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1.  The Canadian clinician-scientist training program must be reinstated 
The Journal of Clinical Investigation  null;125(12):4317-4319.
Clinical investigators within the Canadian and international communities were shocked when the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) announced that their funding for the MD/PhD program would be terminated after the 2015–2016 academic year. The program has trained Canadian clinician-scientists for more than two decades. The cancellation of the program is at odds with the CIHR’s mandate, which stresses the translation of new knowledge into improved health for Canadians, as well as with a series of internal reports that have recommended expanding the program. Although substantial evidence supports the analogous Medical Scientist Training Program in the United States, no parallel analysis of the MD/PhD program has been performed in Canada. Here, we highlight the long-term consequences of the program’s cancellation in the context of increased emphasis on translational research. We argue that alternative funding sources cannot ensure continuous support for students in clinician-scientist training programs and that platform funding of the MD/PhD program is necessary to ensure leadership in translational research.
PMCID: PMC4665802  PMID: 26529253
2.  Memory or amnesia: the dilemma of stem cell therapy in muscular dystrophies 
The Journal of Clinical Investigation  null;125(12):4331-4333.
Muscular dystrophies are monogenetic diseases that are often characterized by the degeneration of both cardiac and skeletal muscle. Gene therapy to correct the mutated gene has shown promise in both animal models and clinical trials; however, current gene delivery strategies are limited to the introduction of the corrected gene into only one tissue. Strategies to target multiple striated muscle types would provide a much-needed improvement for the treatment of muscular dystrophies. In this issue of the JCI, Quattrocelli and colleagues demonstrate that induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) with a myogenic propensity are able to engraft into both cardiac and skeletal muscles. The authors also identified a novel pool of mesodermal iPSC–derived progenitors (MiPs). Moreover, the authors show that these MiPs are amenable to gene correction and can restore function in murine dystrophic models. Together, the results of this study provide an important advance in improving gene delivery to treat patients with muscular dystrophy.
PMCID: PMC4665769  PMID: 26571391
3.  Hirschsprung’s disease, Down syndrome, and missing heritability: too much collagen slows migration 
The Journal of Clinical Investigation  null;125(12):4323-4326.
Hirschsprung’s disease (HSCR) causes functional intestinal obstruction due to the absence of the enteric nervous system (ENS) in the distal bowel and is usually diagnosed shortly after birth or during childhood. While several genetic and nongenetic factors have been linked to HSCR, the underlying mechanisms that prevent ENS precursors from colonizing distal bowel during fetal development are not completely understood in many affected children. In this issue of the JCI, Soret and colleagues identify a new mechanism that causes HSCR-like disease in mice and involves deposition of excess collagen VI in the intestine by migrating ENS precursors as they colonize fetal bowel. Remarkably, their findings may explain some of the so-called missing heritability of HSCR and suggest a mechanism for increased HSCR incidence in children with Down syndrome (trisomy 21).
PMCID: PMC4665790  PMID: 26571392
4.  Old dog, new tricks: extracellular domain arginine methylation regulates EGFR function 
The Journal of Clinical Investigation  null;125(12):4320-4322.
Conventional wisdom holds that methylation of RTKs should be restricted to intracellular sites. Alterations — such as deletion, mutation, and proteolytic cleavage events — to the extracellular ligand binding and dimer interface domains of the EGFR can induce EGFR dimer formation, leading to aberrant receptor activation and oncogenic activity. Recently, the extracellular domain of EGFR was also shown to be methylated, suggesting that posttranslational protein methylation events directed to the extracellular dimer interface provide another mechanism to regulate the EGFR activation state by modulating receptor dimerization. Critically, these methylation events abrogate response to conformation-specific therapeutic antibodies such as cetuximab. In this issue of the JCI, Liao et al. investigate the role of protein arginine methyltransferase I (PRMT1) in regulating EGFR function in colorectal cancer. The authors provide evidence that methylation of R198 and R200 within the dimer interface enhances growth factor ligand binding and cetuximab resistance through induction and stabilization of the active EGFR dimer conformation. Delineation of these and other subtleties involved in oncogenic RTK activation and their response to targeted therapies should facilitate the development of improved antibody-based treatments.
PMCID: PMC4665791  PMID: 26571394
5.  cAMP-independent effects of GLP-1 on β cells 
The Journal of Clinical Investigation  null;125(12):4327-4330.
