Archive for the ‘Viral diseases’ Category

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Editor-in-Chief: Aviva Lev-Ari, PhD, RN


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The Immune System, Stress Signaling, Infectious Diseases and Therapeutic Implications: VOLUME 2: Infectious Diseases and Therapeutics and VOLUME 3: The Immune System and Therapeutics (Series D: BioMedicine & Immunology) Kindle Edition – on since 9/4/2017

by Larry H. Bernstein (Author), Aviva Lev-Ari (Author), Stephen J. Williams (Author), Demet Sag (Author), Irina Robu (Author), Tilda Barliya (Author), David Orchard-Webb (Author), Alan F. Kaul (Author), Danut Dragoi (Author), Sudipta Saha (Editor)


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Curator: Aviva Lev-Ari, PhD, RN


Transcriptomic Biomarkers to Discriminate Bacterial from Nonbacterial Infection in Adults Hospitalized with Respiratory Illness

Published online: 26 July 2017

URMC Researchers Developing New Tool to Fight Antibiotic Resistance

Goal is to Distinguish Between Viral and Bacterial Infections, Reduce Unnecessary Use of Antibiotics

Friday, July 28, 2017

“It’s extremely difficult to interpret what’s causing a respiratory tract infection, especially in very ill patients who come to the hospital with a high fever, cough, shortness of breath and other concerning symptoms,” said Ann R. Falsey, M.D., lead study author, professor and interim chief of the Infectious Diseases Division at UR Medicine’s Strong Memorial Hospital.

“My goal is to develop a tool that physicians can use to rule out a bacterial infection with enough certainty that they are comfortable, and their patients are comfortable, foregoing an antibiotic.”

Lead researcher Ann Falsey, M.D.

Ann R. Falsey, M.D.

Falsey’s project caught the attention of the federal government; she’s one of 10 semifinalists in the Antimicrobial Resistance Diagnostic Challenge, a competition sponsored by NIH and the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority to help combat the development and spread of drug resistant bacteria. Selected from among 74 submissions, Falsey received $50,000 to continue her research and develop a prototype diagnostic test, such as a blood test, using the genetic markers her team identified.


Lower respiratory tract infection (LRTI)

We enrolled 94 subjects who were microbiologically classified; 53 as “non-bacterial” and 41 as “bacterial”. RNAseq and qPCR confirmed significant differences in mean expression for 10 genes previously identified as discriminatory for bacterial LRTI. A novel dimension reduction strategy selected three pathways (lymphocyte, α-linoleic acid metabolism, IGF regulation) including eleven genes as optimal markers for discriminating bacterial infection (naïve AUC = 0.94; nested CV-AUC = 0.86). Using these genes, we constructed a classifier for bacterial LRTI with 90% (79% CV) sensitivity and 83% (76% CV) specificity. This novel, pathway-based gene set displays promise as a method to distinguish bacterial from nonbacterial LRTI.




Bacterial or Viral Infection? A New Study May Help Physicians …


Other related articles published in this Open Access Online Scientific Journal include the following:

Series D, VOLUME 2:

Infectious Diseases and Therapeutics

Author, Curator and Editor: Larry H Bernstein, MD, FCAP and CuratorSudipta Saha, PhD


Series D, VOLUME 3:

The Immune System and Therapeutics

Author, Curator and Editor: Larry H Bernstein, MD, FCAP

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Signaling through the T Cell Receptor (TCR) Complex and the Co-stimulatory Receptor CD28

Curator: Larry H. Bernstein, MD, FCAP



New connections: T cell actin dynamics

Fluorescence microscopy is one of the most important tools in cell biology research because it provides spatial and temporal information to investigate regulatory systems inside cells. This technique can generate data in the form of signal intensities at thousands of positions resolved inside individual live cells. However, given extensive cell-to-cell variation, these data cannot be readily assembled into three- or four-dimensional maps of protein concentration that can be compared across different cells and conditions. We have developed a method to enable comparison of imaging data from many cells and applied it to investigate actin dynamics in T cell activation. Antigen recognition in T cells by the T cell receptor (TCR) is amplified by engagement of the costimulatory receptor CD28. We imaged actin and eight core actin regulators to generate over a thousand movies of T cells under conditions in which CD28 was either engaged or blocked in the context of a strong TCR signal. Our computational analysis showed that the primary effect of costimulation blockade was to decrease recruitment of the activator of actin nucleation WAVE2 (Wiskott-Aldrich syndrome protein family verprolin-homologous protein 2) and the actin-severing protein cofilin to F-actin. Reconstitution of WAVE2 and cofilin activity restored the defect in actin signaling dynamics caused by costimulation blockade. Thus, we have developed and validated an approach to quantify protein distributions in time and space for the analysis of complex regulatory systems.



Triple-Color FRET Analysis Reveals Conformational Changes in the WIP-WASp Actin-Regulating Complex



T cell activation by antigens involves the formation of a complex, highly dynamic, yet organized signaling complex at the site of the T cell receptors (TCRs). Srikanth et al. found that the lymphocyte-specific large guanosine triphosphatase of the Rab family CRACR2A-a associated with vesicles near the Golgi in unstimulated mouse and human CD4+ T cells. Upon TCR activation, these vesicles moved to the immunological synapse (the contact region between a T cell and an antigen-presenting cell). The guanine nucleotide exchange factor Vav1 at the TCR complex recruited CRACR2A-a to the complex. Without CRACR2A-a, T cell activation was compromised because of defective calcium and kinase signaling.

More than 60 members of the Rab family of guanosine triphosphatases (GTPases) exist in the human genome. Rab GTPases are small proteins that are primarily involved in the formation, trafficking, and fusion of vesicles. We showed that CRACR2A (Ca2+ release–activated Ca2+ channel regulator 2A) encodes a lymphocyte-specific large Rab GTPase that contains multiple functional domains, including EF-hand motifs, a proline-rich domain (PRD), and a Rab GTPase domain with an unconventional prenylation site. Through experiments involving gene silencing in cells and knockout mice, we demonstrated a role for CRACR2A in the activation of the Ca2+ and c-Jun N-terminal kinase signaling pathways in response to T cell receptor (TCR) stimulation. Vesicles containing this Rab GTPase translocated from near the Golgi to the immunological synapse formed between a T cell and a cognate antigen-presenting cell to activate these signaling pathways. The interaction between the PRD of CRACR2A and the guanidine nucleotide exchange factor Vav1 was required for the accumulation of these vesicles at the immunological synapse. Furthermore, we demonstrated that GTP binding and prenylation of CRACR2A were associated with its localization near the Golgi and its stability. Our findings reveal a previously uncharacterized function of a large Rab GTPase and vesicles near the Golgi in TCR signaling. Other GTPases with similar domain architectures may have similar functions in T cells.


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Phosphorylation-dependent interaction between antigenic peptides and MHC class I

Curator: Larry H. Bernstein, MD, FCAP



Phosphorylation-dependent interaction between antigenic peptides and MHC class I: a molecular basis for the presentation of transformed self.

