The clinical benefits that have been achieved for a group of cancer patients with metastatic disease on checkpoint inhibitor therapy have kindled intense interest in understanding tumor-induced escape from T lymphocyte control. Other lymphoid cells also participate in tumor control; in particular, NK cells can limit hematogenous cancer metastasis spread and are also subject to negative regulation by developing cancers. In this issue of the JCI, Li and colleagues define an unanticipated role for the stress-induced protein CD155 in cancer metastasis. The presence of CD155 on the surface of cancer cells was shown to promote tumor invasiveness, while its upregulation in tumor environment–infiltrating myeloid cells restrained antitumor immunity by impairing antitumor T lymphocytes and NK cell function. Together, these results support further exploration of strategies for targeting CD155.
Thiazolidinediones (TZDs) are the only antidiabetic drugs that reverse insulin resistance. They have been a valuable asset in the treatment of type 2 diabetes, but their side effects have curtailed widespread use in the clinic. In this issue of the JCI, Kraakman and colleagues provide evidence that deacetylation of the nuclear receptor PPARγ improves the therapeutic index of TZDs. These findings should revitalize the quest to employ insulin sensitization as a first-line approach to managing type 2 diabetes.
Mitchell A. Lazar
The human gammaherpesviruses, Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) and Kaposi’s sarcoma–associated herpesvirus (KSHV), are both associated with tumors. Standard antiviral therapies are ineffective at treating these tumors. A serine/threonine kinase important for viral replication is conserved across the herpesviruses. Expression of the KSHV protein kinase in transgenic mice under the control of a ubiquitin promoter was associated with B cell lymphoproliferative disease and lymphoma. If the viral protein kinase is important in the pathogenesis of KSHV lymphoproliferative disease or lymphoma, the kinase may present a very good target for pharmacologic therapies.
Richard F. Ambinder
The liver’s extraordinary ability to regenerate has been known since the myth of Prometheus, but the mechanisms involved are still being discovered. Various small animal models have been used in this quest. Two of the most popular include partial hepatectomy (PHx), in which two-thirds of the liver mass is surgically removed to evoke a massive, immediate stimulus for regeneration, and prolonged exposure to toxins that kill liver cells more gradually, provoking chronic regenerative activity. In either case, multiple types of cells must interact effectively to repopulate the organ with functional mature hepatocytes and thus assure ultimate restoration of healthy liver structure and function. This complexity has confounded efforts to distinguish specific changes that occur in cells that repopulate the hepatocyte compartment from changes in other cell populations, including subpopulations of hepatocytes or hepatocyte precursors that do not become regenerative. In the current issue of the JCI, Wang et al. used translating ribosome affinity purification followed by high-throughput RNA sequencing (TRAP-seq) to isolate mRNAs from repopulating hepatocytes in order to profile gene expression specifically in the hepatocytes that regenerate the liver following toxic injury imposed by inherent byproducts of tyrosine metabolism. This innovative methodology can potentially be used to design therapeutic strategies for liver regeneration.
Kai-Yuan Chen, Xiling Shen, Anna Mae Diehl
Loss-of-function mutations in a single allele of the gene encoding DEP domain–containing 5 protein (DEPDC5) are commonly linked to familial focal epilepsy with variable foci; however, a subset of patients presents with focal cortical dysplasia that is proposed to result from a second-hit somatic mutation. In this issue of the JCI, Ribierre and colleagues provide several lines of evidence to support second-hit DEPDC5 mutations in this disorder. Moreover, the authors use in vivo, in utero electroporation combined with CRISPR-Cas9 technology to generate a murine model of the disease that recapitulates human manifestations, including cortical dysplasia–like changes, focal seizures, and sudden unexpected death. This study provides important insights into familial focal epilepsy and provides a preclinical model for evaluating potential therapies.
