Pancreatic ductal adenocarcinomas (PDACs) are classically immunologically cold tumors that have failed to demonstrate a significant response to immunotherapeutic strategies. This feature is attributed to both the immunosuppressive tumor microenvironment (TME) and limited immune cell access due to the surrounding stromal barrier, a histological hallmark of PDACs. In this issue of the JCI, Sharma et al. employ a broad glutamine antagonist, 6-diazo-5-oxo-l-norleucine (DON), to target a metabolic program that underlies both PDAC growth and hyaluronan production. Their findings describe an approach to converting the PDAC TME into a hot TME, thereby empowering immunotherapeutic strategies such as anti-PD1 therapy.
Won Jin Ho, Elizabeth M. Jaffee
Brown adipose tissue (BAT) contains mitochondria-enriched thermogenic fat cells (brown adipocytes) that play a crucial role in the regulation of energy metabolism and systemic glucose homeostasis. It was presumed that brown adipocytes are composed of a homogeneous cell population. In this issue of the JCI, however, Song and colleagues report a previously uncharacterized subpopulation of brown adipocytes that display distinct characteristics from the conventional brown adipocytes in their molecular signature, regulation, and fuel utilization. The present study provides novel insight into our understanding of cellular heterogeneity in adipose tissues.
Yasuo Oguri, Shingo Kajimura
Unconventional T cell subsets, including donor-unrestricted T cells (DURTs) and γδ T cells, are promising new players in the treatment and prevention of infectious diseases. In this issue of the JCI, Ogongo et al. used T cell receptor (TCR) sequencing to characterize unconventional T cell subsets in surgical lung resections and blood from Mycobacterium tuberculosis–infected (Mtb-infected) individuals with and without HIV coinfection. The study revealed highly localized expansions of γδ T cell clonotypes not previously associated with the immune response to Mtb and demonstrates the power of high-throughput analysis of the TCR repertoire directly from infected tissue. The findings contribute to our understanding of tuberculosis control and have implications for the development of both therapeutic and vaccination strategies.
Corinna A. Kulicke, Deborah A. Lewinsohn, David M. Lewinsohn
Mitochondrial dysfunction or loss is evident in neurodegenerative diseases. Furthermore, mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) mutations associated with NADH dehydrogenase subunits and nuclear gene mutations that affect mitochondrial function result in optic neuropathies. In this issue of the JCI, Del Dotto et al. and Piro-Mégy et al. identify heterozygous mutations in nuclear-encoded mitochondrial single-strand binding protein 1 (SSBP1) in patients with apparently dominant optic neuropathy with or without extraocular phenotypes. Both research groups reported similar mitochondrial findings in response to SSBP1 mutations. However, the specific SSBP1 mitochondria–associated function in retinal ganglion cells (RGCs) and the resulting optic nerve remains unclear. We suggest that high expression of SSBP1 during RGC differentiation is critical for mtDNA maintenance to produce appropriate optic nerve connectivity and that SSBP1 mutations in dominant optic atrophy patients do not permit stable binding to N6-methyldeoxyadenosine on the heavy strand involved with replication, leading to disruptions of mtDNA and, eventually, optic nerve dysfunction.
Lina Zelinger, Anand Swaroop
Tumor-induced immunosuppression is a common obstacle for cancer treatment. Adrenergic signaling triggered by chronic stress participates in the creation of an immunosuppressive microenvironment by promoting myeloid-derived suppressor cell (MDSC) proliferation and activation. In this issue of the JCI, Mohammadpour et al. elegantly delve into the mechanisms underlying MDSC contribution to tumor development. They used in vitro and in vivo mouse models to demonstrate that chronic stress results in MDSC accumulation, survival, and immune-inhibitory activity. Of therapeutic relevance, the authors showed that propranolol, a commonly prescribed β-blocker, can reduce MDSC immunosuppression and enhance the effect of other cancer therapies.
