Journal: PLoS pathogens
Over 100 million women use progesterone therapies worldwide. Despite having immunomodulatory and repair properties, their effects on the outcome of viral diseases outside of the reproductive tract have not been evaluated. Administration of exogenous progesterone (at concentrations that mimic the luteal phase) to progesterone-depleted adult female mice conferred protection from both lethal and sublethal influenza A virus (IAV) infection. Progesterone treatment altered the inflammatory environment of the lungs, but had no effects on viral load. Progesterone treatment promoted faster recovery by increasing TGF-β, IL-6, IL-22, numbers of regulatory Th17 cells expressing CD39, and cellular proliferation, reducing protein leakage into the airway, improving pulmonary function, and upregulating the epidermal growth factor amphiregulin (AREG) in the lungs. Administration of rAREG to progesterone-depleted females promoted pulmonary repair and improved the outcome of IAV infection. Progesterone-treatment of AREG-deficient females could not restore protection, indicating that progesterone-mediated induction of AREG caused repair in the lungs and accelerated recovery from IAV infection. Repair and production of AREG by damaged respiratory epithelial cell cultures in vitro was increased by progesterone. Our results illustrate that progesterone is a critical host factor mediating production of AREG by epithelial cells and pulmonary tissue repair following infection, which has important implications for women’s health.
The avian H7N9 influenza outbreak in 2013 resulted from an unprecedented incidence of influenza transmission to humans from infected poultry. The majority of human H7N9 isolates contained a hemagglutinin (HA) mutation (Q226L) that has previously been associated with a switch in receptor specificity from avian-type (NeuAcα2-3Gal) to human-type (NeuAcα2-6Gal), as documented for the avian progenitors of the 1957 (H2N2) and 1968 (H3N2) human influenza pandemic viruses. While this raised concern that the H7N9 virus was adapting to humans, the mutation was not sufficient to switch the receptor specificity of H7N9, and has not resulted in sustained transmission in humans. To determine if the H7 HA was capable of acquiring human-type receptor specificity, we conducted mutation analyses. Remarkably, three amino acid mutations conferred a switch in specificity for human-type receptors that resembled the specificity of the 2009 human H1 pandemic virus, and promoted binding to human trachea epithelial cells.
Foot-and-mouth disease remains a major plague of livestock and outbreaks are often economically catastrophic. Current inactivated virus vaccines require expensive high containment facilities for their production and maintenance of a cold-chain for their activity. We have addressed both of these major drawbacks. Firstly we have developed methods to efficiently express recombinant empty capsids. Expression constructs aimed at lowering the levels and activity of the viral protease required for the cleavage of the capsid protein precursor were used; this enabled the synthesis of empty A-serotype capsids in eukaryotic cells at levels potentially attractive to industry using both vaccinia virus and baculovirus driven expression. Secondly we have enhanced capsid stability by incorporating a rationally designed mutation, and shown by X-ray crystallography that stabilised and wild-type empty capsids have essentially the same structure as intact virus. Cattle vaccinated with recombinant capsids showed sustained virus neutralisation titres and protection from challenge 34 weeks after immunization. This approach to vaccine antigen production has several potential advantages over current technologies by reducing production costs, eliminating the risk of infectivity and enhancing the temperature stability of the product. Similar strategies that will optimize host cell viability during expression of a foreign toxic gene and/or improve capsid stability could allow the production of safe vaccines for other pathogenic picornaviruses of humans and animals.
Hepatitis B virus (HBV) is a ubiquitous viral pathogen associated with large-scale morbidity and mortality in humans. However, there is considerable uncertainty over the time-scale of its origin and evolution. Initial shotgun data from a mid-16th century Italian child mummy, that was previously paleopathologically identified as having been infected with Variola virus (VARV, the agent of smallpox), showed no DNA reads for VARV yet did for hepatitis B virus (HBV). Previously, electron microscopy provided evidence for the presence of VARV in this sample, although similar analyses conducted here did not reveal any VARV particles. We attempted to enrich and sequence for both VARV and HBV DNA. Although we did not recover any reads identified as VARV, we were successful in reconstructing an HBV genome at 163.8X coverage. Strikingly, both the HBV sequence and that of the associated host mitochondrial DNA displayed a nearly identical cytosine deamination pattern near the termini of DNA fragments, characteristic of an ancient origin. In contrast, phylogenetic analyses revealed a close relationship between the putative ancient virus and contemporary HBV strains (of genotype D), at first suggesting contamination. In addressing this paradox we demonstrate that HBV evolution is characterized by a marked lack of temporal structure. This confounds attempts to use molecular clock-based methods to date the origin of this virus over the time-frame sampled so far, and means that phylogenetic measures alone cannot yet be used to determine HBV sequence authenticity. If genuine, this phylogenetic pattern indicates that the genotypes of HBV diversified long before the 16th century, and enables comparison of potential pathogenic similarities between modern and ancient HBV. These results have important implications for our understanding of the emergence and evolution of this common viral pathogen.
