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1.  Endogenous CCL2 neutralization restricts HIV-1 replication in primary human macrophages by inhibiting viral DNA accumulation 
Retrovirology  2015;12:4.
Macrophages are key targets of HIV-1 infection. We have previously described that the expression of CC chemokine ligand 2 (CCL2) increases during monocyte differentiation to macrophages and it is further up-modulated by HIV-1 exposure. Moreover, CCL2 acts as an autocrine factor that promotes viral replication in infected macrophages. In this study, we dissected the molecular mechanisms by which CCL2 neutralization inhibits HIV-1 replication in monocyte-derived macrophages (MDM), and the potential involvement of the innate restriction factors protein sterile alpha motif (SAM) histidine/aspartic acid (HD) domain containing 1 (SAMHD1) and apolipoprotein B mRNA-editing, enzyme-catalytic, polypeptide-like 3 (APOBEC3) family members.
CCL2 neutralization potently reduced the number of p24 Gag+ cells during the course of either productive or single cycle infection with HIV-1. In contrast, CCL2 blocking did not modify entry of HIV-1 based Virus Like Particles, thus demonstrating that the restriction involves post-entry steps of the viral life cycle. Notably, the accumulation of viral DNA, both total, integrated and 2-LTR circles, was strongly impaired by neutralization of CCL2. Looking for correlates of HIV-1 DNA accumulation inhibition, we found that the antiviral effect of CCL2 neutralization was independent of the modulation of SAMHD1 expression or function. Conversely, a strong and selective induction of APOBEC3A expression, to levels comparable to those of freshly isolated monocytes, was associated with the inhibition of HIV-1 replication mediated by CCL2 blocking. Interestingly, the CCL2 neutralization mediated increase of APOBEC3A expression was type I IFN independent. Moreover, the transcriptome analysis of the effect of CCL2 blocking on global gene expression revealed that the neutralization of this chemokine resulted in the upmodulation of additional genes involved in the defence response to viruses.
Neutralization of endogenous CCL2 determines a profound restriction of HIV-1 replication in primary MDM affecting post-entry steps of the viral life cycle with a mechanism independent of SAMHD1. In addition, CCL2 blocking is associated with induction of APOBEC3A expression, thus unravelling a novel mechanism which might contribute to regulate the expression of innate intracellular viral antagonists in vivo. Thus, our study may potentially lead to the development of new therapeutic strategies for enhancing innate cellular defences against HIV-1 and protecting macrophages from infection.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s12977-014-0132-6) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4314729  PMID: 25608886
Monocyte-derived macrophage; CCL2; HIV-1; Restriction; SAMHD1; APOBEC3A
2.  Increased Circulating Levels of Vitamin D Binding Protein in MS Patients 
Toxins  2015;7(1):129-137.
Vitamin D (vitD) low status is currently considered a main environmental factor in multiple sclerosis (MS) etiology and pathogenesis. VitD and its metabolites are highly hydrophobic and circulate mostly bound to the vitamin D binding protein (DBP) and with lower affinity to albumin, while less than 1% are in a free form. The aim of this study was to investigate whether the circulating levels of either of the two vitD plasma carriers and/or their relationship are altered in MS. We measured DBP and albumin plasma levels in 28 MS patients and 24 healthy controls. MS patients were found to have higher DBP levels than healthy subjects. Concomitant interferon beta therapy did not influence DBP concentration, and the difference with the control group was significant in both females and males. No significant correlation between DBP and albumin levels was observed either in healthy controls or in patients. These observations suggest the involvement of DBP in the patho-physiology of MS.
PMCID: PMC4303818  PMID: 25590278
vitamin D binding protein; albumin; relapsing/remitting multiple sclerosis; beta-interferon; immunology; vitamin D
3.  Type I Interferons as Regulators of Human Antigen Presenting Cell Functions 
Toxins  2014;6(6):1696-1723.
Type I interferons (IFNs) are pleiotropic cytokines, initially described for their antiviral activity. These cytokines exhibit a long record of clinical use in patients with some types of cancer, viral infections and chronic inflammatory diseases. It is now well established that IFN action mostly relies on their ability to modulate host innate and adaptive immune responses. Work in recent years has begun to elucidate the mechanisms by which type I IFNs modify the immune response, and this is now recognized to be due to effects on multiple cell types, including monocytes, dendritic cells (DCs), NK cells, T and B lymphocytes. An ensemble of results from both animal models and in vitro studies emphasized the key role of type I IFNs in the development and function of DCs, suggesting the existence of a natural alliance between these cytokines and DCs in linking innate to adaptive immunity. The identification of IFN signatures in DCs and their dysregulation under pathological conditions will therefore be pivotal to decipher the complexity of this DC-IFN interaction and to better exploit the therapeutic potential of these cells.
