Monday, May 11, 2020

Blood Pressure by Natural Killer Cells and SARS-CoV2

A meta-analysis of gene expression signatures for diastolic, systolic blood pressure and hypertension found that out of 7717 unique, related genes 34 were most differentialy expressed across 7017 individuals from 6 international studies. No less than 20% of the 34 gene's, were located on Chromosome 19. Enrichment analysis for the diastolic and systolic gene group's associated to Natural Killer (NK) Cell mediated cytotoxicity and 13 other pathways including antigen processing and inflammatory response, pointing strongly to innate and adaptive immunity. 

I covered the NK origin of MHC and antigen immunity and reproduction at Chromosome 19 on a previous blog, now the meta-analysis adds infection, immunity and blood pressure to this location. Evolutionary detectives tracked events from Chromosome 19 to 1,6 and 9 via transposon re-combination events, which provided further direction for interpreting the blood pressure meta-analysis. A review of the genes and pathways involved increasingly characterized innate immunity as an integrated core component of almost every aspect of our skeletal, circulatory, tissue and neuronal systems. 

Blood pressure is enormously complex, but its governance of entropy under the mechanical laws of molecular diffusion and disassociation reign supreme. Renin-Angiotensin (RAS) genes are widely recognized to be the cornerstones needed for blood pressure. Innate immune cells including NK have been confirmed to possess and express RAS genes. Macrophages, a member of innate immune system have been linked to angiotensin signaling neuropathic pain as well as bacterial infection inducing pain suppression by angiotensin 2 receptor (AT2R).  Maternal NK cells AT1R and AT2R have been implicated in the control of localized blood pressure in placental tissues leading to preeclampsia a condition in pregnancy.

In various studies, including in disease conditions it has been shown and suggested that different male:female ratios between AT1R and AT2R in monocytes and other innate cells is an important factor in the determination of blood pressure that has been extensively studied in heart and lung conditions. AT2R plays a critical role in satellite cell differentiation and skeletal muscle regeneration via myoblasts, which may be the reason it's expressed ubiquitously in developing fetal tissue. It's likely that balance between AT1R and AT2R signaling is critical for normal muscle regeneration.  

In addition to the role of NK cells in blood pressure a study using lung-intravital microscopy linked pulmonary NK cells to the control of neutrophil intravascular motility, response to acute inflammation and diminished pathogenic accumulation. NK cell derived IFN-γ plays an important role in the activation and maturation of monocytes into macrophages and dendritic cells, an amplifying mechanism in the early innate inflammatory response. Angiotensin II can induce rapid neutrophil infiltration via AT1R that also stimulates leucocyte–endothelium interactions. Inhibited IFN-γ signaling ameliorated Angiotensin II induced cardiac damage, which led to a finding that NK-cells play an essential role in the induced vascular dysfunction.

Pathophysiology of Covid19 demonstrates that NK cells are depleted and neutrophils infiltrate into lung tissue leading to tissue damage and escalation of the disease. By SARS-CoV2 binding the Ace2 receptor of vascular epithelial and other cells, the conversion of Angiotensin II is blocked (image above), therefore upregulated. Increased levels of Angiotensin II were shown to induce NK cells to release IFN-γ. On recruitment to inflammatory sites, NK-cells release IFN-γ and engage with monocytes in a reciprocal program of activation in which monocytes mature into macrophages and dendritic cells. NK exhaustion results and is a known outcome that may relate to IFN-γ levels. However, in patients with high expression of Ace2, NK cell counts are lower and cytokine expressions do not show up during the initial disease state pointing to the role of accumulating Angiotensin II.  

Covid19 Meta Analysis

The image above shows distribution of expression (y axis) for ACE2, PCSKs (blood pressure mediation) and TMPRSS2 (CoV2 S1 cleavage) across lung cell types (x axis). It completes the picture that Corin-Furin mediated control over blood pressure normalization is a significant component of Covid19 disease progression and NK cells are a central player.

Molecules targeting RAS are a major focus of inhibitory or complementary therapeutic design, but a modified NK cell that is shielded from SARS-CoV2 may be the tool-in-the-shed our immune systems need. 

