Posts Tagged ‘Adaptive immune system’

Free Webinar From AAAS: Metabolic regulation of immunity: Exploring programs that drive immune development and function

Reporter: Stephen J. Williams, PhD

Metabolic regulation of immunity: Exploring programs that drive immune development and function – Now Complimentary on Demand

Science Webinar Series

In case you missed our live, online educational seminar, “Metabolic regulation of immunity: Exploring programs that drive immune development and function” we wanted to let you know that it is available in our complimentary on-demand archive.

You can access this archive to watch the webinar at any time.

For more information and access to the archive, go to:

About This Webinar

According to conventional thinking, metabolic changes related to disease are thought to be triggered predominantly by signals from the immune cell-signaling network. However, recent evidence supports a role for metabolism as a “first responder” that can be decisive in actually forming immune responses and determining outcomes based on the metabolic potential and fitness of the responding cells. This new insight has led to the potential for reprogramming cellular metabolism to direct immune cell fate and function and thus to ultimately improve disease outcomes. In this webinar we will explain how metabolic pathways and substrates have been found to impact particular immune cell subsets and their functional roles. The application of this knowledge to better understand disease and to reveal novel therapeutic approaches will also be discussed.

During the webinar, our expert speakers will:
• Describe the metabolic pathways and substrates that control immune cell activation, amplification, effector function, and memory
• Demonstrate how the metabolic programs of immune cells are connected with their ability to respond to infection and disease
• Outline new therapeutic strategies that exploit the regulatory role of metabolism in immunity
• Answer your questions live during the broadcast!


Jeffrey Rathmell, Ph.D.
Duke University School of Medicine
Durham, NC

Russell Jones, Ph.D.
McGill University
Montreal, Canada

Christoph Hess, M.D., Ph.D.
University Hospital Basel
Basel, Switzerland

Register at:

Questions? E-mail: webinar@aaas.org.

Produced by the Science/AAAS Custom Publishing Office and sponsored by:

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Tumor Associated Macrophages: The Double-Edged Sword Resolved?

Writer/Curator: Stephen J. Williams, Ph.D.

UPDATED 10/04/2021 TAMs Enhance Tumor Hypoxia and Aerobic Glycolysis

Cell-based immunity is vital for our defense against pathologic insult but recent evidence has shown the role of cell-based immunity, especially macrophages to play an important role in both the development and hindrance of tumor growth, including role in ovarian, hematologic cancers, melanoma, and breast cancer.  In the past half century, new immunological concepts of cancer initiation and progression have emerged, including the importance of the harnessing the immune system as a potential anti-cancer strategy. However, as our knowledge of the immune system and tumor biology has grown, the field has realized an immunological conundrum: how can an immune system act to both prevent tumor growth and promote the tumor’s growth?

As discussed in the lower section of this post, authors of a paper in the journal Science show how different populations of tumor-associated macrophages (TAMs) may exert both positive and negative effects on tumor cells, producing a sort of ying-yang war between the tumor and the immune system.

The Immune System: Brief Overview and Role in Cancer


Figure. Cell lineage of the immune system. A description of the different cell types can be found here.

Histologic evaluation of multiple tumor types, especially solid tumors, reveal the infiltration of diverse immunological cell types, including myeloid and lymphoid cell lineages, such as macrophages and NK, T cell and B cells respectively.

The immunological conundrum


Figure. Potential inflammatory signaling pathways in breast cancer stem cells.
Breast cancer stem cells may be regulated by chemokine- and/or cytokine-mediated inflammatory signaling in an autocrine or paracrine manner. (from University of Tokyo at http://www.ims.u-tokyo.ac.jp/system-seimei/en/research2_e.htm)

Role of Tumor Associated Macrophages

There are conflicting reports as to the functional consequence of these infiltrating tumor-associated macrophages (TAMs). TAMs have been shown to secrete mediators such as interleukins and cytokines in a paracrine manner such as CCL2, IL10 and TGFβ. In certain instances these cytokines and mediators actually promote the growth of the surrounding tumors.

J Leukoc Biol 2009 Nov 86(5) 1065-73, Figure 1

Figure.  TAMs can be divided into subpopulations with distinctive functions and secretogogues.

For Further Reference

Tumor-associated macrophages and the profile of inflammatory cytokines in oral squamous cell carcinoma. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23089461 anti-inflamm IL10 and TGFB

Tumor-associated macrophage-derived IL-6 and IL-8 enhance invasive activity of LoVo cells induced by PRL-3 in a KCNN4 channel-dependent manner


Figure 2: TAM functions in tumor progression. Tumor cells and stromal cells, which produce a series of chemokines and growth factors, induce monocytes to differentiate into macrophages. In the tumor, most macrophages are M2-like, and they express some cytokines, chemokines, and proteases, which promote tumor angiogenesis, metastasis, and immunosuppression. From Macrophages in Tumor Microenvironments and the Progression of Tumors


Macrophages integrate metabolic and environmental signals to promote tumor growth. Area within dotted rectangle indicates proposed mechanisms of action. ARG, arginase; HIF, hypoxia-inducible factor; MCT, monocarboxylate transporter; NADH, nicotine adenine dinucleotide, reduced; PKM2, M2 isoform of pyruvate kinase; VEGF, vascular endothelial growth factor from Tumor cells hijack macrophages via lactic acid adapted from Colegio OR, Chu N-Q, Szabo AL, Chu T, Rhebergen AM, Jairam V et al. Functional polarization of tumour-associated macrophages by tumour-derived lactic acid. Nature (e-pub ahead of print 13 July 2014; doi:10.1038/nature13490). | Article |

Depletion of M2-Like Tumor-Associated Macrophages Delays Cutaneous T-Cell Lymphoma Development In Vivo

Targeting tumor-associated macrophages in an orthotopic murine model of diffuse malignant mesothelioma

Crosstalk between colon cancer cells and macrophages via inflammatory mediators and CD47 promotes tumour cell migration

Tumor-Associated Macrophages Regulate Murine Breast Cancer Stem Cells Through a Novel Paracrine EGFR/Stat3/Sox-2 Signaling Pathway

Science Paper: Different Populations of TAMS Have Different Tumor Effects

The cellular and molecular origin of tumor-associated macrophages Eric G. Pamer1 Ruth A. Franklin1,2, Will Liao3, Abira Sarkar1, Myoungjoo V. Kim1,2, Michael R. Bivona1, Kang Liu4, Ming O. Li1, Science 23 May 2014: Vol. 344 no. 6186 pp. 921-925

A recent Science paper from Cornel has investigated the origin, function, and characterization of TAMs on breast cancer growth. In summary, their efforts and research suggest different populations of TAMs with varied tumorigenic effects, a finding which may help explain the immunologic conundrum with respect to solid tumors.

The authors characterized the infiltrating immune cell types in a MMTV-PyMt model of breast cancer.

The MMTV-PyMt mouse breast cancer model:

is a transgenic model where mammary gland expression of the polyoma middle T antigen (PyMT) is driven by the Mouse Mammary Tumor Virus promoter (MMTV).

Microbiol. Mol. Biol. Rev. 2009 Sep 73(3) 542-63, FIG. 5

For a review of mouse models of breast cancer please see

Mouse models of breast cancer metastasis. Anna Fantozzi1 and Gerhard Christofori. Breast Cancer Res. 2006; 8(4): 212.


