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1.  mTOR signaling in liver regeneration: Rapamycin combined with growth factor treatment 
AIM: To investigate the effects of mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) inhibition on liver regeneration and autophagy in a surgical resection model.
METHODS: C57BL/6 mice were subjected to a 70% partial hepatectomy (PH) and treated intraperitoneally every 24 h with a combination of the mTOR inhibitor rapamycin (2.5 mg/kg per day) and the steroid dexamethasone (2.0 mg/kg per day) in phosphate buffered saline (PBS) or with PBS alone as vehicle control. In the immunosuppressant group, part of the group was treated subcutaneously 4 h prior to and 24 h after PH with a combination of human recombinant interleukin 6 (IL-6; 500 μg/kg per day) and hepatocyte growth factor (HGF; 100 μg/kg per day) in PBS. Animals were sacrificed 2, 3 or 5 d after PH and liver tissue and blood were collected for further analysis. Immunohistochemical staining for 5-Bromo-2’-deoxyuridine (BrdU) was used to quantify hepatocyte proliferation. Western blotting was used to detect hepatic microtubule-associated protein 1 light chain 3 (LC3)-II protein expression as a marker for autophagy. Hepatic gene expression levels of proliferation-, inflammation- and angiogenesis-related genes were examined by real-time reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction and serum bilirubin and transaminase levels were analyzed at the clinical chemical core facility of the Erasmus MC-University Medical Center.
RESULTS: mTOR inhibition significantly suppressed regeneration, shown by decreased hepatocyte proliferation (2% vs 12% BrdU positive hepatocyte nuclei at day 2, P < 0.01; 0.8% vs 1.4% at day 5, P = 0.02) and liver weight reconstitution (63% vs 76% of initial total liver weight at day 3, P = 0.04), and furthermore increased serum transaminase levels (aspartate aminotransferase 641 U/L vs 185 U/L at day 2, P = 0.02). Expression of the autophagy marker LC3-II, which was reduced during normal liver regeneration, increased after mTOR inhibition (46% increase at day 2, P = 0.04). Hepatic gene expression showed an increased inflammation-related response [tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-α 3.2-fold upregulation at day 2, P = 0.03; IL-1Ra 6.0-fold upregulation at day 2 and 42.3-fold upregulation at day 5, P < 0.01] and a reduced expression of cell cycle progression and angiogenesis-related factors (HGF 40% reduction at day 2; vascular endothelial growth factor receptor 2 50% reduction at days 2 and 5; angiopoietin 1 60% reduction at day 2, all P ≤ 0.01). Treatment with the regeneration stimulating cytokine IL-6 and growth factor HGF could overcome the inhibitory effect on liver weight (75% of initial total liver weight at day 3, P = 0.02 vs immunosuppression alone and P = 0.90 vs controls) and partially reversed gene expression changes caused by rapamycin (TNF-α and IL-1Ra levels at day 2 were restored to control levels). However, no significant changes in hepatocyte proliferation, serum injury markers or autophagy were found.
CONCLUSION: mTOR inhibition severely impairs liver regeneration and increases autophagy after PH. These effects are partly reversed by stimulation of the IL-6 and HGF pathways.
doi:10.5500/wjt.v3.i3.36
PMCID: PMC3832859  PMID: 24255881
Hepatocyte proliferation; Autophagy; Microtubule-associated protein 1 light chain 3; Partial hepatectomy; Rapamycin
2.  T-cell suppression mediated by regulatory T cells infiltrating hepatic tumors can be overcome by GITRL treatment 
Oncoimmunology  2013;2(1):e22450.
Recently, we reported the accumulation of CD4+FOXP3+ regulatory T cells (Tregs) within the tumor mass of patients bearing liver cancer. Tumor-infiltrating Tregs (TiTregs) are active and potent suppressors of antitumor immunity. Importantly, treatment with GITRL reduced the immunosuppression mediated by TiTregs.
doi:10.4161/onci.22450
PMCID: PMC3583921  PMID: 23483229
colorectal cancer; GITRL; immunotherapy; hepatocellular carcinoma; liver cancer; liver metastasis; regulatory T cells; T cells
3.  Defining Early Human NK Cell Developmental Stages in Primary and Secondary Lymphoid Tissues 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(2):e30930.
A better understanding of human NK cell development in vivo is crucial to exploit NK cells for immunotherapy. Here, we identified seven distinctive NK cell developmental stages in bone marrow of single donors using 10-color flow cytometry and found that NK cell development is accompanied by early expression of stimulatory co-receptor CD244 in vivo. Further analysis of cord blood (CB), peripheral blood (PB), inguinal lymph node (inLN), liver lymph node (liLN) and spleen (SPL) samples showed diverse distributions of the NK cell developmental stages. In addition, distinctive expression profiles of early development marker CD33 and C-type lectin receptor NKG2A between the tissues, suggest that differential NK cell differentiation may take place at different anatomical locations. Differential expression of NKG2A and stimulatory receptors (e.g. NCR, NKG2D) within the different subsets of committed NK cells demonstrated the heterogeneity of the CD56brightCD16+/− and CD56dimCD16+ subsets within the different compartments and suggests that microenvironment may play a role in differential in situ development of the NK cell receptor repertoire of committed NK cells. Overall, differential in situ NK cell development and trafficking towards multiple tissues may give rise to a broad spectrum of mature NK cell subsets found within the human body.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0030930
PMCID: PMC3272048  PMID: 22319595
4.  Combined antiviral activity of interferon-α and RNA interference directed against hepatitis C without affecting vector delivery and gene silencing 
The current standard interferon-alpha (IFN-α)-based therapy for chronic hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection is only effective in approximately half of the patients, prompting the need for alternative treatments. RNA interference (RNAi) represents novel approach to combat HCV by sequence-specific targeting of viral or host factors involved in infection. Monotherapy of RNAi, however, may lead to therapeutic resistance by mutational escape of the virus. Here, we proposed that combining lentiviral vector-mediated RNAi and IFN-α could be more effective and avoid therapeutic resistance. In this study, we found that IFN-α treatment did not interfere with RNAi-mediated gene silencing. RNAi and IFN-α act independently on HCV replication showing combined antiviral activity when used simultaneously or sequentially. Transduction of mouse hepatocytes in vivo and in vitro was not effected by IFN-α treatment. In conclusion, RNAi and IFN-α can be effectively combined without cross-interference and may represent a promising combinational strategy for the treatment of hepatitis C.
doi:10.1007/s00109-009-0470-3
PMCID: PMC2700866  PMID: 19404587
RNAi; IFN-α; Gene therapy; Lentiviral vector; HCV

Results 1-4 (4)