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1.  Targeting of Human Antigen-Presenting Cell Subsets 
Journal of Virology  2013;87(20):11304-11308.
Antigen-presenting cells are a heterogeneous group of cells that are characterized by their functional specialization. Consequently, targeting specific antigen-presenting cell subsets offers opportunities to induce distinct T cell responses. Here we report on the generation and use of nanobodies (Nbs) to target lentivectors specifically to human lymph node-resident myeloid dendritic cells, demonstrating that Nbs represent a powerful tool to redirect lentivectors to human antigen-presenting cell subsets.
PMCID: PMC3807283  PMID: 23864630
2.  Design of an Optimized Wilms' Tumor 1 (WT1) mRNA Construct for Enhanced WT1 Expression and Improved Immunogenicity In Vitro and In Vivo 
Tumor antigen–encoding mRNA for dendritic cell (DC)-based vaccination has gained increasing popularity in recent years. Within this context, two main strategies have entered the clinical trial stage: the use of mRNA for ex vivo antigen loading of DCs and the direct application of mRNA as a source of antigen for DCs in vivo. DCs transfected with mRNA-encoding Wilms' tumor 1 (WT1) protein have shown promising clinical results. Using a stepwise approach, we re-engineered a WT1 cDNA-carrying transcription vector to improve the translational characteristics and immunogenicity of the transcribed mRNA. Different modifications were performed: (i) the WT1 sequence was flanked by the lysosomal targeting sequence of dendritic cell lysosomal-associated membrane protein to enhance cytoplasmic expression; (ii) the nuclear localization sequence (NLS) of WT1 was deleted to promote shuttling from the nucleus to the cytoplasm; (iii) the WT1 DNA sequence was optimized in silico to improve translational efficiency; and (iv) this WT1 sequence was cloned into an optimized RNA transcription vector. DCs electroporated with this optimized mRNA showed an improved ability to stimulate WT1-specific T-cell immunity. Furthermore, in a murine model, we were able to show the safety, immunogenicity, and therapeutic activity of this optimized mRNA. This work is relevant for the future development of improved mRNA-based vaccine strategies K.
PMCID: PMC3889186  PMID: 24253259
3.  Expansion of Polyfunctional HIV-Specific T Cells upon Stimulation with mRNA Electroporated Dendritic Cells in the Presence of Immunomodulatory Drugs 
Journal of Virology  2012;86(17):9351-9360.
Recently, it has been demonstrated that disease progression during HIV infection is not determined merely by the number of HIV-specific T cells but also by their quality (J. R. Almeida, et al., J. Exp. Med. 204:2473–2485, 2007; C. T. Berger, et al., J. Virol. 85:9334–9345, 2011; M. R. Betts, et al., Blood 107:4781–4789, 2006; V. V. Ganusov, et al., J. Virol. 85:10518–10528, 2011; P. Kiepiela, et al., Nat. Med. 13:46–53, 2007; and F. Pereyra, et al., J. Infect. Dis. 197:563–571, 2008). Therefore, strategies to specifically enhance or induce high-quality, HIV-specific T-cell responses are necessary to develop effective immune therapies. Thalidomide, lenalidomide, and pomalidomide have a strong capacity to boost immune responses and are therefore referred to as immunomodulatory drugs (IMiDs). We evaluated the effects of lenalidomide and pomalidomide on HIV-specific T cells. We found that the presence of IMiDs during in vitro T-cell stimulation with dendritic cells electroporated with Gag- or Nef-encoding mRNA resulted in higher numbers of cytokine-secreting HIV-specific CD8+ T cells, particularly inducing polyfunctional HIV-specific CD8+ T cells with an enhanced lytic capacity. Furthermore, CD8+ T-cell responses were detected upon stimulation with lower antigenic peptide concentrations, and a higher number of Gag epitopes was recognized upon addition of IMiDs. Finally, IMiDs reduced the proliferation of the HIV-specific CD4+ T cells while increasing the number of polyfunctional CD4+ T cells. These results provide new information about the effects of IMiDs on antigen-specific T cells and suggest that these drugs increase the efficacy of immune therapies for infectious diseases and cancer.