Matthew P. Anderson
The last decade has led to a significant advance in our knowledge of HIV-1 latency and immunity. However, we are still not close to finding a cure for HIV-1. Although combination antiretroviral therapy (cART) has led to increased survival, almost close to that of the general population, it is still not curative. In the current issue of the JCI, Wu et al. studied the prophylactic and therapeutic potential of an engineered tandem bispecific broadly neutralizing antibody (bs-bnAb), BiIA-SG. This bnAb’s breadth and potency were highly effective in protection and treatment settings, as measured by complete viremia control following direct infusion, as well as elimination of infected cells and delay in viral rebound when delivered with a recombinant vector. These observations underscore the need for the clinical development of BiIA-SG for the prevention of HIV-1.
Poly(ADP-ribose) polymerase inhibitors (PARPis) are DNA-damaging agents that trap PARP-DNA complexes and interfere with DNA replication. Three PARPis — olaparib, niraparib, and rucaparib — were recently approved by the FDA for the treatment of breast and ovarian cancers. These PARPis, along with 2 others (talazoparib and veliparib), are being evaluated for their potential to treat additional malignancies, including prostate cancers. While lack of PARP-1 confers high resistance to PARPis, it has not been established whether or not the levels of PARP-1 directly correlate with tumor response. In this issue of the JCI, Makvandi and coworkers describe an approach to address this question using [18F]FluorThanatrace, an [18F]-labeled PARP-1 inhibitor, for PET. The tracer was taken up by patient tumor tissue and appeared to differentiate levels of PARP-1 expression; however, future studies should be aimed at determining if this tracer can be used to stratify patient response to PARPi therapy.
Anish Thomas, Junko Murai, Yves Pommier
The identity and function of the fibroblast, a highly prevalent cell type in the heart, have remained poorly defined. Recent faithful genetic lineage–tracing studies revealed that during development, the cardiac fibroblasts are derived from the epicardium and the endothelium, whereas in the adult heart, they constitute the cardiac injury–responsive resident fibroblast. In the current issue of the JCI, Molkentin and colleagues decipher the time course and mechanism of the fibroblast in response to myocardial infarction (MI). The model they propose is surprisingly simple and clear. It consists of three major phases. First, fibroblasts in the ischemic area die. Second, surrounding fibroblasts proliferate and migrate into the spaces created by dying cardiomyocytes over a few days. The new fibroblasts in the scar are activated and adopt a smooth muscle actin– and periostin-positive “myofibroblast” phenotype, which appears to last as long as the scar is not mature (~10 days after MI). In the third phase, initially proliferating myofibroblasts lose smooth muscle actin expression and convert to a nonproliferating, matrix-producing phenotype with a newly acquired tendon gene signature. Interestingly, this state appears to differ from that of quiescent fibroblasts in the uninjured heart, as it is resistant to proliferative stimuli. These cells are therefore termed “matrifibrocytes,” a novel category whose study will certainly further advance the field.
Current therapies for pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH) provide symptomatic relief and improve prognosis but fall short of improving long-term survival. There is emerging evidence for a role of inflammatory mediators, primarily IL-6, in the pathogenesis of PAH. However, the mechanisms by which IL-6 potentially affects PAH are unknown. In this issue of the JCI, Tamura, Phan, and colleagues identified ectopic upregulation of the membrane-bound IL-6 receptor (IL6R), indicating classical IL-6 signaling in the smooth muscle layer of remodeled vessels in human and experimental PAH. They performed a series of in vitro and in vivo experiments that provide deeper insights into the mechanisms of classical IL-6 signaling and propose interventions directed against IL6R as a potential therapeutic strategy for PAH.
Soni Savai Pullamsetti, Werner Seeger, Rajkumar Savai
Rasmussen’s encephalitis (RE) is a neuroinflammatory disease that typically affects only one hemisphere of the brain, resulting in severe seizures. Sixty years after the disease was first described, the preferred and best treatment option for RE is grotesque and involves removing a hemisphere of the brain (hemispherectomy); therefore, a better understanding of this seizure disorder may provide additional, less invasive therapeutic options. In this issue of the JCI, Carmant and colleagues have developed an animal model of this focal seizure disorder. The model provides experimental insights into the pathogenesis of RE and potential new treatments for this disease.
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