The differentiation of effector CD8(+) T cells is critical for the development of protective responses to pathogens and for effective vaccines. In the first few hours after activation, naive CD8(+) T cells initiate a transcriptional program that leads to the formation of effector and memory T cells, but the regulation of this process is poorly understood. Investigating the role of specific transcription factors (TFs) in determining CD8(+) effector T-cell fate by gene knockdown with RNAi is challenging because naive T cells are refractory to transduction with viral vectors without extensive ex vivo stimulation, which obscures the earliest events in effector differentiation. To overcome this obstacle, we developed a novel strategy to test the function of genes in naive CD8(+) T cells in vivo by creating bone marrow chimera from hematopoietic progenitors transduced with an inducible shRNA construct. Following hematopoietic reconstitution, this approach allowed inducible in vivo gene knockdown in any cell type that developed from this transduced progenitor pool. We demonstrated that lentivirus-transduced progenitor cells could reconstitute normal hematopoiesis and develop into naive CD8(+) T cells that were indistinguishable from wild-type naive T cells. This experimental system enabled induction of efficient gene knockdown in vivo without subsequent manipulation. We applied this strategy to show that the TF BATF is essential for initial commitment of naive CD8(+) T cells to effector development but becomes dispensable by 72h. This approach makes possible the study of gene function in vivo in unperturbed cells of hematopoietic origin that are refractory to viral transduction.
The aging immune system is unable to optimally respond to pathogens and generate long-term immunological memory against encountered antigens. Amongst the immune components most affected by aging are T lymphocytes. T lymphocytes are cells of the cell-mediated immune system, which can recognize microbial antigens and either directly kill infected cells or support the maturation and activation of other immune cells. When activated, T cells undergo a metabolic switch to accommodate their changing needs at every stage of the immune response. Here we review the different aspects of metabolic regulation of T cell activation, focusing on the emerging role of mitochondrial metabolism, and discuss changes that may contribute to age-related decline in T cell potency. Better understanding of the role of mitochondrial metabolism in immune cell function could provide insights into mechanisms of immune senescence with the potential for developing novel therapeutic approaches to improve immune responses in aged individuals.
Ox40 ligand (Ox40L)-Ox40 pathway has been shown to enhance Th2 responses and play a role in pathogenesis of cutaneous leishmaniasis (CL) caused by Leishmania major. Using Ox40l(-/-) BALB/c mice we analyzed the role of this pathway in determining the outcome to CL caused by L. mexicana and compared to L. major. Contrary to our expectations, Ox40l(-/-) mice were highly susceptible to both L. major (LV39) and L. mexicana (M379) and developed large non-healing lesions containing parasites comparable to Ox40l(+/+) BALB/c mice. Interestingly, upon in vitro stimulation with Leishmania antigen (LmAg), the lymph node cells from L. major infected Ox40l(-/-) mice produced significantly less IL-4 and IL-10 compared to Ox40l(+/+) mice. L. mexicana infected Ox40l(-/-) and Ox40l(+/+) mice did not show any difference in the production of IL-4 and IL-10. No difference was noted in the amount of Th1 cytokines IFN-ү and IL-12 produced by Ox40l(-/-) and Ox40l(+/+) mice infected with either parasite. These results indicate that the Ox40L-Ox40 pathway promotes Th2 bias only in L. major infection but not L. mexicana infection and this pathway is not critical for susceptibility to CL.
Cell-based strategies represent a new frontier in the treatment of immune-mediated disorders. However, the paucity of markers for isolation of molecularly defined immunomodulatory cell populations poses a barrier to this field. Here, we show that ATP-binding cassette member B5 (ABCB5) identifies dermal immunoregulatory cells (DIRCs) capable of exerting therapeutic immunoregulatory functions through engagement of programmed cell death 1 (PD-1). Purified Abcb5(+) DIRCs suppressed T cell proliferation, evaded immune rejection, homed to recipient immune tissues, and induced Tregs in vivo. In fully major-histocompatibility-complex-mismatched cardiac allotransplantation models, allogeneic DIRCs significantly prolonged allograft survival. Blockade of DIRC-expressed PD-1 reversed the inhibitory effects of DIRCs on T cell activation, inhibited DIRC-dependent Treg induction, and attenuated DIRC-induced prolongation of cardiac allograft survival, indicating that DIRC immunoregulatory function is mediated, at least in part, through PD-1. Our results identify ABCB5(+) DIRCs as a distinct immunoregulatory cell population and suggest promising roles of this expandable cell subset in cellular immunotherapy.
