The ability to recognize and avoid noxious stimuli is essential for survival. The factors that determine whether a given stimulus is considered positive or negative are complex and not fully understood. In this issue of the JCI, Klawonn and colleagues demonstrate that melanocortin 4 receptor (MC4R) signaling is critical for proper responses to negative stimuli. Mice lacking MC4R were shown to have a surprising preference for aversive stimuli compared with WT animals. Moreover, the authors provide evidence that avoidance behaviors are mediated by hypothalamic POMC neurons signaling to striatal dopamine D1 receptor–expressing medium spiny neurons. Together, these results provide important insight into the regulation of responses to aversive stimuli.
Alexandra G. DiFeliceantonio, Paul J. Kenny
Interferonopathies are a subset of autoinflammatory disorders with a prominent type I IFN gene signature. Treatment of these patients has been challenging, given the lack of response to common autoinflammatory therapeutics including IL-1 and TNF blockade. JAK inhibitors (Jakinibs) are a family of small-molecule inhibitors that target the JAK/STAT signaling pathway and have shown clinical efficacy, with FDA and European Medicines Agency (EMA) approval for arthritic and myeloproliferative syndromes. Sanchez and colleagues repurposed baricitinib to establish a significant role for JAK inhibition as a novel therapy for patients with interferonopathies, demonstrating the power of translational rare disease research with lifesaving effects.
Hal M. Hoffman, Lori Broderick
Stromal cells within the tumor microenvironment play a supportive role in tumor growth, progression, and treatment resistance; therefore, these nonmalignant cells are potential therapeutic targets. In this issue of the JCI, Szot et al. devised a strategy to exploit the cell-surface marker TEM8 (also known as ANTXR1), which is expressed by cancer-associated stromal cells, as a zip code to deliver an antibody-drug conjugate (ADC) linked to the potent cancer-killing drug monomethyl auristatin E (MMAE). In preclinical tumor and experimental metastasis models of multiple cancer types, TEM8-ADC targeted TEM8-expressing cancer-associated stromal cells, which processed and liberated membrane-permeable MMAE and released this drug via the P-glycoprotein (P-gp) drug transporter. Released MMAE killed cancer cells through a bystander mechanism that did minimal damage to the stromal cells themselves. P-gp–expressing tumor cells displayed MMAE resistance, suggesting that P-gp expression status may identify patients who might benefit the most from TEM8-ADC. This strategy, termed DAaRTS (drug activation and release through stroma), represents an elegant example of how selective expression of a cell-surface molecule on cancer-associated stroma can be exploited to facilitate drug delivery and shrink solid tumors.
James V. McCann, Jamie L. Null, Andrew C. Dudley
Acute kidney injury comprises a heterogeneous group of conditions characterized by a sudden decrease in renal function over hours to days. Contrast-induced acute kidney injury (CI-AKI) is caused by radiographic contrast agents used in diagnostic imaging. In the current issue of the JCI, Lau et al. use a mouse model of CI-AKI to study the role of resident and infiltrating phagocytes, recruited leukocytes, and tubular cells in the immune surveillance response to contrast agents. This study has the potential to provide innovative therapies for human CI-AKI.
Simon J. Atkinson
There is marked variability in vaccine efficacy among global populations. In particular, individuals in low- to middle-income countries have been shown to be less responsive to vaccines than those from developed nations. Several factors, including endemic infections, nutrition, genetics, and gut microbiome composition, have been proposed to underlie discrepancies in vaccine response. In this issue of the JCI, Kityo et al. evaluated response to yellow fever virus vaccine, inflammation, and lymphatic tissue architecture and fibrosis in three cohorts: two from the U.S. and one from Uganda. Compared with the U.S. subjects, the Ugandan cohort exhibited enhanced cytokine responses, increased lymph node fibrosis, reduced CD4+ T cell levels, and reduced vaccine response. Together, these results provide a link among chronic inflammation, damaged lymphoid architecture, and poor vaccine outcome, and set the stage for future studies to identify strategies to overcome these barriers.
