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1.  Maternal retinoids control type 3 innate lymphoid cells and set the offspring immunity 
Nature  2014;508(7494):123-127.
The impact of the nutritional status during foetal life in the overall health of adults has been recognised1. However dietary effects on the developing immune system are largely unknown. Development of secondary lymphoid organs (SLOs) occurs during embryogenesis and is considered to be developmentally programmed2,3. SLO formation dependents on a subset of type 3 innate lymphoid cells (ILC3) named lymphoid tissue inducer (LTi) cells2,3,4,5. Here we show that foetal ILC3s are controlled by cell-autonomous retinoic acid (RA) signalling in utero pre-setting the immune fitness in adulthood. We found that embryonic lymphoid organs contain ILC progenitors that differentiate locally into mature LTi cells. Local LTi differentiation was controlled by maternal retinoid intake and foetal RA signalling acting in a haematopoietic cell-autonomous manner. RA controlled LTi cell maturation upstream of the transcription factor RORγt. Accordingly, enforced expression of Rorgt restored maturation of LTi cells with impaired RA signalling, while RA receptors directly regulated the Rorc locus. Finally, we established that maternal levels of dietary retinoids control the size of secondary lymphoid organs and the efficiency of immune responses in the adult offspring. Our results reveal a molecular link between maternal nutrients and the formation of immune structures required for resistance to infection in the offspring.
PMCID: PMC4932833  PMID: 24670648
2.  Identification of Natural RORγ Ligands that Regulate the Development of Lymphoid Cells 
Cell metabolism  2015;21(2):286-297.
Mice deficient in the nuclear hormone receptor RORγt have defective development of thymocytes, lymphoid organs, Th17 cells and type 3 innate lymphoid cells. RORγt binds to oxysterols derived from cholesterol catabolism but it is not clear whether these are its natural ligands. Here, we show that sterol lipids are necessary and sufficient to drive RORγt-dependent transcription. We combined overexpression, RNA interference and genetic deletion of metabolic enzymes to study RORγ-dependent transcription. Our results are consistent with the RORγt ligand(s) being a cholesterol biosynthetic intermediate (CBI) downstream of lanosterol and upstream of zymosterol. Analysis of lipids bound to RORγ identified molecules with molecular weights consistent with CBIs. Furthermore, CBIs stabilized the RORγ ligand-binding domain and induced co-activator recruitment. Genetic deletion of metabolic enzymes upstream of the RORγt-ligand(s) affected the development of lymph nodes and Th17 cells. Our data suggest that CBIs play a role in lymphocyte development potentially through regulation of RORγt.
PMCID: PMC4317570  PMID: 25651181
3.  CXCL13 is essential for lymph node initiation and is induced by retinoic acid and neuronal stimulation 
Nature immunology  2009;10(11):1193-1199.
Location of embryonic lymph node development is determined by the initial clustering of lymphoid tissue inducer cells. We demonstrate that both CXCL13 and CCL21 attracted E12.5–E14.5 lymphoid tissue inducer cells and that initial clustering exclusively depended on CXCL13. Retinoic acid induced early CXCL13 expression in stromal organizer cells independent of lymphotoxin signaling. Notably, neurons adjacent to the lymph node anlagen expressed enzymes essential for retinoic acid synthesis. Furthermore, stimulation of parasymphathetic neural output in adults led to a retinoic acid receptor-dependent induction of CXCL13 in the gut. Therefore, our data show that initiation of lymph node development is controlled by retinoic acid-mediated expression of CXCL13 and suggest that retinoic acid may be provided by adjacent neurons.
PMCID: PMC2771164  PMID: 19783990
4.  Noninvasive, In Vivo Assessment of Mouse Retinal Structure Using Optical Coherence Tomography 
PLoS ONE  2009;4(10):e7507.
Optical coherence tomography (OCT) is a novel method of retinal in vivo imaging. In this study, we assessed the potential of OCT to yield histology-analogue sections in mouse models of retinal degeneration.
Methodology/Principal Findings
We achieved to adapt a commercial 3rd generation OCT system to obtain and quantify high-resolution morphological sections of the mouse retina which so far required in vitro histology. OCT and histology were compared in models with developmental defects, light damage, and inherited retinal degenerations. In conditional knockout mice deficient in retinal retinoblastoma protein Rb, the gradient of Cre expression from center to periphery, leading to a gradual reduction of retinal thickness, was clearly visible and well topographically quantifiable. In Nrl knockout mice, the layer involvement in the formation of rosette-like structures was similarly clear as in histology. OCT examination of focal light damage, well demarcated by the autofluorescence pattern, revealed a practically complete loss of photoreceptors with preservation of inner retinal layers, but also more subtle changes like edema formation. In Crb1 knockout mice (a model for Leber's congenital amaurosis), retinal vessels slipping through the outer nuclear layer towards the retinal pigment epithelium (RPE) due to the lack of adhesion in the subapical region of the photoreceptor inner segments could be well identified.
We found that with the OCT we were able to detect and analyze a wide range of mouse retinal pathology, and the results compared well to histological sections. In addition, the technique allows to follow individual animals over time, thereby reducing the numbers of study animals needed, and to assess dynamic processes like edema formation. The results clearly indicate that OCT has the potential to revolutionize the future design of respective short- and long-term studies, as well as the preclinical assessment of therapeutic strategies.
PMCID: PMC2759518  PMID: 19838301
5.  Lymph sacs are not required for the initiation of lymph node formation 
Development (Cambridge, England)  2009;136(1):29-34.
The lymphatic vasculature drains lymph fluid from the tissue spaces of most organs and returns it to the blood vasculature for recirculation. Before reaching the circulatory system, antigens and pathogens transported by the lymph are trapped by the lymph nodes. As proposed by Florence Sabin more than a century ago and recently validated, the mammalian lymphatic vasculature has a venous origin and is derived from primitive lymph sacs scattered along the embryonic body axis. Also as proposed by Sabin, it has been generally accepted that lymph nodes originate from those embryonic primitive lymph sacs. However, we now demonstrate that the initiation of lymph node development does not require lymph sacs. We show that lymph node formation is initiated normally in E14.5 Prox1-null mouse embryos devoid of lymph sacs and lymphatic vasculature, and in E17.5 Prox1 conditional mutant embryos, which have defective lymph sacs. However, subsequent clustering of hematopoietic cells within these developing lymph nodes is less efficient.
PMCID: PMC2648609  PMID: 19060331
PROX1; Lymphatic endothelial cells; Lymphoid tissue inducer cell; Lymph nodes; Lymph sacs

Results 1-5 (5)