Ph.D student, Monash University
Clinical trials to target cytokines signaling have achieved promising results to treat cancers and infections. Modulating the bioactivity of cytokines is, therefore, an approach to deliver a therapeutic efficacy. My research majorly includes developing regulatory reagents such as super-agonistic antibodies, cytokine muteins, and small molecules to enhance the function of cytokines; revealing the mechanism of those agonists through structural biology methodology; and applying them in pre-clinical trials using animal models.
Abstract: CD8αα(+) intraepithelial lymphocytes (IELs) are instrumental in maintaining the epithelial barrier in the intestine. Similar to natural killer cells and other innate lymphoid cells, CD8αα(+) IELs constitutively express the T-box transcription factor T-bet. However, the precise role of T-bet for the differentiation or function of IELs is unknown. Here we show that mice genetically deficient for T-bet lacked both TCRαβ(+) and TCRγδ(+) CD8αα(+) IELs and thus are more susceptible to chemically induced colitis. Although T-bet was induced in thymic IEL precursors (IELPs) as a result of agonist selection and interleukin-15 (IL-15) receptor signaling, it was dispensable for the generation of IELPs. Subsequently, T-bet was required for the IL-15-dependent activation, differentiation, and expansion of IELPs in the periphery. Our study reveals a function of T-bet as a central transcriptional regulator linking agonist selection and IL-15 signaling with the emergence of CD8αα(+) IELs.
Pub.: 26 Aug '14, Pinned: 31 Jul '17
Abstract: Interleukin-2 (IL-2) is a pleiotropic cytokine that regulates immune cell homeostasis and has been used to treat a range of disorders including cancer and autoimmune disease. IL-2 signals via interleukin-2 receptor-β (IL-2Rβ):IL-2Rγ heterodimers on cells expressing high (regulatory T cells, Treg) or low (effector cells) amounts of IL-2Rα (CD25). When complexed with IL-2, certain anti-cytokine antibodies preferentially stimulate expansion of Treg (JES6-1) or effector (S4B6) cells, offering a strategy for targeted disease therapy. We found that JES6-1 sterically blocked the IL-2:IL-2Rβ and IL-2:IL-2Rγ interactions, but also allosterically lowered the IL-2:IL-2Rα affinity through a "triggered exchange" mechanism favoring IL-2Rα(hi) Treg cells, creating a positive feedback loop for IL-2Rα(hi) cell activation. Conversely, S4B6 sterically blocked the IL-2:IL-2Rα interaction, while also conformationally stabilizing the IL-2:IL-2Rβ interaction, thus stimulating all IL-2-responsive immune cells, particularly IL-2Rβ(hi) effector cells. These insights provide a molecular blueprint for engineering selectively potentiating therapeutic antibodies.
Pub.: 21 May '15, Pinned: 31 Jul '17
Abstract: Originally identified as the third subunit of the high-affinity IL-2 receptor complex, the common γ-chain (γc) also acts as a non-redundant receptor subunit for a series of other cytokines, collectively known as γc family cytokines. γc plays essential roles in T cell development and differentiation, so that understanding the molecular basis of its signaling and regulation is a critical issue in T cell immunology. Unlike most other cytokine receptors, γc is thought to be constitutively expressed and limited in its function to the assembly of high-affinity cytokine receptors. Surprisingly, recent studies reported a series of findings that unseat γc as a simple housekeeping gene, and unveiled γc as a new regulatory molecule in T cell activation and differentiation. Cytokine-independent binding of γc to other cytokine receptor subunits suggested a pre-association model of γc with proprietary cytokine receptors. Also, identification of a γc splice isoform revealed expression of soluble γc proteins (sγc). sγc directly interacted with surface IL-2Rβ to suppress IL-2 signaling and to promote pro-inflammatory Th17 cell differentiation. As a result, endogenously produced sγc exacerbated autoimmune inflammatory disease, while the removal of endogenous sγc significantly ameliorated disease outcome. These data provide new insights into the role of both membrane and soluble γc in cytokine signaling, and open new venues to interfere and modulate γc signaling during immune activation. These unexpected discoveries further underscore the perspective that γc biology remains largely uncharted territory that invites further exploration.
Pub.: 16 Oct '15, Pinned: 31 Jul '17
Abstract: Interleukin-2 (IL-2) regulates lymphocyte function by signaling through heterodimerization of the IL-2Rβ and γc receptor subunits. IL-2 is of considerable therapeutic interest, but harnessing its actions in a controllable manner remains a challenge. Previously, we have engineered an IL-2 "superkine" with enhanced affinity for IL-2Rβ. Here, we describe next-generation IL-2 variants that function as "receptor signaling clamps." They retained high affinity for IL-2Rβ, inhibiting binding of endogenous IL-2, but their interaction with γc was weakened, attenuating IL-2Rβ-γc heterodimerization. These IL-2 analogs acted as partial agonists and differentially affected lymphocytes poised at distinct activation thresholds. Moreover, one variant, H9-RETR, antagonized IL-2 and IL-15 better than blocking antibodies against IL-2Rα or IL-2Rβ. Furthermore, this mutein prolonged survival in a model of graft-versus-host disease and blocked spontaneous proliferation of smoldering adult T cell leukemia (ATL) T cells. This receptor-clamping approach might be a general mechanism-based strategy for engineering cytokine partial agonists for therapeutic immunomodulation.
Pub.: 21 May '15, Pinned: 31 Jul '17
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