Signalling by the cytokine TGF-β regulates mature CD4+ T cell populations but is not involved in the survival and function of regulatory T cells.
TGF-β is widely held to be critical for the maintenance and function of regulatory T (Treg) cells and thus peripheral tolerance. This is highlighted by constitutive ablation of TGF-β receptor (TR) during thymic development in mice, which leads to a lethal autoimmune syndrome. Here we describe that TGF-β–driven peripheral tolerance is not regulated by TGF-β signalling on mature CD4+ T cells. Inducible TR2 ablation specifically on CD4+ T cells did not result in a lethal autoinflammation. Transfer of these TR2-deficient CD4+ T cells to lymphopenic recipients resulted in colitis, but not overt autoimmunity. In contrast, thymic ablation of TR2 in combination with lymphopenia led to lethal multi-organ inflammation. Interestingly, deletion of TR2 on mature CD4+ T cells does not result in the collapse of the Treg cell population as observed in constitutive models. Instead, a pronounced enlargement of both regulatory and effector memory T cell pools was observed. This expansion is cell-intrinsic and seems to be caused by increased T cell receptor sensitivity independently of common gamma chain-dependent cytokine signals. The expression of Foxp3 and other regulatory T cells markers was not dependent on TGF-β signalling and the TR2–deficient Treg cells retained their suppressive function both in vitro and in vivo. In summary, absence of TGF-β signalling on mature CD4+ T cells is not responsible for breakdown of peripheral tolerance, but rather controls homeostasis of mature T cells in adult mice.
TGF-β is a cytokine thought to be critical for the maintenance and function of tolerance in the immune system. In many studies the disruption of TGF-β signalling in CD4+ T cells (a type of white blood cell that coordinates immune responses) has resulted in autoimmune syndromes. We show here that the induced removal of this cytokine's receptor from these specialised blood cells results in an astonishingly mild outcome. Contrary to expectations, the number of regulatory T cells is actually increased, and we find that these cells are not dependent on TGF-β signalling. We also show that removal of the receptor from mature CD4+ T cells does not lead to lethal autoinflammation; only when we removed the receptor during development of the cells did we see the characteristic lethal multi-organ inflammation reported previously in constitutive models of TGF-β receptor ablation. In summary, our findings indicate that although TGF-β regulates maintenance of mature CD4+ T cells, its signals are dispensable for immune tolerance within this cell population.
Various populations of memory phenotype CD8+ T cells have been described over the last 15–20 years, all of which possess elevated effector functions relative to naïve phenotype cells. Using a technique for isolating antigen specific cells from unprimed hosts, we recently identified a new subset of cells, specific for nominal antigen, but phenotypically and functionally similar to memory cells arising as a result of homeostatic proliferation (HP). We show here that these “Virtual Memory” cells are independent of previously identified “innate memory” cells, arising as a result of their response to IL-15 trans-presentation by lymphoid tissue-resident CD8α+ DCs in the periphery. The absence of IL-15, CD8+ T cell expression of either CD122 or Eomes, or of CD8a+ DCs all lead to the loss of Virtual Memory cells in the host. Our results show that CD8+ T cell homeostatic expansion is an active process within the non-lymphopenic environment, is mediated by IL-15, and produces antigen inexperienced memory cells which retain the capacity to respond to nominal antigen with memory-like function. Preferential engagement of these “Virtual Memory” T cells into a vaccine response could dramatically enhance the rate by which immune protection develops.
A common human gut bacterium, Bacteroides fragilis, produces a sphingolipid ligand for the conserved host receptor CD1d and can modulate natural killer T cell activity.
While the human gut microbiota are suspected to produce diffusible small molecules that modulate host signaling pathways, few of these molecules have been identified. Species of Bacteroides and their relatives, which often comprise >50% of the gut community, are unusual among bacteria in that their membrane is rich in sphingolipids, a class of signaling molecules that play a key role in inducing apoptosis and modulating the host immune response. Although known for more than three decades, the full repertoire of Bacteroides sphingolipids has not been defined. Here, we use a combination of genetics and chemistry to identify the sphingolipids produced by Bacteroides fragilis NCTC 9343. We constructed a deletion mutant of BF2461, a putative serine palmitoyltransferase whose yeast homolog catalyzes the committed step in sphingolipid biosynthesis. We show that the Δ2461 mutant is sphingolipid deficient, enabling us to purify and solve the structures of three alkaline-stable lipids present in the wild-type strain but absent from the mutant. The first compound was the known sphingolipid ceramide phosphorylethanolamine, and the second was its corresponding dihydroceramide base. Unexpectedly, the third compound was the glycosphingolipid α-galactosylceramide (α-GalCerBf), which is structurally related to a sponge-derived sphingolipid (α-GalCer, KRN7000) that is the prototypical agonist of CD1d-restricted natural killer T (iNKT) cells. We demonstrate that α-GalCerBf has similar immunological properties to KRN7000: it binds to CD1d and activates both mouse and human iNKT cells both in vitro and in vivo. Thus, our study reveals BF2461 as the first known member of the Bacteroides sphingolipid pathway, and it indicates that the committed steps of the Bacteroides and eukaryotic sphingolipid pathways are identical. Moreover, our data suggest that some Bacteroides sphingolipids might influence host immune homeostasis.