Nat Immunol. 2008 Nov;9(11):1236-43.  Epub 2008 Oct 5.
Protein phosphorylation generates a source of phosphopeptides that are presented by major histocompatibility complex class I molecules and recognized by T cells. As deregulated phosphorylation is a hallmark of malignant transformation, the differential display of phosphopeptides on cancer cells provides an immunological signature of ‘transformed self’. Here we demonstrate that phosphorylation can considerably increase peptide binding affinity for HLA-A2. To understand this, we solved crystal structures of four phosphopeptide-HLA-A2 complexes. These identified a novel peptide-binding motif centered on a solvent-exposed phosphate anchor. Our findings indicate that deregulated phosphorylation can create neoantigens by promoting binding to major histocompatibility complex molecules or by affecting the antigenic identity of presented epitopes. These results highlight the potential of phosphopeptides as novel targets for cancer immunotherapy.
Figure 1
Bioinformatic characterization of the HLA-A2–restricted phosphopeptide repertoire. (a) Distribution of phosphorylated residues among naturally processed (A2 phosphopeptide) and predicted HLA-A2 binding phosphopeptides (Phosphosite, EMBL). The frequency of phosphorylated residues at each position is displayed for naturally processed HLA-A2 associated phosphopeptides, and for peptides in EMBL and Phosphosite datasets that contain phosphorylation sites and are predicted, according to criteria described in Methods, to bind HLA-A2. (b) Representation of positively charged residues (Arg or Lys) at P1 among naturally processed HLA-A2 associated phosphopeptides, phosphopeptides from the EMBL or Phosphosite datasets that are predicted to bind HLA-A2 and contain a p-Ser residue at the P4 position, and datasets of naturally processed non-phosphorylated peptides (B-LCL) and known HLA-A2 binding peptides (Immune Epitope). Selection criteria for the latter two datasets are described in Methods. * = P<0.001, NS= not significant. (c, d) Representation of subdominant residues at the P2 anchor position (c) and the PC (P9) position (d) in naturally processed HLA-A2 associated phosphopeptides and in datasets of naturally processed non-phosphorylated peptides and known HLA-A2 binding peptides.
Changes in protein expression or metabolism due to intracellular infection or cellular transformation modify the repertoire of peptides generated and therefore displayed by class I MHC molecules, resulting in presentation of “altered self” to the immune system. T cell receptor (TCR)-mediated recognition of specific MHC-bound peptides by CD8 T lymphocytes results in cytolytic activity and release of pro-inflammatory cytokines, which are key components of anti-viral and anti-tumor immunity. Evidence suggests that peptides containing post-translational modifications (PTM), including deamidation, cysteinylation, glycosylation, and phosphorylation, contribute to the pool of MHC-bound peptides presented at the cell surface and represent potential targets for T cell recognition2. Indeed, the majority of naturally occurring PTM-bearing peptides defined to date can be discriminated from their unmodified homologs specifically by T cells2-4.  …..
Recent studies have highlighted protein phosphorylation as a process with the capacity to generate unique peptides bound to class I MHC molecules. Significant numbers of different phosphorylated peptides are presented by several HLA-A and HLA-B alleles that are prevalent in humans3,4, demonstrating their widespread potential as antigens. Moreover, CD8+ T lymphocytes recognize these phosphopeptides in a manner that is both peptide sequence-specific and phosphate-dependent3, 4. Thus, phosphopeptides can be immunologically distinguished from their non-phosphorylated counterparts. Consistent with their presentation by class I MHC molecules, most phosphorylated peptides are derived from proteins that function intracellularly, and processing of both model and naturally occurring phosphopeptides is dependent on transport into the endoplasmic reticulum (ER) by transporter associated with antigen processing (TAP)3, 5. Furthermore, rapid degradation by the proteasome, a process that regulates the activity of many transcription factors, cell growth modulators, signal transducers and cell cycle proteins6-8, is frequently dependent on target protein phosphorylation9-11. ….
Phosphopeptide antigens are of significant therapeutic interest because deregulation of protein kinase activity, normally tightly controlled, is one of the hallmarks of malignant transformation and is thought to contribute directly to oncogenic signaling pathways involved in cell growth, differentiation and survival13-15. In addition, mutation-induced deregulation of a limited number of critical kinases can often lead to activation of several signaling cascades and increases in the extent of protein phosphorylation within the cell16-18. These considerations strongly suggest that alterations in protein phosphorylation during malignancy represent a distinctive immunological signature of “transformed self”. Consistent with this notion, the phosphopeptides presented by HLA-A*0201….

Nα-Terminal Acetylation for T Cell Recognition: Molecular Basis of MHC Class I–Restricted Nα-Acetylpeptide Presentation

As one of the most common posttranslational modifications (PTMs) of eukaryotic proteins, Nα-terminal acetylation (Nt-acetylation) generates a class of Nα-acetylpeptides that are known to be presented by MHC class I at the cell surface. Although such PTM plays a pivotal role in adjusting proteolysis, the molecular basis for the presentation and T cell recognition of Nα-acetylpeptides remains largely unknown. In this study, we determined a high-resolution crystallographic structure of HLA (HLA)-B*3901 complexed with an Nα-acetylpeptide derived from natural cellular processing, also in comparison with the unmodified-peptide complex. Unlike the α-amino–free P1 residues of unmodified peptide, of which the α-amino group inserts into pocket A of the Ag-binding groove, the Nα-linked acetyl of the acetylated P1-Ser protrudes out of the groove for T cell recognition. Moreover, the Nt-acetylation not only alters the conformation of the peptide but also switches the residues in the α1-helix of HLA-B*3901, which may impact the T cell engagement. The thermostability measurements of complexes between Nα-acetylpeptides and a series of MHC class I molecules derived from different species reveal reduced stability. Our findings provide the insight into the mode of Nα-acetylpeptide–specific presentation by classical MHC class I molecules and shed light on the potential of acetylepitope-based immune intervene and vaccine development.

Produced by Ag processing and proteasomal degradation of intracellular proteins, polypeptides serve as CTL epitopes presented by MHC class I molecules, which play a critical role in cellular immunity (1). Eukaryotic proteins bearing various posttranslational modifications (PTMs) can generate a group of modified Ags, which contribute to a special repertoire of MHC-associated peptides presented at the cell surface as potential targets for TCR-mediated recognition. A modified peptide may become a new Ag because of the distinguished antigenicity compared with its unmodified homolog. A variety of natural peptide Ags containing modification have been observed that can be immunologically discriminated by T cells from their unmodified homologs as “altered self” (2). Thus, the significance of PTMs on epitopes and the application of modified peptides in vaccine development for immunotherapy against cancer and autoimmune diseases have been increasingly appreciated (3, 4).

The molecular bases of the presentation of peptides with several PTMs by MHC class I molecules have been successfully explicated. For instance, the formyl group on an Nt-formylated peptide binds to the bottom of the peptide-binding groove of H2-M3 (5); both the glycan and the phosphate moieties of the central region of the glycopeptides (6, 7) and the phosphopeptides (8, 9), respectively, are exposed to enable TCR binding, and the deimination (citrullination) of arginine on a peptide presented by two HLA-B27 subtypes induces distinct peptide conformations (10).

Nα-terminal acetylation (Nt-acetylation) is one of the most common PTMs, occurring on the vast majority of eukaryotic proteins. In humans, >80% of the different varieties of intracellular proteins are irreversibly Nt-acetylated by Nα-acetyltransferases, often after the removal of the initiator methionine. Only a subset of the penultimate residues (Ala, Ser, Thr, Cys, and Val) or the retained initiator methionine can be acetylated at the α-amino (NH2) groups (11). A recent study found that acetylated N-terminal residues of eukaryotic proteins act as specific degradation signals (Ac-N-degrons) that are recognized by specific ubiquitin ligases (12). A subsequent systematic analysis demonstrated that Nt-acetylation can also represent an early determining factor in the cellular sorting for prevention of protein targeting to the secretory pathway (13). These findings suggested that Nt-acetylation–mediated inhibition of secretion could contribute to the retention of proteins in the cytosol where they may subsequently be ubiquitinylated through the specific recognition of their Ac-N-degrons and thereby generating Nt-acetylated proteasomal digestion products (14). Hence, these Nt-acetylated polypeptides in the form of MHC-associated neoantigens stand a good chance to be recognized by T cells. This has indeed been illuminated in an Nt-acetylated MHC class II–restricted peptide derived from myelin basic protein, which stimulates murine T cells to elicit experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis, whereas the nonacetylated form does not (15). A structural study subsequently suggested that the Nt-acetylation of this peptide is essential for MHC class II binding (16).

