Autoimmune Genetics Laboratory

Leuven, Belgium

Autoimmune Genetics Laboratory

Leuven, Belgium

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Mayer C.T.,Institute of Infection Immunology | Tian L.,Autoimmune Genetics Laboratory | Tian L.,Catholic University of Leuven | Hesse C.,Institute of Infection Immunology | And 8 more authors.
Journal of Autoimmunity | Year: 2014

A major concept in autoimmunity is that disruption of Foxp3+ regulatory T cells (Tregs) predisposes to breach of tolerance. This is exemplified by the Foxp3-linked disorder termed IPEX (immunodysregulation, polyendocrinopathy, enteropathy, X-linked) which affects newborn children. There has been considerable clinical interest in the role of non-depleting anti-CD4 antibodies as a means of upregulating the function of Foxp3+ Tregs in order to control detrimental inflammatory responses such as transplant rejection. However, according to the paradigm of a Treg-dependent mechanism of action, the effectiveness of anti-CD4 antibodies as a therapy for human autoimmune diseases is unclear considering that Treg function might be intrinsically impaired. Specifically, anti-CD4 therapy is expected to fail in patients suffering from the IPEX syndrome due to the lack of functional Foxp3+ Tregs. Taking advantage of natural Foxp3 mutant scurfy (sf) mice closely resembling the IPEX syndrome, and genetically engineered mice depleted of Foxp3+ Tregs, we report here that anti-CD4 treatment induces tolerance independent of Foxp3+ Tregs. This so far undefined mechanism is dependent on the recessive non-infectious tolerization of autoreactive T cells. Treg-independent tolerance alone is powerful enough to suppress both the onset and severity of autoimmunity and reduces clinically relevant autoantibody levels and liver fibrosis. Mechanistically, tolerance induction requires the concomitant activation of autoreactive T cells and is associated with the down-regulation of the co-stimulatory TNF-receptor superfamily members OX40 and CD30 sustaining CD4+ T cell survival. In the light of ongoing clinical trials, our results highlight an unexpected potency of anti-CD4 antibodies for the treatment of autoimmune diseases. Particularly, CD4 blockade might represent a novel therapeutic option for the human IPEX syndrome. © 2013 Elsevier Ltd.


Busch K.,German Cancer Research Center | Klapproth K.,German Cancer Research Center | Barile M.,German Cancer Research Center | Flossdorf M.,German Cancer Research Center | And 7 more authors.
Nature | Year: 2015

Haematopoietic stem cells (HSCs) are widely studied by HSC transplantation into immune- and blood-cell-depleted recipients. Single HSCs can rebuild the system after transplantation. Chromosomal marking, viral integration and barcoding of transplanted HSCs suggest that very low numbers of HSCs perpetuate a continuous stream of differentiating cells. However, the numbers of productive HSCs during normal haematopoiesis, and the flux of differentiating progeny remain unknown. Here we devise a mouse model allowing inducible genetic labelling of the most primitive Tie2+ HSCs in bone marrow, and quantify label progression along haematopoietic development by limiting dilution analysis and data-driven modelling. During maintenance of the haematopoietic system, at least 30% or ∼5,000 HSCs are productive in the adult mouse after label induction. However, the time to approach equilibrium between labelled HSCs and their progeny is surprisingly long, a time scale that would exceed the mouse's life. Indeed, we find that adult haematopoiesis is largely sustained by previously designated "short-term" stem cells downstream of HSCs that nearly fully self-renew, and receive rare but polyclonal HSC input. By contrast, in fetal and early postnatal life, HSCs are rapidly used to establish the immune and blood system. In the adult mouse, 5-fluoruracil-induced leukopenia enhances the output of HSCs and of downstream compartments, thus accelerating haematopoietic flux. Label tracing also identifies a strong lineage bias in adult mice, with several-hundred-fold larger myeloid than lymphoid output, which is only marginally accentuated with age. Finally, we show that transplantation imposes severe constraints on HSC engraftment, consistent with the previously observed oligoclonal HSC activity under these conditions. Thus, we uncover fundamental differences between the normal maintenance of the haematopoietic system, its regulation by challenge, and its re-establishment after transplantation. HSC fate mapping and its linked modelling provide a quantitative framework for studying in situ the regulation of haematopoiesis in health and disease. © 2015 Macmillan Publishers Limited. All rights reserved.