1.     Macrophages constitute the predominate myeloid cell population in MMTV-PyMT mammary tumors

Tumor infiltrating immune cells included

  • Myeloid cells comprised 50% of CD45+ infiltrating leukocytes.
  • The CD45 antigen, also known as Protein tyrosine phosphatase, receptor type, C (PTPRC) is an enzyme that, in humans, is encoded by the PTPRC gene, and acts as a regulator of B and T-lymphocytes.
  • Authors noted three types of cells classified as Type I, II, and III based on
  1. Cell morphology
  2. Major histocompatibility complex
  • Infiltrating monocytes and neutrophils
  • Cells with dendritic and macrophage markers

2. TAMS differentiate from CCR2+ inflammatory monocytes

  • To determine whether Ly6C+CCR2+ inflammatory monocytes contributed to TAMs and MTMs, authors crossed PyMT mice to Ccr2−/− mice and found MTMs (mammary tumor macrophages) were significantly reduced in Ccr2−/− PyMT mice, implying that MTMs are constitutively repopulated by inflammatory monocytes
  • To determine whether inflammatory monocytes were required for TAM maintenance, we generated CCR2DTR PyMT mice expressing diphtheria toxin receptor (DTR) under control of the Ccr2 locus DT treatment resulted in 96% depletion of tumor-associated monocytes compared to 80% depletion in Ccr2−/− mice
  • To investigate whether monocytes could differentiate into TAMs in vivo, we transferred CCR2+ bone marrow cells isolated from CCR2GFP reporter mice into congenically marked CCR2DTR PyMT mice depleted of endogenous monocytes, we observed transferred cells in developing tumors demonstrate that tumor growth induces the differentiation of CCR2+ monocytes into TAMs.

3.     TAMs are phenotypically distinct from AAMs (M2 or alternatively activated macrophages)

  • Gene-expression profiling revealed the integrin CD11b (Itgam) was expressed at lower levels in TAMs than in MTMs while several other integrins and the integrin receptor Vcam1 were up-regulated in TAMs
  • AM population did not express AAM markers such as Ym1, Fizz1, and Mrc1; instead, MTMs more closely resembled AAMs. The authors detected Vcam1 up-regulation on TAMs as a late differentiation event

4.    RBPJ-dependent TAMs modulate the adaptive immune response

  • In DCs, canonical Notch signaling mediated by the key transcriptional regulator RBPJ controls lineage commitment and terminal differentiation. To explore whether Notch signaling played a role in TAM differentiation, authors used CD11ccre mice that efficiently deleted floxed DNA sequences to a greater extent in TAMs than MTMs, but not in monocytes or neutrophils (fig. S14). CD11ccreRbpjfl/fl PyMT mice exhibited a selective loss of MHCIIhiCD11blo TAMs ( 4A). However, a MHCIIhiCD11bhi population still remained
  • Transcriptional profiling comparing this population to WT TAMs confirmed a loss of the Notch-dependent program in RBPJ-deficient cells revealing that in the absence of RBPJ, inflammatory monocytes are unable to terminally differentiate into TAMs.

UPDATED 10/04/2021 TAMs Enhance Tumor Hypoxia and Aerobic Glycolysis

Tumor-Associated Macrophages Enhance Tumor Hypoxia and Aerobic Glycolysis


Tumor-Associated Macrophages Enhance Tumor Hypoxia and Aerobic Glycolysis
Hoibin JeongSehui KimBeom-Ju HongChan-Ju LeeYoung-Eun KimSeoyeon BokJung-Min OhSeung-Hee GwakMin Young YooMin Sun LeeSeock-Jin ChungJoan DefrênePhilippe TessierMartin PelletierHyeongrin JeonTae-Young RohBumju KimKi Hean KimJi Hyeon JuSungjee KimYoon-Jin LeeDong-Wan KimIl Han KimHak Jae KimJong-Wan ParkYun-Sang LeeJae Sung LeeGi Jeong CheonIrving L. WeissmanDoo Hyun ChungYoon Kyung Jeon and G-One Ahn


Tumor hypoxia and aerobic glycolysis are well-known resistance factors for anticancer therapies. Here, we demonstrate that tumor-associated macrophages (TAM) enhance tumor hypoxia and aerobic glycolysis in mice subcutaneous tumors and in patients with non–small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). We found a strong correlation between CD68 TAM immunostaining and PET 18fluoro-deoxyglucose (FDG) uptake in 98 matched tumors of patients with NSCLC. We also observed a significant correlation between CD68 and glycolytic gene signatures in 513 patients with NSCLC from The Cancer Genome Atlas database. TAM secreted TNFα to promote tumor cell glycolysis, whereas increased AMP-activated protein kinase and peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor gamma coactivator 1-alpha in TAM facilitated tumor hypoxia. Depletion of TAM by clodronate was sufficient to abrogate aerobic glycolysis and tumor hypoxia, thereby improving tumor response to anticancer therapies. TAM depletion led to a significant increase in programmed death-ligand 1 (PD-L1) expression in aerobic cancer cells as well as T-cell infiltration in tumors, resulting in antitumor efficacy by PD-L1 antibodies, which were otherwise completely ineffective. These data suggest that TAM can significantly alter tumor metabolism, further complicating tumor response to anticancer therapies, including immunotherapy.

Significance: These findings show that tumor-associated macrophages can significantly modulate tumor metabolism, hindering the efficacy of anticancer therapies, including anti-PD-L1 immunotherapy.


Tumor hypoxia and glycolysis have long been recognized as major resistance factors contributing to failures of chemo- and radiotherapy (1, 2). Traditionally, tumor hypoxia is known to occur by two mechanisms: chronic or acute hypoxia (2). Chronic hypoxia occurs as a result of rapid proliferation of cancer cells and hence being constantly forced away from blood vessels beyond the oxygen diffusion distance of approximately 150 μm (2). Acute hypoxia on the other hand occurs by a temporary cessation of the blood flow due to highly disorganized tumor vasculature (2). Regardless of the mechanism, tumor hypoxia has been extensively documented for their contribution to resistance to all anticancer therapies including chemotherapy (2), surgery (3), radiotherapy (2), and recently immunotherapy (4).

Aerobic glycolysis, also known as Warburg effect, is a phenomenon whereby many types of tumors exhibit a preference of glucose over the oxygen for their energy substrate (5), and this has allowed us to track solid tumors in patients with PET using 18fluoro-deoxyglucose (FDG) radioactive tracer (6). Although several mechanisms for Warburg effect have been suggested including mitochondrial defects, adaptation to hypoxia [hence activation of hypoxia-inducible factor (HIF)], and oncogenic signals such as MYC and RAS (7), the exact mechanism is still controversial. Tumor glycolysis has also been reported to influence the therapy outcome (8). Preclinical studies have suggested that glycolysis can increase DNA repair enzyme expressions including Rad51 and Ku70, which can facilitate radiation-induced DNA double-strand break repair (9). Lactate, a major byproduct of glycolysis, has recently been shown to be utilized as a fuel source for oxidative phosphorylation in nearby cancer cells (10), which can promote the tumor recurrence following anticancer therapies.

Tumor-associated macrophages (TAM) are bone marrow–derived immune cells recruited to tumors and have been extensively reported for their protumoral role (11). Recruited to tumors by various tumor-secreting factors including stromal cell–derived factor-1 (SDF1; ref. 12), VEGF (13), semaphorin 3A (14), and colony-stimulating growth factor-1 (CSF1; ref. 15), TAMs have been shown to produce various growth factors and proteases necessary for tumor survival (11) or immunosuppressive cytokines inhibiting antitumor immune responses (16). Macrophages in general are known to be polarized to either classically activated M1 macrophages or alternatively activated M2 phenotype depending on the cytokine milieu in which they are exposed (17). Bacterial-derived products such as lipopolysaccharide have been shown to polarize macrophages toward M1 phenotype (17), while parasite-associated signals such as IL4 and IL13 can lead to M2-polarized macrophages with increased tissue repair abilities (17). It has been suggested that TAMs are M2-like, although various subpopulations of TAM have been also identified including TIE2-positive macrophages (18), programmed cell death protein-1 (PD-1)–expressing TAM (19), and C-C chemokine receptor type-2 (CCR2)–expressing TAM (20).

