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1.  A Rev-Independent gag/pol Eliminates Detectable psi-gag Recombination in Lentiviral Vectors 
BioResearch Open Access  2013;2(6):421-430.
Lentiviral vectors (LVs) are being developed for clinical use in humans for applications including gene therapy and immunotherapy. A safety concern for use of LVs in humans is the generation of replication-competent lentivirus (RCL), which may arise due to recombination between the split genomes of third-generation LVs. Although no RCL has been detected to date, design optimizations that minimize recombination events between split genome vectors would provide an added safety benefit that may further reduce the risk of RCL formation. Here we describe design elements introduced to the gag/pol plasmid with the intention of eliminating psi-gag recombination between the vector genome and gag/pol. These design changes, consisting of codon optimization of the gag/pol sequence and the deletion of the Rev-responsive element, abrogate the requirement for Rev in expression of Gag protein, thus the resulting gag/pol construct being Rev independent (RI gag/pol). We show that generating vector using the RI gag/pol construct has no effect on particle production or transduction titers. The RI and wild-type gag/pol vectors function equivalently as antigen-specific immunotherapy, potently inducing antigen-specific CD8 T cells that protect against challenge with vaccinia virus. Most importantly, the designed RI gag/pol eliminated detectable psi-gag recombination. Interestingly, we detected recombination between the vector genome and gag/pol from regions without sequence homology. Our findings imply that although unpredictable recombination events may still occur, the RI gag/pol design is sufficient to prevent psi-gag recombination.
PMCID: PMC3869434  PMID: 24380052
gene therapy; immunotherapy; retrovirus; viral vectors
2.  Comparing the Kinetics of NK Cells, CD4, and CD8 T Cells in Murine Cytomegalovirus Infection 
NK cells recognize virus-infected cells with germline-encoded activating and inhibitory receptors that do not undergo genetic recombination or mutation. Accordingly, NK cells are often considered part of the innate immune response. The innate response comprises rapid early defenders that do not form immune memory. However, there is increasing evidence that experienced NK cells provide increased protection to secondary infection, a hallmark of the adaptive response. In this study, we compare the dynamics of the innate and adaptive immune responses by examining the kinetic profiles of the NK and T cell response tomurine CMV infection. We find that, unexpectedly, the kinetics of NK cell proliferation is neither earlier nor faster than the CD4 or CD8 T cell response. Furthermore, early NK cell contraction after the peak of the response is slower than that of T cells. Finally, unlike T cells, experienced NK cells do not experience biphasic decay after the response peak, a trait associated with memory formation. Rather, NK cell contraction is continuous, constant, and returns to below endogenous preinfection levels. This indicates that the reason why Ag-experienced NK cells remain detectable for a prolonged period after adoptive transfer and infection is in part due to the high precursor frequency, slow decay rate, and low background levels of Ly49H+ NK cells in recipient DAP12-deficient mice. Thus, the quantitative contribution of Ag-experienced NK cells in an endogenous secondary response, with higher background levels of Ly49H+ NK cells, may be not be as robust as the secondary response observed in T cells.
PMCID: PMC3771860  PMID: 21697462
3.  Natural killer cells in immunodefense against infective agents 
Following the discovery of innate immune receptors, the topics of innate immunity and its role in defense against infective agents have recently blossomed into very active research fields, after several decades of neglect. Among innate immune cells, natural killer (NK) cells are endowed with the unique ability to recognize and kill cells infected with a variety of pathogens, irrespective of prior sensitization to these microbes. NK cells have a number of other functions, including cytokine production and immunoregulatory activities. Major advances have recently been made in the understanding of the role of NK cells in the physiopathology of infectious diseases. The cellular and molecular mechanisms regulating the acquisition of effector functions by NK cells and their triggering upon pathogenic encounters are being unraveled. The possibility that the power of NK cells could be harnessed for the design of innovative treatments against infections is a major incentive for biologists to further explore NK cell subset complexity and to identify the ligands that activate NK cell receptors.
PMCID: PMC2676939  PMID: 19053900
hemophagocytic lymphohistiocytosis; IL-12; IL-15; intracellular bacteria; killer cell immunoglobulin-like receptor; natural cytotoxicity receptor; natural killer cell; protozoan parasite; type I interferon; virus
4.  Novel insights into the relationships between dendritic cell subsets in human and mouse revealed by genome-wide expression profiling 
Genome Biology  2008;9(1):R17.
Genome-wide expression profiling of mouse and human leukocytes reveal conserved transcriptional programs of plasmacytoid or conventional dendritic cell subsets.
Dendritic cells (DCs) are a complex group of cells that play a critical role in vertebrate immunity. Lymph-node resident DCs (LN-DCs) are subdivided into conventional DC (cDC) subsets (CD11b and CD8α in mouse; BDCA1 and BDCA3 in human) and plasmacytoid DCs (pDCs). It is currently unclear if these various DC populations belong to a unique hematopoietic lineage and if the subsets identified in the mouse and human systems are evolutionary homologs. To gain novel insights into these questions, we sought conserved genetic signatures for LN-DCs and in vitro derived granulocyte-macrophage colony stimulating factor (GM-CSF) DCs through the analysis of a compendium of genome-wide expression profiles of mouse or human leukocytes.
