Many viral pathogens cycle between humans and insects. These viruses must have evolved strategies for rapid adaptation to different host environments. However, the mechanistic basis for the adaptation process remains poorly understood. To study the mosquito-human adaptation cycle, we examined changes in RNA structures of the dengue virus genome during host adaptation. Deep sequencing and RNA structure analysis, together with fitness evaluation, revealed a process of host specialization of RNA elements of the viral 3’UTR. Adaptation to mosquito or mammalian cells involved selection of different viral populations harvesting mutations in a single stem-loop structure. The host specialization of the identified RNA structure resulted in a significant viral fitness cost in the non-specialized host, posing a constraint during host switching. Sequence conservation analysis indicated that the identified host adaptable stem loop structure is duplicated in dengue and other mosquito-borne viruses. Interestingly, functional studies using recombinant viruses with single or double stem loops revealed that duplication of the RNA structure allows the virus to accommodate mutations beneficial in one host and deleterious in the other. Our findings reveal new concepts in adaptation of RNA viruses, in which host specialization of RNA structures results in high fitness in the adapted host, while RNA duplication confers robustness during host switching.
Important viral pathogens, such as influenza and dengue, jump between species; however, it is still unclear how these viruses evolved for efficient replication in significantly different environments. Using dengue virus as a model, which naturally alternates between humans and mosquitoes, changes in the viral RNA were investigated in each host. Deep sequencing analysis revealed the selection of strikingly different viral populations during host adaptation. Fitness measurements indicated that mutations in a single RNA structure of the viral 3’ untranslated region were responsible for positive and negative selection of specific viral variants in the two hosts. Cycles of disruption and reconstitution of this RNA structure were observed during host switching, identifying a host adaptable RNA element. Importantly, natural duplication of this RNA was found to be required to tolerate mosquito-associated mutations for efficient replication in mammalian cells. Our studies revealed a novel strategy of viral adaptation, where RNA structure specialization and duplication provide a mechanism for maintaining high viral fitness in each host and efficiency during host cycling. Because the identified RNA structure and its duplication are conserved in many mosquito-borne flaviviruses, our findings using dengue virus could help to understand RNA evolution of an extensive group of human pathogens.
Klebsiella pneumoniae is a significant human pathogen, in part due to high rates of multidrug resistance. RamA is an intrinsic regulator in K. pneumoniae established to be important for the bacterial response to antimicrobial challenge; however, little is known about its possible wider regulatory role in this organism during infection. In this work, we demonstrate that RamA is a global transcriptional regulator that significantly perturbs the transcriptional landscape of K. pneumoniae, resulting in altered microbe-drug or microbe-host response. This is largely due to the direct regulation of 68 genes associated with a myriad of cellular functions. Importantly, RamA directly binds and activates the lpxC, lpxL-2 and lpxO genes associated with lipid A biosynthesis, thus resulting in modifications within the lipid A moiety of the lipopolysaccharide. RamA-mediated alterations decrease susceptibility to colistin E, polymyxin B and human cationic antimicrobial peptide LL-37. Increased RamA levels reduce K. pneumoniae adhesion and uptake into macrophages, which is supported by in vivo infection studies, that demonstrate increased systemic dissemination of ramA overexpressing K. pneumoniae. These data establish that RamA-mediated regulation directly perturbs microbial surface properties, including lipid A biosynthesis, which facilitate evasion from the innate host response. This highlights RamA as a global regulator that confers pathoadaptive phenotypes with implications for our understanding of the pathogenesis of Enterobacter, Salmonella and Citrobacter spp. that express orthologous RamA proteins.
Bacteria can rapidly evolve under antibiotic pressure to develop resistance, which occurs when target genes mutate, or when resistance-encoding genes are transferred. Alternatively, microbes can simply alter the levels of intrinsic proteins that allow the organism to “buy” time to resist antibiotic pressure. Klebsiella pneumoniae is a pathogen that causes significant blood stream or respiratory infections, but more importantly is a bacterium that is increasingly being reported as multidrug resistant. Our data demonstrate that RamA can trigger changes on the bacterial surface that allow Klebsiella to survive both antibiotic challenge, degradation by host immune peptides and resist phagocytosis. We demonstrate that the molecular basis of increased survival of ramA overexpressing K. pneumoniae, against host-derived factors is associated with RamA-driven alterations of the lipid A moiety of Klebsiella LPS. This modification is likely to be linked to Klebsiella’s ability to resist the host response so that it remains undetected by the immune system. The relevance of our work extends beyond RamA in Klebsiella as other pathogens such as Enterobacter spp and Salmonella spp. also produce this protein. Thus our overarching conclusion is that the intrinsic regulator, RamA perturbs host-microbe and microbe-drug interactions.
Aspergillus fumigatus is a mold that causes severe pulmonary infections. Our knowledge of how A. fumigatus growth is controlled in the respiratory tract is developing, but still limited. Alveolar macrophages, lung resident macrophages, and airway epithelial cells constitute the first lines of defense against inhaled A. fumigatus conidia. Subsequently, neutrophils and inflammatory CCR2+ monocytes are recruited to the respiratory tract to prevent fungal growth. However, the mechanism of neutrophil and macrophage recruitment to the respiratory tract after A. fumigatus exposure remains an area of ongoing investigation. Here we show that A. fumigatus pulmonary challenge induces expression of the inflammasome-dependent cytokines IL-1β and IL-18 within the first 12 hours, while IL-1α expression continually increases over at least the first 48 hours. Strikingly, Il1r1-deficient mice are highly susceptible to pulmonary A. fumigatus challenge exemplified by robust fungal proliferation in the lung parenchyma. Enhanced susceptibility of Il1r1-deficient mice correlated with defects in leukocyte recruitment and anti-fungal activity. Importantly, IL-1α rather than IL-1β was crucial for optimal leukocyte recruitment. IL-1α signaling enhanced the production of CXCL1. Moreover, CCR2+ monocytes are required for optimal early IL-1α and CXCL1 expression in the lungs, as selective depletion of these cells resulted in their diminished expression, which in turn regulated the early accumulation of neutrophils in the lung after A. fumigatus challenge. Enhancement of pulmonary neutrophil recruitment and anti-fungal activity by CXCL1 treatment could limit fungal growth in the absence of IL-1α signaling. In contrast to the role of IL-1α in neutrophil recruitment, the inflammasome and IL-1β were only essential for optimal activation of anti-fungal activity of macrophages. As such, Pycard-deficient mice are mildly susceptible to A. fumigatus infection. Taken together, our data reveal central, non-redundant roles for IL-1α and IL-1β in controlling A. fumigatus infection in the murine lung.