While human gut bacteria are thought to produce diffusible molecules that influence host biology, few of these molecules have been identified. Species of Bacteroides, a Gram-negative bacterial genus whose members often comprise >50% of the gut community, are unusual in that they produce sphingolipids, signaling molecules that play a key role in modulating the host immune response. Sphingolipid production is ubiquitous among eukaryotes but present in only a few bacterial genera. We set out to construct a Bacteroides strain that is incapable of producing sphingolipids, knocking out a gene predicted to encode the first enzymatic step in the Bacteroides sphingolipid biosynthetic pathway. The resulting mutant is indeed deficient in sphingolipid production, and we purified and solved the structures of three sphingolipids that are present in the wild-type strain but absent in the mutant. To our surprise, one of these molecules is a close chemical relative of a sponge sphingolipid that is the prototypical ligand for a host receptor that controls the activity of natural killer T cells. Like the sponge sphingolipid, the Bacteroides sphingolipid can modulate natural killer T cell activity, suggesting a novel mechanism by which Bacteroides in the gut might influence the host immune response.
Natural killer T (NKT) cell development depends on recognition of self-glycolipids via their semi-invariant Vα14i-TCR. However, to what extent TCR-mediated signals determine identity and function of mature NKT cells remains incompletely understood. To address this issue, we developed a mouse strain allowing conditional Vα14i-TCR expression from within the endogenous Tcrα locus. We demonstrate that naïve T cells are activated upon replacement of their endogenous TCR repertoire with Vα14i-restricted TCRs, but they do not differentiate into NKT cells. On the other hand, induced TCR ablation on mature NKT cells did not affect their lineage identity, homeostasis, or innate rapid cytokine secretion abilities. We therefore propose that peripheral NKT cells become unresponsive to and thus are independent of their autoreactive TCR.
Immune system natural killer T (NKT) cells help to protect against certain strains of bacteria and viruses, and suppress the development of autoimmune diseases and cancer. However, NKT cells are also central mediators of allergic responses. The recognition of one's own glycolipid antigens (self-glycolipids) in the thymus via the unique Vα14i T cell receptor, Vα14i-TCR, triggers the NKT cell developmental program, which differs considerably from that of conventional T cells. We generated a mouse model to investigate whether the Vα14i-TCR on mature NKT cells constantly recognizes self-glycolipids and to assess whether this TCR is required for survival and continued NKT cell identity. Switching the peptide-recognizing TCR of a mature conventional T cell to a glycolipid-recognizing Vα14i-TCR led to activation of the T cells, indicating that this TCR is also autoreactive on peripheral T cells or can signal autonomously. But TCR ablation did not affect the half-life, characteristic gene expression or innate functions of mature NKT cells. Therefore, the inherently autoreactive Vα14i-TCR is dispensable for the functions of mature peripheral NKT cells after instructing thymic NKT cell development. Thus the Vα14i-TCR serves a similar function to pattern-recognition receptors, in mediating immune recognition of foreign invasion or diseased cells.
Influenza virus poses a difficult challenge for protective immunity. This virus is adept at altering its surface proteins, the proteins that are the targets of neutralizing antibody. Consequently, each year a new vaccine must be developed to combat the current recirculating strains. A universal influenza vaccine that primes specific memory cells that recognise conserved parts of the virus could prove to be effective against both annual influenza variants and newly emergent potentially pandemic strains. Such a vaccine will have to contain a safe and effective adjuvant that can be used in individuals of all ages. We examine protection from viral challenge in mice vaccinated with the nucleoprotein from the PR8 strain of influenza A, a protein that is highly conserved across viral subtypes. Vaccination with nucleoprotein delivered with a universally used and safe adjuvant, composed of insoluble aluminium salts, provides protection against viruses that either express the same or an altered version of nucleoprotein. This protection correlated with the presence of nucleoprotein specific CD8 T cells in the lungs of infected animals at early time points after infection. In contrast, immunization with NP delivered with alum and the detoxified LPS adjuvant, monophosphoryl lipid A, provided some protection to the homologous viral strain but no protection against infection by influenza expressing a variant nucleoprotein. Together, these data point towards a vaccine solution for all influenza A subtypes.
The Ikaros family of transcription factors is critical for normal T cell development while limiting malignant transformation. Mature CD8 T cells express multiple Ikaros family members, yet little is known about their function in this context. To test the functions of this gene family, we used retroviral transduction to express a naturally occurring, dominant negative (DN) isoform of Ikaros in activated CD8 T cells. Notably, expression of DN Ikaros profoundly enhanced the competitive advantage of activated CD8 T cells cultured in IL-12, such that by 6 days of culture, DN Ikaros-transduced cells were 100-fold more abundant than control cells. Expression of a DN isoform of Helios, a related Ikaros-family transcription factor, conferred a similar advantage to transduced cells in IL-12. While DN Ikaros-transduced cells had higher expression of the IL-2 receptor alpha chain, DN Ikaros-transduced cells achieved their competitive advantage through an IL-2 independent mechanism. Finally, the competitive advantage of DN Ikaros-transduced cells was manifested in vivo, following adoptive transfer of transduced cells. These data identify the Ikaros family of transcription factors as regulators of cytokine responsiveness in activated CD8 T cells, and suggest a role for this family in influencing effector and memory CD8 T cell differentiation.