Foxp3(+) regulatory T cells (Treg cells) are required for immunological homeostasis. One notable distinction between conventional T cells (Tconv cells) and Treg cells is differences in the activity of phosphatidylinositol-3-OH kinase (PI(3)K); only Tconv cells downregulate PTEN, the main negative regulator of PI(3)K, upon activation. Here we found that control of PI(3)K in Treg cells was essential for lineage homeostasis and stability. Mice lacking Pten in Treg cells developed an autoimmune-lymphoproliferative disease characterized by excessive T helper type 1 (TH1) responses and B cell activation. Diminished control of PI(3)K activity in Treg cells led to reduced expression of the interleukin-2 (IL-2) receptor α subunit CD25, accumulation of Foxp3(+)CD25(-) cells and, ultimately, loss of expression of the transcription factor Foxp3 in these cells. Collectively, our data demonstrate that control of PI(3)K signaling by PTEN in Treg cells is critical for maintaining their homeostasis, function and stability.
Defective antibody production in aging is broadly attributed to immunosenescence. However, the precise immunological mechanisms remain unclear. Here, we demonstrate an increase in the ratio of inhibitory T follicular regulatory (TFR) cells to stimulatory T follicular helper (TFH) cells in aged mice. Aged TFH and TFR cells are phenotypically distinct from those in young mice, exhibiting increased programmed cell death protein-1 expression but decreased ICOS expression. Aged TFH cells exhibit defective antigen-specific responses, and programmed cell death protein-ligand 1 blockade can partially rescue TFH cell function. In contrast, young and aged TFR cells have similar suppressive capacity on a per-cell basis in vitro and in vivo. Together, these studies reveal mechanisms contributing to defective humoral immunity in aging: an increase in suppressive TFR cells combined with impaired function of aged TFH cells results in reduced T-cell-dependent antibody responses in aged mice.
Cytotoxic T lymphocyte antigen-4 (CTLA-4) is an essential negative regulator of T cell responses. Germline Ctla4 deficiency is lethal, making investigation of the function of CTLA-4 on mature T cells challenging. To elucidate the function of CTLA-4 on mature T cells, we have conditionally ablated Ctla4 in adult mice. We show that, in contrast to germline knockout mice, deletion of Ctla4 during adulthood does not precipitate systemic autoimmunity, but surprisingly confers protection from experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis (EAE) and does not lead to increased resistance to MC38 tumors. Deletion of Ctla4 during adulthood was accompanied by activation and expansion of both conventional CD4(+)Foxp3(-) (T conv) and regulatory Foxp3(+) (T reg cells) T cell subsets; however, deletion of CTLA-4 on T reg cells was necessary and sufficient for protection from EAE. CTLA-4 deleted T reg cells remained functionally suppressive. Deletion of Ctla4 on T reg cells alone or on all adult T cells led to major changes in the Ctla4 sufficient T conv cell compartment, including up-regulation of immunoinhibitory molecules IL-10, LAG-3 and PD-1, thereby providing a compensatory immunosuppressive mechanism. Collectively, our findings point to a profound role for CTLA-4 on T reg cells in limiting their peripheral expansion and activation, thereby regulating the phenotype and function of T conv cells.
During Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) infection CD4+ T cells in the gastric lamina propria are hyporesponsive and polarized by Th1/Th17 cell responses controlled by Treg cells. We have previously shown that H. pylori upregulates B7-H1 expression on GEC, which, in turn, suppress T cell proliferation, effector function, and induce Treg cells in vitro. In this study, we investigated the underlying mechanisms and the functional relevance of B7-H1 induction by H. pylori infection to chronic infection. Using H. pylori wild type (WT), cag pathogenicity island (cag PAI-) and cagA- isogenic mutant strains we demonstrated that H. pylori requires its type 4 secretion system (T4SS) as well as its effector protein CagA and peptidoglycan (PG) fragments for B7-H1 upregulation on GEC. Our study also showed that H. pylori uses the p38 MAPK pathway to upregulate B7-H1 expression in GEC. In vivo confirmation was obtained when infection of C57BL/6 mice with H. pylori PMSS1 strain, which has a functional T4SS delivery system, but not with H. pylori SS1 strain lacking a functional T4SS, led to a strong upregulation of B7-H1 expression in the gastric mucosa, increased bacterial load, induction of Treg cells in the stomach, increased IL-10 in the serum. Interestingly, B7-H1-/- mice showed less Treg cells and reduced bacterial loads after infection. These studies demonstrate how H. pylori T4SS components activate the p38 MAPK pathway, upregulate B7-H1 expression by GEC, and cause Treg cell induction; thus, contribute to establishing a persistent infection characteristic of H. pylori.