Ignacio Iñigo-Marco, Marta M. Alonso
Cancer immunotherapy and its budding effectiveness at improving patient outcomes has revitalized our hope to fight cancer in a logical and safe manner. Immunotherapeutic approaches to reengage the immune system have largely focused on reversing immune checkpoint inhibitor pathways, which suppress the antitumor response. Although these approaches have generated much excitement, they still lack absolute success. Interestingly, newly described host-tumor sugar chains (glycosylations) and glycosylation-binding proteins (lectins) play key roles in evading the immune system to determine cancer progression. In this issue of the JCI, Nambiar et al. used patient head and neck tumors and a mouse model system to investigate the role of galactose-binding lectin 1 (Gal1) in immunotherapy resistance. The authors demonstrated that Gal1 can affect immune checkpoint inhibitor therapy by increasing immune checkpoint molecules and immunosuppressive signaling in the tumor. Notably, these results suggest that targeting a tumor’s glycobiological state will improve treatment efficacy.
Asmi Chakraborty, Charles J. Dimitroff
Manganese (Mn) participates in a variety of distinct physiological processes, including acting as a cofactor for several enzymes and metalloenzymes, in addition to playing a role in immune function, endocrine function, hematopoiesis, and oxidative stress regulation. Mn homeostasis is tightly regulated via intestinal absorption and hepatobiliary and intestinal excretion. In this issue of the JCI, Mercadante and colleagues explored the role of the metal transporter Slc30a10 in vivo using a mouse model system. The authors used whole-body and tissue-specific gene knockouts to show that Slc30a10 is paramount for Mn excretion in the liver and small intestines. These findings provide further insights into mechanisms for Mn homeostasis as well as potential targets for addressing Mn-associated disorders or environmental exposures.
Nathan Katz, Daniel J. Rader
Neutrophils are early wound healing and inflammation regulators that, due to functional plasticity, can adopt either pro- or antitumor functions. Until recently, beclin-1 was a protein known mainly for its role as a critical regulator of autophagy. In this issue of the JCI, Tan et al. describe the effects of the beclin-1 conditional myeloid cell–specific deletion in mice, in which immunostimulation resulted in hypersensitive neutrophils. The chronic proinflammatory effect of these neutrophils triggered spontaneous B cell malignancies to develop. Such tumorigenic effects were mediated primarily by IL-21 and CD40 signaling, leading to the upregulation of tolerogenic molecules, such as IL-10 and PD-L1. The authors went on to examine samples derived from patient lymphoid malignancies and showed that beclin-1 expression in neutrophils positively correlated with pre–B cell leukemia/lymphoma. Overall, the study provides an elegant model for neutrophil-driven carcinogenesis and identifies potential targets for immunotherapy of B cell malignancies.
Yu-Lin Su, Marcin Kortylewski
With the approval of CD19-targeted chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T cells for the treatment of B cell malignancies, clinicians have gained valuable insights into the power and challenges of cellular therapies. In this issue of the JCI, Maluski et al. showed that a CAR containing a CD28 costimulatory domain drives progeny differentiation to resemble that of NK cells, which have the potential for an off-the-shelf cell therapy. These CAR-induced killer (CARiK) cells displayed potent antitumor function and killed across the MHC barrier in vivo. After performing in vitro and in vivo mouse studies, the authors also successfully differentiated human umbilical cord blood–derived progenitor cells into CARiK cells. These unique cells may address some of the current challenges associated with first-generation CARs, such as prolonged production that requires patients to wait weeks for infusion. We believe this innovative progenitor gene-engineered lymphoid system has the potential for clinical translation.
Brigett D. Brandjes, Marco L. Davila
Paroxysmal nocturnal hemoglobinuria (PNH) is an acquired disorder characterized by hemolysis, thrombosis, and bone marrow failure caused by defective expression of glycosylphosphatidylinositol-anchored (GPI-anchored) complement inhibitors. Most commonly, PNH is caused by loss of function of PIGA, which is required for GPI biosynthesis. In this issue of the JCI, Höchsmann et al. report on 4 PNH patients who also had marked autoinflammatory manifestations, including aseptic meningitis. All 4 patients had a germline mutation of the related gene PIGT and a somatically acquired myeloid common deleted region (CDR) on chromosome 20q that deleted the second PIGT allele. The biochemistry and clinical manifestations indicate that these patients have subtle but important differences from those with PNH resulting from PIGA mutations, suggesting PIGT-PNH may be a distinct clinical entity.
Robert A. Brodsky
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