The ability of glucose to stimulate insulin secretion from the pancreatic islets of Langerhans is enhanced by the intestinal hormone glucagon-like peptide 1 (GLP-1), which is secreted from the gut in response to nutrient ingestion. This action, called the incretin effect, accounts for as much as half of the postprandial insulin response and is exploited therapeutically for diabetes treatment through the use of incretin mimetic drugs and inhibitors of dipeptidyl peptidase 4, which degrades GLP-1. Despite a prominent role for incretin mimetics in diabetes treatment, several key questions remain about GLP-1–induced insulin secretion. Most studies have examined the effects of GLP-1 at concentrations several orders of magnitude higher than those found in vivo; therefore, one might question the physiological (and perhaps even pharmacological) relevance of pathways identified in these studies and whether other important mechanisms might have been obscured. In this issue of the JCI, Shigeto and colleagues demonstrate that physiological GLP-1 does indeed amplify the insulin secretory response. Intriguingly, while much of this response is PKA dependent, as might be expected, the use of picomolar GLP-1 reveals a new and important mechanism that contributes to GLP-1–induced insulin secretion.
PMCID: PMC4665801  PMID: 26571393
6.  Posttranscriptional manipulation of TERC reverses molecular hallmarks of telomere disease 
The Journal of Clinical Investigation  null;126(9):3377-3382.
The telomerase RNA component (TERC) is a critical determinant of cellular self-renewal. Poly(A)-specific ribonuclease (PARN) is required for posttranscriptional maturation of TERC. PARN mutations lead to incomplete 3′ end processing and increased destruction of nascent TERC RNA transcripts, resulting in telomerase deficiency and telomere diseases. Here, we determined that overexpression of TERC increased telomere length in PARN-deficient cells and hypothesized that decreasing posttranscriptional 3′ oligo-adenylation of TERC would counteract the deleterious effects of PARN mutations. Inhibition of the noncanonical poly(A) polymerase PAP-associated domain–containing 5 (PAPD5) increased TERC levels in PARN-mutant patient cells. PAPD5 inhibition was also associated with increases in TERC stability, telomerase activity, and telomere elongation. Our results demonstrate that manipulating posttranscriptional regulatory pathways may be a potential strategy to reverse the molecular hallmarks of telomere disease.
PMCID: PMC5004950  PMID: 27482890
7.  Biallelic inactivation of REV7 is associated with Fanconi anemia 
The Journal of Clinical Investigation  null;126(9):3580-3584.
Fanconi anemia (FA) is a recessive genetic disease characterized by congenital abnormalities, chromosome instability, progressive bone marrow failure (BMF), and a strong predisposition to cancer. Twenty FA genes have been identified, and the FANC proteins they encode cooperate in a common pathway that regulates DNA crosslink repair and replication fork stability. We identified a child with severe BMF who harbored biallelic inactivating mutations of the translesion DNA synthesis (TLS) gene REV7 (also known as MAD2L2), which encodes the mutant REV7 protein REV7-V85E. Patient-derived cells demonstrated an extended FA phenotype, which included increased chromosome breaks and G2/M accumulation upon exposure to DNA crosslinking agents, γH2AX and 53BP1 foci accumulation, and enhanced p53/p21 activation relative to cells derived from healthy patients. Expression of WT REV7 restored normal cellular and functional phenotypes in the patient’s cells, and CRISPR/Cas9 inactivation of REV7 in a non-FA human cell line produced an FA phenotype. Finally, silencing Rev7 in primary hematopoietic cells impaired progenitor function, suggesting that the DNA repair defect underlies the development of BMF in FA. Taken together, our genetic and functional analyses identified REV7 as a previously undescribed FA gene, which we term FANCV.
PMCID: PMC5004932  PMID: 27500492
8.  ZEB1 drives epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition in lung cancer 
The Journal of Clinical Investigation  null;126(9):3219-3235.
Increased expression of zinc finger E-box binding homeobox 1 (ZEB1) is associated with tumor grade and metastasis in lung cancer, likely due to its role as a transcription factor in epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition (EMT). Here, we modeled malignant transformation in human bronchial epithelial cells (HBECs) and determined that EMT and ZEB1 expression are early, critical events in lung cancer pathogenesis. Specific oncogenic mutations in TP53 and KRAS were required for HBECs to engage EMT machinery in response to microenvironmental (serum/TGF-β) or oncogenetic (MYC) factors. Both TGF-β– and MYC-induced EMT required ZEB1, but engaged distinct TGF-β–dependent and vitamin D receptor–dependent (VDR-dependent) pathways, respectively. Functionally, we found that ZEB1 causally promotes malignant progression of HBECs and tumorigenicity, invasion, and metastases in non–small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) lines. Mechanistically, ZEB1 expression in HBECs directly repressed epithelial splicing regulatory protein 1 (ESRP1), leading to increased expression of a mesenchymal splice variant of CD44 and a more invasive phenotype. In addition, ZEB1 expression in early stage IB primary NSCLC correlated with tumor-node-metastasis stage. These findings indicate that ZEB1-induced EMT and associated molecular changes in ESRP1 and CD44 contribute to early pathogenesis and metastatic potential in established lung cancer. Moreover, TGF-β and VDR signaling and CD44 splicing pathways associated with ZEB1 are potential EMT chemoprevention and therapeutic targets in NSCLC.