PMCID: PMC4073125  PMID: 24866026
type I interferon; dendritic cell; cell differentiation/activation; antigen uptake/processing/presentation; T cell response; transcriptional profile; microRNA
4.  ω3-PUFAs Exert Anti-Inflammatory Activity in Visceral Adipocytes from Colorectal Cancer Patients 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(10):e77432.
The aim of this study was to correlate specific fatty acid profiles of visceral white adipose tissue (WAT) with inflammatory signatures potentially associated with colorectal cancer (CRC).
Human adipocytes were isolated from biopsies of visceral WAT from 24 subjects subdivided in four groups: normal-weight (BMI 22.0-24.9 Kg/m2) and over-weight/obese (BMI 26.0-40.0 Kg/m2), affected or not by CRC. To define whether obesity and/or CRC affect the inflammatory status of WAT, the activation of the pro-inflammatory STAT3 and the anti-inflammatory PPARγ transcription factors as well as the expression of adiponectin were analyzed by immunoblotting in adipocytes isolated from each group of subjects. Furthermore, to evaluate whether differences in inflammatory WAT environment correlate with specific fatty acid profiles, gas-chromatographic analysis was carried out on WAT collected from all subject categories. Finally, the effect of the ω3 docosahexaenoic acid treatment on the balance between pro- and anti-inflammatory factors in adipocytes was also evaluated.
We provide the first evidence for the existence of a pro-inflammatory environment in WAT of CRC patients, as assessed by the up-regulation of STAT3, and the concomitant decrease of PPARγ and adiponectin with respect to healthy subjects. WAT inflammatory status was independent of obesity degree but correlated with a decreased ω3-/ω6-polyunsaturated fatty acid ratio. These observations suggested that qualitative changes, other than quantitative ones, in WAT fatty acid may influence tissue dysfunctions potentially linked to inflammatory conditions. This hypothesis was further supported by the finding that adipocyte treatment with docosahexaenoic acid restored the equilibrium between STAT3 and PPARγ.
Our results suggest that adipocyte dysfunctions occur in CRC patients creating a pro-inflammatory environment that might influence cancer development. Furthermore, the protective potential of docosahexaenoic acid in re-establishing the equilibrium between pro- and anti-inflammatory factors might represent a useful tool for preventive and therapeutic strategies.
PMCID: PMC3792028  PMID: 24116229
6.  Nuclear Phosphoinositide-Specific Phospholipase C β1 Controls Cytoplasmic CCL2 mRNA Levels in HIV-1 gp120-Stimulated Primary Human Macrophages 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(3):e59705.
HIV-1 envelope glycoprotein gp120 induces, independently of infection, the release of CCL2 from macrophages. In turn, this chemokine acts as an autocrine factor enhancing viral replication. In this study, we show for the first time that phosphoinositide-specific phospholipase C (PI-PLC) is required for the production of CCL2 triggered by gp120 in macrophages. Using a combination of confocal laser-scanner microscopy, pharmacologic inhibition, western blotting and fluorescence-activated cell sorter analysis, we demonstrate that gp120 interaction with CCR5 leads to nuclear localization of the PI-PLC β1 isozyme mediated by mitogen-activated protein kinase ERK-1/2. Notably, phosphatidylcholine-specific phospholipase C (PC-PLC), previously reported to be required for NF-kB-mediated CCL2 production induced by gp120 in macrophages, drives both ERK1/2 activation and PI-PLC β1 nuclear localization induced by gp120. PI-PLC β1 activation through CCR5 is also triggered by the natural chemokine ligand CCL4, but independently of ERK1/2. Finally, PI-PLC inhibition neither blocks gp120-mediated NF-kB activation nor overall accumulation of CCL2 mRNA, whereas it decreases CCL2 transcript level in the cytoplasm. These results identify nuclear PI-PLC β1 as a new intermediate in the gp120-triggered PC-PLC-driven signal transduction pathway leading to CCL2 secretion in macrophages. The finding that a concerted gp120-mediated signaling involving both PC- and PI-specific PLCs is required for the expression of CCL2 in macrophages suggests that this signal transduction pathway may also be relevant for the modulation of viral replication in these cells. Thus, this study may contribute to identify novel targets for therapeutic intervention in HIV-1 infection.
PMCID: PMC3610878  PMID: 23555755
7.  Bovine Lactoferrin Counteracts Toll-Like Receptor Mediated Activation Signals in Antigen Presenting Cells 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(7):e22504.
