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Hot Papers

Research advances from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Intramural Research Program (IRP) are often published in high-impact journals. Read some of our recent articles:

Authors: Pillon MC, Sobhany M, Borgnia MJ, Williams JG, Stanley RE

Journal: Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2017 Jul 11;114(28):E5530-E5538. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1703133114.

Las1 is a recently discovered endoribonuclease that collaborates with Grc3-Rat1-Rai1 to process precursor ribosomal RNA (rRNA), yet its mechanism of action remains unknown. Disruption of the mammalian Las1 gene has been linked to congenital lethal motor neuron disease and X-linked intellectual disability disorders, thus highlighting the necessity to understand Las1 regulation and function. Here, we report that the essential Las1 endoribonuclease requires its binding partner, the polynucleotide kinase Grc3, for specific C2 cleavage. Our results establish that Grc3 drives Las1 endoribonuclease cleavage to its targeted C2 site both in vitro and in Saccharomyces cerevisiae. Moreover, we observed Las1-dependent activation of the Grc3 kinase activity exclusively toward single-stranded RNA. Together, Las1 and Grc3 assemble into a tetrameric complex that is required for competent rRNA processing. The tetrameric Grc3/Las1cross talk draws unexpected parallels to endoribonucleases RNaseL and Ire1, and establishes Grc3/Las1 as a unique member of the RNaseL/Ire1 RNA splicing family. Together, our work provides mechanistic insight for the regulation of the Las1 endoribonuclease and identifies the tetrameric Grc3/Las1 complex as a unique example of a protein-guided programmable endoribonuclease.

Authors: De Biase LM, Schuebel KE, Fusfeld ZH, Jair K, Hawes IA, Cimbro R, Zhang HY, Liu QR, Shen H, Xi ZX, Goldman D, Bonci A

Journal: Neuron. 2017 Jul 1. pii: S0896-6273(17)30518-4. doi: 10.1016/j.neuron.2017.06.020. [Epub ahead of print]

Microglia play critical roles in tissue homeostasis and can also modulate neuronal function and synaptic connectivity. In contrast to astrocytes and oligodendrocytes, which arise from multiple progenitor pools, microglia arise from yolk sac progenitors and are widely considered to be equivalent throughout the CNS. However, little is known about basic properties of deep brain microglia, such as those within the basal ganglia(BG). Here, we show that microglial anatomical features, lysosome content, membrane properties, and transcriptomes differ significantly across BG nuclei. Region-specific phenotypes of BG microglia emerged during the second postnatal week and were re-established following genetic or pharmacological microglial ablation and repopulation in the adult, indicating that local cues play an ongoing role in shaping microglial diversity. These findings demonstrate that microglia in the healthy brain exhibit a spectrum of distinct functional states and provide a critical foundation for defining microglial contributions to BG circuit function.

Authors: Wang Z, McGlynn KA, Rajpert-De Meyts E, Bishop DT, Chung CC, Dalgaard MD, Greene MH, Gupta R, Grotmol T, Haugen TB, Karlsson R, Litchfield K, Mitra N, Nielsen K, Pyle LC, Schwartz SM, Thorsson V, Vardhanabhuti S, Wiklund F, Turnbull C, Chanock SJ, Kanetsky PA, Nathanson KL, Testicular Cancer Consortium

Journal: Nat Genet. 2017 Jul;49(7):1141-1147. doi: 10.1038/ng.3879. Epub 2017 Jun 12.

The international Testicular Cancer Consortium (TECAC) combined five published genome-wide association studies of testicular germ cell tumor (TGCT; 3,558 cases and 13,970 controls) to identify new susceptibility loci. We conducted a fixed-effects meta-analysis, including, to our knowledge, the first analysis of the X chromosome. Eight new loci mapping to 2q14.2, 3q26.2, 4q35.2, 7q36.3, 10q26.13, 15q21.3, 15q22.31, and Xq28 achieved genome-wide significance (P < 5 × 10-8). Most loci harbor biologically plausible candidate genes. We refined previously reported associations at 9p24.3 and 19p12 by identifying one and three additional independent SNPs, respectively. In aggregate, the 39 independent markers identified to date explain 37% of father-to-son familial risk, 8% of which can be attributed to the 12 new signals reported here. Our findings substantially increase the number of known TGCT susceptibility alleles, move the field closer to a comprehensive understanding of the underlying genetic architecture of TGCT, and provide further clues to the etiology of TGCT.

