Deborah A Knight

Malaghan Institute, Wellington, Wellington, New Zealand

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Publications (8)34.93 Total impact

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    ABSTRACT: Epitope-based peptide vaccines encompass minimal immunogenic regions of protein antigens to allow stimulation of precisely targeted adaptive immune responses. However, because efficacy is largely determined by the functional status of antigen-presenting cells (APCs) that acquire and present peptides to cells of the adaptive immune system, adjuvant compounds are needed to enhance immunogenicity. We present here a vaccine consisting of an allergen-derived peptide conjugated to a prodrug of the natural killer-like T (NKT) cell agonist α-galactosylceramide, which is highly effective in reducing inflammation in a mouse model of allergic airway inflammation. Unlike other peptide-adjuvant conjugates that directly activate APCs through pattern recognition pathways, this vaccine encourages third-party interactions with NKT cells to enhance APC function. Therapeutic efficacy was correlated with marked increases in the number and functional activity of allergen-specific cytotoxic T lymphocytes (CTLs), leading to suppression of immune infiltration into the lungs after allergen challenge in sensitized hosts.
    Nature Chemical Biology 10/2014; · 12.95 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: This study tests the hypothesis that CD8α(+) DCs in the spleen of mice contain an immature precursor for functionally mature, "classical" cross-presenting CD8α(+) DCs. The lymphoid tissues contain a network of phenotypically distinct DCs with unique roles in surveillance and immunity. Splenic CD8α(+) DCs have been shown to exhibit a heightened capacity for phagocytosis of cellular material, secretion of IL-12, and cross-priming of CD8(+) T cells. However, this population can be subdivided further on the basis of expression of both langerin/CD207 and CX3CR1. We therefore evaluated the functional capacities of these different subsets. The CX3CR1(+) CD8α(+) DC subset does not express langerin and does not exhibit the classical features above. The CX3CR1(-) CD8α(+) DC can be divided into langerin-positive and negative populations, both of which express DEC205, Clec9A, and high basal levels of CD86. However, the langerin(+) CX3CR1(-) CD8α(+) subset has a superior capacity for acquiring cellular material and producing IL-12 and is more susceptible to activation-induced cell death. Significantly, following purification and adoptive transfer into new hosts, the langerin(-) CX3CR1(-) CD8α(+) subset survives longer, up-regulates expression of langerin, and becomes more susceptible to activation-induced cell death. Last, in contrast to langerin(+) CX3CR1(-) CD8α(+), the langerin(-) CX3CR1(-) CD8α(+) are still present in Batf3(-/-) mice. We conclude that the classical attributes of CD8α(+) DC are confined primarily to the langerin(+) CX3CR1(-) CD8α(+) DC population and that the langerin(-) CX3CR1(-) subset represents a Batf3-independent precursor to this mature population.
    Journal of leukocyte biology. 08/2014;
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    ABSTRACT: We assessed the production of the canonical Th2 cytokine IL-4 by NKT cells directly in vivo using IL-4-substituting strains of reporter mice that provide faithful and sensitive readouts of cytokine production without the confounding effects of in vitro stimulation. Analysis in naïve animals revealed an "innate" phase of IL-4 secretion that did not need to be triggered by administration of a known NKT cell ligand. This secretion was by immature NKT cells spanning Stage 1 of the maturation process in the thymus (CD4(+) CD44(lo) NK1.1(-) cells) and Stage 2 (CD4(+) CD44(hi) NK1.1(-) cells) in the spleen. Like ligand-induced IL-4 production by mature cells, this innate activity was independent of an initial source of IL-4 protein and did not require STAT6 signaling. A more sustained level of innate IL-4 production was observed in animals on a BALB/c background compared with a C57BL/6 background, suggesting a level of genetic regulation that may contribute to the "Th2-prone" phenotype in BALB/c animals. These observations indicate a regulated pattern of IL-4 expression by maturing NKT cells, which may endow these cells with a capacity to influence the development of surrounding cells in the thymus.
    Journal of leukocyte biology 08/2012; · 4.99 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: The immunomodulatory glycolipid α-galactosylceramide (α-GalCer) binds to CD1d and exhibits potent activity as a ligand for invariant CD1d-restricted natural killer-like T cells (iNKT cells). Structural analogues of α-GalCer have been synthesised to determine which components are required for CD1d presentation and iNKT cell activation, however, to date the importance of the phytosphingosine 4-hydroxyl for iNKT cell activation has been disputed. To clarify this, we synthesised two 4-deoxy α-GalCer analogues (sphinganine and sphingosine) and investigated their ability to activate murine and human iNKT cells. Analysis revealed that the analogues possessed comparable activity to α-GalCer in stimulating murine iNKT cells, but were severely compromised in their ability to stimulate human iNKT cells. Here we determined that species-specific glycolipid activity was due to a lack of recognition of the analogues by the T-cell receptors on human iNKT cells rather than insufficient presentation of the analogues on human CD1d molecules. From these results we suggest that glycolipids developed for potent iNKT cell activity in humans should contain a phytosphingosine base.
