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- Hematopoietic stem cell differentiation and lineage selection control by GADD45G (2015)
- Hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs) have the unique abilities of life-long self-renewal and multi-lineage differentiation. They are routinely used in BM or stem cell transplantations to reconstitute the blood system of patients suffering from malignant or monogenic blood disorders. For an adequate production of each blood cell lineage in homeostasis and under stress conditions, the fate choice of HSCs to either self-renew or to differentiate must be strictly controlled. The incomplete understanding of the molecular mechanisms that control this balance makes it still impossible to maintain or expand undifferentiated HSCs in culture for advanced regenerative medical purposes. The aim of this thesis was the identification and molecular characterisation of mechanisms that control the decision of HSCs to self-renew or to differentiate, and how they are connected to extrinsic cytokine signaling control. Prior to this thesis, a screening for genes upregulated under self-renewal promoting thrombopoietin (TPO) signaling via the transcription factors STAT5A/B in HSCs was conducted, and Growth arrest and DNA damage inducible 45 gamma (Gadd45g) was one of the regulated genes. GADD45G was described as stress sensor, DNA-damage response and tumor suppressor gene, that is epigenetically silenced in many solid tumors and leukemia. Furthermore, Gadd45g is upregulated in aged HSCs with impaired multi-lineage reconstitution abilities, and it is induced by differentiation promoting cytokines in GM-committed cells. However, the function of GADD45G in LT-HSCs was unknown. All these points warrant further investigation to unravel the function of GADD45G on early cell fate decisions of HSCs in hematopoiesis. The expression of Gadd45g was stimulated by hematopoietic cytokines TPO, IL3 and IL6 both in HSCs and MPPs, making GADD45G an interesting target to focus on. To simulate the cytokine-induced expression GADD45G was lentivirally transduced in HSCs. Surprisingly, GADD45G did not induce cell cycle arrest or cell death in hematopoietic cells neither in vitro nor in vivo, as reported in many cell lines. Instead GADD45G revealed an enhanced and markedly accelerated differentiation of HSCs into mainly myelomonocytic cells, similar as observed for IL3 and IL6 containing cultures. Also in vivo, GADD45G rapidly initiates the differentiation program in HSCs at the expense of self-renewal and long-term engraftment, as shown by serial HSC transplantation experiments. Along the same line, HSCs from Gadd45g-knock out mice exhibited an increased self-renewal. In vitro, Gadd45g-/- progenitors showed higher and prolonged colony formation potential and slower expansion after cytokine stimulation. The loss of Gadd45g increased HSC self-renewal and improved repopulation in secondary recipients, determined by serial competitive transplantations. Taken together, GADD45G could be identified as molecular link between differentiation-promoting cytokine signaling and rapid differentiation induction in murine LT-HSCs. As presented in this thesis the differentiation induction of GADD45G was mediated by the activation of the cascade of MAP3K4 – MKK6 –p38 MAPK. Small molecule inhibition of p38, but not JNK, blocked the GADD45G-induced differentiation. GADD45G binds to MAP3K4 and releases its auto-inhibitory loop by a change in confirmation, initiating this cascade. Phosphoflow cytometry demonstrated the activation of p38 and a downstream kinase MK2 by GADD45G expression in MPPs. Furthermore, the expression of constitutive active MAP3K4 and MKK6 were able to phenocopy GADD45G-induced differentiation, which could be blocked by p38 inhibition. The other two family members GADD45A and B also induced accelerated differentiation in LT-HSCs. Interestingly, only GADD45G suppressed the differentiation into megakaryocyte and erythrocyte (Mek/E) lineage cells suggesting a role of GADD45G in lineage choice. Long-term time-lapse microscopy-based cell tracking of single LT-HSCs and their progeny revealed that, once GADD45G is expressed, the development of LT-HSCs into granulocyte-macrophage-committed progeny occurred within 36 hours, and uncovered a selective lineage choice with a severe reduction in Mek/E cells. Furthermore, no megakaryocytic-erythroid progenitors (MEPs) could develop from HSPCs in BM 2 weeks after transplantation suggesting a very early selection against Mek/E cell fates. In line with these findings, GADD45G-transduced MEPs could not expand or form colonies in vitro, demonstrating that the differentiation program induced by GADD45G is not compatible with Mek/E lineage fate. Gene expression profiling of HSCs indicated that GADD45G promotes myelomonocytic differentiation programs over programs for self-renewal or megakaryo-/ erythropoiesis. The here identified differentiation induction potential of GADD45G is so strong that the expression of GADD45G in primary acute myeloid leukemia (AML) cells inhibited their expansion accompanied by enhanced differentiation and increased apoptosis. The here presented work shows that IL3 and IL6 induce a differentiation program in HSCs via GADD45G and p38 closing the link of extrinsic cytokine signaling and differentiation induction. Since the loss of Gadd45g increased the self-renewal and slowed HSC differentiation, this may be utilized, i.e. by p38 inhibition, to ex vivo maintain and expand HSCs by preventing cytokine-induced differentiation. Furthermore, Re-expression of GADD45G may overcome the differentiation block in leukemia to eliminate these cells by driving them into terminal differentiation and apoptosis.