Ucar O.,German Cancer Research Center | Tykocinski L.-O.,German Cancer Research Center | Tykocinski L.-O.,University of Heidelberg | Dooley J.,Autoimmune Genetics Laboratory | And 4 more authors.
European Journal of Immunology | Year: 2013

The establishment and maintenance of central tolerance depends to a large extent on the ability of medullary thymic epithelial cells to express a variety of tissue-restricted antigens, the so-called promiscuous gene expression (pGE). Autoimmune regulator (Aire) is to date the best characterised transcriptional regulator known to at least partially coordinate pGE. There is accruing evidence that the expression of Aire-dependent and -independent genes is modulated by higher order chromatin configuration, epigenetic modifications and post-transcriptional control. Given the involvement of microRNAs (miRNAs) as potent post-transcriptional modulators of gene expression, we investigated their role in the regulation of pGE in purified mouse and human thymic epithelial cells (TECs). Microarray profiling of TEC subpopulations revealed evolutionarily conserved cell type and differentiation-specific miRNA signatures with a subset of miRNAs being significantly upregulated during terminal medullary thymic epithelial cell differentiation. The differential regulation of this subset of miRNAs was correlated with Aire expression and some of these miRNAs were misexpressed in the Aire knockout thymus. In turn, the specific absence of miRNAs in TECs resulted in a progressive reduction of Aire expression and pGE, affecting both Aire-dependent and -independent genes. In contrast, the absence of miR-29a only affected the Aire-dependent gene pool. These findings reveal a mutual interdependence of miRNA and Aire. © 2013 The Authors. European Journal of Immunology published byWiley-VCH Verlag GmbH & Co. KGaA Weinheim.


Dhaeze T.,transnational University of Limburg | Stinissen P.,transnational University of Limburg | Liston A.,Autoimmune Genetics Laboratory | Liston A.,Catholic University of Leuven | Hellings N.,transnational University of Limburg
Autoimmunity Reviews | Year: 2015

Regulatory T cells (Tregs) are essential in maintaining tolerance to self. Several lines of evidence indicate that Tregs are functionally impaired in a variety of autoimmune diseases, leading to inefficient regulation of autoimmune T cells. Recent findings also suggest that Tregs are essential in controlling autoreactive B cells. The recently identified follicular regulatory T cell subset (TFR) is thought to regulate the production of autoantibodies in the germinal center (GC) response. Here we provide an update on the role of Tregs in controlling the GC response, and whether defective control over B cell tolerance contributes to autoimmunity. © 2015 Elsevier B.V.


Gomez-Pinilla P.J.,Catholic University of Leuven | Farro G.,Catholic University of Leuven | Di Giovangiulio M.,Catholic University of Leuven | Stakenborg N.,Catholic University of Leuven | And 8 more authors.
PLoS ONE | Year: 2014

