Microbiology & Immunology - Research Publications
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Discovery Genome-Wide Association Study of Body Composition in 4,386 Adults From the UK Biobank's Pilot Imaging Enhancement Study
(FRONTIERS MEDIA SA, 2021-06-22)
Body composition (fat, skeletal muscle and bone mass) is an important determinant of overall health and risk of endocrine disorders such as type 2 diabetes and osteoporosis. Although diet and physical activity are strongly implicated, body composition is also heritable. We conducted a discovery genome-wide association study on 31 phenotypes from the three-compartment body composition model (fat, lean and bone mass) in a set of 4 386 individuals (n = 2 109 males, n = 2 294 females) from the UK Biobank pilot imaging enhancement program that underwent a dual energy X-ray absorptiometry (DXA) scan for assessment of body composition and genetic screening. From 6 137 607 imputed single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) we identified 17 body composition loci (P<5.0 x 10-8). GWAS from the combined dataset identified four statistically significant SNPs (rs7592270, rs145972737, rs13212044, rs77772562). In sex-stratified GWAS, 10 male specific SNPs across all traits were identified and five female specific SNPs. Of the 17 SNPs, six were in or close to a gene where there was a plausible functional connection. Three SNPs (rs7592270, rs77772562 and rs7552312) were correlated with obesity phenotypes, one SNP (rs2236705) with lean phenotypes and two with bone mass phenotypes (rs112098641 and rs113380185). These results highlight candidate genes and biological pathways related to body composition, including glucose metabolism and estrogen regulation, that are of interest to replicate in future studies.
ATH434 Reverses Colorectal Dysfunction in the A53T Mouse Model of Parkinson's Disease
(IOS PRESS, 2021-01-01)
BACKGROUND: Gastrointestinal (GI) complications, that severely impact patient quality of life, are a common occurrence in patients with Parkinson's disease (PD). Damage to enteric neurons and the accumulation of alpha-synuclein in the enteric nervous system (ENS) are thought to contribute to this phenotype. Copper or iron chelators, that bind excess or labile metal ions, can prevent aggregation of alpha-synuclein in the brain and alleviate motor-symptoms in preclinical models of PD. OBJECTIVE: We investigated the effect of ATH434 (formally PBT434), a small molecule, orally bioavailable, moderate-affinity iron chelator, on colonic propulsion and whole gut transit in A53T alpha-synuclein transgenic mice. METHODS: Mice were fed ATH434 (30 mg/kg/day) for either 4 months (beginning at ∼15 months of age), after the onset of slowed propulsion ("treatment group"), or for 3 months (beginning at ∼12 months of age), prior to slowed propulsion ("prevention group"). RESULTS: ATH434, given after dysfunction was established, resulted in a reversal of slowed colonic propulsion and gut transit deficits in A53T mice to WT levels. In addition, ATH434 administered from 12 months prevented the slowed bead expulsion at 15 months but did not alter deficits in gut transit time when compared to vehicle-treated A53T mice. The proportion of neurons with nuclear Hu+ translocation, an indicator of neuronal stress in the ENS, was significantly greater in A53T than WT mice, and was reduced in both groups when ATH434 was administered. CONCLUSION: ATH434 can reverse some of the GI deficits and enteric neuropathy that occur in a mouse model of PD, and thus may have potential clinical benefit in alleviating the GI dysfunctions associated with PD.