PMCID: PMC5004933  PMID: 27500490
9.  Tie1 controls angiopoietin function in vascular remodeling and inflammation 
The Journal of Clinical Investigation  null;126(9):3495-3510.
The angiopoietin/Tie (ANG/Tie) receptor system controls developmental and tumor angiogenesis, inflammatory vascular remodeling, and vessel leakage. ANG1 is a Tie2 agonist that promotes vascular stabilization in inflammation and sepsis, whereas ANG2 is a context-dependent Tie2 agonist or antagonist. A limited understanding of ANG signaling mechanisms and the orphan receptor Tie1 has hindered development of ANG/Tie-targeted therapeutics. Here, we determined that both ANG1 and ANG2 binding to Tie2 increases Tie1-Tie2 interactions in a β1 integrin–dependent manner and that Tie1 regulates ANG-induced Tie2 trafficking in endothelial cells. Endothelial Tie1 was essential for the agonist activity of ANG1 and autocrine ANG2. Deletion of endothelial Tie1 in mice reduced Tie2 phosphorylation and downstream Akt activation, increased FOXO1 nuclear localization and transcriptional activation, and prevented ANG1- and ANG2-induced capillary-to-venous remodeling. However, in acute endotoxemia, the Tie1 ectodomain that is responsible for interaction with Tie2 was rapidly cleaved, ANG1 agonist activity was decreased, and autocrine ANG2 agonist activity was lost, which led to suppression of Tie2 signaling. Tie1 cleavage also occurred in patients with hantavirus infection. These results support a model in which Tie1 directly interacts with Tie2 to promote ANG-induced vascular responses under noninflammatory conditions, whereas in inflammation, Tie1 cleavage contributes to loss of ANG2 agonist activity and vascular stability.
PMCID: PMC5004934  PMID: 27548530
10.  Phase I trials using Sleeping Beauty to generate CD19-specific CAR T cells 
The Journal of Clinical Investigation  null;126(9):3363-3376.
BACKGROUND. T cells expressing antigen-specific chimeric antigen receptors (CARs) improve outcomes for CD19-expressing B cell malignancies. We evaluated a human application of T cells that were genetically modified using the Sleeping Beauty (SB) transposon/transposase system to express a CD19-specific CAR.
METHODS. T cells were genetically modified using DNA plasmids from the SB platform to stably express a second-generation CD19-specific CAR and selectively propagated ex vivo with activating and propagating cells (AaPCs) and cytokines. Twenty-six patients with advanced non-Hodgkin lymphoma and acute lymphoblastic leukemia safely underwent hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (HSCT) and infusion of CAR T cells as adjuvant therapy in the autologous (n = 7) or allogeneic settings (n = 19).
RESULTS. SB-mediated genetic transposition and stimulation resulted in 2,200- to 2,500-fold ex vivo expansion of genetically modified T cells, with 84% CAR expression, and without integration hotspots. Following autologous HSCT, the 30-month progression-free and overall survivals were 83% and 100%, respectively. After allogeneic HSCT, the respective 12-month rates were 53% and 63%. No acute or late toxicities and no exacerbation of graft-versus-host disease were observed. Despite a low antigen burden and unsupportive recipient cytokine environment, CAR T cells persisted for an average of 201 days for autologous recipients and 51 days for allogeneic recipients.
CONCLUSIONS. CD19-specific CAR T cells generated with SB and AaPC platforms were safe, and may provide additional cancer control as planned infusions after HSCT. These results support further clinical development of this nonviral gene therapy approach.
TRIAL REGISTRATION. Autologous, NCT00968760; allogeneic, NCT01497184; long-term follow-up, NCT01492036.
FUNDING. National Cancer Institute, private foundations, and institutional funds. Please see Acknowledgments for details.
PMCID: PMC5004935  PMID: 27482888
11.  Rationally designed BCL6 inhibitors target activated B cell diffuse large B cell lymphoma 
The Journal of Clinical Investigation  null;126(9):3351-3362.