Schmallenberg virus (SBV) is an emerging orthobunyavirus of ruminants associated with outbreaks of congenital malformations in aborted and stillborn animals. Since its discovery in November 2011, SBV has spread very rapidly to many European countries. Here, we developed molecular and serological tools, and an experimental in vivo model as a platform to study SBV pathogenesis, tropism and virus-host cell interactions. Using a synthetic biology approach, we developed a reverse genetics system for the rapid rescue and genetic manipulation of SBV. We showed that SBV has a wide tropism in cell culture and “synthetic” SBV replicates in vitro as efficiently as wild type virus. We developed an experimental mouse model to study SBV infection and showed that this virus replicates abundantly in neurons where it causes cerebral malacia and vacuolation of the cerebral cortex. These virus-induced acute lesions are useful in understanding the progression from vacuolation to porencephaly and extensive tissue destruction, often observed in aborted lambs and calves in naturally occurring Schmallenberg cases. Indeed, we detected high levels of SBV antigens in the neurons of the gray matter of brain and spinal cord of naturally affected lambs and calves, suggesting that muscular hypoplasia observed in SBV-infected lambs is mostly secondary to central nervous system damage. Finally, we investigated the molecular determinants of SBV virulence. Interestingly, we found a biological SBV clone that after passage in cell culture displays increased virulence in mice. We also found that a SBV deletion mutant of the non-structural NSs protein (SBVΔNSs) is less virulent in mice than wild type SBV. Attenuation of SBV virulence depends on the inability of SBVΔNSs to block IFN synthesis in virus infected cells. In conclusion, this work provides a useful experimental framework to study the biology and pathogenesis of SBV.
During acute infection in human and animal hosts, the obligate intracellular protozoan Toxoplasma gondii infects a variety of cell types, including leukocytes. Poised to respond to invading pathogens, dendritic cells (DC) may also be exploited by T. gondii for spread in the infected host. Here, we report that human and mouse myeloid DC possess functional γ-aminobutyric acid (GABA) receptors and the machinery for GABA biosynthesis and secretion. Shortly after T. gondii infection (genotypes I, II and III), DC responded with enhanced GABA secretion in vitro. We demonstrate that GABA activates GABA(A) receptor-mediated currents in T. gondii-infected DC, which exhibit a hypermigratory phenotype. Inhibition of GABA synthesis, transportation or GABA(A) receptor blockade in T. gondii-infected DC resulted in impaired transmigration capacity, motility and chemotactic response to CCL19 in vitro. Moreover, exogenous GABA or supernatant from infected DC restored the migration of infected DC in vitro. In a mouse model of toxoplasmosis, adoptive transfer of infected DC pre-treated with GABAergic inhibitors reduced parasite dissemination and parasite loads in target organs, e.g. the central nervous system. Altogether, we provide evidence that GABAergic signaling modulates the migratory properties of DC and that T. gondii likely makes use of this pathway for dissemination. The findings unveil that GABA, the principal inhibitory neurotransmitter in the brain, has activation functions in the immune system that may be hijacked by intracellular pathogens.
Idiopathic chronic diarrhea (ICD) is a leading cause of morbidity amongst rhesus monkeys kept in captivity. Here, we show that exposure of affected animals to the whipworm Trichuris trichiura led to clinical improvement in fecal consistency, accompanied by weight gain, in four out of the five treated monkeys. By flow cytometry analysis of pinch biopsies collected during colonoscopies before and after treatment, we found an induction of a mucosal T(H)2 response following helminth treatment that was associated with a decrease in activated CD4(+) Ki67+ cells. In parallel, expression profiling with oligonucleotide microarrays and real-time PCR analysis revealed reductions in T(H)1-type inflammatory gene expression and increased expression of genes associated with IgE signaling, mast cell activation, eosinophil recruitment, alternative activation of macrophages, and worm expulsion. By quantifying bacterial 16S rRNA in pinch biopsies using real-time PCR analysis, we found reduced bacterial attachment to the intestinal mucosa post-treatment. Finally, deep sequencing of bacterial 16S rRNA revealed changes to the composition of microbial communities attached to the intestinal mucosa following helminth treatment. Thus, the genus Streptophyta of the phylum Cyanobacteria was vastly increased in abundance in three out of five ICD monkeys relative to healthy controls, but was reduced to control levels post-treatment; by contrast, the phylum Tenericutes was expanded post-treatment. These findings suggest that helminth treatment in primates can ameliorate colitis by restoring mucosal barrier functions and reducing overall bacterial attachment, and also by altering the communities of attached bacteria. These results also define ICD in monkeys as a tractable preclinical model for ulcerative colitis in which these effects can be further investigated.