Tear antibodies to SARS-CoV-2: implications for transmission
<h4>Objectives</h4> SARS-CoV-2 can be transmitted by aerosols and the ocular surface may be an important route of transmission. Little is known about protective antibody responses to SARS-CoV-2 in tears after infection or vaccination. We analysed SARS-CoV-2 specific IgG and IgA responses in human tears after either COVID-19 infection or vaccination. <h4>Methods</h4> We recruited 16 subjects with COVID-19 infection an average of 7 months previously and 15 subjects before and 2 weeks after Comirnaty (Pfizer-BioNtech) vaccination. Plasma, saliva and basal tears were collected. Pre-pandemic plasma, saliva and basal tears from 11 individuals were included as healthy controls. Antibody responses to 5 SARS-CoV-2 antigens were measured via multiplex. <h4>Results</h4> IgG antibodies to Spike and Nucleoprotein were detected in tears, saliva and plasma from subjects with prior SARS-CoV-2 infection in comparison to uninfected controls. While RBD-specific antibodies were detected in plasma, minimal RBD-specific antibodies were detected in tears and saliva. In contrast, high levels of IgG antibodies to Spike and RBD, but not Nucleoprotein, were induced in tears, saliva and plasma of subjects receiving 2 doses of the Comirnaty vaccine. Increased levels of IgA1 and IgA2 antibodies to SARS-CoV-2 antigens were detected in plasma following infection or vaccination, but were unchanged in tears and saliva. <h4>Conclusion</h4> Both infection and vaccination induce SARS-CoV-2-specific IgG antibodies in tears. RBD-specific IgG antibodies in tears were induced by vaccination but were not present 7 months post-infection. This suggests neutralising antibodies may be low in the tears late following infection.
IFN beta Is a Potent Adjuvant for Cancer Vaccination Strategies
(FRONTIERS MEDIA SA, 2021-09-06)
Cancer vaccination drives the generation of anti-tumor T cell immunity and can be enhanced by the inclusion of effective immune adjuvants such as type I interferons (IFNs). Whilst type I IFNs have been shown to promote cross-priming of T cells, the role of individual subtypes remains unclear. Here we systematically compared the capacity of distinct type I IFN subtypes to enhance T cell responses to a whole-cell vaccination strategy in a pre-clinical murine model. We show that vaccination in combination with IFNβ induces significantly greater expansion of tumor-specific CD8+ T cells than the other type I IFN subtypes tested. Optimal expansion was dependent on the presence of XCR1+ dendritic cells, CD4+ T cells, and CD40/CD40L signaling. Therapeutically, vaccination with IFNβ delayed tumor progression when compared to vaccination without IFN. When vaccinated in combination with anti-PD-L1 checkpoint blockade therapy (CPB), the inclusion of IFNβ associated with more mice experiencing complete regression and a trend in increased overall survival. This work demonstrates the potent adjuvant activity of IFNβ, highlighting its potential to enhance cancer vaccination strategies alone and in combination with CPB.
Evaluation of the impact of childhood 13-valent pneumococcal conjugate vaccine introduction on adult pneumonia in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia: study protocol for an observational study
BACKGROUND: Community-acquired pneumonia is an important cause of morbidity and mortality in adults. Approximately one-third of pneumonia cases can be attributed to the pneumococcus. Pneumococcal conjugate vaccines (PCVs) protect against colonisation with vaccine-type serotypes. The resulting decrease in transmission of vaccine serotypes leads to large indirect effects. There are limited data from developing countries demonstrating the impact of childhood PCV immunisation on adult pneumonia. There are also insufficient data available on the burden and severity of all-cause pneumonia and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) in adults from low resource countries. There is currently no recommendation for adult pneumococcal vaccination with either pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine or PCVs in Mongolia. We describe the protocol developed to evaluate the association between childhood 13-valent PCV (PCV13) vaccination and trends in adult pneumonia. METHODS: PCV13 was introduced into the routine childhood immunisation schedule in Mongolia in a phased manner from 2016. In March 2019 we initiated active hospital-based surveillance for adult pneumonia, with the primary objective of evaluating trends in severe hospitalised clinical pneumonia incidence in adults 18 years and older in four districts of Ulaanbaatar. Secondary objectives include measuring the association between PCV13 introduction and trends in all clinically-defined pneumonia, radiologically-confirmed pneumonia, nasopharyngeal carriage of S. pneumoniae and pneumonia associated with RSV or influenza. Clinical questionnaires, nasopharyngeal swabs, urine samples and chest radiographs were collected from enrolled patients. Retrospective administrative and clinical data were collected for all respiratory disease-related admissions from January 2015 to February 2019. DISCUSSION: Establishing a robust adult surveillance system may be an important component of monitoring the indirect impact of PCVs within a country. Monitoring indirect impact of childhood PCV13 vaccination on adult pneumonia provides additional data on the full public health impact of the vaccine, which has implications for vaccine efficiency and cost-effectiveness. Adult surveillance in Mongolia will contribute to the limited evidence available on the burden of pneumococcal pneumonia among adults in low- and middle-income countries, particularly in the Asia-Pacific region. In addition, it is one of the few examples of implementing prospective, population-based pneumonia surveillance to evaluate the indirect impact of PCVs in a resource-limited setting.
