Terry Hermiston, Ph.D.
Vice President, US Biologics Research Site Head, US Innovation Center Bayer Healthcare, USA
ColoAd1 – An oncolytic adenovirus derived by directed evolution
Attempts at developing oncolytic viruses have been primarily based on rational design. However, this approach has been met with limited success. An alternative approach employs directed evolution as a means of producing highly selective and potent anticancer viruses. In this method, viruses are grown under conditions that enrich and maximize viral diversity and then passaged under conditions meant to mimic those encountered in the human cancer microenvironment. Using the “Directed Evolution” methodology, we have generated ColoAd1, a novel chimeric oncolytic adenovirus. In vitro, this virus demonstrated a >2 log increase in both potency and selectivity when compared to ONYX-015 on colon cancer cells. These results were further supported by in vivo and ex vivo studies. Importantly, these results have validated this methodology as a new general approach for deriving clinically-relevant, highly potent anti-cancer virotherapies. This virus is currently in clinical trials as a novel treatment for cancer.
R. Manjunath, Ph.D.
Associate Professor, Dept of Biochemistry, Indian Institute of Science, Bengaluru, India
REGULATION OF THE MHC COMPLEX AND HLA SOLUBILISATION BY THE FLAVIVIRUS, JAPANESE ENCEPHALITIS VIRUS
Viral encephalitis caused by Japanese encephalitis virus (JEV) and West Nile Virus (WNV) is a mosquito-borne disease that is prevalent in different parts of India and other parts of South East Asia. JEV is a positive single stranded RNA virus that belongs to the Flavivirus genus of the family Flaviviridae. The genome of JEV is about 11 kb long and codes for a polyprotein which is cleaved by both host and viral encoded proteases to form 3 structural and 7 non-structural proteins. It is a neurotropic virus which infects the central nervous system (CNS) and causes death predominantly in newborn children and young adults. JEV follows a zoonotic life-cycle involving mosquitoes and vertebrate, chiefly pigs and ardeid birds, as amplifying hosts. Humans are infected when bitten by an infected mosquito and are dead end hosts. Its structural, pathological, immunological and epidemiological aspects have been well studied. After entry into the host following a mosquito bite, JEV infection leads to acute peripheral neutrophil leucocytosis in the brain and leads to elevated levels of type I interferon, macrophage-derived chemotactic factor, RANTES,TNF-α and IL-8 in the serum and cerebrospinal fluid.
Major Histocompatibility Complex (MHC) molecules play a very important role in adaptive immune responses. Along with various classical MHC class I molecules, other non-classical MHC class I molecules play an important role in modulating innate immune responses. Our lab has shown the activation of cytotoxic T-cells (CTLs) during JEV infection and CTLs recognize non-self peptides presented on MHC molecules and provide protection by eliminating infected cells. However, along with proinflammatory cytokines such as TNFα, they may also cause immunopathology within the JEV infected brain. Both JEV and WNV, another related flavivirus have been shown to increase MHC class I expression. Infection of human foreskin fibroblast cells (HFF) by WNV results in upregulation of HLA expression. Data from our lab has also shown that JEV infection upregulates classical as well as nonclassical (class Ib) MHC antigen expression on the surface of primary mouse brain astrocytes and mouse embryonic fibroblasts.
