The interleukin 3 receptor (CD123) is a transmembrane protein that is absent or hardly expressed on normal hematopoietic stem cells, but highly expressed on the surface of cancer cells in several hematologic malignancies. In this issue of the JCI, Togami et al. investigated the mechanism of resistance to the recently approved anti-CD123 agent tagraxofusp, which consists of interleukin 3 fused to a truncated diphtheria toxin (DT) molecule. The authors demonstrated that loss of the intracellular target for DT, diphthamide, a conservative modification of histidine 715 in eukaryotic elongation factor 2, resulted in tagraxofusp resistance. Specifically, hypermethylation of the DPH1 gene, encoding a key enzyme in diphthamide synthesis, resulted in diphthamide loss. Notably, treatment with a DNA hypomethylating agent restored DPH1 expression and resensitized cells to tagraxofusp. The recognition of this resistance mechanism may have important clinical implications and lead to the development of more effective multiagent therapies.
Lukasz P. Gondek
A strong Th17 inflammatory response aggravates ischemia reperfusion–induced (IR-induced) acute kidney injury (AKI), tissue fibrosis, and AKI-to–chronic kidney disease (CKD) progression. However, the underlying mechanisms of sustained Th17 activation following AKI and during AKI-to-CKD progression are unclear. In this issue of the JCI, Mehrotra et al. present compelling evidence that the store-operated calcium (Ca2+) channel Orai1 sustains Th17-driven inflammatory response after AKI and drives the AKI-to-CKD transition. Orai1 blockade significantly protected renal function from IR, attenuated high-salt–induced AKI-to-CKD progression in rats, and decreased Th17 response in rat and human T cells. Therapeutic targeting of Orai1 can potentially reduce AKI, AKI-to-CKD progression, and other Th17-driven diseases.
Cardiac tissue necrosis secondary to coronary artery occlusion is one of the most common and deadly sterile injuries in developed countries. In this issue of the JCI, Rieckmann et al. identified and characterized antigen-specific CD4+ T helper (Th) cells that developed in the context of myocardial infarction (MI) in mice. They showed that myosin heavy chain α (MYHCA) is a dominant cardiac autoantigen and that T cells with T cell receptor (TCR) specificity to MYHCA acquired a Treg phenotype when adoptively transferred into infarcted mice, which mediated a cardioprotective healing response. Thus, Rieckmann et al. showed that an acute ischemic insult to the heart, which induces sterile inflammation, promoted, rather than limited, protective T cell autoimmunity. Notably, strategies that support an antigen-specific Treg response may limit the immune-inflammatory response and promote cardiac repair after acute MI.
Mutations affecting the integrity of the essential torsin ATPase/cofactor system have been identified in a steadily increasing number of congenital disorders. Since most of these mutations affect brain function, much of the research has focused on deciphering disease etiology in the brain. However, torsin is expressed in a wide variety of nonneural tissues and is strictly conserved across species, including the lowest metazoans, suggesting that it plays roles extending beyond neurons. In this issue of the JCI, Shin et al. explored torsin function in the mammalian liver. The group reports major defects in hepatic lipid metabolism when the torsin system is compromised in mice. Remarkably, conditional deletion of either torsinA or its cofactor, lamina-associated polypeptide 1 (LAP1), resulted in fatty liver disease and steatohepatitis, likely from a secretion defect of VLDLs. This study considerably expands our understanding of torsin biology, while providing defined opportunities for future investigations of torsin function and dysfunction in human pathologies.
Sarah M. Prophet, Christian Schlieker
With almost 2 million new HIV-1 infections in 2018, a highly effective vaccine is imperative. Vaccine-elicited HIV-1 antibodies contribute to protection through multiple nonneutralizing activities, but the exact mechanisms remain unknown. In this issue of the JCI, Neidich and associates sought to determine how antibodies contributed to reducing the risk of HIV-1 acquisition in a phase IIb preventative vaccine efficacy trial, HVTN 505. Their studies revealed that antibody-dependent cellular phagocytosis (ADCP) and FcγRIIa binding were strongly associated with reduced HIV-1 risk; however, HIV-1 envelope–specific IgG3, IgA; and host FcγRIIa genotype also influenced risk. This study highlights the intricate interactions between antibodies and innate immune functions in humans.