Aspergillus spp. are ubiquitous in the environment, and even though individuals are regularly exposed to fungal spores clinical invasive disease is a rare manifestation. In contrast, individuals with weakened immune systems develop severe disease, such as invasive pulmonary aspergillosis (IPA). IPA is associated with extremely poor prognoses and unacceptably high mortality rates. Knowledge gained from understanding how immunocompetent mammals control Aspergillus challenge will help develop new immunomodulatory strategies aimed at improving patient outcomes. It is well known that neutrophils and monocytes are crucial immune cells that act to limit fungal growth. Our work demonstrates a central role for the cytokine IL-1α in orchestrating the optimal recruitment of neutrophils and monocytes, whereas IL-1β and the inflammasome are more important in activation of anti-fungal activity of the monocytes. Moreover, our studies indicate that CCR2+ monocytes are required for optimal production of IL-1α in the lungs of A. fumigatus challenged mice. Thus, our data highlight a crucial role of the IL-1 cytokine in mediating anti-fungal immunity which might be harnessed to treat clinical cases of IPA.
Innate immunity is regulated by cholinergic signalling through nicotinic acetylcholine receptors. We show here that signalling through the M3 muscarinic acetylcholine receptor (M3R) plays an important role in adaptive immunity to both Nippostrongylus brasiliensis and Salmonella enterica serovar Typhimurium, as M3R-/- mice were impaired in their ability to resolve infection with either pathogen. CD4 T cell activation and cytokine production were reduced in M3R-/- mice. Immunity to secondary infection with N. brasiliensis was severely impaired, with reduced cytokine responses in M3R-/- mice accompanied by lower numbers of mucus-producing goblet cells and alternatively activated macrophages in the lungs. Ex vivo lymphocyte stimulation of cells from intact BALB/c mice infected with N. brasiliensis and S. typhimurium with muscarinic agonists resulted in enhanced production of IL-13 and IFN-γ respectively, which was blocked by an M3R-selective antagonist. Our data therefore indicate that cholinergic signalling via the M3R is essential for optimal Th1 and Th2 adaptive immunity to infection.
Recent data indicate that acetylcholine (ACh), a neurotransmitter which regulates a variety of physiological functions, also influences the immune system, and that lymphocytes have the capacity to synthesise and release ACh, controlling local innate immune responses and suppressing inflammation. Thus far however there has been little evidence to suggest that ACh influences adaptive immunity, characterised by activation and effector functions of lymphocytes. We show here that during the immune response to two different pathogens, ACh signals through muscarinic receptors, and the M3 receptor subtype specifically, resulting in enhanced activation and cytokine production by ‘helper’ T lymphocytes which protect the host against infection.
Aspergillus fumigatus forms ubiquitous airborne conidia that humans inhale on a daily basis. Although respiratory fungal infection activates the adaptor proteins CARD9 and MyD88 via C-type lectin, Toll-like, and interleukin-1 family receptor signals, defining the temporal and spatial pattern of MyD88- and CARD9-coupled signals in immune activation and fungal clearance has been difficult to achieve. Herein, we demonstrate that MyD88 and CARD9 act in two discrete phases and in two cellular compartments to direct chemokine- and neutrophil-dependent host defense. The first phase depends on MyD88 signaling because genetic deletion of MyD88 leads to delayed induction of the neutrophil chemokines CXCL1 and CXCL5, delayed neutrophil lung trafficking, and fatal pulmonary damage at the onset of respiratory fungal infection. MyD88 expression in lung epithelial cells restores rapid chemokine induction and neutrophil recruitment via interleukin-1 receptor signaling. Exogenous CXCL1 administration reverses murine mortality in MyD88-deficient mice. The second phase depends predominately on CARD9 signaling because genetic deletion of CARD9 in radiosensitive hematopoietic cells interrupts CXCL1 and CXCL2 production and lung neutrophil recruitment beyond the initial MyD88-dependent phase. Using a CXCL2 reporter mouse, we show that lung-infiltrating neutrophils represent the major cellular source of CXCL2 during CARD9-dependent recruitment. Although neutrophil-intrinsic MyD88 and CARD9 function are dispensable for neutrophil conidial uptake and killing in the lung, global deletion of both adaptor proteins triggers rapidly progressive invasive disease when mice are challenged with an inoculum that is sub-lethal for single adapter protein knockout mice. Our findings demonstrate that distinct signal transduction pathways in the respiratory epithelium and hematopoietic compartment partially overlap to ensure optimal chemokine induction, neutrophil recruitment, and fungal clearance within the respiratory tract.
Our understanding of how epithelial and hematopoietic cells in the lung coordinate immunity against inhaled fungal conidia (spores) remains limited. The mold Aspergillus fumigatus is a major cause of infectious mortality in immune compromised patients. Host defense against A. fumigatus involves the activation of two host signal transducers, MyD88 and CARD9, leading to neutrophil recruitment to the infection site. In this study, we define how MyD88- and CARD9-coupled signals operate in epithelial and hematopoietic compartments to regulate neutrophil-mediated defense against A. fumigatus. Our studies support a two-stage model in which MyD88 activation in epithelial cells, via the interleukin-1 receptor, supports the rapid induction of neutrophil-recruiting chemokines. This process is essential for the first phase of neutrophil recruitment. Mortality observed in MyD88-deficient mice can be significantly reversed by administration of a chemokine termed CXCL1 to infected airways. The second phase of neutrophil recruitment is initiated by CARD9 signaling in hematopoietic cells. Loss of both phases of chemokine induction and neutrophil recruitment dramatically increases murine susceptibility to tissue-invasive disease. In sum, our study defines a temporal sequence of events, initiated by interleukin-1 receptor/MyD88 signaling in the pulmonary epithelium and propagated by CARD9 signaling in hematopoietic cells, that induces protective immunity against inhaled fungal conidia.
