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- Development of lentiviral vectors for the gene therapy of HIV infection (2010)
- Drug toxicity and viral resistance limit long-term efficacy of antiviral drug treatment for HIV infection. Thus, alternative therapies need to be explored. Previously, group of “Prof. von Laer” tested the infusion of T lymphocytes transduced with a retroviral vector (M87o) that expresses an HIV entry inhibitory peptide (maC46). Gene-modified autologous T cells were infused into 10 HIV-infected patients with advanced disease and multidrug resistant virus during antiretroviral combination therapy. T cell infusions were tolerated well with no severe side effects. A significant increase of CD4 counts was observed post infusion. At the end of the one-year follow-up, the CD4 counts of all patients were still around or above baseline. Gene-modified cells could be detected in peripheral blood, lymph nodes and bone marrow throughout the oneyear follow-up, whereby marking levels correlated with the cell dose. No significant changes of viral load were observed during the first four months. Four of the seven patients that changed their antiviral drug regimen thereafter responded with a significant decline in plasma viral load. In conclusion, the transfer of gene-modified cells was safe, led to sustained levels of gene marking and may improve immune competence in HIV-infected patients with advanced disease and multidrug resistant virus. However, the low level of gene marking and the lack of substantial long-term in vivo accumulation of gene-protected cells observed in this trial clearly demonstrate the requirement for new vectors with new strategy. In this thesis self‐inactivating lentiviral vectors harboring internal promoters and RNA elements were therefore evaluated for their potential use in a clinical gene‐therapy trial. The results from this work provide the basis for the selection of a suitable candidate vector for extensive preclinical testing. Apart from being capable of transducing non‐dividing cells, lentiviral vectors incorporate a number of additional features that are of potential value for gene therapeutic applications. These include a larger packaging capacity, higher titers than γ‐retroviral vectors and, most importantly, a reduced risk of deregulating cellular genes due to its natural integration profile. The use of internal promoters to drive expression of the therapeutic transgene maC46 should further improve the safety profile of these new‐generation vectors, while an additional artificial splice acceptor (SA) into the 5‟UTR of the transgene over all elevate transgene expression. The rationale for this is that hematopoietic stem and progenitor cells will be Summary 98 protected from enhancer‐mediated transactivation effects and also from potential side effects due to the aberrant expression of maC46 while at the same time the full clinical benefit for the patients is maintained. In order to find a suitable candidate for preclinical studies, two candidate therapeutic vectors harboring different regulatory elements were selected based on results from pilot experiments. The internal promoters used to drive expression of codon optimized maC46 were the PGK promoter and MPSV promoter. This work focuses on the transgene expression levels in lymphoid cells and antiviral activity. The issues of long term expression, propensity to methylation mediated silencing of the promoters, and genotoxicity were also touched. In a first step the performance of different vectors was evaluated in the human T cell lines. Based on promising data from ex vivo human peripheral blood mononuclear cells, the vector carrying the MPSV promoter along with intron were selected for in vivo transplantation experiments. In summary, the ex vivo data suggested the long term survival of lentiviral gene modified cells, along with maintained expression of introduced genes. It was observed that the expression of these constructs depends strongly on the activation and differentiation status of the targeted T cells. This regulation was not linked to any specific promotor. In vivo study shows that maC46 can be introduced into murine multiple hematopoietic lineages via lentiviral vector and expressed at high levels in their mulilineage progeny, without altering the hematopoiesis. There was no sign of any kind of hematopoietic or lymphoid malignancies. Although gene-modified lymphocytes persisted in-vivo, the downregulation of transgene expression was consistent with the ex-vivo observation. In contrast to that the T cells transplanted group showed delayed engraftment of donor cells and there was no expression of C46 in blood and lymphatic organs. . In conclusion, when considering HIV gene therapy focusing CD4+ T cells, potential problems of T cell activation status as related to the desired clinical effect must be addressed. These results might open the way for a gene therapy targeting mainly or exclusively activated T cells and could be exploited for immunostimulatory as well as suppressive approaches.
