Virna Cortez-Retamozo

Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, MA, United States

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Publications (17)175.08 Total impact

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    ABSTRACT: We have shown previously that a network of mononuclear phagocytes (MPs) expressing macrophage and dendritic cell markers such as CD11c, F4/80 and CX3CR1, lines the base of the epididymal tubule. However, in the initial segment (IS) and only in that particular segment, epididymal MPs establish extremely close interactions with the epithelium by projecting slender dendrites between most epithelial cells. We undertook the present study to determine how epididymal phagocytes respond to the transient wave of apoptosis initiated by unilateral efferent duct ligation (EDL) in the epididymal epithelium. We show profound morphological and phenotypical changes restricted to the MPs populating the proximal epididymis following EDL. Within 48 h, a large subset of IS epithelial cells had entered an apoptotic state, visualized by the terminal deoxynucleotidyl transferase dUTP nick end labelling (TUNEL) assay and CD11c(+) and CX3CR1(+) MPs readily engulfed TUNEL-positive cells and other debris. Despite the high levels of apoptosis and the rapid clearance of apoptotic cells occurring after EDL, the epithelium preserved its overall architecture and maintained tight junctions of the blood-epididymis barrier (BEB). The discovery of a functional population of MPs in the epididymal epithelium responsible for maintaining the integrity of the BEB raises further questions regarding the role of these cells in clearing defective epithelial cells in the steady-state epididymis, as well as pathogens and abnormal spermatozoa in the lumen.
    Andrology 08/2014; · 3.37 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: The epithelium that lines the epididymal duct establishes the optimal milieu in which spermatozoa mature, acquire motility and are stored. This finely tuned environment also protects antigenic sperm against pathogens and auto-immunity, which are potential causes of transient or permanent infertility. The epididymal epithelium is pseudostratified and contains basal cells (BCs) that are located beneath other epithelial cells. Previous studies reported that in the mouse epididymis, basal cells possess macrophage-like characteristics. However, we have previously identified a dense population of cells belonging to the mononuclear phagocyte (MP) system (comprised of macrophages and dendritic cells) in the basal compartment of the mouse epididymis, and showed that a subset of MPs express the macrophage marker F4/80. In this study, we evaluate the distribution of BCs and MPs in the epididymis of transgenic CD11c-EYFP mice, in which EYFP is expressed exclusively in MPs, using antibodies against the BC marker keratin 5 (KRT5) and the macrophage marker F4/80. Immunofluorescence labeling for laminin, a basement membrane marker, showed that BCs and most MPs are located in the basal region of the epithelium. Confocal microscopy showed that, in the initial segment, both BCs and MPs project intraepithelial extensions and establish a very intricate network. Flow cytometry experiments demonstrated that epididymal MPs and BCs are phenotypically distinct. BCs do not express F4/80, and MPs do not express KRT5. Therefore, despite their proximity and some morphological similarities with peritubular macrophages and dendritic cells, basal cells do not belong to the mononuclear phagocyte system.
    Biology of Reproduction 03/2014; · 4.03 Impact Factor
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    Virna Cortez-Retamozo, Camilla Engblom, Mikael J Pittet
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    ABSTRACT: The communication between tumor and host cells involves signals that act across extended distances in the body. Recent evidence indicates that the hormone angiotensin II is overproduced by lung adenocarcinoma to remotely expand bone marrow-derived hematopoietic stem cells. This process amplifies the supply of tumor-associated macrophages, which promote disease progression.
    Oncoimmunology. 05/2013; 2(5):e24183.
