. In vivo expression of the all retargeted VSV was restricted to receptor-positive human tumor xenografts.
PMCID: PMC3360499  PMID: 22171635
10.  Curative one-shot systemic virotherapy in murine myeloma 
Current therapy for multiple myeloma is complex and prolonged. Antimyeloma drugs are combined in induction, consolidation and/or maintenance protocols to destroy bulky disease, then suppress or eradicate residual disease. Oncolytic viruses have the potential to mediate both tumor debulking and residual disease elimination, but this curative paradigm remains unproven. Here we engineered an oncolytic vesicular stomatitis virus to minimize its neurotoxicity, enhance induction of antimyeloma immunity, and facilitate noninvasive monitoring of its intratumoral spread. Using high resolution imaging, autoradiography and immunohistochemistry, we demonstrate that the intravenously administered virus extravasates from tumor blood vessels in immunocompetent myeloma-bearing mice, nucleating multiple intratumoral infectious centers which expand rapidly and necrose at their centers, ultimately coalescing to cause extensive tumor destruction. This oncolytic tumor debulking phase lasts only for 72 hours after virus administration, and is completed before antiviral antibodies become detectable in the bloodstream. Anti-myeloma T cells, cross-primed as the virus-infected cells provoke an antiviral immune response, then eliminate residual uninfected myeloma cells. The study establishes a curative oncolytic paradigm for multiple myeloma where direct tumor debulking and immune eradication of minimal disease are mediated by a single intravenous dose of a single therapeutic agent. Clinical translation is underway.
PMCID: PMC3411853  PMID: 22425894
Oncolytic Virotherapy; multiple myeloma; Vesicular Stomatitis Virus; Intravenous; Immunotherapy
11.  Autoimmunity initiates in non-hematopoietic cells and progresses via lymphocytes in an interferon-dependent autoimmune disease 
Immunity  2012;36(1):120-131.
The type I interferon (IFN) response initiated by detection of nucleic acids is important for antiviral defense, but is also associated with specific autoimmune diseases. Mutations in the human 3′ repair exonuclease 1 (Trex1) gene cause Aicardi-Goutières syndrome (AGS), an IFN-associated autoimmune disease. However, the source of the type I IFN response and the precise mechanisms of disease in AGS remain unknown. Here, we demonstrate that Trex1 is an essential negative regulator of the STING-dependent antiviral response. We used an in vivo reporter of IFN activity in Trex1-deficient mice to localize the initiation of disease to non-hematopoietic cells. These IFNs drove T cell-mediated inflammation and an autoantibody response that targeted abundant, tissue-restricted autoantigens. However, B cells contributed to mortality independently of T cell-mediated tissue damage. These findings reveal a stepwise progression of autoimmune disease in Trex1-deficient mice, with implications for the treatment of AGS and related disorders.
PMCID: PMC3269499  PMID: 22284419
12.  Potent systemic therapy of Multiple Myeloma utilizing Oncolytic Vesicular stomatitis virus coding for Interferon-beta 
Cancer Gene Therapy  2012;19(7):443-450.
Multiple myeloma (MM) is an incurable malignancy of plasma secreting B-cells disseminated in the bone marrow. Successful utilization of oncolytic virotherapy for myeloma treatment requires a systemically administered virus that selectively destroys disseminated myeloma cells in an immune-competent host. Vesicular stomatitis virus (VSV) expressing Interferon-β (IFNβ) is a promising new oncolytic agent that exploits tumor-associated defects in innate immune signaling pathways to specifically destroy cancer cells. We demonstrate here that a single, intravenous dose of VSV-IFNβ specifically destroys subcutaneous and disseminated 5TGM1 myeloma in an immune competent myeloma model. VSV-IFN treatment significantly prolonged survival in mice bearing orthotopic myeloma. Viral murine IFNβ expression further delayed myeloma progression and significantly enhanced survival compared to VSV expressing human IFNβ. Evaluation of VSV-IFNβ oncolytic activity in human myeloma cell lines and primary patient samples confirmed myeloma specific oncolytic activity but revealed variable susceptibility to VSV-IFNβ oncolysis. The results indicate that VSV-IFNβ is a potent, safe oncolytic agent that can be systemically administered to effectively target and destroy disseminated myeloma in immune competent mice. IFNβ expression improves cancer specificity and enhances VSV therapeutic efficacy against disseminated myeloma. These data show VSV-IFNβ to be a promising vector for further development as a potential therapy for treatment of Multiple myeloma.
