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Inactivation of nuclear GSK3beta by Ser(389) phosphorylation promotes lymphocyte fitness during DNA double-strand break response

Mon, 02/29/2016 - 12:31am

Variable, diversity and joining (V(D)J) recombination and immunoglobulin class switch recombination (CSR) are key processes in adaptive immune responses that naturally generate DNA double-strand breaks (DSBs) and trigger a DNA repair response. It is unclear whether this response is associated with distinct survival signals that protect T and B cells. Glycogen synthase kinase 3beta (GSK3beta) is a constitutively active kinase known to promote cell death. Here we show that phosphorylation of GSK3beta on Ser(389) by p38 MAPK (mitogen-activated protein kinase) is induced selectively by DSBs through ATM (ataxia telangiectasia mutated) as a unique mechanism to attenuate the activity of nuclear GSK3beta and promote survival of cells undergoing DSBs. Inability to inactivate GSK3beta through Ser(389) phosphorylation in Ser(389)Ala knockin mice causes a decrease in the fitness of cells undergoing V(D)J recombination and CSR. Preselection-Tcrbeta repertoire is impaired and antigen-specific IgG antibody responses following immunization are blunted in Ser(389)GSK3beta knockin mice. Thus, GSK3beta emerges as an important modulator of the adaptive immune response.

JNK-interacting protein 1 mediates Alzheimer's-like pathological features in AICD-transgenic mice

Mon, 02/29/2016 - 12:31am

Amyloid precursor protein, which generates amyloid beta peptides, is intimately associated with Alzheimer's disease (AD) pathogenesis. We previously showed that transgenic mice overexpressing amyloid precursor protein intracellular domain (AICD), a peptide generated simultaneously with amyloid beta, develop AD-like pathologies, including hyperphosphorylated tau, loss of synapses, and memory impairments. AICD is known to bind c-Jun N-terminal kinase (JNK)-interacting protein 1 (JIP1), a scaffold protein that associates with and activates JNK. The aim of this study was to examine the role of JIP1 in AICD-induced AD-like pathologies in vivo, since the JNK pathway is aberrantly activated in AD brains and contributes to AD pathologies. We generated AICD-Tg mice lacking the JIP1 gene (AICD; JIP1(-/-)) and found that although AICD; JIP1(-/-) mice exhibit increased AICD, the absence of JIP1 results in decreased levels of hyperphosphorylated tau and activated JNK. AICD; JIP1(-/-) mice are also protected from synaptic loss and show improved performance in behavioral tests. These results suggest that JIP1 mediates AD-like pathologies in AICD-Tg mice and that JNK signaling may contribute to amyloid-independent mechanisms of AD pathogenesis.

Hepatic acetyl CoA links adipose tissue inflammation to hepatic insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes

Mon, 02/29/2016 - 12:31am

Impaired insulin-mediated suppression of hepatic glucose production (HGP) plays a major role in the pathogenesis of type 2 diabetes (T2D), yet the molecular mechanism by which this occurs remains unknown. Using a novel in vivo metabolomics approach, we show that the major mechanism by which insulin suppresses HGP is through reductions in hepatic acetyl CoA by suppression of lipolysis in white adipose tissue (WAT) leading to reductions in pyruvate carboxylase flux. This mechanism was confirmed in mice and rats with genetic ablation of insulin signaling and mice lacking adipose triglyceride lipase. Insulin's ability to suppress hepatic acetyl CoA, PC activity, and lipolysis was lost in high-fat-fed rats, a phenomenon reversible by IL-6 neutralization and inducible by IL-6 infusion. Taken together, these data identify WAT-derived hepatic acetyl CoA as the main regulator of HGP by insulin and link it to inflammation-induced hepatic insulin resistance associated with obesity and T2D.

