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Concept: Thymus


Sunlight has important biological effects in human skin. Ultraviolet (UV) light striking the epidermis catalyzes the synthesis of Vitamin D and triggers melanin production. Although a causative element in skin cancers, sunlight is also associated with positive health outcomes including reduced incidences of autoimmune diseases and cancers. The mechanisms, however, by which light affects immune function remain unclear. Here we describe direct photon sensing in human and mouse T lymphocytes, a cell-type highly abundant in skin. Blue light irradiation at low doses (<300 mJ cm(-2)) triggers synthesis of hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) in T cells revealed by the genetically encoded reporter HyPerRed. In turn, H2O2 activates a Src kinase/phospholipase C-γ1 (PLC-γ1) signaling pathway and Ca(2+) mobilization. Pharmacologic inhibition or genetic disruption of Lck kinase, PLC-γ1 or the T cell receptor complex inhibits light-evoked Ca(2+) transients. Notably, both light and H2O2 enhance T-cell motility in a Lck-dependent manner. Thus, T lymphocytes possess intrinsic photosensitivity and this property may enhance their motility in skin.

Concepts: Immune system, Vitamin D, Ultraviolet, T cell, Major histocompatibility complex, T cell receptor, Lck, Thymus


Cytotoxic T lymphocytes (CTLs) use polarized secretion to rapidly destroy virally infected and tumor cells. To understand the temporal relationships between key events leading to secretion, we used high-resolution 4D imaging. CTLs approached targets with actin-rich projections at the leading edge, creating an initially actin-enriched contact with rearward-flowing actin. Within 1 min, cortical actin reduced across the synapse, T cell receptors (TCRs) clustered centrally to form the central supramolecular activation cluster (cSMAC), and centrosome polarization began. Granules clustered around the moving centrosome within 2.5 min and reached the synapse after 6 min. TCR-bearing intracellular vesicles were delivered to the cSMAC as the centrosome docked. We found that the centrosome and granules were delivered to an area of membrane with reduced cortical actin density and phospholipid PIP2. These data resolve the temporal order of events during synapse maturation in 4D and reveal a critical role for actin depletion in regulating secretion.

Concepts: White blood cell, Cell, Signal transduction, Cell membrane, Cell biology, Natural killer cell, Cytotoxic T cell, Thymus


After mapping out the molecular mechanisms of T-cell antigen recognition, regulation, and function in the 1980s and 1990s, immunologist James P. Allison hypothesized that blocking negative immune regulators (checkpoints) would give the human immune system the power to fight cancer. His testing of this hypothesis in preclinical models led to the clinical development of a new generation of active agents for cancer treatment. In some subgroups of patients, unleashing native immune-system cells to fight cancer now provides a realistic chance of long-term remission. For this seminal work, Allison, a professor at the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, has won . . .

Concepts: Immune system, Antibody, Immunology, Humoral immunity, Immunity, Adaptive immune system, Major histocompatibility complex, Thymus


Thirdhand smoke (THS) is the fraction of cigarette smoke that persists in indoor environments after smoking. We investigated the effects of neonatal and adult THS exposure on bodyweight and blood cell populations in C57BL/6 J mice. At the end of neonatal exposure, THS-treated male and female mice had significantly lower bodyweight than their respective control mice. However, five weeks after neonatal exposure ended, THS-treated mice weighed the same as controls. In contrast, adult THS exposure did not change bodyweight of mice. On the other hand, both neonatal and adult THS exposure had profound effects on the hematopoietic system. Fourteen weeks after neonatal THS exposure ended, eosinophil number and platelet volume were significantly higher, while hematocrit, mean cell volume, and platelet counts were significantly lower compared to control. Similarly, adult THS exposure also decreased platelet counts and increased neutrophil counts. Moreover, both neonatal and adult THS exposure caused a significant increase in percentage of B-cells and significantly decreased percentage of myeloid cells. Our results demonstrate that neonatal THS exposure decreases bodyweight and that THS exposure induces persistent changes in the hematopoietic system independent of age at exposure. These results also suggest that THS exposure may have adverse effects on human health.

Concepts: Chemotherapy, Smoking, Tobacco smoking, Cigarette, Blood cells, Thrombocytopenia, Thymus, Mean corpuscular volume


We show here that fundamental aspects of antitumor immunity in mice are significantly influenced by ambient housing temperature. Standard housing temperature for laboratory mice in research facilities is mandated to be between 20-26 °C; however, these subthermoneutral temperatures cause mild chronic cold stress, activating thermogenesis to maintain normal body temperature. When stress is alleviated by housing at thermoneutral ambient temperature (30-31 °C), we observe a striking reduction in tumor formation, growth rate and metastasis. This improved control of tumor growth is dependent upon the adaptive immune system. We observe significantly increased numbers of antigen-specific CD8(+) T lymphocytes and CD8(+) T cells with an activated phenotype in the tumor microenvironment at thermoneutrality. At the same time there is a significant reduction in numbers of immunosuppressive MDSCs and regulatory T lymphocytes. Notably, in temperature preference studies, tumor-bearing mice select a higher ambient temperature than non-tumor-bearing mice, suggesting that tumor-bearing mice experience a greater degree of cold-stress. Overall, our data raise the hypothesis that suppression of antitumor immunity is an outcome of cold stress-induced thermogenesis. Therefore, the common approach of studying immunity against tumors in mice housed only at standard room temperature may be limiting our understanding of the full potential of the antitumor immune response.