Integrated immune networks in SARS-CoV-2 infected pregnant women reveal differential NK cell and unconventional T cell activation
Although pregnancy poses a greater risk for severe COVID-19, the underlying immunological changes associated with SARS-CoV-2 infection during pregnancy are poorly understood. We defined immune responses to SARS-CoV-2 in pregnant and non-pregnant women during acute and convalescent COVID-19 up to 258 days post symptom onset, quantifying 217 immunological parameters. Additionally, matched maternal and cord blood were collected from COVID-19 convalescent pregnancies. Although serological responses to SARS-CoV-2 were similar in pregnant and non-pregnant women, cellular immune analyses revealed marked differences in key NK cell and unconventional T cell responses during COVID-19 in pregnant women. While NK, γδ T cells and MAIT cells displayed pre-activated phenotypes in healthy pregnant women when compared to non-pregnant age-matched women, activation profiles of these pre-activated NK and unconventional T cells remained unchanged at acute and convalescent COVID-19 in pregnancy. Conversely, activation dynamics of NK and unconventional T cells were prototypical in non-pregnant women in COVID-19. In contrast, activation of αβ CD4 + and CD8 + T cells, T follicular helper cells and antibody-secreting cells was similar in pregnant and non-pregnant women with COVID-19. Elevated levels of IL-1β, IFN-γ, IL-8, IL-18 and IL-33 were also found in pregnant women in their healthy state, and these cytokine levels remained elevated during acute and convalescent COVID-19. Collectively, our study provides the first comprehensive map of longitudinal immunological responses to SARS-CoV-2 infection in pregnant women, providing insights into patient management and education during COVID-19 pregnancy.
Low-dose IL-2 therapy invigorates CD8(+) T cells for viral control in systemic lupus erythematosus with a potential risk of deteriorating immunopathology
(PUBLIC LIBRARY SCIENCE, 2021-10-01)
Autoimmune diseases are often treated by glucocorticoids and immunosuppressive drugs that could increase the risk for infection, which in turn deteriorate disease and cause mortality. Low-dose IL-2 (Ld-IL2) therapy emerges as a new treatment for a wide range of autoimmune diseases. To examine its influence on infection, we retrospectively studied 665 patients with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) including about one third receiving Ld-IL2 therapy, where Ld-IL2 therapy was found beneficial in reducing the incidence of infections. In line with this clinical observation, IL-2 treatment accelerated viral clearance in mice infected with influenza A virus or lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus (LCMV). Noticeably, despite enhancing anti-viral immunity in LCMV infection, IL-2 treatment exacerbated CD8+ T cell-mediated immunopathology. In summary, Ld-IL2 therapy reduced the risk of infections in SLE patients and enhanced the control of viral infection, but caution should be taken to avoid potential CD8+ T cell-mediated immunopathology.