Lactoferrin (LF), a key element in mammalian immune system, plays pivotal roles in host defence against infection and excessive inflammation. Its protective effects range from direct antimicrobial activities against a large panel of microbes, including bacteria, viruses, fungi and parasites, to antinflammatory and anticancer activities. In this study, we show that monocyte-derived dendritic cells (MD-DCs) generated in the presence of bovine LF (bLF) fail to undergo activation by up-modulating CD83, co-stimulatory and major histocompatibility complex molecules, and cytokine/chemokine secretion. Moreover, these cells are weak activators of T cell proliferation and retain antigen uptake activity. Consistent with an impaired maturation, bLF-MD-DC primed T lymphocytes exhibit a functional unresponsiveness characterized by reduced expression of CD154 and impaired expression of IFN-γ and IL-2. The observed imunosuppressive effects correlate with an increased expression of molecules with negative regulatory functions (i.e. immunoglobulin-like transcript 3 and programmed death ligand 1), indoleamine 2,3-dioxygenase, and suppressor of cytokine signaling-3. Interestingly, bLF-MD-DCs produce IL-6 and exhibit constitutive signal transducer and activator of transcription 3 activation. Conversely, bLF exposure of already differentiated MD-DCs completely fails to induce IL-6, and partially inhibits Toll-like receptor (TLR) agonist-induced activation. Cell-specific differences in bLF internalization likely account for the distinct response elicited by bLF in monocytes versus immature DCs, providing a mechanistic base for its multiple effects. These results indicate that bLF exerts a potent anti-inflammatory activity by skewing monocyte differentiation into DCs with impaired capacity to undergo activation and to promote Th1 responses. Overall, these bLF-mediated effects may represent a strategy to block excessive DC activation upon TLR-induced inflammation, adding further evidence for a critical role of bLF in directing host immune function.
PMCID: PMC3143167  PMID: 21799877
8.  DC-ATLAS: a systems biology resource to dissect receptor specific signal transduction in dendritic cells 
Immunome Research  2010;6:10.
The advent of Systems Biology has been accompanied by the blooming of pathway databases. Currently pathways are defined generically with respect to the organ or cell type where a reaction takes place. The cell type specificity of the reactions is the foundation of immunological research, and capturing this specificity is of paramount importance when using pathway-based analyses to decipher complex immunological datasets. Here, we present DC-ATLAS, a novel and versatile resource for the interpretation of high-throughput data generated perturbing the signaling network of dendritic cells (DCs).
Pathways are annotated using a novel data model, the Biological Connection Markup Language (BCML), a SBGN-compliant data format developed to store the large amount of information collected. The application of DC-ATLAS to pathway-based analysis of the transcriptional program of DCs stimulated with agonists of the toll-like receptor family allows an integrated description of the flow of information from the cellular sensors to the functional outcome, capturing the temporal series of activation events by grouping sets of reactions that occur at different time points in well-defined functional modules.
The initiative significantly improves our understanding of DC biology and regulatory networks. Developing a systems biology approach for immune system holds the promise of translating knowledge on the immune system into more successful immunotherapy strategies.
PMCID: PMC3000836  PMID: 21092113
9.  Reciprocal Interactions between Lactoferrin and Bacterial Endotoxins and Their Role in the Regulation of the Immune Response 
Toxins  2010;2(1):54-68.
Lactoferrin (Lf), an iron-binding glycoprotein expressed in most biological fluids, represents a major component of the mammalian innate immune system. Lf’s multiple activities rely not only on its capacity to bind iron, but also to interact with molecular and cellular components of both host and pathogens. Lf can bind and sequester lipopolysaccharide (LPS), thus preventing pro-inflammatory pathway activation, sepsis and tissue damage. However, Lf-bound LPS may retain the capacity to induce cell activation via Toll-like receptor 4-dependent and -independent mechanisms. This review discusses the complex interplay between Lf and LPS and its relevance in the regulation of the immune response.
PMCID: PMC3206615  PMID: 22069546
lactoferrin; lipopolysaccharide; inflammation; immune response
10.  Human Immunodeficiency Virus Type 1 gp120 and Other Activation Stimuli Are Highly Effective in Triggering Alpha Interferon and CC Chemokine Production in Circulating Plasmacytoid but Not Myeloid Dendritic Cells 
Journal of Virology  2005;79(19):12597-12601.
Exposure to aldrithiol-2-inactivated human immunodeficiency virus type 1 or gp120, but not gp41, triggered alpha interferon (IFN-α), CC chemokine ligand 2 (CCL2), CCL3, and CCL4 production in human plasmacytoid dendritic cells (DCs) but not in myeloid DCs (M-DCs) or monocyte-derived DCs from the same donors. The nonresponsiveness of M-DCs for IFN-α/β production was a general feature specific to these cells, as they also failed to produce it in response to inactivated influenza virus, poly(I-C), lipopolysaccharide, Staphylococcus aureus Cowans I, or CD40L. The different capacities of circulating DC subsets to produce immune mediators in response to most stimuli argue for a different role for these cells in the regulation of innate immunity to pathogens.
