12,443 research outputs found

    Investigating the role of versican in immune exclusion in triple negative breast cancer

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    Triple negative breast cancer has the highest T cell infiltrate in comparison to other subtypes of breast cancer. To try to improve the anti-tumour response of these T cells, immunotherapy has been trialled, however clinical trials showed poor results. The response to immunotherapy in solid tumours is limited and this has been attributed to the presence of the extracellular matrix (ECM). The ECM can interact with T cells biochemically or physically, affecting their trafficking in the tumour. This can cause the restriction of T cells in the stroma limiting their contact with the tumour epithelial cells, leading to an immune excluded phenotype. Identifying key components of the ECM that are associated with the restriction of immune cells can provide potential targets that could be degraded to improve anti-tumour immunity. From previous work in the lab a signature of molecules were identified which were associated with immunosuppression. In the initial analysis of these molecules in a subset of TNBC tissues, versican (VCAN) was identified as an ECM component that associates with immune cell infiltration into the tumour epithelium. VCAN is a proteoglycan which has the glycosaminoglycan chondroitin sulphate (CS) attached to the peptide backbone. Through its multiple domains and glycan post-translational modifications, VCAN has been shown to have a role in inflammation and cancer progression. To study how VCAN may affect the trafficking of T cells, I first looked at how VCAN expression associated with immune excluded tissues. It was observed that VCAN levels were higher in the epithelial zone of excluded tissues compared to inflamed tissues. CS levels were then explored within the tissues where the sulphation patterns on CS in the stroma led to the discovery of CS-C being higher in excluded tissues and CS-A being higher in inflamed tissues. To observe this effect in-vitro, VCAN was enriched from TNBC and fibroblast cell line secretions. The effect of CS was tested through chondroitinase (CSase) treatment of VCAN enriched protein in a transwell model. An increase in invasion was observed following CSase treatment of protein with high levels of CS-C. To conclude, from the study I identified that within TNBC tissues the excluded immune phenotype associates with epithelial zone expressed VCAN which has a different CS sulphation pattern compared to inflamed tissues, and this difference in sulphation inhibits T-cell trafficking in in vitro models, which can be overcome through enzymatic digestion of the CS. Therefore, targeting VCAN by degrading CS may provide a way to drive excluded tumours into an inflamed and therapy responsive phenotype. Such an approach could be coupled with immunotherapy such as cell-based T-cell therapies

    Placental origins of health & disease:Therapeutic opportunities

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    The extracellular matrix supports breast cancer cell growth under amino acid starvation by promoting tyrosine catabolism

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    Breast tumours are embedded in a collagen I-rich extracellular matrix (ECM) network, where nutrients are scarce due to limited blood flow and elevated tumour growth. Metabolic adaptation is required for cancer cells to endure these conditions. Here, we demonstrated that the presence of ECM supported the growth of invasive breast cancer cells, but not non-transformed mammary epithelial cells, under amino acid starvation, through a mechanism that required macropinocytosis-dependent ECM uptake. Importantly, we showed that this behaviour was acquired during carcinoma progression. ECM internalisation, followed by lysosomal degradation, contributed to the up-regulation of the intracellular levels of several amino acids, most notably tyrosine and phenylalanine. This resulted in elevated tyrosine catabolism on ECM under starvation, leading to increased fumarate levels, potentially feeding into the tricarboxylic acid (TCA) cycle. Interestingly, this pathway was required for ECM-dependent cell growth and invasive cell migration under amino acid starvation, as the knockdown of p-hydroxyphenylpyruvate hydroxylase-like protein (HPDL), the third enzyme of the pathway, opposed cell growth and motility on ECM in both 2D and 3D systems, without affecting cell proliferation on plastic. Finally, high HPDL expression correlated with poor prognosis in breast cancer patients. Collectively, our results highlight that the ECM in the tumour microenvironment (TME) represents an alternative source of nutrients to support cancer cell growth by regulating phenylalanine and tyrosine metabolism

    Investigating the role of complement in the pathogenesis of pre-eclampsia in previously healthy pregnant women, and in high-risk groups.

