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author:("kretz, Simone")
1.  Anti-inflammatory T-cell shift in neuropathic pain 
The classification of pain into nociceptive and neuropathic pain is based on characteristic symptoms and different pathophysiological mechanisms. In a recent investigation, we found a disrupted TH17/Treg balance in patients suffering from chronic unspecific low back pain (CLBP). These patients did not show any signs of neuropathy. There is evidence for a considerable impact of the immune system also in neuropathic pain. However, the role of the adaptive immune system is still unclear. In the present study, we investigated systemic T-cell subset responses and T-cell related cytokine profiles in patients with chronic neuropathic pain.
We analyzed T-cell subsets, mRNA expression and T-cell-related cytokine profiles in 26 patients suffering from neuropathic pain in comparison to 26 healthy controls. Using multicolor flow cytometry (FACS), we quantified the number of T helper cells 1 (TH1), TH2, TH17 and regulatory T-cells (Tregs). Forkhead-Box-Protein 3 (FoxP3), Transforming growth factor-β (TGF-β) and RAR-related orphan receptor-γT (ROR-γT) mRNA expression was determined by quantitative real-time PCR (qPCR) and levels of pain-related cytokines were measured by Human Cytokine Multiplex Immunoassay (Macrophage inflammatory protein-1α (MIP-1α), Tumor necrosis factor-α (TNF-α), Interferon-γ (IFN-γ), Interleukin (IL) -4, IL-6, IL-10, IL-17, and IL-23).
We found a TH17/Treg imbalance with significantly increased anti-inflammatory Tregs and decreased pro-inflammatory TH17 cells in patients with neuropathic pain as compared to healthy controls. These results were confirmed on mRNA level: Treg-related FoxP3 and TGF-β mRNA expression was elevated, whereas expression of TH17-related RORγT was reduced. Cytokine analyses revealed only marginal changes.
Our investigation revealed a clear shift of T-cell subsets towards anti-inflammation in patients with neuropathic pain. Interestingly, this is quite similar to our previous findings in CLBP patients, but even more pronounced. Therefore, it remains to be elucidated in future investigations whether the immune changes represent an underlying pathophysiological mechanism or an epiphenomenon induced by ongoing pain and stress.
German Clinical Trial Register (DRKS)
Trial registration number: DRKS00005954
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s12974-014-0225-0) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4308022  PMID: 25608762
Neuropathic pain; T-cells; TH17; Treg; Cytokines; Neuroinflammation
2.  miRIAD—integrating microRNA inter- and intragenic data 
MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are a class of small (∼22 nucleotides) non-coding RNAs that post-transcriptionally regulate gene expression by interacting with target mRNAs. A majority of miRNAs is located within intronic or exonic regions of protein-coding genes (host genes), and increasing evidence suggests a functional relationship between these miRNAs and their host genes. Here, we introduce miRIAD, a web-service to facilitate the analysis of genomic and structural features of intragenic miRNAs and their host genes for five species (human, rhesus monkey, mouse, chicken and opossum). miRIAD contains the genomic classification of all miRNAs (inter- and intragenic), as well as classification of all protein-coding genes into host or non-host genes (depending on whether they contain an intragenic miRNA or not). We collected and processed public data from several sources to provide a clear visualization of relevant knowledge related to intragenic miRNAs, such as host gene function, genomic context, names of and references to intragenic miRNAs, miRNA binding sites, clusters of intragenic miRNAs, miRNA and host gene expression across different tissues and expression correlation for intragenic miRNAs and their host genes. Protein–protein interaction data are also presented for functional network analysis of host genes. In summary, miRIAD was designed to help the research community to explore, in a user-friendly environment, intragenic miRNAs, their host genes and functional annotations with minimal effort, facilitating hypothesis generation and in-silico validations.
Database URL:
PMCID: PMC4186326  PMID: 25288656
3.  Disrupted TH17/Treg Balance in Patients with Chronic Low Back Pain 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(8):e104883.
