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1.  Chronic Exposure to Type-I IFN under Lymphopenic Conditions Alters CD4 T Cell Homeostasis 
PLoS Pathogens  2014;10(3):e1003976.
HIV infection and the associated chronic immune activation alter T cell homeostasis leading to CD4 T cell depletion and CD8 T cell expansion. The mechanisms behind these outcomes are not totally defined and only partially explained by the direct cytopathic effect of the virus. In this manuscript, we addressed the impact of lymphopenia and chronic exposure to IFN-α on T cell homeostasis. In a lymphopenic murine model, this interaction led to decreased CD4 counts and CD8 T cell expansion in association with an increase in the Signal Transducer and Activator of Transcription 1 (STAT1) levels resulting in enhanced CD4 T cell responsiveness to IFN-α. Thus, in the setting of HIV infection, chronic stimulation of this pathway could be detrimental for CD4 T cell homeostasis.
Author Summary
While the acute CD4 depletion observed in the initial phase of HIV infection is likely due to direct cytopathic effects of the virus, the mechanism/s underlying the steady decline of the CD4 T cell pool during the chronic phase of infection are unclear and are felt to be associated with “immune activation.” We hypothesized that the combination of two distinct forces: homeostatic (CD4 T cell depletion) and inflammatory (HIV-driven IFN-α), lead to a form of T cell activation that results in a decline in the CD4 T cell pool and an increase in the CD8 T cells. IL-7 and lymphopenia enhanced CD4 T cell responsiveness to IFN-α by modulating expression of the Signal Transducers and Activators of Transcription 1, 2 and 3. In a murine model, CD4 T cell depletion and CD8 T cell expansion were observed in a lymphopenic host chronically treated with IFN-α. These findings suggest that a synergistic interaction between lymphopenia and IFN-α may play a role in the pathogenesis of HIV infection. The analysis of this pathway may contribute to the development of new strategies to reverse the dysregulation of the T cell pools seen in patients with HIV infection.
PMCID: PMC3946368  PMID: 24603698
2.  The Major Isoforms of Bim Contribute to Distinct Biological Activities that Govern the Processes of Autophagy and Apoptosis in Interleukin-7 Dependent Lymphocytes 
Biochimica et biophysica acta  2012;1823(10):1877-1893.
Bim is a BH3-only member of the Bcl-2 family that enables the death of T-cells. Partial rescue of cytokine-deprived T-cells occurs when Bim and the receptor for the T-cell growth factor, interleukin-7 (IL-7), are deleted, implicating Bim as a possible target of IL-7-mediated signaling. Alternative splicing yields three major isoforms: BimEL, BimL and BimS. To study the effect of Bim deficiency and define the function of the major isoforms, Bim-containing and Bim-deficient T-cells, dependent on IL-7 for growth, were used. Loss of total Bim in IL-7-deprived T-cells resulted in delayed apoptosis. However, loss of Bim also impeded the later degradative phase of autophagy. p62, an autophagy-adaptor protein which is normally degraded, accumulated in Bim deficient cells. To explain this, BimL was found to support acidification of lysosomes that later may associate with autophagic vesicles. Key findings showed that inhibition of lysosomal acidification accelerated death upon IL-7 withdrawal only in Bim-containing T-cells. IL-7 dependent T-cells lacking Bim were less sensitive to inhibition of lysosomal acidification. BimL co-immunoprecipitated with dynein and Lamp1-containing vesicles, indicating BimL could be an adaptor for dynein to facilitate loading of lysosomes. In Bim deficient T-cells, lysosome-tracking probes revealed vesicles of less acidic pH. Over-expression of BimL restored acidic vesicles in Bim deficient T-cells, while other isoforms, BimEL and BimS, promoted intrinsic cell death. These results reveal a novel role for BimL in lysosomal positioning that may be required for the formation of degradative autolysosomes.
PMCID: PMC3432704  PMID: 22728771
bcl-2; cytokine; lysosome; fluorescence; acidification; dynein
3.  Th17 cells are long-lived and retain a stem cell-like molecular signature 
Immunity  2011;35(6):972-985.
Th17 cells have been described as short-lived but this view is at odds with their capacity to trigger protracted damage to normal and transformed tissues. We report that Th17 cells, despite displaying low expression of CD27 and other phenotypic markers of terminal differentiation, efficiently eradicated tumors and caused autoimmunity, were long-lived and maintained a core molecular signature resembling early memory CD8+ cells with stem cell-like properties. In addition, we found that Th17 cells had high expression of Tcf7, a direct target of the Wnt and β-catenin signaling axis, and accumulated β-catenin, a feature observed in stem cells. In vivo, Th17 cells gave rise to Th1-like effector cell progeny and also self-renewed and persisted as IL-17A-secreting cells. Multipotency was required for Th17 cell-mediated tumor eradication because effector cells deficient in IFN-γ or IL-17A had impaired activity. Thus, Th17 cells are not always short-lived and are a less-differentiated subset capable of superior persistence and functionality.