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    ABSTRACT: Macrophages frequently infiltrate tumors and can enhance cancer growth, yet the origins of the macrophage response are not well understood. Here we address molecular mechanisms of macrophage production in a conditional mouse model of lung adenocarcinoma. We report that overproduction of the peptide hormone Angiotensin II (AngII) in tumor-bearing mice amplifies self-renewing hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs) and macrophage progenitors. The process occurred in the spleen but not the bone marrow, and was independent of hemodynamic changes. The effects of AngII required direct hormone ligation on HSCs, depended on S1P(1) signaling, and allowed the extramedullary tissue to supply new tumor-associated macrophages throughout cancer progression. Conversely, blocking AngII production prevented cancer-induced HSC and macrophage progenitor amplification and thus restrained the macrophage response at its source. These findings indicate that AngII acts upstream of a potent macrophage amplification program and that tumors can remotely exploit the hormone's pathway to stimulate cancer-promoting immunity.
    Immunity 01/2013; · 19.80 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Intestinal epithelial cells exist within a complex environment that affects how they interpret and respond to stimuli. We have applied a multi-scale in vivo systems approach to understand how intestinal immune cells communicate with epithelial cells to regulate responses to inflammatory signals. Multivariate modeling analysis of a large dataset composed of phospho-signals, cytokines, and immune cell populations within the intestine revealed an intimate relationship between immune cells and the epithelial response to TNF-α. Ablation of lymphocytes in the intestine prompted a decrease in the expression of MCP-1, which in turn increased the steady state number of intestinal plasmacytoid dendritic cells (pDCs). This change in the immune compartment affected the intestinal cytokine milieu and subsequent epithelial cell signaling network, with cells becoming hypersensitive to TNF-α-induced apoptosis in a way that could be predicted by mathematical modeling. In summary, we have uncovered a novel cellular network that regulates the response of intestinal epithelial cells to inflammatory stimuli in an in vivo setting.
    PLoS Biology 09/2012; 10(9):e1001393. · 12.69 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Monocytes serve as a central defense system against infection and injury but can also promote pathological inflammatory responses. Considering the evidence that monocytes exist in at least two subsets committed to divergent functions, we investigated whether distinct factors regulate the balance between monocyte subset responses in vivo. We identified a microRNA (miRNA), miR-146a, which is differentially regulated both in mouse (Ly-6C(hi)/Ly-6C(lo)) and human (CD14(hi)/CD14(lo)CD16(+)) monocyte subsets. The single miRNA controlled the amplitude of the Ly-6C(hi) monocyte response during inflammatory challenge whereas it did not affect Ly-6C(lo) cells. miR-146a-mediated regulation was cell-intrinsic and depended on Relb, a member of the noncanonical NF-κB/Rel family, which we identified as a direct miR-146a target. These observations not only provide mechanistic insights into the molecular events that regulate responses mediated by committed monocyte precursor populations but also identify targets for manipulating Ly-6C(hi) monocyte responses while sparing Ly-6Clo monocyte activity.
    Cell Reports 04/2012; 1(4):317-24. · 7.21 Impact Factor
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    Virna Cortez-Retamozo, Martin Etzrodt, Mikael J Pittet
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    ABSTRACT: Tissue macrophages (Mø) and dendritic cells (DC) are thought to derive from hematopoietic stem cells, which exist in the bone marrow and generate intermediate precursor populations with increasingly restricted lineage potentials. There exists several precursors committed to the Mø and DC lineages; these cells exhibit distinct tropism and function and respond differentially in pathophysiologic conditions. In this review, we consider experimental contexts in which Mø and DC responses in tissue are not only dictated by the local environment, but also by the quantity and quality of newly recruited lineage precursor cells. Consequently, we discuss whether therapeutic control of Mø and DC responses in tissue may be achieved through manipulation of their lineage precursors.
