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1.  Imbalance in distribution of functional autologous regulatory T cells in rheumatoid arthritis 
Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases  2007;66(9):1151-1156.
Objectives
Regulatory T cells (Tregs) exert their anti‐inflammatory activity predominantly by cell contact‐dependent mechanisms. A study was undertaken to investigate the regulatory capacity of autologous peripheral blood Tregs in contact with synovial tissue cell cultures, and to evaluate their presence in peripheral blood, synovial tissue and synovial fluid of patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA).
Methods
44 patients with RA and 5 with osteoarthritis were included in the study. The frequency of interferon (IFN)γ‐secreting cells was quantified in synovial tissue cell cultures, CD3‐depleted synovial tissue cell cultures, synovial tissue cultures co‐cultured with autologous CD4+ and with CD4+CD25+ peripheral blood T cells by ELISPOT. Total CD3+, Th1 polarised and Tregs were quantified by real‐time PCR for CD3ε, T‐bet and FoxP3 mRNA, and by immunohistochemistry for FoxP3 protein.
Results
RA synovial tissue cell cultures exhibited spontaneous expression of IFNγ which was abrogated by depletion of CD3+ T cells and specifically reduced by co‐culture with autologous peripheral blood Treg. The presence of Treg in RA synovitis was indicated by FoxP3 mRNA expression and confirmed by immunohistochemistry. The amount of FoxP3 transcripts, however, was lower in the synovial membrane than in peripheral blood or synovial fluid. The T‐bet/FoxP3 ratio correlated with both a higher grade of synovial tissue lymphocyte infiltration and higher disease activity.
Conclusion
This study has shown, for the first time in human RA, the efficacy of autologous Tregs in reducing the inflammatory activity of synovial tissue cell cultures ex vivo, while in the synovium FoxP3+ Tregs of patients with RA are reduced compared with peripheral blood and synovial fluid. This local imbalance of Th1 and Treg may be responsible for repeated rheumatic flares and thus will be of interest as a target for future treatments.
doi:10.1136/ard.2006.068320
PMCID: PMC1955165  PMID: 17392348
2.  A Rationally Engineered Anti-HIV Peptide Fusion Inhibitor with Greatly Reduced Immunogenicity 
Peptides derived from the C-terminal heptad repeat 2 (HR2) region of the HIV-1 gp41 envelope glycoprotein, so-called C peptides, are very efficient HIV-1 fusion inhibitors. We previously developed innovative gene therapeutic approaches aiming at the direct in vivo production of C peptides from genetically modified host cells and found that T cells expressing membrane-anchored or secreted C peptides are protected from HIV-1 infection. However, an unwanted immune response against such antiviral peptides may significantly impair clinical efficacy and pose safety risks to patients. To overcome this problem, we engineered a novel C peptide, V2o, with greatly reduced immunogenicity and excellent antiviral activity. V2o is based on the chimeric C peptide C46-EHO, which is derived from the HR2 regions of HIV-2EHO and HIV-1HxB2 and has broad anti-HIV and anti-simian immunodeficiency virus activity. Antibody and major histocompatibility complex class I epitopes within the C46-EHO peptide sequence were identified by in silico and in vitro analyses. Using rational design, we removed these epitopes by amino acid substitutions and thus minimized antigenicity and immunogenicity considerably. At the same time, the antiviral activity of the deimmunized peptide V2o was preserved or even enhanced compared to that of the parental C46-EHO peptide. Thus, V2o is an ideal candidate, especially for those novel therapeutic approaches for HIV infection that involve direct in vivo production of antiviral C peptides.
doi:10.1128/AAC.01152-12
PMCID: PMC3553736  PMID: 23147734
3.  High Serum Levels of the Interleukin-33 Receptor Soluble ST2 as a Negative Prognostic Factor in Hepatocellular Carcinoma1 
Translational Oncology  2013;6(3):311-318.
