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1.  Interaction between Retinoid Acid Receptor-Related Orphan Receptor Alpha (RORA) and Neuropeptide S Receptor 1 (NPSR1) in Asthma 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(4):e60111.
Retinoid acid receptor-related Orphan Receptor Alpha (RORA) was recently identified as a susceptibility gene for asthma in a genome-wide association study. To investigate the impact of RORA on asthma susceptibility, we performed a genetic association study between RORA single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in the vicinity of the asthma-associated SNP (rs11071559) and asthma-related traits. Because the regulatory region of a previously implicated asthma susceptibility gene, Neuropeptide S receptor 1 (NPSR1), has predicted elements for RORA binding, we hypothesized that RORA may interact biologically and genetically with NPSR1. 37 RORA SNPs and eight NPSR1 SNPs were genotyped in the Swedish birth cohort BAMSE (2033 children) and the European cross-sectional PARSIFAL study (1120 children). Seven RORA SNPs confined into a 49 kb region were significantly associated with physician-diagnosed childhood asthma. The most significant association with rs7164773 (T/C) was driven by the CC genotype in asthma cases (OR = 2.0, 95%CI 1.36–2.93, p = 0.0003 in BAMSE; and 1.61, 1.18–2.19, p = 0.002 in the combined BAMSE-PARSIFAL datasets, respectively), and strikingly, the risk effect was dependent on the Gln344Arg mutation in NPSR1. In cell models, stimulation of NPSR1 activated a pathway including RORA and other circadian clock genes. Over-expression of RORA decreased NPSR1 promoter activity further suggesting a regulatory loop between these genes. In addition, Rora mRNA expression was lower in the lung tissue of Npsr1 deficient mice compared to wildtype littermates during the early hours of the light period. We conclude that RORA SNPs are associated with childhood asthma and show epistasis with NPSR1, and the interaction between RORA and NPSR1 may be of biological relevance. Combinations of common susceptibility alleles and less common functional polymorphisms may modify the joint risk effects on asthma susceptibility.
PMCID: PMC3615072  PMID: 23565190
2.  TIM-4, a Receptor for Phosphatidylserine, Controls Adaptive Immunity by Regulating the Removal of Antigen-Specific T Cells 
Adaptive immunity is characterized by the expansion of an Ag-specific T cell population following Ag exposure. The precise mechanisms, however, that control the expansion and subsequent contraction in the number of Ag-specific T cells are not fully understood. We show that T cell/transmembrane, Ig, and mucin (TIM)-4, a receptor for phosphatidylserine, a marker of apoptotic cells, regulates adaptive immunity in part by mediating the removal of Ag-specific T cells during the contraction phase of the response. During Ag immunization or during infection with influenza A virus, blockade of TIM-4 on APCs increased the expansion of Ag-specific T cells, resulting in an increase in secondary immune responses. Conversely, overexpression of TIM-4 on APCs in transgenic mice reduced the number of Ag-specific T cells that remained after immunization, resulting in reduced secondary T cell responses. There was no change in the total number of cell divisions that T cells completed, no change in the per cell proliferative capacity of the remaining Ag-specific T cells, and no increase in the development of Ag-specific regulatory T cells in TIM-4 transgenic mice. Thus, TIM-4–expressing cells regulate adaptive immunity by mediating the removal of phosphatidylserine-expressing apoptotic, Ag-specific T cells, thereby controlling the number of Ag-specific T cells that remain after the clearance of Ag or infection.
PMCID: PMC3153437  PMID: 21037090
3.  T Cell/Transmembrane, Ig, and Mucin-3 Allelic Variants Differentially Recognize Phosphatidylserine and Mediate Phagocytosis of Apoptotic Cells 
T cell/transmembrane, Ig, and mucin (TIM) proteins, identified using a congenic mouse model of asthma, critically regulate innate and adaptive immunity. TIM-1 and TIM-4 are receptors for phosphatidylserine (PtdSer), exposed on the surfaces of apoptotic cells. Herein, we show with structural and biological studies that TIM-3 is also a receptor for PtdSer that binds in a pocket on the N-terminal IgV domain in coordination with a calcium ion. The TIM-3/PtdSer structure is similar to that of TIM-4/PtdSer, reflecting a conserved PtdSer binding mode by TIM family members. Fibroblastic cells expressing mouse or human TIM-3 bound and phagocytosed apoptotic cells, with the BALB/c allelic variant of mouse TIM-3 showing a higher capacity than the congenic C.D2 Es-Hba–allelic variant. These functional differences were due to structural differences in the BC loop of the IgV domain of the TIM-3 polymorphic variants. In contrast to fibroblastic cells, T or B cells expressing TIM-3 formed conjugates with but failed to engulf apoptotic cells. Together these findings indicate that TIM-3–expressing cells can respond to apoptotic cells, but the consequence of TIM-3 engagement of PtdSer depends on the polymorphic variants of and type of cell expressing TIM-3. These findings establish a new paradigm for TIM proteins as PtdSer receptors and unify the function of the TIM gene family, which has been associated with asthma and autoimmunity and shown to modulate peripheral tolerance.
PMCID: PMC3128800  PMID: 20083673
4.  Attenuated expression of tenascin-c in ovalbumin-challenged STAT4-/- mice 
Respiratory Research  2011;12(1):2.