Tysheena P. Charles, Cynthia A. Derdeyn
The pathophysiology of cellular injury and repair has been extensively studied in acute kidney injury (AKI) for more than 70 years. Although a great deal of knowledge has been generated, a debate over the importance of repairing damaged cells versus replacing them by proliferation remains. In this issue of the JCI, Kishi et al. demonstrate that following kidney epithelial cell injury, DNA repair, rather than cell proliferation, plays the central role in recovery and longevity by minimizing apoptosis, G2/M cell-cycle arrest, and subsequent fibrosis. This has important therapeutic implications and highlights the need for more sensitive techniques to evaluate functional, structural, and molecular recovery following injury.
Bruce A. Molitoris
Two different antisense oligonucleotide–based (ASO-based) therapies are currently in clinical use to treat neuromuscular diseases. This success, for Duchenne muscular dystrophy and spinal muscular atrophy, offers hope not only for additional neuromuscular diseases, but also for other disorders that could benefit from RNA-targeted therapies. A major limitation for more widespread application of ASOs relates to relatively poor tissue penetration. In this issue of the JCI, Klein et al. showed that conjugating an ASO with an arginine-rich cell-penetrating peptide, Pip6a, enhanced delivery, resulting in corrective outcome for a mouse model of myotonic dystrophy. Linking ASOs to cell-penetrating peptides, or even other moieties, is an approach currently under development with treatment potential to expand to other disorders.
Elizabeth M. McNally, Brian D. Leverson
The RV 144 HIV vaccine efficacy study showed a reduction in HIV-1 infection risk in Thai volunteers who received two priming vaccinations of vCP1521 ALVAC (attenuated recombinant canarypox virus expressing HIV group–specific antigen, polymerase, and envelope genes) followed by two additional ALVAC vaccinations and coadministration of purified bivalent gp120 proteins (AIDSVAX B/E). In this issue of the JCI, Rouphael et al. build on these results by substituting a DNA plasmid cocktail expressing HIV-1 subtype C group–specific antigen, polymerase, and envelope antigen genes (DNA-HIV-PT123) for ALVAC in a phase 1b safety and immunogenicity study. The results indicate that the vaccine regimen is safe, elicits promising cross-subtype humoral and cellular responses, and opens up potentially simplified approaches to HIV-1 vaccine development.
Nelson L. Michael
Obesity during pregnancy is a major health problem in the United States. In this issue of the JCI, Most et al. fill an important gap in our understanding of energy homeostasis in pregnancy. The researchers measured energy intake, energy expenditure, and body composition in obese pregnant women. They demonstrated that energy intake need not increase in order for obese women to gain the recommended amounts of weight during pregnancy. Additionally, all of the gestational weight gain scenarios (inadequate, recommended, or excess) resulted in similar maternal and fetal perinatal outcomes. This evidence should guide new recommendations on this important topic.
Sarah S. Comstock
Fasting requires complex endocrine and metabolic interorgan crosstalk, which involves shifting from glucose to fatty acid oxidation, derived from adipose tissue lipolysis, in order to preserve glucose for the brain. The glucose-alanine (Cahill) cycle is critical for regenerating glucose. In this issue of JCI, Petersen et al. report on their use of an innovative stable isotope tracer method to show that skeletal muscle–derived alanine becomes rate controlling for hepatic mitochondrial oxidation and, in turn, for glucose production during prolonged fasting. These results provide new insight into skeletal muscle–liver metabolic crosstalk during the fed-to-fasting transition in humans.
Theresia Sarabhai, Michael Roden
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