For MHC class I, the first Nt-acetylated natural ligand was identified more than a decade ago (17). However, the mode of interaction of this acetylated peptide with class I molecules remained largely enigmatic. To understand this, we determined the crystal structures of a naturally occurring Nt-acetylated self-peptide (NAc-SL9) and two nonmodified variants (SL9 and HL8), respectively, in complex with HLA-B*3901. Taken together with the thermostability analyses of Nα-acetylpeptides complexed with a series of class I molecules of human and murine origin, we elucidated that Nt-acetylation exerts a destabilizing effect on peptide–MHC (pMHC) complex, thereby influencing TCR recognition.


Our results here provide the structural and thermodynamic insights into the presentation of Nt-acetylated peptides by MHC class I molecules. The structure of the Nα-acetylpeptide in complex with HLA-B*3901 outlines a molecular interpretation of the reduced stability of MHC class I–bound Nt-acetylated peptides and also highlights a potential influence of Nt-acetylation on antigenic identity and T cell recognition. In addition, the structure elucidation of HLA-B*3901, the predominant B39 subtype, also is valuable in studying immune diseases associated with this MHC allele.

In a previous report, the Nt-formyl group on an Nt-formylated peptide binds to the bottom of the peptide-binding groove of the murine MHC class I H2-M3 playing an anchoring role for MHC class I binding (Supplemental Fig. 2A) (5). In our study, the methyl and carbonyl groups of the acetyl are rotated upwards like two arms that push the peptide-binding groove open (Fig. 2G, Supplemental Fig. 2B), thereby altering its immunogenicity at the expense of the pMHC stability. The thermostability we tested from seven human and one murine complexes indicates a general feature of Nα-acetylpeptide in weakening the binding affinity to MHC class I, which could be revealed by the gel-filtration chromatography of pMHC refolding assays as well (Supplemental Fig. 3). Their instability would partially explain why, as yet, such epitopes are rarely found. Within N-terminal residues of eukaryotic proteins, Ser is the most frequently acetylated in vivo (11). The Ala, Thr, Cys, and Val residues can also be Nt-acetylated and have small side chains like Ser. Thus, the rotation of P1 residues observed in the pHLA-B*3901 complex with an acetylated P1-Ser could very well be a general mode in Nα-acetylpeptide binding. In contrast, the long side chain of Met precludes it from being rotated into pocket A, but a certain reorientation is presumed to take place in the acetylated P1-Met based on the thermal instability (Fig. 6H). Besides the accommodation of the acetyl moiety, Nt-acetylation is presumed to decrease the stability of the pHLA-B*3901 complex as a result of the conformational switch of the Arg62. Arg62 in the α1-helix is largely conserved in almost all HLA-B and -C allotypes (Table V). For other HLA class I (Table V, Fig. 8), the long charged side chains of the residues in position 62 (Glu62 of A24 and Gln62 of A11 and so on) also may interact with the acetyl. Hence, the residue in position 62 plays a key role in the interaction between acetyl group and the H chain, which may influence not only the Nα-acetylpeptide binding to HLA molecules but also the TCR docking.

The discoveries that intracellular proteins with Ac-N-degrons are inhibited from being secreted (13) and then are degraded via ubiquitylation (12) raise many questions on the biological significance of acetylation-mediated proteolysis (14). The Nt-acetylated peptides with the size of MHC class I ligands (8–11 aa) as neoepitopes for CD8+ T cells, represent one of the possible roles of the Nt-acetylated digestion products. The vast armory of intracellular proteins that are frequently Nt-acetylated can create a large pool of Nα-acetylpeptides for Ag presentation and T cell surveying. The Nt-acetylation potentially impacts the TCR-MHC interaction in three different aspects: 1) the direct interaction of the solvent-exposed acetyl moiety; 2) the altered conformation of the central region of the peptide main chain; and 3) the conformational switches of the MHC residues. The Nt-acetylation creation of a distinctive pMHC landscape and participation in a potential binding element for TCR engagement described in our results highlights needs for further investigation into the Nα-acetylpeptide–specific TCR repertoires.  ……

see…J Immunol 2014; 192:5509-5519



The Cellular Redox Environment Alters Antigen Presentation*

Jonathan A. Trujillo,§12Nathan P. Croft,1Nadine L. Dudek,1Rudragouda ChannappanavarAlex TheodossisAndrew I. Webb,…., Jamie Rossjohn,‡‡,§§5Stanley Perlman,§6 and Anthony W. Purcell,7
The Journal of Biological Chemistry 289; 27979-27991.


Background: Modification of cysteine residues, including glutathionylation, commonly occurs in peptides bound to and presented by MHC molecules.

Results: Glutathionylation of a coronavirus-specific T cell epitope results in diminished CD8 T cell recognition.

Conclusion: Cysteine modification of a T cell epitope negatively impacts the host immune response.

Significance: Cross-talk between virus-induced oxidative stress and the T cell response probably occurs, diminishing host cell recognition of infected cells.

Cysteine-containing peptides represent an important class of T cell epitopes, yet their prevalence remains underestimated. We have established and interrogated a database of around 70,000 naturally processed MHC-bound peptides and demonstrate that cysteine-containing peptides are presented on the surface of cells in an MHC allomorph-dependent manner and comprise on average 5–10% of the immunopeptidome. A significant proportion of these peptides are oxidatively modified, most commonly through covalent linkage with the antioxidant glutathione. Unlike some of the previously reported cysteine-based modifications, this represents a true physiological alteration of cysteine residues. Furthermore, our results suggest that alterations in the cellular redox state induced by viral infection are communicated to the immune system through the presentation of S-glutathionylated viral peptides, resulting in altered T cell recognition. Our data provide a structural basis for how the glutathione modification alters recognition by virus-specific T cells. Collectively, these results suggest that oxidative stress represents a mechanism for modulating the virus-specific T cell response.

Antigen Presentation     Antigen Processing     Glutathionylation     Mass Spectrometry (MS)     Oxidation-Reduction (Redox)     Redox Regulation     T-cell     Viral Immunology

Small fragments of proteins (peptides) derived from both intracellular and extracellular sources are displayed on the surface of cells by molecules encoded within the major histocompatibility complex (MHC). These peptides are recognized by T lymphocytes and provide the immune system with a surveillance mechanism for the detection of pathogens and cancer cells. The fidelity with which antigen presentation communicates changes in the intracellular proteome is critical for immune surveillance. Not only do antigens expressed at vastly different abundances need to be represented within the array of peptides selected and presented at the cell surface (collectively termed the immunopeptidome (1, 2)), but changes in their post-translational state also need to be conveyed within this complex mixture of peptides. For example, changes in antigen phosphorylation have been linked to cancer, and the presentation of phosphorylated peptides has been shown to communicate the cancerous state of cells to the immune system (36). Other types of post-translational modification play a central role in the pathogenesis of autoimmune diseases (7), such as arginine citrullination in arthritis (810), deamidation of glutamine residues in wheat proteins in celiac disease (1115), and cysteine oxidation in type 1 diabetes (16, 17). Cysteine is predicted to be present in up to 14% of potential T cell epitopes based on its prevalence in various pathogen and host proteomes (18). However, reports of cysteine-containing epitopes are much less frequent due to technical difficulties associated with synthesis and handling of cysteine-containing peptides and their subsequent avoidance in many epitope mapping studies (19). Cysteine can be modified in numerous ways, including cysteinylation (the disulfide linkage of free cysteine to peptide or protein cysteine residues), oxidation to cysteine sulfenic (oxidation), sulfinic (dioxidation) and sulfonic acids (trioxidation), S-nitrosylation, and S-glutathionylation. Such modifications may occur prior to or during antigen processing; however, the role of cysteine modification in T-cell-mediated immunity has not been systematically addressed.