Bone marrow-derived c-jun N-terminal kinase-1 (JNK1) mediates liver regeneration

Mon, 02/29/2016 - 12:31am

Liver regeneration is controlled by a complex network of signaling molecules, and a prominent role for c-jun N-terminal kinase has been suggested during this process. In the present study, we aimed to characterize and define the cell-type-specific contribution of JNK1 activation during liver regeneration. We used hepatocyte-specific JNK1 knockout mice (JNK1(Deltahepa)) using the cre/lox-P system. We performed partial hepatectomy (PH) in WT, JNK1(Deltahepa) and JNK1(-/-) animals and investigated time-points up to 72 h after PH. Additionally, bone marrow transplantation experiments were conducted in order to identify the contribution of hematopoietic cell-derived JNK1 activation for liver regeneration. Our results show that liver regeneration was significantly impaired in JNK1(-/-) compared to JNK1(Deltahepa) and WT animals. These data were evidenced by lower BrdU incorporation and decreased cell cycle markers such as Cyclin A, Cyclin D, E2F1 and PCNA 48 h after PH in JNK1(-/-) compared with JNK1(Deltahepa) and WT livers. In JNK1(-/-) mice, our findings were associated with a reduced acute phase response as evidenced by a lower activation of the IL-6/STAT3/SAA-1 cascade. Additionally, CD11b(+)Ly6G(+)-cells were decreased in JNK1(-/-) compared with JNK1(Deltahepa) and WT animals after PH. The transplantation of bone marrow-derived JNK1(-/-) into WT recipients caused significant reduction in liver regeneration. Interestingly, the transplantation of JNK1(-/-) into mice lacking JNK1 in hepatocytes only partially delayed liver regeneration. In summary, we provide evidence that (1) JNK1 in hematopoietic cells is crucial for liver regeneration, and (2) a synergistic function between JNK1 in hepatocytes and hematopoietic-derived cells is involved in the hepatic regenerative response.

Pathological axonal death through a MAPK cascade that triggers a local energy deficit

Mon, 02/29/2016 - 12:31am

Axonal death disrupts functional connectivity of neural circuits and is a critical feature of many neurodegenerative disorders. Pathological axon degeneration often occurs independently of known programmed death pathways, but the underlying molecular mechanisms remain largely unknown. Using traumatic injury as a model, we systematically investigate mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) families and delineate a MAPK cascade that represents the early degenerative response to axonal injury. The adaptor protein Sarm1 is required for activation of this MAPK cascade, and this Sarm1-MAPK pathway disrupts axonal energy homeostasis, leading to ATP depletion before physical breakdown of damaged axons. The protective cytoNmnat1/Wld(s) protein inhibits activation of this MAPK cascade. Further, MKK4, a key component in the Sarm1-MAPK pathway, is antagonized by AKT signaling, which modulates the degenerative response by limiting activation of downstream JNK signaling. Our results reveal a regulatory mechanism that integrates distinct signals to instruct pathological axon degeneration.

Haematopoietic cell-derived Jnk1 is crucial for chronic inflammation and carcinogenesis in an experimental model of liver injury

Mon, 02/29/2016 - 12:31am

BACKGROUND and AIMS: Chronic liver injury triggers complications such as liver fibrosis and hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), which are associated with alterations in distinct signalling pathways. Of particular interest is the interaction between mechanisms controlled by IKKgamma/NEMO, the regulatory IKK subunit, and Jnk activation for directing cell death and survival. In the present study, we aimed to define the relevance of Jnk in hepatocyte-specific NEMO knockout mice (NEMO(Deltahepa)), a genetic model of chronic inflammatory liver injury.

METHODS: We generated Jnk1(-/-)/NEMO(Deltahepa) and Jnk2(-/-)/NEMO(Deltahepa) mice by crossing NEMO(Deltahepa) mice with Jnk1 and Jnk2 global deficient animals, respectively, and examined the progression of chronic liver disease. Moreover, we investigated the expression of Jnk during acute liver injury, evaluated the role of Jnk1 in bone marrow-derived cells, and analysed the expression of NEMO and p-JNK in human diseased-livers.

RESULTS: Deletion of Jnk1 significantly aggravated the progression of liver disease, exacerbating apoptosis, compensatory proliferation and carcinogenesis in NEMO(Deltahepa) mice. Conversely, Jnk2(-/-)/NEMO(Deltahepa) displayed hepatic inflammation. By using bone marrow transfer, we observed that Jnk1 in haematopoietic cells had an impact on the progression of chronic liver disease in NEMO(Deltahepa) livers. These findings are of clinical relevance since NEMO expression was downregulated in hepatocytes of patients with HCC whereas NEMO and p-JNK were expressed in a large amount of infiltrating cells.