- The role of ABL/BCR in the leukemogenic potential of BCR/ABL in Philadelphia chromosome positive leukemia (2014)
- 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.
- Characterization of the Chikungunya virus entry process and the development of novel antiviral strategies (2014)
- The Chikungunya virus (CHIKV) is a mosquito-transmitted alphavirus that causes high fever, rash, and recurrent arthritis in humans. The majority of symptoms disappear after about one week. However, arthritis can last for months or even years (in about 30% of cases), which makes people unable to work during this period. The virus is endemic in Sub-Saharan Africa, the Indian Ocean islands, India, and Southeast Asia. It has additionally caused several large outbreaks in the last few years, affecting millions of people. The mortality rate is very low (0.1%), but the infection rates are high (sometimes 30%) and the number of asymptomatic cases is rare (about 15%). The first CHIKV outbreak in a country with a moderate climate was detected in Italy in 2007. Furthermore, the virus has spread to the Caribbean in late 2013. Due to climate change, globalization, and vector switching, the virus will most likely continue to cause new worldwide outbreaks. Additionally, more temperate regions of the world like Europe or the USA, which have recently reported their first cases, will likely become targets. Alarmingly, there is no specific treatment or vaccination against CHIKV available so far. The cell entry process of CHIKV is also not understood in detail, and was thusly the focus of study for this project. The E2 envelope protein is responsible for cell attachment and entry. It consists of the domain C, located close to the viral membrane, domain A, in the center of the protein, and domain B, at the distal end, prominently exposed on the viral surface. In this work, the important role of cell surface glycosaminoglycans (GAGs) for CHIKV cell attachment was uncovered. GAGs consist of long linear chains of heavily sulfated disaccharide units and can be covalently linked to membrane associated proteins. They play an important role in different cell signaling pathways. So far, solely cell culture passage has revealed an increased GAG-dependency of CHIKV due to mutations in E2 domain A, which was associated with virus attenuation in vivo. However, in this work it could be shown that cell surface GAGs promote CHIKV entry using non-cell culture adapted CHIKV envelope (Env) proteins. Transduction and infection of cell surface GAG-deficient pgsA-745 cells with CHIKV Env pseudotyped vector particles (VPs) and with wild-type CHIKV revealed decreased transduction and replication rates. Furthermore, cell entry and transduction rates of GAG-containing cells were also dose-dependently decreased in the presence of soluble GAGs. In contrast, transduction of pgsA-745 cells with CHIKV Env pseudotyped VPs was enhanced by the addition of soluble GAGs. This data suggests a mechanism by which GAGs activate CHIKV particles for subsequent binding to a cellular receptor. However, at least one GAG-independent entry pathway might exist, as CHIKV entry could not be totally inhibited by soluble GAGs and entry into pgsA-745 was, albeit at a lower rate, still possible. Further binding experiments using recombinant CHIKV E2 domains A, B, and C suggest that domain B is responsible for the GAG binding, domain A possibly for receptor binding, and domain C is not involved in cell binding. These results are in line with the geometry of CHIKV Env on the viral surface. They altogether reveal that GAG binding promotes viral cell entry and that the E2 domain B plays a central role for this mechanism. As no vaccine against CHIKV has been approved so far, another goal of this project was to test new vaccination approaches. It has been published that a single linear epitope of E2 is the target of the majority of early neutralizing antibodies against CHIKV in patients. Artificial E2-derived proteins were created, expressed in E.coli, and successfully purified. They consisted of 5 repeats of the mentioned linear epitope (L), the surface exposed regions of domain A linked by glycine-serine linkers (sA), the whole domain B plus a part of the β-ribbon connector (B+), or a combination of these 3 modules. Vaccination experiments revealed that B+ was necessary and sufficient to induce a neutralizing immune response in mice, with the protein sAB+ yielding the best results. sAB+, as a protein vaccine, efficiently and significantly reduced viral titers in mice upon CHIKV challenge, which was not the case for recombinant Modified Vaccinia virus Ankara (MVA; MVA-CHIKV-sAB+), as a vaccine platform expressing the same protein. These experiments show that a small rationally designed CHIKV Env derived protein might, after optimization of some vaccination parameters, be sufficient as a safe, easy-to-produce, and cheap CHIKV vaccine. Epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG) is a catechin found in green tea and was, in this work, found to inhibit the CHIKV life cycle at the entry state in in vitro experiments using CHIKV Env VPs and wild-type virus. EGCG was recently published to inhibit attachment of several viruses to cell surface GAGs, which is in line with the role for GAGs in CHIKV entry revealed in this work. EGCG might serve as a lead compound for the development of a small molecule treatment against CHIKV.
