Antigens derived from apoptotic cell debris can drive clonal T-cell deletion or anergy, and antigens chemically coupled ex vivo to apoptotic cell surfaces have been shown correspondingly to induce tolerance on infusion. Reasoning that a large number of erythrocytes become apoptotic (eryptotic) and are cleared each day, we engineered two different antigen constructs to target the antigen to erythrocyte cell surfaces after i.v. injection, one using a conjugate with an erythrocyte-binding peptide and another using a fusion with an antibody fragment, both targeting the erythrocyte-specific cell surface marker glycophorin A. Here, we show that erythrocyte-binding antigen is collected much more efficiently than free antigen by splenic and hepatic immune cell populations and hepatocytes, and that it induces antigen-specific deletional responses in CD4+ and CD8+ T cells. We further validated T-cell deletion driven by erythrocyte-binding antigens using a transgenic islet β cell-reactive CD4+ T-cell adoptive transfer model of autoimmune type 1 diabetes: Treatment with the peptide antigen fused to an erythrocyte-binding antibody fragment completely prevented diabetes onset induced by the activated, autoreactive CD4+ T cells. Thus, we report a translatable modular biomolecular approach with which to engineer antigens for targeted binding to erythrocyte cell surfaces to induce antigen-specific CD4+ and CD8+ T-cell deletion toward exogenous antigens and autoantigens.
 
BACKGROUND Dysregulated hedgehog signaling is the pivotal molecular abnormality underlying basal-cell carcinomas. Vismodegib is a new orally administered hedgehog-pathway inhibitor that produces objective responses in locally advanced and metastatic basal-cell carcinomas. METHODS We tested the anti–basal-cell carcinoma efficacy of vismodegib in a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial in patients with the basal-cell nevus syndrome at three clinical centers from September 2009 through January 2011. The primary end point was reduction in the incidence of new basal-cell carcinomas that were eligible for surgical resection (surgically eligible) with vismodegib versus placebo after 3 months; secondary end points included reduction in the size of existing basal-cell carcinomas. RESULTS In 41 patients followed for a mean of 8 months (range, 1 to 15) after enrollment, the per-patient rate of new surgically eligible basal-cell carcinomas was lower with vismodegib than with placebo (2 vs. 29 cases per group per year, P<0.001), as was the size (percent change from baseline in the sum of the longest diameter) of existing clinically significant basal-cell carcinomas (−65% vs. −11%, P=0.003). In some patients, all basal-cell carcinomas clinically regressed. No tumors progressed during treatment with vismodegib. Patients receiving vismodegib routinely had grade 1 or 2 adverse events of loss of taste, muscle cramps, hair loss, and weight loss. Overall, 54% of patients (14 of 26) receiving vismodegib discontinued drug treatment owing to adverse events. At 1 month, vismodegib use had reduced the hedgehog target-gene expression by basal-cell carcinoma by 90% (P<0.001) and diminished tumor-cell proliferation, but apoptosis was not affected. No residual basal-cell carcinoma was detectable in 83% of biopsy samples taken from sites of clinically regressed basal-cell carcinomas. CONCLUSIONS Vismodegib reduces the basal-cell carcinoma tumor burden and blocks growth of new basal-cell carcinomas in patients with the basal-cell nevus syndrome. The adverse events associated with treatment led to discontinuation in over half of treated patients.
 
Efficient transport of stem/progenitor cells without affecting their survival and function is a key factor in any practical cell-based therapy. However, the current approach using liquid nitrogen for the transfer of stem cells requires a short delivery time window, is technically challenging and financially expensive. The present study aims to use semi-permeable alginate hydrogels (cross-linked by strontium) to encapsulate, store and release stem cells, in order to replace the conventional cryo-preservation method for the transport of therapeutic cells within world-wide distribution time-frame. Human mesenchymal stem cell (hMSC) and mouse embryonic stem cells (mESC) were successfully stored inside alginate hydrogels for 5 days under ambient conditions in an air-tight environment (sealed cryo-vial). Cell viability, of the cells extracted from alginate gel, gave 74% (mESC) and 80% (hMSC) survival rates, which compared favorably to cryo-preservation. More importantly, the subsequent proliferation rate and detection of common stem cell markers (both in mRNA and protein level) from hMSC and mESC retrieved from alginate hydrogels was also comparable to (if not better than) results gained following cryo-preservation. In conclusion, this new and simple application of alginate hydrogel encapsulation, may offer a cheap and robust alternative to cryo-preservation for the transport and storage of stem cells for both clinical and research purposes.
 