CONCLUSIONS: A synergistic function of Jnk1 in haematopoietic cells and hepatocytes might be relevant for the development of chronic liver injury. These results elucidate the complex function of Jnk in chronic inflammatory liver disease.

Quantitative analysis of APP axonal transport in neurons: role of JIP1 in enhanced APP anterograde transport

Mon, 02/29/2016 - 12:31am

Alzheimer's beta-amyloid precursor protein (APP) associates with kinesin-1 via JNK-interacting protein 1 (JIP1); however, the role of JIP1 in APP transport by kinesin-1 in neurons remains unclear. We performed a quantitative analysis to understand the role of JIP1 in APP axonal transport. In JIP1-deficient neurons, we find that both the fast velocity ( approximately 2.7 mum/s) and high frequency (66%) of anterograde transport of APP cargo are impaired to a reduced velocity ( approximately 1.83 mum/s) and a lower frequency (45%). We identified two novel elements linked to JIP1 function, located in the central region of JIP1b, that interact with the coiled-coil domain of kinesin light chain 1 (KLC1), in addition to the conventional interaction of the JIP1b 11-amino acid C-terminal (C11) region with the tetratricopeptide repeat of KLC1. High frequency of APP anterograde transport is dependent on one of the novel elements in JIP1b. Fast velocity of APP cargo transport requires the C11 domain, which is regulated by the second novel region of JIP1b. Furthermore, efficient APP axonal transport is not influenced by phosphorylation of APP at Thr-668, a site known to be phosphorylated by JNK. Our quantitative analysis indicates that enhanced fast-velocity and efficient high-frequency APP anterograde transport observed in neurons are mediated by novel roles of JIP1b.

The PPARalpha-FGF21 hormone axis contributes to metabolic regulation by the hepatic JNK signaling pathway

Mon, 02/29/2016 - 12:30am

The cJun NH2-terminal kinase (JNK) stress signaling pathway is implicated in the metabolic response to the consumption of a high-fat diet, including the development of obesity and insulin resistance. These metabolic adaptations involve altered liver function. Here, we demonstrate that hepatic JNK potently represses the nuclear hormone receptor peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor alpha (PPARalpha). Therefore, JNK causes decreased expression of PPARalpha target genes that increase fatty acid oxidation and ketogenesis and promote the development of insulin resistance. We show that the PPARalpha target gene fibroblast growth factor 21 (Fgf21) plays a key role in this response because disruption of the hepatic PPARalpha-FGF21 hormone axis suppresses the metabolic effects of JNK deficiency. This analysis identifies the hepatokine FGF21 as a critical mediator of JNK signaling in the liver.

p38 MAPK regulates steroidogenesis through transcriptional repression of STAR gene

Mon, 02/29/2016 - 12:30am

STAR/StarD1, part of a protein complex, mediates the transport of cholesterol from the outer to inner mitochondrial membrane, which is the rate-limiting step for steroidogenesis, and where steroid hormone synthesis begins. Herein, we examined the role of oxidant-sensitive p38 MAPKs in the regulation of STAR gene transcription, using model steroidogenic cell lines. Our data indicate that oxidant activation of p38 MAPK exhibits a negative regulatory role in the induction of functional expression of STAR, as evidenced by enhanced induction of STAR (mRNA/protein) expression and increased steroidogenesis during pharmacological inhibition of p38 MAPK or in cells with increased transient overexpression of a dominant-negative (dn) form of p38 MAPKalpha or p38 MAPKbeta. Studies with rat Star-promoter demonstrated that overexpression of p38 MAPKalpha-wt, -beta, or -gamma significantly reduced both basal and cAMP-sensitive promoter activity. In contrast, overexpression of p38 MAPKalpha-dn, -beta, or -gamma enhanced the Star promoter activity under basal conditions and in response to cAMP stimulation. Use of various constitutively active and dn constructs and designer knock-out cell lines demonstrated that MKK3 and MKK6, the upstream activators of p38 MAPKs, play a role in p38 MAPKalpha-mediated inhibition of Star promoter activity. In addition, our studies raised the possibility of CREB being a potential target of the p38 MAPK inhibitory effect on Star promoter activity. Collectively, these data provide novel mechanistic information about how oxidant-sensitive p38 MAPKs, particularly p38 MAPKalpha, contribute to the negative regulation of Star gene expression and inhibit steroidogenesis.