In this study, we demonstrate clinically and preclinically that TAMs are a novel contributor to tumor hypoxia and aerobic glycolysis by competing oxygen and glucose with cancer cells. We further observed that TAM can significantly interfere with T-cell infiltration thereby masking programmed death-ligand 1 (PD-L1) expression in the tumors. We believe that our results have an important clinical implication such that patients with high infiltration of TAM in their tumors may poorly respond to all anticancer therapies, including the latest immunotherapy.

Figure 1.

Strong correlations between TAM infiltration and glycolysis in patients with NSCLC. A, Representative PET/CT images for FDG uptake (top) and immunostaining of CD68 (bottom) from paired tumors of patients with NSCLC. Top, yellow circles, location of tumors. Bottom, red arrowheads, CD68-positive TAM. Scale bar, 100 μm. B, Correlation between glycolysis and CD68-positive TAM in 98 patients with NSCLC paired results as in A. Glycolysis was analyzed as FDG maximal standardized uptake value (FDG SUVmax; left) or 40% total lesion glycolysis (TLG; right). C, FDG SUVmax values for CD68low (n = 49) or CD68Hi (n = 49) NSCLC tumors. D, Subgroup analyses of FDG uptake in adenocarcinomas (n = 48; left) or squamous cell carcinomas (n = 50; right) of NSCLC. *, P < 0.05; ***, P < 0.001 in C and D as determined by the Student t test. Data are the mean ± SEM. E, TCGA analysis between CD68 and SLC2A1 (left) or HK2 (right) in 513 patients with adenocarcinoma NSCLC. P values are indicated in each plot.

TAMs make tumors more glycolytic

Figure 2.

TAMs make tumors more glycolytic. A, Left, PET/MRI images for FDG uptake in LLC tumors in mice before (D0, top) and after (D2, bottom) Veh or Clod treatment. Yellow circles, tumors. Right, T2-weighted MR images of LLC tumors treated with Veh or Clod pre (top)- or post (bottom)- contrast. Red arrowheads in Veh tumor, ferumoxytol-labeled TAM. B, FDG uptake SUVmax in A. **, P < 0.01, determined by two-way ANOVA. C, FACS plot indicating HoechstbrightKeratin+ (red boxes) population of cells sorted as aerobic cancer cells. D, Fold changes in gene expression in FACS-sorted aerobic cancer cells from LLC tumors treated with Clod or Veh. E, Glucose uptake (left) and lactate production (right) from the sorted aerobic cancer cells as in C. Data in D and E are the mean ± SEM from at least triplicate samples. *, P < 0.05; ***, P < 0.001 by the Student t test. F, Western blot of FACS-sorted aerobic cancer cells in C for GLUT1. β-Actin was used as the loading control. G, Oxygen consumption kinetics in FACS-sorted aerobic cancer cells as described in CH, LLC tumor growth in mice treated with Veh, Clod, Veh + metformin (Veh + Met), or Clod + metformin (Clod + Met). *, P < 0.05; **, P < 0.01; ***, P < 0.001, determined by two-way ANOVA. I, LLC tumor growth in mice treated with Veh, Clod, Veh + 2-DG, or Clod + 2-DG. Data in H and I are the mean ± SEM, with number of animals indicated in the graphs.

TAMs secrete TNFα to promote tumor glycolysis

Figure 3.

Macrophages secrete TNFα to facilitate glycolysis in cancer cells. A, Gene expression changes in LLC cocultured with (LLC+BMDM) or without (LLC) BMDM. Data are the mean ± SEM from at least triplicate determinations. B, Glucose uptake (left) and lactate production (right) in LLC cocultured with or without BMDM. Data are the mean ± SEM for triplicate samples per group. **, P < 0.01 by Student t test. C, Glucose uptake in LLC cultured alone, cocultured with BMDM, or cocultured with BMDM with glucose added back to the LLC compartment of the coculture system. Data are the mean ± SEM for n = 4 replicates per group. *, P < 0.05; **, P < 0.01 by one-way ANOVA. D, Antibody cytokine arrays in the supernatant obtained from BMDM culture with (BMDM+LLC) or without (BMDM) LLC. Red boxes indicate those cytokines whose expressions were increased in BMDM cocultured with LLC compared with BMDM alone. Blue box, CXCL1, a cytokine produced by LLC cancer cells themselves (Supplementary Fig. S2D). E, Luminex cytokine assays for TNFα in the supernatant from culture media, LLC alone, BMDM alone, or BMDM cocultured with LLC. Data are the mean ± SEM for n = 3 replicates per group. ***, P < 0.001 by one-way ANOVA. F, Glucose uptake in LLC alone (none), LLC cocultured with BMDM (+BMDM), or LLC treated with TNFα (+TNFα) or with IFNγ (+IFNγ). Data are the mean ± SEM from n = 3 samples per group. **, P < 0.01; ***, P < 0.001 by one-way ANOVA. G, Western blot for LLC cells treated with increasing concentrations of recombinant TNFα protein for GLUT1, HK2, or PGC-1α. β-Actin was used as the loading control. H, TNFα concentrations in the supernatant from LLC cultured with (+BMDM) or without (alone) BMDM, or in BMDM cultured with (+LLC) or without (alone) LLC, measured by ELISA. BD, below the detection limit. **, P < 0.01 by Student t test. I, Immunostaining of TNFα (red) and CD68 (green) in LLC tumors grown in mice. Nuclei are shown in blue with DAPI counterstaining. The inset shows magnified regions where indicated with the asterisk (*). White arrowheads, CD68-positive TAM-expressing TNFα. Scale bar, 100 μm. J, TNFα concentrations measured by ELISA in the supernatant from CD11b and F4/80 double-positive TAM sorted by FACS. Data are the mean ± SEM from triplicate determinations. ***, P < 0.001, determined by one-way ANOVA. K, TCGA analysis of clinical correlations between CD68 and TNF (left) or between TNF and HK2 (right) in 513 patients with adenocarcinoma NSCLC. P values are indicated in each plot.

TAMs exacerbate tumor hypoxia

Figure 4.

TAMs directly contribute to tumor hypoxia. A, Immunostaining of LLC tumors grown in mice for TAM by using S100A8 (red) and hypoxia by using pimonidazole (PIMO; green) antibodies. Nuclei are shown in blue with DAPI counterstaining. B, FACS analysis demonstrating that CD11b and F4/80 double-positive TAMs are pimonidazole-positive. C, Gene expression in CD11b and F4/80 double-positive TAM isolated from LLC tumors compared with those in cultured BMDM. Data are the mean ± SEM from triplicate determinations. D, Two-photon microscopy images of the dorsal window chamber whereby 5 × HRE-GFP–expressing LLC tumors had been implanted. Images were taken at 24 hours after a single intratumoral injection of PBS (+PBS) or PBS containing FACS-sorted TAM (+TAM). Scale bars in A and D, 100 μm. E, Representative FACS plots demonstrating HoechstbrightKeratin+ as aerobic tumor cells (red boxes) and HoechstdimKeratin+ as hypoxic tumor cells in LLC tumors grown in mice treated with Veh or Clod. F, Quantification of aerobic or hypoxic tumor cells in E. Data are the mean ± SEM for n = 6 mice per group. *, P < 0.05 by Student t test. G, TCGA analysis between CD68 and HIF1A in 513 patients with adenocarcinoma NSCLC. P value is indicated in the graph. H, Growth of LLC tumor treated with Veh or Clod immediately prior to a single dose of 20 Gy ionizing irradiation. *, P < 0.05 by two-way ANOVA.