PMCID: PMC3416114  PMID: 22718823
4.  mRNA 
Two decades ago, mRNA became the focus of research in molecular medicine and was proposed as an active pharmaceutical ingredient for the therapy of cancer. In this regard, mRNA has been mainly used for ex vivo modification of antigen-presenting cells (APCs), such as dendritic cells (DCs). This vaccination strategy has proven to be safe, well tolerated and capable of inducing tumor antigen-specific immune responses. Recently, the direct application of mRNA for in situ modification of APCs, hence immunization was shown to be feasible and at least as effective as DC-based immunization in pre-clinical models. It is believed that application of mRNA as an off-the-shelf vaccine represents an important step in the development of future cancer immunotherapeutic strategies. Here, we will discuss the use of ex vivo mRNA-modified DCs and “naked mRNA” for cancer immunotherapy focusing on parameters such as the employed DC subtype, DC activation stimulus and route of immunization. In addition, we will provide an overview on the clinical trials published so far, trying to link their outcome to the aforementioned parameters.
PMCID: PMC3859745  PMID: 23291946
mRNA; dendritic cell; immunotherapy; cancer
5.  Characterization of CD8+ T-Cell Responses in the Peripheral Blood and Skin Injection Sites of Melanoma Patients Treated with mRNA Electroporated Autologous Dendritic Cells (TriMixDC-MEL) 
BioMed Research International  2013;2013:976383.
Treatment of melanoma patients with mRNA electroporated dendritic cells (TriMixDC-MEL) stimulates T-cell responses against the presented tumor-associated antigens (TAAs). In the current clinical trials, melanoma patients with systemic metastases are treated, requiring priming and/or expansion of preexisting TAA-specific T cells that are able to migrate to both the skin and internal organs. We monitored the presence of TAA-specific CD8+ T cells infiltrating the skin at sites of intradermal TriMixDC-MEL injection (SKILs) and within the circulation of melanoma patients treated in two clinical trials. In 10 out of fourteen (71%) patients screened, CD8+ T cells recognizing any of the four TAA presented by TriMixDC-MEL cellular vaccine were found in both compartments. In total, 30 TAA-specific T-cell responses were detected among the SKILs and 29 among peripheral blood T cells, of which 24 in common. A detailed characterization of the antigen specificity of CD8+ T-cell populations in four patients indicates that the majority of the epitopes detected were only recognized by CD8+ T cells derived from either skin biopsies or peripheral blood, indicating that some compartmentalization occurs after TriMix-DC therapy. To conclude, functional TAA-specific CD8+ T cells distribute both to the skin and peripheral blood of patients after TriMixDC-MEL therapy.
PMCID: PMC3581259  PMID: 23509826
6.  Overcoming HLA restriction in clinical trials 
Oncoimmunology  2012;1(8):1392-1394.
A decade of collective work by tumor immunologists has led to improved large scale generation, maturation, antigen loading and administration of dendritic cells (DCs) to cancer patients, promoting enhanced antitumor activity. We alleviated the HLA-restriction in DC therapy and demonstrated that it is meaningful to treat patients with DCs irrespective of their HLA type.
PMCID: PMC3518513  PMID: 23243604
DC-therapy; dendritic cells; HLA restriction; immune monitoring; skin infiltrating lymphocytes
7.  The role of SMAC mimetics in regulation of tumor cell death and immunity 
Oncoimmunology  2012;1(6):965-967.
Mimetics of second mitochondria-derived activator of caspases (SMAC) enhance tumor cell death in a variety of cancers. Several molecular mechanisms of action have been identified. However, it was only recently that the modus of action was linked to stimulation of anti-tumor immunity. Here we comment on these findings, highlighting several remaining questions.
PMCID: PMC3489761  PMID: 23162773
SMAC; lentiviral vector; dendritic cell; T cell; cancer
8.  Detailed Kinetics of the Direct Allo-Response in Human Liver Transplant Recipients: New Insights from an Optimized Assay 
PLoS ONE  2010;5(12):e14452.