Concepts: Immune system, Antibody, Cancer, Innate immune system, Humoral immunity, Adaptive immune system, Temperature, Thymus


Autoimmune diseases mediated by a type of white blood cell-T lymphocytes-are currently treated using mainly broad-spectrum immunosuppressants that can lead to adverse side effects. Antioxidants represent an alternative approach for therapy of autoimmune disorders; however, dietary antioxidants are insufficient to play this role. Antioxidant carbon nanoparticles scavenge reactive oxygen species (ROS) with higher efficacy than dietary and endogenous antioxidants. Furthermore, the affinity of carbon nanoparticles for specific cell types represents an emerging tactic for cell-targeted therapy. Here, we report that nontoxic poly(ethylene glycol)-functionalized hydrophilic carbon clusters (PEG-HCCs), known scavengers of the ROS superoxide (O2(•-)) and hydroxyl radical, are preferentially internalized by T lymphocytes over other splenic immune cells. We use this selectivity to inhibit T cell activation without affecting major functions of macrophages, antigen-presenting cells that are crucial for T cell activation. We also demonstrate the in vivo effectiveness of PEG-HCCs in reducing T lymphocyte-mediated inflammation in delayed-type hypersensitivity and in experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis, an animal model of multiple sclerosis. Our results suggest the preferential targeting of PEG-HCCs to T lymphocytes as a novel approach for T lymphocyte immunomodulation in autoimmune diseases without affecting other immune cells.

Concepts: Immune system, White blood cell, Antibody, Reactive oxygen species, Natural killer cell, B cell, T cell, Thymus


BACKGROUND: Gender-related differences in humans are commonly observed in behaviour, physical activity, disease, and lifespan. However, the notion that age-related changes in the immune system differ between men and women remains controversial. To elucidate the relationship between immunological changes and lifespan, peripheral blood mononuclear cells from healthy Japanese subjects (age range: 20–90 years; N = 356) were analysed by using three-colour flow cytometry. The proliferative activities and cytokine-producing capacities of T cells in response to anti-CD3 monoclonal antibody stimulation were also assessed. RESULTS: An age-related decline in the number of T cells, certain subpopulations of T cells (including CD8+ T cells, CD4+CDRA+ T cells, and CD8+CD28+ T cells), and B cells, and in the proliferative capacity of T cells was noted. The rate of decline in these immunological parameters, except for the number of CD8+ T cells, was greater in men than in women (p < 0.05). We observed an age-related increase or increasing trend in the number of CD4+ T cells, CD4+CDRO+ T cells, and natural killer (CD56+CD16+) cells, as well as in the CD4+ T cell/CD8+ T cell ratio. The rate of increase of these immunological parameters was greater in women than in men (p < 0.05). T cell proliferation index (TCPI) was calculated from the T cell proliferative activity and the number of T cells; it showed an age-related decline that was greater in men than in women (p < 0.05). T cell immune score, which was calculated using 5 T cell parameters, also showed an age-related decline that was greater in men than in women (p < 0.05). Moreover, a trend of age-related decreases was observed in IFNgamma, IL-2, IL-6, and IL-10 production, when lymphocytes were cultured with anti-CD3 monoclonal antibody stimulation. The rate of decline in IL-6 and IL-10 production was greater in men than in women (p < 0.05). CONCLUSION: Age-related changes in various immunological parameters differ between men and women. Our findings indicate that the slower rate of decline in these immunological parameters in women than that in men is consistent with the fact that women live longer than do men.

Concepts: Immune system, White blood cell, Antibody, Bacteria, Immunology, Natural killer cell, Humoral immunity, Thymus


A central goal of regenerative medicine is to generate transplantable organs from cells derived or expanded in vitro. Although numerous studies have demonstrated the production of defined cell types in vitro, the creation of a fully intact organ has not been reported. The transcription factor forkhead box N1 (FOXN1) is critically required for development of thymic epithelial cells (TECs), a key cell type of the thymic stroma. Here, we show that enforced Foxn1 expression is sufficient to reprogramme fibroblasts into functional TECs, an unrelated cell type across a germ-layer boundary. These FOXN1-induced TECs (iTECs) supported efficient development of both CD4(+) and CD8(+) T cells in vitro. On transplantation, iTECs established a complete, fully organized and functional thymus, that contained all of the TEC subtypes required to support T-cell differentiation and populated the recipient immune system with T cells. iTECs thus demonstrate that cellular reprogramming approaches can be used to generate an entire organ, and open the possibility of widespread use of thymus transplantation to boost immune function in patients.