Mucosal-associated invariant T cells are a unique population of T cells that express a semi-invariant αβ TCR and are restricted by the MHC class I-related molecule MR1. MAIT cells recognize uncharacterized ligand(s) presented by MR1 through the cognate interaction between their TCR and MR1. To understand how the MAIT TCR recognizes MR1 at the surface of APCs cultured both with and without bacteria, we undertook extensive mutational analysis of both the MAIT TCR and MR1 molecule. We found differential contribution of particular amino acids to the MAIT TCR-MR1 interaction based upon the presence of bacteria, supporting the hypothesis that the structure of the MR1 molecules with the microbial-derived ligand(s) differs from the one with the endogenous ligand(s). Furthermore, we demonstrate that microbial-derived ligand(s) is resistant to proteinase K digestion and does not extract with common lipids, suggesting an unexpected class of antigen(s) might be recognized by this unique lymphocyte population.
Tcf1 is known to function as a transcriptional activator of Wnt-induced proliferation during T cell development in the thymus. Evidence for an additional contrasting role for Tcf1 as a T-cell specific tumor suppressor gene is now presented.
The HMG-box factor Tcf1 is required during T-cell development in the thymus and mediates the nuclear response to Wnt signals. Tcf1−/− mice have previously been characterized and show developmental blocks at the CD4−CD8− double negative (DN) to CD4+CD8+ double positive transition. Due to the blocks in T-cell development, Tcf1−/− mice normally have a very small thymus. Unexpectedly, a large proportion of Tcf1−/− mice spontaneously develop thymic lymphomas with 50% of mice developing a thymic lymphoma/leukemia at the age of 16 wk. These lymphomas are clonal, highly metastatic, and paradoxically show high Wnt signaling when crossed with Wnt reporter mice and have high expression of Wnt target genes Lef1 and Axin2. In wild-type thymocytes, Tcf1 is higher expressed than Lef1, with a predominance of Wnt inhibitory isoforms. Loss of Tcf1 as repressor of Lef1 leads to high Wnt activity and is the initiating event in lymphoma development, which is exacerbated by activating Notch1 mutations. Thus, Notch1 and loss of Tcf1 functionally act as collaborating oncogenic events. Tcf1 deficiency predisposes to the development of thymic lymphomas by ectopic up-regulation of Lef1 due to lack of Tcf1 repressive isoforms and frequently by cooperating activating mutations in Notch1. Tcf1 therefore functions as a T-cell–specific tumor suppressor gene, besides its established role as a Wnt responsive transcription factor. Thus, Tcf1 acts as a molecular switch between proliferative and repressive signals during T-lymphocyte development in the thymus.
Cancers often develop as a consequence of deregulated expression of key factors that operate during normal development. T-cell factor 1 (Tcf1) has an established role in the nuclear response to Wnt signaling during normal T-cell development in the thymus. Here we show in mice that the absence of Tcf1 can trigger tumorigenesis. As expected from previous work, lack of Tcf1 results in a small thymus with several partial blocks in T-cell development in the thymus. Surprisingly, we observe that a large proportion of Tcf1−/− mice spontaneously develop thymic lymphomas. Thorough investigation of these thymic-derived tumors revealed that the mechanism underlying these lymphomas is, paradoxically, increased levels of Wnt-signaling. We propose that Wnt-signaling in these tumors is mediated by up-regulated expression of the Tcf1-homologue, Lef1, and specifically its long isoform. Furthermore, we have evidence to propose that in a normal thymus, short isoforms of Tcf1 that cannot respond to Wnt signals act as repressors of Lef1-mediated Wnt-signaling. Thus, we propose that Tcf1 has a dual function developing T cells in mice: it functions as a T-cell–specific tumor suppressor gene in addition to its established role as a transcriptional activator of Wnt-induced proliferation. Whether loss of function of Tcf-1 as a tumor suppressor gene actually occurs in human T-cell lymphoblastic leukemias is currently under investigation.
αβ T cell receptors (TCRs) bind specifically to foreign antigens presented by major histocompatibility complex proteins (MHC) or MHC-like molecules. Accumulating evidence indicates that the germline-encoded TCR segments have features that promote binding to MHC and MHC-like molecules, suggesting co-evolution between TCR and MHC molecules. Here, we assess directly the evolutionary conservation of αβ TCR specificity for MHC. Sequence comparisons showed that some Vβs from distantly related jawed vertebrates share amino acids in their complementarity determining region 2 (CDR2). Chimeric TCRs containing amphibian, bony fish or cartilaginous fish Vβs can recognize antigens presented by mouse MHC class II and CD1d (an MHC-like protein), and this recognition is dependent upon the shared CDR2 amino acids. These results indicate that features of the TCR that control specificity for MHC and MHC-like molecules were selected early in evolution and maintained between species that last shared a common ancestor over 400 million years ago.
Human Vα24− CD1d-restricted T cells use variation in their CDR1α loop to respond to lipid antigens presented by CD1d, altering their specificities from that of invariant natural killer T cells.