Chagas disease (CD), caused by the protozoan Trypanosoma cruzi, is a prototypical neglected tropical disease. Specific immunity promotes acute phase survival. Nevertheless, one-third of CD patients develop chronic chagasic cardiomyopathy (CCC) associated with parasite persistence and immunological unbalance. Currently, the therapeutic management of patients only mitigates CCC symptoms. Therefore, a vaccine arises as an alternative to stimulate protective immunity and thereby prevent, delay progression and even reverse CCC. We examined this hypothesis by vaccinating mice with replication-defective human Type 5 recombinant adenoviruses (rAd) carrying sequences of amastigote surface protein-2 (rAdASP2) and trans-sialidase (rAdTS) T. cruzi antigens. For prophylactic vaccination, naïve C57BL/6 mice were immunized with rAdASP2+rAdTS (rAdVax) using a homologous prime/boost protocol before challenge with the Colombian strain. For therapeutic vaccination, rAdVax administration was initiated at 120 days post-infection (dpi), when mice were afflicted by CCC. Mice were analyzed for electrical abnormalities, immune response and cardiac parasitism and tissue damage. Prophylactic immunization with rAdVax induced antibodies and H-2Kb-restricted cytotoxic and interferon (IFN)γ-producing CD8+ T-cells, reduced acute heart parasitism and electrical abnormalities in the chronic phase. Therapeutic vaccination increased survival and reduced electrical abnormalities after the prime (analysis at 160 dpi) and the boost (analysis at 180 and 230 dpi). Post-therapy mice exhibited less heart injury and electrical abnormalities compared with pre-therapy mice. rAdVax therapeutic vaccination preserved specific IFNγ-mediated immunity but reduced the response to polyclonal stimuli (anti-CD3 plus anti-CD28), CD107a+ CD8+ T-cell frequency and plasma nitric oxide (NO) levels. Moreover, therapeutic rAdVax reshaped immunity in the heart tissue as reduced the number of perforin+ cells, preserved the number of IFNγ+ cells, increased the expression of IFNγ mRNA but reduced inducible NO synthase mRNA. Vaccine-based immunostimulation with rAd might offer a rational alternative for re-programming the immune response to preserve and, moreover, recover tissue injury in Chagas’ heart disease.
The idea that Chagas disease (CD) has an important autoimmune involvement contributed to delay the development of therapies and vaccines. CD is a parasitic neglected disease which afflicts millions of people mostly in Latin America. The cardiac form is the main clinical manifestation of CD. Currently, patients with access to therapy receive medicaments that only mitigate symptoms. Because of the limited prospect of treatment, vaccine reemerged as a strategy to prevent infection, interfere with CD progression and, moreover, reverse heart abnormalities. Here we tested a recombinant adenovirus carrying sequences of ASP2 and TS T. cruzi antigens (rAdVax) as prophylactic and therapeutic tool using a model of chronic Chagas’ heart disease. We showed that prophylactic vaccination reduced heart parasite load, inflammation and electrical abnormalities. The rAdVax therapeutic vaccination also reduced heart injury and improved electrical function, preserved specific IFNγ-mediated immunity but reduced response to polyclonal stimuli, CD107a+ CD8+ T-cell frequency and plasma nitric oxide levels. Moreover, therapeutic rAdVax preserved the number IFNγ+ cells, but decreased perforin+ cells in the heart tissue. Therefore, our results support the hypothesis that vaccination can modify the immunological unbalance that concurs to Chagas’ heart disease to improve prognosis.
The opportunistic human fungal pathogen, Candida albicans, undergoes morphological and transcriptional adaptation in the switch from commensalism to pathogenicity. Although previous gene-knockout studies have identified many factors involved in this transformation, it remains unclear how these factors are regulated to coordinate the switch. Investigating morphogenetic control by post-translational phosphorylation has generated important regulatory insights into this process, especially focusing on coordinated control by the cyclin-dependent kinase Cdc28. Here we have identified the Fkh2 transcription factor as a regulatory target of both Cdc28 and the cell wall biosynthesis kinase Cbk1, in a role distinct from its conserved function in cell cycle progression. In stationary phase yeast cells 2D gel electrophoresis shows that there is a diverse pool of Fkh2 phospho-isoforms. For a short window on hyphal induction, far before START in the cell cycle, the phosphorylation profile is transformed before reverting to the yeast profile. This transformation does not occur when stationary phase cells are reinoculated into fresh medium supporting yeast growth. Mass spectrometry and mutational analyses identified residues phosphorylated by Cdc28 and Cbk1. Substitution of these residues with non-phosphorylatable alanine altered the yeast phosphorylation profile and abrogated the characteristic transformation to the hyphal profile. Transcript profiling of the phosphorylation site mutant revealed that the hyphal phosphorylation profile is required for the expression of genes involved in pathogenesis, host interaction and biofilm formation. We confirmed that these changes in gene expression resulted in corresponding defects in pathogenic processes. Furthermore, we identified that Fkh2 interacts with the chromatin modifier Pob3 in a phosphorylation-dependent manner, thereby providing a possible mechanism by which the phosphorylation of Fkh2 regulates its specificity. Thus, we have discovered a novel cell cycle-independent phospho-regulatory event that subverts a key component of the cell cycle machinery to a role in the switch from commensalism to pathogenicity.