Other posts on this site on Immunology and Cancer include

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

Innovations in Tumor Immunology

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

Vaccines, Small Peptides, aptamers and Immunotherapy [9]

Report on Cancer Immunotherapy Market & Clinical Pipeline Insight

Molecular Profiling in Cancer Immunotherapy: Debraj GuhaThakurta, PhD

Immunotherapy in Cancer: A Series of Twelve Articles in the Frontier of Oncology by Larry H Bernstein, MD, FCAP

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Compilation of References in Leaders in Pharmaceutical Intelligence about proteomics, metabolomics, signaling pathways, and cell regulation

Compilation of References in Leaders in Pharmaceutical Intelligence about
proteomics, metabolomics, signaling pathways, and cell regulation

Curator: Larry H. Bernstein, MD, FCAP



  1. The Human Proteome Map Completed
    Reporter and Curator: Larry H. Bernstein, MD, FCAP
  1. Proteomics – The Pathway to Understanding and Decision-making in Medicine
    Author and Curator, Larry H Bernstein, MD, FCAP
  1. Advances in Separations Technology for the “OMICs” and Clarification of Therapeutic Targets
    Author and Curator, Larry H Bernstein, MD, FCAP
  1. Expanding the Genetic Alphabet and Linking the Genome to the Metabolome
    Author and Curator, Larry H Bernstein, MD, FCAP
  1. Synthesizing Synthetic Biology: PLOS Collections
    Reporter: Aviva Lev-Ari



  1. Extracellular evaluation of intracellular flux in yeast cells
    Larry H. Bernstein, MD, FCAP, Reviewer and Curator
  2. Metabolomic analysis of two leukemia cell lines. I.
    Larry H. Bernstein, MD, FCAP, Reviewer and Curator
  3. Metabolomic analysis of two leukemia cell lines. II.
    Larry H. Bernstein, MD, FCAP, Reviewer and Curator
  4. Metabolomics, Metabonomics and Functional Nutrition: the next step in nutritional metabolism and biotherapeutics
    Reviewer and Curator, Larry H. Bernstein, MD, FCAP
  5. Buffering of genetic modules involved in tricarboxylic acid cycle metabolism provides homeomeostatic regulation
    Larry H. Bernstein, MD, FCAP, Reviewer and curator


Metabolic Pathways

  1. Pentose Shunt, Electron Transfer, Galactose, more Lipids in brief
    Reviewer and Curator: Larry H. Bernstein, MD, FCAP
  2. Mitochondria: More than just the “powerhouse of the cell”
    Reviewer and Curator: Ritu Saxena
  3. Mitochondrial fission and fusion: potential therapeutic targets?
    Reviewer and Curator: Ritu saxena
  4. Mitochondrial mutation analysis might be “1-step” away
    Reviewer and Curator: Ritu Saxena
  5. Selected References to Signaling and Metabolic Pathways in PharmaceuticalIntelligence.com
    Curator: Larry H. Bernstein, MD, FCAP
  6. Metabolic drivers in aggressive brain tumors
    Prabodh Kandal, PhD
  7. Metabolite Identification Combining Genetic and Metabolic Information: Genetic association links unknown metabolites to functionally related genes
    Author and Curator: Aviva Lev-Ari, PhD, RD
  8. Mitochondria: Origin from oxygen free environment, role in aerobic glycolysis, metabolic adaptation
    Author and curator:Larry H Bernstein, MD, FCAP
  9. Therapeutic Targets for Diabetes and Related Metabolic Disorders
    Reporter, Aviva Lev-Ari, PhD, RD
  10. Buffering of genetic modules involved in tricarboxylic acid cycle metabolism provides homeomeostatic regulation
    Larry H. Bernstein, MD, FCAP, Reviewer and curator
  11. The multi-step transfer of phosphate bond and hydrogen exchange energy
    Curator:Larry H. Bernstein, MD, FCAP,
  12. Studies of Respiration Lead to Acetyl CoA
    Author and Curator: Larry H. Bernstein, MD, FCAP
  13. Lipid Metabolism
    Author and Curator: Larry H. Bernstein, MD, FCAP
  14. Carbohydrate Metabolism
    Author and Curator: Larry H. Bernstein, MD, FCAP
  15. Prologue to Cancer – e-book Volume One – Where are we in this journey?
    Author and Curator: Larry H. Bernstein, MD, FCAP
  16. Introduction – The Evolution of Cancer Therapy and Cancer Research: How We Got Here?
    Author and Curator: Larry H. Bernstein, MD, FCAP
  17. Inhibition of the Cardiomyocyte-Specific Kinase TNNI3K
    Author and Curator: Larry H. Bernstein, MD, FCAP
  18. The Binding of Oligonucleotides in DNA and 3-D Lattice Structures
    Author and Curator: Larry H. Bernstein, MD, FCAP
  19. Mitochondrial Metabolism and Cardiac Function
    Author and Curator: Larry H. Bernstein, MD, FCAP
  20. How Methionine Imbalance with Sulfur-Insufficiency Leads to Hyperhomocysteinemia
    Curator: Larry H. Bernstein, MD, FCAP
  21. AMPK Is a Negative Regulator of the Warburg Effect and Suppresses Tumor Growth In Vivo
    Author and Curator: SJ. Williams
  22. A Second Look at the Transthyretin Nutrition Inflammatory Conundrum
    Author and Curator: Larry H. Bernstein, MD, FCAP
  23. Overview of Posttranslational Modification (PTM)
    Writer and Curator: Larry H. Bernstein, MD, FCAP
  24. Malnutrition in India, high newborn death rate and stunting of children age under five years
    Writer and Curator: Larry H. Bernstein, MD, FCAP
  25. Update on mitochondrial function, respiration, and associated disorders
    Writer and Curator: Larry H. Bernstein, MD, FCAP
  26. Omega-3 fatty acids, depleting the source, and protein insufficiency in renal disease
    Larry H. Bernstein, MD, FCAP, Curator
  27. Late Onset of Alzheimer’s Disease and One-carbon Metabolism
    Reporter and Curator: Dr. Sudipta Saha, Ph.D.
  28. Problems of vegetarianism
    Reporter and Curator: Dr. Sudipta Saha, Ph.D.


