Atg8 is a ubiquitin-like autophagy protein in eukaryotes that is covalently attached (lipidated) to the elongating autophagosomal membrane. Autophagy is increasingly appreciated as a target in diverse diseases from cancer to eukaryotic parasitic infections. Some of the autophagy machinery is conserved in the malaria parasite, Plasmodium. Although Atg8's function in the parasite is not well understood, it is essential for Plasmodium growth and survival and partially localizes to the apicoplast, an indispensable organelle in apicomplexans. Here, we describe the identification of inhibitors from the Malaria Medicine Venture Malaria Box against the interaction of PfAtg8 with its E2-conjugating enzyme, PfAtg3, by surface plasmon resonance. Inhibition of this protein-protein interaction prevents PfAtg8 lipidation with phosphatidylethanolamine. These small molecule inhibitors share a common scaffold and have activity against both blood and liver stages of infection by Plasmodium falciparum. We have derivatized this scaffold into a functional platform for further optimization.
Tumor infiltration by lymphocytes has been linked to improved clinical outcome in children with neuroblastoma (NB) but T-cell activation has never been demonstrated to occur within the NB microenvironment. Here we show that tumor-associated lymphocytes (TALs) obtained from lesions representing all genetic subsets of NB and autologous peripheral blood lymphocytes (PBLs) analyzed on the day of tumor excision differed in composition, phenotype and functional characteristics. The NB microenvironment appeared to promote the accumulation of CD3(+)CD8(+) T cells and contained a larger proportion of T cells expressing the interleukin-2 receptor ? chain (CD25) and manifesting an effector memory (CCR7(-)CD45RA(-)) phenotype. Accordingly, the stimulation of PBLs with autologous tumor cells in short-term cultures increased the proportion of effector memory T cells, upregulated CD25, stimulated the expression of the TH1 cytokines interferon ? and tumor necrosis factor ?, and reduced the expression of transforming growth factor ?. In situ proliferation as well as a characteristic pattern of T-cell receptor aggregation at the contact sites with malignant cells was revealed by the immunohistochemical staining of TALs in primary tumors, indicating that the NB milieu is compatible with the activation of the immune system. Our results are compatible with the hypothesis that CD8(+) T cells are specifically activated within the NB microenvironment, which appears to be permissive for effector memory responses.
Control of parasite replication exerted by MHC class I restricted CD8+ T-cells in the liver is critical for vaccination-induced protection against malaria. While many intracellular pathogens subvert the MHC class I presentation machinery, its functionality in the course of malaria replication in hepatocytes has not been characterized. Using experimental systems based on specific identification, isolation and analysis of human hepatocytes infected with P. berghei ANKA GFP or P. falciparum 3D7 GFP sporozoites we demonstrated that molecular components of the MHC class I pathway exhibit largely unaltered expression in malaria-infected hepatocytes until very late stages of parasite development. Furthermore, infected cells showed no obvious defects in their capacity to upregulate expression of different molecular components of the MHC class I machinery in response to pro-inflammatory lymphokines or trigger direct activation of allo-specific or peptide-specific human CD8+ T-cells. We further demonstrate that ectopic expression of circumsporozoite protein does not alter expression of critical genes of the MHC class I pathway and its response to pro-inflammatory cytokines. In addition, we identified supra-cellular structures, which arose at late stages of parasite replication, possessed the characteristic morphology of merosomes and exhibited nearly complete loss of surface MHC class I expression. These data have multiple implications for our understanding of natural T-cell immunity against malaria and may promote development of novel, efficient anti-malaria vaccines overcoming immune escape of the parasite in the liver.
Several proteins that play key roles in cholesterol synthesis, regulation, trafficking and signaling are united by sharing the phylogenetically conserved sterol-sensing domain (SSD). The intracellular parasite Toxoplasma possesses at least one gene coding for a protein containing the canonical SSD. We investigated the role of this protein to provide information on lipid regulatory mechanisms in the parasite. The protein sequence predicts an uncharacterized Niemann-Pick, type C1-related protein (NPC1) with significant identity to human NPC1, and it contains many residues implicated in human NPC disease. We named this NPC1-related protein, TgNCR1. Mammalian NPC1 localizes to endo-lysosomes and promotes the movement of sterols and sphingolipids across the membranes of these organelles. Miscoding patient mutations in NPC1 cause overloading of these lipids in endo-lysosomes. TgNCR1, however, lacks endosomal targeting signals, and localizes to flattened vesicles beneath the plasma membrane of Toxoplasma. When expressed in mammalian NPC1 mutant cells and properly addressed to endo-lysosomes, TgNCR1 restores cholesterol and GM1 clearance from these organelles. To clarify the role of TgNCR1 in the parasite, we genetically disrupted NCR1; mutant parasites were viable. Quantitative lipidomic analyses on the ?NCR1 strain reveal normal cholesterol levels but an overaccumulation of several species of cholesteryl esters, sphingomyelins and ceramides. ?NCR1 parasites are also characterized by abundant storage lipid bodies and long membranous tubules derived from their parasitophorous vacuoles. Interestingly, these mutants can generate multiple daughters per single mother cell at high frequencies, allowing fast replication in vitro, and they are slightly more virulent in mice than the parental strain. These data suggest that the ?NCR1 strain has lost the ability to control the intracellular levels of several lipids, which subsequently results in the stimulation of lipid storage, membrane biosynthesis and parasite division. Based on these observations, we ascribe a role for TgNCR1 in lipid homeostasis in Toxoplasma.
TRAIL is known to cause death in tumor cells, but physiological regulation of its activity remains poorly characterized. We demonstrate that BCR triggering sensitizes transformed centroblast-like BL cells and peripheral blood memory B cells to TRAIL-mediated apoptosis. The sensitization correlated with surface down-regulation and intracellular retention of TRAIL-R4, along with changes in the expression of several Bcl-2 protein family members. Although enhancing FAS-mediated cell death, CD40 activation protected B cells from TRAIL-induced apoptosis. Combination of Ig cross-linking with CD40 ligation did not prevent TRAIL-R4 down-regulation but induced changes in the mitochondria-regulated pathway of apoptosis that are known to be associated with resistance to TRAIL. Human CD5(+) B cells, presumably stimulated by reactivity to self without immunological help, exhibited very high ex vivo sensitivity to TRAIL. Our results define the first B-lymphocyte-specific physiological signal that increases cellular sensitivity to TRAIL. This may be important for our understanding of TRAIL involvement in the control of B cell responses and aid in designing TRAIL-based therapies for B cell lymphomas.
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