PMCID: PMC3380174  PMID: 22522623
Oncolytic; virotherapy; myeloma; Vesicular stomatitis virus; systemic
13.  DENV Inhibits Type I IFN Production in Infected Cells by Cleaving Human STING 
PLoS Pathogens  2012;8(10):e1002934.
Dengue virus (DENV) is a pathogen with a high impact on human health. It replicates in a wide range of cells involved in the immune response. To efficiently infect humans, DENV must evade or inhibit fundamental elements of the innate immune system, namely the type I interferon response. DENV circumvents the host immune response by expressing proteins that antagonize the cellular innate immunity. We have recently documented the inhibition of type I IFN production by the proteolytic activity of DENV NS2B3 protease complex in human monocyte derived dendritic cells (MDDCs). In the present report we identify the human adaptor molecule STING as a target of the NS2B3 protease complex. We characterize the mechanism of inhibition of type I IFN production in primary human MDDCs by this viral factor. Using different human and mouse primary cells lacking STING, we show enhanced DENV replication. Conversely, mutated versions of STING that cannot be cleaved by the DENV NS2B3 protease induced higher levels of type I IFN after infection with DENV. Additionally, we show that DENV NS2B3 is not able to degrade the mouse version of STING, a phenomenon that severely restricts the replication of DENV in mouse cells, suggesting that STING plays a key role in the inhibition of DENV infection and spread in mice.
Author Summary
Dengue virus (DENV) is a pathogen with a high impact in human health that replicates in a wide range of cells of the immune system. To efficiently infect humans, DENV must evade or inhibit fundamental elements of the innate immune system, namely the type I interferon response (IFN). Thus, DENV can inhibit type I IFN signaling (described by several groups), and type I IFN production (described by our group). We documented the inhibition of type I IFN production in human monocyte derived dendritic cells (MDDCs) with an otherwise strong cytokine and chemokine profile in those cells and that the NS2B3 protease complex of DENV functions as an antagonist of type I IFN production, and its proteolytic activity is necessary for this event. Here we identify the human adaptor molecule STING as a target of the NS2B3 protease complex and characterize the mechanism of inhibition of the type I IFN production in primary human MDDCs mediated by this viral factor. We also describe that DENV NS2B3 cannot degrade the mouse version of STING, a phenomenon that strictly restricts the replication of DENV in mouse cells, suggesting that STING plays a key role in the inhibition of DENV infection and spread in mice.
PMCID: PMC3464218  PMID: 23055924
14.  Innate immune recognition of an AT-rich stem-loop DNA motif in the Plasmodium falciparum genome 
Immunity  2011;35(2):194-207.
Although Toll-like receptor 9 (TLR9) has been implicated in regulating cytokine and type I interferon (IFN) production during malaria in humans and mice, the high AT content of the Plasmodium falciparum genome prompted us to examine the possibility that malarial DNA triggered TLR9-independent DNA sensing pathways. Over 6000 ATTTTTAC (“AT-rich”) motifs are present in the genome of P. falciparum, which we show here potently induce type I IFNs. Parasite DNA, parasitized erythrocytes and oligonucleotides containing the AT-r motif induce type I IFNs via a pathway that did not involve previously described sensors including TLR9, DAI, RNA polymerase-III or IFI16/p204. Rather, AT-rich DNA sensing involved an unknown receptor that coupled to STING, TBK1 and IRF3-IRF7 signaling pathway. Mice lacking both IRF3 and IRF7, the kinase TBK1 or the type I IFN receptor were resistant to otherwise lethal cerebral malaria. Collectively, these observations implicate AT-rich DNA sensing via STING, TBK1 and IRF3-IRF7 in P. falciparum malaria.
PMCID: PMC3162998  PMID: 21820332
15.  Vesicular Stomatitis Virus Expressing Tumor Suppressor p53 Is a Highly Attenuated, Potent Oncolytic Agent ▿  
Journal of Virology  2011;85(20):10440-10450.