The endemic Helicobacter pylori population in Southern Vietnam has both South East Asian and European origins
BACKGROUND: The burden of Helicobacter pylori-induced gastric cancer varies based on predominant H. pylori population in various geographical regions. Vietnam is a high H. pylori burden country with the highest age-standardized incidence rate of gastric cancer (16.3 cases/100,000 for both sexes) in Southeast Asia, despite this data on the H. pylori population is scanty. We examined the global context of the endemic H. pylori population in Vietnam and present a contextual and comparative genomics analysis of 83 H. pylori isolates from patients in Vietnam. RESULTS: There are at least two major H. pylori populations are circulating in symptomatic Vietnamese patients. The majority of the isolates (~ 80%, 66/83) belong to the hspEastAsia and the remaining belong to hpEurope population (~ 20%, 17/83). In total, 66 isolates (66/83) were cagA positive, 64 were hspEastAsia isolates and two were hpEurope isolates. Examination of the second repeat region revealed that most of the cagA genes were ABD type (63/66; 61 were hspEastAsia isolates and two were hpEurope isolates). The remaining three isolates (all from hspEastAsia isolates) were ABC or ABCC types. We also detected that 4.5% (3/66) cagA gene from hspEastAsia isolates contained EPIYA-like sequences, ESIYA at EPIYA-B segments. Analysis of the vacA allelic type revealed 98.8% (82/83) and 41% (34/83) of the strains harboured the s1 and m1 allelic variant, respectively; 34/83 carried both s1m1 alleles. The most frequent genotypes among the cagA positive isolates were vacA s1m1/cagA + and vacA s1m2/cagA + , accounting for 51.5% (34/66) and 48.5% (32/66) of the isolates, respectively. CONCLUSIONS: There are two predominant lineages of H. pylori circulating in Vietnam; most of the isolates belong to the hspEastAsia population. The hpEurope population is further divided into two smaller clusters.
Intraspecies Variation in Tetrahymena rostrata.
(MDPI AG, 2021-10-05)
Two distinct isolates of the facultative parasite, Tetrahymena rostrata were compared, identifying and utilising markers that are useful for studying clonal variation within the species were identified and utilised. The sequences of mitochondrial genomes and several nuclear genes were determined using Illumina short read sequencing. The two T. rostrata isolates had similar morphology. The linear mitogenomes had the gene content and organisation typical of the Tetrahymena genus, comprising 8 tRNA genes, 6 ribosomal RNA genes and 45 protein coding sequences (CDS), twenty-two of which had known function. The two isolates had nucleotide identity within common nuclear markers encoded within the histone H3 and H4 and small subunit ribosomal RNA genes and differed by only 2-4 nucleotides in a region of the characterised actin genes. Variation was observed in several mitochondrial genes and was used to determine intraspecies variation and may reflect the natural history of T. rostrata from different hosts or the geographic origins of the isolates.
Powdery mildew fungal effector candidates share N-terminal Y/F/WxC-motif.
(Springer Science and Business Media LLC, 2010-05-20)
BACKGROUND: Powdery mildew and rust fungi are widespread, serious pathogens that depend on developing haustoria in the living plant cells. Haustoria are separated from the host cytoplasm by a plant cell-derived extrahaustorial membrane. They secrete effector proteins, some of which are subsequently transferred across this membrane to the plant cell to suppress defense. RESULTS: In a cDNA library from barley epidermis containing powdery mildew haustoria, two-thirds of the sequenced ESTs were fungal and represented approximately 3,000 genes. Many of the most highly expressed genes encoded small proteins with N-terminal signal peptides. While these proteins are novel and poorly related, they do share a three-amino acid motif, which we named "Y/F/WxC", in the N-terminal of the mature proteins. The first amino acid of this motif is aromatic: tyrosine, phenylalanine or tryptophan, and the last is always cysteine. In total, we identified 107 such proteins, for which the ESTs represent 19% of the fungal clones in our library, suggesting fundamental roles in haustoria function. While overall sequence similarity between the powdery mildew Y/F/WxC-proteins is low, they do have a highly similar exon-intron structure, suggesting they have a common origin. Interestingly, searches of public fungal genome and EST databases revealed that haustoria-producing rust fungi also encode large numbers of novel, short proteins with signal peptides and the Y/F/WxC-motif. No significant numbers of such proteins were identified from genome and EST sequences from either fungi which do not produce haustoria or from haustoria-producing Oomycetes. CONCLUSION: In total, we identified 107, 178 and 57 such Y/F/WxC-proteins from the barley powdery mildew, the wheat stem rust and the wheat leaf rust fungi, respectively. All together, our findings suggest the Y/F/WxC-proteins to be a new class of effectors from haustoria-producing pathogenic fungi.