In addition to constitutive presentation of a subset of oxidatively modified peptides, it is anticipated that changes in the proportion of these ligands will occur upon infection because oxidative stress, triggering of the unfolded protein response, and modulation of host cell synthesis by the virus are hallmarks of this process (2027). For example, host cell stress responses modulate expression, localization, and function of Toll-like receptors, a key event in the initiation of the immune response (28). Oxidative stress would also be predicted to affect protein function through post-translational modification of amino acids, such as cysteine. Indeed, because of the reactive nature of cysteine and the requirements for cells to regulate the redox state of proteins to maintain function, a number of scavenging systems for redox-reactive intermediates exist. The tripeptide glutathione (GSH) is one of the key intracellular antioxidants, acting as a scavenger for reactive oxygen species. Reduced GSH is equilibrated with its oxidized form, GSSG, with normal cytosolic conditions being that of the reduced state in a ratio of ∼50:1 (GSH/GSSG) (29). Modification of proteins and peptides with GSH (termed S-glutathionylation) occurs following reaction of GSSG with the thiol group of cysteine in a reaction catalyzed by the detoxifying enzyme, glutathione S-transferase (GST). A variety of cellular processes and signaling pathways, such as the induction of innate immunity, apoptosis, redox homeostasis, and cytokine production, are modulated by this GST-catalyzed post-translational modification (3032). S-Glutathionylation can eventuate via oxidative stress, whereby the intracellular levels of GSSG increase.

Given that viruses are known to induce oxidative stress (3335), the intracellular environment of viral infection may lead to an increase inS-glutathionylated cellular proteins and viral antigens. For instance, HSV infection induces an early burst of reactive oxygen species, resulting in S-glutathionylation of TRAF family members, which in turn is linked to downstream signaling and interferon production (36). The potential for modification of viral antigens subsequent to reactive oxygen species production is highlighted by S-glutathionylation of several retroviral proteases, leading to host modulation of protease function (37). Indeed large scale changes in protein S-glutathionylation are observed in HIV-infected T cell blasts (38), suggesting that functional modulation of both host and viral proteins occurs via this mechanism. Whether these S-glutathionylated proteins inhibit or enhance immune responses to the unmodified epitope or generate novel T-cell epitopes that are subsequently recognized by the adaptive immune system is unclear.

Here, we investigate the frequency of modification of cysteine-containing MHC-bound peptides by interrogating a large database of naturally processed self-peptides derived from B-lymphoblastoid cells, murine tissues, and cytokine-treated cells. In addition, the functional consequences of Cys modification of T cell epitopes was investigated using an established model of infection that involves an immunodominant cysteine-containing epitope derived from a neurotropic strain of mouse hepatitis virus, strain JHM (JHMV)8(3941). We describe S-glutathionylation of this viral T cell epitope and the functional and structural implications of redox-modulated antigen presentation. Collectively our studies suggest that S-glutathionylation plays a key, previously unappreciated role in adaptive immune recognition.



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CD-4 Therapy for Solid Tumors

Curator: Larry H. Bernstein, MD, FCAP


CD4 T-cell Immunotherapy Shows Activity in Solid Tumors

Alexander M. Castellino, PhD

For the first time, treatment with genetically engineered T-cells has used CD4 T-cells instead of the CD8 T-cells, which are used in the chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T-cell approach. Early data suggest that this CD4 T-cell approach has activity against solid tumors, whereas the CAR T-cell approach so far has achieved dramatic success in hematologic malignancies.

In the new approach, CD4 T-cells were genetically engineered to target MAGE-A3, a protein found on many tumor cells. The treatment was found to be safe in patients with metastatic cancers, according to data from a phase 1 clinical study presented here at the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) 2016 Annual Meeting.

“This is the first trial testing an immunotherapy using genetically engineered CD4 T-cells,” senior author Steven A. Rosenberg, MD, PhD, chief of the Surgery Branch at the National Cancer Institute (NCI), told Medscape Medical News.

Most approaches use CD8 T-cells. Although CD8 T-cells are known be cytotoxic and CD4 T-cells are normally considered helper cells, CD4 T-cells can induce tumor regression, he said.

Louis M. Weiner, MD, director of the Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center at Georgetown University, in Washington, DC, indicated that in contrast with CAR T-cells, these CD4 T-cells target proteins on solid tumors. “CAR T-cells are not tumor specific and do not target solid tumors,” he said.

Engineering CD4 Cells

Immunotherapy with engineered CD4 T-cells was personalized for each patient whose tumors had not responded to or had recurred following treatment with least one standard therapy. The immunotherapy was specific for patients in whom a specific human leukocyte antigen (HLA) — HLA-DPB1*0401 — was found to be expressed on their cells and whose tumors expressed MAGE-A3.

MAGE-A3 belongs to a class of proteins expressed during fetal development. The expression is lost in normal adult tissue but is reexpressed on tumor cells, explained presenter Yong-Chen William Lu, PhD, a research fellow in the Surgery Branch of the NCI.

Targeting MAGE-A3 is relevant, because it is frequently expressed in a variety of cancers, such as melanoma and urothelial, esophageal, and cervical cancers, he pointed out.

 Researchers purified CD4 T-cells from the peripheral blood of patients. Next, the CD4 T-cells were genetically engineered with a retrovirus carrying the T-cell receptor (TCR) gene that recognizes MAGE-A3. The modified cells were grown ex vivo and were transferred back into the patient.

Clinical Results

Dr Lu presented data for 14 patients enrolled into the study: eight patients received cell doses from 10 million to 30 billion cells, and six patients received up to 100 billion cells.

This was similar to a phase 1 dose-finding study, except the researchers were seeking to determine the maximum number of genetically engineered CD4 T-cells that a patient could safely receive.

One patient with metastatic cervical cancer, another with metastatic esophageal cancer, and a third with metastatic urothelial cancer experienced partial objective responses. At 15 months, the response is ongoing in the patient with cervical cancer; after 7 months of treatment, the response was durable in the patient with urothelial cancer; and a response lasting 4 months was reported for the patient with esophageal cancer.

Dr Lu said that a phase 2 trial has been initiated to study the clinical responses of this T-cell receptor therapy in different types of metastatic cancers.

In his discussion of the paper, Michel Sadelain, MD, of the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, New York City, said, “Although therapy with CD4 cells has been evaluated using endogenous receptor, this is the first study using genetically engineered CD4 T-cells.”

Although the study showed that therapy with genetically engineered T-cells is safe and efficacious at least in three patients, the mechanism of cytotoxicity remains unclear, Dr Sadelain indicated.

Comparison With CAR T-cells

CAR T-cells act in much the same way. CARs are chimeric antigen receptors that have an antigen-recognition domain of an antibody (the V region) and a “business end,” which activates T-cells. In this case, CD8 T-cells from the patients are used to genetically engineer T-cells ex vivo. In the majority of cases, dramatic responses have been seen in hematologic malignancies.

CARs, directed against self-proteins, result in on-target, off-tumor effects, Gregory L. Beatty, MD, PhD, assistant professor of medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, in Philadelphia, indicated when he reported the first success story of CAR T-cells in a solid pancreatic cancer tumor.