BACKGROUND: Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is the most common primary malignant liver tumor, usually arises in the setting of liver cirrhosis (LC), and has a poor prognosis. The recently discovered Th2-cytokine interleukin-33 (IL-33) is a possible mediator in pancreatic and gastric carcinogeneses. IL-33 binds to its receptor and to soluble ST2 (sST2), which thereby acts as a regulator. The role of IL-33 and sST2 in HCC has not been elucidated yet. METHODS: We conducted a case-control study with 130 patients and 50 healthy controls (HCs). Sixty-five patients suffered from HCC and 65 patients had LC without HCC. We assessed serum IL-33 and sST2 levels and their association with established prognostic scores, liver function parameters, and overall survival (OS). RESULTS: No significant difference in IL-33 serum levels was found in HCC compared to LC and HCs. IL-33 levels did not correlate with OS, liver function parameters, the Model for End-Stage Liver Disease (MELD) score, or the Cancer of the Liver Italian Program (CLIP) score. sST2 levels were significantly elevated in LC and HCC patients compared to HCs (P < .0001). Mean sST2 levels in LC were higher than in HCC (P < .0001), but a significant association with OS was only observed in the HCC group (P = .003). sST2 in HCC correlated with the CLIP score, the MELD score, and liver function parameters. CONCLUSION: In the present study, the serum concentration of sST2 was associated with OS of HCC. Therefore, sST2 may be considered as a new prognostic marker in HCC and is worth further evaluation.
PMCID: PMC3660800  PMID: 23730411
4.  Sphingosine 1-Phosphate Modulates Antigen Capture by Murine Langerhans Cells via the S1P2 Receptor Subtype 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(11):e49427.
Dendritic cells (DCs) play a pivotal role in the development of cutaneous contact hypersensitivity (CHS) and atopic dermatitis as they capture and process antigen and present it to T lymphocytes in the lymphoid organs. Recently, it has been indicated that a topical application of the sphingolipid sphingosine 1-phosphate (S1P) prevents the inflammatory response in CHS, but the molecular mechanism is not fully elucidated. Here we indicate that treatment of mice with S1P is connected with an impaired antigen uptake by Langerhans cells (LCs), the initial step of CHS. Most of the known actions of S1P are mediated by a family of five specific G protein-coupled receptors. Our results indicate that S1P inhibits macropinocytosis of the murine LC line XS52 via S1P2 receptor stimulation followed by a reduced phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase (PI3K) activity. As down-regulation of S1P2 not only diminished S1P-mediated action but also enhanced the basal activity of LCs on antigen capture, an autocrine action of S1P has been assumed. Actually, S1P is continuously produced by LCs and secreted via the ATP binding cassette transporter ABCC1 to the extracellular environment. Consequently, inhibition of ABCC1, which decreased extracellular S1P levels, markedly increased the antigen uptake by LCs. Moreover, stimulation of sphingosine kinase activity, the crucial enzyme for S1P formation, is connected not only with enhanced S1P levels but also with diminished antigen capture. These results indicate that S1P is essential in LC homeostasis and influences skin immunity. This is of importance as previous reports suggested an alteration of S1P levels in atopic skin lesions.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0049427
PMCID: PMC3493526  PMID: 23145172
5.  Posttranslational Modification of the AU-Rich Element Binding Protein HuR by Protein Kinase Cδ Elicits Angiotensin II-Induced Stabilization and Nuclear Export of Cyclooxygenase 2 mRNA▿  
Molecular and Cellular Biology  2008;28(8):2608-2625.
The mRNA stabilizing factor HuR is involved in the posttranscriptional regulation of many genes, including that coding for cyclooxygenase 2 (COX-2). Employing RNA interference technology and actinomycin D experiments, we demonstrate that in human mesangial cells (hMC) the amplification of cytokine-induced COX-2 by angiotensin II (AngII) occurs via a HuR-mediated increase of mRNA stability. Using COX-2 promoter constructs with different portions of the 3′ untranslated region of COX-2, we found that the increase in COX-2 mRNA stability is attributable to a distal class III type of AU-rich element (ARE). Likewise, the RNA immunoprecipitation assay showed AngII-induced binding of HuR to this ARE. Using the RNA pulldown assay, we demonstrate that the AngII-caused HuR assembly with COX-2 mRNA is found in free and cytoskeleton-bound polysomes indicative of an active RNP complex. Mechanistically, the increased HuR binding to COX-2-ARE by AngII is accompanied by increased nucleocytoplasmic HuR shuttling and depends on protein kinase Cδ (PKCδ), which physically interacts with nuclear HuR, thereby promoting its phosphorylation. Mapping of phosphorylation sites identified serines 221 and 318 as critical target sites for PKCδ-triggered HuR phosphorylation and AngII-induced HuR export to the cytoplasm. Posttranslational modification of HuR by PKCδ represents an important novel mode of HuR activation implied in renal COX-2 regulation.
