Monday, March 4, 2024

p53 Direct Mechanisms In Immunity

Never in the field of molecular oncology have so many sites of posttranslational modification in one protein (p53) been modified by so many different enzymes, but direct response mechanisms that increase immune receptors are rarely discovered and have important implications.  

In the tumor microenvironment (TME), cancer associated fibroblasts (CAFs) display an activated phenotype and can physically remodel the extracellular matrix (ECM). Silencing p53 in the CAFs strongly compromised this activity, implicating p53 as a key contributor to a distinctive CAF feature. Here, the non-autonomous, tumor-suppressive activity of non-mutant p53 cDNA is rewired to become a significant contributor to the CAFs’ tumor-supportive activities. This surprising role for p53 in CAFs suggests that, during tumor progression p53 functionality is altered, not only in the cancer cells, but also in their adjacent stroma.

Although p53 is not mutated in the human placenta, it has become functionally incompetent. Why and how p53 is functionally incompetent in cytotrophoblast cells might well be the key to understanding trophoblast invasion. Vascular remodeling for placentation is controlled by small populations of conventional Natural Killer cells, distinct from much larger populations of uterine NK cells, that acidify the ECM with a2V-ATPase, that activates MMP9, degrades the ECM and releases stored pro-angiogenesis growth factors. Similarly hypoxic TME's that in NK cells sustain excessive mitochondrial fission resulting in fragmentation could cause a2V-ATP activated MMP9 to similarly degrade ECM and promote angiogenesis in the early TME.  

Another MMP protein, MMP2 is a ligand for the Toll-like receptor 2 (Tlr2). Expression of Tlr2 and Tlr4 in the TME is important for the promotion of tumor growth, and when both of these receptors are absent, growth is compromised. Furthermore, the expression of Tlr2 and Tlr4 in both hematopoietic and stromal compartments appears to support MMP2-driven tumor growth.

The integration of the TLR gene family into the p53 regulatory network is unique to primates. p53 promoter response elements that are targeted by this DNA damage and stress-responsive regulator suggest a general p53 role in the control of human TLR gene expression. TLR genes show responses to DNA damage, and most are p53-mediated. TLR's mediate innate immunity to a wide variety of threats through recognition of conserved pathogen-associated molecular motifs. Expression of all TLR genes, in blood lymphocytes and alveolar macrophages from healthy volunteers can be induced by DNA metabolic stressors with considerable inter-individual variability. Most TLR genes respond to p53 via canonical as well as noncanonical promoter binding sites.

A polymorphism in a TLR8 response element provided the first human example of a p53 target sequence specifically responsible for endogenous gene induction. These findings—demonstrating that the human innate immune system, including downstream induction of cytokines, can be modulated by DNA metabolic stress—have many implications for health and disease, as well as for understanding the evolution of DNA damage and p53 responsive networks. That p53 can directly increase an inflammatory response differs from the generally held view relating to the antagonistic affect of p53 on inflammation directed by NF-κB. However, the direct mechanism here is different in that it involves another p53-mediated increase in a receptor that translates ligand interactions into cytokine responses.

Wednesday, February 28, 2024

p53 Convergence and Immunity

Renewed interest in Bradykinin and its inactivation, by Angiotensin Converting Enzyme (ACE), during Covid infection reconfirmed RAS and KKS (Kallikrein-Kinin, Bradykinin) as the major systems of vasodilation and constriction contributing to blood pressure and disease. ACE2, a molecule of focus in Covid, reduces the Bradykinin product des-Arg9 bradykinin to inactive metabolites.

In pre-eclampsia reduced Kallikrein (KLK) generation and Bradykinin's activation, via its BK1 and BK2 receptor, modulates stress response through NF-κB and p53 pathways. These are the major cellular stress response pathways that promote or oppose apoptosis and influence cell fate. Two functionally divergent p53-responsive elements were discovered in the rat BK2 receptor promoter, which interact with ACE, play a significant role regulating vascular tone and blood pressure and in the cross-talk between RAS and KKS

In uterine immune cells RAS proteins AT1, AT2, and ANP are expressed and ANP co-localizes to uterine Natural Killer (uNK) cells between pregnancy day 10 and 12, immediately before spiral arterial modification. In mice this suggested that uNK contributes to the physiological changes in blood pressure between days 5 and 12.

