EMBO Molecular Medicine
Latest articles in this journal
EMBO Molecular Medicine; doi:10.15252/emmm.202013549
A correct identification of seropositive individuals for the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus‐2 (SARS‐CoV‐2) infection is of paramount relevance to assess the degree of protection of a human population to present and future outbreaks of the COVID‐19 pandemic. We describe here a sensitive and quantitative flow cytometry method using the cytometer‐friendly non‐adherent Jurkat T‐cell line that stably expresses the full‐length native spike “S” protein of SARS‐CoV‐2 and a truncated form of the human EGFR that serves a normalizing role. S protein and huEGFRt coding sequences are separated by a T2A self‐cleaving sequence, allowing to accurately quantify the presence of anti‐S immunoglobulins by calculating a score based on the ratio of fluorescence intensities obtained by double‐staining with the test sera and anti‐EGFR. The method allows to detect immune individuals regardless of the result of other serological tests or even repeated PCR monitoring. As examples of its use, we show that as much as 28% of the personnel working at the CBMSO in Madrid is already immune. Additionally, we show that anti‐S antibodies with protective neutralizing activity are long‐lasting and can be detected in sera 8 months after infection.
EMBO Molecular Medicine; doi:10.15252/emmm.202012778
The importance of skeletal muscle tissue is undoubted being the controller of several vital functions including respiration and all voluntary locomotion activities. However, its regenerative capability is limited and significant tissue loss often leads to a chronic pathologic condition known as volumetric muscle loss. Here, we propose a biofabrication approach to rapidly restore skeletal muscle mass, 3D histoarchitecture, and functionality. By recapitulating muscle anisotropic organization at the microscale level, we demonstrate to efficiently guide cell differentiation and myobundle formation both in vitro and in vivo. Of note, upon implantation, the biofabricated myo‐substitutes support the formation of new blood vessels and neuromuscular junctions—pivotal aspects for cell survival and muscle contractile functionalities—together with an advanced muscle mass and force recovery. Altogether, these data represent a solid base for further testing the myo‐substitutes in large animal size and a promising platform to be eventually translated into clinical scenarios.
EMBO Molecular Medicine; doi:10.15252/emmm.202012005
Neovascularization contributes to multiple visual disorders including age‐related macular degeneration (AMD) and retinopathy of prematurity. Current therapies for treating ocular angiogenesis are centered on the inhibition of vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF). While clinically effective, some AMD patients are refractory or develop resistance to anti‐VEGF therapies and concerns of increased risks of developing geographic atrophy following long‐term treatment have been raised. Identification of alternative pathways to inhibit pathological angiogenesis is thus important. We have identified a novel inhibitor of angiogenesis, COCO, a member of the Cerberus‐related DAN protein family. We demonstrate that COCO inhibits sprouting, migration and cellular proliferation of cultured endothelial cells. Intravitreal injections of COCO inhibited retinal vascularization during development and in models of retinopathy of prematurity. COCO equally abrogated angiogenesis in models of choroidal neovascularization. Mechanistically, COCO inhibited TGFβ and BMP pathways and altered energy metabolism and redox balance of endothelial cells. Together, these data show that COCO is an inhibitor of retinal and choroidal angiogenesis, possibly representing a therapeutic option for the treatment of neovascular ocular diseases.
EMBO Molecular Medicine; doi:10.15252/emmm.202012716
Lack of effective immune infiltration represents a significant barrier to immunotherapy in solid tumors. Thus, solid tumor‐enriched death receptor‐5 (DR5) activating antibodies, which generates tumor debulking by extrinsic apoptotic cytotoxicity, remains a crucial alternate therapeutic strategy. Over past few decades, many DR5 antibodies moved to clinical trials after successfully controlling tumors in immunodeficient tumor xenografts. However, DR5 antibodies failed to significantly improve survival in phase‐II trials, leading in efforts to generate second generation of DR5 agonists to supersize apoptotic cytotoxicity in tumors. Here we have discovered that clinical DR5 antibodies activate an unexpected immunosuppressive PD‐L1 stabilization pathway, which potentially had contributed to their limited success in clinics. The DR5 agonist stimulated caspase‐8 signaling not only activates ROCK1 but also undermines proteasome function, both of which contributes to increased PD‐L1 stability on tumor cell surface. Targeting DR5‐ROCK1‐PD‐L1 axis markedly increases immune effector T‐cell function, promotes tumor regression, and improves overall survival in animal models. These insights have identified a potential clinically viable combinatorial strategy to revive solid cancer immunotherapy using death receptor agonism.
EMBO Molecular Medicine; doi:10.15252/emmm.202013785
The bidirectional link between heart and brain has intrigued scientists for ages, but little is known on the underlying mechanism. In their recent study, Fischer and colleagues (Islam et al, 2021) propose a mechanism by which heart failure‐induced cognitive decline is linked to epigenetic changes that affect gene expression in neurons of hippocampus.