Diffuse large B cell lymphomas (DLBCLs) arise from proliferating B cells transiting different stages of the germinal center reaction. In activated B cell DLBCLs (ABC-DLBCLs), a class of DLBCLs that respond poorly to current therapies, chromosomal translocations and amplification lead to constitutive expression of the B cell lymphoma 6 (BCL6) oncogene. The role of BCL6 in maintaining these lymphomas has not been investigated. Here, we designed small-molecule inhibitors that display higher affinity for BCL6 than its endogenous corepressor ligands to evaluate their therapeutic efficacy for targeting ABC-DLBCL. We used an in silico drug design functional-group mapping approach called SILCS to create a specific BCL6 inhibitor called FX1 that has 10-fold greater potency than endogenous corepressors and binds an essential region of the BCL6 lateral groove. FX1 disrupted formation of the BCL6 repression complex, reactivated BCL6 target genes, and mimicked the phenotype of mice engineered to express BCL6 with corepressor binding site mutations. Low doses of FX1 induced regression of established tumors in mice bearing DLBCL xenografts. Furthermore, FX1 suppressed ABC-DLBCL cells in vitro and in vivo, as well as primary human ABC-DLBCL specimens ex vivo. These findings indicate that ABC-DLBCL is a BCL6-dependent disease that can be targeted by rationally designed inhibitors that exceed the binding affinity of natural BCL6 ligands.
PMCID: PMC5004937  PMID: 27482887
12.  MondoA coordinately regulates skeletal myocyte lipid homeostasis and insulin signaling 
The Journal of Clinical Investigation  null;126(9):3567-3579.
Intramuscular lipid accumulation is a common manifestation of chronic caloric excess and obesity that is strongly associated with insulin resistance. The mechanistic links between lipid accumulation in myocytes and insulin resistance are not completely understood. In this work, we used a high-throughput chemical biology screen to identify a small-molecule probe, SBI-477, that coordinately inhibited triacylglyceride (TAG) synthesis and enhanced basal glucose uptake in human skeletal myocytes. We then determined that SBI-477 stimulated insulin signaling by deactivating the transcription factor MondoA, leading to reduced expression of the insulin pathway suppressors thioredoxin-interacting protein (TXNIP) and arrestin domain–containing 4 (ARRDC4). Depleting MondoA in myocytes reproduced the effects of SBI-477 on glucose uptake and myocyte lipid accumulation. Furthermore, an analog of SBI-477 suppressed TXNIP expression, reduced muscle and liver TAG levels, enhanced insulin signaling, and improved glucose tolerance in mice fed a high-fat diet. These results identify a key role for MondoA-directed programs in the coordinated control of myocyte lipid balance and insulin signaling and suggest that this pathway may have potential as a therapeutic target for insulin resistance and lipotoxicity.
PMCID: PMC5004938  PMID: 27500491
13.  A liver stress-endocrine nexus promotes metabolic integrity during dietary protein dilution 
The Journal of Clinical Investigation  null;126(9):3263-3278.
Dietary protein intake is linked to an increased incidence of type 2 diabetes (T2D). Although dietary protein dilution (DPD) can slow the progression of some aging-related disorders, whether this strategy affects the development and risk for obesity-associated metabolic disease such as T2D is unclear. Here, we determined that DPD in mice and humans increases serum markers of metabolic health. In lean mice, DPD promoted metabolic inefficiency by increasing carbohydrate and fat oxidation. In nutritional and polygenic murine models of obesity, DPD prevented and curtailed the development of impaired glucose homeostasis independently of obesity and food intake. DPD-mediated metabolic inefficiency and improvement of glucose homeostasis were independent of uncoupling protein 1 (UCP1), but required expression of liver-derived fibroblast growth factor 21 (FGF21) in both lean and obese mice. FGF21 expression and secretion as well as the associated metabolic remodeling induced by DPD also required induction of liver-integrated stress response–driven nuclear protein 1 (NUPR1). Insufficiency of select nonessential amino acids (NEAAs) was necessary and adequate for NUPR1 and subsequent FGF21 induction and secretion in hepatocytes in vitro and in vivo. Taken together, these data indicate that DPD promotes improved glucose homeostasis through an NEAA insufficiency–induced liver NUPR1/FGF21 axis.
PMCID: PMC5004939  PMID: 27548521
14.  Local TNF causes NFATc1-dependent cholesterol-mediated podocyte injury 
The Journal of Clinical Investigation  null;126(9):3336-3350.