- T cell receptor diversity prevents T cell leukemia, lymphoma development / von Nabil Saleh Ahmed Al-Ghaili (2010)
- Gene therapy is a promising therapeutic strategy that emerged from the attractive idea of targeting therapy at the molecular level. For many patients who suffer from genetic and acquired diseases that cannot be effectively treated by conventional treatment approaches gene therapy remains a huge hope of cure in spite of the hurdles regarding efficacy and safety that need to be overcome. The development of efficient gene transfer vehicles, mainly retroviral vectors, led to the first successful gene therapy trial, to treat patients suffering from X-linked severe combined immunodeficiency syndrome (X-SCID) using gene modified stem cells (Hacein-Bey-Abina, Le Deist et al. 2002). Despite the success of this trial, it revealed the danger of retroviral insertional mutagenesis as a major adverse event of gene therapy using gene-modified stem cells (Hacein-Bey-Abina, von Kalle et al. 2003). In contrast to stem cells, T cells are relatively resistant to insertional mutagenesis and transformation even after transduction with potent oncogenes using retroviral vectors (Newrzela, Cornils et al. 2008). However, mature T cells can self-renew, proliferate and survive for long periods. These criteria are supposed to render T cells prone to transformation. Therefore, the questions of mature T cells transformability and the control mechanism limiting their transformation are still elusive.
- TK.007: a novel, optimized HSVtk-variant for suicide gene therapy (2010)
- Suicide genes have been broadly used in gene therapy. They can serve as safety tools for conditional elimination of infused cells or for directed tumor therapy. To date, the Herpes simplex virus thymidine kinase/ ganciclovir (HSVtk/GCV) system is the most prominent and the most widely used suicidegene/prodrug combination. Despite its promising performance, the system displays limitations, which include relatively slow killing kinetics and toxicity of the prodrug GCV. Consequently, several groups have either developed new suicide-gene/prodrug combinations or attempted to improve the established HSVtk/GCV suicide system. The present study also aimed towards optimization of the HSVtk/GCV system. To do so, a novel, codon-optimized point mutant (A168H) of HSVtk was developed. The novel mutant was named TK.007. It was extensively tested for its efficiency in two relevant settings: (1) control of severe graft-versus-host disease (GvHD) after adoptive immunotherapy with Tlymphocytes, and (2) direct elimination of targeted tumor cells. TK.007 was compared to the broadly used wild-type, splice-corrected scHSVtk and to a codon-optimized HSVtk (coHSVtk) not bearing the above point mutation. (1) For experiments related to the adoptive immunotherapy approach, HSVtkvariants were expressed from a γ-retroviral MP71 vector as a fusion construct with the selection and marker gene tCD34. Expression levels for TK.007 in transduced lymphoid and myeloid cell lines were significantly higher at initial transduction and over a 12 week period compared to the commonly used scHSVtk and coHSVtk indicating reduced toxicity of TK.007. Killing kinetics of transduced cell lines (PM1 and K562) and primary human T cells were significantly faster for TK.007 in comparison to scHSVtk and coHSVtk in vitro. In vivo-functionality of TK.007 was assessed in an allogeneic transplantation model. T cells derived from C57BL/6J.Ly5.1 donor mice were transduced with MP71 vectors expressing scHSVtk or TK.007. Transduced cells were selected and transplanted into Balb/c Rag2-/- γ-/- immune-deficient recipient mice. Acute, severe GvHD occurred and was effectively abrogated in all mice transplanted with TK.007- transduced T cells, and in five out of six mice transplanted with scHSVtk-transduced cells. In a slightly modified quantitative allogeneic transplantation mouse model, significantly faster and more efficient in vivo killing was demonstrated for TK.007 as compared to scHSVtk, especially at low doses of GCV. (2) In order to assess TK.007 functionality in cells derived from solid tumors, HSVtk-variants were expressed from lentiviral gene ontology (LeGO) vectors in combination with an eGFP/neo-opt selection cassette. Transduced and selected tumor cell lines that derived from several tissues were eliminated at significantly lower GCV doses and to higher extents when transduced with TK.007 compared to scHSVtk. Moreover, a significantly stronger bystander effect of TK.007 was demonstrated. The superior in vitro efficiency of TK.007 was confirmed in an in vivo subcutaneous xenograft mouse model for glioblastoma in NOD/SCID mice. Mice transplanted with TK.007 transduced cells stayed tumor-free after treatment with different GCV-doses. On the contrary, mice of the scHSVtk group either demonstrated only transiently reduced tumor growth in the low-dose GCV group (10 mg/kg) compared to the control groups or suffered from relatively fast relapses after initial tumor shrinking in the standarddose (50 mg/kg) GCV group. As a result, all mice in the scHSVtk group died from vigorous tumor growth. In summary, in two different applications for suicide gene therapy the present study has demonstrated superior functional performance of the novel suicide gene TK.007 as compared to the broadly used wild-type scHSVtk. Differences became particularly pronounced at low doses of GCV. It can be concluded that the new TK.007-gene represents a promising alternative to the commonly used scHSVtk for gene therapeutic applications.