- HuR promotes tumorigenic characteristics in hepatocellular carcinoma (2013)
- In the absence of apparent mutations, alteration of gene expression patterns represents the key mechanism by which normal cells evolve to cancer cells. Gene expression is tightly regulated by posttranscriptional processes. Within this context, RNA-binding proteins (RBPs) represent fundamental factors, since they control mechanisms, such as mRNA-stabilization, -translation and -degradation. Human antigen R (HuR) was among the first RBPs that have been directly associated to carcinogenesis. HuR modulates the stability and translation of mRNAs which encode proteins facilitating various ‘hallmarks of cancer’, namely proliferation, evasion of growth suppression, angiogenesis, cell death resistance, invasion and metastasis. Furthermore, it is well established that tumor-promoting inflammation contributes to tumorigenesis. In this process, monocytes are attracted to the site of the tumor and educated towards a tumor-promoting macrophage phenotype. While HuR has been extensively studied in various tumor cell types, little is known about HuR in hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). Thus, the aim of my work was to characterize the contribution of HuR to the development of cancer characteristics in HCC. I was particularly interested to investigate if HuR facilitates tumor-promoting inflammation, since a role for HuR has not been described in this context. To this end, I depleted HuR in HepG2 cells (HuR k/d) and used a co-culture model of HepG2 tumor spheroids and infiltrating monocytes to study the impact of HuR on the tumor microenvironment. I could show that depletion of HuR resulted in the reduction of cell numbers. Additionally, the expression of proliferation marker KI-67 and proto-oncogene c-Myc was reduced, supporting a proliferative role of HuR. Furthermore, exposure to cytotoxic staurosporine elevated apoptosis in HuR k/d cells compared to control cells. Concomitantly, the expression of the anti-apoptotic mediator B-cell lymphoma protein-2 (Bcl-2) was markedly reduced in the HuR k/d cells, pointing to an involvement of HuR in cell survival processes. Accordingly, a pro-survival function of HuR was also observed in tumor spheroids, since HuR k/d spheroids exhibited a larger necrotic core region at earlier time points and showed elevated numbers of dead cells compared to control (Ctr.) spheroids. Interestingly, HuR k/d spheroids isplayed reduced numbers of infiltrated macrophages, suggesting that HuR contributes to a tumor-promoting, inflammatory microenvironment by recruiting monocytes/macrophages to the tumor site. Aiming at identifying HuR-regulated factors responsible for the recruitment of monocytes, I found reduced levels of the chemokine interleukin 8 (IL-8) in supernatants of HuR k/d spheroids, supporting a critical involvement of HuR in the chemoattraction of monocytes. Analyzing supernatants of co-cultures of macrophages and HuR k/d or Ctr. spheroids revealed additional differences in chemokine secretion patterns. Interestingly, protein levels of many chemokines were elevated in co-cultures of HuR k/d spheroids compared to control co-cultures. Albeit enhanced chemokine secretion was observed, less monocytes are recruited into HuR k/d spheroids, further underlining the necessity of HuR in cancer related monocyte/macrophage attraction and infiltration. Differences between chemokine profiles of mono- and co-cultured spheroids could be attributable to changes in spheroid-derived chemokines as a result of the crosstalk with the immune cells. Provided the chemokines originate from monocytes/macrophages, the different secretion patterns suggest that HuR contributes to the modulation of the functional phenotype of infiltrated macrophages, since the tumorenvironment is critically involved in the shaping of macrophage phenotypes. Regions of low-oxygen (hypoxia) represent another critical feature of tumors. Therefore, I next analyzed the impact of HuR on the hypoxic response. Loss of HuR attenuated hypoxia-inducible factor (HIF) 2α expression after exposure to hypoxia, while HIF-1α protein levels remained unaltered. Considering previous results of our group, showing that HIF-2α depletion (HIF-2α k/d) resulted in the enhanced expression of HIF-1α protein, I aimed to determine the involvement of HuR in the compensatory upregulation of HIF-1α protein in HIF-2α k/d cells. I could demonstrate that not only total HuR protein levels, but specifically cytoplasmic HuR was elevated in HIF-2α depleted cells pointing to enhanced HuR activity. Silencing HuR in HIF-2α deficient cells attenuated enhanced HIF-1α protein expression, thus confirming a direct role of HuR in the compensatory upregulation of HIF-1α. This as also reflected on HIF-1α target gene expression. I further investigated the mechanism underlying the compensatory HIF-1α expression in HIF-2α deficient cells. Analyzing HIF-1α mRNA expression, I excluded enhanced HIF1-α transcription and stability to account for elevated HIF-1α expression in HIF-2α k/d cells. HIF-1α promoter activity assays confirmed the mRNA data. Furthermore, HIF-1α protein half-life was not elevated in HIF-2α k/d cells compared to control cells, indicating that HIF-1α protein stability is not altered in HIF-2α k/d cells. Analysis of the association of HIF-1α with the translational machinery using polysomal fractionation finally revealed an increased istribution of HIF-1α mRNA in the heavier polysomal fractions in HIF-2α k/d cells compared to control cells. Since augmented ribosome occupancy is an indicator for more efficient translation, I propose enhanced HIF-1α translation as underlying principle of the compensatory increase in HIF-1α protein levels in HIF-2α k/d cells. In summary, my results demonstrate that HuR is critical for the development of cancer characteristics in HCC. Future work analyzing the impact of HuR on tumor-promoting inflammation, specifically macrophage attraction and activation could provide new trategies to inhibit macrophage-driven tumor progression. Furthermore, I provide evidence that HuR contributes to the hypoxic response by regulating the expression of HIF-1α and HIF-2α. Targeting single HIF-isoforms for tumor therapy should be carefully considered, because of their compensatory regulation when one α-subunit is depleted. Thus, therapeutic strategies targeting factors such as HuR that control both α-subunits and at the same time prevent compensation might be more promising.
- BAG3 induction ist required to mitigate proteotoxicity via selective autophagy following inhibition of constitutive protein degradation pathways (2013)
- Protein quality control systems (PQC), i.e. UPS and aggresome-autophagy pathway, have been suggested to be a promising target in cancer therapy. Simultaneous pharmacological inhibition of both pathways have shown increase efficacy in various tumors, such as ovarian and colon carcinoma. Here, we investigate the effect of concomitant inhibition of 26S proteasome by FDA-approved inhibitor Bortezomib, and HDAC6, as key mediator of the aggresome-autophagy system, by the highly specific inhibitor ST80 in rhabdomyosarcoma (RMS) cell lines. We demonstrated that simultaneous inhibition of 26S proteasome and selective aggresome-autophagy pathway significantly increases apoptosis in all tested RMS cell lines. Interestingly, we observed that a subpopulation of RMS cells was able to survive the co-treatment and, upon drug removal, to recover similarly to untreated cells. In this study, we identified co-chaperone BAG3 as the key mediator of this recovery: BAG3 is transcriptionally up-regulated specifically in the ST80/Bortezomib surviving cells and mediates clearance of cytotoxic protein aggregates by selective autophagy. Impairment of the autophagic pathway during the recovery phase, both by conditional knock-down of ATG7 or by inhibition of lysosomal degradation by BafylomicinA1, triggers accumulation of insoluble protein aggregates, loss of cell recovery and cell death similarly to stable short harpin RNA (shRNA) BAG3 knock-down. Our results are the first demonstration that BAG3 mediated selective autophagy is engaged to cope with proteotoxicity induced by simultaneous inhibition of constitutive PQC systems in cancer cell lines during cell recovery. Moreover, our data give new insights in the regulation of constitutive and on demand PQC mechanisms pointing to BAG3 as a promising target in RMS therapy.