Boris Julg, Galit Alter
The discovery of HLA-B*57:01–associated abacavir hypersensitivity is a translational success story that eliminated adverse reactions to abacavir through pretreatment screening and defined a mechanistic model of an altered peptide repertoire. In this issue of the JCI, Cardone et al. have developed an HLA-B*57:01–transgenic mouse model and demonstrated that CD4+ T cells play a key role in mediating tolerance to the dramatically altered endogenous peptide repertoire induced by abacavir and postulate a known mechanism by which CD4+ T cells suppress DC maturation. This report potentially explains why 45% of HLA-B*57:01 carriers tolerate abacavir and provides a framework for future studies of HLA-restricted, T cell–mediated drug tolerance and hypersensitivity.
Elizabeth J. Phillips, Simon A. Mallal
The clinical benefits that have been achieved for a group of cancer patients with metastatic disease on checkpoint inhibitor therapy have kindled intense interest in understanding tumor-induced escape from T lymphocyte control. Other lymphoid cells also participate in tumor control; in particular, NK cells can limit hematogenous cancer metastasis spread and are also subject to negative regulation by developing cancers. In this issue of the JCI, Li and colleagues define an unanticipated role for the stress-induced protein CD155 in cancer metastasis. The presence of CD155 on the surface of cancer cells was shown to promote tumor invasiveness, while its upregulation in tumor environment–infiltrating myeloid cells restrained antitumor immunity by impairing antitumor T lymphocytes and NK cell function. Together, these results support further exploration of strategies for targeting CD155.
Thiazolidinediones (TZDs) are the only antidiabetic drugs that reverse insulin resistance. They have been a valuable asset in the treatment of type 2 diabetes, but their side effects have curtailed widespread use in the clinic. In this issue of the JCI, Kraakman and colleagues provide evidence that deacetylation of the nuclear receptor PPARγ improves the therapeutic index of TZDs. These findings should revitalize the quest to employ insulin sensitization as a first-line approach to managing type 2 diabetes.
Mitchell A. Lazar
The human gammaherpesviruses, Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) and Kaposi’s sarcoma–associated herpesvirus (KSHV), are both associated with tumors. Standard antiviral therapies are ineffective at treating these tumors. A serine/threonine kinase important for viral replication is conserved across the herpesviruses. Expression of the KSHV protein kinase in transgenic mice under the control of a ubiquitin promoter was associated with B cell lymphoproliferative disease and lymphoma. If the viral protein kinase is important in the pathogenesis of KSHV lymphoproliferative disease or lymphoma, the kinase may present a very good target for pharmacologic therapies.
Richard F. Ambinder
The liver’s extraordinary ability to regenerate has been known since the myth of Prometheus, but the mechanisms involved are still being discovered. Various small animal models have been used in this quest. Two of the most popular include partial hepatectomy (PHx), in which two-thirds of the liver mass is surgically removed to evoke a massive, immediate stimulus for regeneration, and prolonged exposure to toxins that kill liver cells more gradually, provoking chronic regenerative activity. In either case, multiple types of cells must interact effectively to repopulate the organ with functional mature hepatocytes and thus assure ultimate restoration of healthy liver structure and function. This complexity has confounded efforts to distinguish specific changes that occur in cells that repopulate the hepatocyte compartment from changes in other cell populations, including subpopulations of hepatocytes or hepatocyte precursors that do not become regenerative. In the current issue of the JCI, Wang et al. used translating ribosome affinity purification followed by high-throughput RNA sequencing (TRAP-seq) to isolate mRNAs from repopulating hepatocytes in order to profile gene expression specifically in the hepatocytes that regenerate the liver following toxic injury imposed by inherent byproducts of tyrosine metabolism. This innovative methodology can potentially be used to design therapeutic strategies for liver regeneration.
Kai-Yuan Chen, Xiling Shen, Anna Mae Diehl
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