During the first trimester the uNK cells dramatically increase, from around 15% to 70% of immune cells in the Decidua of the Uterus. Expressed RAS-KKS proteins during this time may be solely responsible for amplified stimulation of the plasma contact system at least via p53-mediated transcription and activation of the BK2 promoter.

In myocytes stretch-mediated release of angiotensin II (AngII) induced apoptosis by activating p53 that enhanced local RAS and decreased the Bcl-2-to-Bax protein ratio in the cell. In endothelial cells mechanical stretch interconnected innate and adaptive immune response in hypertension. This suggests that mechanical forces, such as those experienced in hypertension, can influence the immune system and contribute to inflammation, vascular damage associated with high blood pressure and vascular remodeling.

MYADAM and PRPF31 were the only genes from a meta-analysis that linked diastolic, systolic blood pressure and hypertension. These are located on Chromosome 19 between 50-55,000,000 bps, which includes all Killer immunoglobulin like receptors (KIR's), Kallikrein related peptidases (KLK's) and c19MC MiRNA's, in a region characterized by a 2X background deletion rate. During different trimesters it was found that NK cells, in pre-eclampsia, directly incorporate c19MC MiRNA's that are important to placental development and their deregulation could lead to the development of pre-eclampsia. 

It adds up that the massively disproportionate uNK activity in pregnancy and its impact on the mechanics of blood pressure could amplify sensitivities for p53 mediated stress response. It’s known that uNK cells contribute to the remodeling of spiral arteries and regulation of blood pressure, which are critical for fetal development. Similarly, on a cellular scale, abnormal cell growth and expansion of NK cells, may also amplify conditions that direct NK education and licensing to support growth, as in solid tumors and micro-vascular remodeling, or trigger inflammation, through cytokine expression and/or granulocyte killing of expanded missing-self cells. 

Sunday, January 28, 2024

All Roads Lead to (Ch)Romosome 19!

A hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) co-regulatory network exists between chromosome 19 microRNA cluster (C19MC) at 19q13.42, melanoma-A antigens, IFN-γ and p53, promoting an oncogenic role of C19MC that is disrupted by metal ions zinc and nickel. IFN-γ plays a co-operative role whereas IL-6 is antagonistic, each have a major bearing on the expression of HLA molecules on cancer cells. Analysis of Mesenchymal stem cells and cancer cells predicted C19MC modulation of apoptosis in induced pluripotency and tumorigenesis.

Key, differentially expressed genes in HCC included cancer-related transcription factors (TF) EGR1, FOS, and FOSB. From mRNA and miRNA expression profiles these were most enriched in the p53 signaling pathway where mRNA levels of each decreased in HCC tissues. In addition, mRNA levels of CCNB1, CCNB2, and CHEK1, key markers of the p53 signaling pathway, were all increased. miR-181a-5p regulated FOS and EGR1 to promote the invasion and progression of HCC by p53 signaling pathway and it plays an important role in maturation or impairment of natural killer (NK) cells.

pan-cancer analysis, on microRNA-associated gene activation, produced the top 57 miRNAs that positively correlated with at least 100 genes. miR-150, at 19q13.33 was the most active, it positively correlated with 1009 different genes each covering at least 10 cancers. It is an important hematopoietic, especially B, T, and NK, cell specific miRNA.

Rapid functional impairment of NK cells following tumor entry limits anti-tumor immunity. Gene regulatory network analysis revealed downregulation of TF regulons, over pseudo-time, as NK cells transition to their impaired end state. These included AP-1 complex TF's, Fos, Fosb (19q13.32), Jun, Junb (19p13.13), which are activated during NK cell cytolytic programs and down regulated by interactions with inhibitory ligands. Other down-regulated TF's included Irf8, Klf2 (19p13.11), Myc, which support NK cell activation and proliferation. There were no significantly upregulated TF's suggesting that the tumor-retained NK state arises from the reduced activity of core transcription factors associated with promoting mature NK cell development and expansion.

