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Publications 14

The tumor microenvironment is a complex ecosystem comprised of many different cell types, abnormal vasculature and immunosuppressive cytokines. The irregular growth kinetics with which tumors grow leads to increased oxygen consumption and, in turn, hypoxic conditions. Hypoxia has been associated with poor clinical outcome, increased tumor heterogeneity, emergence of resistant clones and evasion of immune detection. Additionally, hypoxia-driven cell death pathways have traditionally been thought of as tolerogenic processes. However, as researchers working in the field of immunotherapy continue to investigate and unveil new types of immunogenic cell death (ICD), it has become clear that, in some instances, hypoxia may actually induce ICD within a tumor. In this review, we will discuss hypoxia-driven immune escape that drives poor prognostic outcomes, the ability of hypoxia to induce ICD and potential therapeutic targets amongst hypoxia pathways.

The role of bats in the enzootic cycle of Lyme disease and relapsing fever-causing bacteria is a matter of speculation. In Canada, Borrelia burgdorferi sensu stricto (ss) is the genospecies that is responsible for most cases of Lyme disease in humans. In this study, we determined if big brown bats, Eptesicus fuscus, have been exposed to spirochetes from the genus Borrelia. We collected serum from 31 bats and tested them for the presence of anti-Borrelia burgdorferi antibodies using a commercial enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA). We detected cross-reactive antibodies to Borrelia spp. in 14 of 31 bats. We confirmed the ELISA data using a commercial immunoblot assay. Pooled sera from ELISA-positive bats also cross-reacted with Borrelia antigens coated on the immunoblot strips, whereas pooled sera from ELISA-negative bats did not bind to Borrelia spp. antigens. Furthermore, to identify if bat ectoparasites, such as mites, can carry Borrelia spp., we analyzed DNA from 142 bat ectoparasites that were collected between 2003 and 2019. We detected DNA for the Borrelia burgdorferi flaB gene in one bat mite, Spinturnix americanus. The low detection rate of Borrelia burgdorferi DNA in bat ectoparasites suggests that bats are not reservoirs of this bacterium. Data from this study also raises intriguing questions about Borrelia infections in bats, including the role of humoral immunity and the ability of bats to be infected with Borrelia burgdorferi. This study can lead to more sampling efforts and controlled laboratory studies to identify if bats can be infected with Borrelia burgdorferi and the role of bat ectoparasites, such as S. americanus, in the transmission of this spirochete. Furthermore, we outlined reagents that can be used to adapt ELISA kits and immunoblot strips for use with bat sera.

Summary: Compared with other mammals, bats harbor more zoonotic viruses per species and do not demonstrate signs of disease on infection with these viruses. To counteract infections with viruses, bats have evolved enhanced mechanisms to limit virus replication and immunopathology. However, molecular and cellular drivers of antiviral responses in bats largely remain an enigma. In this study, we demonstrate that a serine residue in IRF3 is positively selected for in multiple bat species. IRF3 is a central regulator of innate antiviral responses in mammals. Replacing the serine residue in bat IRF3 with the human leucine residue decreased antiviral protection in bat cells, whereas the addition of this serine residue in human IRF3 significantly enhanced antiviral protection in human cells. Our study provides genetic and functional evidence for enhanced IRF3-mediated antiviral responses in bats and adds support to speculations that bats have positively selected for multiple adaptations in their antiviral immune responses. : Biological Sciences; Immunology; Evolutionary Biology Subject Areas: Biological Sciences, Immunology, Evolutionary Biology

Bats are speculated to be reservoirs of several emerging viruses including coronaviruses (CoVs) that cause serious disease in humans and agricultural animals. These include CoVs that cause severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS), porcine epidemic diarrhea (PED) and severe acute diarrhea syndrome (SADS). Bats that are naturally infected or experimentally infected do not demonstrate clinical signs of disease. These observations have allowed researchers to speculate that bats are the likely reservoirs or ancestral hosts for several CoVs. In this review, we follow the CoV outbreaks that are speculated to have originated in bats. We review studies that have allowed researchers to identify unique adaptation in bats that may allow them to harbor CoVs without severe disease. We speculate about future studies that are critical to identify how bats can harbor multiple strains of CoVs and factors that enable these viruses to “jump” from bats to other mammals. We hope that this review will enable readers to identify gaps in knowledge that currently exist and initiate a dialogue amongst bat researchers to share resources to overcome present limitations.