PMCID: PMC3246082  PMID: 22177921
4.  Regulation of in vitro human T cell development through interleukin-7 deprivation and anti-CD3 stimulation 
BMC Immunology  2012;13:46.
The role of IL-7 and pre-TCR signaling during T cell development has been well characterized in murine but not in human system. We and others have reported that human BM hematopoietic progenitor cells (HPCs) display poor proliferation, inefficient double negative (DN) to double positive (DP) transition and no functional maturation in the in vitro OP9-Delta-like 1 (DL1) culture system.
In this study, we investigated the importance of optimal IL-7 and pre-TCR signaling during adult human T cell development. Using a modified OP9-DL1 culture ectopically expressing IL-7 and Fms-like tyrosine kinase 3 ligand (Flt3L), we demonstrated enhanced T cell precursor expansion. IL-7 removal at various time points during T cell development promoted a slight increase of DP cells; however, these cells did not differentiate further and underwent cell death. As pre-TCR signaling rescues DN cells from programmed cell death, we treated the culture with anti-CD3 antibody. Upon pre-TCR stimulation, the IL-7 deprived T precursors differentiated into CD3+TCRαβ+DP cells and further matured into functional CD4 T cells, albeit displayed a skewed TCR Vβ repertoire.
Our study establishes for the first time a critical control for differentiation and maturation of adult human T cells from HPCs by concomitant regulation of IL-7 and pre-TCR signaling.
PMCID: PMC3496569  PMID: 22897934
T cell development; Interleukin-7; T cell receptor; Vbeta repertoire
5.  IL-7 promotes T cell proliferation through destabilization of p27Kip1 
Interleukin (IL)-7 is required for survival and homeostatic proliferation of T lymphocytes. The survival effect of IL-7 is primarily through regulation of Bcl-2 family members; however, the proliferative mechanism is unclear. It has not been determined whether the IL-7 receptor actually delivers a proliferative signal or whether, by promoting survival, proliferation results from signals other than the IL-7 receptor. We show that in an IL-7–dependent T cell line, cells protected from apoptosis nevertheless underwent cell cycle arrest after IL-7 withdrawal. This arrest was accompanied by up-regulation of the cyclin-dependent kinase inhibitor p27Kip1 through a posttranslational mechanism. Overexpression of p27Kip1 induced G1 arrest in the presence of IL-7, whereas knockdown of p27Kip1 by small interfering RNA promoted S phase entry after IL-7 withdrawal. CD4 or CD8 T cells transferred into IL-7–deficient hosts underwent G1 arrest, whereas 27Kip1-deficient T cells underwent proliferation. We observed that IL-7 withdrawal activated protein kinase C (PKC)θ and that inhibition of PKCθ with a pharmacological inhibitor completely blocked the rise of p27Kip1 and rescued cells from G1 arrest. The conventional pathway to breakdown of p27Kip1 is mediated by S phase kinase-associated protein 2; however, our evidence suggests that PKCθ acts via a distinct, unknown pathway inducing G1 arrest after IL-7 withdrawal from T cells. Hence, IL-7 maintains T cell proliferation through a novel pathway of p27Kip1 regulation.
PMCID: PMC2118250  PMID: 16492801
6.  Cytokine-driven cell cycling is mediated through Cdc25A 
The Journal of Cell Biology  2005;169(5):755-763.
Lymphocytes are the central mediators of the immune response, requiring cytokines for survival and proliferation. Survival signaling targets the Bcl-2 family of apoptotic mediators, however, the pathway for the cytokine-driven proliferation of lymphocytes is poorly understood. Here we show that cytokine-induced cell cycle progression is not solely dependent on the synthesis of cyclin-dependent kinases (Cdks) or cyclins. Rather, we observe that in lymphocyte cell lines dependent on interleukin-3 or interleukin-7, or primary lymphocytes dependent on interleukin 7, the phosphatase Cdc25A is the critical mediator of proliferation. Withdrawal of IL-7 or IL-3 from dependent lymphocytes activates the stress kinase, p38 MAPK, which phosphorylates Cdc25A, inducing its degradation. As a result, Cdk/cyclin complexes remain phosphorylated and inactive and cells arrest before the induction of apoptosis. Inhibiting p38 MAPK or expressing a mutant Cdc25A, in which the two p38 MAPK target sites, S75 and S123, are altered, renders cells resistant to cytokine withdrawal, restoring the activity of Cdk/cyclin complexes and driving the cell cycle independent of a growth stimulus.
