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Despite decades of studying rodent models of type 1 diabetes (T1D), no therapy capable of preventing or curing T1D has successfully been translated from rodents to humans. This inability to translate otherwise promising therapies to clinical settings likely resides, to a major degree, from significant species-specific differences between rodent and human immune systems as well as species-related variances in islets in terms of their cellular composition, function, and gene expression. Indeed, taken collectively, these differences underscore the need to define interactions between the human immune system with human β cells. Immunodeficient mice engrafted with human immune systems and human β cells represent an interesting and promising opportunity to study these components in vivo. To meet this need, years of effort have been extended to develop mice depleted of undesirable components while at the same time, allowing the introduction of constituents necessary to recapitulate physiological settings as near as possible to human T1D. With this, these so-called "humanized mice" are currently being used as a preclinical bridge to facilitate identification and translation of novel discoveries to clinical settings.
How environmental factors combine with genetic risk at the molecular level to promote complex trait diseases such as multiple sclerosis (MS) is largely unknown. In mice, N-glycan branching by the Golgi enzymes Mgat1 and/or Mgat5 prevents T cell hyperactivity, cytotoxic T-lymphocyte antigen 4 (CTLA-4) endocytosis, spontaneous inflammatory demyelination and neurodegeneration, the latter pathologies characteristic of MS. Here we show that MS risk modulators converge to alter N-glycosylation and/or CTLA-4 surface retention conditional on metabolism and vitamin D(3), including genetic variants in interleukin-7 receptor-α (IL7RA*C), interleukin-2 receptor-α (IL2RA*T), MGAT1 (IV(A)V(T-T)) and CTLA-4 (Thr17Ala). Downregulation of Mgat1 by IL7RA*C and IL2RA*T is opposed by MGAT1 (IV(A)V(T-T)) and vitamin D(3), optimizing branching and mitigating MS risk when combined with enhanced CTLA-4 N-glycosylation by CTLA-4 Thr17. Our data suggest a molecular mechanism in MS whereby multiple environmental and genetic inputs lead to dysregulation of a final common pathway, namely N-glycosylation.
AIMS/HYPOTHESIS - To develop and validate a new immunodeficient mouse strain that spontaneously develops a non-autoimmune hyperglycaemia to serve as a diabetic host for human islets and human beta stem and progenitor cells without the need for induction of hyperglycaemia by toxic chemicals with their associated side effects.
METHODS - We generated and characterised a new strain of immunodeficient spontaneously hyperglycaemic mice, the NOD-Rag1null Prf1null Ins2Akita strain and compared this strain with the NOD-scid Il2rgammanull (also known as Il2rg) immunodeficient strain rendered hyperglycaemic by administration of a single dose of streptozotocin. Hyperglycaemic mice were transplanted with human islets ranging from 1,000 to 4,000 islet equivalents (IEQ) and were monitored for normalisation of blood glucose levels.
RESULTS - NOD-Rag1null Prf1null Ins2Akita mice developed spontaneous hyperglycaemia, similar to Ins2Akita-harbouring strains of immunocompetent mice. Histological examination of islets in the host pancreas validated the spontaneous loss of beta cell mass in the absence of mononuclear cell infiltration. Human islets transplanted into spontaneously diabetic NOD-Rag1null Prf1null Ins2Akita and chemically diabetic NOD-scid Il2rgammanull mice resulted in a return to euglycaemia that occurred with transplantation of similar beta cell masses.
CONCLUSIONS/INTERPRETATION - The NOD-Rag1null Prf1null Ins2Akita mouse is the first immunodeficient, spontaneously hyperglycaemic mouse strain described that is based on the Ins2Akita mutation. This strain is suitable as hosts for human islet and human beta stem and progenitor cell transplantation in the absence of the need for pharmacological induction of diabetes. This strain of mice also has low levels of innate immunity and can be engrafted with a human immune system for the study of human islet allograft rejection.