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    Pre-eclampsia (PE) is a leading cause of obstetric morbidity and mortality. Certain groups of women, including those with chronic kidney disease (CKD) and those of sub-Saharan African (SSA) ethnicity, are at particularly high risk. There remains no definitive treatment other than expedited delivery of baby and placenta. Previous studies suggest a role for complement dysregulation in the pathogenesis of PE, but results are often conflicting, and it remains unclear whether changes in circulating complement concentrations reflect a general heightened inflammatory state in PE or are directly associated with placental complement-mediated injury. This thesis tested the hypothesis that PE is associated with excessive complement activation within placental tissue, with concurrent complement activation within the maternal and fetal circulation, and that groups with a high prevalence of PE, and of PE with severe features (women with CKD and women of SSA ethnicity) would exhibit a greater degree of systemic complement activation. Three arms of research were conducted, and I report: • In a cohort of previously healthy women, PE was associated with significant placental complement deposition, associated with concurrent changes in maternal and fetal circulating complement markers (reduced maternal properdin and C4, and elevated maternal and fetal Ba). Placental C4d deposition was strongly correlated with maternal properdin and C4, suggesting that those patients with the most excessive changes in circulating markers of complement activation also have the greatest extent of placental complement-mediated damage. • There was no evidence of excessive complement activation in the maternal circulation in superimposed PE in a cohort of women with CKD. However, raised Ba levels were associated with adverse pregnancy outcomes in women with CKD. • There was no evidence of excessive complement activation in PE in a Ghanaian cohort of women of SSA ethnicity when compared to healthy pregnant controls. However, pregnant women of SSA ethnicity did have significantly elevated levels of C5b-9, serum free light chains, and immunoglobulin G, when compared to the UK-recruited cohorts; suggestive of a baseline elevated inflammatory state. The results suggest that inhibition of complement activation is a potential therapeutic target for certain groups of women with PE. However, PE is a heterogenous syndrome and additional pathophysiological mechanisms may contribute to the development of disease in women with CKD and women of SSA ethnicity

    Identifying alterations in adipose tissue-derived islet GPCR peptide ligand mRNAs in obesity: implications for islet function

