Cantu syndrome (CS) is a complex disorder caused by gain-of-function (GoF) mutations in ABCC9 and KCNJ8, which encode the SUR2 and Kir6.1 subunits, respectively, of vascular smooth muscle (VSM) KATP channels. CS includes dilated vasculature, marked cardiac hypertrophy, and other cardiovascular abnormalities. There is currently no targeted therapy, and it is unknown whether cardiovascular features can be reversed once manifest. Using combined transgenic and pharmacological approaches in a knockin mouse model of CS, we have shown that reversal of vascular and cardiac phenotypes can be achieved by genetic downregulation of KATP channel activity specifically in VSM, and by chronic administration of the clinically used KATP channel inhibitor, glibenclamide. These findings demonstrate that VSM KATP channel GoF underlies CS cardiac enlargement and that CS-associated abnormalities are reversible, and provide evidence of in vivo efficacy of glibenclamide as a therapeutic agent in CS.
Conor McClenaghan, Yan Huang, Zihan Yan, Theresa M. Harter, Carmen M. Halabi, Rod Chalk, Attila Kovacs, Gijs van Haaften, Maria S. Remedi, Colin G. Nichols
Staphylococcus aureus remains a leading cause of human infection. These infections frequently recur when the skin is a primary site of infection, especially in infants and children. In contrast, invasive staphylococcal disease is less commonly associated with reinfection, suggesting that tissue-specific mechanisms govern the development of immunity. Knowledge of how S. aureus manipulates protective immunity has been hampered by a lack of antigen-specific models to interrogate the T cell response. Using a chicken egg OVA–expressing S. aureus strain to analyze OVA-specific T cell responses, we demonstrated that primary skin infection was associated with impaired development of T cell memory. Conversely, invasive infection induced antigen-specific memory and protected against reinfection. This defect in adaptive immunity following skin infection was associated with a loss of DCs, attributable to S. aureus α-toxin (Hla) expression. Gene- and immunization-based approaches to protect against Hla during skin infection restored the T cell response. Within the human population, exposure to α-toxin through skin infection may modulate the establishment of T cell–mediated immunity, adversely affecting long-term protection. These studies prompt consideration that vaccination targeting S. aureus may be most effective if delivered prior to initial contact with the organism.
Brandon Lee, Reuben Olaniyi, Jakub M. Kwiecinski, Juliane Bubeck Wardenburg
The rapid rise in circulating fibroblast growth factor 23 (FGF23) associated with kidney injury results in calcitriol deficiency, altered calcium homeostasis, and secondary hyperparathyroidism, and may contribute to cardiovascular complications and death. However, the mechanisms of increased FGF23 in states of kidney injury remain unclear. In this issue of the JCI, Simic et al. screened plasma taken from the renal vein of patients undergoing cardiac catheterization and identified glycerol-3-phosphate (G-3-P) as the most significant correlate of simultaneous arterial FGF23 levels. When G-3-P was administered to mice, FGF23 production increased in bone. In a series of elegant mouse studies, the authors discovered a pathway linking increased G-3-P to increased FGF23 via increases in lysophosphatidic acid (LPA), which activates the LPA receptor 1 in FGF23-secreting cells in the bone and bone marrow. Although the authors present human data that broadly support the results from the mouse models, further research is needed to determine whether targeting the G-3-P/FGF23 pathway has the potential to modify FGF23-related complications in the clinic.
Alexander Grabner, Myles Wolf
Mosquito-transmitted Plasmodium falciparum infection can cause human cerebral malaria (HCM) with high mortality rates. The abundance of infected red blood cells that accumulate in the cerebral vasculature of patients has led to the belief that these brain-sequestered cells solely cause pathogenesis. However, animal models suggest that CD8+ T cells migrate to and accumulate in the brain, directly contributing to experimental cerebral malaria (ECM) mortality. In this issue of the JCI, Riggle et al. explored the brain vasculature from 34 children who died from HCM or other causes and frequently found CD3+ CD8+ T cells in contact with endothelial cells. Further, the authors show that coinfection with HIV enhanced such CD3+ CD8+ T cell luminal distribution. These findings suggest that the mouse model for cerebral malaria may accurately reflect human disease pathology. This study sheds new light on the mechanisms behind blood-brain barrier breakdown in this complicated neurological disease and opens up alternative approaches for treatment.