Wednesday, May 6, 2020

Is The Natural Killer our Anti-Cell?

Natural Killer (NK) cells may be our innate, anti-cell sentinels that first arise in the yolk sac between day 8 and 10. Simultaneously maternal, uterine NK cells promote fetal development by secreting growth promoting factors. Distinct sets of NK cells mature during early fetal development by associating with differentiating cells and tissue environments. Typically NK cells mature in around 25-35 days. By comparison, the developing embryonic heart begins pumping blood around day 22. The transcriptome, lineage and variety of each terminally differentiated embryonic NK cell and whether, in adults they continue to exist is unknown and genetically undefined.

The prospect of innate immune memory is a developing interest that has been shown to link innate and adaptive cell sets by epigenetic responses. Natural Killer cells have been a particular focus of this research because they were once considered innate and non-adaptive. Recently there is an emerging body of evidence that suggests otherwise. Whether NK cell memory arises and which NK cells participate in its establishment is not established science. Without more research whether and to what extent very narrow NK cell protein expressions distinguish cell and tissue lineages will continue unanswered. However, some good research supports the important idea of NK memory and conserved lineage.

A study on the heterogeneity of NK cells, by transcriptome in human bone marrow identified distinct NK populations, including one expressing higher levels of immediate, early genes indicative of a homeostatic activation.  Analysis identified a transitional population between CD56bright and CD56dim NK cells. Most interesting they reported on a donor with GATA2-T354M mutation who exhibited a reduced percentage of CD56bright NK cells with altered transcriptome and elevated cell death indicating the smaller number of CD56bright NK cells were contributing to the donors disease progression.

In a mouse model of CMV infection, a specific population of NK cells expands, contracts after control of the virus and generates long-lived “memory” NK cells that are more protective during a second encounter. Other reports indicate antigen specificity and antibody dependent NK mediated cytotoxicity in autoimmune disease by a sub-population of NK cells expressing a combination of specific receptors that was associated with apoptosis and the depletion of IgG in individuals with autoimmune thyroid disease.

Coronavirus Lung Cells
In Covid19 admitted patients NK cells and lymphocytes were depleted including by apoptosis and exhausted. This late stage condition developed for some time prior to admission. The published research identified two receptors as particularly important for CoV2 viral entry into a cell. Ace2 to which CoV2 binds and TMPRSS2 that cleaves its Serine protein enabling entry. Only one report, so far provided useful information about expression of these genes in NK cells of lungs. From the 57,020 lung cells on the UMAP plot only NK cells expressing Ace2-TMPRSS2 connected Muscle, Fibroblasts, T-Cells and Macrophages.

A four year experiment tracked bar-coded NK cells introduced to rhesus macaque's. The results indicated that during homeostasis and moderate proliferative stress, peripheral, compartmentalized, self-renewal can maintain the composition of distinct, differentiated NK cell sub-populations.

Blunted categorizations of NK receptor expressions may be a sub-set limitation, but the good news is that more recent research is defining NK cells in increasingly diverse ways. We are also learning to identify diseases that infect NK cells including influenza, that induces apoptosis, HIVHepatitis c and Epstein Bar. A study found peptide specific recognition of human cytomegalovirus strains control expansion of adaptive NK cells. Another Covid19 study compared the transcriptome in lung tissues of older patients, including NK cells and concluded that genes induced by SARS-CoV-2 infection tend to increase in expression with aging, and vice versa.

Although still a little abstract for science, its plausible that a cell contracting a disease could recall its NK 'memory cell', its NK anti-cell counterpart to annihilate it because it differentiated beyond its NK anti-cell phenotype range. If true, an indiscriminate disease that also targeted the NK anti-cell and eliminated it would prevent annihilation of its phenotype differentiated counterpart cells. By example, SARS-CoV2 would also bind the Ace2-TMPRSS2 expressing NK anti-cell, infect and kill it then NK immune resistance would be compromised and cell differentiation may rapidly progress to become lethal.