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    In addition to acting as an energy reservoir, white adipose tissue is a vital endocrine organ involved in the modulation of cellular function and the maintenance of metabolic homeostasis through the synthesis and secretion of peptides, known as adipokines. It is known that some of these secretory peptides play important regulatory roles in glycaemic control by acting directly on islet β-cells or on insulin-sensitive tissues. Excess adiposity causes alterations in the circulating levels of some adipokines which, depending on their mode of action, can have pro-inflammatory, pro-diabetic or anti-inflammatory, anti-diabetic properties. Some adipokines that are known to act at β-cells have actions that are transduced by binding to G protein- coupled receptors (GPCRs). This large family of receptors represents ~35% of all current drug targets for the treatment of a wide range of diseases, including type 2 diabetes (T2D). Islets express ~300 GPCRs, yet only one islet GPCR is currently directly targeted for T2D treatment. This deficit represents a therapeutic gap that could be filled by the identification of adipose tissue-derived islet GPCR peptide ligands that increase insulin secretion and overall β-cell function. Thus, by defining their mechanisms of action, there is potential for the development of new pharmacotherapies for T2D. Therefore, this thesis describes experiments which aimed to compare the expression profiles of adipose tissue-derived islet GPCR peptide ligand mRNAs under lean and obese conditions, and to characterise the functional effects of a selected candidate of interest on islet cells. Visceral fat depots were retrieved from high-fat diet-induced and genetically obese mouse models, and from human participants. Fat pads were either processed as whole tissue, or mature adipocyte cells were separated from the stromal vascular fraction (SVF) which contains several other cell populations, including preadipocytes and macrophages. The expression levels of 155 islet GPCR peptide ligand mRNAs in whole adipose tissue or in isolated mature adipocytes were quantified using optimised RNA extraction and reverse transcription-quantitative polymerase chain reaction (RT-qPCR) protocols. Comparisons between lean and obese states in mice models and humans revealed significant modifications in the expression levels of several adipokine mRNAs. As expected, mRNAs encoding the positive control genes, Lep and AdipoQ were quantifiable, with the expression of Lep mRNA increasing and that of AdipoQ mRNA decreasing in obesity. Expression of Ccl4 mRNA, encoding chemokine (C-C motif) ligand 4, was significantly upregulated in whole adipose tissue across all models of obesity compared to their lean counterparts. This coincided with elevated circulating Ccl4 peptide levels. This increase was not replicated in isolated mature adipocytes, indicating that the source of upregulated Ccl4 expression in obesity was the SVF of adipose tissue. Based on this significant increase in Ccl4 mRNA expression within visceral fat and its undetermined effects on β-cell function, Ccl4 was selected for further investigation in MIN6 β-cells and mouse islets. PRESTO-Tango β-arrestin reporter assays were performed to determine which GPCRs were activated by exogenous Ccl4. Experiments using HTLA cells expressing a protease-tagged β- arrestin and transfected with GPCR plasmids of interest indicated that 100ng/mL Ccl4 significantly activated Cxcr1 and Cxcr5, but it was not an agonist at the previously identified Ccl4-target GPCRs Ccr1, Ccr2, Ccr5, Ccr9 and Ackr2. RNA extraction and RT-qPCR experiments using MIN6 β-cells and primary islets from lean mice revealed the expression of Cxcr5 mRNA in mouse islets, but it was absent in MIN6 β-cells. The remaining putative Ccl4 receptors (Ccr1, Ccr2, Ccr5, Ccr9, Cxcr1 and Ackr2) were either absent or present at trace levels in mouse islets and MIN6 β-cells. Recombinant mouse Ccl4 protein was used for functional experiments at concentrations of 5, 10, 50 and 100ng/mL, based on previous reports of biological activities at these concentrations. Trypan blue exclusion testing was initially performed to assess the effect of exogenous Ccl4 on MIN6 β-cell viability and these experiments indicated that all concentrations (5-100ng/mL) were well-tolerated. Since β-cells have a low basal rate of apoptosis, cell death was induced by exposure to the saturated free fatty acid, palmitate, or by a cocktail of pro-inflammatory cytokines (interleukin-1β, tumour necrosis factor-α and interferon-γ). In MIN6 β-cells, Ccl4 demonstrated concentration-dependent protective effects against palmitate-induced and cytokine-induced apoptosis. Conversely, while palmitate and cytokines also increased apoptosis of mouse islets, Ccl4 did not protect islets from either inducer. Quantification of bromodeoxyuridine (BrdU) incorporation into β-cell DNA indicated that Ccl4 caused a concentration-dependent reduction in proliferation of MIN6 β-cells in response to 10% fetal bovine serum (FBS). In contrast, immunohistochemical quantification of Ki67-positive mouse islet β-cells showed no differences in β-cell proliferation between control- and Ccl4-treated islets. Whilst the number of β-cells and δ-cells were unaffected, α- cells were significantly depleted by Ccl4 treatment. Exogenous Ccl4 had no effect on nutrient- stimulated insulin secretion from both MIN6 β-cells and primary mouse islets. The 3T3-L1 preadipocyte cell line was used to assess potential Ccl4-mediated paracrine and/or autocrine signalling within adipose tissue. Ccl4 did not alter the mRNA expression of Pparγ, a master regulator of adipocyte differentiation, but did significantly downregulate the mRNA expression of the crucial adipogenic gene, adiponectin. Oil Red O staining and Western blotting were performed to assess lipid accumulation, and insulin and lipolytic signalling, respectively, and these experiments indicated that the observed Ccl4-induced decrease in adiponectin expression failed to correlate with any changes in adipocyte function. In summary, these data demonstrated anti-apoptotic and anti-proliferative actions of the adipokine, Ccl4, on MIN6 β-cells that were not replicated in mouse islets. The absence of any anti-apoptotic, insulin secretory and/or pro-proliferative effects of Ccl4 in islet β-cells suggests that it is unlikely to play a role in regulating β-cell function via crosstalk between adipose tissue and islets. The divergent functional effects highlight that whilst MIN6 cells are a useful primary β-cell surrogate for some studies, primary islets should always be used to confirm physiological relevance. On the other hand, significant α-cell depletion following Ccl4 treatment suggests a cell-specific function within the islets. Furthermore, Ccl4 impaired adiponectin mRNA expression in adipocytes, although, how adipocyte function is affected as a result requires further investigation. Collectively, these data have contributed increased understanding of the role of obesity in modifying the expression of adipose tissue-derived islet GPCR peptide ligands