CD1d-mediated presentation of glycolipid antigens to T cells is capable of initiating powerful immune responses that can have a beneficial impact on many diseases. Molecular analyses have recently detailed the lipid antigen recognition strategies utilized by the invariant Vα24-Jα18 TCR rearrangements of iNKT cells, which comprise a subset of the human CD1d-restricted T cell population. In contrast, little is known about how lipid antigens are recognized by functionally distinct CD1d-restricted T cells bearing different TCRα chain rearrangements. Here we present crystallographic and biophysical analyses of α-galactosylceramide (α-GalCer) recognition by a human CD1d-restricted TCR that utilizes a Vα3.1-Jα18 rearrangement and displays a more restricted specificity for α-linked glycolipids than that of iNKT TCRs. Despite having sequence divergence in the CDR1α and CDR2α loops, this TCR employs a convergent recognition strategy to engage CD1d/αGalCer, with a binding affinity (∼2 µM) almost identical to that of an iNKT TCR used in this study. The CDR3α loop, similar in sequence to iNKT-TCRs, engages CD1d/αGalCer in a similar position as that seen with iNKT-TCRs, however fewer actual contacts are made. Instead, the CDR1α loop contributes important contacts to CD1d/αGalCer, with an emphasis on the 4′OH of the galactose headgroup. This is consistent with the inability of Vα24− T cells to respond to α-glucosylceramide, which differs from αGalCer in the position of the 4′OH. These data illustrate how fine specificity for a lipid containing α-linked galactose is achieved by a TCR structurally distinct from that of iNKT cells.
Certain lineages of T cells can recognize lipids as stimulatory antigens when presented in the context of CD1 molecules. We know how most Natural Killer T (NKT) cells react with this unusual ligand because they use a single invariant T cell receptor (TCR) alpha chain to do the job. NKT cells place particular emphasis on their CDR3α and CDR2β loops in recognition of antigen—these complementarity determining regions (CDRs) are the hypervariable parts of the TCR that “complement” an antigen's shape. How do these other T cells recognize closely related yet distinct lipid antigens? Here we show that human CD1d-restricted T cells, typically called Vα24− T cells due to their use of diverse Vα domains in their TCRs, use similar molecular strategies to respond to lipid antigens presented by CD1d. To this end we present a 2.5 Å complex structure of a Vα24− TCR complexed with CD1d presenting the protypical lipid, α-galactosylceramide (αGalCer). The TCR examined in this study notably shifts its binding slightly, placing more emphasis on the interaction with the CDR1α loop as revealed through alanine scanning mutagenesis. This shift explains the inability of these T cells to respond to lipids that vary at this site of contact (the 4'OH), like the related α-linked glucosylceramide. These results provide a molecular basis for the fine-specificity of different CD1d-restricted T cell lineages.
Human interleukin-26 induces Th17 cells, is over-expressed in rheumatoid arthritis, and is thus a promising therapeutic target in chronic inflammatory disease.
Interleukin-26 (IL-26), a member of the IL-10 cytokine family, induces the production of proinflammatory cytokines by epithelial cells. IL-26 has been also reported overexpressed in Crohn's disease, suggesting that it may be involved in the physiopathology of chronic inflammatory disorders. Here, we have analyzed the expression and role of IL-26 in rheumatoid arthritis (RA), a chronic inflammatory disorder characterized by joint synovial inflammation. We report that the concentrations of IL-26 are higher in the serums of RA patients than of healthy subjects and dramatically elevated in RA synovial fluids compared to RA serums. Immunohistochemistry reveals that synoviolin+ fibroblast-like synoviocytes and CD68+ macrophage-like synoviocytes are the main IL-26-producing cells in RA joints. Fibroblast-like synoviocytes from RA patients constitutively produce IL-26 and this production is upregulated by IL-1-beta and IL-17A. We have therefore investigated the role of IL-26 in the inflammatory process. Results show that IL-26 induces the production of the proinflammatory cytokines IL-1-beta, IL-6, and tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-alpha by human monocytes and also upregulates the expression of numerous chemokines (mainly CCL20). Interestingly, IL-26-stimulated monocytes selectively promote the generation of RORgamma t+ Th17 cells, through IL-1-beta secretion by monocytes. More precisely, IL-26-stimulated monocytes switch non-Th17 committed (IL-23R− or CCR6− CD161−) CD4+ memory T cells into Th17 cells. Finally, synovial fluids from RA patients also induce Th17 cell generation and this effect is reduced after IL-26 depletion. These findings show that IL-26 is constitutively produced by RA synoviocytes, induces proinflammatory cytokine secretion by myeloid cells, and favors Th17 cell generation. IL-26 thereby appears as a novel proinflammatory cytokine, located upstream of the proinflammatory cascade, that may constitute a promising target to treat RA and chronic inflammatory disorders.