Signaling Pathways

  1. Introduction to e-Series A: Cardiovascular Diseases, Volume Four Part 2: Regenerative Medicine
    Larry H. Bernstein, MD, FCAP, writer, and Aviva Lev- Ari, PhD, RN  http://pharmaceuticalintelligence.com/2014/04/27/larryhbernintroduction_to_cardiovascular_diseases-translational_medicine-part_2/
  2. Epilogue: Envisioning New Insights in Cancer Translational Biology
    Series C: e-Books on Cancer & Oncology
    Author & Curator: Larry H. Bernstein, MD, FCAP, Series C Content Consultant
  3. Ca2+-Stimulated Exocytosis:  The Role of Calmodulin and Protein Kinase C in Ca2+ Regulation of Hormone and Neurotransmitter  Writer and Curator: Larry H Bernstein, MD, FCAP and Curator and Content Editor: Aviva Lev-Ari, PhD, RN
  4. Cardiac Contractility & Myocardial Performance: Therapeutic Implications of Ryanopathy (Calcium Release-related Contractile Dysfunction) and Catecholamine Responses
    Author, and Content Consultant to e-SERIES A: Cardiovascular Diseases: Justin Pearlman, MD, PhD, FACC
    Author and Curator: Larry H Bernstein, MD, FCAP and Article Curator: Aviva Lev-Ari, PhD, RN
  5. Role of Calcium, the Actin Skeleton, and Lipid Structures in Signaling and Cell Motility
    Author and Curator: Larry H Bernstein, MD, FCAP Author: Stephen Williams, PhD, and Curator: Aviva Lev-Ari, PhD, RN
  6. Identification of Biomarkers that are Related to the Actin Cytoskeleton
    Larry H Bernstein, MD, FCAP, Author and Curator
  7. Advanced Topics in Sepsis and the Cardiovascular System at its End Stage
    Author and Curator: Larry H Bernstein, MD, FCAP
  8. The Delicate Connection: IDO (Indolamine 2, 3 dehydrogenase) and Cancer Immunology
    Demet Sag, PhD, Author and Curator
  9. IDO for Commitment of a Life Time: The Origins and Mechanisms of IDO, indolamine 2, 3-dioxygenase
    Demet Sag, PhD, Author and Curator
  10. Confined Indolamine 2, 3 dioxygenase (IDO) Controls the Homeostasis of Immune Responses for Good and Bad
    Author and Curator: Demet Sag, PhD, CRA, GCP
  11. Signaling Pathway that Makes Young Neurons Connect was discovered @ Scripps Research Institute
    Reporter: Aviva Lev-Ari, PhD, RN
  12. Naked Mole Rats Cancer-Free
    Writer and Curator: Larry H. Bernstein, MD, FCAP
  13. Amyloidosis with Cardiomyopathy
    Writer and Curator: Larry H. Bernstein, MD, FCAP
  14. Liver endoplasmic reticulum stress and hepatosteatosis
    Larry H Bernstein, MD, FACP
  15. The Molecular Biology of Renal Disorders: Nitric Oxide – Part III
    Curator and Author: Larry H Bernstein, MD, FACP
  16. Nitric Oxide Function in Coagulation – Part II
    Curator and Author: Larry H. Bernstein, MD, FCAP
  17. Nitric Oxide, Platelets, Endothelium and Hemostasis
    Curator and Author: Larry H Bernstein, MD, FACP
  18. Interaction of Nitric Oxide and Prostacyclin in Vascular Endothelium
    Curator and Author: Larry H Bernstein, MD, FACP
  19. Nitric Oxide and Immune Responses: Part 1
    Curator and Author:  Aviral Vatsa PhD, MBBS
  20. Nitric Oxide and Immune Responses: Part 2
    Curator and Author:  Aviral Vatsa PhD, MBBS
  21. Nitric Oxide and iNOS have Key Roles in Kidney Diseases – Part II
    Curator and Author: Larry H Bernstein, MD, FACP
  22. New Insights on Nitric Oxide donors – Part IV
    Curator and Author: Larry H Bernstein, MD, FACP
  23. Crucial role of Nitric Oxide in Cancer
    Curator and Author: Ritu Saxena, Ph.D.
  24. Nitric Oxide has a ubiquitous role in the regulation of glycolysis -with a concomitant influence on mitochondrial function
    Curator and Author: Larry H Bernstein, MD, FACP
  25. Nitric Oxide and Immune Responses: Part 2
    Author and Curator: Aviral Vatsa, PhD, MBBS
  26. Mitochondrial Damage and Repair under Oxidative Stress
    Author and Curator: Larry H. Bernstein, MD, FCAP
  27. Is the Warburg Effect the cause or the effect of cancer: A 21st Century View?
    Curator and Author: Larry H Bernstein, MD, FACP
  28. Targeting Mitochondrial-bound Hexokinase for Cancer Therapy
    Curator and Author: Ziv Raviv, PhD, RN 04/06/2013
  29. Ubiquinin-Proteosome pathway, autophagy, the mitochondrion, proteolysis and cell apoptosis
    Curator and Author: Larry H Bernstein, MD, FACP
  30. Ubiquitin-Proteosome pathway, Autophagy, the Mitochondrion, Proteolysis and Cell Apoptosis: Part III
    Curator and Author: Larry H Bernstein, MD, FACP
  31. Biochemistry of the Coagulation Cascade and Platelet Aggregation – Part I
    Curator and Author: Larry H Bernstein, MD, FACP


Genomics, Transcriptomics, and Epigenetics

  1. What is the meaning of so many RNAs?
    Writer and Curator: Larry H. Bernstein, MD, FCAP
  2. RNA and the transcription the genetic code
    Larry H. Bernstein, MD, FCAP, Writer and Curator
  3. A Primer on DNA and DNA Replication
    Writer and Curator: Larry H. Bernstein, MD, FCAP
  4. Pathology Emergence in the 21st Century
    Author and Curator: Larry Bernstein, MD, FCAP
  5. RNA and the transcription the genetic code
    Writer and Curator, Larry H. Bernstein, MD, FCAP
  6. Commentary on Biomarkers for Genetics and Genomics of Cardiovascular Disease: Views by Larry H Bernstein, MD, FCAP
    Author: Larry H Bernstein, MD, FCAP
  7. Observations on Finding the Genetic Links in Common Disease: Whole Genomic Sequencing Studies
    Author an Curator: Larry H Bernstein, MD, FCAP
  8. Silencing Cancers with Synthetic siRNAs
    Larry H. Bernstein, MD, FCAP, Reviewer and Curator
  9. Cardiometabolic Syndrome and the Genetics of Hypertension: The Neuroendocrine Transcriptome Control Points
    Reporter: Aviva Lev-Ari, PhD, RN
  10. Developments in the Genomics and Proteomics of Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus and Treatment Targets
    Larry H. Bernstein, MD, FCAP, Reviewer and Curator
  11. CT Angiography & TrueVision™ Metabolomics (Genomic Phenotyping) for new Therapeutic Targets to Atherosclerosis
    Reporter: Aviva Lev-Ari, PhD, RN
  12. CRACKING THE CODE OF HUMAN LIFE: The Birth of BioInformatics & Computational Genomics
    Genomics Curator, Larry H Bernstein, MD, FCAP
  13. Big Data in Genomic Medicine
    Author and Curator, Larry H Bernstein, MD, FCAP
  14.  From Genomics of Microorganisms to Translational Medicine
    Author and Curator: Demet Sag, PhD
  15.  Summary of Genomics and Medicine: Role in Cardiovascular Diseases
    Author and Curator, Larry H Bernstein, MD, FCAP

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IRF-1 Deficiency Skews the Differentiation of Dendritic Cells

Reporter: Larry H Bernstein, MD, FCAP



IFN Regulatory Factor-1 Negatively Regulates CD4+CD25+ Regulatory T Cell Differentiation by Repressing Foxp3 Expression1


Alessandra Fragale*, Lucia Gabriele†, Emilia Stellacci*, Paola Borghi†,…. and Angela Battistini2,*
The Journal of Immunology   Aug 1, 2008; 181(3): 1673-1682

Regulatory T (Treg) cells are critical in inducing and maintaining tolerance. Despite progress in understanding the basis of immune tolerance,

  • mechanisms and molecules involved in the generation of Treg cells remain poorly understood.

IFN regulatory factor (IRF)-1 is a pleiotropic transcription factor implicated in the regulation of various immune processes. In this study, we report that IRF-1 negatively regulates CD4+CD25+ Treg cell

  • development and function by specifically repressing Foxp3 expression.

IRF-1-deficient (IRF-1−/−) mice showed a selective and marked increase of highly activated and differentiated CD4+CD25+Foxp3+ Treg cells in thymus and in all peripheral lymphoid organs. Furthermore,

  • IRF-1−/− CD4+CD25− T cells showed extremely high bent to differentiate into CD4+CD25+Foxp3+ Treg cells, whereas
  • restoring IRF-1 expression in IRF-1−/− CD4+CD25− T cells
    • impaired their differentiation into CD25+Foxp3+ cells.

Functionally, both isolated and TGF-β-induced CD4+CD25+ Treg cells from IRF-1−/− mice

  • exhibited more increased suppressive activity than wild-type Treg cells.

Such phenotype and functional characteristics were explained at a mechanistic level by the finding that

  • IRF-1 binds a highly conserved IRF consensus element sequence (IRF-E) in the foxp3 gene promoter in vivo and
  • negatively regulates its transcriptional activity.

We conclude that IRF-1 is a key negative regulator of CD4+CD25+ Treg cells

  • through direct repression of Foxp3 expression.

