βIV-Spectrin, along with ankyrin and Ca2+/calmodulin-dependent kinase II (CaMKII), has been shown to form local signaling domains at the intercalated disc, while playing a key role in the regulation of Na+ and K+ channels in cardiomyocytes. In this issue of the JCI, Unudurthi et al. show that under chronic pressure overload conditions, CaMKII activation leads to βIV-spectrin degradation, resulting in the release of sequestered STAT3 from the intercalated discs. This in turn leads to dysregulation of STAT3-mediated gene transcription, maladaptive remodeling, fibrosis, and decreased cardiac function. Overall, this study presents interesting findings regarding the role of CaMKII and βIV-spectrin under physiological as well as pathological conditions.
Mohit Hulsurkar, Ann P. Quick, Xander H.T. Wehrens
Ischemia-reperfusion (I/R) sets off a devastating cascade of events, leading to cell death and possible organ failure. Treatments to limit I/R-associated damage are lacking, and the pathways that drive injury are poorly understood. In this issue of the JCI, Wei and colleagues identify microRNA-668 (miR-668) as a protective factor in acute kidney injury (AKI). miR-668 was shown to repress mitochondrial fission–associated protein MTP18, thereby inhibiting pathogenic mitochondrial fragmentation. In murine models of I/R-induced AKI, treatment with a miR-668 mimetic reduced mitochondrial fragmentation and improved renal function. Moreover, HIF-1α was shown to be required for miR-688 expression in response to I/R. Importantly, Wei et al. show miR-668 upregulation in a cohort of human patients with AKI. Together, these results identify a HIF-1α/miR-668/MTP18 axis that may have potential as a therapeutic target for AKI.
Nicholas Chun, Steven G. Coca, John Cijiang He
People with diabetes mellitus are at higher risk of developing serious ascending infections of the urinary tract. The traditional explanation has focused on the role of glycosuria in promoting bacterial growth. Using mouse models, Murtha et al. demonstrate that when the intracellular insulin signaling pathway is compromised, antimicrobial defenses are compromised too, and the mice are unable to effectively handle uropathogenic E. coli introduced experimentally into the urinary tract. These observations strongly support the hypothesis that the antimicrobial defenses of the kidney are dependent on insulin, and the urinary tract infections associated with diabetes occur due to reduced expression of these key effectors of innate immunity.
Cancer cells evade the immune system through a variety of different mechanisms, including the inhibition of antitumor effector T cells via checkpoint ligand–receptor interaction. Moreover, studies have shown that blocking these checkpoint pathways can reinvigorate the antitumor immunity, thereby prompting the development of numerous checkpoint immunotherapies, several of which are now being approved to treat multiple types of cancer. However, only a fraction of patients achieves promising long-term outcomes in response to checkpoint inhibition, suggesting the existence of additional unknown tumor-induced immunosuppressive pathways. In this issue of the JCI, Klement and colleagues describe an additional pathway of T cell inhibition in cancer. Specifically, the authors demonstrate that downregulation of IRF8, a molecular determinant of apoptotic resistance, in tumor cells aborts repression of osteopontin, which in turn binds to its physiological receptor CD44 on activated T cells and suppresses their activation. These results suggest that osteopontin may act as another immune checkpoint and may serve as a target to expand the number of patients who respond to immune checkpoint inhibitor therapy.
Michael R. Shurin
Inhibitors that target specific kinases or oncoproteins have become popular additions to or replacements for cytotoxic chemotherapies to treat many different types of cancer. However, many tumors lack a discernable target kinase and an amplified oncoprotein and/or rely on several cooperating mechanisms for progression. Thus, combinations of targeted therapies are essential for treating many cancers to avoid the rapid emergence of resistance. In this issue of the JCI, Ren et al. use an elegant kinase activity–profiling method and identify activity of the oncogene polo-like kinase-1 (PLK1) as an important driver of double-hit lymphoma (DHL), an aggressive subgroup of B cell lymphoma characterized by chromosomal translocations involving c-MYC and BCL2 or BCL6. Moreover, PLK1 activity was associated with MYC expression and poor prognosis in DHL patients. PLK1 inhibition with volasertib, alone and in combination with the BCL-2 inhibitor venetoclax, was efficacious in multiple DHL models, including mice harboring DHL patient–derived xenografts. Together, these data support PLK1 as a promising prognostic marker and therapeutic target for DHL.
Quais N. Hassan II, Lapo Alinari, John C. Byrd
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is extremely heterogenous in its effects on airway remodeling. Parsing the complex and interrelated morphologic changes and understanding their contribution to disease severity has posed a significant challenge to the field. In the current issue of the JCI, Bodduluri et al. measured the complex effects of COPD on the airway tree using airway fractal dimension (AFD) on computerized tomography in a large cohort of smokers with and without COPD. They found that lower AFD was independently associated with disease severity and mortality in COPD. This work highlights AFD as a noninvasive approach to analyze complex changes in airway geometry.
Eleanor M. Dunican
Parkinson’s disease (PD) patients have increased histamine in their basal ganglia, but the role of this neurotransmitter in PD is poorly understood. In this issue of the JCI, Zhuang et al. demonstrate that histamine levels rise in the subthalamic nucleus (STN) to compensate for abnormal firing patterns. Injection of histamine into the STN restores normal firing patterns and motor activity, whereas merely changing firing rates has no behavioral effect. Moreover, STN deep brain stimulation, a widespread therapy for PD, regularizes firing through endogenous histamine release. This suggests that abnormal firing patterns, rather than rates, cause PD symptoms, and this histaminergic pathway may lead to new treatments for the disease.
Timothy C. Whalen, Aryn H. Gittis
Protein quality control (PQC) mechanisms are essential for maintaining cardiac function, and alterations in this pathway influence multiple forms of heart disease. Since heart disease is the leading cause of death worldwide, understanding how the delicate balance between protein synthesis and degradation is regulated in the heart demands attention. The study by Hu et al. reveals that the extraproteasomal ubiquitin receptor Ubiquilin1 (Ubqln1) plays an important role in cardiac ubiquitination-proteasome coupling, particularly in response to myocardial ischemia/reperfusion injury, thereby suggesting that this may be a new avenue for therapeutics.
Xi Fang, Christa Trexler, Ju Chen
Obesity and overnutrition increase levels of reactive sugar- and lipid-derived aldehydes called reactive carbonyl species (RCS). Increased tissue and circulating RCS levels have been tied to insulin resistance and inflammation, but previous pharmacological approaches to target RCS have had equivocal outcomes. In this issue of the JCI, Anderson et al. present evidence for the development and implementation of carnisonol, a compound that is biologically stable in vivo and shows impressive effects on improving metabolism and inflammation in rodent models of diet-induced obesity and metabolic dysfunction.
Jacob M. Haus, John P. Thyfault
Enteroviruses, including subtype EV-A71, infect the brain, liver, heart, and other organs, causing a myriad of human diseases. This spectrum of disease is thought to be due, in part, to differential binding to host cells, and additional knowledge of enterovirus cell entry is essential for therapeutic development. In this issue of the JCI, Yeung et al. provide evidence of a novel EV-A71 entry factor, a host-produced tryptophan tRNA synthetase (hWARS), that facilitates entry of multiple subtypes of enteroviruses. hWARS is a cytoplasmic enzyme that is essential for translation but also upregulated and secreted during inflammatory processes. The results of this study support the notion of secreted hWARS as an unconventional virus entry factor that raises interesting questions about mechanisms by which inflammation and a tRNA synthetase facilitate viral pathogenesis.
Stanley Perlman, Tom Gallagher
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