Conventional assays for quantification of allo-reactive T-cell precursor frequencies (PF) are relatively insensitive. We present a robust assay for quantification of PF of T-cells with direct donor-specificity, and establish the kinetics of circulating donor-specific T cells after liver transplantation (LTx). B cells from donor splenocytes were differentiated into professional antigen-presenting cells by CD40-engagement (CD40-B cells). CFSE-labelled PBMC from LTx-recipients obtained before and at several time points after LTx, were stimulated with donor-derived or 3rd party CD40-B cells. PF of donor-specific T cells were calculated from CFSE-dilution patterns, and intracellular IFN-γ was determined after re-stimulation with CD40-B cells. Compared to splenocytes, stimulations with CD40-B cells resulted in 3 to 5-fold higher responding T-cell PF. Memory and naïve T-cell subsets responded equally to allogeneic CD40-B cell stimulation. Donor-specific CD4+ and CD8+ T-cell PF ranged from 0.5 to 19% (median: 5.2%). One week after LTx, PF of circulating donor-specific CD4+ and CD8+ T cells increased significantly, while only a minor increase in numbers of T cells reacting to 3rd party allo-antigens was observed. One year after LTx numbers of CD4+ and CD8+ T cells reacting to donor antigens, as well as those reacting to 3rd party allo-antigens, were slightly lower compared to pre-transplant values. Moreover, CD4+ and CD8+ T cells responding to donor-derived, as well as those reacting to 3rd party CD40-B cells, produced less IFN-γ. In conclusion, our alternative approach enables detection of allo-reactive human T cells at high frequencies, and after application we conclude that donor-specific T-cell PF increase immediately after LTx. However, no evidence for a specific loss of circulating T-cells recognizing donor allo-antigens via the direct pathway up to 1 year after LTx was obtained, underscoring the relative insensitiveness of previous assays.
PMCID: PMC3012075  PMID: 21206923
9.  Tissue-targeted therapy of autoimmune diabetes using dendritic cells transduced to express IL-4 in NOD mice 
Clinical immunology (Orlando, Fla.)  2008;127(2):176-187.
A deficit in IL-4 production has been previously reported in both diabetic human patients and non-obese diabetic (NOD) mice. In addition, re-introducing IL-4 into NOD mice systemically, or as a transgene, led to a beneficial outcome in most studies. Here, we show that prediabetic, 12-wk old female NOD mice have a deficit in IL-4 expression in the pancreatic lymph nodes (PLN) compared to age-matched diabetes-resistant NOD.B10 mice. By bioluminescence imaging, we demonstrated that the PLN was preferentially targeted by bone marrow-derived dendritic cells (DCs) following intravenous (IV) administration. Following IV injection of DCs transduced to express IL-4 (DC/IL-4) into 12-wk old NOD mice, it was possible to significantly delay or prevent the onset of hyperglycemia. We then focused on the PLN to monitor, by microarray analysis, changes in gene expression induced by DC/IL-4 and observed a rapid normalization of the expression of many genes, that were otherwise under-expressed compared to NOD.B10 PLN. The protective effect of DC/IL-4 required both MHC and IL-4 expression by the DCs. Thus, adoptive cellular therapy, using DCs modified to express IL-4, offers an effective, tissue-targeted cellular therapy to prevent diabetes in NOD mice at an advanced stage of pre-diabetes, and may offer a safe approach to consider for treatment of high risk human pre-diabetic patients.
PMCID: PMC2453076  PMID: 18337172
10.  Clearance of influenza virus from the lung depends on migratory langerin+CD11b− but not plasmacytoid dendritic cells 
The Journal of Experimental Medicine  2008;205(7):1621-1634.