- Retargeted natural killer cells for adoptive cancer immunotherapy (2011)
- NK cells are part of the innate immune system, and are important players in the body’s first defence line against virus-infected and malignantly transformed cells. While T cells recognize neoplastic cells in an MHC-restricted fashion, NK cells do not require prior sensitization and education about the target. In leukemia and lymphoma patients undergoing allogeneic hematopoietic stem cell transplantation not only T cells but also NK cells have been found to mediate potent graft-versus-tumor effects. Hence, autologous or donor-derived NK cells hold great promise for cancer immunotherapy. Since the generation of highly purified NK cell products for clinical applications is labor-intensive and time consuming, established human NK cell lines such as NK-92 are also being considered for clinical protocols. NK-92 cells display phenotypic and functional characteristics similar to activated primary NK cells. While NK-92 cells are highly cytotoxic towards malignant cells of hematologic origin, they do not affect healthy human tissues. NK-92 cells can be expanded under GMP-compliant conditions, and can therefore be provided in sufficient numbers with defined phenotypic characteristics for clinical applications. Safety of NK-92 cells for adoptive immunotherapy was already shown in two phase I/II clinical trials. In contrast to malignant cells of hematologic origin, most solid tumor cells are not sensitive to unmodified NK-92 cells. Hence, to overcome resistance mechanisms of tumor cells and to broaden the target spectrum of NK-92 cells, gene-modified variants have been generated which express chimeric antigen receptors (CARs) that specifically target tumor surface antigens. The expression of these CARs is sufficient to redirect their cytotoxic activity towards otherwise NK cell-resistant target cells. Extending these earlier approaches, in the framework of this work optimized CAR constructs that target the pancarcinoma antigen epithelial cell adhesion molecule (EpCAM) were derived and functionally characterized. In collaboration with Heike Daldrup-Link’s laboratory (University of California San Francisco, USA) non-invasive imaging modalities to analyze biodistribution and tumor homing properties of retargeted NK-92 cells were evaluated. To enhance the persistence of adoptively transferred NK-92 cells in vivo, means to overcome NK-92 cells’ dependence on exogenous IL-2 for survival and cytolytic activity were investigated. EpCAM is expressed on a variety of tumors of epithelial origin including ovarian, gastric, colorectal, pancreatic, breast, lung and endometrial cancers. In epithelial cells EpCAM is mainly expressed at basolateral membranes, and EpCAM is involved in calcium-independent homotypic cell-cell adhesions. In tumor cells high and de novo EpCAM expression is not only restricted to basolateral membranes but can also be found on apical membranes. Tumor cells retain EpCAM expression throughout tumorigenesis and metastasis formation. Due to its surface expression and immunogenicity EpCAM has been exploited as target for immunotherapy. In earlier work in our group a prototypic, first generation EpCAM-specific CAR construct (31.z) harboring a murine flexible hinge region and murine CD3 ζ as signaling domain was derived and functionally characterized in NK-92 cells. To reduce the immunogenicity for their potential clinical application, this CAR construct was humanized by exchanging the hinge region and the intracellular signaling domain with corresponding sequences of human origin. In T cells incorporation of additional co-stimulatory domains derived from CD28 and 4-1BB significantly enhanced persistence and anti-tumor effects of adoptively transferred cells. Based on these findings a modified, second generation CAR construct encompassing transmembrane and intracellular regions of CD28 in addition to CD3 ζ intracellular signaling domains was derived (31.28.z). Both CAR constructs were stably expressed in NK-92 cells, and furthermore, expression of both CAR variants promoted antigen-specific lysis of antigen-expressing prostate and breast cancer cell lines. In competition experiments the cytotoxic activity of NK-92/31.z and NK-92/31.28.z cells towards antigen-expressing tumor cells was significantly reduced in the presence of parental MOC31 monoclonal antibody, indicating that binding of the EpCAM-specific CAR to its antigen on tumor cells is necessary to trigger antigen-specific cytotoxicity. At high effector to target ratios NK-92/31.28.z cells displayed slightly higher cytotoxic activity towards EpCAM-expressing target cell lines than NK-92/31.z cells, suggesting that incorporation of co-stimulatory domains had beneficial effects on the cytotoxic activity. For clinical applications the development of non-invasive imaging methods is necessary to follow the biodistribution of adoptively transferred cells and guide the identification of responders and non-responders at an early time point. In collaboration with Heike Daldrup-Link’s laboratory the homing properties of EpCAM-specific NK-92 cells to prostate tumor xenografts in rodent models was analyzed (University of California San Francisco, USA). At that time NK-92 cells expressing the second generation EpCAM-specific CAR 31.28.z were not yet available, and thus homing experiments were performed with NK-92 cells expressing the first generation CAR 31.z. For magnetic resonance imaging studies parental and EpCAM-specific NK-92 cells were labeled with clinical applicable ferumoxide particles. Labeled, gene-modified NK-92 cells displayed reduced CAR expression and reduced cytotoxic activity towards