PMCID: PMC2171622  PMID: 15928203
7.  Cdc25A-Driven Proliferation Regulates CD62L Levels and Lymphocyte Movement in Response to Interleukin-7 
Experimental hematology  2010;38(12):1143-1156.
IL-7 is a multifunctional cytokine and a promising immunotherapeutic agent. However, since a transient T-cell depletion is an immediate outcome of IL-7 administration at supraphysiological doses, we investigated the mechanism by which the IL-7 proliferative signal transduced through Cdc25A, a key activator of cyclin dependent kinases (CDKs), could modulate lymphocyte movement.
Employing novel methods of manipulating Cdc25A gene expression, combined with in vitro and in vivo evaluation of IL-7 application, we assessed the expression of activation and homing markers and identified the mechanism by which IL-7 could induce T-cell expansion and alter lymphocyte motility.
Constitutively active Cdc25A drove T-cell proliferation independently of IL-7 and resulted in an activated phenotype (CD69hi, CD44hi). Conversely, inhibition of Cdc25A resulted in decreased proliferation, reduced expression of activation markers and the up regulation of the lymph node homing molecule, CD62L, which promoted cell adhesion when engaged by ligand. We found that IL-7 prevented the nuclear translocation of the transcription factor, Foxo1, in a manner dependent on the activity of Cdc25A, resulting in decreased levels of CD62L. In vivo administration of IL-7 decreased lymph node cellularity, while treatment with IL-7, premixed with a neutralizing IL-7 antibody (M25), increased total lymph node cells – with more nuclear Foxo1 detected in cells from mice receiving IL-7 + M25.
These results are consistent with the model that IL-7 drives Cdc25A-mediated T-cell proliferation, which prevents the nuclear translocation of Foxo1, leading to reduced expression of CD62L and the migration of T-cells into circulation.
PMCID: PMC3010876  PMID: 20831893
Cytokines; T-lymphocytes; DNA replication; Cell Migration; Immunotherapy
8.  Interleukin-7 Regulates Bim Proapoptotic Activity in Peripheral T-Cell Survival▿  
Molecular and Cellular Biology  2009;30(3):590-600.
Interleukin-7 (IL-7) is critical for T-cell development and peripheral T-cell homeostasis. The survival of pro-T cells and mature T cells requires IL-7. The survival function of IL-7 is accomplished partly through induction of the antiapoptotic protein Bcl-2 and inhibition of proapoptotic proteins Bax and Bad. We show here that the proapoptotic protein Bim, a BH3-only protein belonging to the Bcl-2 family, also plays a role in peripheral T-cell survival. Deletion of Bim partially protected an IL-7-dependent T-cell line and peripheral T cells, especially cells with an effector memory phenotype, from IL-7 deprivation. However, T-cell development in the thymus was not restored in IL-7−/− Rag2−/− mice reconstituted with Bim−/− bone marrow. IL-7 withdrawal altered neither the intracellular location of Bim, which was constitutively mitochondrial, nor its association with Bcl-2; however, a reduction in its association with the prosurvival protein Mcl-1 was observed. IL-7 withdrawal did not increase Bim mRNA or protein expression but did induce changes in the isoelectric point of BimEL and its reactivity with an antiphosphoserine antibody. Our findings suggest that the maintenance of peripheral T cells by IL-7 occurs partly through inhibition of Bim activity at the posttranslational level.
PMCID: PMC2812241  PMID: 19933849
9.  Visualization and Identification of IL-7 Producing Cells in Reporter Mice 
PLoS ONE  2009;4(11):e7637.
Interleukin-7 (IL-7) is required for lymphocyte development and homeostasis although the actual sites of IL-7 production have never been clearly identified. We produced a bacterial artificial chromosome (BAC) transgenic mouse expressing ECFP in the Il7 locus. The construct lacked a signal peptide and ECFP (enhanced cyan fluorescent protein ) accumulated inside IL-7-producing stromal cells in thoracic thymus, cervical thymus and bone marrow. In thymus, an extensive reticular network of IL-7-containing processes extended from cortical and medullary epithelial cells, closely contacting thymocytes. Central memory CD8 T cells, which require IL-7 and home to bone marrow, physically associated with IL-7-producing cells as we demonstrate by intravital imaging.