Although dendritic cells (DCs) play an important role in mediating protection against influenza virus, the precise role of lung DC subsets, such as CD11b− and CD11b+ conventional DCs or plasmacytoid DCs (pDCs), in different lung compartments is currently unknown. Early after intranasal infection, tracheal CD11b−CD11chi DCs migrated to the mediastinal lymph nodes (MLNs), acquiring co-stimulatory molecules in the process. This emigration from the lung was followed by an accumulation of CD11b+CD11chi DCs in the trachea and lung interstitium. In the MLNs, the CD11b+ DCs contained abundant viral nucleoprotein (NP), but these cells failed to present antigen to CD4 or CD8 T cells, whereas resident CD11b−CD8α+ DCs presented to CD8 cells, and migratory CD11b−CD8α− DCs presented to CD4 and CD8 T cells. When lung CD11chi DCs and macrophages or langerin+CD11b−CD11chi DCs were depleted using either CD11c–diphtheria toxin receptor (DTR) or langerin-DTR mice, the development of virus-specific CD8+ T cells was severely delayed, which correlated with increased clinical severity and a delayed viral clearance. 120G8+ CD11cint pDCs also accumulated in the lung and LNs carrying viral NP, but in their absence, there was no effect on viral clearance or clinical severity. Rather, in pDC-depleted mice, there was a reduction in antiviral antibody production after lung clearance of the virus. This suggests that multiple DCs are endowed with different tasks in mediating protection against influenza virus.
PMCID: PMC2442640  PMID: 18591406
11.  Novel mode of action of c-kit tyrosine kinase inhibitors leading to NK cell–dependent antitumor effects 
Journal of Clinical Investigation  2004;114(3):379-388.
Mutant isoforms of the KIT or PDGF receptors expressed by gastrointestinal stromal tumors (GISTs) are considered the therapeutic targets for STI571 (imatinib mesylate; Gleevec), a specific inhibitor of these tyrosine kinase receptors. Case reports of clinical efficacy of Gleevec in GISTs lacking the typical receptor mutations prompted a search for an alternate mode of action. Here we show that Gleevec can act on host DCs to promote NK cell activation. DC-mediated NK cell activation was triggered in vitro and in vivo by treatment of DCs with Gleevec as well as by a loss-of-function mutation of KIT. Therefore, tumors that are refractory to the antiproliferative effects of Gleevec in vitro responded to Gleevec in vivo in an NK cell–dependent manner. Longitudinal studies of Gleevec-treated GIST patients revealed a therapy-induced increase in IFN-γ production by NK cells, correlating with an enhanced antitumor response. These data point to a novel mode of antitumor action for Gleevec.
PMCID: PMC489961  PMID: 15286804
12.  B Lymphocytes Regulate Dendritic Cell (Dc) Function in Vivo 
Increasing evidence indicates that dendritic cells (DCs) are the antigen-presenting cells of the primary immune response. However, several reports suggest that B lymphocytes could be required for optimal T cell sensitization. We compared the immune responses of wild-type and B cell-deficient (μMT) mice, induced by antigen emulsified in adjuvant or pulsed on splenic dendritic cells. Our data show that lymph node cells from both control and μMT animals were primed, but each released distinct cytokine profiles. Lymph node T cells from control animals secreted interferon (IFN)-γ, interleukin (IL)-2, and IL-4, whereas those from μMT mice produced IFN-γ and IL-2 but no IL-4. To test whether B cells may influence the T helper cell type 1 (Th1)/Th2 balance by affecting the function of DCs, we immunized mice by transferring antigen-pulsed DCs from wild-type or mutant mice. Injection of control DCs induced the secretion of IL-4, IFN-γ, and IL-2, whereas administration of DCs from μMT animals failed to sensitize cells to produce IL-4. Analysis of IL-12 production revealed that DCs from μMT mice produce higher levels of IL-12p70 than do DCs from wild-type animals. These data suggest that B lymphocytes regulate the capacity of DCs to promote IL-4 secretion, possibly by downregulating their secretion of IL-12, thereby favoring the induction of a nonpolarized immune response.