Allergic asthma is caused by Th2-cell-type cytokines in response to allergen exposure. Type 2 innate lymphoid cells (ILC2s) are a newly identified subset of immune cells that, along with Th2 cells, contribute to the pathogenesis of asthma by producing copious amounts of IL-5 and IL-13, which cause eosinophilia and airway hyperreactivity (AHR), a cardinal feature of asthma. ILC2s express ICOS, a T cell costimulatory molecule with a currently unknown function. Here we showed that a lack of ICOS on murine ILC2s and blocking the ICOS:ICOS-ligand interaction in human ILC2s reduced AHR and lung inflammation. ILC2s expressed both ICOS and ICOS-ligand, and the ICOS:ICOS-ligand interaction promoted cytokine production and survival in ILC2s through STAT5 signaling. Thus, ICOS:ICOS-ligand signaling pathway is critically involved in ILC2 function and homeostasis.
T follicular helper (T(FH)) cells stimulate, whereas T follicular regulatory (T(FR)) cells inhibit, B cell responses. Despite the potent immunoregulatory roles for TFR cells in controlling the magnitude of antibody production, the precise mechanisms by which T(FR) cells exert their suppressive effects are not yet clear. The lack of specific assays to assess T(FR) cell function separately from differentiation has hindered progress in elucidating T(FR) cell function. This is due, in part, to difficulty in separating T(FR) cells from phenotypically similar, but functionally different, T(FH) cells. Here we describe an in vitro approach for sensitively and quantitatively assessing the capacity of T(FR) cells to suppress T(FH)-mediated B cell antibody production utilizing both ELISA and flow cytometry to measure B cell responses. Beyond assessing T(FR) function, this assay system can also be used to sensitively measure T(FH) stimulatory capacity as well as B cell function.
The balance between Th17 and T regulatory (Treg) cells critically modulates immune homeostasis, with an inadequate Treg response contributing to inflammatory disease. Using an unbiased chemical biology approach, we identified a novel role for the dual specificity tyrosine-phosphorylation-regulated kinase DYRK1A in regulating this balance. Inhibition of DYRK1A enhances Treg differentiation and impairs Th17 differentiation without affecting known pathways of Treg/Th17 differentiation. Thus, DYRK1A represents a novel mechanistic node at the branch point between commitment to either Treg or Th17 lineages. Importantly, both Treg cells generated using the DYRK1A inhibitor harmine and direct administration of harmine itself potently attenuate inflammation in multiple experimental models of systemic autoimmunity and mucosal inflammation. Our results identify DYRK1A as a physiologically relevant regulator of Treg cell differentiation and suggest a broader role for other DYRK family members in immune homeostasis. These results are discussed in the context of human diseases associated with dysregulated DYRK activity.
Therapeutic antibodies targeting programmed cell death 1 (PD-1) activate tumor-specific immunity and have shown remarkable efficacy in the treatment of melanoma. Yet, little is known about tumor cell-intrinsic PD-1 pathway effects. Here, we show that murine and human melanomas contain PD-1-expressing cancer subpopulations and demonstrate that melanoma cell-intrinsic PD-1 promotes tumorigenesis, even in mice lacking adaptive immunity. PD-1 inhibition on melanoma cells by RNAi, blocking antibodies, or mutagenesis of melanoma-PD-1 signaling motifs suppresses tumor growth in immunocompetent, immunocompromised, and PD-1-deficient tumor graft recipient mice. Conversely, melanoma-specific PD-1 overexpression enhances tumorigenicity, as does engagement of melanoma-PD-1 by its ligand, PD-L1, whereas melanoma-PD-L1 inhibition or knockout of host-PD-L1 attenuate growth of PD-1-positive melanomas. Mechanistically, the melanoma-PD-1 receptor modulates downstream effectors of mTOR signaling. Our results identify melanoma cell-intrinsic functions of the PD-1:PD-L1 axis in tumor growth and suggest that blocking melanoma-PD-1 might contribute to the striking clinical efficacy of anti-PD-1 therapy.