The fungus Candida albicans is a commensal in the human microbiota, responsible for superficial infections such as oral and vaginal thrush. However, it can become highly virulent, causing life-threatening systemic candidemia in severely immunocompromised patients, including those taking immunosuppressive drugs for transplantation, sufferers of AIDS and neutropenia, and individuals undergoing chemotherapy or at extremes of age. With a rapidly increasing ageing population worldwide, C. albicans and other fungal pathogens will become more prevalent, demanding a greater understanding of their pathogenesis for the development of effective therapeutics. Fungal pathogenicity requires a coordinated change in the pattern of gene expression orchestrated by a set of transcription factors. Here we have discovered that a transcription factor, Fkh2, is modified by phosphorylation under the control of the kinases Cdc28 and Cbk1 in response to conditions that activate virulence factor expression. Fkh2 is involved in a wide variety of cellular processes including cell proliferation, but this phosphorylation endows it with a specialized function in promoting the expression of genes required for tissue invasion, biofilm formation, and pathogenesis in the host. This study highlights the role of protein phosphorylation in regulating pathogenesis and furthers our understanding of the pathogenic switch in this important opportunistic fungal pathogen.
Virulent Agrobacterium tumefaciens strains integrate their T-DNA into the plant genome where the encoded agrobacterial oncogenes are expressed and cause crown gall disease. Essential for crown gall development are IaaH (indole-3-acetamide hydrolase), IaaM (tryptophan monooxygenase) and Ipt (isopentenyl transferase), which encode enzymes for the biosynthesis of auxin (IaaH, IaaM) and cytokinin (Ipt). Although these oncogenes are well studied as the tumor-inducing principle, nothing is known about the regulation of oncogene expression in plant cells. Our studies show that the intergenic regions (IGRs) between the coding sequences (CDS) of the three oncogenes function as promoters in plant cells. These promoters possess a eukaryotic sequence organization and cis-regulatory elements for the binding of plant transcription factors. WRKY18, WRKY40, WRKY60 and ARF5 were identified as activators of the Ipt promoter whereas IaaH and IaaM is constitutively expressed and no transcription factor further activates their promoters. Consistent with these results, the wrky triple mutant plants in particular, develops smaller crown galls than wild-type and exhibits a reduced Ipt transcription, despite the presence of an intact ARF5 gene. WRKY40 and WRKY60 gene expression is induced by A. tumefaciens within a few hours whereas the ARF5 gene is transcribed later during crown gall development. The WRKY proteins interact with ARF5 in the plant nucleus, but only WRKY40 together with ARF5 synergistically boosts the activation of the Ipt promoter in an auxin-dependent manner. From our data, we propose that A. tumefaciens initially induces WRKY40 gene expression as a pathogen defense response of the host cell. The WRKY protein is recruited to induce Ipt expression, which initiates cytokinin-dependent host cell division. With increasing auxin levels triggered by ubiquitous expression of IaaH and IaaM, ARF5 is activated and interacts with WRKY40 to potentiate Ipt expression and balance cytokinin and auxin levels for further cell proliferation.
Crown gall development requires the expression of agrobacterial genes in the plant host. These genes are transferred by the T-DNA of the plant pathogen Agrobacterium tumefaciens and include the oncogenes IaaH, IaaM and Ipt, which, according to the tumor-inducing principle, are essential for crown gall development. The oncogenes are involved in auxin and cytokinin production. This results, when at appropriate hormone ratios, in enhanced cell proliferation. The T-DNA transformation process and the encoded oncogene enzymes have been intensively studied, but knowledge of oncogene expression in plant cells and the regulatory host factors is missing. We set out to fill this gap, providing evidence that expression of the Ipt gene is host-cell controlled, whereas the IaaH and IaaM genes are ubiquitously expressed at low levels in T-DNA transformed tissue. This is achieved by A. tumefaciens, which first hijacks transcription factors of the plant pathogen response pathway to activate Ipt oncogene expression and initiates cell proliferation. With increasing auxin levels during the infection process, a transcription factor of the auxin-signaling pathway is recruited, potentiating Ipt gene expression. Thus, for crown gall development, two host-signaling pathways are combined through the interaction of transcription factors that adjust the ratio of cytokinin to auxin.
Enterovirus 71 (EV71) is the most virulent pathogen among enteroviruses that cause hand, foot and mouth disease in children but rarely in adults. The mechanisms that determine the age-dependent susceptibility remain largely unclear. Here, we found that the paucity of invariant natural killer T (iNKT) cells together with immaturity of the immune system was related to the susceptibility of neonatal mice to EV71 infection. iNKT cells were crucial antiviral effector cells to protect young mice from EV71 infection before their adaptive immune systems were fully mature. EV71 infection led to activation of iNKT cells depending on signaling through TLR3 but not other TLRs. Surprisingly, iNKT cell activation during EV71 infection required TLR3 signaling in macrophages, but not in dendritic cells (DCs). Mechanistically, interleukin (IL)-12 and endogenous CD1d-restricted antigens were both required for full activation of iNKT cells. Furthermore, CD1d-deficiency led to dramatically increased viral loads in central nervous system and more severe disease in EV71-infected mice. Altogether, our results suggest that iNKT cells may be involved in controlling EV71 infection in children when their adaptive immune systems are not fully developed, and also imply that iNKT cells might be an intervention target for treating EV71-infected patients.
Enterovirus 71 (EV71) is a major causative pathogen of hand, foot and mouth disease. EV71 infection occurs mainly in children but rarely in adults. The factors that determine the susceptibility of children to EV71 infection remain elusive. Here, we found that the paucity of invariant natural killer T (iNKT) cells in new-born mice was associated with their susceptibility to EV71 infection. Furthermore, iNKT cells played a critical role in protecting older young mice from EV71 infection before their adaptive immune systems were fully developed. Mechanistically, TLR3 signaling in macrophages, but not in dendritic cells, was essentially required for iNKT cell activation during EV71 infection. Both interleukin (IL)-12 production and endogenous lipid antigens presented by macrophages were required for full iNKT cell activation. iNKT cells tended to prevent the dissemination of EV71 into central nervous system. Taken together, our findings provide a new insight into the susceptibility of children to EV71 infection, and imply that the manipulation of iNKT cells might represent a potential therapeutic strategy for HFMD and other viral infectious diseases in children.