PMCID: PMC2193241  PMID: 10952717
T helper cell type 1/type 2 balance; primary response; interleukin 4; interleukin 10; dendritic–B cell interaction
13.  Myeloid dendritic cells induce Th2 responses to inhaled antigen, leading to eosinophilic airway inflammation 
Journal of Clinical Investigation  2000;106(4):551-559.
The aim of this study was to investigate whether dendritic cells (DCs) can induce sensitization to aeroallergen in a mouse model of allergic asthma. Ovalbumin-pulsed (OVA-pulsed) or unpulsed myeloid DCs that were injected into the airways of naive mice migrated into the mediastinal lymph nodes. When challenged 2 weeks later with an aerosol of OVA, activated CD4 and CD8 lymphocytes, eosinophils, and neutrophils were recruited to the lungs of actively immunized mice. These CD4+ lymphocytes produced predominantly IL-4 and IL-5 but also IFN-γ, whereas CD8+ lymphocytes produced predominantly IFN-γ. Histological analysis revealed perivascular and peribronchial eosinophilic infiltrates and goblet cell hyperplasia. Studies in IL-4–/– and CD28–/– mice revealed that production of IL-4 by host cells and provision of costimulation to T cells by DCs were critical for inducing the response. Lung CD4+ T cells strongly expressed the Th2 marker T1/ST2, and signaling through this molecule via a ligand expressed on DCs was essential for the establishment of airway eosinophilia. These data demonstrate that DCs in the airways induce sensitization to inhaled antigen and that molecules expressed on the surface of these cells are critical for the development of Th2-dependent airway eosinophilia.
PMCID: PMC380243  PMID: 10953030
14.  Identification of MAGE-3 Epitopes Presented by HLA-DR Molecules to CD4+ T Lymphocytes  
MAGE-type genes are expressed by many tumors of different histological types and not by normal cells, except for male germline cells, which do not express major histocompatibility complex (MHC) molecules. Therefore, the antigens encoded by MAGE-type genes are strictly tumor specific and common to many tumors. We describe here the identification of the first MAGE-encoded epitopes presented by histocompatibility leukocyte antigen (HLA) class II molecules to CD4+ T lymphocytes. Monocyte-derived dendritic cells were loaded with a MAGE-3 recombinant protein and used to stimulate autologous CD4+ T cells. We isolated CD4+ T cell clones that recognized two different MAGE-3 epitopes, MAGE-3114–127 and MAGE-3121–134, both presented by the HLA-DR13 molecule, which is expressed in 20% of Caucasians. The second epitope is also encoded by MAGE-1, -2, and -6. Our procedure should be applicable to other proteins for the identification of new tumor-specific antigens presented by HLA class II molecules. The knowledge of such antigens will be useful for evaluation of the immune response of cancer patients immunized with proteins or with recombinant viruses carrying entire genes coding for tumor antigens. The use of antigenic peptides presented by class II in addition to peptides presented by class I may also improve the efficacy of therapeutic antitumor vaccination.
PMCID: PMC2192951  PMID: 10049940
human; invariant chain; peptide; tumor; histocompatibility leukocyte antigen class II
15.  CD8α+ and CD8α− Subclasses of Dendritic Cells Direct the Development of Distinct T Helper Cells In Vivo  
Cells of the dendritic family display some unique properties that confer to them the capacity to sensitize naive T cells in vitro and in vivo. In the mouse, two subclasses of dendritic cells (DCs) have been described that differ by their CD8α expression and their localization in lymphoid organs. The physiologic function of both cell populations remains obscure. Studies conducted in vitro have suggested that CD8α+ DCs could play a role in the regulation of immune responses, whereas conventional CD8α− DCs would be more stimulatory. We report here that both subclasses of DCs efficiently prime antigen-specific T cells in vivo, and direct the development of distinct T helper (Th) populations. Antigen-pulsed CD8α+ and CD8α− DCs are separated after overnight culture in recombinant granulocyte/macrophage colony-stimulating factor and injected into the footpads of syngeneic mice. Administration of CD8α− DCs induces a Th2-type response, whereas injection of CD8α+ DCs leads to Th1 differentiation. We further show that interleukin 12 plays a critical role in Th1 development by CD8α+ DCs. These findings suggest that the nature of the DC that presents the antigen to naive T cells may dictate the class selection of the adaptative immune response.