Authors: Michael D. Gregory, J. Shane Kippenhan, Daniel P. Eisenberg, Philip D. Kohn, Dwight Dickinson, Venkata S. Mattay, Qiang Chen, Daniel R. Weinberger, Ziad S. Saad & Karen F. Berman

Journal: Scientific Reports. 2017 Jul 24. doi:10.1038/s41598-017-06587-0

Before their disappearance from the fossil record approximately 40,000 years ago, Neanderthals, the ancient hominin lineage most closely related to modern humans, interbred with ancestors of present-day humans. The legacy of this gene flow persists through Neanderthal-derived variants that survive in modern human DNA; however, the neural implications of this inheritance are uncertain. Here, using MRI in a large cohort of healthy individuals of European-descent, we show that the amount of Neanderthal-originating polymorphism carried in living humans is related to cranial and brain morphology. First, as a validation of our approach, we demonstrate that a greater load of Neanderthal-derived genetic variants (higher “NeanderScore”) is associated with skull shapes resembling those of known Neanderthal cranial remains, particularly in occipital and parietal bones. Next, we demonstrate convergent NeanderScore-related findings in the brain (measured by gray- and white-matter volume, sulcal depth, and gyrification index) that localize to the visual cortex and intraparietal sulcus. This work provides insights into ancestral human neurobiology and suggests that Neanderthal-derived genetic variation is neurologically functional in the contemporary population.

Authors: Zheng W, Wu Y, Winter P, Fischer R, Nogare DD, Hong A, McCormick C, Christensen R, Dempsey WP, Arnold DB, Zimmerberg J, Chitnis A, Sellers J, Waterman C, Shroff H

Journal: Nat Methods. 2017 Jun 19. doi: 10.1038/nmeth.4337.

We improve multiphoton structured illumination microscopy using a nonlinear guide star to determine optical aberrations and a deformable mirror to correct them. We demonstrate our method on bead phantoms, cells in collagen gels, nematode larvae and embryos, Drosophila brain, and zebrafish embryos. Peak intensity is increased (up to 40-fold) and resolution recovered (up to 176 ± 10 nm laterally, 729 ± 39 nm axially) at depths ∼250 μm from the coverslip surface.

Authors: Tarasenko TN, Pacheco SE, Koenig MK, Gomez-Rodriguez J, Kapnick SM, Diaz F, Zerfas PM, Barca E, Sudderth J, DeBerardinis RJ, Covian R, Balaban RS, DiMauro S, McGuire PJ

Journal: Cell Metab. 2017 Jun 6;25(6):1254-1268.e7. doi: 10.1016/j.cmet.2017.05.007.

T cells undergo metabolic reprogramming with major changes in cellular energy metabolism during activation. In patients with mitochondrial disease, clinical data were marked by frequent infections and immunodeficiency, prompting us to explore the consequences of oxidative phosphorylation dysfunction in T cells. Since cytochrome c oxidase (COX) is a critical regulator of OXPHOS, we created a mouse model with isolated dysfunction in T cells by targeting a gene, COX10, that produces mitochondrial disease in humans. COX dysfunction resulted in increased apoptosis following activation in vitro and immunodeficiency in vivo. Select T cell effector subsets were particularly affected; this could be traced to their bioenergetic requirements. In summary, the findings presented herein emphasize the role of COX particularly in T cells as a metabolic checkpoint for cell fate decisions following T cell activation, with heterogeneous effects in T cell subsets. In addition, our studies highlight the utility of translational models that recapitulate human mitochondrial disease for understanding immunometabolism.

Authors: Zhu Y, Olsen SF, Mendola P, Halldorsson TI, Rawal S, Hinkle SN, Yeung EH, Chavarro JE, Grunnet LG, Granström C, Bjerregaard AA, Hu FB, Zhang C

Journal: Int J Epidemiol. 2017 Jun 6. doi: 10.1093/ije/dyx095.

BACKGROUND: Artificial sweeteners are widely replacing caloric sweeteners. Data on long-term impact of artificially sweetened beverage (ASB) consumption during pregnancy on offspring obesity risk are lacking. We prospectively investigated intake of ASBs and sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs) during pregnancy in relation to offspring growth through age 7 years among high-risk children born to women with gestational diabetes.

METHODS: In a prospective study of 918 mother-singleton child dyads from the Danish National Birth Cohort, maternal dietary intake was assessed by a food frequency questionnaire during pregnancy. Offspring body mass index z-scores (BMIZ) and overweight/obesity status were derived using weight and length/height at birth, 5 and 12 months and 7 years. Linear regression and Poisson regression with robust standard errors were used, adjusting for major risk factors.

RESULTS: Approximately half of women reported consuming ASBs during pregnancy and 9% consumed daily. Compared to never consumption, daily ASB intake during pregnancy was positively associated with offspring large-for-gestational age [adjusted relative risk (aRR) 1.57; 95% CI: 1.05, 2.35 at birth], BMIZ (adjusted β 0.59; 95% CI: 0.23, 0.96) and overweight/obesity (aRR 1.93; 95% CI; 1.24, 3.01) at 7 years. Per-serving-per-day substitution of ASBs with water during pregnancy was related to a lower overweight/obesity risk at 7 years (aRR 0.83; 95% CI: 0.76, 0.91), whereas SSB substitution with ASBs was not related to a lower risk (aRR 1.14; 95% CI: 1.00, 1.31).

CONCLUSIONS: Our findings illustrated positive associations between intrauterine exposure to ASBs and birth size and risk of overweight/obesity at 7 years. Data with longer follow-up are warranted.