Vesicular stomatitis virus (VSV), a negative-strand RNA rhabdovirus, preferentially replicates in and eradicates transformed versus nontransformed cells and is thus being considered for use as a potential anticancer treatment. The genetic malleability of VSV also affords an opportunity to develop more potent agents that exhibit increased therapeutic activity. The tumor suppressor p53 has been shown to exert potent antitumor properties, which may in part involve stimulating host innate immune responses to malignancies. To evaluate whether VSV expressing p53 exhibited enhanced oncolytic action, the murine p53 (mp53) gene was incorporated into recombinant VSVs with or without a functional viral M gene-encoded protein that could either block (VSV-mp53) or enable [VSV-M(mut)-mp53] host mRNA export following infection of susceptible cells. Our results indicated that VSV-mp53 and VSV-M(mut)-mp53 expressed high levels of functional p53 and retained the ability to lyse transformed versus normal cells. In addition, we observed that VSV-ΔM-mp53 was extremely attenuated in vivo due to p53 activating innate immune genes, such as type I interferon (IFN). Significantly, immunocompetent animals with metastatic mammary adenocarcinoma exhibited increased survival following treatment with a single inoculation of VSV-ΔM-mp53, the mechanisms of which involved enhanced CD49b+ NK and tumor-specific CD8+ T cell responses. Our data indicate that VSV incorporating p53 could provide a safe, effective strategy for the design of VSV oncolytic therapeutics and VSV-based vaccines.
PMCID: PMC3187518  PMID: 21813611
16.  The Alpha Subunit of Eukaryotic Initiation Factor 2B (eIF2B) Is Required for eIF2-Mediated Translational Suppression of Vesicular Stomatitis Virus▿† 
Journal of Virology  2011;85(19):9716-9725.
Eukaryotic translation initiation factor 2B (eIF2B) is a heteropentameric guanine nucleotide exchange factor that converts protein synthesis initiation factor 2 (eIF2) from a GDP-bound form to the active eIF2-GTP complex. Cellular stress can repress translation initiation by activating kinases capable of phosphorylating the alpha subunit of eIF2 (eIF2α), which sequesters eIF2B to prevent exchange activity. Previously, we demonstrated that tumor cells are sensitive to viral replication, possibly due to the occurrence of defects in eIF2B that overcome the inhibitory effects of eIF2α phosphorylation. To extend this analysis, we have investigated the importance of eIF2Bα function and report that this subunit can functionally substitute for its counterpart, GCN3, in yeast. In addition, a variant of mammalian eIF2Bα harboring a point mutation (T41A) was able overcome translational inhibition invoked by amino acid depravation, which activates Saccharomyces cerevisiae GCN2 to phosphorylate the yeast eIF2α homolog SUI2. Significantly, we also demonstrate that the loss of eIF2Bα, or the expression of the T41A variant in mammalian cells, is sufficient to neutralize the consequences of eIF2α phosphorylation and render normal cells susceptible to virus infection. Our data emphasize the importance of eIF2Bα in mediating the eIF2 kinase translation-inhibitory activity and may provide insight into the complex nature of viral oncolysis.
PMCID: PMC3196436  PMID: 21795329
17.  Oncogenic IRFs Provide a Survival Advantage for Epstein-Barr Virus- or Human T-Cell Leukemia Virus Type 1-Transformed Cells through Induction of BIC Expression ▿  
Journal of Virology  2011;85(16):8328-8337.
miR-155, processed from the B-cell integration cluster (BIC), is one of the few well-studied microRNAs (miRNAs) and is involved in both innate immunity and tumorigenesis. BIC/miR-155 is induced by distinct signaling pathways, but little is known about the underlying mechanisms. We have identified two conserved potential interferon (IFN) regulatory factor (IRF)-binding/interferon-stimulated response element motifs in the Bic gene promoter. Two oncogenic IRFs, IRF4 and -7, in addition to some other members of the family, bind to and significantly transactivate the Bic promoter. Correspondingly, the endogenous levels of IRF4 and -7 are correlated with that of the BIC transcript in Epstein-Barr virus (EBV)-transformed cells. However, RNA interference studies have shown that depletion of IRF4, rather than of IRF7, dramatically decreases the endogenous level of BIC by up to 70% in EBV- or human T-cell leukemia virus type 1 (HTLV1)-transformed cell lines and results in apoptosis and reduction of proliferation rates that are restored by transient expression of miR-155. Moreover, the endogenous levels of the miR-155 target, SHIP1, are consistently elevated in EBV- and HTLV1-transformed cell lines stably expressing shIRF4. In contrast, transient expression of IRF4 decreases the SHIP1 level in EBV-negative B cells. Furthermore, the level of IRF4 mRNA is significantly correlated with that of BIC in adult T-cell lymphoma/leukemia (ATLL) tumors. These results show that IRF4 plays an important role in the regulation of BIC in the context of EBV and HTLV1 infection. Our findings have identified Bic as the first miRNA-encoding gene for IRFs and provide evidence for a novel molecular mechanism underlying the IRF/BIC pathway in viral oncogenesis.