Side effects of therapy with CD4 T-cells targeting MAGE-A3 were different and similar to side effects of chemotherapy, because patients received a lymphodepleting regimen of cyclophosphamide and fludabarine. Toxicities included high fever, which was experienced by the majority of patients (12/14). The fever lasted 1 to 2 weeks and was easily manageable.

High levels of the cytokine interleukin-6 (IL-6) were detected in the serum of all patients after treatment. However, the elevation in IL-6 levels was not considered to be a cytokine release syndrome, because no side effects occurred that correlated with the syndrome, Dr Liu indicated.

He also indicated that future studies are planned that will employ genetically engineered CD4 T-cells in combination with programmed cell death protein 1–blocking antibodies.

This study was funded by Intramural Research Program of the National Institutes of Health. The NCI’s research and development of T-cell receptor therapy targeting MAGE-A3 are supported in part under a cooperative research and development agreement between the NCI and Kite Pharma, Inc. Kite has an exclusive, worldwide license with the NIH for intellectual property relating to retrovirally transduced HLA-DPB1*0401 and HLA A1 T-cell receptor therapy targeting MAGE-A3 antigen. Dr Lu and Dr Rosenberg have disclosed no relevant financial relationships.

American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) 2016 Annual Meeting: Abstract CT003, presented April 17, 2016.


Searches Related to immunotherapy using genetically engineered CD4 T-cells


Genetic engineering of T cells for adoptive immunotherapy

To be effective for the treatment of cancer and infectious diseases, T cell adoptive immunotherapy requires large numbers of cells with abundant proliferative reserves and intact effector functions. We are achieving these goals using a gene therapy strategy wherein the desired characteristics are introduced into a starting cell population, primarily by high efficiency lentiviral vector-mediated transduction. Modified cells are then expanded using ex vivo expansion protocols designed to minimally alter the desired cellular phenotype. In this article, we focus on strategies to (1) dissect the signals controlling T cell proliferation; (2) render CD4 T cells resistant to HIV-1 infection; and (3) redirect CD8 T cell antigen specificity.
Adoptive T cell therapy is a form of transfusion therapy involving the infusion of large numbers of T cells with the aim of eliminating, or at least controlling, malignancies or infectious diseases. Successful applications of this technique include the infusion of CMV-or EBVspecific CTLs to protect immunosuppressed patients from these transplantation-associated diseases [1,2]. Furthermore, donor lymphocyte infusions of ex vivo-expanded allogeneic T cells have been used to successfully treat hematological malignancies in patients with relapsed disease following allogeneic hematopoietic stem cell transplant [3]. However, in many other malignancies and chronic viral infections such as HIV-1, adoptive T cell therapy has achieved inconsistent and/or marginal successes. Nevertheless, there are compelling reasons for optimism on this strategy. For example, the existence of HIV-positive elite non-progressors [4], as well as the correlation between the presence of intratumoral T cells and a favorable prognosis in malignancies such as ovarian [5,6] and colon carcinoma [7,8], provides in vivo evidence for the critical role of the immune system in controlling both HIV and cancer.
The key to successful adoptive immunotherapy strategies appears to consist of (1) using the “right” T cell type(s) and (2) obtaining therapeutically effective numbers of these cells without compromising their effector functions or their ability to engraft within the host. This article is focused on strategies employed in our laboratory to generate the “right” cell through genetic engineering approaches, with an emphasis on redirecting the antigen specificity of CD8 T cells, and rendering CD4 T cells resistant to HIV-1 infection. The article by Paulos et al. describes the evolving process of how to best obtain therapeutically effective numbers of the “right” cells by optimizing ex vivo cell expansion strategies.
Our laboratory’s overall strategy and flow plan for development and evaluation of engineered T cells is depicted in Fig. 1. We work almost exclusively with primary human T cells; little or no work is performed with conventional established cell lines. Thus, we benefit substantially from our close association with the UPenn Human Immunology Core. The Core performs leukaphereses on healthy donors 2–3 times a week, and provides purified peripheral blood mononuclear cell subsets, ensuring a constant influx of fresh human T cells into our laboratory. We have extensive experience in developing both bead- and cell-based artificial antigen presenting cells (aAPCs), as described in detail in the article by Paulos et al. The ability to genetically modify T cells at high efficiency is critical for virtually every project within the laboratory. We have adapted the lentiviral vector system described by Dull [15] for most, but not all, of the engineering applications in our laboratory.
CD4 T cells are the primary target of HIV-1, and decreasing CD4 T cell numbers is a hallmark of advancing HIV-1 disease [34]. Thus, strategies that protect CD4 T cells from HIV-1 infection in vivo would conceivably provide sufficient immunological help to control HIV-1 infection. Our early observations that CD3/CD28 costimulation resulted in improved ex vivo expansion of CD4 T cells from both healthy and HIV-infected donors, as well as enhanced resistance to HIV-1 infection [35,36], ultimately led to the first-in-human trial of lentiviral vector-modified CD4 T cells [37]. In this trial, CD4 T cells from HIV-positive subjects who had failed antiretroviral therapy were transduced with a lentiviral vector encoding an antisense RNA that targeted a 937 bp region in the HIV-1 envelope gene. Preclinical studies demonstrated that this antisense region, directed against the HIV-1NL4-3 envelope, provided robust protection from a broad range of both R5-and X4-tropic HIV-1 isolates [38]. One year after administration of a single dose of the gene-modified cells, four of the five enrolled patients had increased peripheral blood CD4 T cell counts, and in one subject, a 1.7 log decrease in viral load was observed. Finally, in two of the five patients, persistence of the gene-modified cells was detected one year post-infusion.
Since its identification as the primary co-receptor involved in HIV transmission, CCR5 has attracted considerable attention as a target for HIV therapy [42,43]. Indeed, “experiments of nature” have shown that individuals with a homozygous CCR5 Δ32 deletion are highly resistant to HIV-1 infection. Thus, we hypothesized that knocking out the CCR5 locus would generate CD4 T cells permanently resistant to infection by R5 isolates of HIV-1. To test this hypothesis we took advantage of zinc-finger nuclease (ZFN) technology [44]. ZFNs introduce sequencespecific double-strand DNA breakage, which is imperfectly repaired by non-homologous endjoining. This results in the permanent disruption of the genomic target, a process termed genome editing (Fig. 3).
Genetic modification of T cells to redirect antigen specificity is an attractive strategy compared to the lengthy process of growing T cell lines or CTL clones for adoptive transfer. Genetically modified, adoptively transferred T cells are capable of long-term persistence in humans [37, 46,47], demonstrating the feasibility of this approach. When compared to the months it can take to generate an infusion dose of antigen-specific CTL lines or clones from a patient, a homogeneous population of redirected antigen-specific cells can be expanded to therapeutically relevant numbers in about two weeks [3]. Several strategies are being explored to bypass the need to expand antigen-specific T cells for adoptive T cell therapy. The approaches currently studied in our laboratory involve the genetic transfer of chimeric antigen receptors and supraphysiologic T cell receptors.
Chimeric antigen receptors (CARs or T-bodies) are artificial T cell receptors that combine the extracellular single-chain variable fragment (scFv) of an antibody with intracellular signaling domains, such as CD3ζ or Fc(ε)RIγ [48–50]. When expressed on T cells, the receptor bypasses the need for antigen presentation on MHC since the scFv binds directly to cell surface antigens. This is an important feature, since many tumors and virus-infected cells downregulate MHCI, rendering them invisible to the adaptive immune system. The high-affinity nature of the scFv domain makes these engineered T cells highly sensitive to low antigen densities. In addition, new chimeric antigen receptors are relatively easy to produce from hybridomas. The key to this approach is the identification of antigens with high surface expression on tumor cells, but reduced or absent expression on normal tissues.  Since one can redirect both CD4 and CD8 T cells, the T-body approach to immunotherapy represents a near universal “off the shelf” method to generate large numbers of antigen-specific helper and cytotoxic T cells.
Many T-bodies targeting diverse tumors have been developed [51], and four have been evaluated clinically [52–55]. Three of the four studies were characterized by poor transgene expression and limited T-body engraftment. However, in a study of metastatic renal cell carcinoma using a T-body directed against carbonic anhydrase IX [55], T-body-expressing cells were detectable in the peripheral blood for nearly 2 months post-administration.
The major goals in the T-body field currently are to optimize their engraftment and maximize their effector functions. Our laboratory is addressing both problems simultaneously through an in-depth study of the requirements for T-body activation. We hypothesize that their limited persistence is due to incomplete cell activation due to the lack of costimulation. While naïve T cells depend on costimulation through CD28 ligation to avoid anergy and undergo full activation in response to antigen, it is recognized that effector cells also require costimulation to properly proliferate and produce cytokines [56]. Previous studies have shown that providing CD28 costimulation is crucial for the antitumoral function of adoptively transferred T cells and T-bodies [57–59]. Unlike conventional T cell activation, which requires two discrete signals, T-bodies can be engineered to provide both costimulation and CD3 signaling through one binding event.
A different approach for redirecting specificity to T cells for adoptive immunotherapy involves the genetic transfer of full-length TCR genes. A T cell’s specificity for its cognate antigen is solely determined by its TCR. Genes encoding the α and β chains of a T cell receptor (TCR) can be isolated from a T cell specific for the antigen of interest and restricted to a defined HLA allele, inserted into a vector, and then introduced into large numbers of T cells of individual patients that share the restricting HLA allele as well as the targeted antigen. In 1999, Clay and colleagues from Rosenberg’s group at the National Cancer Institute were the first to report the transfer of TCR genes via a retroviral vector into human lymphocytes and to show that T cells gained stable reactivity to MART-1 [67]. To date, many others have shown that the same approach can be used to transfer specificity for multiple viral and tumor associated antigens in mice and human systems. These T cells gain effector functions against the transferred TCR’s cognate antigen, as defined by proliferation, cytokine production, lysis of targets presenting the antigen, trafficking to tumor sites in vivo, and clearance of tumors and viral infection.
In 2006, Rosenberg’s group redirected patients’ PBLs with the naturally occurring, MART-1- specific TCR reported in 1999 by Clay. In the first clinical trial to test TCR-transfer immunotherapy, these modified T cells were infused into melanoma patients [68]. While the transduced T cells persisted in vivo, only two of the 17 patients had an objective response to this therapy. One issue revealed by the study was the poor expression of the transgenic TCRs by the transferred T cells. Nonetheless, the results from this trial showed the potential of TCR transfer immunotherapy as a safe form of therapy for cancer and highlighted the need to optimize such therapy to attain maximum potency.
The adoptive immunotherapy field is advancing by a tried-and-true method: learning from disappointments and moving forward. Our ability to fully realize the therapeutic potential of adoptive T cell therapy is tied to a more complete understanding of how human T cells receive signals, kill targets, and modulate effective immune responses. Our goal is to perform labbased experiments that provide insight into how primary T cells function in a manner that will facilitate and enable adoptive T cell therapy clinical trials. Our ability to efficiently modify (and expand) T cells ex vivo provides the opportunity to deliver sufficient immune firepower where it has heretofore been lacking. Sustained transgene expression, coupled with enhanced in vivo engraftment capability, will move adoptive immunotherapy into a realm where longterm therapeutic benefits are the norm rather than the exception.
Genetic Modification of T Lymphocytes for Adoptive Immunotherapy