Jnk1 in murine hepatic stellate cells is a crucial mediator of liver fibrogenesis

Mon, 02/29/2016 - 12:30am

OBJECTIVE: The c-Jun N-terminal kinase-1 (Jnk1) gene has been shown to be involved in liver fibrosis. Here, we aimed to investigate the molecular mechanism and define the cell type involved in mediating the Jnk1-dependent effect on liver fibrogenesis.

DESIGN: Jnk1(f/f) wildtype (WT), Jnk1(-/-) and Jnk1(Deltahepa) (hepatocyte-specific deletion of Jnk1) mice were subjected to (i) bile duct ligation (BDL) and (ii) CCl4-induced liver fibrosis. Additionally, we performed bone marrow transplantations (BMT), isolated primary hepatic stellate cells (HSCs), studied their activation in vitro and investigated human diseased liver samples.

RESULTS: Phosphorylated Jnk was expressed in myofibroblasts, epithelial and inflammatory cells during the progression of fibrogenesis in humans and mice. In mice, liver transaminases, alkaline phosphatase, bilirubin and liver histology revealed reduced injury in Jnk1(-/-) compared with WT and Jnk1(Deltahepa) mice correlating with lower hepatocyte cell death and proliferation. Consequently, parameters of liver fibrosis such as Sirius red staining and collagen IA1 and alpha-smooth muscle actin expression were downregulated in Jnk1(-/-) compared with WT and Jnk1(Deltahepa) livers, 4 weeks after CCl4 or BDL. BMT experiments excluded bone marrow-derived cells from having a major impact on the Jnk1-dependent effect on fibrogenesis, while primary HSCs from Jnk1(-/-) livers showed reduced transdifferentiation and extracellular matrix production. Moreover, Jnk1 ablation caused a reduced lifespan and poor differentiation of HSCs into matrix-producing myofibroblasts.

CONCLUSIONS: Jnk1 in HSCs, but not in hepatocytes, significantly contribute to liver fibrosis development, identifying Jnk1 in HSCs as a profibrotic kinase and a promising cell-directed target for liver fibrosis.

JNK regulates compliance-induced adherens junctions formation in epithelial cells and tissues

Mon, 02/29/2016 - 12:30am

We demonstrate that c-Jun N-terminal kinase (JNK) responds to substrate stiffness and regulates adherens junction (AJ) formation in epithelial cells in 2D cultures and in 3D tissues in vitro and in vivo. Rigid substrates led to JNK activation and AJ disassembly, whereas soft matrices suppressed JNK activity leading to AJ formation. Expression of constitutively active JNK (MKK7-JNK1) induced AJ dissolution even on soft substrates, whereas JNK knockdown (using shJNK) induced AJ formation even on hard substrates. In human epidermis, basal cells expressed phosphorylated JNK but lacked AJ, whereas suprabasal keratinocytes contained strong AJ but lacked phosphorylated JNK. AJ formation was significantly impaired even in the upper suprabasal layers of bioengineered epidermis when prepared with stiffer scaffold or keratinocytes expressing MKK7-JNK1. By contrast, shJNK1 or shJNK2 epidermis exhibited strong AJ even in the basal layer. The results with bioengineered epidermis were in full agreement with the epidermis of jnk1(-/-) or jnk2(-/-) mice. In conclusion, we propose that JNK mediates the effects of substrate stiffness on AJ formation in 2D and 3D contexts in vitro as well as in vivo.