EMBO Molecular Medicine; doi:10.15252/emmm.202012834
Herein, we demonstrate that NFAT, a key regulator of the immune response, translocates from cytoplasm to nucleolus and interacts with NF45/NF90 complex to collaboratively promote rDNA transcription via triggering the directly binding of NF45/NF90 to the ARRE2‐like sequences in rDNA promoter upon T‐cell activation in vitro. The elevated pre‐rRNA level of T cells is also observed in both mouse heart or skin transplantation models and in kidney transplanted patients. Importantly, T‐cell activation can be significantly suppressed by inhibiting NF45/NF90‐dependent rDNA transcription. Amazingly, CX5461, a rDNA transcription‐specific inhibitor, outperformed FK506, the most commonly used immunosuppressant, both in terms of potency and off‐target activity (i.e., toxicity), as demonstrated by a series of skin and heart allograft models. Collectively, this reveals NF45/NF90‐mediated rDNA transcription as a novel signaling pathway essential for T‐cell activation and as a new target for the development of safe and effective immunosuppressants.
EMBO Molecular Medicine; doi:10.15252/emmm.202012670
Altered capacity for self‐renewal and differentiation is a hallmark of cancer, and many tumors are composed of cells with a developmentally immature phenotype. Among the malignancies where processes that govern cell fate decisions have been studied most extensively is acute myeloid leukemia (AML), a disease characterized by the presence of large numbers of “blasts” that resemble myeloid progenitors. Classically, the defining properties of AML cells were said to be aberrant self‐renewal and a block of differentiation, and the term “differentiation therapy” was coined to describe drugs that promote the maturation of leukemic blasts. Notionally however, the simplistic view that such agents “unblock” differentiation is at odds with the cancer stem cell (CSC) hypothesis that posits that tumors are hierarchically organized and that CSCs, which underpin cancer growth, retain the capacity to progress to a developmentally more mature state. Herein, we will review recent developments that are providing unprecedented insights into non‐genetic heterogeneity both at steady state and in response to treatment, and propose a new conceptual framework for therapies that aim to alter cell fate decisions in cancer.
EMBO Molecular Medicine; doi:10.15252/emmm.202013720
Idiopathic normal pressure hydrocephalus (iNPH) is characterized clinically by degradation of gait, cognition, and urinary continence. INPH is progressive (Andrén et al, 2014), still probably underdiagnosed (Williams et al, 2019) but potentially treatable by CSF diversion (Kazui et al, 2015). Familial aggregation is a strong indicator of genetic regulation in the disease process iNPH (Fig 1). Enlargement of brain ventricles is associated with failed cerebrospinal (CSF) homeostasis by so far mostly unknown mechanisms. A mutation of the cilia gene CFAP43 in iNPH family, confirmed by a knocked‐out mouse model (Morimoto et al, 2019), allelic variation of NME8 (Huovinen et al, 2017), a segmental copy number loss in SFMBT1 in selected iNPH patients (Sato et al, 2016), and current results by Yang et al (2021) indicate that cilia dysfunction is one of the key mechanisms behind iNPH.
EMBO Molecular Medicine; doi:10.15252/emmm.202013191
SARS‐CoV‐2, the agent that causes COVID‐19, invades epithelial cells, including those of the respiratory and gastrointestinal mucosa, using angiotensin‐converting enzyme‐2 (ACE2) as a receptor. Subsequent inflammation can promote rapid virus clearance, but severe cases of COVID‐19 are characterized by an inefficient immune response that fails to clear the infection. Using primary epithelial organoids from human colon, we explored how the central antiviral mediator IFN‐γ, which is elevated in COVID‐19, affects epithelial cell differentiation, ACE2 expression, and susceptibility to infection with SARS‐CoV‐2. In mouse and human colon, ACE2 is mainly expressed by surface enterocytes. Inducing enterocyte differentiation in organoid culture resulted in increased ACE2 production. IFN‐γ treatment promoted differentiation into mature KRT20+ enterocytes expressing high levels of ACE2, increased susceptibility to SARS‐CoV‐2 infection and resulted in enhanced virus production in infected cells. Similarly, infection‐induced epithelial interferon signaling promoted enterocyte maturation and enhanced ACE2 expression. We here reveal a mechanism by which IFN‐γ‐driven inflammatory responses induce a vulnerable epithelial state with robust replication of SARS‐CoV‐2, which may have an impact on disease outcome and virus transmission.
EMBO Molecular Medicine, Volume 13; doi:10.15252/emmm.202013568
Plant‐based diets exclude or substantially limit the consumption of meat and animal products and are of growing interest to many due to their sustainability and health benefits (Eshel et al, 2016). Veganism is an extreme type of plant‐based diet which excludes the consumption of all animal‐derived foods such as meat, eggs, and dairy, as well as foods containing animal‐derived ingredients. In adults, for example, certain observational studies have suggested lower body mass index, total cholesterol, LDL‐cholesterol, decreased incidence and mortality from ischemic heart disease, and decreased incidence of cancer in vegans and vegetarians versus omnivores (Dinu et al, 2017). The mechanistic basis for these observations and their generality are unclear.