The series of events that occurs immediately after pathogen entrance into the body is largely speculative. Key aspects of these events are pathogen dissemination and pathogen interactions with the immune response as the invader moves into deeper tissues. We sought to define major events that occur early during infection of a highly virulent pathogen. To this end, we tracked early dissemination of Yersinia pestis, a highly pathogenic bacterium that causes bubonic plague in mammals. Specifically, we addressed two fundamental questions: (1) do the bacteria encounter barriers in disseminating to draining lymph nodes (LN), and (2) what mechanism does this nonmotile bacterium use to reach the LN compartment, as the prevailing model predicts trafficking in association with host cells. Infection was followed through microscopy imaging in addition to assessing bacterial population dynamics during dissemination from the skin. We found and characterized an unexpected bottleneck that severely restricts bacterial dissemination to LNs. The bacteria that do not pass through this bottleneck are confined to the skin, where large numbers of neutrophils arrive and efficiently control bacterial proliferation. Notably, bottleneck formation is route dependent, as it is abrogated after subcutaneous inoculation. Using a combination of approaches, including microscopy imaging, we tested the prevailing model of bacterial dissemination from the skin into LNs and found no evidence of involvement of migrating phagocytes in dissemination. Thus, early stages of infection are defined by a bottleneck that restricts bacterial dissemination and by neutrophil-dependent control of bacterial proliferation in the skin. Furthermore, and as opposed to current models, our data indicate an intracellular stage is not required by Y. pestis to disseminate from the skin to draining LNs. Because our findings address events that occur during early encounters of pathogen with the immune response, this work can inform efforts to prevent or control infection.
The earliest stage of any infection takes place when a pathogen enters the body (inoculation) at an initial site of contact. From this point, the pathogen can spread into deeper tissues where the pathogen itself and the immune responses against it cause disease. Very little is known about the events that follow inoculation and how pathogens move from the initial site of contact into deeper tissues. A better understanding of this process can potentially result in strategies to control or prevent disease. We studied the highly infectious bacterium that causes bubonic plague (Yersinia pestis) and how it spreads inside the body, from the skin into lymph nodes. We found that movement from the skin is highly restricted as only a small fraction of the bacteria that are deposited into this tissue are found in lymph nodes. While it is currently thought that Y. pestis spreads from the skin inside trafficking cells of the innate immune response, our work suggests these cells are not required for the bacteria to move into lymph nodes. Our findings can influence vaccine development efforts as these strategies are based on the study of early pathogen interactions with cells of the immune response.
Lung granulomas are the pathologic hallmark of tuberculosis (TB). T cells are a major cellular component of TB lung granulomas and are known to play an important role in containment of Mycobacterium tuberculosis (Mtb) infection. We used cynomolgus macaques, a non-human primate model that recapitulates human TB with clinically active disease, latent infection or early infection, to understand functional characteristics and dynamics of T cells in individual granulomas. We sought to correlate T cell cytokine response and bacterial burden of each granuloma, as well as granuloma and systemic responses in individual animals. Our results support that each granuloma within an individual host is independent with respect to total cell numbers, proportion of T cells, pattern of cytokine response, and bacterial burden. The spectrum of these components overlaps greatly amongst animals with different clinical status, indicating that a diversity of granulomas exists within an individual host. On average only about 8% of T cells from granulomas respond with cytokine production after stimulation with Mtb specific antigens, and few “multi-functional” T cells were observed. However, granulomas were found to be “multi-functional” with respect to the combinations of functional T cells that were identified among lesions from individual animals. Although the responses generally overlapped, sterile granulomas had modestly higher frequencies of T cells making IL-17, TNF and any of T-1 (IFN-γ, IL-2, or TNF) and/or T-17 (IL-17) cytokines than non-sterile granulomas. An inverse correlation was observed between bacterial burden with TNF and T-1/T-17 responses in individual granulomas, and a combinatorial analysis of pair-wise cytokine responses indicated that granulomas with T cells producing both pro- and anti-inflammatory cytokines (e.g. IL-10 and IL-17) were associated with clearance of Mtb. Preliminary evaluation suggests that systemic responses in the blood do not accurately reflect local T cell responses within granulomas.
The characteristic feature of Mycobacterium tuberculosis (Mtb) infection is the formation of lesions, which are organized structures of immune cells in the lungs called granulomas, which contain the bacteria. When the granuloma functions effectively, it can kill the bacteria. T cells (a type of immune cell, also present in granulomas) are known to play an important role in control of tuberculosis. However, functions of T cells at individual granuloma levels are unknown. Here, we studied the functional characteristics of T cells, which are defined by the production of chemical messengers (cytokines) at the granuloma level in a non-human primate model. We compared the relationship between cytokine response and the number of bacteria (Mtb) in each granuloma. Each granuloma was found to be unique, suggesting different types exist within an animal. Only a small proportion of T cells produced any cytokine, but different types of cytokines were observed within each granuloma. A balance between different types of cytokine was associated with more killing of bacteria in granulomas. Understanding how to improve the T cell responses to obtain killing of bacteria in the granuloma will be important for vaccine development.
Tick-borne encephalitis virus (TBEV) is transferred to humans by ticks. The virus causes tick-borne encephalitis (TBE) with symptoms such as meningitis and meningoencephalitis. About one third of the patients suffer from long-lasting sequelae after clearance of the infection. Studies of the immune response during TBEV-infection are essential to the understanding of host responses to TBEV-infection and for the development of therapeutics. Here, we studied in detail the primary CD8 T cell response to TBEV in patients with acute TBE. Peripheral blood CD8 T cells mounted a considerable response to TBEV-infection as assessed by Ki67 and CD38 co-expression. These activated cells showed a CD45RA-CCR7-CD127- phenotype at day 7 after hospitalization, phenotypically defining them as effector cells. An immunodominant HLA-A2-restricted TBEV epitope was identified and utilized to study the characteristics and temporal dynamics of the antigen-specific response. The functional profile of TBEV-specific CD8 T cells was dominated by variants of mono-functional cells as the effector response matured. Antigen-specific CD8 T cells predominantly displayed a distinct Eomes+Ki67+T-bet+ effector phenotype at the peak of the response, which transitioned to an Eomes-Ki67-T-bet+ phenotype as the infection resolved and memory was established. These transcription factors thus characterize and discriminate stages of the antigen-specific T cell response during acute TBEV-infection. Altogether, CD8 T cells responded strongly to acute TBEV infection and passed through an effector phase, prior to gradual differentiation into memory cells with distinct transcription factor expression-patterns throughout the different phases.