EpCAM-expressing DU145 prostate cancer cells in vitro. Nevertheless, MRI revealed specific accumulation of ferumoxide labeled EpCAM-specific NK-92 cells in DU145 tumor xenografts in athymic rats. In tumor sections of treated animals the presence of EpCAM-specific NK-92 cells was verified by Prussian blue and CD57 staining of tumor sections. In another study homing of DiD-labeled EpCAM-specific NK-92 cells to DU145 tumor xenografts was shown by optical imaging. These findings imply that specific targeting of NK-92 cells is retained in vivo, and that non-invasive imaging strategies can be employed to analyze biodistribution of NK-92 cells. Enhanced persistence of adoptively transferred cytotoxic effector cells has a major impact on the effectiveness of immunotherapy. Primary cytotoxic effector cells as well as NK-92 cells require IL-2 for their proliferation and to gain full activity of their effector functions. To bypass the need of exogenously supplied cytokines, the expression of chimeric cytokine receptors (CCR) harboring IL-2R β and IL-2R γ chains instead of CD3 ζ as signaling domains might initiate cytokine-like signals upon contact with the respective antigen. These interactions might support growth and survival of NK-92 cells in the absence of exogenous IL-2. As a starting point, a codon-optimized ErbB2-specific CAR consisting of the scFv(FRP5) single chain antibody fragment, a human CD8 α hinge region and human CD3 ζ transmembrane and intracellular domains was used. Transmembrane and intracellular domains of IL-2R β and IL-2R γ chains were amplified from NK-92 cell-derived cDNA, and were used to exchange the CD3 ζ domain in the ErbB2-specific construct. In human primary tumors EpCAM and ErbB2 overexpression are frequently found, and often correlate with poor prognosis. Hence, co-expression of ErbB2-specific CCRs with an EpCAM-specific CAR may provide NK cells with antigen-specific killing via EpCAM recognition and with antigen-dependent growth via binding to ErbB2. However, attempts to activate CCRs in NK-92 cells via co-incubation with antigen-expressing cells or cross-linking of the CCRs with recombinant antigen did not result in cytokine-independent but antigen-dependent growth. Likewise, no triggering of signal transducer and activator of transcription 5 (STAT5) was observed, which is a hallmark of IL-2 mediated signal transduction. The interactions between CCRs and their antigen might not be strong enough to trigger cytokine-like signals supporting the growth of cells in the absence of exogenous cytokines, and furthermore, might not lead to a significant up-regulation of STAT5-mediated signal transduction. An alternative approach to circumvent the need of exogenous cytokines is ectopic expression of homeostatic cytokines IL-2 and IL-15 in lymphocytes. In T cells expression of these cytokines is sufficient to render cells independent from exogenously supplied cytokines. In this work a lentiviral expression vector encoding IL-15 (SIEW-IL15) was generated, and used for transduction of NK-92 cells. This resulted in ectopic expression of IL-15 and cellular proliferation in the absence of exogenously supplied cytokines. Even after prolonged culture without exogenous IL-2, NK-92/IL15 cells retained their cytotoxic activity towards NK-sensitive target cells. Although expression of IL-15 in HC11 and COS-7 cells using the same vector led to secretion of bioactive IL-15 into culture supernatants, neither secreted nor surface-bound IL-15 was detected in NK-92/IL15 cells, implying that IL-15 promotes survival of gene-modified cells in a strictly autocrine fashion. In addition, NK-92 cells that were freshly transduced with SIEW-IL15 could be efficiently enriched by cytokine withdrawal. NK-92/IL15 cells that were co-transduced with an EpCAM-specific CAR retained their ability to grow in the absence of exogenously supplied cytokines and their antigen-specific cytotoxic activity. Based on these results, a bicistronic vector construct was generated allowing the simultaneous expression of a CAR construct and IL-15 as selection marker. EpCAM-specific CAR constructs (31.28.z and 31.TM) were inserted into the bicistronic expression cassette. NK-92 cells were transduced with these bicistronic expression constructs and selected by cytokine withdrawal. After 14 to 21 days of culture in the absence of IL-2 transduced cells grew out from which CAR-expressing NK-92 cells with high and homogenous surface expression were further enriched by FACS sorting. NK-92/31.28.z.IL15 cells displayed high cytotoxic activity towards EpCAM-expressing breast cancer cell lines, while EpCAM-negative melanoma cells were not lysed. The results of this work demonstrate that the expression of first (31.z) and second (31.28.z) generation CARs in NK-92 cells is sufficient to induce antigen-specific cytotoxicity. Furthermore, a specific accumulation of NK-92/31.z cells but not unmodified NK-92 cells was detected in EpCAM-expressing prostate carcinoma xenografts in athymic rats, indicating that specific targeting of these cells is retained in vivo. Ectopic expression of IL-15 renders the cells independent from exogenous cytokines, while they retain their cytotoxic activity even after prolonged culture without IL-2. Furthermore, ectopic expression of IL-15 in NK-92 cells can be used for selective enrichment of gene-modified cells by cytokine withdrawal. Subsequently, bicistronic expression constructs that allow simultaneous expression of a CAR construct and IL-15 as selection marker were generated. Expression of these bicistronic expression vectors in NK-92 cells is feasible, and might facilitate enrichment of gene-modified cells for clinical applications.