Tolerance is critical for prevention of autoimmunity and maintenance of immune homeostasis by active suppression of inappropriate immune responses. Suppression has a dedicated population of  T cells that

  • control the responses of other T cells.

This cell population, referred to as regulatory T (Treg)3 cells, actually comprises several subsets, including naturally occurring CD4+CD25+ Treg cells that arise in thymus. Once generated,

  • thymic Treg cells are exported to peripheral tissues, and
  • comprise 5–10% of peripheral CD4+ T cells (1, 2, 3).

CD4+CD25+ Treg cells are characterized by

  • constitutive expression of IL-2Rα (CD25), CTLA-4, and glucocorticoid-induced TNFR family-related gene; moreover,
  • they express CD62 ligand (CD62L) and are mainly CD45RBlow (4).

In contrast to cell surface markers, which can be shared with other T cells populations,

  • the forkhead/winged-helix family transcriptional repressor Foxp3 is
  • specifically expressed in CD4+CD25+ Treg cells and
  • rigorously controls their development and function (5, 6, 7).

Functionally after TCR stimulation, CD4+CD25+ Treg cells can

  • mediate strong suppression of proliferation and
  • IL-2 production by CD4+ T cells both in vivo and in vitro (8).

Although mechanisms of suppression are not fully understood,

  • they appear to be cell contact-mediated, whereas
  • the relative contribution of soluble cytokines remains controversial
    • with differences between in vitro and in vivo results (1, 8, 9).

Indeed, the involvement of cytokines in the suppressor function of CD4+CD25+ Treg cells has been proposed in vivo,

  • where they are able to produce IL-10 and TGF-β (10, 11, 12), and
  • importantly, IL-10 activity has been recently associated with the function of TGF-β-induced CD4+CD25−CD45RBlow cells (13).

Beside naturally occurring CD4+CD25+ Treg cells, CD4+CD25+ Treg cells can also be

  • induced (inTreg) in vivo or in vitro after TCR stimulation and TGF-β treatment,
  • acquiring expression of CD25 and Foxp3 both in mice (14, 15, 16) and humans (17, 18, 19, 20),
    • although with characteristic functional differences (20).

Despite extensive studies on the role of Foxp3 in inducing and maintaining tolerance, little information on regulation of its expression is available. Transcription factors of the IFN regulatory factor (IRF) family participate in

  • the early host response to pathogens,
  • in immunomodulation and
  • hematopoietic differentiation (21).

Nine members of this family have been identified based on a unique helix-turn-helix DNA binding domain, located at

  • the N terminus that is responsible for binding to the IRF consensus element (IRF-E) (21).
The first member of the family, IRF-1, was originally identified as a protein that binds
  • the cis-acting DNA elements in the ifnβ gene promoter and the IRF-E (also referred to as the IFN-stimulated response element; ISRE),
  • in the promoters of IFN-αβ-stimulated genes (22).