Tick-borne encephalitis virus (TBEV) belongs to the flavivirus family and causes tick-borne encephalitis. This is a severe meningoencephalitic disease with no available treatment. Detailed studies of the immune response during human TBEV infection are essential to understand host responses to TBE and for the development of therapeutics. Herein, we studied the primary T cell-mediated immune response in patients diagnosed with TBEV infection. We show that CD8 T cells mount a vigorous TBEV-specific response within one week of hospitalization. Moreover, TBEV-specific CD8 T cells displayed a distinctive phenotypic and functional profile, paired with a distinct transcription factor expression-pattern during the peak of activation. In summary, this is the first comprehensive study of the CD8 T cell response during acute human TBEV infection, and provides a framework for understanding of CD8 T cell-mediated immunity in this emerging viral disease.
Helminths immunomodulate their hosts and induce a regulatory, anti-inflammatory milieu that prevents allergies and autoimmune diseases. Helminth immunomodulation may benefit sepsis outcome by preventing exacerbated inflammation and severe pathology, but the influence on bacterial clearance remains unclear. To address this, mice were chronically infected with the filarial nematode Litomosoides sigmodontis (L.s.) and the outcome of acute systemic inflammation caused by i.p. Escherichia coli injection was determined. L.s. infection significantly improved E. coli-induced hypothermia, bacterial clearance and sepsis survival and correlated with reduced concentrations of associated pro-inflammatory cytokines/chemokines and a less pronounced pro-inflammatory macrophage gene expression profile. Improved sepsis outcome in L.s.-infected animals was mediated by macrophages, but independent of the alternatively activated macrophage subset. Endosymbiotic Wolbachia bacteria that are present in most human pathogenic filariae, as well as L.s., signal via TLR2 and modulate macrophage function. Here, gene expression profiles of peritoneal macrophages from L.s.-infected mice revealed a downregulation of genes involved in TLR signaling, and pulsing of macrophages in vitro with L.s. extract reduced LPS-triggered activation. Subsequent transfer improved sepsis outcome in naïve mice in a Wolbachia- and TLR2-dependent manner. In vivo, phagocytosis was increased in macrophages from L.s.-infected wild type, but not TLR2-deficient animals. In association, L.s. infection neither improved bacterial clearance in TLR2-deficient animals nor ameliorated E. coli-induced hypothermia and sepsis survival. These results indicate that chronic L.s. infection has a dual beneficial effect on bacterial sepsis, reducing pro-inflammatory immune responses and improving bacterial control. Thus, helminths and their antigens may not only improve the outcome of autoimmune and allergic diseases, but may also present new therapeutic approaches for acute inflammatory diseases that do not impair bacterial control.
As the human immune system evolved in the presence of helminth infections, it is postulated that improved hygiene and subsequent loss of helminth infections and their immunomodulatory functions contributed to the sharp increase of autoimmune diseases and allergies over the last decades. Accordingly, helminth-induced anti-inflammatory, regulatory immune responses ameliorate allergy and autoimmune diseases and are likely to impact other immunological disorders including sepsis. Sepsis is an exacerbated, systemic inflammatory disease that occurs when pathogens cannot be locally confined and spread via the blood stream. Thus, efficient sepsis therapies should reduce excessive inflammation without impairing protective immune responses. In the present study we demonstrate that chronic filarial infection modulates macrophages to a less pro-inflammatory phenotype with improved phagocytic capacity. This immunomodulation reduces sepsis-induced inflammation and hypothermia and clears bacteria more efficiently thus improving sepsis survival. Moreover, we found that Wolbachia, the endosymbiotic bacteria of filariae, play a crucial role in triggering the correct macrophage response via TLR2. Thus, our observations suggest that helminths and helminth-derived antigens may not only present new treatment options for allergies and autoimmune diseases, but may also allow treatment of sepsis caused inflammation without impairing bacterial control.
Herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1) and HSV-2 are highly prevalent viruses that cause a variety of diseases, from cold sores to encephalitis. Both viruses establish latency in peripheral neurons but the molecular mechanisms facilitating the infection of neurons are not fully understood. Using surface plasmon resonance and crosslinking assays, we show that glycoprotein G (gG) from HSV-2, known to modulate immune mediators (chemokines), also interacts with neurotrophic factors, with high affinity. In our experimental model, HSV-2 secreted gG (SgG2) increases nerve growth factor (NGF)-dependent axonal growth of sympathetic neurons ex vivo, and modifies tropomyosin related kinase (Trk)A-mediated signaling. SgG2 alters TrkA recruitment to lipid rafts and decreases TrkA internalization. We could show, with microfluidic devices, that SgG2 reduced NGF-induced TrkA retrograde transport. In vivo, both HSV-2 infection and SgG2 expression in mouse hindpaw epidermis enhance axonal growth modifying the termination zone of the NGF-dependent peptidergic free nerve endings. This constitutes, to our knowledge, the discovery of the first viral protein that modulates neurotrophins, an activity that may facilitate HSV-2 infection of neurons. This dual function of the chemokine-binding protein SgG2 uncovers a novel strategy developed by HSV-2 to modulate factors from both the immune and nervous systems.