    Minimal information for studies of extracellular vesicles (MISEV2023): From basic to advanced approaches

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    Extracellular vesicles (EVs), through their complex cargo, can reflect the state of their cell of origin and change the functions and phenotypes of other cells. These features indicate strong biomarker and therapeutic potential and have generated broad interest, as evidenced by the steady year-on-year increase in the numbers of scientific publications about EVs. Important advances have been made in EV metrology and in understanding and applying EV biology. However, hurdles remain to realising the potential of EVs in domains ranging from basic biology to clinical applications due to challenges in EV nomenclature, separation from non-vesicular extracellular particles, characterisation and functional studies. To address the challenges and opportunities in this rapidly evolving field, the International Society for Extracellular Vesicles (ISEV) updates its 'Minimal Information for Studies of Extracellular Vesicles', which was first published in 2014 and then in 2018 as MISEV2014 and MISEV2018, respectively. The goal of the current document, MISEV2023, is to provide researchers with an updated snapshot of available approaches and their advantages and limitations for production, separation and characterisation of EVs from multiple sources, including cell culture, body fluids and solid tissues. In addition to presenting the latest state of the art in basic principles of EV research, this document also covers advanced techniques and approaches that are currently expanding the boundaries of the field. MISEV2023 also includes new sections on EV release and uptake and a brief discussion of in vivo approaches to study EVs. Compiling feedback from ISEV expert task forces and more than 1000 researchers, this document conveys the current state of EV research to facilitate robust scientific discoveries and move the field forward even more rapidly

    Studying the interplay between ageing and Parkinson's disease using the zebrafish model

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    Parkinson’s disease (PD) is a neurodegenerative disorder characterised by the loss of dopaminergic neurons in the substantia nigra. Ageing is the major risk factor for developing PD but the interplay between ageing and PD remains elusive. To investigate the effect of ageing on PD-relevant pathological mechanisms, zebrafish mutant lines harbouring mutations in ageing-associated genes (klotho-/-, sirt1-/-, satb1a-/-, satb1b-/- and satb1a-/-;satb1b-/-) were generated, using CRISPR/Cas9 gene editing. Likewise, a chemical model for SIRT1 deficiency was utilised. klotho-/- zebrafish displayed an accelerated ageing phenotype at 3mpf and reduced survival to 6mpf. Dopaminergic neuron number, MPP+ susceptibility and microglial number were unaffected in klotho-/- larvae. NAD+ levels were decreased in 6mpf klotho-/- brains. However, ATP levels and DNA damage were unaffected. sirt1-/- zebrafish did not display a phenotype through adulthood. il-1β and il-6 were not upregulated in sirt1-/- larvae, and chemical inhibition of sirt1 did not increase microglial number. cdkn1a, il-1β and il-6 were not upregulated in satb1a-/- and satb1b-/- larvae. Dopaminergic neuron number and MPP+ susceptibility were unaffected in satb1a-/- larvae. However, satb1b-/- larvae demonstrated a moderate decrease in dopaminergic neuron number but equal susceptibility to MPP+ as satb1b+/+ larvae. Adult satb1a-/- but not adult satb1b-/- zebrafish were emaciated. satb1a-/-;satb1b-/- zebrafish did not display a phenotype through adulthood. Transgenic zebrafish expressing human wildtype α-Synuclein (Tg(eno2:hsa.SNCA-ires-EGFP)) were crossed with klotho-/- and sirt1-/- zebrafish, and treated with a sirt1-specific inhibitor. Neither genetic cross affected survival. The klotho mutation did not increase microglial number in Tg(eno2:hsa.SNCA-ires-EGFP) larvae. Likewise, sirt1 inhibition did not induce motor impairment or cell death in Tg(eno2:hsa.SNCA-ires-EGFP) larvae. In conclusion, the suitability of zebrafish for studying ageing remains elusive, as only 1 ageing-associated mutant line displayed accelerated ageing. However, zebrafish remain an effective model for studying PD-relevant pathological mechanisms due to the availability of CRISPR/Cas9 gene editing, neuropathological and neurobehavioral tools