We show through clustering analysis that all LN-DC subsets form a distinct branch within the leukocyte family tree, and reveal a transcriptomal signature evolutionarily conserved in all LN-DC subsets. Moreover, we identify a large gene expression program shared between mouse and human pDCs, and smaller conserved profiles shared between mouse and human LN-cDC subsets. Importantly, most of these genes have not been previously associated with DC function and many have unknown functions. Finally, we use compendium analysis to re-evaluate the classification of interferon-producing killer DCs, lin-CD16+HLA-DR+ cells and in vitro derived GM-CSF DCs, and show that these cells are more closely linked to natural killer and myeloid cells, respectively.
Our study provides a unique database resource for future investigation of the evolutionarily conserved molecular pathways governing the ontogeny and functions of leukocyte subsets, especially DCs.
PMCID: PMC2395256  PMID: 18218067
5.  Natural Killer Cells Promote Early CD8 T Cell Responses against Cytomegalovirus 
PLoS Pathogens  2007;3(8):e123.
Understanding the mechanisms that help promote protective immune responses to pathogens is a major challenge in biomedical research and an important goal for the design of innovative therapeutic or vaccination strategies. While natural killer (NK) cells can directly contribute to the control of viral replication, whether, and how, they may help orchestrate global antiviral defense is largely unknown. To address this question, we took advantage of the well-defined molecular interactions involved in the recognition of mouse cytomegalovirus (MCMV) by NK cells. By using congenic or mutant mice and wild-type versus genetically engineered viruses, we examined the consequences on antiviral CD8 T cell responses of specific defects in the ability of the NK cells to control MCMV. This system allowed us to demonstrate, to our knowledge for the first time, that NK cells accelerate CD8 T cell responses against a viral infection in vivo. Moreover, we identify the underlying mechanism as the ability of NK cells to limit IFN-α/β production to levels not immunosuppressive to the host. This is achieved through the early control of cytomegalovirus, which dramatically reduces the activation of plasmacytoid dendritic cells (pDCs) for cytokine production, preserves the conventional dendritic cell (cDC) compartment, and accelerates antiviral CD8 T cell responses. Conversely, exogenous IFN-α administration in resistant animals ablates cDCs and delays CD8 T cell activation in the face of NK cell control of viral replication. Collectively, our data demonstrate that the ability of NK cells to respond very early to cytomegalovirus infection critically contributes to balance the intensity of other innate immune responses, which dampens early immunopathology and promotes optimal initiation of antiviral CD8 T cell responses. Thus, the extent to which NK cell responses benefit the host goes beyond their direct antiviral effects and extends to the prevention of innate cytokine shock and to the promotion of adaptive immunity.
Author Summary
To fight viral infections, vertebrates have developed a battery of innate and adaptive immune responses aimed at inhibiting viral replication or at killing infected cells. These responses include the early production of innate antiviral cytokines, especially interferons α and β (IFN-α/β), and the activation of cytotoxic lymphocytes such as the innate natural killer (NK) cells and the adaptive CD8 T cells. While critical for antiviral defense, cytokine or CD8 T cell responses can be detrimental or even fatal to the host when deregulated. Therefore, we need to better understand how the different arms of antiviral immunity are regulated. In particular, NK cells are proposed to play a protective role in a variety of viral infection in humans, but the underlying mechanisms remain poorly understood. Here, in a mouse model of cytomegalovirus infection, we demonstrate that NK cells prevent an excessive production of IFN-α/β and promote more efficient antiviral CD8 T cell responses. We thus show that NK cells can help promote health over disease during viral infections by regulating both innate and adaptive immune responses. It will be important to examine in humans whether NK cells control innate cytokine production to prevent immunopathology and to promote adaptive immunity against herpesviruses, HIV-1, influenza, or SARS.
PMCID: PMC1950948  PMID: 17722980
6.  Virological and Preclinical Characterization of a Dendritic Cell Targeting, Integration-deficient Lentiviral Vector for Cancer Immunotherapy 
Supplemental Digital Content is available in the text.
Dendritic cells (DCs) are essential antigen-presenting cells for the initiation of cytotoxic T-cell responses and therefore attractive targets for cancer immunotherapy. We have developed an integration-deficient lentiviral vector termed ID-VP02 that is designed to deliver antigen-encoding nucleic acids selectively to human DCs in vivo. ID-VP02 utilizes a genetically and glycobiologically engineered Sindbis virus glycoprotein to target human DCs through the C-type lectin DC-SIGN (CD209) and also binds to the homologue murine receptor SIGNR1. Specificity of ID-VP02 for antigen-presenting cells in the mouse was confirmed through biodistribution studies showing that following subcutaneous administration, transgene expression was only detectable at the injection site and the draining lymph node. A single immunization with ID-VP02 induced a high level of antigen-specific, polyfunctional effector and memory CD8 T-cell responses that fully protected against vaccinia virus challenge. Upon homologous readministration, ID-VP02 induced a level of high-quality secondary effector and memory cells characterized by stable polyfunctionality and expression of IL-7Rα. Importantly, a single injection of ID-VP02 also induced robust cytotoxic responses against an endogenous rejection antigen of CT26 colon carcinoma cells and conferred both prophylactic and therapeutic antitumor efficacy. ID-VP02 is the first lentiviral vector which combines integration deficiency with DC targeting and is currently being investigated in a phase I trial in cancer patients.
PMCID: PMC4323576  PMID: 25658613
DC-SIGN; lentiviral vector; immunotherapy

Results 1-6 (6)