PMCID: PMC2192907  PMID: 9927520
primary response; T helper cell type 1/type 2 balance; interleukin 12; tolerance; memory
16.  CD40 Ligation Prevents Trypanosoma cruzi Infection through Interleukin-12 Upregulation 
Infection and Immunity  1999;67(4):1929-1934.
Because of the critical role of the CD40-CD40 ligand (CD40L) pathway in the induction and effector phases of immune responses, we investigated the effects of CD40 ligation on the control of Trypanosoma cruzi infection. First, we observed that supernatants of murine spleen cells stimulated by CD40L-transfected 3T3 fibroblasts (3T3-CD40L transfectants) prevent the infection of mouse peritoneal macrophages (MPM) by T. cruzi. This phenomenon depends on de novo production of nitric oxide (NO) as it is prevented by the addition of N-nitro-l-arginine methyl ester, a NO synthase inhibitor. NO production requires interleukin (IL)-12-mediated gamma interferon (IFN-γ) and tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-α) synthesis as demonstrated by inhibition experiments using neutralizing anti-IL-12, anti-IFN-γ, and anti-TNF-α monoclonal antibodies (MAb). We found that an activating anti-CD40 MAb also directly stimulates IFN-γ-activated MPM to produce NO and thereby to control T. cruzi infection. To determine the in vivo relevance of these in vitro findings, mice were injected with 3T3-CD40L transfectants or 3T3 control fibroblasts at the time of T. cruzi inoculation. We observed that in vivo CD40 ligation dramatically reduced both parasitemia and the mortality rate of T. cruzi-infected mice. A reduced parasitemia was still observed when the injection of 3T3-CD40L transfectants was delayed 8 days postinfection. It was abolished by injection of anti-IL-12 MAb. Taken together, these data establish that CD40 ligation facilitates the control of T. cruzi infection through a cascade involving IL-12, IFN-γ, and NO.
PMCID: PMC96548  PMID: 10085038
17.  Effects of Granulocyte-Macrophage Colony-Stimulating Factor and Tumor Necrosis Factor Alpha on Trypanosoma cruzi Trypomastigotes 
Infection and Immunity  1998;66(6):2722-2727.
We have previously shown that the addition of exogenous granulocyte-macrophage colony-stimulating factor (GM-CSF) to nonactivated mouse peritoneal macrophages (MPM) limits Trypanosoma cruzi infections in vitro (E. Olivares Fontt and B. Vray, Parasite Immunol. 17:135–141, 1995). Lower levels of infection were correlated with a higher level of production of tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-α) in the absence of nitric oxide (NO) release. These data suggested that GM-CSF and/or TNF-α might have a direct parasitocidal effect on T. cruzi trypomastigotes, independently of NO release. To address this question, T. cruzi trypomastigotes were treated with recombinant murine GM-CSF (rmGM-CSF), recombinant murine TNF-α (rmTNF-α), or both cytokines in a cell-free system. Treatment with rmGM-CSF but not rmTNF-α caused morphological changes in the parasites, and most became spherical after 7 h of incubation. Both cytokines exerted a cytolytic activity on the trypomastigotes, yet the trypanolytic activity of rmTNF-α was more effective than that of rmGM-CSF. Viable rmGM-CSF- and rmTNF-α-treated parasites were less able to infect MPM than untreated parasites, and this reduction in infectivity was greatest for rmGM-CSF. Treatments with both cytokines resulted in more lysis and almost complete inhibition of infection. The direct parasitocidal activity of rmTNF-α was inhibited by carbohydrates and monoclonal antibodies specific for the lectin-like domain of TNF-α. Collectively, these results suggest that cytokines such as GM-CSF and TNF-α may directly control the level of T. cruzi trypomastigotes at least in vitro and so could determine the outcome of infection in vivo.
PMCID: PMC108261  PMID: 9596739

Results 1-17 (17)