IRF-1 is expressed at low basal levels in all cell types examined, but

  • accumulates in response to several stimuli and cytokines including IFN-γ, the strongest IRF-1 inducer (22).
Intensive functional analyses conducted on this transcription factor have revealed a remarkable functional diversity in the
  • regulation of cellular responses through the
  • modulation of different sets of genes,
  • depending on
    1. cell type,
    2. state of the cell, and/or
    3. nature of the stimuli (21).
We and others have shown that IRF-1 affects the differentiation of both lymphoid and myeloid lineages (22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28). In particular, studies in knockout (KO) mice have implicated IRF-1
in the regulation of various immune processes:
  1. impairment of CD8+ T cell and NK cell maturation,
  2. impaired IL-12 macrophage production,
  3. exclusive Th2 differentiation, and
  4. defective Th1 responses…………. have all been observed (22, 23, 24, 25, 26).
As a result, IRF-1−/− mice are highly susceptible to infections, for which effective host control
    • is associated with a Th1 immune response (24).
In contrast, these mice are characterized by
  • increased resistance to several autoimmune diseases such as
  1. collagen-induced arthritis,
  2. experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis,
  3. Helicobacter pylori-induced gastritis,
  4. induced lymphocytic thyroiditis,
  5. insulitis, or
  6. diabetes (29, 30, 31, 32).
Recently, we reported that IRF-1−/− mice display a prevalence of
  • dendritic cell (DC) subsets with immature and tolerogenic features that were
    • unable to undergo full maturation after stimulation.
Moreover, IRF-1−/− DC conferred
    • increased suppressive activity to CD4+CD25+ Treg cells (33).
Because there is growing evidence that immature or partially matured DC can induce tolerance (34, 35), we hypothesized that IRF-1 could play a role in
  • Treg development and function.
In this study, we analyzed the CD4+CD25+ compartment in IRF-1−/− mice and
  • we found that in vivo IRF-1 deficiency resulted in a
  • selective and marked increase in highly differentiated and activated CD4+CD25+Foxp3+ Treg cells, whereas
reintroduction of IRF-1 by retrovirus transduction
    • impaired TGF-β-mediated differentiation of IRF-1−/− CD4+CD25− T cells into CD4+CD25+Foxp3+ Treg cells.
At molecular level, we show that IRF-1 plays a direct role in the generation and expansion of CD4+CD25+ Treg cells
    • specifically repressing Foxp3 transcriptional activity.
Our results, therefore, highlight a unique role for IRF-1 as regulator of Foxp3, thus pointing to IRF-1 as a specific tool to control altered tolerance.
CD4+CD25+ Treg from IRF-1−/− mice are increased and functionally more suppressive than WT Treg cells
The distribution and the phenotype of CD4+CD25+Foxp3+ Treg in lymphoid organs of IRF-1−/− mice were determined by flow cytometry.
the number of ex vivo double positive CD4+CD25+ cells was significantly increased in spleens and skin draining and mesenteric lymph nodes (2.8-, 2.3-, and 2.1-fold increase, respectively), and to a lesser extent, in thymus (1.6-fold increase) of IRF-1−/− mice as compared with WT mice. Consistently with previous reports (23, 41), no differences in CD4+ T cell and total cell numbers in all lymphoid organs from WT or IRF-1−/− mice were found (data not shown). Strikingly, intracellular analysis of Foxp3 expression showed that this factor was increasingly expressed in CD4+CD25+ Treg cells from spleens as well as from other lymphoid organs of IRF-1−/− mice
FACS analysis of splenic magnetically sorted CD4+CD25+ Treg cells was performed to evaluate the expression of activation markers.  IRF-1−/− Treg cells were to a large extent characteristic of a marked activated and differentiated phenotype.
Because there is accumulating evidence that activity of CD4+CD25+ Treg cells in vivo involves some immunosuppressive cytokines (9, 10, 11, 12), we also compared the cytokine profile of IRF-1−/− CD4+CD25+ Treg cells with the profile of WT counterparts . Lower levels of proinflammatory cytokines, such as TNF-α and IFN-γ, whereas higher levels of IL-4 were expressed in CD4+CD25+ Treg cells as well as in CD4+CD25− T lymphocytes from KO as compared with WT cells. Notably, only IRF-1−/− Treg cells showed a clear-cut increase in the expression of IL-10. By contrast, TGF-β was expressed at similar levels in CD4+CD25+ Treg cells from both IRF-1−/− and WT mice. Accordingly with mRNA data, IL-10 secretion in supernatants of TCR-stimulated CD4+CD25+ cocultures from IRF-1−/− mice was significantly increased (3-fold), whereas
    • IFN-γ secretion was decreased (2.5-fold) compared with cocultures from WT mice (Fig. 2⇑C).
As the functional hallmark of Treg cells is their ability to suppress the expansion of effector T cells, we next evaluated this activity performing suppression assays (1, 2, 3, 8). Importantly, CD4+CD25+ Treg cells from IRF-1−/− mice were found significantly more efficient than WT Treg cells in suppressing the proliferation of syngeneic CD4+CD25− responder T cells in a dose-dependent fashion. Next, to verify whether IRF-1−/− Treg cells suppression ability was retained vs WT responder T cells, we performed suppression assays using IRF-1−/− Treg and WT responders and vice versa. The suppressive activity of IRF-1−/− Treg cells toward WT responders was dose-dependently increased, as well.
IRF-1−/− CD4+CD25− T cells show high bent to convert into CD4+CD25+ Treg cells
It has been reported in mice and human that TGF-β promotes the induction of peripheral CD4+CD25− T cells into CD4+CD25+ Treg cells (inTreg), that acquire Foxp3 expression and regulatory functions.
In presence of TGF-β, 44.2% of CD4+CD25+ inTreg cells were generated in the coculture of CD4+CD25− T cells from IRF-1−/− mice, whereas
  • only 24% of double positive cells were detected in the corresponding coculture from WT mice.
Notably, even in absence of TGF-β, 25.4% CD4+CD25+ inTreg were generated in the coculture of CD4+CD25− T cells from IRF-1−/− mice, as
  • compared with 16.5% of Treg cells generated in WT cocultures.
Importantly, an increased number of CD4+CD25+-gated Foxp3+ cells were observed in IRF-1−/− inTreg cells in the presence (4.5-fold increase) or in the absence (8-fold increase) of TGF-β compared with WT inTreg cells. Next, to evaluate quantitatively Foxp3 expression levels in TGF-β-induced Treg vs ex vivo freshly purified Treg cells, quantitative real-time PCR was performed. A clear-cut
induction of Foxp3 mRNA (4.5-fold increase) was detected in TGF-β-treated IRF-1−/− cells compared with WT cells. Of note, these levels were comparable with those present in freshly isolated IRF-1−/− CD4+CD25+ cells. Strikingly, also untreated IRF-1−/− T cells showed higher levels of Foxp3 mRNA than WT untreated cells (6-fold increase) and similar to levels present in freshly purified WT CD4+CD25+ Treg cells.
The functionality of CD4+CD25+Foxp3+ inTreg cells was then assessed by suppression assays. TGF-β-treated IRF-1−/− inTreg cells were significantly more effective than the WT counterpart cells
  • in suppressing proliferation of effector T cells in a dose-dependent way.
Interestingly, a saturating amount of anti-IL-10 m Abs neutralized the suppression ability of  inTreg cells from both IRF-1−/− and WT mice even though the effect was much more marked in IRF-1−/− inTreg cells. Control Abs did not exhibit any effect.
Restoring IRF-1 expression in IRF-1−/− CD4+CD25− T cells impairs their differentiation into CD4+CD25+Foxp3+ cells
To address the specificity of IRF-1 role in differentiation of CD4+CD25+ Treg cells from CD25− cells, we investigate whether
  • forced expression of IRF-1 in CD4+CD25− IRF-1−/− T cells could rescue the WT phenotype.
  • bicistronic retroviral vectors expressing murine IRF-1 and human CD8 protein as surface marker (MigR1 IRF-1-CD8) or CD8 alone (MigR1 EV-CD8) were generated.
Splenic CD4+CD25− cells from IRF-1−/− mice were stimulated with plate-bound anti-CD3 and anti-CD28 Abs and infected with either retrovirus.
  • 31.6% of MigR1 EV-CD8 CD4+ retrovirus-infected cells were CD25+, by contrast
  • only 17.7% of MigR1 IRF-1-CD8 retrovirus-infected cells were double positive.
Consistently, Foxp3 expression in CD8+-gated cells was significantly decreased in MigR1 IRF-1-CD8-infected cells as compared with
  • those infected with MigR1 EV-CD8 vectors,
  • strongly supporting the evidence that IRF-1 specifically impairs CD4+CD25+ cell differentiation.
IRF-1 binds an IRF-E on the Foxp3 core promoter and inhibits its transcriptional activity
To shed light on the molecular mechanisms responsible for the striking effect exerted by IRF-1 on the development and function of CD4+CD25+ Treg cells, we investigated whether IRF-1, which is a regulator of key immunomodulatory genes (21), could directly regulate the foxp3 gene promoter activity. The proximal promoter of human foxp3 gene has been recently characterized and localized at −511/+176 bp upstream of the 5′ untranslated region (38). By the Genomatix software, we analyzed this region and found an IRF-E spanning from −234 to −203 bp . This region has been found highly homologous to mouse and rat foxp3 promoter, and of note, the IRF-E is perfectly conserved between humans and these species (38). To determine whether IRF-1 could bind this sequence, DNA affinity purification assays were performed with cell extracts from Jurkat T cells, which display discrete basal levels of IRF-1, and from the same cells treated with IFN-γ to maximally stimulate IRF-1 expression. A total of 200 μg of nuclear extracts was incubated with oligonucleotides containing the WT or the a mutated version of IRF-E. The isolated complexes were then examined by immunoblotting against IRF-1. A specific binding of IRF-1 to Foxp3 oligonucleotide was evident. The binding was strongly stimulated by IFN-γ treatment and, interestingly, it was comparable to that obtained when the same extracts were incubated with a synthetic oligonucleotide corresponding to C13, the canonical IRF-1 consensus sequence (21). IRF-1 binding was highly specific because a mutated version of the Foxp3/IRF-E, or an unrelated oligonucleotide corresponding to the STAT binding site present on the β-casein gene promoter, did not retain any protein from the same extracts. To functionally characterize the specific binding of IRF-1 to the foxp3 gene promoter, we cloned the encompassing part of the proximal promoter containing the IRF-E from −296 to +7 bp of foxp3 gene promoter upstream the luciferase reporter gene. The effect of IRF-1 was evaluated in Jurkat T cells transiently cotransfected with the luciferase reporter gene and increasing doses of an IRF-1-expressing vector.
The results indicated that the basal transcriptional activity of the foxp3 gene promoter
    • was substantially reduced in the presence of IRF-1 and the effect was dose-dependent.
Conversely, the basal activity of the foxp3 gene promoter construct mutated in the IRF-E
    • was not affected by IRF-1 overexpression.
Interestingly, IRF-2, a repressor of IRF-1 transcriptional activity on most promoters (21), neither affected the promoter activity nor counteracted the inhibitory effect exerted by IRF-1.  IRF-1, IRF-2, as well as the IFN-γ treatment drastically reduced the transcriptional activity of the il4 gene promoter, whereas
  • the low molecular mass polypeptide lmp2 construct was stimulated by IRF-1 and by IFN-γ treatment, but it was not affected by IRF-2.

All together these results demonstrate the specificity and functional relevance of IRF-1 binding to the foxp3 proximal promoter.