Laurent Rénia, Georges E.R. Grau, Samuel C. Wassmer
BACKGROUND Cerebral malaria (CM) accounts for nearly 400,000 deaths annually in African children. Current dogma suggests that CM results from infected RBC (iRBC) sequestration in the brain microvasculature and resulting sequelae. Therapies targeting these events have been unsuccessful; findings in experimental models suggest that CD8+ T cells drive disease pathogenesis. However, these data have largely been ignored because corroborating evidence in humans is lacking. This work fills a critical gap in our understanding of CM pathogenesis that is impeding development of therapeutics.METHODS Using multiplex immunohistochemistry, we characterized cerebrovascular immune cells in brain sections from 34 children who died from CM or other causes. Children were grouped by clinical diagnosis (CM+ or CM–), iRBC sequestration (Seqhi, Seqlo, Seq0) and HIV status (HIV+ or HIV–).RESULTS We identified effector CD3+CD8+ T cells engaged on the cerebrovasculature in 69% of CM+ HIV– children. The number of intravascular CD3+CD8+ T cells was influenced by CM status (CM+ > CM–, P = 0.004) and sequestration level (Seqhi > Seqlo, P = 0.010). HIV coinfection significantly increased T cell numbers (P = 0.017) and shifted cells from an intravascular (P = 0.004) to perivascular (P < 0.0001) distribution.CONCLUSION Within the studied cohort, CM is associated with cerebrovascular engagement of CD3+CD8+ T cells, which is exacerbated by HIV coinfection. Thus, CD3+CD8+ T cells are highly promising targets for CM adjunctive therapy, opening new avenues for the treatment of this deadly disease.FUNDING This research was supported by the Intramural Research Program of the National Institutes of Health.
Brittany A. Riggle, Monica Manglani, Dragan Maric, Kory R. Johnson, Myoung-Hwa Lee, Osorio Lopes Abath Neto, Terrie E. Taylor, Karl B. Seydel, Avindra Nath, Louis H. Miller, Dorian B. McGavern, Susan K. Pierce
Acute graft-versus-host disease (GVHD) can affect the central nervous system (CNS). The role of microglia in CNS-GVHD remains undefined. In agreement with microglia activation, we found that profound morphological changes and MHC-II and CD80 upregulation occurred upon GVHD induction. RNA sequencing–based analysis of purified microglia obtained from mice with CNS-GVHD revealed TNF upregulation. Selective TNF gene deletion in microglia of Cx3cr1creER Tnffl/– mice reduced MHC-II expression and decreased CNS T cell infiltrates and VCAM-1+ endothelial cells. GVHD increased microglia TGF-β–activated kinase-1 (TAK1) activation and NF-κB/p38 MAPK signaling. Selective Tak1 deletion in microglia using Cx3cr1creER Tak1fl/fl– mice resulted in reduced TNF production and microglial MHC-II and improved neurocognitive activity. Pharmacological TAK1 inhibition reduced TNF production and MHC-II expression by microglia, Th1 and Th17 T cell infiltrates, and VCAM-1+ endothelial cells and improved neurocognitive activity, without blocking graft-versus-leukemia effects. Consistent with these findings in mice, we observed increased activation and TNF production of microglia in the CNS of GVHD patients. In summary, we prove a role for microglia in CNS-GVHD, identify the TAK1/TNF/MHC-II axis as a mediator of CNS-GVHD, and provide a TAK1 inhibitor–based approach against GVHD-induced neurotoxicity.
Nimitha R. Mathew, Janaki M. Vinnakota, Petya Apostolova, Daniel Erny, Shaimaa Hamarsheh, Geoffroy Andrieux, Jung-Seok Kim, Kathrin Hanke, Tobias Goldmann, Louise Chappell-Maor, Nadia El-Khawanky, Gabriele Ihorst, Dominik Schmidt, Justus Duyster, Jürgen Finke, Thomas Blank, Melanie Boerries, Bruce R. Blazar, Steffen Jung, Marco Prinz, Robert Zeiser
The ATP-sensitive K+ channel (KATP) is formed by the association of four inwardly rectifying K+ channel (Kir6.x) pore subunits with four sulphonylurea receptor (SUR) regulatory subunits. Kir6.x or SUR mutations result in KATP channelopathies, which reflect the physiological roles of these channels, including but not limited to insulin secretion, cardiac protection, and blood flow regulation. In this issue of the JCI, McClenaghan et al. explored one of the channelopathies, namely Cantu syndrome (CS), which is a result of one kind of KATP channel mutation. Using a knockin mouse model, the authors demonstrated that gain-of-function KATP mutations in vascular smooth muscle resulted in cardiac remodeling. Moreover, they were able to reverse the cardiovascular phenotypes by administering the KATP channel blocker glibenclamide. These results exemplify how genetic mutations can have an impact on developmental trajectories, and provide a therapeutic approach to mitigate cardiac hypertrophy in cases of CS.