High affinity antibodies result from interactions between B cells and T follicular helper (Tfh) cells in germinal centers (GCs). Recent studies have identified an effector subset of T regulatory cells termed T follicular regulatory (Tfr) cells that specifically controls GC responses by suppressing Tfh and B cells. The discovery of Tfr cells has shed new light on pathways regulating humoral immunity that enable potent and specific responses to pathogens while restricting autoimmunity. Here, we review the current understanding of the cellular and molecular mechanisms underlying the differentiation and function of Tfr cells. In this context we discuss recent insights into the role of Tfh cells in disease, how this knowledge may be translated therapeutically, and important areas of further research.
Detailed understanding of the signaling intermediates that confer the sensing of intracellular viral nucleic acids for induction of type I interferons is critical for strategies to curtail viral mechanisms that impede innate immune defenses. Here we show that the activation of the microtubule-associated guanine nucleotide exchange factor GEF-H1, encoded by Arhgef2, is essential for sensing of foreign RNA by RIG-I-like receptors. Activation of GEF-H1 controls RIG-I-dependent and Mda5-dependent phosphorylation of IRF3 and induction of IFN-β expression in macrophages. Generation of Arhgef2(-/-) mice revealed a pronounced signaling defect that prevented antiviral host responses to encephalomyocarditis virus and influenza A virus. Microtubule networks sequester GEF-H1 that upon activation is released to enable antiviral signaling by intracellular nucleic acid detection pathways.
CD80 plays a critical role in stimulation of T cells and subsequent control of infection. To investigate the effect of CD80 on HSV-1 infection, we constructed a recombinant HSV-1 virus that expresses two copies of the CD80 gene in place of the latency associated transcript (LAT). This mutant virus (HSV-CD80) expressed high levels of CD80 and had similar virus replication kinetics as control viruses in rabbit skin cells. In contrast to parental virus, this CD80 expressing recombinant virus replicated efficiently in immature dendritic cells (DCs). Additionally, the susceptibility of immature DCs to HSV-CD80 infection was mediated by CD80 binding to PD-L1 on DCs. This interaction also contributed to a significant increase in T cell activation. Taken together, these results suggest that inclusion of CD80 as a vaccine adjuvant may promote increased vaccine efficacy by enhancing the immune response directly and also indirectly by targeting to DC.
BRAF-targeted therapy results in objective responses in the majority of patients; however, the responses are short lived (∼6 months). In contrast, treatment with immune checkpoint inhibitors results in a lower response rate, but the responses tend to be more durable. BRAF inhibition results in a more favorable tumor microenvironment in patients, with an increase in CD8(+) T-cell infiltrate and a decrease in immunosuppressive cytokines. There is also increased expression of the immunomodulatory molecule PDL1, which may contribute to the resistance. On the basis of these findings, we hypothesized that BRAF-targeted therapy may synergize with the PD1 pathway blockade to enhance antitumor immunity. To test this hypothesis, we developed a BRAF(V600E)/Pten(-/-) syngeneic tumor graft immunocompetent mouse model in which BRAF inhibition leads to a significant increase in the intratumoral CD8(+) T-cell density and cytokine production, similar to the effects of BRAF inhibition in patients. In this model, CD8(+) T cells were found to play a critical role in the therapeutic effect of BRAF inhibition. Administration of anti-PD1 or anti-PDL1 together with a BRAF inhibitor led to an enhanced response, significantly prolonging survival and slowing tumor growth, as well as significantly increasing the number and activity of tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes. These results demonstrate synergy between combined BRAF-targeted therapy and immune checkpoint blockade. Although clinical trials combining these two strategies are ongoing, important questions still remain unanswered. Further studies using this new melanoma mouse model may provide therapeutic insights, including optimal timing and sequence of therapy.