PMCID: PMC1211530  PMID: 16160188
11.  Human Immunodeficiency Virus Type 1 gp120 Induces Abnormal Maturation and Functional Alterations of Dendritic Cells: a Novel Mechanism for AIDS Pathogenesis 
Journal of Virology  2004;78(18):9763-9772.
Dendritic cells (DCs) play a crucial role in bridging innate and acquired immune responses to pathogens. In human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) infection, immature DCs (iDCs) are also main targets for HIV-1 at the mucosal level. In this study, we evaluated the effects of HIV-1-DC interactions on the maturation and functional activity of these cells. Exposure of human monocyte-derived iDCs to either aldrithiol-2-inactivated HIV-1 or gp120 led to an upmodulation of activation markers indicative of functional maturation. Despite their phenotype, these cells retained antigen uptake capacity and showed an impaired ability to secrete cytokines or chemokines and to induce T-cell proliferation. Although gp120 did not interfere with DC differentiation, the capacity of these cells to produce interleukin-12 (IL-12) upon maturation was markedly reduced. Likewise, iDCs stimulated by classical maturation factors in the presence of gp120 lacked allostimulatory capacity and did not produce IL-12, in spite of their phenotype typical of activated DCs. Exogenous addition of IL-12 restores the allostimulatory capacity of gp120-exposed DCs. The finding that gp120 induces abnormal maturation of DCs linked to profound suppression of their activities unravels a novel mechanism by which HIV can lead to immune dysfunction in AIDS patients.
PMCID: PMC515003  PMID: 15331709
12.  Impairment of Human Immunodeficiency Virus Type 1 (HIV-1) Entry into Jurkat T Cells by Constitutive Expression of the HIV-1 Vpr Protein: Role of CD4 Down-Modulation 
Journal of Virology  2000;74(21):10207-10211.
Jurkat T-cell clones, stably expressing the human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) Vpr protein, exhibited an impaired susceptibility to HIV-1 infection. A marked down-modulation of surface CD4 receptors was detected in Vpr-expressing clones with respect to control cells. Likewise, a reduced CD4 expression was also observed in parental Jurkat cells infected with wild-type but not with Vpr-mutant HIV-1. Notably, Vpr-expressing clones were fully susceptible to infection with a vesicular stomatitis virus G protein-pseudotyped HIV-1 virus, indicating that a block at the level of viral entry was responsible for the inhibition of viral replication. The effect exerted by Vpr on HIV replication and CD4 expression suggests that this protein can regulate both the establishment of a productive HIV-1 infection and CD4-mediated T-cell functions.
PMCID: PMC102060  PMID: 11024150
13.  Inhibitory Activity of Constitutive Nitric Oxide on the Expression of Alpha/Beta Interferon Genes in Murine Peritoneal Macrophages 
Journal of Virology  1999;73(9):7328-7333.
We investigated the role of the constitutive nitric oxide (NO) in the expression of interferon (IFN) genes in mouse peritoneal macrophages (PM). The treatment of PM with l-arginine-NG-amine (AA), a potent inhibitor of NO-producing enzymes, resulted in a marked accumulation of IFN-α4 mRNA and, to a minor extent, of IFN-β mRNA. In contrast, the expression of IFN-γ mRNA, as well as tumor necrosis factor alpha and interleukin-6 mRNA, was not affected. Furthermore, a remarkable increase in the expression of the IFN regulating factor 1 (IRF-1), but not of IRF-2, mRNA was detected in AA-treated PM. To investigate whether the AA-induced activation of the IFN system correlates with the production and antiviral activity of IFN, the extent of encephalomyocarditis virus (EMCV) replication was monitored in AA-treated PM with respect to control cultures. AA treatment strongly inhibited, in a dose-dependent manner, EMCV yields in PM. Likewise, similar results were obtained by the addition of the NO-scavenger carboxyphenyl-tetramethylimidazoline-oxyl-oxide. In addition, inhibition of NO synthesis by NG-mono-methyl-l-arginine in PM strongly decreased virus replication in coculture of PM and EMCV-infected L929 cells, whereas no antiviral effect was observed in L929 cells alone. Moreover, the AA-mediated antiviral activity was abrogated in the presence of antibody to IFN-α/β, whereas antibody to IFN-γ was completely ineffective. Taken together, these results indicate that low levels of NO, constitutively released by resting PM, negatively regulate the expression and activity of IFN-α/β in PM. We suggest that NO acts as a homeostatic agent in the regulation of IFN pathway expression in macrophages.
PMCID: PMC104258  PMID: 10438821

Results 1-13 (13)