PMCID: PMC3147954  PMID: 21680528
18.  Functions of the cytoplasmic RNA sensors RIG-I and MDA-5: Key regulators of innate immunity 
Pharmacology & therapeutics  2009;124(2):219-234.
The innate immune system responds within minutes of infection to produce type I interferons and pro-inflammatory cytokines. Interferons induce the synthesis of cell proteins with antiviral activity, and also shape the adaptive immune response by priming T cells. Despite the discovery of interferons over 50 years ago, only recently have we begun to understand how cells sense the presence of a virus infection. Two families of pattern recognition receptors have been shown to distinguish unique molecules present in pathogens, such as bacterial and fungal cell wall components, viral RNA and DNA, and lipoproteins. The first family includes the membrane-bound toll-like receptors (TLRs). Studies of the signaling pathways that lead from pattern recognition to cytokine induction have revealed extensive and overlapping cascades that involve protein-protein interactions and phosphorylation, and culminate in activation of transcription proteins that control the transcription of genes encoding interferons and other cytokines. A second family of pattern recognition receptors has recently been identified, which comprises the cytoplasmic sensors of viral nucleic acids, including MDA-5, RIG-I, and LGP2. In this review we summarize the discovery of these cytoplasmic sensors, how they recognize nucleic acids, the signaling pathways leading to cytokine synthesis, and viral countermeasures that have evolved to antagonize the functions of these proteins. We also consider the function of these cytoplasmic sensors in apoptosis, development and differentiation, and diabetes.
PMCID: PMC3165056  PMID: 19615405
Antiviral innate immunity; MDA-5; RIG-I; domain grafting; cell signaling; apoptosis; viral pathogenesis
20.  Impaired Cellular Responses to Cytosolic DNA or Infection with Listeria monocytogenes and Vaccinia Virus in the Absence of the Murine LGP2 Protein 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(4):e18842.
Innate immune signaling is crucial for detection of and the initial response to microbial pathogens. Evidence is provided indicating that LGP2, a DEXH box domain protein related to the RNA recognition receptors RIG-I and MDA5, participates in the cellular response to cytosolic double-stranded DNA (dsDNA). Analysis of embryonic fibroblasts and macrophages from mice harboring targeted disruption in the LGP2 gene reveals that LGP2 can act as a positive regulator of type I IFN and anti-microbial gene expression in response to transfected dsDNA. Results indicate that infection of LGP2-deficient mice with an intracellular bacterial pathogen, Listeria monocytogenes, leads to reduced levels of type I IFN and IL12, and allows increased bacterial growth in infected animals, resulting in greater colonization of both spleen and liver. Responses to infection with vaccinia virus, a dsDNA virus, are also suppressed in cells lacking LGP2, reinforcing the ability of LGP2 to act as a positive regulator of antiviral signaling. In vitro mechanistic studies indicate that purified LGP2 protein does not bind DNA but instead mediates these responses indirectly. Data suggest that LGP2 may be acting downstream of the intracellular RNA polymerase III pathway to activate anti-microbial signaling. Together, these findings demonstrate a regulatory role for LGP2 in the response to cytosolic DNA, an intracellular bacterial pathogen, and a DNA virus, and provide a plausible mechanistic hypothesis as the basis for this activity.
PMCID: PMC3077416  PMID: 21533147
21.  Interference of CD40L-Mediated Tumor Immunotherapy by Oncolytic Vesicular Stomatitis Virus 
Human Gene Therapy  2010;21(4):439-450.