Innate immune, intra-tumoral, stimulatory dendritic cells (SDCs) and NK cells cluster together and are necessary for enhanced T cell tumor responses. In human melanoma, SDC abundance is associated with intra-tumoral expression of the cytokine producing gene FLT3LG (19q13.33) that is predominantly produced by NK cells in tumors. Computed tomography exposes patients to ionizing X-irradiation. Determined trends in the expression of 24 radiation-responsive genes linked to cancer, in vivo, found that TP53 and FLT3LG expression increased linearly with CT dose. 

Undifferentiated embryonal sarcoma of the liver displays high aneuploidy with recurrent alterations of 19q13.4 that are uniformly associated with aberrantly high levels of transcriptional activity of C19MC microRNA. Further, TP53 mutation or loss was present with all samples that also display C19MC changes. The 19q13.4 locus is gene-poor with highly repetitive sequences. Given the noncoding nature and lack of an obvious oncogene, disruption of the nearby C19MC regulatory region became a target for tumorigenesis. 

The endogenous retroviral, hot-spot deletion rate at 19p13.11-19p13.12 and 19q33-19q42 occurs at double the background deletion rate. Clustered in and around these regions are many gene families including KIR, Siglec, Leukocyte immunoglobulin-like receptors and cytokines that associate important NK gene features to proximal NK genes that were overrepresented in a meta analysis of blood pressure

Endogenous retroviruses that invite p53 and its transcriptional network, at retroviral hot-spots, suggest that lymphocyte progenitors, such as ILC's and expanded, NK cells are synergistically responsive to transcription from this busy region including by the top differentially expressed blood pressure genes MYADM, GZMB, CD97, NKG7, CLC, PPP1R13L , GRAMD1A as well as (RAS-KKS) Kallikrein related peptidases to educate early and expanded NK cells that shape immune responses.  

Monday, January 1, 2024

p53 - Mediator Of Natural Killer Education

The regulation of rapidly transforming stem cells into trophoblasts and expanding embryonic cell phenotypes, between gestation day 8 and 15 is fast and furious. Research unraveling the finer detail points to the advent of pressure impacting evolving conditions for growth, transformation of cells, microvasculature and resulting tissue types. Notably, Natural Killer (NK) cells expand to around 30% of the cells in the stroma of the uterine wall. These uterine NK (uNK) cell subsets coexist alongside conventional NK cells. This unusual uNK quantitative imbalance motivated our research.   

uNK are closely associated with spiral artery remodeling, for placentation at the blastocyst implantation site. They possess a functional Renin- Angiotensin system (RAS), the cornerstones of blood pressure. The ratio of uNK cells expressing Angiotensin II receptor type 1 (AT1) markedly changed between gestation day 6 and 10. At day 10-12 Atrial Natriuretic Peptide, for vasoconstriction and dilation, strongly co-localized to uNK cells at the implantation sites. Expression of these vasoregulatory molecules by uNK suggests they contribute to the changes in blood pressure that occur between days 5 and 12 coincidental with their population explosion in the decidua during normal pregnancy.

Similar to Angiotensin, Bradykinin (BK) is produced from an inactive pre-protein kininogen that is activated by serine protease kallikrein (KLK), mostly represented on chromosome 19, where they associate with a number of other genes involved in blood pressure. Oakridge scientists predicted that BK induced a Covid19 "cytokine storm" that is responsible for disease progression. 

KLK's are located at 19q13.41, an active transposon region with a 2x background deletion rate clustered near Zinc Fingers and KIR's (Killer immunoglobulin like receptors) that inhibit NK cells.  A link was confirmed in mice uterine NK cells that regulated local tissue blood pressure, by at least AT1, partly in response to mechanical stretch of vasoconstriction and dilation induced by uterine NK's internal RAS. 