Chronic low back pain (CLBP) is a leading cause of disability and costs in health care systems worldwide. Despite extensive research, the exact pathogenesis of CLBP, particularly the individual risk of chronification remains unclear. To investigate a possible role of the adaptive immune system in the pathophysiology of CLBP, we analyzed T cell related cytokine profiles, T cell related mRNA expression patterns and the distribution of T cell subsets in 37 patients suffering from nonspecific CLBP before and after multimodal therapy in comparison to 25 healthy controls. Serum patterns of marker cytokines were analyzed by Luminex technology, mRNA expression of cytokines and specific transcription factors was measured by real-time PCR, and distribution of TH1-, TH2-, TH17- and regulatory T cell (Tregs) subsets was determined by multicolor flow cytometry. We found that CLBP patients exhibit an increased number of anti-inflammatory Tregs, while pro-inflammatory TH17 cells are decreased, resulting in an altered TH17/Treg ratio. Accordingly, FoxP3 and TGF-β-mRNA expression was elevated, while expression of IL-23 was reduced. Serum cytokine analyses proved to be unsuitable to monitor the adaptive immune response in CLBP patients. We further show that even after successful therapy with lasting reduction of pain, T cell subset patterns remained altered after a follow-up period of 6 months. These findings suggest an involvement of TH17/Treg cells in the pathogenesis of CLBP and emphasize the importance of these cells in the crosstalk of pain and immune response.
Trial Registration
German Clinical Trial Register: Registration Trial DRKS00005954.
PMCID: PMC4133258  PMID: 25122126
4.  Personalized treatment strategies in glioblastoma: MGMT promoter methylation status 
OncoTargets and therapy  2013;6:1363-1372.
The identification of molecular genetic biomarkers considerably increased our current understanding of glioma genesis, prognostic evaluation, and treatment planning. In glioblastoma, the most malignant intrinsic brain tumor entity in adults, the promoter methylation status of the gene encoding for the repair enzyme O6-methylguanine-DNA methyltransferase (MGMT) indicates increased efficacy of current standard of care, which is concomitant and adjuvant chemoradiotherapy with the alkylating agent temozolomide. In the elderly, MGMT promoter methylation status has recently been introduced to be a predictive biomarker that can be used for stratification of treatment regimes. This review gives a short summery of epidemiological, clinical, diagnostic, and treatment aspects of patients who are currently diagnosed with glioblastoma. The most important molecular genetic markers and epigenetic alterations in glioblastoma are summarized. Special focus is given to the physiological function of DNA methylation–in particular, of the MGMT gene promoter, its clinical relevance, technical aspects of status assessment, its correlation with MGMT mRNA and protein expressions, and its place within the management cascade of glioblastoma patients.
PMCID: PMC3792931  PMID: 24109190
glioblastoma; MGMT; temozolomide; personalized treatment; outcome
5.  Selection of reliable reference genes for quantitative real-time PCR in human T cells and neutrophils 
BMC Research Notes  2011;4:427.
The choice of reliable reference genes is a prerequisite for valid results when analyzing gene expression with real-time quantitative PCR (qPCR). This method is frequently applied to study gene expression patterns in immune cells, yet a thorough validation of potential reference genes is still lacking for most leukocyte subtypes and most models of their in vitro stimulation. In the current study, we evaluated the expression stability of common reference genes in two widely used cell culture models-anti-CD3/CD28 activated T cells and lipopolysaccharide stimulated neutrophils-as well as in unselected untreated leukocytes.
The mRNA expression of 17 (T cells), 7 (neutrophils) or 8 (unselected leukocytes) potential reference genes was quantified by reverse transcription qPCR, and a ranking of the preselected candidate genes according to their expression stability was calculated using the programs NormFinder, geNorm and BestKeeper. IPO8, RPL13A, TBP and SDHA were identified as suitable reference genes in T cells. TBP, ACTB and SDHA were stably expressed in neutrophils. TBP and SDHA were also the most stable genes in untreated total blood leukocytes. The critical impact of reference gene selection on the estimated target gene expression is demonstrated for IL-2 and FIH expression in T cells.