HBx is a multifunctional hepatitis B virus (HBV) protein that is crucial for HBV infection and pathogenesis and a contributing cause of hepatocyte carcinogenesis. However, the host targets and mechanisms of action of HBx are poorly characterized. We show here that expression of HBx in Caenorhabditis elegans induces both necrotic and apoptotic cell death, mimicking an early event of liver infection by HBV. Genetic and biochemical analyses indicate that HBx interacts directly with the B-cell lymphoma 2 (Bcl-2) homolog CED-9 (cell death abnormal) through a Bcl-2 homology 3 (BH3)-like motif to trigger both cytosolic Ca2+ increase and cell death. Importantly, Bcl-2 can substitute for CED-9 in mediating HBx-induced cell killing in C. elegans, suggesting that CED-9 and Bcl-2 are conserved cellular targets of HBx. A genetic suppressor screen of HBx-induced cell death has produced many mutations, including mutations in key regulators from both apoptosis and necrosis pathways, indicating that this screen can identify new apoptosis and necrosis genes. Our results suggest that C. elegans could serve as an animal model for identifying crucial host factors and signaling pathways of HBx and aid in development of strategies to treat HBV-induced liver disorders.
 
Abstract:HIV maturation requires multiple cleavage of long polyprotein chains into functional proteins that include the viral protease itself. Initial cleavage by the protease dimer occurs from within these precursors, and yet only a single protease monomer is embedded in each polyprotein chain. Self-activation has been proposed to start from a partially dimerized protease formed from monomers of different chains binding its own N termini by self-association to the active site, but a complete structural understanding of this critical step in HIV maturation is missing. Here, we captured the critical self-association of immature HIV-1 protease to its extended amino-terminal recognition motif using large-scale molecular dynamics simulations, thus confirming the postulated intramolecular mechanism in atomic detail. We show that self-association to a catalytically viable state requires structural cooperativity of the flexible β-hairpin “flap” regions of the enzyme and that the major transition pathway is first via self-association in the semiopen/open enzyme states, followed by enzyme conformational transition into a catalytically viable closed state. Furthermore, partial N-terminal threading can play a role in self-association, whereas wide opening of the flaps in concert with self-association is not observed. We estimate the association rate constant (kon) to be on the order of ∼1 × 104 s−1, suggesting that N-terminal self-association is not the rate-limiting step in the process. The shown mechanism also provides an interesting example of molecular conformational transitions along the association pathway.
 
Abstract:Genomic instability has been observed in essentially all sporadic carcinomas. Here we use Drosophila epithelial cells to address the role of chromosomal instability in cancer development as they have proved useful for elucidating the molecular mechanisms underlying tumorigenic growth. We first show that chromosomal instability leads to an apoptotic response. Interestingly, this response is p53 independent, as opposed to mammalian cells, and depends on the activation of the c-Jun N-terminal kinase (JNK) signaling cascade. When prevented from undergoing programmed cell death (PCD), chromosomal instability induces neoplasic overgrowth. These tumor-like tissues are able to grow extensively and metastasize when transplanted into the abdomen of adult hosts. Detailed analysis of the tumors allows us to identify a delaminating cell population as the critical one in driving tumorigenesis. Cells loose their apical–basal polarity, mislocalize DE-cadherin, and delaminate from the main epithelium. A JNK-dependent transcriptional program is activated specifically in delaminating cells and drives nonautonomous tissue overgrowth, basement membrane degradation, and invasiveness. These findings unravel a general and rapid tumorigenic potential of genomic instability, as opposed to its proposed role as a source of mutability to select specific tumor-prone aneuploid cells, and open unique avenues toward the understanding of the role of genomic instability in human cancer.
 
Introduction: Many patients with oncogene-driven non–small-cell lung cancer (NSCLC) treated with tyrosine kinase inhibitors experience limited sites of disease progression. This study investigated retrospectively the benefits of local ablative therapy (LAT) to central nervous system (CNS) and/or limited systemic disease progression and continuation of crizotinib or erlotinib in patients with metastatic ALK gene rearrangement (ALK+) or EGFR-mutant (EGFR-MT) NSCLC, respectively.

Methods: Patients with metastatic ALK+ NSCLC treated with crizotinib (n = 38) and EGFR-MT NSCLC treated with erlotinib (n = 27) were identified at a single institution. Initial response to the respective kinase inhibitors, median progression-free survival (PFS1), and site of first progression were recorded. A subset of patients with either nonleptomeningeal CNS and/or four sites or fewer of extra-CNS progression (oligoprogressive disease) suitable for LAT received either radiation or surgery to these sites and continued on the same tyrosine kinase inhibitors. The subsequent median progression-free survival from the time of first progression (PFS2) and pattern of progression were recorded.

Results: Median progression-free survival in ALK+ patients on crizotinib was 9.0 months, and 13.8 months for EGFR-MT patients on erlotinib. Twenty-five of 51 patients (49%) who progressed were deemed suitable for local therapy (15 ALK+, 10 EGFR-MT; 24 with radiotherapy, one with surgery) and continuation of the same targeted therapy. Post-LAT, 19 of 25 patients progressed again, with median PFS2 of 6.2 months.

Discussion: Oncogene-addicted NSCLC with CNS and/or limited systemic disease progression (oligoprogressive disease) on relevant targeted therapies is often suitable for LAT and continuation of the targeted agent, and is associated with more than 6 months of additional disease control.