During antiretroviral therapy, CD4 lymphocyte count increases are modest in some patients despite virologic control. We explored whether polymorphisms in genes important for T cell expansion, survival, and apoptosis are associated with the magnitude of CD4 lymphocyte count recovery during antiretroviral therapy. We studied treatment-naive individuals who achieved sustained control of plasma viremia (<400 HIV-1 RNA copies/mL) for at least 48 weeks after initiation of antiretroviral therapy and compared genotypes among individuals who had an increase of either <200 or > or =200 CD4 cells/mm3 from baseline. A total of 137 single-nucleotide polymorphisms across 17 genes were characterized in 873 study participants. In multivariate analyses that controlled for clinical variables, polymorphisms in genes encoding tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-related apoptosis-inducing ligand (TRAIL), TNF- alpha , Bcl-2-interacting molecule (Bim), interleukin (IL)-15, and IL-15 receptor alpha chain (IL-15R alpha ) were associated with the magnitude of the increase in CD4 lymphocyte count, as were haplotypes in genes encoding interferon- alpha , IL-2, and IL-15R alpha (P < .05, for each). Multifactor dimensionality reduction identified a gene-gene interaction between IL-2/IL-15 receptor common beta chain and IL-2/IL-7/IL-15 receptor common gamma chain. Immune recovery during antiretroviral therapy is a complex phenotype that is influenced by multiple genetic variants. Future studies should validate these tentative associations and define underlying mechanisms.
Emerging evidence indicates that NK cells play an important and complex role in autoimmune disease. Humans with autoimmune diseases often have reduced NK cell numbers and compromised NK cell functions. Mechanisms underlying this NK cell degeneration and its biological significance are not known. In this study we show that, in an experimental model of human autoimmune myasthenia gravis induced by a self-Ag, the acetylcholine receptor, NK cells undergo proliferation during the initiation of autoimmunity, followed by significant degeneration associated with the establishment of the autoreactive T cell response. We show that NK cell degeneration was mediated by IL-21 derived from autoreactive CD4(+) T cells, and that acetylcholine receptor-immunized IL-21R-deficient mice, with competent NK cells, developed exacerbated autoimmunity. Thus, NK cell degeneration may serve as a means evolved by the immune system to control excessive autoimmunity.
We previously demonstrated that T-regs inhibit proliferation of graft-reactive T cells in the draining lymph node (DLN), suggesting that this site may be important for regulation. TCR transgenic mice (TS1) specific for viral hemagglutinin (HA) provided antigen-specific T cells for adoptive transfer into syngeneic Balb/c hosts bearing HA+ skin grafts. T-regs were obtained from (TS1xHA28)F1 mice known to have an expanded population of HA-specific T-regs. To determine whether the lymph node is an independent site of suppression, we developed a model in which donor antigen that migrates from the allograft to the DLN drives T-cell activation after graft removal. T-regs that did not encounter the allograft itself remained able to inhibit graft antigen-specific T-cell proliferation in the DLN. Alloantigen-induced regulation can occur in the absence of the graft. This finding identifies the DLN as a potentially critical site of regulation in the early posttransplant period.
CD1d-restricted NKT cells and CD4+CD25+ regulatory T (Treg) cells are thymus-derived subsets of regulatory T cells that have an important role in the maintenance of self-tolerance. Whether NKT cells and Treg cells cooperate functionally in the regulation of autoimmunity is not known. We have explored this possibility in experimental autoimmune myasthenia gravis (EAMG), an animal model of human myasthenia gravis, induced by immunization of C57BL/6 mice with the autoantigen acetylcholine receptor. We have demonstrated that activation of NKT cells by a synthetic glycolipid agonist of NKT cells, alpha-galactosylceramide (alpha-GalCer), inhibits the development of EAMG. alpha-GalCer administration in EAMG mice increased the size of the Treg cell compartment, and augmented the expression of foxp3 and the potency of CD4+CD25+ cells to inhibit proliferation of autoreactive T cells. Furthermore, alpha-GalCer promoted NKT cells to transcribe the IL-2 gene and produce IL-2 protein. Depletion of CD25+ cells or neutralization of IL-2 reduced the therapeutic effect of alpha-GalCer in this model. Thus, alpha-GalCer-activated NKT cells can induce expansion of CD4+CD25+ Treg cells, which in turn mediate the therapeutic effects of alpha-GalCer in EAMG. Induced cooperation of NKT cells and Treg cells may serve as a superior strategy to treat autoimmune disease.