- Method developments in coupling gel electrophoresis with mass spectrometry (2011)
- Proteomic analysis is the large-scale identification and characterization of proteins including post translational modifications. Proteomics encompasses a number of approaches including bottom-up and top-down workflows which are widely used independently and complementary as tools for the successful study of protein species. However, up to the present day these techniques have not been able to overcome every analytical limitation. Mass spectrometry has played a vital role alongside proteomics in providing the required analytical means of detecting protein amounts down to the atomole range. Soft ionization methods such as matrix assisted laser desorption/ionization (MALDI) and electrospray ionization (ESI) have permitted the transfer of peptides and intact proteins into the gas phase without extensive degradation. The introduction of recent developments in MALDI technology such as the highly sensitive 4-chloro-alpha-cyanocinnamic acid matrix (Cl-CCA) as well as the commercial availability of a MALDI-LTQ-Orbitrap which boosts peptide mass accuracy below 3 parts per million (ppm), have offered new prospective in protein analysis. The aim of the current study is to incorporate these new aspects and provide further advancements in gel-based as well as gel-free proteomic workflows. Peptides of proteolytically digested proteins are routinely analyzed by means of peptide mass fingerprinting (PMF) often combined with MS/MS analyses to complement and substantiate PMF results by peptide sequence information. The most widely used protease for enzymatic digestion is trypsin, since it exhibits a very specific cleavage behavior limited to C-terminal hydrolyses after basic amino acids. However, less specific enzymes such as chymotrypsin, elastase and pepsin have emerged as useful tools in the analysis of particular protein classes e.g. membrane, cereal, and phosphorylated proteins. In this work a comprehensive bottom-up proteomic investigation including in-solution and in-gel protein digestions of analytes covering small to large, acidic to basic, and hydrophobic to hydrophilic proteins in combination with a series of less specific enzymes are presented in order to show the superiority of the novel MALDI matrix Cl-CCA. The Cl-CCA matrix proved to be highly superior compared to standard α-cyano-4-hydroxycinnamic acid (CHCA) since an average detection of more than 2- to 3-fold peptide amount was possible depending on the used protease and, therefore, resulting in strongly increased sequence coverage. Additionally, protein identification of chymotrypsin and elastase in-gel digested protein standards was evaluated. The MALDI-LTQ-Orbitrap providing peptide mass accuracy below and up to 3 ppm in combination with Cl-CCA as matrix and newly optimized digestion conditions led to unambiguous protein identifications of all chymotryptic digests outperforming its tryptic counterparts in the case of hydrophobic bacteriorhodopsin and α-globin from hemoglobin A (α-HgbA). In addition, significantly higher sequence coverage and increased number of detected peptides was acquired. Moreover, a proposed workaround for elastase digestions was capable of providing a solution for successful identification results. Apart from digestions of singly separated proteins, solution isoelectic focusing (sIEF) was evaluated. OFFGEL fractionation is an efficient means of fractionating peptides and proteins according to their isoelectric point (pI) values through immobilized pH gel (IPG) strips after which samples are recovered in solution. Consequently, an issue of peptide recovery arises as a category of peptides relatively insoluble to the recovery solution should be present. A method was developed including the scraping of gel matrix from the IPG strips and peptide extraction using acetonitrile as organic solvent in combination with analytical techniques such as nLC-MALDI-MS/MS for peptide identification. The nature of the peptide species remaining in-gel was analysed and attributed to peptide solubility. A general trend in which a high percentage of neutral and hydrophobic peptides remaining entrapped in the IPG gel strip was observed. The present work also examines a new top-down proteomic workflow involving protein elution from cleavable gels containing the labile crosslinker ethylene-glycol-diacrylate (EDA). Protein amounts of as low as 100 ng loaded onto EDA gels were detected using MALDI-TOF MS in the linear acquisition mode. Proteins from 8.5 up to 78 kDa were successfully measured including a hydrophobic 15 kDa core protein attaining a GRAVY score of +0.079. Additionally, the method was compatible with one dimensional protein separation as well as for 2-D IEF/SDS-PAGE. Lastly, two methods for protein identification were tested and found to be compatible to the proposed technique.