In recent years, viruses similar to those that cause serious disease in humans and other mammals have been detected in apparently healthy bats. These include filoviruses, paramyxoviruses, and coronaviruses that cause severe diseases such as Ebola virus disease, Marburg haemorrhagic fever and severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) in humans. The evolution of flight in bats seem to have selected for a unique set of antiviral immune responses that control virus propagation, while limiting self-damaging inflammatory responses. Here, we summarize our current understanding of antiviral immune responses in bats and discuss their ability to co-exist with emerging viruses that cause serious disease in other mammals. We highlight how this knowledge may help us to predict viral spillovers into new hosts and discuss future directions for the field.

Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) emerged in 2012 and is listed in the World Health Organization’s blueprint of priority diseases that need immediate research. Camels are reservoirs of this virus, and the virus spills over into humans through direct contact with camels. Human-to-human transmission and travel-associated cases have been identified as well. Limited studies have characterized the molecular pathogenesis of MERS-CoV. Most studies have used ectopic expression of viral proteins to characterize MERS-CoV and its ability to modulate antiviral responses in human cells. Studies with live virus are limited, largely due to the requirement of high containment laboratories. In this review, we have summarized current studies on MERS-CoV molecular pathogenesis and have mentioned some recent strategies that are being developed to control MERS-CoV infection. Multiple antiviral molecules with the potential to inhibit MERS-CoV infection by disrupting virus-receptor interactions are being developed and tested. Although human vaccine candidates are still being developed, a candidate camel vaccine is being tested for efficacy. Combination of supportive treatment with interferon and antivirals is also being explored. New antiviral molecules that inhibit MERS-CoV and host cell receptor interaction may become available in the future. Additional studies are required to identify and characterize the pathogenesis of MERS-CoV EMC/2012 and other circulating strains. An effective MERS-CoV vaccine, for humans and/or camels, along with an efficient combination antiviral therapy may help us prevent future MERS cases.

IL-17 is the founding member of a novel family of proinflammatory cytokines that defines a new class of CD4+ effector T cells, termed “Th17.” Mounting evidence suggests that IL-17 and Th17 cells cause pathology in autoimmunity, but little is known about mechanisms of IL-17RA signaling. IL-17 through its receptor (IL-17RA) activates genes typical of innate immune cytokines, such as TNFα and IL-1β, despite minimal sequence similarity in their respective receptors. A previous bioinformatics study predicted a subdomain in IL-17-family receptors with homology to a Toll/IL-1R (TIR) domain, termed the “SEFIR domain.” However, the SEFIR domain lacks motifs critical for bona fide TIR domains, and its functionality was never verified. Here, we used a reconstitution system in IL-17RA-null fibroblasts to map functional domains within IL-17RA. We demonstrate that the SEFIR domain mediates IL-17RA signaling independently of classic TIR adaptors, such as MyD88 and TRIF. Moreover, we identified a previously undescribed“TIR-like loop” (TILL) required for activation of NF-κB, MAPK, and up-regulation of C/EBPβ and C/EBPδ. Mutagenesis of the TILL domain revealed a site analogous to the LPSd mutation in TLR4, which renders mice insensitive to LPS. However, a putative salt bridge typically found in TIR domains appears to be dispensable. We further identified a C-terminal domain required for activation of C/EBPβ and induction of a subset IL-17 target genes. This structure-function analysis of a IL-17 superfamily receptor reveals important differences in IL-17RA compared with IL-1/TLR receptors.

Genes and pathways in which inactivation dampens tissue inflammation present new opportunities for understanding the pathogenesis of common human inflammatory diseases, including inflammatory bowel disease, rheumatoid arthritis and multiple sclerosis. We identified a mutation in the gene encoding the deubiquitination enzyme USP15 (Usp15L749R) that protected mice against both experimental cerebral malaria (ECM) induced by Plasmodium berghei and experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis (EAE). Combining immunophenotyping and RNA sequencing in brain (ECM) and spinal cord (EAE) revealed that Usp15L749R-associated resistance to neuroinflammation was linked to dampened type I interferon responses in situ. In hematopoietic cells and in resident brain cells, USP15 was coexpressed with, and functionally acted together with the E3 ubiquitin ligase TRIM25 to positively regulate type I interferon responses and to promote pathogenesis during neuroinflammation. The USP15-TRIM25 dyad might be a potential target for intervention in acute or chronic states of neuroinflammation.