The T cell response to B cell lymphomas differs from the majority of solid tumors in that the malignant cells themselves are derived from B lymphocytes, key players in immune response. B cell lymphomas are therefore well situated to manipulate their surrounding microenvironment to enhance tumor growth and minimize anti-tumor T cell responses. We analyzed the effect of T cells on the growth of a transplantable B cell lymphoma and found that iNKT cells suppressed the anti-tumor CD8+ T cell response. Lymphoma cells transplanted into syngeneic wild type (WT) mice or Jalpha18−/− mice that specifically lack iNKT cells grew initially at the same rate, but only the mice lacking iNKT cells were able to reject the lymphoma. This effect was due to the enhanced activity of tumor-specific CD8+ T cells in the absence of iNKT cells, and could be partially reversed by reconstitution of iNKT cells in Jalpha 18−/− mice. Treatment of tumor-bearing WT mice with alpha -galactosyl ceramide, an activating ligand for iNKT cells, reduced the number of tumor-specific CD8+ T cells. In contrast, lymphoma growth in CD1d1−/− mice that lack both iNKT and type II NKT cells was similar to that in WT mice, suggesting that type II NKT cells are required for full activation of the anti-tumor immune response. This study reveals a tumor-promoting role for iNKT cells and suggests their capacity to inhibit the CD8+ T cell response to B cell lymphoma by opposing the effects of type II NKT cells.
The antigen receptor for natural killer T cells (NKT TCR) bind CD1d-restricted microbial and self lipid antigens, although the molecular basis of self-CD1d recognition is unclear. Here, we have characterized NKT TCR recognition of CD1d molecules loaded with natural self-antigens (Ags), and report the 2.3 Å resolution structure of an autoreactive NKT TCR-phosphatidylinositol-CD1d complex. NKT TCR recognition of self and foreign antigens was underpinned by a similar mode of germline-encoded recognition of CD1d. However, NKT TCR autoreactivity is mediated by unique sequences within the non-germline encoded CDR3β loop encoding for a hydrophobic motif that promotes self-association with CD1d. Accordingly, NKT cell autoreactivity may arise from the inherent affinity of the interaction between CD1d and the NKT TCR, resulting in the recognition of a broad range of CD1d restricted self-antigens. This demonstrates that multiple self-antigens can be recognized in a similar manner by autoreactive NKT TCRs.
CD4 T cell help for B cells is critical for effective antibody responses. While many of the molecules involved in helper functions of naïve CD4 T cells have been characterized, much less is known about the helper capabilities of memory CD4 T cells, an important consideration for the design of vaccines that aim to prime protective memory CD4 T cells. Here we demonstrate that mouse memory CD4 T cells enable B cells to expand more rapidly and class switch earlier than primary responding CD4 T cells. This accelerated response does not require large numbers of memory cells and similar numbers of primary responding cells provide less effective help than memory cells. However, only memory CD4 T cells that express the B cell follicle homing molecule, CXCR5, are able to accelerate the response. Therefore, the rapidity of the antibody response depends on the ability of CD4 memory T cells to migrate quickly towards B cells.
Four distinct subsets of invariant natural killer T (NKT) cells are shown to differentiate in the thymus, then migrate to peripheral tissues where they retain their phenotypic and functional characteristics.
There is heterogeneity in invariant natural killer T (iNKT) cells based on the expression of CD4 and the IL-17 receptor B (IL-17RB), a receptor for IL-25 which is a key factor in TH2 immunity. However, the development pathway and precise function of these iNKT cell subtypes remain unknown. IL-17RB+
iNKT cells are present in the thymic CD44+/− NK1.1− population and develop normally even in the absence of IL-15, which is required for maturation and homeostasis of IL-17RB−
iNKT cells producing IFN-γ. These results suggest that iNKT cells contain at least two subtypes, IL-17RB+ and IL-17RB− subsets. The IL-17RB+
iNKT subtypes can be further divided into two subtypes on the basis of CD4 expression both in the thymus and in the periphery. CD4+ IL-17RB+
iNKT cells produce TH2 (IL-13), TH9 (IL-9 and IL-10), and TH17 (IL-17A and IL-22) cytokines in response to IL-25 in an E4BP4-dependent fashion, whereas CD4− IL-17RB+
iNKT cells are a retinoic acid receptor-related orphan receptor (ROR)γt+ subset producing TH17 cytokines upon stimulation with IL-23 in an E4BP4-independent fashion. These IL-17RB+
iNKT cell subtypes are abundantly present in the lung in the steady state and mediate the pathogenesis in virus-induced airway hyperreactivity (AHR). In this study we demonstrated that the IL-17RB+
iNKT cell subsets develop distinct from classical iNKT cell developmental stages in the thymus and play important roles in the pathogenesis of airway diseases.
T cells are a diverse group of immune cells involved in cell-mediated acquired immunity. One subset of T cells is the innate-like invariant natural killer T (iNKT) cells that recognize glycolipid ligands on target cells instead of peptides. We know that functionally distinct subtypes of iNKT cells are involved in specific pathologies, yet their development, phenotypes, and functions are not well understood. Here, we determine the relationship between various mouse iNKT cell subsets, identify reliable molecular markers for these subsets, and show that these contribute to their functional differences. We identify four iNKT cell subsets that we show arise via different developmental pathways and exhibit different cytokine profiles. Importantly, we show that these subsets can be isolated from the thymus (the organ of all T cells), as well as from peripheral tissues such as spleen, liver, lung, and lymph nodes. Contrary to the general understanding that iNKT cells mature after their exit from the thymus and their migration into peripheral tissues, we conclude that distinct phenotypic and functional iNKT cell subsets can be distinguished in the thymus by virtue of the presence or absence of the cytokine receptor IL-17RB and another cell surface molecule called CD4, and these subsets then migrate to peripheral tissues where they retain their phenotypic and functional characteristics. Regarding functional significance, we show that those iNKT cell subsets that lead to airway hyper-responsiveness to respiratory viruses are different to those that lead to allergen-induced airway hyperreactivity, which will enable researchers to focus on specific subsets as potential targets for therapeutic intervention.