Herpes simplex virus type 1 and 2 (HSV-1 and HSV-2, respectively) establish latency in peripheral sensory ganglia, where they remain for the lifetime of the infected individual. Understanding the mechanisms that allow these viruses to colonize the nervous system will permit devising antiviral strategies. We show that HSV-2 glycoprotein G (SgG2) binds to and increases the function of nerve growth factor (NGF), a neurotrophin expressed in the skin and mucosa essential for axonal growth and neuronal survival. This constitutes the first description, to our knowledge, of a human pathogen with the ability to augment neurotrophic factor function. The enhancement in NGF activity results in an increase in axonal growth of neurons expressing the receptor for NGF. These results were obtained in vitro, ex vivo and in the infected mouse, suggesting that this effect may permit a more efficient infection of NGF dependent free nerve endings by HSV-2. Absence of a similar function for HSV-1 gG may indicate a preference for the infection of particular subsets of neurons by these viruses. These results shed light on the modulation of neurotrophic factors by relevant human pathogens and on the mechanisms of colonization of the nervous system by HSV.
Over 100 years after trypanosomatids were first discovered in plant tissues, Phytomonas parasites have now been isolated across the globe from members of 24 different plant families. Most identified species have not been associated with any plant pathology and to date only two species are definitively known to cause plant disease. These diseases (wilt of palm and coffee phloem necrosis) are problematic in areas of South America where they threaten the economies of developing countries. In contrast to their mammalian infective relatives, our knowledge of the biology of Phytomonas parasites and how they interact with their plant hosts is limited. This review draws together a century of research into plant trypanosomatids, from the first isolations and experimental infections to the recent publication of the first Phytomonas genomes. The availability of genomic data for these plant parasites opens a new avenue for comparative investigations into trypanosomatid biology and provides fresh insight into how this important group of parasites have adapted to survive in a spectrum of hosts from crocodiles to coconuts.
During plant immunity, surface-localized pattern recognition receptors (PRRs) recognize pathogen-associated molecular patterns (PAMPs). The transfer of PRRs between plant species is a promising strategy for engineering broad-spectrum disease resistance. Thus, there is a great interest in understanding the mechanisms of PRR-mediated resistance across different plant species. Two well-characterized plant PRRs are the leucine-rich repeat receptor kinases (LRR-RKs) EFR and XA21 from Arabidopsis thaliana (Arabidopsis) and rice, respectively. Interestingly, despite being evolutionary distant, EFR and XA21 are phylogenetically closely related and are both members of the sub-family XII of LRR-RKs that contains numerous potential PRRs. Here, we compared the ability of these related PRRs to engage immune signaling across the monocots-dicots taxonomic divide. Using chimera between Arabidopsis EFR and rice XA21, we show that the kinase domain of the rice XA21 is functional in triggering elf18-induced signaling and quantitative immunity to the bacteria Pseudomonas syringae pv. tomato (Pto) DC3000 and Agrobacterium tumefaciens in Arabidopsis. Furthermore, the EFR:XA21 chimera associates dynamically in a ligand-dependent manner with known components of the EFR complex. Conversely, EFR associates with Arabidopsis orthologues of rice XA21-interacting proteins, which appear to be involved in EFR-mediated signaling and immunity in Arabidopsis. Our work indicates the overall functional conservation of immune components acting downstream of distinct LRR-RK-type PRRs between monocots and dicots.
Pests and diseases cause significant agricultural losses. Plants recognize pathogen-derived molecules via plasma membrane-localized immune receptors (called pattern recognition receptors or PRRs), resulting in pathogen resistance. In recent years, the transfer of PRRs across plant species has emerged as a promising biotechnological approach to improve crop disease resistance. Successful transfers of PRRs suggest that immune signaling components are conserved across plant species. In this study, we demonstrate that the PRR XA21 from the monocot plant rice is functional in the dicot plant Arabidopsis thaliana (Arabidopsis) and that it confers quantitatively enhanced resistance to bacteria. Furthermore, we show that the rice XA21 and the Arabidopsis EFR, which are evolutionary-distant but phylogenetically closely related, recruit similar signaling components for their function, revealing an overall conservation of immune pathways across monocots and dicots. These findings demonstrate evolutionary conservation of downstream signaling from PRRs and indicate that transfer of PRRs is possible between different plant families, but also between monocots and dicots.
KSHV is the causative agent of Kaposi sarcoma (KS), a spindle-shaped endothelial cell neoplasm accompanied by an inflammatory infiltrate. To evaluate the role of KSHV vFLIP in the pathogenesis of KS, we constructed mice with inducible expression of vFLIP in endothelial cells. Abnormal cells with endothelial marker expression and fusiform appearance were observed in several tissues reminiscent of the spindle cells found in KS. Serum cytokines displayed a profound perturbation similar to that described in KSHV inflammatory cytokine syndrome (KICS), a recently described clinical condition characterized by elevated IL6 and IL10. An increased myeloid component with suppressive immune phenotype was found, which may contribute to functional changes in the microenvironment and cellular heterogeneity as observed in KS. These mice represent the first in vivo demonstration that vFLIP is capable of inducing vascular abnormalities and changes in host microenvironment with important implications for understanding the pathogenesis and treating KSHV-associated diseases.
Kaposi’s sarcoma (KS) is the most common cancer in men infected with HIV, and also among the most frequent malignancies in Sub-Equatorial Africa. KS is a tumor of endothelial cell origin that is caused by infection with a gamma-herpesvirus, called KS herpesvirus (KSHV) or human herpesvirus 8 (HHV-8). KSHV vFLIP is a viral oncoprotein expressed during latent infection. We report here the generation and characterization of mice expressing KSHV vFLIP in an inducible manner in endothelial cells. Transgenic mice showed: 1) systemic endothelial abnormalities, with the presence of fusiform cells reminiscent of the spindle cells found in KS, 2) development of a profound perturbation in serum cytokines, reminiscent of the cytokine storm characteristic of KSHV-associated cytokine syndrome (KICS), and 3) remodeling of myeloid differentiation with expansion of myeloid cells displaying a suppressive immunophenotype that potentially favors host immune evasion, angiogenesis and tumor progression. This is the first example of significant changes in myeloid differentiation, vascular abnormalities and cytokine perturbation entirely initiated by ectopic expression of a single viral gene, making this mouse model a useful system to dissect the mechanisms viruses use to manipulate the host microenvironment culminating in sabotage of immunity and development of vascular lesions.