Guiling Zhao, Aaron Kaplan, Maura Greiser, W. Jonathan Lederer
Notch signaling is a highly conserved intercellular pathway with tightly regulated and pleiotropic roles in normal tissue development and homeostasis. Dysregulated Notch signaling has also been implicated in human disease, including multiple forms of cancer, and represents an emerging therapeutic target. Successful development of such therapeutics requires a detailed understanding of potential on-target toxicities. Here, we identify autosomal dominant mutations of the canonical Notch ligand Jagged1 (or JAG1) as a cause of peripheral nerve disease in 2 unrelated families with the hereditary axonal neuropathy Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease type 2 (CMT2). Affected individuals in both families exhibited severe vocal fold paresis, a rare feature of peripheral nerve disease that can be life-threatening. Our studies of mutant protein posttranslational modification and localization indicated that the mutations (p.Ser577Arg, p.Ser650Pro) impair protein glycosylation and reduce JAG1 cell surface expression. Mice harboring heterozygous CMT2-associated mutations exhibited mild peripheral neuropathy, and homozygous expression resulted in embryonic lethality by midgestation. Together, our findings highlight a critical role for JAG1 in maintaining peripheral nerve integrity, particularly in the recurrent laryngeal nerve, and provide a basis for the evaluation of peripheral neuropathy as part of the clinical development of Notch pathway–modulating therapeutics.
Jeremy M. Sullivan, William W. Motley, Janel O. Johnson, William H. Aisenberg, Katherine L. Marshall, Katy E.S. Barwick, Lingling Kong, Jennifer S. Huh, Pamela C. Saavedra-Rivera, Meriel M. McEntagart, Marie-Helene Marion, Lucy A. Hicklin, Hamid Modarres, Emma L. Baple, Mohamed H. Farah, Aamir R. Zuberi, Cathleen M. Lutz, Rachelle Gaudet, Bryan J. Traynor, Andrew H. Crosby, Charlotte J. Sumner
Hematopoietic stem cell (HSC) attrition is considered the key event underlying progressive BM failure (BMF) in Fanconi anemia (FA), the most frequent inherited BMF disorder in humans. However, despite major advances, how the cellular, biochemical, and molecular alterations reported in FA lead to HSC exhaustion remains poorly understood. Here, we demonstrated in human and mouse cells that loss-of-function of FANCA or FANCC, products of 2 genes affecting more than 80% of FA patients worldwide, is associated with constitutive expression of the transcription factor microphthalmia (MiTF) through the cooperative, unscheduled activation of several stress-signaling pathways, including the SMAD2/3, p38 MAPK, NF-κB, and AKT cascades. We validated the unrestrained Mitf expression downstream of p38 in Fanca–/– mice, which display hallmarks of hematopoietic stress, including loss of HSC quiescence, DNA damage accumulation in HSCs, and reduced HSC repopulation capacity. Importantly, we demonstrated that shRNA-mediated downregulation of Mitf expression or inhibition of p38 signaling rescued HSC quiescence and prevented DNA damage accumulation. Our data support the hypothesis that HSC attrition in FA is the consequence of defects in the DNA-damage response combined with chronic activation of otherwise transiently activated signaling pathways, which jointly prevent the recovery of HSC quiescence.