Introduction: Intestinal manipulation (IM) during abdominal surgery results in intestinal inflammation leading to hypomotility or ileus. Mast cell activation is thought to play a crucial role in the pathophysiology of postoperative ileus (POI). However, this conclusion was mainly drawn using mast cell-deficient mouse models with abnormal Kit signaling. These mice also lack interstitial cells of Cajal (ICC) resulting in aberrant gastrointestinal motility even prior to surgery, compromising their use as model to study POI. To avoid these experimental weaknesses we took advantage of a newly developed knock-in mouse model, Cpa3Cre/+, devoid of mast cells but with intact Kit signaling. Design: The role of mast cells in the development of POI and intestinal inflammation was evaluated assessing gastrointestinal transit and muscularis externa inflammation after IM in two strains of mice lacking mast cells, i.e. KitW-sh/W-sh and Cpa3Cre/+ mice, and by use of the mast cell stabilizer cromolyn. Results: KitW-sh/W-sh mice lack ICC networks and already revealed significantly delayed gastrointestinal transit even before surgery. IM did not further delay intestinal transit, but induced infiltration of myeloperoxidase positive cells, expression of inflammatory cytokines and recruitment of monocytes and neutrophils into the muscularis externa. On the contrary, Cpa3Cre/+ mice have a normal network of ICC and normal gastrointestinal. Surprisingly, IM in Cpa3Cre/+ mice caused delay in gut motility and intestinal inflammation as in wild type littermates mice (Cpa3+/+). Furthermore, treatment with the mast cell inhibitor cromolyn resulted in an inhibition of mast cells without preventing POI. Conclusions: Here, we confirm that IM induced mast cell degranulation. However, our data demonstrate that mast cells are not required for the pathogenesis of POI in mice. Although there might be species differences between mouse and human, our results argue against mast cell inhibitors as a therapeutic approach to shorten POI. © 2014 Gomez-Pinilla et al.


Gutierrez D.A.,German Cancer Research Center | Fu W.,Harvard University | Schonefeldt S.,Autoimmune Genetics Laboratory | Schonefeldt S.,Catholic University of Leuven | And 8 more authors.
Diabetes | Year: 2014

Mast cells have been invoked as important players in immune responses associated with autoimmune diseases. Based on in vitro studies, or in vivo through the use of Kit mutant mice, mast cells have been suggested to play immunological roles in direct antigen presentation to both CD4+ and CD8+ T cells, in the regulation of T-cell and dendritic cell migration to lymph nodes, and in Th1 versus Th2 polarization, all of which could significantly impact the immune response against self-antigens in autoimmune disease, including type 1 diabetes (T1D). Until now, the role of mast cells in the onset and incidence of T1D has only been indirectly tested through the use of low-specificity mast cell inhibitors and activators, and published studies reported contrasting results. Our three laboratories have generated independently two strains of mast cell-deficient nonobese diabetic (NOD) mice, NOD.Cpa3Cre/+ (Heidelberg) and NOD.KitW-sh/W-sh (Leuven and Boston), to address the effects of mast cell deficiency on the development of T1D in the NOD strain. Our collective data demonstrate that both incidence and progression of T1D in NOD mice are independent of mast cells. Moreover, analysis of pancreatic lymph node cells indicated that lack of mast cells has no discernible effect on the autoimmune response, which involves both innate and adaptive immune components. Our results demonstrate that mast cells are not involved in T1D in the NOD strain, making their role in this process nonessential and excluding them as potential therapeutic targets. © 2014 by the American Diabetes Association.


Wouters M.,University Hospital Leuven | Wanrooy S.V.,University Hospital Leuven | Nguyen A.,Catholic University of Leuven | Nguyen A.,Autoimmune Genetics Laboratory | And 12 more authors.
Gut | Year: 2015

Objective Psychological factors increase the risk to develop postinfectious IBS (PI-IBS), but the mechanisms involved are unclear. As stress affects the immune system, we investigated the potential interaction between psychological factors, the immune response against infectious gastroenteritis (IGE) and the development of IGE and PI-IBS in a large cohort exposed to contaminated drinking water. Design 18 620 people exposed to contaminated drinking water (norovirus, Giardia lamblia, Campylobacter jejuni) were invited to participate in a prospective controlled cohort study. They were asked to complete questionnaires assessing demographic, psychological and clinical data during the outbreak and 1 year later. At both time points, in-depth immune function (peripheral blood and rectal biopsies) was studied in a subgroup of subjects. Results 1379 subjects completed the questionnaires during the outbreak, of which 271 developed IGE. Risk factors for IGE included younger age, pre-existing dyspepsia-like symptoms, anxiety and drinking contaminated tap water. Anxiety scores before the outbreak inversely correlated with interleukin-2-expressing CD4+ T cells (r=0.6, p=0.01, n=23). At follow-up, 34 of 172 (20%) IGE subjects developed IBS compared with 24/366 exposed participants (7%, p<0.0001, x2 test). A Th2 cytokine phenotype at time of infection was associated with increased risk for PI-IBS 1 year later. Except for increased B cell numbers, no evidence for systemic or rectal mucosal immune activation in PI-IBS was demonstrated at follow-up. Conclusions Our study shows that the increased risk of patients with psychological comorbidity to develop PI-IBS may partly result from an increased susceptibility to develop IGE, possibly resulting from a Th2-immune bias. © 2015 BMJ Publishing Group Ltd & British Society of Gastroenterology.