Oncolytic virotherapy can be achieved in two ways: (1) by exploiting an innate ability of certain viruses to selectively replicate in tumor tissues, and (2) by using viruses to deliver toxic or immunostimulatory genes to tumors. Vesicular stomatitis virus (VSV) selectively replicates in tumors lacking adequate type I interferon response. The efficacy of oncolytic virotherapy using VSV against B16 melanomas in C57BL/6 mice is dependent on CD8+ T and natural killer cells. Because immunotherapies that prime specific CD8+ T cells against melanocyte/melanoma antigens can generate significant therapeutic responses, we hypothesized that engineering VSV to express the potent T cell costimulatory molecule CD40 ligand (VSV-CD40L) would enhance virotherapy with concomitant priming of melanoma-specific T cells. However, we observed no difference in antitumor efficacy between the parental VSV-GFP and VSV-CD40L. In contrast, intratumoral injection of a replication-defective adenovirus expressing CD40L (Ad-CD40L) consistently produced significantly greater therapy than either replication-competent VSV-GFP or VSV-CD40L. The Ad-CD40L-mediated tumor regressions were associated with specific T cell responses against tumor-associated antigens (TAAs), which took several days to develop, whereas VSV-CD40L rapidly induced high levels of T cell activation without specificity for TAAs. These data suggest that the high levels of VSV-associated immunogenicity distracted immune responses away from priming of tumor-specific T cells, even in the presence of potent costimulatory signals. In contrast, a replication-defective Ad-CD40L allowed significant priming of T cells directed against TAAs. These observations suggest that an efficiently primed antitumor T cell response can produce similar, if not better, therapy against an established melanoma compared with intratumoral injection of a replication-competent oncolytic virus.
PMCID: PMC2865217  PMID: 19922169
22.  Safety Studies on Intrahepatic or Intratumoral Injection of Oncolytic Vesicular Stomatitis Virus Expressing Interferon-β in Rodents and Nonhuman Primates 
Human Gene Therapy  2010;21(4):451-462.
Toxicology studies were performed in rats and rhesus macaques to establish a safe starting dose for intratumoral injection of an oncolytic vesicular stomatitis virus expressing human interferon-β (VSV-hIFNβ) in patients with hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). No adverse events were observed after administration of 7.59 × 109 TCID50 (50% tissue culture infective dose) of VSV-hIFNβ into the left lateral hepatic lobe of Harlan Sprague Dawley rats. Plasma alanine aminotransferase and alkaline phosphatase levels increased and platelet counts decreased in the virus-treated animals on days 1 and 2 but returned to pretreatment levels by day 4. VSV-hIFNβ was also injected into normal livers or an intrahepatic McA-RH7777 HCC xenograft established in Buffalo rats. Buffalo rats were more sensitive to neurotoxic effects of VSV; the no observable adverse event level (NOAEL) of VSV-hIFNβ in Buffalo rats was 107 TCID50. Higher doses were associated with fatal neurotoxicity and infectious virus was recovered from tumor and brain. Compared with VSV-hIFNβ, toxicity of VSV-rIFNβ (recombinant VSV expressing rat IFN-β) was greatly diminished in Buffalo rats (NOAEL, >1010 TCID50). Two groups of two adult male rhesus macaques received 109 or 1010 TCID50 of VSV-hIFNβ injected directly into the left hepatic lobe under computed tomographic guidance. No neurological signs were observed at any time point. No abnormalities (hematology, clinical chemistry, body weights, behavior) were seen and all macaques developed neutralizing anti-VSV antibodies. Plasma interleukin-6, tumor necrosis factor-α, and hIFN-β remained below detection levels by ELISA. On the basis of these studies, we will be proposing a cautious approach to dose escalation in a phase I clinical trial among patients with HCC.
PMCID: PMC2865219  PMID: 19911974
23.  Evaluation of an Attenuated Vesicular Stomatitis Virus Vector Expressing Interferon-β for Use in Malignant Pleural Mesothelioma: Heterogeneity in Interferon Responsiveness Defines Potential Efficacy 
Human Gene Therapy  2009;21(1):51-64.