Alessia Oppezzo, Julie Bourseguin, Emilie Renaud, Patrycja Pawlikowska, Filippo Rosselli
Fibroblast growth factor 23 (FGF23) is a bone-derived hormone that controls blood phosphate levels by increasing renal phosphate excretion and reducing 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D3 [1,25(OH)2D] production. Disorders of FGF23 homeostasis are associated with significant morbidity and mortality, but a fundamental understanding of what regulates FGF23 production is lacking. Because the kidney is the major end organ of FGF23 action, we hypothesized that it releases a factor that regulates FGF23 synthesis. Using aptamer-based proteomics and liquid chromatography–mass spectrometry–based (LC-MS–based) metabolomics, we profiled more than 1600 molecules in renal venous plasma obtained from human subjects. Renal vein glycerol-3-phosphate (G-3-P) had the strongest correlation with circulating FGF23. In mice, exogenous G-3-P stimulated bone and bone marrow FGF23 production through local G-3-P acyltransferase–mediated (GPAT-mediated) lysophosphatidic acid (LPA) synthesis. Further, the stimulatory effect of G-3-P and LPA on FGF23 required LPA receptor 1 (LPAR1). Acute kidney injury (AKI), which increases FGF23 levels, rapidly increased circulating G-3-P in humans and mice, and the effect of AKI on FGF23 was abrogated by GPAT inhibition or Lpar1 deletion. Together, our findings establish a role for kidney-derived G-3-P in mineral metabolism and outline potential targets to modulate FGF23 production during kidney injury.
Petra Simic, Wondong Kim, Wen Zhou, Kerry A. Pierce, Wenhan Chang, David B. Sykes, Najihah B. Aziz, Sammy Elmariah, Debby Ngo, Paola Divieti Pajevic, Nicolas Govea, Bryan R. Kestenbaum, Ian H. de Boer, Zhiqiang Cheng, Marta Christov, Jerold Chun, David E. Leaf, Sushrut S. Waikar, Andrew M. Tager, Robert E. Gerszten, Ravi I. Thadhani, Clary B. Clish, Harald Jüppner, Marc N. Wein, Eugene P. Rhee
BACKGROUND In retinitis pigmentosa (RP), rod photoreceptors degenerate from 1 of many mutations, after which cones are compromised by oxidative stress. N-acetylcysteine (NAC) reduces oxidative damage and increases cone function/survival in RP models. We tested the safety, tolerability, and visual function effects of oral NAC in RP patients.METHODS Subjects (n = 10 per cohort) received 600 mg (cohort 1), 1200 mg (cohort 2), or 1800 mg (cohort 3) NAC bid for 12 weeks and then tid for 12 weeks. Best-corrected visual acuity (BCVA), macular sensitivity, ellipsoid zone (EZ) width, and aqueous NAC were measured. Linear mixed-effects models were used to estimate the rates of changes during the treatment period.RESULTS There were 9 drug-related gastrointestinal adverse events that resolved spontaneously or with dose reduction (maximum tolerated dose 1800 mg bid). During the 24-week treatment period, mean BCVA significantly improved at 0.4 (95% CI: 0.2–0.6, P < 0.001), 0.5 (95% CI: 0.3–0.7, P < 0.001), and 0.2 (95% CI: 0.02–0.4, P = 0.03) letters/month in cohorts 1, 2, and 3, respectively. There was no significant improvement in mean sensitivity over time in cohorts 1 and 2, but there was in cohort 3 (0.15 dB/month, 95% CI: 0.04–0.26). There was no significant change in mean EZ width in any cohort.CONCLUSION Oral NAC is safe and well tolerated in patients with moderately advanced RP and may improve suboptimally functioning macular cones. A randomized, placebo-controlled trial is needed to determine if oral NAC can provide long-term stabilization and/or improvement in visual function in patients with RP.TRIAL REGISTRATION NCT03063021.FUNDING Mr. and Mrs. Robert Wallace, Mr. and Mrs. Jonathan Wallace, Rami and Eitan Armon, Marc Sumerlin, Cassandra Hanley, and Nacuity Pharmaceuticals, Inc.
Peter A. Campochiaro, Mustafa Iftikhar, Gulnar Hafiz, Anam Akhlaq, Grace Tsai, Dagmar Wehling, Lili Lu, G. Michael Wall, Mandeep S. Singh, Xiangrong Kong
Paucity of the survival motor neuron (SMN) protein triggers the oft-fatal infantile-onset motor neuron disorder, spinal muscular atrophy (SMA). Augmenting the protein is one means of treating SMA and recently led to FDA approval of an intrathecally delivered SMN-enhancing oligonucleotide currently in use. Notwithstanding the advent of this and other therapies for SMA, it is unclear whether the paralysis associated with the disease derives solely from dysfunctional motor neurons that may be efficiently targeted by restricted delivery of SMN-enhancing agents to the nervous system, or stems from broader defects of the motor unit, arguing for systemic SMN repletion. We investigated the disease-contributing effects of low SMN in one relevant peripheral organ — skeletal muscle — by selectively depleting the protein in only this tissue. We found that muscle deprived of SMN was profoundly damaged. Although a disease phenotype was not immediately obvious, persistent low levels of the protein eventually resulted in muscle fiber defects, neuromuscular junction abnormalities, compromised motor performance, and premature death. Importantly, restoring SMN after the onset of muscle pathology reversed disease. Our results provide the most compelling evidence yet for a direct contributing role of muscle in SMA and argue that an optimal therapy for the disease must be designed to treat this aspect of the dysfunctional motor unit.