Major histocompatibility complex class I (MHCI) and MHCII proteins differ in structure and sequence. To understand how T cell receptors (TCRs) can use the same set of variable regions to bind both proteins, we have presented the first comparison of a single TCR bound to both MHCI and MHCII ligands. The TCR adopts similar orientations on both ligands with TCR amino acids thought to be evolutionarily conserved for MHC interaction occupying similar positions on the MHCI and MHCII helices. However, the TCR antigen-binding loops use different conformations when interacting with each ligand. Most importantly, we observed alternate TCR core conformations. When bound to MHCI, but not MHCII, Vα disengages from the Jα β-strand, switching Vα’s position relative to Vβ. In several other structures either Vα or Vβ undergoes this same modification. Thus, both TCR V-domains can switch among alternate conformations, perhaps extending their ability to react with different MHC-peptide ligands.
Structural and biophysical studies reveal the induced-fit mechanism underlying the stringent specificity of invariant natural killer T cells for unique glycolipid antigens from the pathogen Streptococcus pneumoniae.
Invariant natural killer T (iNKT) cells are an evolutionary conserved T cell population characterized by features of both the innate and adaptive immune response. Studies have shown that iNKT cells are required for protective responses to Gram-positive pathogens such as Streptococcus pneumoniae, and that these cells recognize bacterial diacylglycerol antigens presented by CD1d, a non-classical antigen-presenting molecule. The combination of a lipid backbone containing an unusual fatty acid, vaccenic acid, as well as a glucose sugar that is weaker or not stimulatory when linked to other lipids, is required for iNKT cell stimulation by these antigens. Here we have carried out structural and biophysical studies that illuminate the reasons for the stringent requirement for this unique combination. The data indicate that vaccenic acid bound to the CD1d groove orients the protruding glucose sugar for TCR recognition, and it allows for an additional hydrogen bond of the glucose with CD1d when in complex with the TCR. Furthermore, TCR binding causes an induced fit in both the sugar and CD1d, and we have identified the CD1d amino acids important for iNKT TCR recognition and the stability of the ternary complex. The studies show also how hydrogen bonds formed by the glucose sugar can account for the distinct binding kinetics of the TCR for this CD1d-glycolipid complex. Therefore, our studies illuminate the mechanism of glycolipid recognition for antigens from important pathogens.
Invariant natural killer T (iNKT) cells are an evolutionarily conserved population of immune cells that recognize lipid antigens. A protein called a T cell receptor for antigen (TCR) on the surface of these iNKT cells recognizes lipids bound to a protein called CD1d on the surface of antigen-presenting cells. Here we describe the three-dimensional structure of the complex that forms between CD1d and the iNKT TCR together with a glycolipid antigen from the infectious bacterium Streptococcus pneumoniae, which is a common cause of bacterial meningitis in adults and is responsible for many other pneumococcal infections. We determined the three-dimensional structure of the complex by X-ray crystallography. The data obtained allow us to understand the structural requirements that make this glycolipid a potent antigen for iNKT cells, and why the TCR of these cells recognizes a particular combination of hexose sugar and diacylglycerol lipid. Moreover, by mutating CD1d and using biophysical methods to study the mutant protein complexes, we analyzed the role of the protein–protein interface between CD1d and the TCR and found that it plays an important role in the stability, but not the formation, of the trimolecular complex containing glycolipid antigen.
Contrary to the current paradigm that nearly all memory T cells proliferate in response to antigenic stimulation, this paper shows that an important population of CD4 T lymphocytes achieves memory/effector status independent of antigenic stimulation.
Memory phenotype (CD44bright, CD25negative) CD4 spleen and lymph node T cells (MP cells) proliferate rapidly in normal or germ-free donors, with BrdU uptake rates of 6% to 10% per day and Ki-67 positivity of 18% to 35%. The rapid proliferation of MP cells stands in contrast to the much slower proliferation of lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus (LCMV)-specific memory cells that divide at rates ranging from <1% to 2% per day over the period from 15 to 60 days after LCMV infection. Anti-MHC class II antibodies fail to inhibit the in situ proliferation of MP cells, implying a non–T-cell receptor (TCR)-driven proliferation. Such proliferation is partially inhibited by anti–IL-7Rα antibody. The sequence diversity of TCRβ CDR3 gene segments is comparable among the proliferating and quiescent MP cells from conventional and germ-free mice, implying that the majority of proliferating MP cells have not recently derived from a small cohort of cells that expand through multiple continuous rounds of cell division. We propose that MP cells constitute a diverse cell population, containing a subpopulation of slowly dividing authentic antigen-primed memory cells and a majority population of rapidly proliferating cells that did not arise from naïve cells through conventional antigen-driven clonal expansion.