In reproduction, at  Chromosome 19 MiRNA Cluster (C19MC), 59 known miRNAs are highly expressed in human placentas and in the serum of pregnant women. Numerous C19MC miRNA's are also found in peripheral blood NK's and at least miR-517a-3p (a C19MC from fetal placenta) was incorporated into maternal NK cells in the third trimester, and was rapidly cleared after delivery. miRNA's also regulate the migration of human trophoblasts and suppress epithelial to mesenchymal transition (EMT) genes that are critical for maintaining the epithelial cytotrophoblast stem cell phenotype

In hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) a co-regulatory network exists between C19MC miRNAs, melanoma-A antigens (MAGEAs), IFN-γ and p53 that promotes an oncogenic role of C19MC and is disrupted by metal ions zinc and nickel. IFN-γ plays a co-operative role whereas IL-6 plays an antagonistic role. Its an important immunoregulartory network, because, in the very least, IFN-γ and IL6 have a major baring on the expression of HLA/MHC molecules on cancer cells. 

Immediately adjacent to C19MC, is the leukocyte immunoglobulin-like receptor complex, from where LILRB1 receptor, also known as Mir-7, is expressed on NK cells. It binds MHC class I molecules, on antigen-presenting cells and transduces a negative signal that inhibits stimulation of an immune response. LILRB1 has a polymorphic regulatory region that enhances transcription in NK Cells and recruits zinc finger protein YY1 that inhibits p53. It is required to educate expanded human NK cells and defines a unique antitumor NK cell subset with potent antibody-dependent cellular cytotoxicity.

In 2019 a study of arsenite-induced, human keratinocyte transformation demonstrated that knockdown of m6A methyltransferase (METTL3) significantly decreased m6A level, restored p53 activation and inhibited phenotypes in the-transformed cells. m6A downregulated expression of positive p53 regulator, PRDM2, through YTHDF2-promoted decay of mRNAs. m6A also upregulated expression of negative p53 regulator, YY1 and MDM2 through YTHDF1-stimulated translation of YY1 and MDM2 mRNA. Taken together, the study revealed the novel role of m6A in mediating human keratinocyte transformation by suppressing p53 activation and sheds light on the mechanisms of arsenic carcinogenesis via RNA epigenetics.

In 2021 a discovery that YTHDF2 is upregulated in NK cells upon activation by cytokines, tumors, and cytomegalovirus infection. YTHDF2 maintains NK cell homeostasis and terminal maturation. It promotes NK cell effector function and is required for IL-15-mediated NK cell survival and proliferation by forming a STAT5-YTHDF2 positive feedback loop. Analysis showed significant enrichment in cell cycle, division, including mitotic cytokinesis, chromosome segregation, spindle, nucleosome, midbody, and chromosome. This data supports roles of YTHDF2 in regulating NK proliferation, survival, and effector functions. 

As part of the 2021 discovery, transcriptome-wide screening identified TDP-43 to be involved in cell proliferation or survival as a YTHDF2-binding target in NK cells. TDP-43 induces p53-mediated cell death of cortical progenitors and immature neurons. Growth of the developing cerebral cortex is controlled by Mir-7 through the p53 Pathway

Here we have broadly described mechanisms by which NK cells maintain tissue homeostasis where tightly regulated p53 optimizes cellular conditions to 'self' educate the expanded NK cells. Those that express NKG2A and/or one or several KIRs, for which cognate ligands are present, become educated and as such transform to potent killers in response to their missing-self. Therefore, p53 isoforms have the innate capacity to promote a cellular homeostasis that makes it the mediator for optimal education of expanded NK cells.

Tuesday, October 10, 2023

Cancer's HLA-G Backdoor

piRNA actively control transposable elements (TE) that would otherwise disrupt genes, chromosomal stability, damage DNA, cause inflammation, disease and/or cell death. For example, increased levels of endogenous retroviruses (ERV), a TE subclass, trigger fibro inflammation and play a role in kidney disease development. However, in mammals, the transcription of TEs is important for maintaining early embryonic development. piRNA also function with TE's for important aspects of Natural Killer (NK) cell immune development. Regardless of the cell type, endogenous retroviral elements of the ERV1 family, are highly enriched at p53 sites highlighting the importance of this repeat family in shaping the transcriptional network of p53.

HLA/MHC are highly polymorphic molecules, expressed on cells and recognized by NK cells. In mammals it is necessary to generate specialized NK cell subsets that are able to sense changes in the expression of each particular HLA molecule.