- Effect of chromatin modeling by histone deacetylase inhibitors (HDIs) on hematopoietic stem cell (HSC) fate (2005)
- Acute myeloid leukemia (AML) is characterized by the accumulation of a large number of abnormal, immature blast cells. Recently, histone deacetylase inhibitors (HDIs) received considerable interest on the ground of their ability to overcome the differentiation block in these leukemic blasts regardless of the primary genetic alteration, an effect achieved either alone or in combination with differentiating agents, such as all-trans retinoic acid (t-RA). Valproic acid (VPA), a potent HDI, is now under clinical evaluation owing to its potent differentiation effect on transformed hematopoietic progenitor cells and leukemic blasts from AML patients. Conversely, in a clinical study by Bug et al., the favorable effects of the combination treatment with t-RA/VPA in advanced acute myeloid leukemia patients were reported to be most likely due to an enhancement of nonleukemic myelopoiesis and the suppression of malignant hematopoiesis rather than enforced differentiation of the leukemic cells. Based on the hypothesis that VPA influences normal hematopoiesis, the effect of chromatin modeling through VPA on HSCs was investigated with respect to differentiation, proliferation as well as self-renewal in the present study. It has been shown that valproic acid increases both proliferation and self-renewal of HSC. It accelerates cell cycle progression of HSC accompanied by a down-regulation of p21cip-1/waf-1. Furthermore, valproic acid inhibits GSK3B by phosphorylation on Ser9 accompanied by an activation of the Wnt signaling pathway as well as by an up-regulation of HoxB4, a target gene of Wnt signaling. Both are known to directly stimulate the proliferation of HSC and to expand the HSC pool. To sum up, valproic acid, a potent histone deacetylase inhibitor known to induce differentiation and/or apoptosis in leukemic blasts, stimulates the proliferation and self-renewal of hematopoietic stem cells. Therefore, the data reported in this study suggest to reconsider the role of histone deacetylase inhibitors from a differentiation inducer to a coadjuvant factor for increasing the response to conventional therapy in acute myeloid leukemia.
- Role of rho GTPases in migration of stem and progenitor cells (2005)
- Stem cells capable of self-renewal and differentiation into multiple tissues are important in medicine to reconstitute the hematopoietic system after myelo-ablative chemo- or radiotherapy. In the present situation, adult stem cells such as Mesenchymal stem cells (MSC) and Hematopoietic stem cells (HSC) are used for therapeutic purposes. For tissue regeneration and tissue constitution, engraftment of transplanted stem cells is a necessary feature. However, in many instances, the transplanted stem cells reach the tissues with low efficiency. Considering the three-step model of leukocyte extravasation by Springer et al, the rolling, adhesion and transmigration form the three major steps for the transplanted stem cells to enter the desired tissues. One of the molecular switches reported to be involved in these mechanisms are the Rho family GTPases. The present study investigates the role of Rho GTPases in adhesion and migration of stem and progenitor cells. Chemotactic and chemokinetic migration assays, transendothelial migration assays, migration of cells under shear stress, microinjection, retroviral and lentiviral gene transfer methods, oligonucleotide microarray analysis and pull down assays were employed in this study for the elucidation of Rho GTPase involvement in migration and adhesion of stem and progenitor cells. The transmigration assay used for the migration determination of the adherent cell type, MSC, was optimized for the efficient and effective assessment of the migrating cells. The involvement of Rho was found to be critical for stem and progenitor cell migration where inactivation of Rho by C2I-C3 transferase toxin and/or overexpression of C3 transferase cDNA increased the migration rate of Hematopoietic progenitor cells (HPC) and MSC. Moreover, modulation of Rho caused predictable cytoskeletal and morphological changes in MSC. Assessment of Rho GTPase involvement in the interacting partner, the endothelial cells during stem cell migration, revealed that active Rho expression induced E-selectin expression. The increased levels of E-selectin were functionally confirmed by the increased adhesion of progenitor cells (HPC) to the Human umbilical vein endothelial cell (HUVEC) layer. Moreover, inhibition of Rac in the migrating endothelial progenitor cells (eEPC) increased their adhesion to HUVEC correlating with the increased percentage expression of cell surface receptor, CD44 in Rac inactivated eEPC. In conclusion, this study shows that Rho GTPases control the adhesion and migration of stem and progenitor cells, HPC and MSC. Rho inhibition drives the cells to migrate in the blood vessels. The substantial increase in the level of active Rho in endothelial layer, manifested by the E-selectin surface expression assists the better adhesion of stem and progenitor cells to the endothelial layer. Serum factors and growth factors in the physiological system influence the Rho GTPase expression in both migrating stem cells and the barrier endothelial cells. Thus, specific modulation of Rho GTPases in the transplanted stem and progenitor cells could be an interesting tool to improve the migration and homing processes of stem cells for cellular therapy in future.