Jeong-Ki Kim, Narendra N. Jha, Zhihua Feng, Michelle R. Faleiro, Claudia A. Chiriboga, Lan Wei-Lapierre, Robert T. Dirksen, Chien-Ping Ko, Umrao R. Monani
Myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS) is a complex disease with no known cause or mechanism. There is an increasing appreciation for the role of immune and metabolic dysfunction in the disease. ME/CFS has historically presented in outbreaks, often has a flu-like onset, and results in inflammatory symptoms. Patients suffer from severe fatigue and postexertional malaise. There is little known about the metabolism of specific immune cells in patients with ME/CFS. To investigate immune metabolism in ME/CFS, we isolated CD4+ and CD8+ T cells from 53 patients with ME/CFS and 45 healthy controls. We analyzed glycolysis and mitochondrial respiration in resting and activated T cells, along with markers related to cellular metabolism and plasma cytokines. We found that ME/CFS CD8+ T cells had reduced mitochondrial membrane potential compared with those from healthy controls. Both CD4+ and CD8+ T cells from patients with ME/CFS had reduced glycolysis at rest, whereas CD8+ T cells also had reduced glycolysis following activation. Patients with ME/CFS had significant correlations between measures of T cell metabolism and plasma cytokine abundance that differed from correlations seen in healthy control subjects. Our data indicate that patients have impaired T cell metabolism consistent with ongoing immune alterations in ME/CFS that may illuminate the mechanism behind this disease.
Alexandra H. Mandarano, Jessica Maya, Ludovic Giloteaux, Daniel L. Peterson, Marco Maynard, C. Gunnar Gottschalk, Maureen R. Hanson
Dopamine receptor D1 modulates glutamatergic transmission in cortico-basal ganglia circuits and represents a major target of L-DOPA therapy in Parkinson’s disease. Here we show that D1 and metabotropic glutamate type 5 (mGlu5) receptors can form previously unknown heteromeric entities with distinctive functional properties. Interacting with Gq proteins, cell-surface D1-mGlu5 heteromers exacerbated PLC signaling and intracellular calcium release in response to either glutamate or dopamine. In rodent models of Parkinson’s disease, D1-mGlu5 nanocomplexes were strongly upregulated in the dopamine-denervated striatum, resulting in a synergistic activation of PLC signaling by D1 and mGlu5 receptor agonists. In turn, D1-mGlu5–dependent PLC signaling was causally linked with excessive activation of extracellular signal–regulated kinases in striatal neurons, leading to dyskinesia in animals treated with L-DOPA or D1 receptor agonists. The discovery of D1-mGlu5 functional heteromers mediating maladaptive molecular and motor responses in the dopamine-denervated striatum may prompt the development of new therapeutic principles for Parkinson’s disease.
Irene Sebastianutto, Elise Goyet, Laura Andreoli, Joan Font-Ingles, David Moreno-Delgado, Nathalie Bouquier, Céline Jahannault-Talignani, Enora Moutin, Luisa Di Menna, Natallia Maslava, Jean-Philippe Pin, Laurent Fagni, Ferdinando Nicoletti, Fabrice Ango, M. Angela Cenci, Julie Perroy
Aneurysms are common in the abdominal and thoracic regions of the aorta and can cause death due to dissection or rupture. Traditionally, thoracic aortic aneurysms have been labeled as a degenerative disease, characterized by alterations in extracellular matrix and loss of smooth muscle cells (SMCs) in the medial layer of the aortic wall. In this issue of the JCI, Li and colleagues introduce an unconventional concept by demonstrating that mTOR-dependent proliferative SMCs render the aortic wall vulnerable to dilatation and dissection rather than prevent disease progression. These vascular SMCs, termed degradative SMCs, compromise the medial properties and function of the aortic wall by enhanced proteolytic and phagocytic activity; however, the cells do not transdifferentiate into macrophages. The degradative SMC phenotype also worsens atherosclerotic disease and could thus be considered as a therapeutic target for diverse aortic diseases.