Vesicular stomatitis virus (VSV) has shown promise as an oncolytic agent, although unmodified VSV can be neurotoxic. To avoid toxicity, a vector was created by introducing the interferon-β (IFN-β) gene (VSV.IFN-β). We conducted this study to determine the ability of VSV.IFN-β to lyse human cancer (mesothelioma) cells and to evaluate the potential of this recombinant virus for clinical translation. Four normal human mesothelial and 12 mesothelioma cell lines were tested for their susceptibility to VSV vectors in vitro. VSV.hIFN-β did not cause cytotoxicity in any normal lines. Only 4 of 12 lines were effectively lysed by VSV.hIFN-β. In the eight resistant lines, pretreatment with IFN-β prevented lysis of cells by VSV.GFP, and VSV infection or addition of IFN-β protein resulted in the upregulation of double-stranded RNA-dependent protein kinase (PKR), myxovirus resistance A (MxA), and 2′,5′-oligo-adenylate-synthetase (2′5′-OAS) mRNA. In the susceptible lines, there was no protection by pretreatment with IFN-β protein and no IFN- or VSV-induced changes in PKR, MxA, and 2′5′-OAS mRNA. This complete lack of IFN responsiveness could be explained by marked downregulation of interferon alpha receptors (IFNARs), p48, and PKR in both the mesothelioma cell lines and primary tumor biopsies screened. Presence of p48 in three tumor samples predicted responsiveness to IFN. Our data indicate that many mesothelioma tumors have partially intact IFN pathways that may affect the efficacy of oncolytic virotherapy. However, it may be feasible to prescreen individual susceptibility to VSV.IFN-β by immunostaining for the presence of p48 protein.
PMCID: PMC2829454  PMID: 19715403
24.  The STING pathway and regulation of innate immune signaling in response to DNA pathogens 
Cellular and Molecular Life Sciences  2010;68(7):1157-1165.
The innate immune system has evolved a variety of sensing mechanisms to detect and counter microbial invasion. These include the Toll-like receptor (TLR), cytoplasmic, nucleotide binding oligomerization domain (NOD)-like receptor and RIG-I-like helicase (RLH) pathways. However, how the cell detects pathogen-associated DNA to trigger host defense, including the production of interferon, remains to be fully clarified. Understanding these processes could have profound implications into how we understand and treat a variety of microbial-related disease, including viral-associated cancers, as well as autoimmune disorders. Recently, an endoplasmic reticulum-associated molecule referred to as STING (for stimulator of interferon genes) was isolated and shown to be critical for regulating the production of IFN in response to cytoplasmic DNA. Here, we review recent discoveries relating to the detection of foreign DNA, including the importance of the STING and inflammasome pathways and the triggering of innate signaling processes.
PMCID: PMC3056141  PMID: 21161320
Interferon; STING; Cytoplasmic DNA; Autoimmunity
25.  Pediatric lymphomas in Brazil 
Clinics  2010;65(12):1267-1278.
This study provides the clinical pathological characteristics of 1301 cases of pediatric/adolescent lymphomas in patients from different geographic regions of Brazil.
A retrospective analyses of diagnosed pediatric lymphoma cases in a 10‐year period was performed. We believe that it represents the largest series of pediatric lymphomas presented from Brazil.
Non‐Hodgkin lymphomas represented 68% of the cases, including those of precursor (36%) and mature (64%) cell origin. Mature cell lymphomas comprised 81% of the B‐cell phenotype and 19% of the T‐cell phenotype. Hodgkin lymphomas represented 32% of all cases, including 87% of the classical type and 13% of nodular lymphocyte predominant type. The geographic distribution showed 38.4% of the cases in the Southeast region, 28.7% in the Northeast, 16.1% in the South, 8.8% in the North, and 8% in the Central‐west region. The distribution by age groups was 15–18 years old, 33%; 11–14 years old, 26%; 6–10 years old, 24%; and 6 years old or younger, 17%. Among mature B‐cell lymphomas, most of the cases were Burkitt lymphomas (65%), followed by diffuse large B‐cell lymphomas (24%). In the mature T‐cell group, anaplastic large cell lymphoma, ALK‐positive was the most prevalent (57%), followed by peripheral T‐cell lymphoma, then not otherwise specified (25%). In the group of classic Hodgkin lymphomas, the main histological subtype was nodular sclerosis (76%). Nodular lymphocyte predominance occurred more frequently than in other series.
Some of the results found in this study may reflect the heterogeneous socioeconomical status and environmental factors of the Brazilian population in different regions.
PMCID: PMC3020336  PMID: 21340214
Lymphomas; Pediatric; Childhood; Adolescent; Brazil; Hodgkin Lymphoma; Epidemiology; Geographic Region

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