Claudia Rossig1 and Malcolm K. Brenner2
Molecular Therapy (2004) 10, 5–18;

Adoptive transfer of T lymphocytes is a promising therapy for malignancies—particularly of the hemopoietic system—and for otherwise intractable viral diseases. Efforts to broaden the approach have been limited by the physiology of the T cells themselves and by a range of immune evasion mechanisms developed by tumor cells. In this review we show how genetic modification of T cells is being used preclinically and in patients to overcome these limitations, by incorporation of novel receptors, resistance mechanisms, and control genes. We also discuss how the increasing safety and effectiveness of gene transfer technologies will lead to an increase in the use of gene-modified T cells for the treatment of a wider range of disorders.

That gene transfer could be used to improve the effectiveness of T lymphocytes was apparent from the beginning of clinical studies in the field. T cells were the very first targets for genetic modification in human gene transfer experiments. Rosenberg’s group marked tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes ex vivo with a Moloney retroviral vector encoding neomycin phosphotransferase before reinfusing them and attempting to demonstrate selective accumulation at tumor sites. Shortly thereafter, Blaese and Anderson led a group that infused corrected T cells into two children with severe combined immunodeficiency due to ADA deficiency. While neither study was completely successful in terms of outcome, both showed the feasibility of ex vivo gene transfer into human cells and set the stage for many of the studies that followed. More recently, a second wave of interest in adoptive T cell therapies has developed, based on their success in the prevention and treatment of viral infections such as EBV and cytomegalovirus (CMV) and on their apparent ability to eradicate hematologic and perhaps solid malignancies1,2,3,4,5,6. There has been a corresponding increase in studies directed toward enhancing the antineoplastic and antiviral properties of the T cells. In this article we will review how gene transfer may be used to produce the desired improvements focusing on vectors and genes that have had clinical application.

Currently available viral and nonviral vector systems lack a pattern of biodistribution that would favor T cell transduction in vivo—as occurs, for example, with adenovectors and the liver or liposomal vectors and the lung. This lack of favorable biodistribution cannot yet be compensated for by the introduction of specific T-cell-targeting ligands into vectors. Hence, all T cell gene transfer studies conducted to date have used ex vivo transduction followed by adoptive transfer of gene-modified cells. This approach is inherently less attractive for commercial development than directin vivo gene transfer and has probably restricted interest in developing clinical applications using these cells. On the other hand, ex vivo transduction may be more readily controlled, characterized, and standardized than in vivo efforts and may ultimately produce a better defined final product (the transduced cell).

The gene products of suicide and coexpressed resistance genes are highly immunogenic and may induce immune-mediated rejection of the transduced cells. In one study, the persistence of adoptively transferred autologous CD8+ HIV-specific CTL clones modified to express the hygromycin phosphotransferase (Hy) gene and the herpesvirus thymidine kinase gene as a fusion gene was limited by the induction of a potent CD8+ class I MHC-restricted CTL response specific for epitopes derived from the Hy-tk protein126. Less immunogenic suicide and selection marker genes, preferably of human origin, may reduce the immunological inactivation of genetically modified donor lymphocytes. Human-derived prodrug-activating systems include the human folylpolyglutamate synthetase/methotrexate127, the deoxycytidine/cytosine arabinoside128, or the carboxylesterase/irinotecan129 systems. These systems do not activate nontoxic prodrugs but are based on enhancement of already potent chemotherapeutic agents. The administration of methotrexate to treat severe GVHD may not only kill transduced donor lymphocytes but may also have additional inhibitory activity on nontransduced but activated T cells.

Finally, endogenous proapoptotic molecules have been proposed as nonimmunogenic suicide genes. A chimeric protein that contains the FK506-binding protein FKBP12 linked to the intracellular domain of human Fas130 was recently introduced. Addition of the dimerizing prodrug induces Fas crosslinking with subsequent triggering of an apoptotic death signal.