Maarten Hulsmans, Matthias Nahrendorf
BACKGROUND DICER1 is the only miRNA biogenesis component associated with an inherited tumor syndrome, featuring multinodular goiter (MNG) and rare pediatric-onset lesions. Other susceptibility genes for familial forms of MNG likely exist.METHODS Whole-exome sequencing of a kindred with early-onset MNG and schwannomatosis was followed by investigation of germline pathogenic variants that fully segregated with the disease. Genome-wide analyses were performed on 13 tissue samples from familial and nonfamilial DGCR8-E518K–positive tumors, including MNG, schwannomas, papillary thyroid cancers (PTCs), and Wilms tumors. miRNA profiles of 4 tissue types were compared, and sequencing of miRNA, pre-miRNA, and mRNA was performed in a subset of 9 schwannomas, 4 of which harbor DGCR8-E518K.RESULTS We identified c.1552G>A;p.E518K in DGCR8, a microprocessor component located in 22q, in the kindred. The variant identified is a somatic hotspot in Wilms tumors and has been identified in 2 PTCs. Copy number loss of chromosome 22q, leading to loss of heterozygosity at the DGCR8 locus, was found in all 13 samples harboring c.1552G>A;p.E518K. miRNA profiling of PTCs, MNG, schwannomas, and Wilms tumors revealed a common profile among E518K hemizygous tumors. In vitro cleavage demonstrated improper processing of pre-miRNA by DGCR8-E518K. MicroRNA and RNA profiling show that this variant disrupts precursor microRNA production, impacting populations of canonical microRNAs and mirtrons.CONCLUSION We identified DGCR8 as the cause of an unreported autosomal dominant mendelian tumor susceptibility syndrome: familial multinodular goiter with schwannomatosis.FUNDING Canadian Institutes of Health Research, Compute Canada, Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation, the Mia Neri Foundation for Childhood Cancer, Cassa di Sovvenzioni e Risparmio fra il Personale della Banca d’Italia, and the KinderKrebsInitiative Buchholz/Holm-Seppensen.
Barbara Rivera, Javad Nadaf, Somayyeh Fahiminiya, Maria Apellaniz-Ruiz, Avi Saskin, Anne-Sophie Chong, Sahil Sharma, Rabea Wagener, Timothée Revil, Vincenzo Condello, Zineb Harra, Nancy Hamel, Nelly Sabbaghian, Karl Muchantef, Christian Thomas, Leanne de Kock, Marie-Noëlle Hébert-Blouin, Angelia V. Bassenden, Hannah Rabenstein, Ozgur Mete, Ralf Paschke, Marc P. Pusztaszeri, Werner Paulus, Albert Berghuis, Jiannis Ragoussis, Yuri E. Nikiforov, Reiner Siebert, Steffen Albrecht, Robert Turcotte, Martin Hasselblatt, Marc R. Fabian, William D. Foulkes
Current antiangiogenic therapy is limited by its cytostatic property, scarce drug delivery to the tumor, and side toxicity. To address these limitations, we unveiled the role of ZEB1, a tumor endothelium–enriched zinc-finger transcription factor, during tumor progression. We discovered that the patients who had lung adenocarcinomas with high ZEB1 expression in tumor endothelium had increased prevalence of metastases and markedly reduced overall survival after the diagnosis of lung cancer. Endothelial ZEB1 deletion in tumor-bearing mice diminished tumor angiogenesis while eliciting persistent tumor vascular normalization by epigenetically repressing TGF-β signaling. This consequently led to improved blood and oxygen perfusion, enhanced chemotherapy delivery and immune effector cell infiltration, and reduced tumor growth and metastasis. Moreover, targeting vascular ZEB1 remarkably potentiated the anticancer activity of nontoxic low-dose cisplatin. Treatment with low-dose anti–programmed cell death protein 1 (anti–PD-1) antibody elicited tumor regression and markedly extended survival in ZEB1-deleted mice, conferring long-term protective anticancer immunity. Collectively, we demonstrated that inactivation of endothelial ZEB1 may offer alternative opportunities for cancer therapy with minimal side effects. Targeting endothelium-derived ZEB1 in combination with conventional chemotherapy or immune checkpoint blockade therapy may yield a potent and superior anticancer effect.