High levels of circulating TNF and its receptors, TNFR1 and TNFR2, predict the progression of diabetic kidney disease (DKD), but their contribution to organ damage in DKD remains largely unknown. Here, we investigated the function of local and systemic TNF in podocyte injury. We cultured human podocytes with sera collected from DKD patients, who displayed elevated TNF levels, and focal segmental glomerulosclerosis (FSGS) patients, whose TNF levels resembled those of healthy patients. Exogenous TNF administration or local TNF expression was equally sufficient to cause free cholesterol–dependent apoptosis in podocytes by acting through a dual mechanism that required a reduction in ATP-binding cassette transporter A1–mediated (ABCA1-mediated) cholesterol efflux and reduced cholesterol esterification by sterol-O-acyltransferase 1 (SOAT1). TNF-induced albuminuria was aggravated in mice with podocyte-specific ABCA1 deficiency and was partially prevented by cholesterol depletion with cyclodextrin. TNF-stimulated free cholesterol–dependent apoptosis in podocytes was mediated by nuclear factor of activated T cells 1 (NFATc1). ABCA1 overexpression or cholesterol depletion was sufficient to reduce albuminuria in mice with podocyte-specific NFATc1 activation. Our data implicate an NFATc1/ABCA1-dependent mechanism in which local TNF is sufficient to cause free cholesterol–dependent podocyte injury irrespective of TNF, TNFR1, or TNFR2 serum levels.
PMCID: PMC5004940  PMID: 27482889
15.  A colitogenic memory CD4+ T cell population mediates gastrointestinal graft-versus-host disease 
The Journal of Clinical Investigation  null;126(9):3541-3555.
Damage to the gastrointestinal tract is a major cause of morbidity and mortality in graft-versus-host disease (GVHD) and is attributable to T cell–mediated inflammation. In this work, we identified a unique CD4+ T cell population that constitutively expresses the β2 integrin CD11c and displays a biased central memory phenotype and memory T cell transcriptional profile, innate-like properties, and increased expression of the gut-homing molecules α4β7 and CCR9. Using several complementary murine GVHD models, we determined that adoptive transfer and early accumulation of β2 integrin–expressing CD4+ T cells in the gastrointestinal tract initiated Th1-mediated proinflammatory cytokine production, augmented pathological damage in the colon, and increased mortality. The pathogenic effect of this CD4+ T cell population critically depended on coexpression of the IL-23 receptor, which was required for maximal inflammatory effects. Non–Foxp3-expressing CD4+ T cells produced IL-10, which regulated colonic inflammation and attenuated lethality in the absence of functional CD4+Foxp3+ T cells. Thus, the coordinate expression of CD11c and the IL-23 receptor defines an IL-10–regulated, colitogenic memory CD4+ T cell subset that is poised to initiate inflammation when there is loss of tolerance and breakdown of mucosal barriers.
PMCID: PMC5004941  PMID: 27500496
16.  PIK3C2B inhibition improves function and prolongs survival in myotubular myopathy animal models 
The Journal of Clinical Investigation  null;126(9):3613-3625.
Myotubular myopathy (MTM) is a devastating pediatric neuromuscular disorder of phosphoinositide (PIP) metabolism resulting from mutations of the PIP phosphatase MTM1 for which there are no treatments. We have previously shown phosphatidylinositol-3-phosphate (PI3P) accumulation in animal models of MTM. Here, we tested the hypothesis that lowering PI3P levels may prevent or reverse the MTM disease process. To test this, we targeted class II and III PI3 kinases (PI3Ks) in an MTM1-deficient mouse model. Muscle-specific ablation of Pik3c2b, but not Pik3c3, resulted in complete prevention of the MTM phenotype, and postsymptomatic targeting promoted a striking rescue of disease. We confirmed this genetic interaction in zebrafish, and additionally showed that certain PI3K inhibitors prevented development of the zebrafish mtm phenotype. Finally, the PI3K inhibitor wortmannin improved motor function and prolonged lifespan of the Mtm1-deficient mice. In all, we have identified Pik3c2b as a genetic modifier of Mtm1 mutation and demonstrated that PIK3C2B inhibition is a potential treatment strategy for MTM. In addition, we set the groundwork for similar reciprocal inhibition approaches for treating other PIP metabolic disorders and highlight the importance of modifier gene pathways as therapeutic targets.
PMCID: PMC5004942  PMID: 27548528
17.  Vascular stiffness mechanoactivates YAP/TAZ-dependent glutaminolysis to drive pulmonary hypertension 
The Journal of Clinical Investigation  null;126(9):3313-3335.