Modulation of fatty acid synthase degradation by concerted action of p38 MAP kinase, E3 ligase COP1, and SH2-tyrosine phosphatase Shp2

Mon, 02/29/2016 - 12:30am

The Src-homology 2 (SH2) domain-containing tyrosine phosphatase Shp2 has been known to regulate various signaling pathways triggered by receptor and cytoplasmic tyrosine kinases. Here we describe a novel function of Shp2 in control of lipid metabolism by mediating degradation of fatty acid synthase (FASN). p38-phosphorylated COP1 accumulates in the cytoplasm and subsequently binds FASN through Shp2 here as an adapter, leading to FASN-Shp2-COP1 complex formation and FASN degradation mediated by ubiquitination pathway. By fasting p38 is activated and stimulates FASN protein degradation in mice. Consistently, the FASN protein levels are dramatically elevated in mouse liver and pancreas in which Shp2/Ptpn11 is selectively deleted. Thus, this study identifies a new activity for Shp2 in lipid metabolism.

Central melanin-concentrating hormone influences liver and adipose metabolism via specific hypothalamic nuclei and efferent autonomic/JNK1 pathways

Mon, 02/29/2016 - 12:30am

BACKGROUND and AIMS: Specific neuronal circuits modulate autonomic outflow to liver and white adipose tissue. Melanin-concentrating hormone (MCH)-deficient mice are hypophagic, lean, and do not develop hepatosteatosis when fed a high-fat diet. Herein, we sought to investigate the role of MCH, an orexigenic neuropeptide specifically expressed in the lateral hypothalamic area, on hepatic and adipocyte metabolism.

METHODS: Chronic central administration of MCH and adenoviral vectors increasing MCH signaling were performed in rats and mice. Vagal denervation was performed to assess its effect on liver metabolism. The peripheral effects on lipid metabolism were assessed by real-time polymerase chain reaction and Western blot.

RESULTS: We showed that the activation of MCH receptors promotes nonalcoholic fatty liver disease through the parasympathetic nervous system, whereas it increases fat deposition in white adipose tissue via the suppression of sympathetic traffic. These metabolic actions are independent of parallel changes in food intake and energy expenditure. In the liver, MCH triggers lipid accumulation and lipid uptake, with c-Jun N-terminal kinase being an essential player, whereas in adipocytes MCH induces metabolic pathways that promote lipid storage and decreases lipid mobilization. Genetic activation of MCH receptors or infusion of MCH specifically in the lateral hypothalamic area modulated hepatic lipid metabolism, whereas the specific activation of this receptor in the arcuate nucleus affected adipocyte metabolism.

CONCLUSIONS: Our findings show that central MCH directly controls hepatic and adipocyte metabolism through different pathways.

Eukaryotic elongation factor 2 controls TNF-alpha translation in LPS-induced hepatitis

Mon, 02/29/2016 - 12:30am

Bacterial LPS (endotoxin) has been implicated in the pathogenesis of acute liver disease through its induction of the proinflammatory cytokine TNF-alpha. TNF-alpha is a key determinant of the outcome in a well-established mouse model of acute liver failure during septic shock. One possible mechanism for regulating TNF-alpha expression is through the control of protein elongation during translation, which would allow rapid cell adaptation to physiological changes. However, the regulation of translational elongation is poorly understood. We found that expression of p38gamma/delta MAPK proteins is required for the elongation of nascent TNF-alpha protein in macrophages. The MKK3/6-p38gamma/delta pathway mediated an inhibitory phosphorylation of eukaryotic elongation factor 2 (eEF2) kinase, which in turn promoted eEF2 activation (dephosphorylation) and subsequent TNF-alpha elongation. These results identify a new signaling pathway that regulates TNF-alpha production in LPS-induced liver damage and suggest potential cell-specific therapeutic targets for liver diseases in which TNF-alpha production is involved.