There are no reports that have discussed the expression of these molecules on other cells like endothelial and astrocyte that play an important role in viral invasion in humans. We have studied the expression of human classical class I molecules HLA-A, -B, -C and the non-classical HLA molecules, HLA-E as well as HLA-F in immortalized human brain microvascular endothelial cells (HBMEC), human endothelial cell line (ECV304), human glioblastoma cell line (U87MG) and human foreskin fibroblast cells (HFF). Nonclassical MHC molecules such as mouse Qa-1b and its human homologue, HLA-E have been shown to be the ligand for the inhibitory NK receptor, NKG2A/CD94 and may bridge innate and adaptive immune responses. We show that JEV infection of HBMEC and ECV 304 cells upregulates the expression of HLA-A, and –B antigens as well as HLA-E and HLA-F. Increased expression of total HLA-E upon JEV infection was also observed in other human cell lines as well like, human amniotic epithelial cells, AV-3, FL and WISH cells. Further, we show for the first time that soluble HLA-E (sHLA-E) was released from infected ECV and HBMECs. In contrast, HFF cells showed only upregulation of cell-surface HLA-E expression while U87MG, a human glioblastoma cell line neither showed any cell-surface induction nor its solubilization. This shedding of sHLA-E was found to be dependent on matrix metalloproteinase (MMP) and an important MMP, MMP-9 was upregulated during JEV infection. Treatment with IFNγ resulted in the shedding of sHLA-E from ECV as well as U87MG but not from HFF cells. Also, sHLA-E was shed upon treatment with IFNβ and both IFNβ and TNFα, when present together caused an additive increase in the shedding of sHLA-E. HLA-E is an inhibitory ligand for CD94/NKG2A receptor of Natural Killer cells. Thus, MMP mediated solubilization of HLA-E from infected endothelial cells may have important implications in JEV pathogenesis including its ability to compromise the blood brain barrier.
Sharmila Mande, Ph.D.
Principal Scientist and Head, Bio Sciences R&D, TCS Innovation Labs, Pune
Gut microbiome and health: Moving towards the new era of translational medicine
The microbes inhabiting our body outnumber our own cells by a factor of 10. The genomes of these microbes, called the ‘second genome’ are therefore expected to have great influence on our health and well being. The emerging field of metagenomics is rapidly becoming the method of choice for studying the microbial community (called microbiomes) present in various parts of the human body. Recent studies have implicated the role of gut microbiomes in several diseases and disorders. Studies have indicated gut microbiome’s role in nutrient absorption, immuno-modulation motor-response, and other key physiological processes. However, our understanding of the role of gut microbiota in malnutrition is currently incomplete. Exploration of these aspects are likely to help in understanding the microbial basis for several physiological disorders associated with malnutrition (eg, increased susceptibility to diarrhoeal pathogens) and may finally aid in devising appropriate probiotic strategies addressing this menace. A metagenomic approach was employed for analysing the differences between gut microbial communities obtained from malnourished and healthy children. Results of the analysis using TCS’ ‘Metagenomic Analysis Platform’ were discussed in detail during my talk.
Andrey Panteleyev, Ph.D.
Vice Chair, Division of Molecular Biology, NBICS Centre-Kurchatov Institute, Moscow, Russia
The system of PAS proteins (HIF and AhR) as an interface between environment and skin homeostasis
Regulation of normal skin functions as well as etiology of many skin diseases are both tightly linked to the environmental impact. Nevertheless, molecular aspects of skin-environment communication and mechanisms coordinating skin response to a plurality of environmental stressors remain poorly understood.
Our studies along with the work of other groups have identified the family of PAS dimeric transcription factors as an essential sensory and regulatory component of communication between skin and the environment. This protein family comprises a number of hypoxia-induced factors (HIF-alpha proteins), aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AhR), AhR nuclear translocator (ARNT), and several proteins implicated in control of rhythmic processes (Clock, Period, and Bmal proteins). Together, various PAS proteins (and first of all ARNT – as the central dimerization partner in the family) control such pivotal aspects of cell physiology as drug/xenobiotic metabolism, hypoxic and UV light response, ROS activity, pathogen defense, overall energy balance and breathing pathways.
In his presentation Dr. Panteleyev will focus on the role of ARNT activity and local hypoxia in control of keratinocyte differentiation and cornification. His recent work revealed that ARNT negatively regulates expression of late differentiation genes through modulation of amphiregulin expression and downstream alterations in activity of EGFR pathway. All these effects are highly dependent on epigenetic mechanisms such as histone deacetylation. Characterisation of hypoxia as a key microenvironmental factor in the skin and the role of HIF pathway in control of dermal vasculature and epidermal functions is another major focus of Dr. Panteleyev’s presentation.
In general, the studies of Dr. Panteleyev’s laboratory provide an insight into the PAS-dependent maintenance of skin homeostasis and point to the potential role of these proteins in pathogenesis of environmentally-modulated skin diseases such as barrier defects, desquamation abnormalities, psoriasis, etc.