    ChemBioChem 05/2012; 13(9):1349-56. · 3.74 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: A highly efficient synthesis of the biologically important fluorescent probe dansyl α-GalCer is presented. Key in our strategy is the incorporation of the fluorescent dansyl group at an early stage in the synthesis to facilitate in the monitoring and purification of intermediates via TLC and flash column chromatography, respectively, and the use of a high yielding α-selective glycosylation reaction between the phytosphingosine lipid and a galactosyl iodide donor. The ability of dansyl α-GalCer to activate iNKT cells and to serve as a fluorescent marker for the uptake of glycolipid by dendritic cells is also presented.
    Carbohydrate research 02/2011; 346(7):914-26. · 2.03 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Transfer of antigen between antigen-presenting cells (APCs) is potentially a physiologically relevant mechanism to spread antigen to cells with specialized stimulatory functions. Here we show that specific CD8+ T cell responses induced in response to intravenous administration of antigen-loaded bone marrow-derived dendritic cells (BM-DCs), were ablated in mice selectively depleted of endogenous lymphoid-resident langerin+ CD8α+ dendritic cells (DCs), suggesting that the antigen is transferred from the injected cells to resident APCs. In contrast, antigen-specific CD4+ T cells were primed predominantly by the injected BM-DCs, with only very weak contribution of resident APCs. Crucially, resident langerin+ CD8α+ DCs only contributed to the priming of CD8+ T cells in the presence of maturation stimuli such as intravenous injection of TLR ligands, or by loading the BM-DCs with the glycolipid α-galactosylceramide (α-GalCer) to recruit the adjuvant activity of activated invariant natural killer-like T (iNKT) cells. In fact, injection of α-GalCer-loaded CD1d-/- BM-DCs resulted in potent iNKT cell activation, suggesting that this glycolipid antigen can also be transferred to resident CD1d+ APCs. While iNKT cell activation per se was independent of langerin+ CD8α+ DCs, some iNKT cell-mediated activities were reduced, notably release of IL-12p70 and transactivation of NK cells. We conclude that both protein and glycolipid antigens can be exchanged between distinct DC species. These data suggest that the efficacy of DC-based vaccination strategies may be improved by the incorporation of a systemic maturation signal aimed to engage resident APCs in CD8+ T cell priming, and α-GalCer may be particularly well suited to this purpose.
    PLoS ONE 01/2011; 6(3):e17657. · 3.53 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Propionibacterium acnes was modified using biochemical extraction methods generating a suspension of microparticles (MIS416) comprising a minimal cell wall skeleton rich in immunostimulatory crosslinked muramyl dipeptide repeats and native bacterial DNA fragments, each which have known adjuvant activity. In vitro studies demonstrated that MIS416 was readily internalized by human myeloid and plasmacytoid DC inducing cytokine secretion and cell activation/maturation. Vaccination studies in mice using OVA as a model antigen demonstrated that MIS416 acts as a Th1 adjuvant, promoting cross-priming of cytotoxic CD8(+) T cell responses and enhanced anti-tumour immunity. Covalent attachment of OVA to MIS416 enabling simultaneous delivery of antigen and adjuvant to the antigen presentation system resulted in a dose-sparing vaccine formulation. Preclinical GLP toxicology studies demonstrated that MIS416 has a favorable safety profile in mouse and rabbit supporting its use in human vaccine formulations.
    Vaccine 10/2010; 29(3):545-57. · 3.77 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Cancer immunotherapy is well tolerated and specific, but its efficacy remains variable. To enhance anti-tumor CD8(+) T-cell responses induced by immunization with antigen-loaded dendritic cells (DCs), we explored the impact of eliciting a potent source of T-cell help from activated invariant natural killer (NK)-like T cells (iNKT cells) using the specific glycolipid ligand alpha-galactosylceramide (alpha-GalCer). As cytokines released by iNKT cells may drive proliferation of CD4(+)CD25(+) regulatory T cells (Tregs), we assessed this immunization strategy in animals treated with anti-CD25 antibody to inactivate Treg function. Combining DC immunization with iNKT cell activation was found to significantly enhance anti-tumor activity, which was improved further by the prior inactivation of Tregs. The improved anti-tumor activity with Treg inactivation was associated with a prolonged proliferative burst of responding CD8(+) T cells. We could find no evidence that inclusion of alpha-GalCer in the vaccine enhanced Treg numbers, or that the 'helper' function of iNKT cells was improved in the absence of Treg activity. Rather, the two activities appeared to act independently to improve the tumor-specific T-cell response. Inactivating regulatory T cells and eliciting iNKT cell activation are therefore two useful strategies that can be used in combination to improve anti-tumor immunization with antigen-loaded DCs.
    Immunology and Cell Biology 02/2010; 88(5):596-604. · 3.93 Impact Factor