The stress-activated protein kinases p38alpha/beta and JNK1/2 cooperate with Chk1 to inhibit mitotic entry upon DNA replication arrest

Mon, 02/29/2016 - 12:30am

Accurate DNA replication is crucial for the maintenance of genome integrity. To this aim, cells have evolved complex surveillance mechanisms to prevent mitotic entry in the presence of partially replicated DNA. ATR and Chk1 are key elements in the signal transduction pathways of DNA replication checkpoint; however, other kinases also make significant contributions. We show here that the stress kinases p38 and JNK are activated when DNA replication is blocked, and that their activity allows S/M, but not G 2/M, checkpoint maintenance when Chk1 is inhibited. Activation of both kinases by DNA replication inhibition is not mediated by the caffeine-sensitive kinases ATR or ATM. Phosphorylation of MKK3/6 and MKK4, p38 and JNK upstream kinases was also observed upon DNA replication inhibition. Using a genetic approach, we dissected the p38 pathway and showed that both p38alpha and p38beta isoforms collaborate to inhibit mitotic entry. We further defined MKK3/6 and MK2/3 as the key upstream and downstream elements in the p38 signaling cascade after replication arrest. Accordingly, we found that the stress signaling pathways collaborate with Chk1 to keep cyclin B1/Cdk1 complexes inactive when DNA replication is inhibited, thereby preventing cell cycle progression when DNA replication is stalled. Our results show a complex response to replication stress, where multiple pathways are activated and fulfill overlapping roles to prevent mitotic entry with unreplicated DNA.

Development and Validation of the Behavioral Tendencies Questionnaire

Fri, 02/26/2016 - 2:07pm

At a fundamental level, taxonomy of behavior and behavioral tendencies can be described in terms of approach, avoid, or equivocate (i.e., neither approach nor avoid). While there are numerous theories of personality, temperament, and character, few seem to take advantage of parsimonious taxonomy. The present study sought to implement this taxonomy by creating a questionnaire based on a categorization of behavioral temperaments/tendencies first identified in Buddhist accounts over fifteen hundred years ago. Items were developed using historical and contemporary texts of the behavioral temperaments, described as "Greedy/Faithful", "Aversive/Discerning", and "Deluded/Speculative". To both maintain this categorical typology and benefit from the advantageous properties of forced-choice response format (e.g., reduction of response biases), binary pairwise preferences for items were modeled using Latent Class Analysis (LCA). One sample (n1 = 394) was used to estimate the item parameters, and the second sample (n2 = 504) was used to classify the participants using the established parameters and cross-validate the classification against multiple other measures. The cross-validated measure exhibited good nomothetic span (construct-consistent relationships with related measures) that seemed to corroborate the ideas present in the original Buddhist source documents. The final 13-block questionnaire created from the best performing items (the Behavioral Tendencies Questionnaire or BTQ) is a psychometrically valid questionnaire that is historically consistent, based in behavioral tendencies, and promises practical and clinical utility particularly in settings that teach and study meditation practices such as Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR).

Diagnostic Magnetic Resonance Imaging of Atherosclerosis in Apolipoprotein E Knockout Mouse Model Using Macrophage-Targeted Gadolinium-Containing Synthetic Lipopeptide Nanoparticles

Fri, 02/26/2016 - 2:06pm

Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in Western cultures. The vast majority of cardiovascular events, including stroke and myocardial infarction, result from the rupture of vulnerable atherosclerotic plaques, which are characterized by high and active macrophage content. Current imaging modalities including magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) aim to characterize anatomic and structural features of plaques rather than their content. Previously, we reported that macrophage-targeted delivery of gadolinium (Gd)-based contrast agent (GBCA-HDL) using high density lipoproteins (HDL)-like particles significantly enhances the detection of plaques in an apolipoprotein (apo) E knockout (KO) mouse model, with an atherosclerotic wall/muscle normalized enhancement ratio (NER) of 120% achieved. These particles are comprised of lipids and synthetic peptide fragments of the major protein of HDL, apo A-I, that contain a naturally occurring modification which targets the particles to macrophages. Targeted delivery minimizes the Gd dose and thus reduces the adverse effects of Gd. The aims of the current study were to test whether varying the GBCA-HDL particle shape and composition can further enhance atherosclerotic plaque MRI and control organ clearance of these agents. We show that the optimized GBCA-HDL particles are efficiently delivered intracellularly to and uptaken by both J774 macrophages in vitro and more importantly, by intraplaque macrophages in vivo, as evidenced by NER up to 160% and higher. This suggests high diagnostic power of our GBCA-HDL particles in the detection of vulnerable atherosclerotic plaques. Further, in contrast to discoidal, spherical GBCA-HDL exhibit hepatic clearance, which could further diminish adverse renal effects of Gd. Finally, activated macrophages are reliable indicators of any inflamed tissues and are implicated in other areas of unmet clinical need such as rheumatoid arthritis, sepsis and cancer, suggesting the expanded diagnostic and prognostic use of this method.