Dysregulation of vascular stiffness and cellular metabolism occurs early in pulmonary hypertension (PH). However, the mechanisms by which biophysical properties of the vascular extracellular matrix (ECM) relate to metabolic processes important in PH remain undefined. In this work, we examined cultured pulmonary vascular cells and various types of PH-diseased lung tissue and determined that ECM stiffening resulted in mechanoactivation of the transcriptional coactivators YAP and TAZ (WWTR1). YAP/TAZ activation modulated metabolic enzymes, including glutaminase (GLS1), to coordinate glutaminolysis and glycolysis. Glutaminolysis, an anaplerotic pathway, replenished aspartate for anabolic biosynthesis, which was critical for sustaining proliferation and migration within stiff ECM. In vitro, GLS1 inhibition blocked aspartate production and reprogrammed cellular proliferation pathways, while application of aspartate restored proliferation. In the monocrotaline rat model of PH, pharmacologic modulation of pulmonary vascular stiffness and YAP-dependent mechanotransduction altered glutaminolysis, pulmonary vascular proliferation, and manifestations of PH. Additionally, pharmacologic targeting of GLS1 in this model ameliorated disease progression. Notably, evaluation of simian immunodeficiency virus–infected nonhuman primates and HIV-infected subjects revealed a correlation between YAP/TAZ–GLS activation and PH. These results indicate that ECM stiffening sustains vascular cell growth and migration through YAP/TAZ-dependent glutaminolysis and anaplerosis, and thereby link mechanical stimuli to dysregulated vascular metabolism. Furthermore, this study identifies potential metabolic drug targets for therapeutic development in PH.
PMCID: PMC5004943  PMID: 27548520
18.  EGFR regulates macrophage activation and function in bacterial infection 
The Journal of Clinical Investigation  null;126(9):3296-3312.
EGFR signaling regulates macrophage function, but its role in bacterial infection has not been investigated. Here, we assessed the role of macrophage EGFR signaling during infection with Helicobacter pylori, a bacterial pathogen that causes persistent inflammation and gastric cancer. EGFR was phosphorylated in murine and human macrophages during H. pylori infection. In human gastric tissues, elevated levels of phosphorylated EGFR were observed throughout the histologic cascade from gastritis to carcinoma. Deleting Egfr in myeloid cells attenuated gastritis and increased H. pylori burden in infected mice. EGFR deficiency also led to a global defect in macrophage activation that was associated with decreased cytokine, chemokine, and NO production. We observed similar alterations in macrophage activation and disease phenotype in the Citrobacter rodentium model of murine infectious colitis. Mechanistically, EGFR signaling activated NF-κB and MAPK1/3 pathways to induce cytokine production and macrophage activation. Although deletion of Egfr had no effect on DC function, EGFR-deficient macrophages displayed impaired Th1 and Th17 adaptive immune responses to H. pylori, which contributed to decreased chronic inflammation in infected mice. Together, these results indicate that EGFR signaling is central to macrophage function in response to enteric bacterial pathogens and is a potential therapeutic target for infection-induced inflammation and associated carcinogenesis.
PMCID: PMC5004944  PMID: 27482886
19.  Recurrent EZH1 mutations are a second hit in autonomous thyroid adenomas 
The Journal of Clinical Investigation  null;126(9):3383-3388.
Autonomous thyroid adenomas (ATAs) are a frequent cause of hyperthyroidism. Mutations in the genes encoding the TSH receptor (TSHR) or the Gs protein α subunit (GNAS) are found in approximately 70% of ATAs. The involvement of other genes and the pathogenesis of the remaining cases are presently unknown. Here, we performed whole-exome sequencing in 19 ATAs that were paired with normal DNA samples and identified a recurrent hot-spot mutation (c.1712A>G; p.Gln571Arg) in the enhancer of zeste homolog 1 (EZH1) gene, which codes for a catalytic subunit of the polycomb complex. Targeted screening in an independent cohort confirmed that this mutation occurs with high frequency (27%) in ATAs. EZH1 mutations were strongly associated with known (TSHR, GNAS) or presumed (adenylate cyclase 9 [ADCY9]) alterations in cAMP pathway genes. Furthermore, functional studies revealed that the p.Gln571Arg EZH1 mutation caused increased histone H3 trimethylation and increased proliferation of thyroid cells. In summary, this study revealed that a hot-spot mutation in EZH1 is the second most frequent genetic alteration in ATAs. The association between EZH1 and TSHR mutations suggests a 2-hit model for the pathogenesis of these tumors, whereby constitutive activation of the cAMP pathway and EZH1 mutations cooperate to induce the hyperproliferation of thyroid cells.
PMCID: PMC5004945  PMID: 27500488
20.  BET bromodomain inhibition enhances T cell persistence and function in adoptive immunotherapy models 
The Journal of Clinical Investigation  null;126(9):3479-3494.