Decidual natural killer cells (dNK), the largest population of leukocytes at the maternal–fetal interface, have low cytotoxicity. They are believed to facilitate invasion of fetal HLA-G+ extravillous trophoblasts (EVT) into maternal tissues, essential for establishment of healthy pregnancies. dNK interaction with EVT leads to trogocytosis that acquires and internalizes HLA-G of EVT. dNK surface HLA-G was reacquired by incubation with EVT's. Activation of dNK by cytokines and/or viral products resulted in the disappearance of internalized HLA-G and restoration of cytotoxicity. Thus, the cycle provides both for NK tolerance and antiviral immune function by dNK.

A remote enhancer L, essential for HLA-G expression in EVT, describes the basis for its selective  immune tolerance at the maternal–fetal interface. Found only in genomes that lack a functional HLA-G classical promoter it raises the possibility that a retroviral element was co-opted during evolution to function in trophoblast-specific tolerogenic HLA/MHC expression. CEBP and GATA regulate EVT expression of HLA-G through enhancer L isoforms.

HLA-G1 is acquired by NK cells from tumor cells, within minutes, by activated, but not resting NK cells via trogocytosis. Once acquired, NK cells stop proliferating, are no longer cytotoxic and behave as suppressors of cytotoxic functions in nearby NK cells via the NK ILT2 (Mir-7) receptor. Mir-7 is a well researched intervention target in inflammatory diseases and belongs to a p53-dependent non-coding RNA network and MYC signaling circuit.

Cells that transcribe enhancer L isoforms and HLA-G, feed NK cells with HLA-G as an innate element for self determination, similar to the way EVT's restrain cytotoxicity of dNK. Then incoming, NK cells at the periphery of tumor microenvironments (TME) may promote vascular remodeling, as in the uterus during pregnancy, by acidifying the extracellular matrix with a2V that releases bound pro-angiogenic growth factors trapped in the extracellular matrix. After that these incoming NK cells succumb to the influence of Mir-7 resulting in low cytotoxic, inactive NK in the TME. 

Discovering resistant NK cells in the TME of a patient, for incubation, expansion and activation is a Codondex precision therapy objective based on p53 computations.

Wednesday, September 27, 2023

When Immunity Fails Programmed Cell Death

DNA Damage Response

Telomeric repeat (TR) sequences are responsible for genome integrity, where instability is a primary factor that leads to activation of p53. Introduction of a TR into cells leads to stabilization of p53, specific to TRs and not observed in plasmids containing non-TR sequences. TR-activated p53 exhibited enhanced transcriptional activity and induced p53-dependent growth suppression, measured as a reduction in colony formation. Sub-telomeric p53 binding prevents accumulation of DNA damage at human telomeres.  

Healthy cells experience thousands of DNA lesions per day. Micronuclei, containing broken fragments of DNA or chromosomes, that have become isolated, are recognized as one mediator of DNA damage response (DDR)-associated immune recognition. Like micronuclear DNA, mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) is recognized by cGAS to drive STING-mediated inflammatory signaling. Mitochondrial damage can intersect DNA repair and inflammatory cascades with programmed cell death, through p53. In human fibroblasts and conditionally immortalized vascular smooth muscle cells p53 mediates CD54 (ICAM-1) overexpression in senescence.

Replicative senescence, an autophagy dependent program and crisis are anti-proliferative barriers that human cells must evade to gain immortality. Telomere-to-mitochondria signaling by ZBP1 mediates replicative crisis. Dysfunctional telomeres activate innate immune responses (IFN) through mitochondrial TR RNA (TERRA)–ZBP1 complexes. Senescence occurs when shortened telomeres elicit a p53 and RB dependent DNA-damage response. A crisis-associated isoform of ZBP1(innate immune sensor) is induced by the cGAS–STING DNA-sensing pathway, but reaches full activation only when associated with TERRA transcripts from dysfunctional telomeres. p53 utilizes the cGAS/STING innate immune system pathway for both cell intrinsic and cell extrinsic tumor suppressor activities. cGAS-STING activation induces the production of IFN-b and increases CD54 expression in  human cerebral microvascular endothelial cells.