Genetic engineering of T lymphocytes should help deliver on the promise of immunotherapies for cancer, infection, and autoimmune disease. Improvements in transduction, selection, and expansion techniques and the development of new viral vectors incapable of insertional mutagenesis will reduce the risks and further enhance the integration of T cell and gene therapies. Nonetheless, successful application of the proposed modifications to the clinical setting still requires many iterative studies to allow investigators to optimize the individual components of the approach.

Genetically modified T cells in cancer therapy: opportunities and challenges
Michaela Sharpe, Natalie Mount


The feasibility of T-cell adoptive transfer was first reported nearly 20 years ago (Walter et al., 1995) and the field of T-cell therapies is now poised for significant clinical advances. Recent clinical trial successes have been achieved through multiple small advances, improved understanding of immunology and emerging technologies. As the key challenges of T-cell avidity, persistence and ability to exert the desired anti-tumour effects as well as the identification of new target antigens are addressed, a broader clinical application of these therapies could be achieved. As the clinical data emerges, the challenge of making these therapies available to patients shifts to implementing robust, scalable and cost-effective manufacture and to the further evolution of the regulatory requirements to ensure an appropriate but proportionate system that is adapted to the characteristics of these innovative new medicines.



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Immune System Stimulants: Articles of Note

Curators: Larry H. Bernstein, MD, FCAP and Aviva Lev-Ari, PhD, RN


  • New Approaches to Immunotherapy


New Class of Immune System Stimulants: Cyclic Di-Nucleotides (CDN): Shrink Tumors and bolster Vaccines, re-arm the Immune System’s Natural Killer Cells, which attack Cancer Cells and Virus-infected Cells

Three Methods for Design of a Novel Immune Therapy for Cancer: Conceptual Foundation for Development of a Novel Mechanism of Action for a Combination Therapy of Biologics — Password protected

Basic Research in Immune Oncology and Molecular Genomics: Methods to Stimulate Immunity by Alteration of Tumor Antigens – Reporting on R&D @MGH

New insights in cancer, cancer immunogenesis and circulating cancer cells

Perspectives on Anti-metastatic Effects in Cancer Research 2015



Issues Need to be Resolved With Immuno-Modulatory Therapies: NK cells, mAbs, and adoptive T cells


  •  Current Methods of Immuno-Therapy



Checkpoint inhibitors for gastrointestinal cancers

Immunomodulatory Therapeutic Antibodies for Cancer, August 13-15, 2013 – Boston, MA – Final Agenda

Tang Prize for 2014: Immunity and Cancer

LIVE 10:25 am – 12:00 pm 4/26/2016 Fireside Chat: Robert Bradway, CEO, Amgen & Immunotherapy I: Checkpoint Activation and Cancer Vaccines @2016 World Medical Innovation Forum: CANCER, April 25-27, 2016, Westin Hotel, Boston

Natural Killer Cell Response: Treatment of Cancer


Cancer Immunotherapy Conference & Biomarkers for Cancer Immunotherapy Symposium, March 6-11, 2016 | Moscone North Convention Center | San Francisco, CA

Viruses, Vaccines and Immunotherapy

Advances in Cancer Immunotherapy

Perspectives on Anti-metastatic Effects in Cancer Research 2015


  • Evolving Approaches including Combination Oncotherapy


LIVE – 8:00 am – 12:00 pm 4/25/2016 – First Look: The Next Wave of Cancer Breakthroughs @2016 World Medical Innovation Forum: CANCER, April 25-27, 2016, Westin Hotel, Boston 2016 World Medical Innovation Forum: CANCER, April 25-27, 2016, Partners HealthCare, Boston, at the Westin Hotel, Boston

Brain Cancer Vaccine in Development and other considerations

Rapid regression of HER2 breast cancer

Breakthrough work in cancer

Novel biomarkers for targeting cancer immunotherapy

Humanized Mice May Revolutionize Cancer Drug Discovery

Immunomodulatory Therapeutic Antibodies for Cancer, August 13-15, 2013 – Boston, MA – Final Agenda

Melanoma: Molecule in Immune System Could Help Treat Dangerous Skin Cancer

NIH Study Demonstrates that a New Cancer Immunotherapy Method could be Effective against a wide range of Cancers

Aptamers and Scaffolds


  • Microbiological Factors in Cancer Growth


Microbe meets cancer

Gut microbiome and anti-tumor response

Malaria Protein Anti-cancer Activity

Retroviruses and Immunity

Oncolytic Viruses in Cancer Therapy @ CHI’s PreClinical Congress, June 14, 2016 Westin Boston Waterfront, Boston

Oncolytic Virus Immuno-Therapy: New Approach for a New Class of Immunotherapy Drugs


  • Signaling Pathways in Oncotherapy


Protein heals wounds, boosts immunity and protects from cancer – Lactoferrin

Programmed Cell Death and Cancer Therapy

BET Proteins Connect Diabetes and Cancer

Signaling of Immune Response in Colon Cancer

Myc and Cancer Resistance

Renal (Kidney) Cancer: Connections in Metabolism at Krebs cycle and Histone Modulation

Pancreatic Cancer and Crossing Roads of Metabolism

Autophagy-Modulating Proteins and Small Molecules Candidate Targets for Cancer Therapy: Commentary of Bioinformatics Approaches

A Curated Census of Autophagy-Modulating Proteins and Small Molecules Candidate Targets for Cancer Therapy

Biology, Physiology and Pathophysiology of Heat Shock Proteins

Heat Shock Proteins (HSP) and Molecular Chaperones

The Delicate Connection: IDO (Indolamine 2, 3 dehydrogenase) and Cancer Immunology

What is the key method to harness Inflammation to close the doors for many complex diseases?

IDO for Commitment of a Life Time: The Origins and Mechanisms of IDO, indolamine 2, 3-dioxygenase

Confined Indolamine 2, 3 dioxygenase (IDO) Controls the Hemeostasis of Immune Responses for Good and Bad

Insight on Cell Senescence

Neutrophil Serine Proteases in Disease and Therapeutic Considerations

T cell-mediated immune responses & signaling pathways activated by TLRs


  • Immunogenetics in Oncotherapy


CRISPR/Cas9: Contributions on Endoribonuclease Structure and Function, Role in Immunity and Applications in Genome Engineering

CRISPR-Cas9 and Regenerative Medicine

CRISPR/Cas9 Finds Its Way As an Important Tool For Drug Discovery & Development

GEN Tech Focus: Rethinking Gene Expression Analysis

Gene Expression and Adaptive Immune Resistance Mechanisms in Lymphoma

Serpins: A Review in Human Genomics

Upcoming Meetings on Cancer Immunogenetics

ipilimumab, a Drug that blocks CTLA-4 Freeing T cells to Attack Tumors @DM Anderson Cancer Center

NIH Considers Guidelines for CAR-T therapy: Report from Recombinant DNA Advisory Committee

Cancer Labs at School of Medicine @ Technion: Janet and David Polak Cancer and Vascular Biology Research Center

Host – Tumor Interactions during Cancer Therapy – Dr. Yuval Shaked’s Lab @Technion

Demythologizing sharks, cancer, and shark fins

Naked Mole Rats Cancer-Free

From the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research: Genes Needed for Local Tissue Immune Response


  • Immunotherapy Market


Next-generation Universal Cell Immunotherapy startup Adicet Bio, Menlo Park, CA is launched with $51M Funding by OrbiMed

Juno Acquires AbVitro for $125M: high-throughput and single-cell sequencing capabilities for Immune-Oncology Drug Discovery

Monoclonal Antibody Therapy and Market

Monoclonal Antibody Therapy: What is in the name or clear description?