Plasmodium vivax can cause severe malaria, however its pathogenesis is poorly understood. In contrast to P. falciparum, circulating vivax parasitemia is low, with minimal apparent sequestration in endothelium-lined microvasculature, and pathogenesis thought unrelated to parasite biomass. However, the relationships between vivax disease-severity and total parasite biomass, endothelial autocrine activation and microvascular dysfunction are unknown. We measured circulating parasitemia and markers of total parasite biomass (plasma parasite lactate dehydrogenase [pLDH] and PvLDH) in adults with severe (n = 9) and non-severe (n = 53) vivax malaria, and examined relationships with disease-severity, endothelial activation, and microvascular function. Healthy controls and adults with non-severe and severe falciparum malaria were enrolled for comparison. Median peripheral parasitemia, PvLDH and pLDH were 2.4-fold, 3.7-fold and 6.9-fold higher in severe compared to non-severe vivax malaria (p = 0.02, p = 0.02 and p = 0.015, respectively), suggesting that, as in falciparum malaria, peripheral P. vivax parasitemia underestimates total parasite biomass, particularly in severe disease. P. vivax schizonts were under-represented in peripheral blood. Severe vivax malaria was associated with increased angiopoietin-2 and impaired microvascular reactivity. Peripheral vivax parasitemia correlated with endothelial activation (angiopoietin-2, von-Willebrand-Factor [VWF], E-selectin), whereas markers of total vivax biomass correlated only with systemic inflammation (IL-6, IL-10). Activity of the VWF-cleaving-protease, ADAMTS13, was deficient in proportion to endothelial activation, IL-6, thrombocytopenia and vivax disease-severity, and associated with impaired microvascular reactivity in severe disease. Impaired microvascular reactivity correlated with lactate in severe vivax malaria. Findings suggest that tissue accumulation of P. vivax may occur, with the hidden biomass greatest in severe disease and capable of mediating systemic inflammatory pathology. The lack of association between total parasite biomass and endothelial activation is consistent with accumulation in parts of the circulation devoid of endothelium. Endothelial activation, associated with circulating parasites, and systemic inflammation may contribute to pathology in vivax malaria, with microvascular dysfunction likely contributing to impaired tissue perfusion.
How vivax parasites cause severe malaria is not known. In contrast to falciparum parasites, the number of vivax parasites circulating in peripheral blood is low, and there is thought to be little sequestration of parasitized red cells within endothelium-lined small blood vessels in vital organs. Total parasite burden (circulating plus hidden) and activation and dysfunction of the endothelial cells lining blood vessels all contribute to severe disease in falciparum malaria, but have not been evaluated in severe vivax malaria. We measured parasite lactate dehydrogenase (pLDH) and P. vivax-pLDH (PvLDH) as proxies of total parasite biomass and found that, as in falciparum malaria, the total biomass of vivax parasites is underestimated by counting parasites circulating in peripheral blood, suggesting a hidden burden of vivax parasites. Markers of total vivax biomass were strongly associated with illness-severity and inflammatory cytokines, suggesting that this hidden burden is capable of contributing to generalised inflammation and hence severe disease. Number of peripheral vivax parasites, but not total biomass, correlated with activation of endothelial cells, suggesting that the hidden vivax-infected red cells may accumulate in parts of organs without endothelium, such as the slow-circulation of the spleen or non-blood-vessel parts of the bone marrow. Severe vivax malaria was associated with increased endothelial activation and impaired microvascular function, suggesting that these processes also contribute to impaired blood flow and disease.
Control of virus replication in HIV-1 infection is critical to delaying disease progression. While cellular immune responses are a key determinant of control, relatively little is known about the contribution of the infecting virus to this process. To gain insight into this interplay between virus and host in viral control, we conducted a detailed analysis of two heterosexual HIV-1 subtype A transmission pairs in which female recipients sharing three HLA class I alleles exhibited contrasting clinical outcomes: R880F controlled virus replication while R463F experienced high viral loads and rapid disease progression. Near full-length single genome amplification defined the infecting transmitted/founder (T/F) virus proteome and subsequent sequence evolution over the first year of infection for both acutely infected recipients. T/F virus replicative capacities were compared in vitro, while the development of the earliest cellular immune response was defined using autologous virus sequence-based peptides. The R880F T/F virus replicated significantly slower in vitro than that transmitted to R463F. While neutralizing antibody responses were similar in both subjects, during acute infection R880F mounted a broad T cell response, the most dominant components of which targeted epitopes from which escape was limited. In contrast, the primary HIV-specific T cell response in R463F was focused on just two epitopes, one of which rapidly escaped. This comprehensive study highlights both the importance of the contribution of the lower replication capacity of the transmitted/founder virus and an associated induction of a broad primary HIV-specific T cell response, which was not undermined by rapid epitope escape, to long-term viral control in HIV-1 infection. It underscores the importance of the earliest CD8 T cell response targeting regions of the virus proteome that cannot mutate without a high fitness cost, further emphasizing the need for vaccines that elicit a breadth of T cell responses to conserved viral epitopes.
The length of time taken by HIV-1-infected individuals to develop AIDS varies widely depending on how efficiently virus replication is controlled. Although host cellular immune responses are known to play an important role in viral control, the contributions made by the infecting virus and the host antibody response to this process are less clear. To gain insight into this, we performed a detailed analysis of the interplay between the infecting virus and host immune responses in two HIV-1-infected individuals, one of whom controlled virus replication efficiently while the other did not. We found that the virus infecting the HIV-1 controller replicated much less well in culture than that infecting the progressor. The antibody responses made by both subjects were similar, but early after infection the controller mounted a T cell response targeting many sites in the virus, whilst the progressor's T cell response initially targeted only two sites, one of which rapidly mutated to avoid immune recognition. This study highlights the contribution of the replication capacity of the infecting virus and associated early induction of a broad HIV-specific T cell response, which was less readily undermined by rapid viral escape, to viral control in HIV-1 infection.