Authors: Weinberg CR, Shi M, Basso O, DeRoo LA, Harmon Q, Wilcox AJ, Skjærven R

Journal: Environ Health Perspect. 2017 Jun 29;125(6):067022. doi: 10.1289/EHP963.

BACKGROUND: Preeclampsia (PE) is a dangerous and unpredictable pregnancy complication. A seasonal pattern of risk would suggest that there are potentially preventable environmental contributors, but prior analyses have not adjusted for confounding by PE risk factors that are associated with season of conception.

METHODS: Seasonal effects were modeled and tested by representing each day of the year as an angle on a unit circle and using trigonometric functions of those angles in predictive models, using "harmonic analysis." We applied harmonic Cox regression to model confounder-adjusted effects of the estimated day of the year of conception on risk of PE for births from the Medical Birth Registry of Norway for deliveries between 1999 and 2009. We also examined effect measure modification by parity, latitude (region), fetal sex, and smoking.

RESULTS: In adjusted models, PE risk was related to season, with higher risk in spring conceptions and lower risk in autumn conceptions, with a risk amplitude (maximum compared with minimum) of about 20%. The pattern replicated across subpopulations defined by parity, latitude (region), fetal sex, and smoking.

CONCLUSIONS: These results suggest that there is a seasonal driver for PE, with effects that are not modified by parity, latitude, fetal sex, or smoking.

Authors: Gilman SE, Hornig M, Ghassabian A, Hahn J, Cherkerzian S, Albert PS, Buka SL, Goldstein JM

Journal: Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2017 Jun 12. pii: 201617698. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1617698114.

Children raised in economically disadvantaged households face increased risks of poor health in adulthood, suggesting that inequalities in health have early origins. From the child's perspective, exposure to economic hardship may begin as early as conception, potentially via maternal neuroendocrine-immune responses to prenatal stressors, which adversely impact neurodevelopment. Here we investigate whether socioeconomic disadvantage is associated with gestational immune activity and whether such activity is associated with abnormalities among offspring during infancy. We analyzed concentrations of five immune markers (IL-1β, IL-6, IL-8, IL-10, and TNF-α) in maternal serum from 1,494 participants in the New England Family Study in relation to the level of maternal socioeconomicdisadvantage and their involvement in offspring neurologic abnormalities at 4 mo and 1 y of age. Median concentrations of IL-8 were lower in the most disadvantaged pregnancies [-1.53 log(pg/mL); 95% CI: -1.81, -1.25]. Offspring of these pregnancies had significantly higher risk of neurologic abnormalities at 4 mo [odds ratio (OR) = 4.61; CI = 2.84, 7.48] and 1 y (OR = 2.05; CI = 1.08, 3.90). This higher risk was accounted for in part by fetal exposure to lower maternal IL-8, which also predicted higher risks of neurologic abnormalities at 4 mo (OR = 7.67; CI = 4.05, 14.49) and 1 y (OR = 2.92; CI = 1.46, 5.87). Findings support the role of maternal immune activity in fetal neurodevelopment, exacerbated in part by socioeconomic disadvantage. This finding reveals a potential pathophysiologic pathway involved in the intergenerational transmission of socioeconomic inequalities in health.

Authors: Hart KM, Fabre T, Sciurba JC, Gieseck RL 3rd, Borthwick LA, Vannella KM, Acciani TH, de Queiroz Prado R, Thompson RW, White S, Soucy G, Bilodeau M, Ramalingam TR, Arron JR, Shoukry NH, Wynn TA

Journal: Sci Transl Med. 2017 Jun 28;9(396). pii: eaal3694. doi: 10.1126/scitranslmed.aal3694. 

Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is now the most common progressive liver disease in developed countries and is the second leading indication for liver transplantation due to the extensive fibrosis it causes. NAFLD progression is thought to be tied to chronic low-level type 1 inflammation originating in the adipose tissue during obesity; however, the specific immunological mechanisms regulating the progression of NAFLD-associated fibrosis in the liver are unclear. To investigate the immunopathogenesis of NAFLD more completely, we investigated adipose dysfunction, nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH), and fibrosis in mice that develop polarized type 1 or type 2 immune responses. Unexpectedly, obese interleukin-10 (IL-10)/IL-4-deficient mice (type 1-polarized) were highly resistant to NASH. This protection was associated with an increased hepatic interferon-γ (IFN-γ) signature. Conversely, IFN-γ-deficient mice progressed rapidly to NASH with evidence of fibrosis dependent on transforming growth factor-β (TGF-β) and IL-13 signaling. Unlike increasing type 1 inflammation and the marked loss of eosinophils seen in expanding adipose tissue, progression of NASH was associated with increasing eosinophilic type 2 liver inflammation in mice and human patient biopsies. Finally, simultaneous inhibition of TGF-β and IL-13 signaling attenuated the fibrotic machinery more completely than TGF-β alone in NAFLD-associated fibrosis. Thus, although type 2 immunity maintains healthy metabolic signaling in adipose tissues, it exacerbates the progression of NAFLDcollaboratively with TGF-β in the liver.