Foxp3 is a direct target of IRF-1 in human and mouse primary CD4+CD25− T cells and CD4+CD25+ Treg cells
To assess the biological relevance of the the reported effects of IRF-1 on Treg development and on the regulation of Foxp3 expression, we performed experiments with primary cells. We first assessed by Western blot IRF-1 expression levels in CD4+CD25+ Treg cells vs CD4+CD25− T cells magnetically sorted from PBMC of healthy donors or from mice spleens. Strikingly, we found that IRF-1 was down-regulated in double positive cells as compared with CD4+CD25− T cells both in mouse and human primary cells. To determine whether IRF-1 binds the Foxp3 oligonucleotides in primary Treg cells, pull-down assays with the same extracts were then performed. IRF-1 binding to Foxp3 oligonucleotide was significantly decreased in primary CD4+CD25+ Treg cells compared with CD4+CD25− T cells from both species. Foxp3 staining of CD4+CD25− T cells and CD4+CD25+ human Treg cells confirmed that these cells expressed low and high levels of Foxp3, respectively, and
  • Foxp3 expression was further increased by IL-2 treatment.
To test whether IRF-1 expression was also down-modulated during the acquisition of Treg cell phenotype upon TGF-β treatment, freshly purified TCR-activated CD4+CD25− T cells from both species were cultured with TGF-β, or left untreated, for 3 days and Western blot analysis was performed. When cells were cultured in presence of TGF-β, IRF-1 expression was substantially decreased, as compared with untreated cells. Pull-down assays revealed that IRF-1 binding to Foxp3 oligonucleotide was decreased in TGF-β-treated primary cells compared with untreated cells, as well. Consistently, FACS analysis of these cultures indicated that ∼35% of TGF-β-treated CD4+ cells were Foxp3+ in human and ∼10% in mouse TGF-β treated cultures, respectively. By contrast, even though 46.3% of human untreated cells were CD25+ only 5% were Foxp3+.
Next, we assessed the in vivo IRF-1 binding to foxp3 gene in human and mouse primary magnetically sorted CD4+CD25− T cells and CD4+CD25+ Treg cells, using ChIP assay with anti-IRF-1 Abs. After DNA immunoprecipitation, subsequent real-time PCR amplification of the foxp3 gene surrounding the IRF-E site showed significant IRF-1 binding to Foxp3 promoter in CD4+CD25−Foxp3− T cells, and by contrast, a 5-fold decrease of IRF-1 binding in CD4+CD25+Foxp3high human Treg cells (Fig. 6⇑C). Similarly, the binding of IRF-1 to the Foxp3 promoter in the mouse Treg cells was decreased by ∼50%.
Finally, to assess the functionality of the in vivo IRF-1 binding, negatively selected primary human and mouse CD4+ T lymphocytes were nucleofected with the Foxp3 luciferase reporter gene along with expression vector for IRF-1. Fig. 6⇑E shows the results obtained with T cells from three different healthy donors and Fig. 6⇑F shows a representative experiment with mouse T cells from three independent experiments. In all samples, a discrete basal activity of foxp3 gene promoter was present and this activity was significantly repressed by IRF-1.
The identification of molecules controlling Treg differentiation and function is important not only in understanding host immune responses in malignancy and autoimmunity but also in shaping immune response.
In this study, we have shown that IRF-1, a transcription factor involved in the IFN signaling, selectively affects CD4+CD25+ Treg cell development and function, unraveling a novel immunoregulatory function of IRF-1 in addition to its well-established role in balancing Th1 vs Th2 type immune responses. Several lines of evidence support this conclusion:
1) IRF-1−/− mice show a selective and marked increase in all lymphoid organs of CD4+CD25+Foxp3+ Treg cells; 2) CD4+CD25+ from IRF-1−/− mice are characterized by a highly activated and differentiated  phenotype and higher levels of Foxp3 that make them to be functionally more suppressive than WT Treg cells;
3) after TGF-β treatment, and importantly also in its absence, CD4+CD25− T cells from KO mice promptly converted into CD4+CD25+Foxp3+ Treg with a higher suppressive activity than WT cells;
4) forced retrovirus-mediated expression of IRF-1 in IRF-1−/− CD4+CD25− T cells impairs their differentiation into CD25+Foxp3+ cells; and 5) IRF-1 directly regulates transcriptional activity of the foxp3 gene promoter.
The phenotypical and functional characteristics of IRF-1−/− Treg cells strongly support the conclusion that IRF-1 can be considered a key negative regulator of CD4+CD25+ Treg cells.
The increased frequency of differentiated and activated CD4+CD25+ Treg cells characterized by an immunosuppressive cytokine profile described in this study
    • may provide a mechanistic base for the reduced incidence and severity of several autoimmune diseases characterizing IRF-1−/− mice .
In this regard, it has been recently shown that CD4+CD25+ Treg cells were increased in IRF-1−/− mice backcrossed with the MRL/lpr mice, which showed reduced glomerulonephritis.
The increased production of the immunosuppressive cytokine IL-10 by isolated Treg cells from IRF-1−/− mice and the reverted suppression ability of inTreg by anti-IL-10 Abs suggest that this cytokine could play a key role in their suppressor function. Consistently, IL-10 activity has been recently associated with the function of TGF-β-induced CD4+CD25−CD45RBlow cells because their suppressive activity was abrogated with anti-IL-10R Ab treatment (13). Moreover, several reports focused on the in vivo IL-10 role in peripheral CD4+CD25+ Treg cell function in various autoimmunity models (10, 11, 12), although IL-10 seems not required for the functions of thymically derived Treg cells (1). In contrast with the increased IL-10 production, T cells from IRF-1−/− mice failed to produce significant amounts of proinflammatory cytokines such as IFN-γ or TNF-α. Accordingly, an inverse relationship between in vivo IFN-γ administration and generation or activation of CD4+CD25+ Treg cells has been recently shown (45). Moreover, in humans, it has been reported that TNF-α inhibits the suppressive function of both naturally occurring CD4+CD25+ Treg and TGF-β-induced Treg cells, and an anti-TNF Ab therapy reversed their suppressive activity by down-modulating the expression of Foxp3 (46). These latter and our results are apparently in contrast with what was recently reported on the stimulating role of IFN-γ on Foxp3 induction and conversion of CD4+CD25− T cells to CD4+ Treg cells in the IFN-γ KO model (47). In this regard, it is noteworthy to underline that, as it has been also suggested, although knocking down genes involved in up-regulation of IFN-γ expression do not significantly influence autoimmunity, by contrast the absence of genes expressed in response to IFN-γ, including IRF-1, lead to greatly reduced autoimmunity (48). Thus, although the exact mechanism underlying IFN-γ and TNF-α interference with the elicitation of Treg cells remains to be defined, we can speculate that induction of IRF-1 expression, which is up-regulated by IFN-γ and TNF-α, may represent a mechanism through which proinflammatory cytokines negatively affect Foxp3 expression, thereby influencing generation or activation of CD4+CD25+ Treg cells.
It is well known that Foxp3 plays a pivotal role in the regulatory functions of CD4+CD25+ T cells both in humans and in animal models. Thus, the key question in the field of Treg biology is which are molecules and signals that govern Foxp3 transcription.
We identify Foxp3 as specific target of IRF-1 and we show
    • that it binds to foxp3 gene promoter in vitro and in vivo and represses its expression.
Structure of the human foxp3 gene promoter and elements necessary for its induction in T cells have been reported. We have identified an IRF-E sequence at 203 bp upstream of the transcriptional start site that is highly conserved. This element is bound by IRF-1 as proven by pull-down experiments and by ChIP analysis in intact cells, and IRF-1 binding resulted in a specific,
  • dose-dependent repression of the foxp3 proximal promoter.
Notably, treatments with IFN-γ, a major IRF-1 inducer, significantly inhibited foxp3 gene promoter transcriptional activity, whereas IRF-2 did not have any effects. It is noteworthy that the foxp3 gene is highly conserved between mouse and man species, and in particular, the core promoter and the IRF-E identified in this study are perfectly conserved between mouse and human. Such conservation underscores the importance of this motif as regulatory element and provides additional evidence for the role of IRF-1 in regulating foxp3 gene expression.  IRF-1 binds this sequence and negatively regulates its expression in both human and mouse cells. The molecular interactions enabling IRF-1 to inhibit Foxp3 are not yet identified, although our preliminary results show that IRF-1 may compete with c-Myb for the binding to the same overlapping consensus sequence on the foxp3 gene promoter.
In summary, the current study provides evidence that IRF-1 affects CD4+CD25+ development and function by Foxp3 repression. Thus, our data demonstrate a new important contribution by which IRF-1 affects T cell differentiation and provide new important insights into molecular mechanisms controlling immune homeostasis.

Th1-Th2-Th17-Treg origin

Th1-Th2-Th17-Treg origin (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


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