- Untersuchungen zur Bedeutung des Kern-Zytoplasma Transports für die biologische Funktion zellulärer Proteine (2005)
- The thesis entitled „Investigations on the significance of nucleo-cytoplasmic transport for the biological function of cellular proteins" aimed to unreveal molecular mechanisms in order to improve our understanding of the impact of nucleo-cytoplasmic transport on cellular functions. Within the scope of this work, it could be shown that regulated nucleo-cytoplasmic transport of a subfamily of homeobox transcription factors controlled their intra- and intercellular transport, and thereby influencing also their transcriptional activity. This study describes a novel regulatory mechanism, which could in general play an important role for the ordered differentiation of complex organisms. Besides cis-active transport Signals, also post-translational modifications can influence the localization and biological activity of proteins in trans. In addition to the known impact of phosphorylation on the transport and activity of STAT1, experimental evidence was provided demonstrating that acetylation affected the interaction of STAT1 with NF-kB p65, and subsequently modulated the expression of apoptosis-inducing NF-kB target genes. The impact of nucleo-cytoplasmic transport on the regulation of apoptosis was underlined by showing that the evolutionary conservation of a NES within the anti-apoptotic protein survivin plays an essential role for its dual function in the inhibition of apoptosis and ordered cell division. Since survivin is considered a bona fide cancer therapy target, these results strongly encourage future work to identify molecular decoys that specifically inhibit the nuclear export of survivin as novel therapeutics. In order to further dissect the regulation of nuclear transport and to efficiently identify transport inhibitors, cell-based assays are urgently required. Therefore, the cellular assay Systems developed in this work may not only serve to identify synthetic nuclear export and Import inhibitors but may also be applied in systematic RNAi-screening approaches to identify novel components of the transport machinery. In addition, the translocation based protease- and protein-interaction biosensors can be applied in various biological Systems, in particular to identify protein-protein interaction inhibitors of cancer relevant proteins. In summary, this work does not only underline the general significance of nucleo-cytoplasmic transport for cell biology, but also demonstrates its potential for the development of novel therapies against diseases like cancer and viral infections.
- Humanized mice as preclinical model for HIV infections (2014)
- HIV vaccine preclinical testing is difficult because HIV’s only relevant hosts are humans and no correlates of protection are known. To this end, we are working on the humanization of different mouse strains with human peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) as well as human hematopoietic stem cells (HSC) to generate a useful small animal model. We generated immune deficient mice (NOD Scid IL2gc -/- /NOD Rag1-/- IL2gc -/-) expressing human MHC class II (HLA-DQ8) on a mouse class II deficient background (Ab-/-). Here, the human HLA-DQ8 should interact with the matching T cell receptors of transferred matching human PBMCs and therefore could support the functionality of the transferred human CD4+ cells in the mice. Mice that were adoptively transferred with human HLA-DQ8 PBMCs only showed engraftment of CD3+ T cells. Surprisingly, the presence of HLA class II did not significantly change the repopulation rates in the mice. Also, the presence of HLA class II did not advance B cell engraftment, such that humoral immune responses were undetectable. However, the overall survival of DQ8-expressing mice was significantly prolonged, compared to mice expressing mouse MHC class II molecules, and correlated with an increased time span until onset of GvHD. To avoid GVHD and to increase and maintain the level of human cell reconstitution over a long period of time, the same mouse strains were reconstituted with human HSC. Compared to PBMC-repopulated mice, HSC-reconstituted mice develop almost all subpopulations of the human immune system detectable at week 12 after HSC transfer. These mice developed adaptive immune responses after Tetanus Toxoide (TT) immunizations. In addition, we are testing the susceptibility of these humanized mice to different HIV strains with a detailed look at immune responses.