Asthma leads to structural changes in the airways, including the modification of extracellular matrix proteins such as tenascin-C. The role of tenascin-C is unclear, but it might act as an early initiator of airway wall remodelling, as its expression is increased in the mouse and human airways during allergic inflammation. In this study, we examined whether Th1 or Th2 cells are important regulators of tenascin-C in experimental allergic asthma utilizing mice with impaired Th1 (STAT4-/-) or Th2 (STAT6-/-) immunity.
Balb/c wildtype (WT), STAT4-/- and STAT6-/- mice were sensitized with intraperitoneally injected ovalbumin (OVA) followed by OVA or PBS airway challenge. Airway hyperreactivity (AHR) was measured and samples were collected. Real time PCR and immunohistochemistry were used to study cytokines and differences in the expression of tenascin-C. Tenascin-C expression was measured in human fibroblasts after treatment with TNF-α and IFN-γ in vitro.
OVA-challenged WT mice showed allergic inflammation and AHR in the airways along with increased expression of TNF-α, IFN-γ, IL-4 and tenascin-C in the lungs. OVA-challenged STAT4-/- mice exhibited elevated AHR and pulmonary eosinophilia. The mRNA expression of TNF-α and IFN-γ was low, but the expression of IL-4 was significantly elevated in these mice. OVA-challenged STAT6-/- mice had neither AHR nor pulmonary eosinophilia, but had increased expression of mRNA for TNF-α, IFN-γ and IL-4. The expression of tenascin-C in the lungs of OVA-challenged STAT4-/- mice was weaker than in those of OVA-challenged WT and STAT6-/- mice suggesting that TNF-α and IFN-γ may regulate tenascin-C expression in vivo. The stimulation of human fibroblasts with TNF-α and IFN-γ induced the expression of tenascin-C confirming our in vivo findings.
Expression of tenascin-C is significantly attenuated in the airways of STAT4-/- mice, which may be due to the impaired secretion of TNF-α and IFN-γ in these mice.
PMCID: PMC3024219  PMID: 21205293
5.  T cell Immunoglobulin Mucin Protein (TIM)-4 binds phosphatidylserine and mediates uptake of apoptotic cells 
Immunity  2007;27(6):927-940.
The T cell immunoglobulin mucin (TIM) proteins regulate T cell activation and tolerance. Both TIM-4, expressed on human and mouse macrophages and dendritic cells, and TIM-1 specifically bind to phosphatidylserine (PS) on the surface of apoptotic cells and do not bind to any other phospholipid tested. TIM-4+ peritoneal macrophages, TIM-1+ kidney cells, as well as TIM-4 or TIM-1 transfected cells efficiently phagocytose apoptotic cells and phagocytosis can be blocked by TIM-4 or TIM-1 mAbs. TIM proteins have a unique binding cavity made by an unusual conformation of the CC′ and FG loops of the TIM IgV domain and mutations in this cavity eliminated PS binding and phagocytosis. TIM-4 mAbs that block PS binding and phagocytosis map to epitopes in this binding cavity. These results show that TIM-4 and TIM-1 are immunologically restricted members of the group of receptors that recognize PS, critical for the efficient clearance of apoptotic cells and prevention of autoimmunity.
PMCID: PMC2757006  PMID: 18082433
6.  Sleep Restriction Increases the Risk of Developing Cardiovascular Diseases by Augmenting Proinflammatory Responses through IL-17 and CRP 
PLoS ONE  2009;4(2):e4589.
Sleep restriction, leading to deprivation of sleep, is common in modern 24-h societies and is associated with the development of health problems including cardiovascular diseases. Our objective was to investigate the immunological effects of prolonged sleep restriction and subsequent recovery sleep, by simulating a working week and following recovery weekend in a laboratory environment.
Methods and Findings
After 2 baseline nights of 8 hours time in bed (TIB), 13 healthy young men had only 4 hours TIB per night for 5 nights, followed by 2 recovery nights with 8 hours TIB. 6 control subjects had 8 hours TIB per night throughout the experiment. Heart rate, blood pressure, salivary cortisol and serum C-reactive protein (CRP) were measured after the baseline (BL), sleep restriction (SR) and recovery (REC) period. Peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC) were collected at these time points, counted and stimulated with PHA. Cell proliferation was analyzed by thymidine incorporation and cytokine production by ELISA and RT-PCR. CRP was increased after SR (145% of BL; p<0.05), and continued to increase after REC (231% of BL; p<0.05). Heart rate was increased after REC (108% of BL; p<0.05). The amount of circulating NK-cells decreased (65% of BL; p<0.005) and the amount of B-cells increased (121% of BL; p<0.005) after SR, but these cell numbers recovered almost completely during REC. Proliferation of stimulated PBMC increased after SR (233% of BL; p<0.05), accompanied by increased production of IL-1β (137% of BL; p<0.05), IL-6 (163% of BL; p<0.05) and IL-17 (138% of BL; p<0.05) at mRNA level. After REC, IL-17 was still increased at the protein level (119% of BL; p<0.05).
5 nights of sleep restriction increased lymphocyte activation and the production of proinflammatory cytokines including IL-1β IL-6 and IL-17; they remained elevated after 2 nights of recovery sleep, accompanied by increased heart rate and serum CRP, 2 important risk factors for cardiovascular diseases. Therefore, long-term sleep restriction may lead to persistent changes in the immune system and the increased production of IL-17 together with CRP may increase the risk of developing cardiovascular diseases.
PMCID: PMC2643002  PMID: 19240794

Results 1-6 (6)