The study provides a shortlist of suitable reference genes for normalization of gene expression data in unstimulated and stimulated T cells, unstimulated and stimulated neutrophils and in unselected leukocytes.
PMCID: PMC3229292  PMID: 22011438
6.  Identification of valid endogenous control genes for determining gene expression in human glioma 
Neuro-Oncology  2010;12(6):570-579.
In human glioma, quantitative real-time reverse-transcription PCR (qPCR) is a frequently used research tool. However, no systematic analysis of suitable reference genes for reliable gene expression analysis has been performed so far. In the current study, we tested 19 commonly used reference genes for their expression stability in human astrocytoma WHO Grade II, astrocytoma WHO Grade III, and glioblastoma (WHO Grade IV) both alone and compared with normal brain. First, equivalence tests for equal expression of candidate genes were applied, and those genes showing differential expression were ruled out from further analyses. Second, expression stability of the remaining candidate genes was determined by the NormFinder software. Generally, glioblastoma exhibited the highest expression levels and largest variability of candidate genes, whereas the opposite was true for normal brain. Even though Normfinder analyses revealed a large number of genes suitable for normalization in each of the tumor subgroups and across these groups, this number was drastically reduced after inclusion of normal brain into the analyses: Only GAPDH, IPO8, RPL13A, SDHA, and TBP were expected not to be differentially expressed; NormFinder analysis indicated favorable stability values for all of these genes, with TBP and IPO8 being the most stable ones. These 5 genes represent different physiological pathways and may be regarded as universal reference genes applicable for accurate normalization of gene expression in human astrocytomas of different grades (WHO Grades II–IV) alone and compared with normal brain, thereby enabling longitudinally designed studies (eg, in astrocytoma before and after malignant transformation).
PMCID: PMC2940642  PMID: 20511187
astrocytoma; glioblastoma; reference genes; stereotactic biopsy; qPCR
7.  O6-Methylguanine-DNA Methyltransferase (MGMT) mRNA Expression Predicts Outcome in Malignant Glioma Independent of MGMT Promoter Methylation 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(2):e17156.
We analyzed prospectively whether MGMT (O6-methylguanine-DNA methyltransferase) mRNA expression gains prognostic/predictive impact independent of MGMT promoter methylation in malignant glioma patients undergoing radiotherapy with concomitant and adjuvant temozolomide or temozolomide alone. As DNA-methyltransferases (DNMTs) are the enzymes responsible for setting up and maintaining DNA methylation patterns in eukaryotic cells, we analyzed further, whether MGMT promoter methylation is associated with upregulation of DNMT expression.
Methodology/Principal Findings
Adult patients with a histologically proven malignant astrocytoma (glioblastoma: N = 53, anaplastic astrocytoma: N = 10) were included. MGMT promoter methylation was determined by methylation-specific PCR (MSP) and sequencing analysis. Expression of MGMT and DNMTs mRNA were analysed by real-time qPCR. Prognostic factors were obtained from proportional hazards models. Correlation between MGMT mRNA expression and MGMT methylation status was validated using data from the Cancer Genome Atlas (TCGA) database (N = 229 glioblastomas). Low MGMT mRNA expression was strongly predictive for prolonged time to progression, treatment response, and length of survival in univariate and multivariate models (p<0.0001); the degree of MGMT mRNA expression was highly correlated with the MGMT promoter methylation status (p<0.0001); however, discordant findings were seen in 12 glioblastoma patients: Patients with methylated tumors with high MGMT mRNA expression (N = 6) did significantly worse than those with low transcriptional activity (p<0.01). Conversely, unmethylated tumors with low MGMT mRNA expression (N = 6) did better than their counterparts. A nearly identical frequency of concordant and discordant findings was obtained by analyzing the TCGA database (p<0.0001). Expression of DNMT1 and DNMT3b was strongly upregulated in tumor tissue, but not correlated with MGMT promoter methylation and MGMT mRNA expression.