doi:10.1128/MCB.01530-07
PMCID: PMC2293108  PMID: 18285462
6.  Protein Kinase Cα-dependent Phosphorylation of the mRNA-stabilizing Factor HuR: Implications for Posttranscriptional Regulation of Cyclooxygenase-2 
Molecular Biology of the Cell  2007;18(6):2137-2148.
In this study, we investigated the molecular mechanisms underlying the ATP analogue adenosine-5′-O-(3-thio)triphosphate–induced nucleocytoplasmic shuttling of the mRNA stabilizing factor HuR in human (h) mesangial cells (MC). Using synthetic protein kinase C (PKC) inhibitors and small interfering RNA approaches, we demonstrated that knockdown of PKCα efficiently blocked the ATP-dependent nuclear HuR export to the cytoplasm. The functional importance of PKCα in HuR shuttling is highlighted by the high cytosolic HuR content detected in hMC stably overexpressing PKCα compared with mock-transfected cells. The ATP-induced recruitment of HuR to the cytoplasm is preceded by a direct interaction of PKCα with nuclear HuR and accompanied by increased Ser phosphorylation as demonstrated by coimmunoprecipitation experiments. Mapping of putative PKC target sites identified serines 158 and 221 as being indispensable for HuR phosphorylation by PKCα. RNA pull-down assay and RNA electrophoretic mobility shift assay demonstrated that the HuR shuttling by ATP is accompanied by an increased HuR binding to cyclooxygenase (COX)-2 mRNA. Physiologically, the ATP-dependent increase in RNA binding is linked with an augmentation in COX-2 mRNA stability and subsequent increase in prostaglandin E2 synthesis. Regulation of HuR via PKCα-dependent phosphorylation emphasizes the importance of posttranslational modification for stimulus-dependent HuR shuttling.
doi:10.1091/mbc.E06-09-0850
PMCID: PMC1877114  PMID: 17392515
7.  Serum MicroRNA-21 as Marker for Necroinflammation in Hepatitis C Patients with and without Hepatocellular Carcinoma 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(10):e26971.
Background
MicroRNA-21 (miR-21) is up-regulated in tumor tissue of patients with malignant diseases, including hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). Elevated concentrations of miR-21 have also been found in sera or plasma from patients with malignancies, rendering it an interesting candidate as serum/plasma marker for malignancies. Here we correlated serum miR-21 levels with clinical parameters in patients with different stages of chronic hepatitis C virus infection (CHC) and CHC-associated HCC.
Methodology/Principal Findings
62 CHC patients, 29 patients with CHC and HCC and 19 healthy controls were prospectively enrolled. RNA was extracted from the sera and miR-21 as well as miR-16 levels were analyzed by quantitative real-time PCR; miR-21 levels (normalized by miR-16) were correlated with standard liver parameters, histological grading and staging of CHC. The data show that serum levels of miR-21 were elevated in patients with CHC compared to healthy controls (P<0.001); there was no difference between serum miR-21 in patients with CHC and CHC-associated HCC. Serum miR-21 levels correlated with histological activity index (HAI) in the liver (r = −0.494, P = 0.00002), alanine aminotransferase (ALT) (r = −0.309, P = 0.007), aspartate aminotransferase (r = −0.495, P = 0.000007), bilirubin (r = −0.362, P = 0.002), international normalized ratio (r = −0.338, P = 0.034) and γ-glutamyltransferase (r = −0.244, P = 0.034). Multivariate analysis revealed that ALT and miR-21 serum levels were independently associated with HAI. At a cut-off dCT of 1.96, miR-21 discriminated between minimal and mild-severe necroinflammation (AUC = 0.758) with a sensitivity of 53.3% and a specificity of 95.2%.
Conclusions/Significance
The serum miR-21 level is a marker for necroinflammatory activity, but does not differ between patients with HCV and HCV-induced HCC.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0026971
PMCID: PMC3205002  PMID: 22066022

Results 1-7 (7)