Dooley J.,Autoimmune Genetics Laboratory | Dooley J.,Catholic University of Leuven | Linterman M.A.,University of Cambridge | Liston A.,Autoimmune Genetics Laboratory | Liston A.,Catholic University of Leuven
Immunological Reviews | Year: 2013

MicroRNAs are short, 19-24 nucleotide long, RNA molecules capable of regulating the longevity and, to a lesser extent, translation of messenger RNA (mRNA) species. The function of the microRNA network, and indeed, even that of individual microRNA species, can have profoundly different roles in even a single cell type as the microRNA/mRNA composition evolves. As the role of microRNA within T cells has come under increasing scrutiny, several distinct checkpoints have been demonstrated to have a particular reliance on microRNA regulation. MicroRNAs are arguably most important in T cells during the earliest and last stages in T-cell biology. The first stages of early thymic differentiation have a crucial reliance on the microRNA network, while later stages and peripheral homeostasis are largely, although not completely, microRNA-independent. The most profound effects on T cells are in the activation of effector and regulatory functions of conventional and regulatory T cells, where microRNA deficiency results in a near-complete loss of function. In this review, we focus on integrating the research on individual microRNA into a more global understanding of the function of the microRNA regulatory network in T cells. © 2013 John Wiley & Sons A/S.


Brain O.,University of Oxford | Brain O.,Weatherall Institute of Molecular Medicine | Owens B.M.J.,University of Oxford | Pichulik T.,Weatherall Institute of Molecular Medicine | And 26 more authors.
Immunity | Year: 2013

NOD2 is an intracellular sensor that contributes to immune defense and inflammation. Here we investigated whether NOD2 mediates its effects through control of microRNAs (miRNAs). miR-29 expression was upregulated in human dendritic cells (DCs) in response to NOD2 signals, and miR-29 regulated the expression of multiple immune mediators. In particular, miR-29 downregulated interleukin-23 (IL-23) by targeting IL-12p40 directly and IL-23p19 indirectly, likely via reduction of ATF2. DSS-induced colitis was worse in miR-29-deficient mice and wasassociated with elevated IL-23 and T helper 17signature cytokines in the intestinal mucosa. Crohn's disease (CD) patient DCs expressing NOD2polymorphisms failed to induce miR-29 uponpattern recognition receptor stimulation and showed enhanced release of IL-12p40 on exposure to adherent invasive E.coli. Therefore, we suggest that loss of miR-29-mediated immunoregulation in CD DCs might contribute to elevated IL-23 in this disease. © 2013 Elsevier Inc.


Liston A.,Autoimmune Genetics Laboratory | Liston A.,Catholic University of Leuven | Schlenner S.M.,Autoimmune Genetics Laboratory | Schlenner S.M.,Catholic University of Leuven
EMBO Journal | Year: 2015

MicroRNA are important regulators of CD4 T cell differentiation, altering the balance between the immunogenic and tolerogenic pathways. Studies in mice with microRNA-deficient T cells have revealed defects in differentiation into the regulatory T cell lineage; however, the individual microRNA responsible have remained elusive. A recent paper in The EMBO Journal uses a systematic screen to find a novel cooperative action between an inducible and a constitutive microRNA in aiding regulatory T cell induction. An inducible microRNA cooperates with a constitutive one to fine-tune regulatory T cell induction. © 2015 The Authors.

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