Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Flagellin-specific T cells induce colitis by recognizing antigen other than flagellin

This is very interesting study from Journal of Immunology (JI). Here, researcher led by Timothy Hand at the University of Pittsburgh Medical School, showed that CBir1 transgenic T cells, thought to cause gut inflammation by recognizing flagellin expressing microbiota, were in fact specific for non-flagellin antigens

CBir1 transgenic mouse have been used for past 10 years to model human Crohn's disease in mice. CBir1 tetramer+ T cells recognize epitope from flagellin, antigen thought to be a target in Crohn's disease. Interestingly, all of those experiments were done using CBir1 T cells on WT background. This could be an issue because it has been known for some time now that transgenic T cells on WT background could use alternative Vα chain to form TCR with new specificity.

To avoid such limitation, here the authors generated CBir1 mouse on RAG KO background that only expressed transgenic Vα:Vβ chains. Surprisingly, unlike CBir1:WT T cells, CBir1:RagKO T cells when transferred in immunodeficient hosts did not induce colitis, and it was not because CBir1:RagKO T cells differentiate into Foxp3+ T cells. It appears that CBir1:RagKO T cells just did not see flagellin epitope in adoptive host.

In vitro tests showed that both CBir1:WT T cells and CBir1:RagKO T cells could respond to DCs pulsed with flagellin epitope [it would have been better and more relevant here to use DCs pulsed with gut flora component].

Other tests showed that CBir1:WT T cells in gut tissue could express alternative Vα chain to form a completely new TCR specificity together with transgenic Vβ chain such as against Ags derived from Helicobacter (HH1713 tetramer). 

In summary, it appears that CBir1 T cells initiate colitis by recognizing non-flagellin antigen from the gut flora through non-CBir1 TCR and only following gut inflammation and gut leakage do flagellin-specific CBir1 transgenic T cells get activated and participate in overall colitis.

So, what is missing from this study? One, it would have been relevant to transfer in vitro activated CBir1:RagKO T cells or activate them in vivo directly to see if then they could initiate colitis. Second, the authors could have tried monocolonization of germ-free mice to see the source of non-flagellin microbiota. Third, there is inconsistency between Fig. 3B and Fig. 6A with regard of proliferation of  CBir1:WT T cells in response to Vanc-treated samples (in vitro it did not proliferate but in vivo it did).

posted by David Usharauli

Saturday, May 5, 2018

IgA protects resident commensal microbiota against competitors

This week journal Science published new study from Sarkis Mazmanian lab at Caltech describing role of IgA in providing strain-specific competitive advantage to certain resident commensal microbiota. 

His lab has been studying immunobiology of Bacteroides fragilis (B. fragilis), a gut commensal. In initial series of experiments they have compared germ-free mice mono-colonized with either wild-type B. fragilis or its mutant variants such as, Δccf, shown to modify biosynthesis of its capsular polysaccharides. They noticed that in co-housing experiments wild-type B. fragilis from one mouse could out compete mutant variant in another mouse in a horizontal transfer assay.   

Since B. fragilis polysaccharides are known to interact with host's immune system, the authors wanted to find out whether host's immune system influenced co-housing experiments. Not surprisingly, the authors found that mutant B. fragilis did not efficiently bind IgA (induced by wild-type B. fragilis) and that it in turn induced IgA repertoire that bound wild-type B. fragilis even less effectively, suggesting some kind of association between IgA and missing antigens on mutant B. fragilis.  

To verify these observations, the authors compared co-housing experiments between germ-free IgA+ and IgA-KO mice (or treated with B cell depleting antibody) mono-colonized with wild-type B. fragilis. Indeed and surprisingly this time, wild-type B. fragilis resident in IgA KO mice were easily overtaken by wild-type B. fragilis from mono-colonized wild-type mice. These results suggested that in absence of IgA wild-type B. fragilis has lost competitive advantage against wild-type B. fragilis resident in IgA+ mice.

What could these results mean in biological context: it appears that certain resident commensal microbiota benefit from interacting with IgA. The authors proposed that "during health, IgA fosters mucosal colonization of microbiota with beneficial properties....while disease states may induce (or be caused by) IgA responses to pathogens or pathobionts that disrupt healthy microbiome equilibria." This is an interpretation that does not provide clear mechanistic explanation as to how IgA response could make such discrimination at the level of antigens between which microbes to keep and which ones to eject from the host. 

posted by David Usharauli

Saturday, April 28, 2018

SUPRA CAR T cell system provides more of cosmetic rather than a real advance

This week journal Cell published a new study from scientists at Boston University describing in their own words "a split, universal, and programmable (SUPRA) CAR system" that supposed to provide several advantages over conventional CAR-T cell system. I reviewed and present here my conclusions on this paper.   

The rationale behind SUPRA CAR T cell design was to develop flexible, "plug-and-play" system to fine tune CAR T cells' activity against tumors without need to redesign it over again. SUPRA consists of two modules: signaling zipCAR construct is artificially expressed by T cells on their surface and soluble zipFv construct expressing tumor antigen specific scFv portion which is injected into system. "Zipper" portions of zipCAR/scFv constructs could interact with each other and by injecting different variants of zipper one can modulate strength of interaction.

What advantage(s) SUPRA CAR T cell design provide? 

1st advantage the authors showed could be to tune signal strength of original SUPRA zipCAR T cells interaction with tumor specific zipFv construct by injecting competitive zipFv constructs that have different affinity to zipCAR module and thus modulate tumor specific zipFv action (to prevent cytokine storm).

2nd advantage is thought to be use of the same zipCAR T cells and inject two different zipFv constructs specific for two different tumor antigens (to prevent tumor escape).

3rd advantage the authors suggested would be to deploy decoy zipFv that could inhibit tumor specific zipFv activity only when decoy scFv interacts with non-tumor specific antigens and thus limiting non-target effects in different tissues (to prevent off-target tissue damage).

Later in the paper the authors went on to present series of experiments that showed comparison of effectiveness of SUPRA CAR T cell construct vs. conventional CAR T cells against two different tumor models in vivo.

On the surface all these experiments look quite impressive. However, close analysis of data shows that advantages are more of cosmetic in nature rather than real ones. First, none of those above mentioned three advantages were actually shown for tumor models in vivo (for some reason the authors did not show how injection of competitive low-affinity zipFv construct could affect tumor protection experiments in vivo or whether double antigen expressing tumors could be efficiently eradicated). Moreover, in vitro experiments showing decoy effect was done in manner that is incompatible for in vivo experiments (one cannot wash away decoy zipFv in vivo before introducing tumor specific zipFv construct and it is likely that free floating decoy zipFv construct could inhibit tumor specific zipFv activity even in absence of decoy tissue antigen).

posted by David Usharauli