- Role of SOCS proteins in FLT3-ITD and BCR/ABL mediated leukemogenesis (2010)
- Acute myeloid/lymphoid leukemia is a fatal hematological malignancy characterized by accumulation of nonfunctional, immature blasts, which interferes with the production of normal blood cells. Activating mutations of receptor tyrosine kinases are common genetic lesions in leukemia. FLT3-ITD is a frequent activating mutation found in AML patients, leading to uncontrolled proliferation of leukemic blasts. FLT3-ITD directly activates STAT5, leading to the induction of STAT5 target gene expression like PIM kinases and SOCS genes. STAT5 and PIM kinases have been shown to play a crucial role in the FLT3-ITD mediated transformation. On the other hand, the role of SOCS proteins in FLT3-ITD mediated transformation has not been studied to date. SOCS proteins are part of a negative feedback mechanism that controls Jak kinases downstream of cytokine receptors. One of the SOCS family members, SOCS1 has been reported to suppress oncogenecity of several activating kinases implicated in hematologic malignancies. In this thesis the role of these SOCS proteins in FLT3-ITD mediated transformation (in vitro) and leukemogenesis (in vivo) is systematically explored. Expression of FLT3-ITD in cell lines of myeloid (32D) and lymphoid (Ba/F3) origin, led to CIS, SOCS1 and SOCS2 expression. FLT3-ITD expression in primary murine bone marrow stem/progenitor cells led to a 59 fold induction of SOCS1 expression. Furthermore, FLT3-ITD positive AML cell lines (MV4-11, MOLM-13) show kinase dependent CIS, SOCS1, and SOCS3 expression. Importantly SOCS1 is highly expressed in AML patients with FLT3-ITD compared to healthy individuals. SOCS1 protein was expressed in FLT3-ITD transduced murine bone marrow stem cells and SOCS1 expression was abolished with kinase inhibition in MOLM-13 cell line. In conclusion, SOCS1 was highly regulated by FLT3-ITD in myeloid, lymphoid cell lines, in bone marrow stem/progenitors and in AML patient samples. SOCS1 co-expression did not affect FLT3-ITD mediated signaling and proliferation, but abolished IL-3 mediated proliferation and protected 32D cells from interferon-α and interferon-γ mediated growth inhibition. FLT3-ITD expressing 32D cells showed diminished STAT1 activation in response to interferons (α and γ). Alone, SOCS1 strongly inhibited cytokine induced colony formation of bone marrow stem and progenitors, but not FLT3-ITD induced colony formation. Most importantly, in the presence of growth inhibitory interferon-γ, SOCS1 co-expression with FLT3-ITD led to increased colony formation compared to FLT3-ITD alone. Taken together, FLT3-ITD induced and exogenously expressed SOCS1, shielded cells from external cytokines, signals, while not affecting FLT3-ITD induced proliferation/signaling. In further experiments the in vivo effects of SOCS1 were studied in a bone marrow transplantation model. SOCS1 bone marrow transplants were unable to engraft/proliferate in mice. FLT3-ITD was shown to induce a myeloproliferative disease. Both control (empty vector), SOCS1 transplanted mice were normal and did not show any disease phenotype. FLT3-ITD alone and SOCS1 co-expressing FLT3-ITD developed either myeloproliferative disease or acute lymphoblastic leukemia with equal distribution. SOCS1 co-expression with FLT3-ITD led to a decreased latency. Mice transplanted with FLT3-ITD alone and SOCS1 co-expressing FLT3-ITD displayed enlarged spleens, liver and hypercellular bone marrow indicating infiltration of leukemic cells. Mice were also anemic and showed decreased platelet counts. Importantly SOCS1 co-expression particularly shortened the latency of myeloproliferative disease but not of acute lymphoblastic leukemia. In summary, in the context of FLT3-ITD, SOCS1 acts as a ‘conditional oncogene’ and cooperates with FLT3-ITD in the development of myeloproliferative disease. With these data we propose the following model: FLT3-ITD induces SOCS gene expression, which shields cells against proliferation and differentiation signals from cytokines, while not affecting FLT3-ITD mediated proliferative signals. This leaves cells under the dictate of FLT3-ITD thereby contributing to leukemogenesis. Similar to FLT3-ITD, BCR/ABL (P190) (an oncogenic fusion kinase often found in acute lymphoblastic leukemia) induces SOCS gene expression in K562 and long-term cultured cells from patients with acute lymphoblastic leukemia. SOCS1 co-expression does not affect BCR/ABL mediated proliferation while abrogating IL-3 mediated proliferation. These findings suggest that SOCS proteins may play a general co-operative role in the context of oncogenes which aberrantly activate STAT3/5 independently of JAK kinases. This study reveals a novel molecular mechanism of FLT3-ITD mediated leukemogenesis and suggests SOCS genes as potential therapeutic targets.
- 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.