Glomerular visceral epithelial cells or podocytes are located on the outer surface of the glomerular basement membrane and play an indispensable role as a filtration barrier. The core cytoskeleton of the foot processes is actin filaments, which play an important role in maintaining the unique structure of podocytes. We previously established a transgenic mouse line (NEP25), which expresses human (h)CD25 selectively on podocytes. By injecting an hCD25-targeted recombinant immunotoxin (LMB2), podocyte injury can be induced on demand. After LMB2 injection, NEP25 mice develop nephrotic syndrome with downregulation of podocyte-specific proteins. In the present study, we genetically labeled podocytes with lacZ linked with beta-actin-based CAG promoter. Utilizing the Cre-loxP system, this labeling was confined to the podocyte lineage. Without LMB2, all podocytes were positive for lacZ. After LMB2 injection, lacZ expression was rapidly downregulated, before podocytes showed any discernible morphological changes. Confocal imaging of filamentous (F)-actin-binding Alexa 488-phalloidin revealed that the normal continuous pattern of F-actin distribution in podocytes was punctuated after LMB2 injection. These collectively suggest that disturbance of actin filaments may be one of the key initial events leading to subsequent podocyte damage.
This study aimed to generate a mouse model of acquired glomerular sclerosis. A model system that allows induction of podocyte injury in a manner in which onset and severity can be controlled was designed. A transgenic mouse strain (NEP25) that expresses human CD25 selectively in podocytes was first generated. Injection of anti-Tac (Fv)-PE38 (LMB2), an immunotoxin with specific binding to human CD25, induced progressive nonselective proteinuria, ascites, and edema in NEP25 mice. Podocytes showed foot process effacement, vacuolar degeneration, detachment and downregulation of synaptopodin, WT-1, nephrin, and podocalyxin. Mesangial cells showed matrix expansion, increased collagen, mesangiolysis, and, later, sclerosis. Parietal epithelial cells showed vacuolar degeneration and proliferation, whereas endothelial cells were swollen. The severity of the glomerular injury was LMB2 dose dependent. With 1.25 ng/g body wt or more, NEP25 mice developed progressive glomerular damage and died within 2 wk. With 0.625 ng/g body wt of LMB2, NEP25 mice survived >4 wk and developed focal segmental glomerular sclerosis. Thus, the study has established a mouse model of acquired progressive glomerular sclerosis in which onset and severity can be preprogrammed by experimental maneuvers.
A T-cell subset, defined as CD4(+)CD25(hi) (regulatory T-cells [Treg cells]), was recently shown to suppress T-cell activation. We demonstrate that human Treg cells isolated from healthy donors express the HIV-coreceptor CCR5 and are highly susceptible to HIV infection and replication. Because Treg cells are present in very few numbers and are difficult to expand in vitro, we genetically modified conventional human T-cells to generate Treg cells in vitro by ectopic expression of FoxP3, a transcription factor associated with reprogramming T-cells into a Treg subset. Overexpression of FoxP3 in naïve human CD4(+) T-cells recapitulated the hyporesponsiveness and suppressive function of naturally occurring Treg cells. However, FoxP3 was less efficient in reprogramming memory T-cell subset into regulatory cells. In addition, FoxP3-transduced T-cells also became more susceptible to HIV infection. Remarkably, a portion of HIV-positive individuals with a low percentage of CD4(+) and higher levels of activated T-cells have greatly reduced levels of FoxP3(+)CD4(+)CD25(hi) T-cells, suggesting disruption of the Treg cells during HIV infection. Targeting and disruption of the T-cell regulatory system by HIV may contribute to hyperactivation of conventional T-cells, a characteristic of HIV disease progression. Moreover, the ability to reprogram human T-cells into Treg cells in vitro will greatly aid in decoding their mechanism of suppression, their enhanced susceptibility to HIV infection, and the unique markers expressed by this subset.