    Overcoming drug resistance: targeting the BCL-2 family and the long non-coding RNA HCP5 in medulloblastoma and colorectal cancer

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    Colorectal cancer (CRC) is one of the most common cancers in the UK and medulloblastoma is a common cancer found in children. While there has been a progressive improvement in treatment outcomes, success has been marred by drug resistance and severe side effects. Therefore, this project focused on two aspects of chemotherapeutic drug resistance, the first using the antimitotic agent vincristine in combination with inhibitors of the anti-apoptotic Bcl-2 family proteins, while the second investigated the role of the long non-coding RNA (lncRNA), HCP5 in the resistance of cells to genotoxic agents. In the first part, three medulloblastoma cell lines (DAOY, MB03, ONS76) were analysed for the expression of Bcl-xL and ONS76 cells found to have the highest level of this anti-apoptotic protein. Subsequent results indicated that Bcl-xL encourages mitotic slippage and stemness and that knockdown of Bcl-xL in the high expressing ONS76 cells, reduces these and sensitizes the cells to the anti-mitotic agent vincristine. Thus, pharmacological inhibition of Bcl-xL should sensitize medulloblastoma cells to low doses of vincristine. Regarding the lncRNA HCP5, results showed that HCP5 was generally more highly expressed in a panel of CRC cell lines than the three medulloblastoma cell lines, corroborating data from an in-silico analysis for the corresponding tumours. One function of HCP5 is to translocate the multifunctional YB-1 protein from the cytoplasm to the nucleus where it carries out many of its functions. Knockdown of HCP5 followed by immunofluorescence indicated a reduction in the amount of YB-1 in the nucleus, confirming this function. Subsequently, HCP5 silencing sensitized all cell lines tested to the DNA damaging agents, cisplatin, oxaliplatin and tert-butyl hydroperoxide and also resulted in an increase in double-strand breaks as determined by H2AX formation. Finally, fluorescence activated cell sorting using Annexin V and propidium iodide confirmed a decrease in cell viability in HCP5 knockdown cells following treatment with genotoxic agents and that this was mirrored by an increased apoptotic fraction. Together, these studies indicate the possibilities of using novel therapeutics to increase the functionality of existing treatments to combat acquired drug resistance in cancer patients

    Dissecting the mechanisms of transport of herpes simplex virus between Langerhans Cells & dendritic cells in epidermis and dermis following infection of human genital mucosa and skin

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    Herpes Simplex Virus (HSV) is a sexually transmitted infection (STI) that the World Health Organisation (WHO) has deemed a priority for a vaccine. CD8 and CD4T cells are important in the control and clearance of HSV, however no known vaccine has been able to stimulate CD8T cells. The dermal dendritic cells (dDCs) are suspected to play a role. Previously the host lab has shown in human tissue that HSV-1 infection of Langerhans cells (LCs) caused apoptosis and migration of LCs to the dermis, where they were phagocytosed by dDCs (termed HSV viral relay). Very little is known about the mechanisms of this relay. The host lab has also identified a second resident epidermal immune cell, Epi-cDC2s, which are infectable by HSV. This thesis aims to unravel the mechanisms involved in the relay. RNA-seq and cell surface phenotyping on human dDCs subsets showed that was differential chemokine receptor expression. Bead-based immunoassays were used to determine the chemokines produced by HSV-1 infected LCs and Epi-cDC2s,and showed HSV infected LCs produced increased CXCR3 ligands, while HSV infected Epi-cDC2s produced increased CCR5 ligands. The importance of these chemokine axes was investigated using chemotaxis assays. An cyclic immunofluorescent microscopy panel was then developed to investigate whether this migration could be seen in situ in HSV infected foreskin explants. Underneath epidermal foci of infection, there was migration of both cDC1s and cDC2s towards the basement membrane. Under foci of infection there was a greater proportion of cDC2s clustering with LCs. The uptake of HSV infected epidermal cells by the dDC subsets was examined using imaging cytometry. Preliminary results suggest that there were no significant differences between the ability of dDCs to phagocytose HSV infected epidermal cells. Understanding the mechanisms and the role of each dDC subset in the HSV viral relay will determine which dDC subsets are crucial for CD8 and CD4 T cell stimulation
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