In melanoma patients there is a significant correlation between cGAS expression levels and survival and between NK cell receptor expression levels and survival. Loss of cGAS expression by tumor cells could permit the tumor cell to circumvent senescence or prevent immunostimulatory NKG2D ligands expression. Loss of p53 and gain of oncogenic RAS exacerbated pro-malignant paracrine signaling activities of senescence-associated secretory phenotypes. Results imply that heterogeneity in cGAS activity, across tumors, could be an important predictor of cancer prognosis and response to treatment and suggest that NK cells could play an important role in mediating anti-tumor effects. Coculture of wild-type p53-induced human tumor cells with primary human NK cells enhanced NKG2D-dependent degranulation and IFN-γ production by NK cells. 

When p53 consensus sequences are modified and DNA damage response is compromised, replicative crisis ensues, mitochondrial membranes misfunction, mtDNA expression is downregulated and IFN signaling upregulates. A cell may then express activating immune ligands that bind NK receptors signaling non-self and cytolytic death or inhibitory receptors that signal self and immortality

Thursday, September 21, 2023

Indispensable Mitochondria - Cancers back door?

Immediately prior to fertilization spermatozoa are devoid of Mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA), potentially explaining an aspect about selection that may serve the legacy for maternal immune tolerance. Post fertilization, on day 11-13, outermost trophoblasts of the blastocyst dock with the decidual lining as it embeds in the uterine wall. Then, maternal vascular remodeling and placental formation begin toward successful implantation. 

Higher quality trophoblasts are associated with lower mtDNA content. Moreover, euploid blastocysts with higher mtDNA content had a lower chance to implant and mtDNA replication is strictly downregulated between fertilization and the implantation. What is it about absent or reduced mtDNA that may also relate to the mechanics of immune tolerance and vascular remodeling, which are also features of solid tumors.

The initial absence or downregulation of MtDNA, may relate an immune tolerance by uterine Natural Killer (NK) cells. As mtDNA upregulates, after day 12, it may initiate NK auto-reactivity required for maternal microvascular remodeling. This auto-immune paradox is a prerequisite for vascular remodeling, which is also seen in localized hypertension, and the likely basis of successful blastocyst implantation. Acutely, micro-hypertension induced mechanical stretch, on endothelial cells, interconnects innate and adaptive immune responses. 

The dominant cell in the decidua is an NK subset (dNK), they express low levels of IFN-γ and express proteins of Renin Angiotensin System (RAS). At day 12 RAS peptide ANP colocalizes to dNK’s suggesting that dNK RAS infers localized responsiveness.  When TFAM, required for transcription of mtDNA, was deleted from cardiomyocytes, after 32 days, animals developed cardiomyopathy and Nppa (gene encoding ANP) and Nppb expression was elevated. 

In monocytes increased endothelial stretch activates STAT3, which is involved in driving almost all pathways that control NK cytolytic activity and reciprocal regulatory interactions between NK cells and other components of the immune system. The crosstalk between STAT3 and p53/RAS signaling controls cancer cell metastasis. p53, Stat3, and, potentially, the estrogen receptor are thought to act as co-regulators, affecting mitochondrial gene expression through protein-protein interactions. Co-immunoprecipitation of p53 with TFAM suggests it may regulate mitochondrial DNA-damage repair.

Like initial trophoblasts with low level mtDNA, mature cells, like cardiomyocytes that prolong low level mtDNA may also aggravate autoimmune sponsored hypertension that remodels microvascular networks providing nutrients for growth of reduced mtDNA stem cell replicas. Indeed, mitochondrial dysfunction (from depleted mtDNA) does not affect pluripotent gene expression, but results in severe defects in lineage differentiation.

During severe sepsis, intense, on-going mtDNA damage and mitochondrial dysfunction could overwhelm the capacity for mitochondrial biogenesis, leading to a gradual decline in mtDNA levels over time. This may contribute to monocyte immune deactivation, which is associated with adverse clinical outcomes and could be reversed by IFN-γ

Identifying cells that optimally educate cocultured NK cells for precision IFN-γ and cytolytic responsiveness is part of the ongoing work by the Codondex team.