Cervical cancer is one of the leading causes of cancer death in women worldwide. The causative agents of cervical cancers, high-risk human papillomaviruses (HPVs), cause cancer through the action of two oncoproteins, E6 and E7. The E6 oncoprotein cooperates with an E3 ubiquitin ligase (UBE3A) to target the p53 tumour suppressor and important polarity and junctional PDZ proteins for proteasomal degradation, activities that are believed to contribute towards malignancy. However, the causative link between degradation of PDZ proteins and E6-mediated malignancy is largely unknown. We have developed an in vivo model of HPV E6-mediated cellular transformation using the genetic model organism, Drosophila melanogaster. Co-expression of E6 and human UBE3A in wing and eye epithelia results in severe morphological abnormalities. Furthermore, E6, via its PDZ-binding motif and in cooperation with UBE3A, targets a suite of PDZ proteins that are conserved in human and Drosophila, including Magi, Dlg and Scribble. Similar to human epithelia, Drosophila Magi is a major degradation target. Magi overexpression rescues the cellular abnormalities caused by E6+UBE3A coexpression and this activity of Magi is PDZ domain-dependent. Drosophila p53 was not targeted by E6+UBE3A, and E6+UBE3A activity alone is not sufficient to induce tumorigenesis, which only occurs when E6+UBE3A are expressed in conjunction with activated/oncogenic forms of Ras or Notch. Finally, through a genetic screen we have identified the insulin receptor signaling pathway as being required for E6+UBE3A induced hyperplasia. Our results suggest a highly conserved mechanism of HPV E6 mediated cellular transformation, and establish a powerful genetic model to identify and understand the cellular mechanisms that underlie HPV E6-induced malignancy.
Pest and pathogen losses jeopardise global food security and ever since the 19(th) century Irish famine, potato late blight has exemplified this threat. The causal oomycete pathogen, Phytophthora infestans, undergoes major population shifts in agricultural systems via the successive emergence and migration of asexual lineages. The phenotypic and genotypic bases of these selective sweeps are largely unknown but management strategies need to adapt to reflect the changing pathogen population. Here, we used molecular markers to document the emergence of a lineage, termed 13_A2, in the European P. infestans population, and its rapid displacement of other lineages to exceed 75% of the pathogen population across Great Britain in less than three years. We show that isolates of the 13_A2 lineage are among the most aggressive on cultivated potatoes, outcompete other aggressive lineages in the field, and overcome previously effective forms of plant host resistance. Genome analyses of a 13_A2 isolate revealed extensive genetic and expression polymorphisms particularly in effector genes. Copy number variations, gene gains and losses, amino-acid replacements and changes in expression patterns of disease effector genes within the 13_A2 isolate likely contribute to enhanced virulence and aggressiveness to drive this population displacement. Importantly, 13_A2 isolates carry intact and in planta induced Avrblb1, Avrblb2 and Avrvnt1 effector genes that trigger resistance in potato lines carrying the corresponding R immune receptor genes Rpi-blb1, Rpi-blb2, and Rpi-vnt1.1. These findings point towards a strategy for deploying genetic resistance to mitigate the impact of the 13_A2 lineage and illustrate how pathogen population monitoring, combined with genome analysis, informs the management of devastating disease epidemics.
The health of the honeybee and, indirectly, global crop production are threatened by several biotic and abiotic factors, which play a poorly defined role in the induction of widespread colony losses. Recent descriptive studies suggest that colony losses are often related to the interaction between pathogens and other stress factors, including parasites. Through an integrated analysis of the population and molecular changes associated with the collapse of honeybee colonies infested by the parasitic mite Varroa destructor, we show that this parasite can de-stabilise the within-host dynamics of Deformed wing virus (DWV), transforming a cryptic and vertically transmitted virus into a rapidly replicating killer, which attains lethal levels late in the season. The de-stabilisation of DWV infection is associated with an immunosuppression syndrome, characterized by a strong down-regulation of the transcription factor NF-κB. The centrality of NF-κB in host responses to a range of environmental challenges suggests that this transcription factor can act as a common currency underlying colony collapse that may be triggered by different causes. Our results offer an integrated account for the multifactorial origin of honeybee losses and a new framework for assessing, and possibly mitigating, the impact of environmental challenges on honeybee health.