The class of immune cells called CD4 T lymphocytes consists of two major cell types: naïve cells that have not yet participated in an immune response and memory cells, which are cells that have responded to antigen, expanded in number, and acquired new characteristics. These two cell types can be distinguished from one another because they display different cell surface marker proteins. In this paper, we argue that many—probably most—of the cells researchers generally characterize as memory cells on the basis of their surface markers are not authentic memory cells. True memory cells—the ones produced, for example, when we immunize a child against a disease—divide very slowly, whereas the bulk of the cells we generally characterize as memory cells divide very rapidly. Mice that have never been exposed to antigens have as many of these “memory-like” cells as normal mice have, implying that these cells arise by a process that does not require foreign antigen. Analysis of the sequence of the antigen recognition receptors on these “memory-like” cells indicates that their replication does not derive from a few cells or clones undergoing multiple rounds of proliferation, thus their division cannot be explained by conventional, antigen-driven clonal expansion. We conclude that this large population of “memory-like” cells has arisen by a mechanism independent of a response to foreign antigen, and that these cells may have a crucial biological function.
Super-resolution imaging provides a new look at how the lytic granules in natural killer cells penetrate the filamentous actin network of the immunological synapse.
Accumulation of filamentous actin (F-actin) at the immunological synapse (IS) is a prerequisite for the cytotoxic function of natural killer (NK) cells. Subsequent to reorganization of the actin network, lytic granules polarize to the IS where their contents are secreted directly toward a target cell, providing critical access to host defense. There has been limited investigation into the relationship between the actin network and degranulation. Thus, we have evaluated the actin network and secretion using microscopy techniques that provide unprecedented resolution and/or functional insight. We show that the actin network extends throughout the IS and that degranulation occurs in areas where there is actin, albeit in sub-micron relatively hypodense regions. Therefore we propose that granules reach the plasma membrane in clearances in the network that are appropriately sized to minimally accommodate a granule and allow it to interact with the filaments. Our data support a model whereby lytic granules and the actin network are intimately associated during the secretion process and broadly suggest a mechanism for the secretion of large organelles in the context of a cortical actin barrier.
The immune system's natural killer cells eliminate diseased cells in the body. They do so by secreting toxic molecules directly towards the diseased cells, so causing their death. This process is essential for the host organism to defend itself against infectious diseases. The interface between the natural killer cell and its target—the lytic immunological synapse—forms by close apposition of the surface membranes of the two cells. It is characterized by coordinated rearrangement of proteins to allow lytic granules, which contain the toxic molecules, to fuse with the cell surface at the synapse. Given the large size of the granules, one challenge the natural killer cell faces is how to contend with network of actin filaments just under the cell surface, which potentially could pose a barrier to secretion. The current model proposes large-scale clearing of actin filaments from the center of the immunological synapse to provide granules access to the synaptic membrane. By using very high-resolution imaging techniques, we now demonstrate that actin filaments are present throughout the synapse and that natural killer cells overcome the actin barrier not by wholesale clearing but by making minimally sufficient conduits in the actin network. This suggests a model in which granules access the surface membrane by means of specific and facilitated contact with the actin cytoskeleton.
Bacterial superantigen toxins bind directly to the dimer interface of CD28, the principal co-stimulatory receptor, to induce a lethal cytokine storm, and peptides that prevent this binding can suppress superantigen lethality.
Bacterial superantigens, a diverse family of toxins, induce an inflammatory cytokine storm that can lead to lethal shock. CD28 is a homodimer expressed on T cells that functions as the principal costimulatory ligand in the immune response through an interaction with its B7 coligands, yet we show here that to elicit inflammatory cytokine gene expression and toxicity, superantigens must bind directly into the dimer interface of CD28. Preventing access of the superantigen to CD28 suffices to block its lethality. Mice were protected from lethal superantigen challenge by short peptide mimetics of the CD28 dimer interface and by peptides selected to compete with the superantigen for its binding site in CD28. Superantigens use a conserved β-strand/hinge/α-helix domain of hitherto unknown function to engage CD28. Mutation of this superantigen domain abolished inflammatory cytokine gene induction and lethality. Structural analysis showed that when a superantigen binds to the T cell receptor on the T cell and major histocompatibility class II molecule on the antigen-presenting cell, CD28 can be accommodated readily as third superantigen receptor in the quaternary complex, with the CD28 dimer interface oriented towards the β-strand/hinge/α-helix domain in the superantigen. Our findings identify the CD28 homodimer interface as a critical receptor target for superantigens. The novel role of CD28 as receptor for a class of microbial pathogens, the superantigen toxins, broadens the scope of pathogen recognition mechanisms.
Induction of protective immunity involves the expression of inflammatory cytokines, proteins that mediate and respond to immune signals. However, excessive cytokine induction can lead to disease, including, at very high levels, lethal toxic shock. Staphylococcal and streptococcal superantigens are a broad family of bacterial protein toxins that induce such a lethal cytokine storm, orders of magnitude higher in intensity than that elicited during normal immune responses. A key participant in every immune response is the costimulatory receptor CD28, which forms a protein dimer to mediate the immune response. Hitherto, CD28 was not known to bind microbial components. Here, we show that superantigens co-opt CD28 as their receptor and that to induce a cytokine storm, superantigens must bind directly into the dimer interface of CD28. The interaction between CD28 and the bacterial superantigen can be blocked with peptides—short protein fragments that mimic the contact domains in the intact superantigen or in CD28. These peptides attenuate inflammatory cytokine gene induction and thus protect animals from lethal toxic shock. Our finding that CD28 is a receptor for the superantigen toxins broadens the scope of microbial pathogen recognition mechanisms and provides a novel approach for designing therapeutics that protect against toxic shock.