Concepts: Immune system, DNA, Gene expression, Cell, Developmental biology, Major histocompatibility complex, Organ transplant, Thymus


Exposure to psychosocial stress is a risk factor for many diseases, including atherosclerosis. Although incompletely understood, interaction between the psyche and the immune system provides one potential mechanism linking stress and disease inception and progression. Known cross-talk between the brain and immune system includes the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis, which centrally drives glucocorticoid production in the adrenal cortex, and the sympathetic-adrenal-medullary axis, which controls stress-induced catecholamine release in support of the fight-or-flight reflex. It remains unknown, however, whether chronic stress changes hematopoietic stem cell activity. Here we show that stress increases proliferation of these most primitive hematopoietic progenitors, giving rise to higher levels of disease-promoting inflammatory leukocytes. We found that chronic stress induced monocytosis and neutrophilia in humans. While investigating the source of leukocytosis in mice, we discovered that stress activates upstream hematopoietic stem cells. Under conditions of chronic variable stress in mice, sympathetic nerve fibers released surplus noradrenaline, which signaled bone marrow niche cells to decrease CXCL12 levels through the β3-adrenergic receptor. Consequently, hematopoietic stem cell proliferation was elevated, leading to an increased output of neutrophils and inflammatory monocytes. When atherosclerosis-prone Apoe(-/-) mice were subjected to chronic stress, accelerated hematopoiesis promoted plaque features associated with vulnerable lesions that cause myocardial infarction and stroke in humans.

Concepts: Immune system, Inflammation, White blood cell, Monocyte, Bone marrow, Macrophage, Hematopoietic stem cell, Thymus


Ebola virus (EBOV) disease (EVD) results from an exacerbated immunological response that is highlighted by a burst in the production of inflammatory mediators known as a “cytokine storm.” Previous reports have suggested that nonspecific activation of T lymphocytes may play a central role in this phenomenon. T-cell immunoglobulin and mucin domain-containing protein 1 (Tim-1) has recently been shown to interact with virion-associated phosphatidylserine to promote infection. Here, we demonstrate the central role of Tim-1 in EBOV pathogenesis, as Tim-1(-/-) mice exhibited increased survival rates and reduced disease severity; surprisingly, only a limited decrease in viremia was detected. Tim-1(-/-) mice exhibited a modified inflammatory response as evidenced by changes in serum cytokines and activation of T helper subsets. A series of in vitro assays based on the Tim-1 expression profile on T cells demonstrated that despite the apparent absence of detectable viral replication in T lymphocytes, EBOV directly binds to isolated T lymphocytes in a phosphatidylserine-Tim-1-dependent manner. Exposure to EBOV resulted in the rapid development of a CD4(Hi) CD3(Low) population, non-antigen-specific activation, and cytokine production. Transcriptome and Western blot analysis of EBOV-stimulated CD4(+) T cells confirmed the induction of the Tim-1 signaling pathway. Furthermore, comparative analysis of transcriptome data and cytokine/chemokine analysis of supernatants highlight the similarities associated with EBOV-stimulated T cells and the onset of a cytokine storm. Flow cytometry revealed virtually exclusive binding and activation of central memory CD4(+) T cells. These findings provide evidence for the role of Tim-1 in the induction of a cytokine storm phenomenon and the pathogenesis of EVD.IMPORTANCE Ebola virus infection is characterized by a massive release of inflammatory mediators, which has come to be known as a cytokine storm. The severity of the cytokine storm is consistently linked with fatal disease outcome. Previous findings have demonstrated that specific T-cell subsets are key contributors to the onset of a cytokine storm. In this study, we investigated the role of Tim-1, a T-cell-receptor-independent trigger of T-cell activation. We first demonstrated that Tim-1-knockout (KO) mice survive lethal Ebola virus challenge. We then used a series of in vitro assays to demonstrate that Ebola virus directly binds primary T cells in a Tim-1-phosphatidylserine-dependent manner. We noted that binding induces a cytokine storm-like phenomenon and that blocking Tim-1-phosphatidylserine interactions reduces viral binding, T-cell activation, and cytokine production. These findings highlight a previously unknown role of Tim-1 in the development of a cytokine storm and “immune paralysis.”

Concepts: Immune system, Inflammation, White blood cell, Antibody, Cytokine, Natural killer cell, T cell, Thymus