Cytosolic DNA–mediated activation of the transcription factor IRF3 is a key event in host antiviral responses. Here we found that infection with DNA viruses induced interaction of the metabolic checkpoint kinase mTOR downstream effector and kinase S6K1 and the signaling adaptor STING in a manner dependent on the DNA sensor cGAS. We further demonstrated that the kinase domain, but not the kinase function, of S6K1 was required for the S6K1-STING interaction and that the TBK1 critically promoted this process. The formation of a tripartite S6K1-STING-TBK1 complex was necessary for the activation of IRF3, and disruption of this signaling axis impaired the early-phase expression of IRF3 target genes and the induction of T cell responses and mucosal antiviral immunity. Thus, our results have uncovered a fundamental regulatory mechanism for the activation of IRF3 in the cytosolic DNA pathway.

Streptococcus suis serotype 2 is an important porcine bacterial pathogen and emerging zoonotic agent mainly responsible for sudden death, septic shock, and meningitis, with exacerbated inflammation being a hallmark of the infection. However, serotype 2 strains are genotypically and phenotypically heterogeneous, being composed of a multitude of sequence types (STs) whose virulence greatly varies: the virulent ST1 (Eurasia), highly virulent ST7 (responsible for the human outbreaks in China), and intermediate virulent ST25 (North America) are the most important worldwide. Even though type I interferons (IFNs) are traditionally associated with important antiviral functions, recent studies have demonstrated that they may also play an important role during infections with extracellular bacteria. Upregulation of IFN-β levels was previously observed in mice following infection with this pathogen. Consequently, the implication of IFN-β in the S. suis serotype 2 pathogenesis, which has always been considered a strict extracellular bacterium, was evaluated using strains of varying virulence. This study demonstrates that intermediate virulent strains are significantly more susceptible to phagocytosis than virulent strains. Hence, subsequent localization of these strains within the phagosome results in recognition of bacterial nucleic acids by Toll-like receptors 7 and 9, leading to activation of the interferon regulatory factors 1, 3, and 7 and production of IFN-β. Type I IFN, whose implication depends on the virulence level of the S. suis strain, is involved in host defense by participating in the modulation of systemic inflammation, which is responsible for the clearance of blood bacterial burden. As such, when induced by intermediate, and to a lesser extent, virulent S. suis strains, type I IFN plays a beneficial role in host survival. The highly virulent ST7 strain, however, hastily induces a septic shock that cannot be controlled by type I IFN, leading to rapid death of the host. A better understanding of the underlying mechanisms involved in the control of inflammation and subsequent bacterial burden could help to develop control measures for this important porcine and zoonotic agent.

Viruses interact intimately with the host cell at nearly every stage of replication, and the cell model that is chosen to study virus infection is critically important. Although primary cells reflect the phenotype of healthy cells in vivo better than cell lines, their limited lifespan makes experimental manipulation challenging. However, many tumor-derived and artificially immortalized cell lines have defects in induction of interferon-stimulated genes and other antiviral defenses. These defects can affect virus replication, especially when cells are infected at lower, more physiologically relevant, multiplicities of infection. Understanding the selective pressures and mechanisms underlying the loss of innate signaling pathways is helpful to choose immortalized cell lines without impaired antiviral defense. We describe the trials and tribulations we encountered while searching for an immortalized cell line with intact innate signaling, and how directed immortalization of primary cells avoids many of the pitfalls of spontaneous immortalization.

The immune system protects the organism against infections and the damage associated with them. The first line of defense against pathogens is the innate immune response. In the case of a viral infection, it induces the interferon signaling cascade and eventually the expression of type I interferon, which then causes an antiviral state in the cells. However, many viruses have developed strategies to counteract this mechanism and prevent the production of interferon. In order to modulate or inhibit the interferon signaling cascade in their favor, viruses have found ways to interfere at every single step of the cascade, for example by inducing protein degradation or cleavage, or by mediate protein polyubiquitinylation. In this article we will review examples of viruses that modulate the interferon response and describe the mechanisms they use.