Super-resolution 3D imaging reveals remodeling of the cortical actin meshwork at the natural killer cell immune synapse, which is likely to be important for secretion of lytic granules.
Natural Killer (NK) cells are innate immune cells that secrete lytic granules to directly kill virus-infected or transformed cells across an immune synapse. However, a major gap in understanding this process is in establishing how lytic granules pass through the mesh of cortical actin known to underlie the NK cell membrane. Research has been hampered by the resolution of conventional light microscopy, which is too low to resolve cortical actin during lytic granule secretion. Here we use two high-resolution imaging techniques to probe the synaptic organisation of NK cell receptors and filamentous (F)-actin. A combination of optical tweezers and live cell confocal microscopy reveals that microclusters of NKG2D assemble into a ring-shaped structure at the centre of intercellular synapses, where Vav1 and Grb2 also accumulate. Within this ring-shaped organisation of NK cell proteins, lytic granules accumulate for secretion. Using 3D-structured illumination microscopy (3D-SIM) to gain super-resolution of ∼100 nm, cortical actin was detected in a central region of the NK cell synapse irrespective of whether activating or inhibitory signals dominate. Strikingly, the periodicity of the cortical actin mesh increased in specific domains at the synapse when the NK cell was activated. Two-colour super-resolution imaging revealed that lytic granules docked precisely in these domains which were also proximal to where the microtubule-organising centre (MTOC) polarised. Together, these data demonstrate that remodelling of the cortical actin mesh occurs at the central region of the cytolytic NK cell immune synapse. This is likely to occur for other types of cell secretion and also emphasises the importance of emerging super-resolution imaging technology for revealing new biology.
Natural Killer (NK) cells are immune cells that can recognise and kill virus-infected and cancerous cells. This killing requires an intercellular contact —termed an immune synapse—between the NK cell and its target cell through which molecules can be delivered to trigger lysis. Reorganisation of the NK cell cytoskeleton is essential for the delivery and release at the synapse of granules containing the cytolytic molecules. Understanding precisely how the cytoskeleton is involved in these cytolytic events has been hampered by our inability to resolve cytoskeletal structure at immune synapses by conventional light microscopy. Very recent advances in imaging technology have now provided the resolving power to see previously undetectable cellular structures. Here, we have used 3D super-resolution imaging to observe the structure of the actin cytoskeleton at the NK immune synapse. We found that a dense mesh of actin underlies the immune synapse and that it is remodelled upon NK cell activation. Domains within the actin meshwork open up specifying where the lytic granules dock and also where the microtubule-organising centre moves towards. Thus, actin remodelling occurs at the immune synapse during secretion and this may be important for the regulation of lytic granule secretion.
Autoimmunity is controlled both by the environment and by genetic factors. One of the most well defined genetic factors is polymorphisms, with some alleles of particular genes promoting autoimmune diseases, whereas other alleles either not affecting susceptibility to disease or, in some cases actually inhibiting the appearance of such illnesses. Another genetically controlled factor, gender, also plays a profound role in the incidence of autoimmune diseases. For example, Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE) occurs much more frequently in females than in males in both mice and man. The genetic differences that make some individuals susceptible to autoimmunity and protect others could act in many ways and affect many tissues. In this review we will discuss how gender may act on the cells of the immune system and thereby influence the predisposition of the host to autoimmune diseases.
autoimmunity; sex hormones; X chromosome; TLR7
Autoreactive CD4+ T cells are involved in the pathogenesis of many autoimmune diseases, but the antigens that stimulate their responses have been difficult to identify and in most cases are not well defined. In the nonobese diabetic (NOD) mouse model of type 1 diabetes (T1D), we have identified a peptide WE14 from chromogranin A (ChgA) as the antigen for highly diabetogenic CD4+ T cell clones. Truncation and extension analysis showed that WE14 binds to the NOD mouse MHCII molecule, I-Ag7, in an atypical manner, occupying only the C-terminal half of the I-Ag7 peptide-binding groove. This finding extends the list of T cell antigens in T1D and supports the idea that autoreactive T cells respond to unusually presented self-peptides.
Alpha/beta T cell receptors (TCRs) react with major histocompatibility complex proteins (MHC) plus peptides, a poorly understood phenomenon, probably because thymocytes bearing TCRs that manifest MHC-reactivity too well are lost by negative selection. Only TCRs with attenuated ability to react with MHC appear on mature T cells. Also, the interaction sites between TCRs and MHC may be inherently flexible and hence difficult to spot. Contacts between TCRs and MHC in the solved structures of their complexes were reevaluated with these points in mind. The results show that frequently used amino acids in TCR CDR1 and CDR2 regions are often used to bind MHC, in areas around small amino acids on the surfaces of MHC α helices that form a cup, allowing somewhat flexible binding of the TCRs. The TCR amino acids involved are specific to families of V regions and partially different rules govern recognition of MHC1 versus MHCII.
T cell receptor; MHC; evolution; conserved interactions; tolerance; selection; major histocompatibility complex