Adoptive immunotherapy is a potentially curative therapeutic approach for patients with advanced cancer. However, the in vitro expansion of antitumor T cells prior to infusion inevitably incurs differentiation towards effector T cells and impairs persistence following adoptive transfer. Epigenetic profiles regulate gene expression of key transcription factors over the course of immune cell differentiation, proliferation, and function. Using comprehensive screening of chemical probes with defined epigenetic targets, we found that JQ1, an inhibitor of bromodomain and extra-terminal motif (BET) proteins, maintained CD8+ T cells with functional properties of stem cell–like and central memory T cells. Mechanistically, the BET protein BRD4 directly regulated expression of the transcription factor BATF in CD8+ T cells, which was associated with differentiation of T cells into an effector memory phenotype. JQ1-treated T cells showed enhanced persistence and antitumor effects in murine T cell receptor and chimeric antigen receptor gene therapy models. Furthermore, we found that histone acetyltransferase p300 supported the recruitment of BRD4 to the BATF promoter region, and p300 inhibition similarly augmented antitumor effects of the adoptively transferred T cells. These results demonstrate that targeting the BRD4-p300 signaling cascade supports the generation of superior antitumor T cell grafts for adoptive immunotherapy.
PMCID: PMC5004946  PMID: 27548527
21.  Mechanistically distinct cancer-associated mTOR activation clusters predict sensitivity to rapamycin 
The Journal of Clinical Investigation  null;126(9):3526-3540.
Genomic studies have linked mTORC1 pathway–activating mutations with exceptional response to treatment with allosteric inhibitors of mTORC1 called rapalogs. Rapalogs are approved for selected cancer types, including kidney and breast cancers. Here, we used sequencing data from 22 human kidney cancer cases to identify the activating mechanisms conferred by mTOR mutations observed in human cancers and advance precision therapeutics. mTOR mutations that clustered in focal adhesion kinase targeting domain (FAT) and kinase domains enhanced mTORC1 kinase activity, decreased nutrient reliance, and increased cell size. We identified 3 distinct mechanisms of hyperactivation, including reduced binding to DEP domain–containing MTOR-interacting protein (DEPTOR), resistance to regulatory associated protein of mTOR–mediated (RAPTOR-mediated) suppression, and altered kinase kinetics. Of the 28 mTOR double mutants, activating mutations could be divided into 6 complementation groups, resulting in synergistic Rag- and Ras homolog enriched in brain–independent (RHEB-independent) mTORC1 activation. mTOR mutants were resistant to DNA damage–inducible transcript 1–mediated (REDD1-mediated) inhibition, confirming that activating mutations can bypass the negative feedback pathway formed between HIF1 and mTORC1 in the absence of von Hippel–Lindau (VHL) tumor suppressor expression. Moreover, VHL-deficient cells that expressed activating mTOR mutants grew tumors that were sensitive to rapamycin treatment. These data may explain the high incidence of mTOR mutations observed in clear cell kidney cancer, where VHL loss and HIF activation is pathognomonic. Our study provides mechanistic and therapeutic insights concerning mTOR mutations in human diseases.
PMCID: PMC5004947  PMID: 27482884
22.  BRPF1 is essential for development of fetal hematopoietic stem cells 
The Journal of Clinical Investigation  null;126(9):3247-3262.
Hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs) serve as a life-long reservoir for all blood cell types and are clinically useful for a variety of HSC transplantation-based therapies. Understanding the role of chromatin organization and regulation in HSC homeostasis may provide important insights into HSC development. Bromodomain- and PHD finger–containing protein 1 (BRPF1) is a multivalent chromatin regulator that possesses 4 nucleosome-binding domains and activates 3 lysine acetyltransferases (KAT6A, KAT6B, and KAT7), suggesting that this protein has the potential to stimulate crosstalk between different chromatin modifications. Here, we investigated the function of BRPF1 in hematopoiesis by selectively deleting its gene in murine blood cells. Brpf1-deficient pups experienced early lethality due to acute bone marrow failure and aplastic anemia. The mutant bone marrow and fetal liver exhibited severe deficiency in HSCs and hematopoietic progenitors, along with elevated reactive oxygen species, senescence, and apoptosis. BRPF1 deficiency also reduced the expression of multipotency genes, including Slamf1, Mecom, Hoxa9, Hlf, Gfi1, Egr, and Gata3. Furthermore, BRPF1 was required for acetylation of histone H3 at lysine 23, a highly abundant but not well-characterized epigenetic mark. These results identify an essential role of the multivalent chromatin regulator BRPF1 in definitive hematopoiesis and illuminate a potentially new avenue for studying epigenetic networks that govern HSC ontogeny.
PMCID: PMC5004949  PMID: 27500495
23.  Loss of ABCG1 influences regulatory T cell differentiation and atherosclerosis 
The Journal of Clinical Investigation  null;126(9):3236-3246.