We report that programmed death ligand 2 (PD-L2), a known ligand of PD-1, also binds to repulsive guidance molecule b (RGMb), which was originally identified in the nervous system as a co-receptor for bone morphogenetic proteins (BMPs). PD-L2 and BMP-2/4 bind to distinct sites on RGMb. Normal resting lung interstitial macrophages and alveolar epithelial cells express high levels of RGMb mRNA, whereas lung dendritic cells express PD-L2. Blockade of the RGMb-PD-L2 interaction markedly impaired the development of respiratory tolerance by interfering with the initial T cell expansion required for respiratory tolerance. Experiments with PD-L2-deficient mice showed that PD-L2 expression on non-T cells was critical for respiratory tolerance, but expression on T cells was not required. Because PD-L2 binds to both PD-1, which inhibits antitumor immunity, and to RGMb, which regulates respiratory immunity, targeting the PD-L2 pathway has therapeutic potential for asthma, cancer, and other immune-mediated disorders. Understanding this pathway may provide insights into how to optimally modulate the PD-1 pathway in cancer immunotherapy while minimizing adverse events.
Foxp3(+) T regulatory (Treg) cells regulate immune responses and maintain self-tolerance. Recent work shows that Treg cells are comprised of many subpopulations with specialized regulatory functions. Here we identified Foxp3(+) T cells expressing the coinhibitory molecule TIGIT as a distinct Treg cell subset that specifically suppresses proinflammatory T helper 1 (Th1) and Th17 cell, but not Th2 cell responses. Transcriptional profiling characterized TIGIT(+) Treg cells as an activated Treg cell subset with high expression of Treg signature genes. Ligation of TIGIT on Treg cells induced expression of the effector molecule fibrinogen-like protein 2 (Fgl2), which promoted Treg-cell-mediated suppression of T effector cell proliferation. In addition, Fgl2 was necessary to prevent suppression of Th2 cytokine production in a model of allergic airway inflammation. TIGIT expression therefore identifies a Treg cell subset that demonstrates selectivity for suppression of Th1 and Th17 cell but not Th2 cell responses.
CTLA-4 is a key immune checkpoint in maintaining self-tolerance, which can be co-opted by cancer to evade immune attack. In Science, Kuehn et al. (2014) describe clinical manifestations from inherited heterozygous CTLA4 mutations, and some are reminiscent of immune-related consequences from anti-CTLA-4 cancer therapy.
The immune system influences the fate of developing cancers by not only functioning as a tumour promoter that facilitates cellular transformation, promotes tumour growth and sculpts tumour cell immunogenicity, but also as an extrinsic tumour suppressor that either destroys developing tumours or restrains their expansion. Yet, clinically apparent cancers still arise in immunocompetent individuals in part as a consequence of cancer-induced immunosuppression. In many individuals, immunosuppression is mediated by cytotoxic T-lymphocyte associated antigen-4 (CTLA-4) and programmed death-1 (PD-1), two immunomodulatory receptors expressed on T cells. Monoclonal-antibody-based therapies targeting CTLA-4 and/or PD-1 (checkpoint blockade) have yielded significant clinical benefits-including durable responses--to patients with different malignancies. However, little is known about the identity of the tumour antigens that function as the targets of T cells activated by checkpoint blockade immunotherapy and whether these antigens can be used to generate vaccines that are highly tumour-specific. Here we use genomics and bioinformatics approaches to identify tumour-specific mutant proteins as a major class of T-cell rejection antigens following anti-PD-1 and/or anti-CTLA-4 therapy of mice bearing progressively growing sarcomas, and we show that therapeutic synthetic long-peptide vaccines incorporating these mutant epitopes induce tumour rejection comparably to checkpoint blockade immunotherapy. Although mutant tumour-antigen-specific T cells are present in progressively growing tumours, they are reactivated following treatment with anti-PD-1 and/or anti-CTLA-4 and display some overlapping but mostly treatment-specific transcriptional profiles, rendering them capable of mediating tumour rejection. These results reveal that tumour-specific mutant antigens are not only important targets of checkpoint blockade therapy, but they can also be used to develop personalized cancer-specific vaccines and to probe the mechanistic underpinnings of different checkpoint blockade treatments.