A Simple Proteomics-Based Approach to Identification of Immunodominant Antigens from a Complex Pathogen: Application to the CD4 T Cell Response against Human Herpesvirus 6B

Fri, 02/26/2016 - 2:06pm

Most of humanity is chronically infected with human herpesvirus 6 (HHV-6), with viral replication controlled at least in part by a poorly characterized CD4 T cell response. Identification of viral epitopes recognized by CD4 T cells is complicated by the large size of the herpesvirus genome and a low frequency of circulating T cells responding to the virus. Here, we present an alternative to classical epitope mapping approaches used to identify major targets of the T cell response to a complex pathogen like HHV-6B. In the approach presented here, extracellular virus preparations or virus-infected cells are fractionated by SDS-PAGE, and eluted fractions are used as source of antigens to study cytokine responses in direct ex vivo T cell activation studies. Fractions inducing significant cytokine responses are analyzed by mass spectrometry to identify viral proteins, and a subset of peptides from these proteins corresponding to predicted HLA-DR binders is tested for IFN-gamma production in seropositive donors with diverse HLA haplotypes. Ten HHV-6B viral proteins were identified as immunodominant antigens. The epitope-specific response to HHV-6B virus was complex and variable between individuals. We identified 107 peptides, each recognized by at least one donor, with each donor having a distinctive footprint. Fourteen peptides showed responses in the majority of donors. Responses to these epitopes were validated using in vitro expanded cells and naturally expressed viral proteins. Predicted peptide binding affinities for the eight HLA-DRB1 alleles investigated here correlated only modestly with the observed CD4 T cell responses. Overall, the response to the virus was dominated by peptides from the major capsid protein U57 and major antigenic protein U11, but responses to other proteins including glycoprotein H (U48) and tegument proteins U54 and U14 also were observed. These results provide a means to follow and potentially modulate the CD4 T-cell immune response to HHV-6B.

The Role of H3K4me3 in Transcriptional Regulation Is Altered in Huntington's Disease

Fri, 02/26/2016 - 2:06pm

Huntington's disease (HD) is an autosomal-dominant neurodegenerative disorder resulting from expansion of CAG repeats in the Huntingtin (HTT) gene. Previous studies have shown mutant HTT can alter expression of genes associated with dysregulated epigenetic modifications. One of the most widely studied chromatin modifications is trimethylated lysine 4 of histone 3 (H3K4me3). Here, we conducted the first comprehensive study of H3K4me3 ChIP-sequencing in neuronal chromatin from the prefrontal cortex of six HD cases and six non-neurologic controls, and its association with gene expression measured by RNA-sequencing. We detected 2,830 differentially enriched H3K4me3 peaks between HD and controls, with 55% of them down-regulated in HD. Although H3K4me3 signals are expected to be associated with mRNA levels, we found an unexpected discordance between altered H3K4me3 peaks and mRNA levels. Gene ontology (GO) term enrichment analysis of the genes with differential H3K4me3 peaks, revealed statistically significantly enriched GO terms only in the genes with down-regulated signals in HD. The most frequently implicated biological process terms are organ morphogenesis and positive regulation of gene expression. More than 9,000 H3K4me3 peaks were located not near any recognized transcription start sites and approximately 36% of these "distal" peaks co-localized to known enhancer sites. Six transcription factors and chromatin remodelers are differentially enriched in HD H3K4me3 distal peaks, including EZH2 and SUZ12, two core subunits of the polycomb repressive complex 2 (PRC2). Moreover, PRC2 repressive state was significantly depleted in HD-enriched peaks, suggesting the epigenetic role of PRC2 inhibition associated with up-regulated H3K4me3 in Huntington's disease. In summary, our study provides new insights into transcriptional dysregulation of Huntington's disease by analyzing the differentiation of H3K4me3 enrichment.