ATP-binding cassette transporter G1 (ABCG1) promotes cholesterol accumulation and alters T cell homeostasis, which may contribute to progression of atherosclerosis. Here, we investigated how the selective loss of ABCG1 in T cells impacts atherosclerosis in LDL receptor–deficient (LDLR-deficient) mice, a model of the disease. In LDLR-deficient mice fed a high-cholesterol diet, T cell–specific ABCG1 deficiency protected against atherosclerotic lesions. Furthermore, T cell–specific ABCG1 deficiency led to a 30% increase in Treg percentages in aorta and aorta-draining lymph nodes (LNs) of these mice compared with animals with only LDLR deficiency. When Abcg1 was selectively deleted in Tregs of LDLR-deficient mice, we observed a 30% increase in Treg percentages in aorta and aorta-draining LNs and reduced atherosclerosis. In the absence of ABCG1, intracellular cholesterol accumulation led to downregulation of the mTOR pathway, which increased the differentiation of naive CD4 T cells into Tregs. The increase in Tregs resulted in reduced T cell activation and increased IL-10 production by T cells. Last, we found that higher ABCG1 expression in Tregs was associated with a higher frequency of these cells in human blood samples. Our study indicates that ABCG1 regulates T cell differentiation into Tregs, highlighting a pathway by which cholesterol accumulation can influence T cell homeostasis in atherosclerosis.
PMCID: PMC5004951  PMID: 27482882
24.  Opposing actions of angiopoietin-2 on Tie2 signaling and FOXO1 activation 
The Journal of Clinical Investigation  null;126(9):3511-3525.
Angiopoietin-2 (ANG2) regulates blood vessel remodeling in many pathological conditions through differential effects on Tie2 signaling. While ANG2 competes with ANG1 to inhibit Tie2, it can paradoxically also promote Tie2 phosphorylation (p-Tie2). A related paradox is that both inactivation and overactivation of Tie2 can result in vascular remodeling. Here, we reconciled these opposing actions of ANG2 by manipulating conditions that govern its actions in the vasculature. ANG2 drove vascular remodeling during Mycoplasma pulmonis infection by acting as a Tie2 antagonist, which led to p-Tie2 suppression, forkhead box O1 (FOXO1) activation, increased ANG2 expression, and vessel leakiness. These changes were exaggerated by anti-Tie2 antibody, inhibition of PI3K signaling, or ANG2 overexpression and were reduced by anti-ANG2 antibody or exogenous ANG1. In contrast, under pathogen-free conditions, ANG2 drove vascular remodeling by acting as an agonist, promoting high p-Tie2, low FOXO1 activation, and no leakage. Tie1 activation was strong under pathogen-free conditions, but infection or TNF-α led to Tie1 inactivation by ectodomain cleavage and promoted the Tie2 antagonist action of ANG2. Together, these data indicate that ANG2 activation of Tie2 supports stable enlargement of normal nonleaky vessels, but reduction of Tie1 in inflammation leads to ANG2 antagonism of Tie2 and initiates a positive feedback loop wherein FOXO1-driven ANG2 expression promotes vascular remodeling and leakage.
PMCID: PMC5004955  PMID: 27548529
25.  Insulin and IGF-1 receptors regulate FoxO-mediated signaling in muscle proteostasis 
The Journal of Clinical Investigation  null;126(9):3433-3446.
Diabetes strongly impacts protein metabolism, particularly in skeletal muscle. Insulin and IGF-1 enhance muscle protein synthesis through their receptors, but the relative roles of each in muscle proteostasis have not been fully elucidated. Using mice with muscle-specific deletion of the insulin receptor (M-IR–/– mice), the IGF-1 receptor (M-IGF1R–/– mice), or both (MIGIRKO mice), we assessed the relative contributions of IR and IGF1R signaling to muscle proteostasis. In differentiated muscle, IR expression predominated over IGF1R expression, and correspondingly, M-IR–/– mice displayed a moderate reduction in muscle mass whereas M-IGF1R–/– mice did not. However, these receptors serve complementary roles, such that double-knockout MIGIRKO mice displayed a marked reduction in muscle mass that was linked to increases in proteasomal and autophagy-lysosomal degradation, accompanied by a high-protein-turnover state. Combined muscle-specific deletion of FoxO1, FoxO3, and FoxO4 in MIGIRKO mice reversed increased autophagy and completely rescued muscle mass without changing proteasomal activity. These data indicate that signaling via IR is more important than IGF1R in controlling proteostasis in differentiated muscle. Nonetheless, the overlap of IR and IGF1R signaling is critical to the regulation of muscle protein turnover, and this regulation depends on suppression of FoxO-regulated, autophagy-mediated protein degradation.
PMCID: PMC5004956  PMID: 27525440

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