PMCID: PMC2770321  PMID: 19907640
10.  Distinct Regions of the Interleukin-7 Receptor Regulate Different Bcl2 Family Members 
Molecular and Cellular Biology  2004;24(14):6501-6513.
The antiapoptotic function of the interleukin-7 (IL-7) receptor is related to regulation of three members of the Bcl2 family: synthesis of Bcl2, phosphorylation of Bad, and cytosolic retention of Bax. Here we show that, in an IL-7-dependent murine T-cell line, different regions of the IL-7 receptor initiate the signal transduction pathways that regulate these proteins. Both Box1 and Y449 are required to signal Bcl2 synthesis and Bax cytosolic retention. This suggests a sequential model in which Jak1, which binds to Box1, is first activated and then phosphorylates Y449, leading to Bcl2 and Bax regulation, accounting for approximately 90% of the survival function. Phosphorylation of Bad required Box1 but not Y449, suggesting that Jak1 also initiates an additional signaling cascade that accounts for approximately 10% of the survival function. Stat5 was activated from the Y449 site but only partially accounted for the survival signal. Proliferation required both Y449 and Box1. Thymocyte development in vivo showed that deletion of Y449 eliminated 90% of αβ T-cell development and completely eliminated γδ T-cell development, whereas deleting Box 1 completely eliminated both αβ and γδ T-cell development. Thus the IL-7 receptor controls at least two distinct pathways, in addition to Stat5, that are required for cell survival.
PMCID: PMC434255  PMID: 15226449
11.  Trophic Factor Withdrawal: p38 Mitogen-Activated Protein Kinase Activates NHE1, Which Induces Intracellular Alkalinization 
Molecular and Cellular Biology  2001;21(22):7545-7557.
Trophic factor withdrawal induces cell death by mechanisms that are incompletely understood. Previously we reported that withdrawal of interleukin-7 (IL-7) or IL-3 produced a rapid intracellular alkalinization, disrupting mitochondrial metabolism and activating the death protein Bax. We now observe that this novel alkalinization pathway is mediated by the pH regulator NHE1, as shown by the requirement for sodium, blocking by pharmacological inhibitors or use of an NHE1-deficient cell line, and the altered phosphorylation of NHE1. Alkalinization also required the stress-activated p38 mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK). Inhibition of p38 MAPK activity with pharmacological inhibitors or expression of a dominant negative kinase prevented alkalinization. Activated p38 MAPK directly phosphorylated the C terminus of NHE1 within a 40-amino-acid region. Analysis by mass spectroscopy identified four phosphorylation sites on NHE1, Thr 717, Ser 722, Ser 725, and Ser 728. Thus, loss of trophic cytokine signaling induced the p38 MAPK pathway, which phosphorylated NHE1 at specific sites, inducing intracellular alkalinization.
PMCID: PMC99926  PMID: 11604491
12.  Interleukin 7 Receptor Control of  T Cell Receptor γ Gene Rearrangement: Role of Receptor-associated Chains and Locus Accessibility  
The Journal of Experimental Medicine  1998;188(12):2233-2241.
VDJ recombination of T cell receptor and immunoglobulin loci occurs in immature lymphoid cells. Although the molecular mechanisms of DNA cleavage and ligation have become more clear, it is not understood what controls which target loci undergo rearrangement. In interleukin 7 receptor (IL-7R)α−/− murine thymocytes, it has been shown that rearrangement of the T cell receptor (TCR)-γ locus is virtually abrogated, whereas other rearranging loci are less severely affected. By examining different strains of mice with targeted mutations, we now observe that the signaling pathway leading from IL-7Rα to rearrangement of the TCR-γ locus requires the γc receptor chain and the γc-associated Janus kinase Jak3. Production of sterile transcripts from the TCR-γ locus, a process that generally precedes rearrangement of a locus, was greatly repressed in IL-7Rα−/− thymocytes. The repressed transcription was not due to a lack in transcription factors since the three transcription factors known to regulate this locus were readily detected in IL-7Rα−/− thymocytes. Instead, the TCR-γ locus was shown to be methylated in IL-7Rα−/− thymocytes. Treatment of IL-7Rα−/− precursor T cells with the specific histone deacetylase inhibitor trichostatin A released the block of TCR-γ gene rearrangement. This data supports the model that IL-7R promotes TCR-γ gene rearrangement by regulating accessibility of the locus via demethylation and histone acetylation of the locus.
PMCID: PMC2212428  PMID: 9858510
T cell receptor; thymus; VDJ recombination; interleukin 7; T cell receptor γ locus; γ/δ T cells

Results 1-12 (12)