MGMT mRNA expression plays a direct role for mediating tumor sensitivity to alkylating agents. Discordant findings indicate methylation-independent pathways of MGMT expression regulation. DNMT1 and DNMT3b are likely to be involved in CGI methylation. However, their exact role yet has to be defined.
PMCID: PMC3041820  PMID: 21365007
8.  Motion Sickness, Stress and the Endocannabinoid System 
PLoS ONE  2010;5(5):e10752.
A substantial number of individuals are at risk for the development of motion sickness induced nausea and vomiting (N&V) during road, air or sea travel. Motion sickness can be extremely stressful but the neurobiologic mechanisms leading to motion sickness are not clear. The endocannabinoid system (ECS) represents an important neuromodulator of stress and N&V. Inhibitory effects of the ECS on N&V are mediated by endocannabinoid-receptor activation.
Methodology/Principal Findings
We studied the activity of the ECS in human volunteers (n = 21) during parabolic flight maneuvers (PFs). During PFs, microgravity conditions (<10−2 g) are generated for approximately 22 s which results in a profound kinetic stimulus. Blood endocannabinoids (anandamide and 2-arachidonoylglycerol, 2-AG) were measured from blood samples taken in-flight before start of the parabolic maneuvers, after 10, 20, and 30 parabolas, in-flight after termination of PFs and 24 h later. Volunteers who developed acute motion sickness (n = 7) showed significantly higher stress scores but lower endocannabinoid levels during PFs. After 20 parabolas, blood anandamide levels had dropped significantly in volunteers with motion sickness (from 0.39±0.40 to 0.22±0.25 ng/ml) but increased in participants without the condition (from 0.43±0.23 to 0.60±0.38 ng/ml) resulting in significantly higher anandamide levels in participants without motion sickness (p = 0.02). 2-AG levels in individuals with motion sickness were low and almost unchanged throughout the experiment but showed a robust increase in participants without motion sickness. Cannabinoid-receptor 1 (CB1) but not cannabinoid-receptor 2 (CB2) mRNA expression in leucocytes 4 h after the experiment was significantly lower in volunteers with motion sickness than in participants without N&V.
These findings demonstrate that stress and motion sickness in humans are associated with impaired endocannabinoid activity. Enhancing ECS signaling may represent an alternative therapeutic strategy for motion sickness in individuals who do not respond to currently available treatments.
PMCID: PMC2873996  PMID: 20505775
9.  Targeted Deletion of HIF-1α Gene in T Cells Prevents their Inhibition in Hypoxic Inflamed Tissues and Improves Septic Mice Survival 
PLoS ONE  2007;2(9):e853.
Sepsis patients may die either from an overwhelming systemic immune response and/or from an immunoparalysis-associated lack of anti-bacterial immune defence. We hypothesized that bacterial superantigen-activated T cells may be prevented from contribution into anti-bacterial response due to the inhibition of their effector functions by the hypoxia inducible transcription factor (HIF-1α) in inflamed and hypoxic areas.
Methodology/Principal Findings
Using the Cre-lox-P-system we generated mice with a T–cell targeted deletion of the HIF-1α gene and analysed them in an in vivo model of bacterial sepsis. We show that deletion of the HIF-1α gene leads to higher levels of pro-inflammatory cytokines, stronger anti-bacterial effects and much better survival of mice. These effects can be at least partially explained by significantly increased NF-κB activation in TCR activated HIF-1 α deficient T cells.
T cells can be recruited to powerfully contribute to anti-bacterial response if they are relieved from inhibition by HIF-1α in inflamed and hypoxic areas. Our experiments uncovered the before unappreciated reserve of anti-bacterial capacity of T cells and suggest novel therapeutic anti-pathogen strategies based on targeted deletion or inhibition of HIF-1 α in T cells.
PMCID: PMC1959117  PMID: 17786224

Results 1-9 (9)