Tumor Associated Macrophages: The Double-Edged Sword Resolved?

Targeting Glucose Deprived Network Along with Targeted Cancer Therapy Can be a Possible Method of Treatment

Immunoreactivity of Nanoparticles 

Tofacitinib, an Oral Janus Kinase Inhibitor, in Active Ulcerative Colitis

Acute Lung Injury

Peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor (PPAR-gamma) Receptors Activation: PPARγ transrepression for Angiogenesis in Cardiovascular Disease and PPARγ transactivation for Treatment of Diabetes

Inflammatory Disorders: Articles published @

Cytokines in IBD

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New Class of Immune System Stimulants: Cyclic Di-Nucleotides (CDN): Shrink Tumors and bolster Vaccines, re-arm the Immune System’s Natural Killer Cells, which attack Cancer Cells and Virus-infected Cells

Reporter: Aviva Lev-Ari, PhD, RN


The Immunotherapeutics and Vaccine Research Initiative (IVRI), a UC Berkeley effort funded by Aduro Biotech, Inc.

The initiative was officially launched at an evening reception on March 24, the eve of a one-day symposium at UC Berkeley titled “Harnessing the Immune System to Fight Cancer and Infectious Diseases.” The symposium was jointly sponsored by UC Berkeley’s Henry Wheeler Center for Emerging and Neglected Diseases and Cancer Research Laboratory.



Aduro Biotech helps launch new immunotherapy, vaccine effort

UC Berkeley cancer immunologists are teaming up with colleagues working on infectious disease to create a new Immunotherapeutics and Vaccine Research Initiative, fueled by $7.5 million in funding from Aduro Biotech Inc., a Berkeley company that develops immunotherapies for cancer and other diseases.

The Immunotherapeutics and Vaccine Research Initiative (IVRI), a UC Berkeley effort funded by Aduro Biotech, Inc.

Aduro’s three years of funding, with the potential for three more, will support work on some of today’s most promising techniques for stimulating the immune system to fight off cancer and infections. These may include investigating a new class of immune system stimulants called cyclic di-nucleotides, which have shown promise in shrinking tumors and bolstering vaccines against tuberculosis, and research that could help re-arm the immune system’s natural killer cells, which normally attack cancer cells and virus-infected cells, to better fight tumors.

“We’re increasingly finding that immune stimulants associated with disease-causing microbes work as cancer therapies, and conversely, that immunotherapies for cancer may have application in fighting infectious disease,” said IVRI director David Raulet, a professor and co-chair of the Department of Molecular and Cell Biology. “Bringing infectious disease and cancer researchers together in a synergistic research effort at UC Berkeley and Aduro Biotech is an exciting and unique idea, and could be where the next generation of therapies will come from.”

Aduro already uses some of UC Berkeley’s technology, including attenuated Listeria monocytogenes mutants and methods to engineer these bacteria to stimulate the immune system as vaccines for immunotherapy. This technology, pioneered by Dan Portnoy, a UC Berkeley professor who has joint appointments in the Department of Molecular and Cell Biology and the infectious diseases and vaccinology division of the School of Public Health, has been further refined by Aduro scientists and is now being employed in Phase IIB clinical trials for vaccines against pancreatic cancer and mesothelioma.

Stephen Isaacs

Stephen Isaacs, CEO of Aduro Biotech, at the launch of the IVRI on March 23. (Peg Skorpinski photos)

“Through this unique collaboration, there is tremendous opportunity to improve our understanding of the immune system’s potential to serve as an important weapon in treating cancer and infectious disease,” said Stephen T. Isaacs, chairman, president and CEO of Aduro Biotech. “By combining UC Berkeley’s leading research and academic resources with innovative technology platforms, such as those developed by Aduro, we are confident that this initiative will lead to an improved understanding of, and potential treatments for, some of the most devastating diseases.”

The initiative was officially launched at an evening reception on March 24, the eve of aone-day symposium at UC Berkeley titled “Harnessing the Immune System to Fight Cancer and Infectious Diseases.” The symposium was jointly sponsored by UC Berkeley’s Henry Wheeler Center for Emerging and Neglected Diseases and Cancer Research Laboratory.

Berkeley research revived cancer immunotherapy

Much of the excitement around combining these two areas — the immunology of cancer and the immunology of infectious disease — comes from the amazing success of immunotherapy against cancer, which started with the work of James Allison when he was a professor of immunology at UC Berkeley and director of the Cancer Research Laboratory from 1985 to 2004. Allison, now at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, discovered a way to release a brake on the body’s immune response to cancer that has proved highly successful at unleashing the immune system to attack melanoma and is being tried against other types of cancer.

James Allison

James Allison, whose UC Berkeley work led to the renaissance of cancer immunotherapy.

Allison’s work revived attempts to rev up the immune system to fight cancer, and has led to many new avenues for creating cancer immune-therapies. In addition to Allison’s technique, which uses an antibody that blocks an immune suppressor called CTLA4, antibodies that block another immune suppressor, PD1, have been successful in treating melanoma, renal cancer and a type of lung cancer. Both CTLA4 and PD1 antibodies are now FDA-approved as cancer therapies.

Another promising avenue involves a protein in cells that responds to foreign DNA to launch an innate immune response — the first response of the body’s immune system. The protein, dubbed STING, is triggered by small molecules called cyclic di-nucleotides (CDN), and makes immune cells release interferon and other cytokines that activate disease-fighting T cells and stimulate the production of antibodies that together kill invading pathogens and destroy cancer cells. Listeria bacteria, for example, secrete a CDN directly into infected cells that activates STING.

Russell Vance, a UC Berkeley professor of molecular and cell biology and current head of the Cancer Research Laboratory, discovered several years ago that the chemical structure of these di-nucleotides is critical to their ability to work in humans. Aduro has since developed a CDN designed to work in humans and found that injecting it directly into a tumor in mice caused the tumor to shrink.

“It’s amazing how these discoveries made by infectious disease researchers have given us an exciting new approach to treat cancer,” Raulet said. “These really are areas that have a lot to say to each other.”

Another IVRI-affiliated researcher, Sarah Stanley, an assistant professor of public health, has found evidence that CDNs can help improve the imperfect vaccines we have today against tuberculosis.

Researchers at UC Berkeley will have access to Aduro’s novel technology platforms for research use, including its STING pathway activators, proprietary monoclonal antibodies and the engineered listeria bacteria, referred to as LADD (listeria attenuated double-deleted).

David Raulet

David Raulet, professor of molecular and cell biology and director of IVRI.

Raulet’s own research on natural killer or NK cells of the immune system has contributed to making these cells a new focus of cancer research. Revving up T cells is the goal of most immunotherapies today, but other immune cells, including NK cells, also attack tumors. As tumors advance, NK cells inside the tumors appear to become desensitized, he said. Recent research shows that some cytokines and other immune mediators Raulet discovered are able to “wake them up” and get them to resume their elimination of cancer cells.

“NK cell immunotherapies are very likely to be the next generation to complement T cell immunotherapies,” he predicted.

By focusing on fundamental scientific research to understand the immune system’s biochemical tools and signaling pathways, how the immune system recognizes invaders and how immune cells talk to one another, the IVRI has the potential to discover new ways to selectively target and cure many human diseases.

“The IVRI is a marriage of cancer immunotherapy and infectious disease immunology, where therapies in one area can be effective in the other, and observations in one can be applied to the other,” Raulet said. “It’s exciting to think that drugs tested first in diseases like cancer might have an impact on neglected diseases in the developing world, and that it can work in the other direction too.”


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