Rong Fu, Yi Li, Nan Jiang, Bo-Xue Ren, Chen-Zi Zang, Li-Juan Liu, Wen-Cong Lv, Hong-Mei Li, Stephen Weiss, Zheng-Yu Li, Tao Lu, Zhao-Qiu Wu
Cancer cachexia is a major cause of patient morbidity and mortality, with no efficacious treatment or management strategy. Despite cachexia sharing pathophysiological features with a number of neuromuscular wasting conditions, including age-related sarcopenia, the mechanisms underlying cachexia remain poorly understood. Studies of related conditions suggest that pathological targeting of the neuromuscular junction (NMJ) may play a key role in cachexia, but this has yet to be investigated in human patients. Here, high-resolution morphological analyses were undertaken on NMJs of rectus abdominis obtained from patients undergoing upper GI cancer surgery compared with controls (N = 30; n = 1,165 NMJs). Cancer patients included those with cachexia and weight-stable disease. Despite the low skeletal muscle index and significant muscle fiber atrophy (P < 0.0001) in patients with cachexia, NMJ morphology was fully conserved. No significant differences were observed in any of the pre- and postsynaptic variables measured. We conclude that NMJs remain structurally intact in rectus abdominis in both cancer and cachexia, suggesting that denervation of skeletal muscle is not a major driver of pathogenesis. The absence of NMJ pathology is in stark contrast to what is found in related conditions, such as age-related sarcopenia, and supports the hypothesis that intrinsic changes within skeletal muscle, independent of any changes in motor neurons, represent the primary locus of neuromuscular pathology in cancer cachexia.
Ines Boehm, Janice Miller, Thomas M. Wishart, Stephen J. Wigmore, Richard J.E. Skipworth, Ross A. Jones, Thomas H. Gillingwater
Chikungunya virus (CHIKV) is an emerging arbovirus, endemic in many parts of the world, that is spread by travelers and adapts to new mosquito vectors that live in temperate climates. CHIKV replicates in many host tissues and initially causes a self-limiting febrile illness similar to dengue. However, in 30%–40% of cases, CHIKV also causes long-term painful and debilitating muscle and joint pain, the pathogenesis of which remains unknown. In this issue of the JCI, Lentscher et al. engineered a skeletal muscle–restricted CHIKV to show that while musculoskeletal disease requires viral replication in affected muscle, muscular pathology is mediated by host immunological factors. These findings de-link viral replication and disease symptoms, illuminate the virus-host interplay in CHIKV symptomatology, and raise the possibility that immune modulation is a therapeutic option. The results also highlight possible solutions to existing vaccine barriers and provide insights that may apply to other viral diseases.
Smooth muscle cell (SMC) proliferation has been thought to limit the progression of thoracic aortic aneurysm and dissection (TAAD) because loss of medial cells associates with advanced disease. We investigated effects of SMC proliferation in the aortic media by conditional disruption of Tsc1, which hyperactivates mTOR complex 1. Consequent SMC hyperplasia led to progressive medial degeneration and TAAD. In addition to diminished contractile and synthetic functions, fate-mapped SMCs displayed increased proteolysis, endocytosis, phagocytosis, and lysosomal clearance of extracellular matrix and apoptotic cells. SMCs acquired a limited repertoire of macrophage markers and functions via biogenesis of degradative organelles through an mTOR/β-catenin/MITF–dependent pathway, but were distinguishable from conventional macrophages by an absence of hematopoietic lineage markers and certain immune effectors even in the context of hyperlipidemia. Similar mTOR activation and induction of a degradative SMC phenotype in a model of mild TAAD due to Fbn1 mutation greatly worsened disease with near-uniform lethality. The finding of increased lysosomal markers in medial SMCs from clinical TAAD specimens with hyperplasia and matrix degradation further supports the concept that proliferation of degradative SMCs within the media causes aortic disease, thus identifying mTOR-dependent phenotypic modulation as a therapeutic target for combating TAAD.
Guangxin Li, Mo Wang, Alexander W. Caulk, Nicholas A. Cilfone, Sharvari Gujja, Lingfeng Qin, Pei-Yu Chen, Zehua Chen, Sameh Yousef, Yang Jiao, Changshun He, Bo Jiang, Arina Korneva, Matthew R. Bersi, Guilin Wang, Xinran Liu, Sameet Mehta, Arnar Geirsson, Jeffrey R. Gulcher, Thomas W. Chittenden, Michael Simons, Jay D. Humphrey, George Tellides