    Journal of Innate Immunity 03/2012; 4(5-6):411-23. · 4.46 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Tumor-associated macrophages (TAMs) and tumor-associated neutrophils (TANs) can control cancer growth and exist in almost all solid neoplasms. The cells are known to descend from immature monocytic and granulocytic cells, respectively, which are produced in the bone marrow. However, the spleen is also a recently identified reservoir of monocytes, which can play a significant role in the inflammatory response that follows acute injury. Here, we evaluated the role of the splenic reservoir in a genetic mouse model of lung adenocarcinoma driven by activation of oncogenic Kras and inactivation of p53. We found that high numbers of TAM and TAN precursors physically relocated from the spleen to the tumor stroma, and that recruitment of tumor-promoting spleen-derived TAMs required signaling of the chemokine receptor CCR2. Also, removal of the spleen, either before or after tumor initiation, reduced TAM and TAN responses significantly and delayed tumor growth. The mechanism by which the spleen was able to maintain its reservoir capacity throughout tumor progression involved, in part, local accumulation in the splenic red pulp of typically rare extramedullary hematopoietic stem and progenitor cells, notably granulocyte and macrophage progenitors, which produced CD11b(+) Ly-6C(hi) monocytic and CD11b(+) Ly-6G(hi) granulocytic cells locally. Splenic granulocyte and macrophage progenitors and their descendants were likewise identified in clinical specimens. The present study sheds light on the origins of TAMs and TANs, and positions the spleen as an important extramedullary site, which can continuously supply growing tumors with these cells.
    Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 02/2012; 109(7):2491-6. · 9.81 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Excessive and prolonged activity of inflammatory monocytes is a hallmark of many diseases with an inflammatory component. In such conditions, precise targeting of these cells could be therapeutically beneficial while sparing many essential functions of the innate immune system, thus limiting unwanted effects. Inflammatory monocytes-but not the noninflammatory subset-depend on the chemokine receptor CCR2 for localization to injured tissue. Here we present an optimized lipid nanoparticle and a CCR2-silencing short interfering RNA that, when administered systemically in mice, show rapid blood clearance, accumulate in spleen and bone marrow, and localize to monocytes. Efficient degradation of CCR2 mRNA in monocytes prevents their accumulation in sites of inflammation. Specifically, the treatment attenuates their number in atherosclerotic plaques, reduces infarct size after coronary artery occlusion, prolongs normoglycemia in diabetic mice after pancreatic islet transplantation, and results in reduced tumor volumes and lower numbers of tumor-associated macrophages.
    Nature Biotechnology 11/2011; 29(11):1005-10. · 32.44 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: One of the most intriguing aspects of male reproductive physiology is the ability to generate spermatogenic cells - which are 'foreign' to the host - without triggering immune activation. After leaving the testis, spermatozoa enter the epididymis where they mature and are stored. In this study, we report a previously unrecognized dense network of dendritic cells (DCs) located at the base of the epididymal epithelium. This network was detected in transgenic mice expressing CD11c-EYFP and CX3CR1-GFP reporters. Epididymal DCs (eDCs) establish intimate interactions with the epithelium and project long dendrites between epithelial cells toward the lumen. We show that isolated eDCs express numerous leukocyte markers described previously in other organs that are in contact with the external environment, and present and cross-present ovalbumin to T cells in vitro. eDCs are, therefore, strategically positioned to regulate the complex interplay between immune tolerance and activation, a balance that is fundamental to male fertility.
    Reproduction 02/2011; 141(5):653-63. · 3.56 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Repulsive guidance molecule (RGM) family members RGMa, RGMb/Dragon, and RGMc/hemojuvelin were found recently to act as bone morphogenetic protein (BMP) coreceptors that enhance BMP signaling activity. Although our previous studies have shown that hemojuvelin regulates hepcidin expression and iron metabolism through the BMP pathway, the role of the BMP signaling mediated by Dragon remains largely unknown. We have shown previously that Dragon is expressed in neural cells, germ cells, and renal epithelial cells. In this study, we demonstrate that Dragon is highly expressed in macrophages. Studies with RAW264.7 and J774 macrophage cell lines reveal that Dragon negatively regulates IL-6 expression in a BMP ligand-dependent manner via the p38 MAPK and Erk1/2 pathways but not the Smad1/5/8 pathway. We also generated Dragon knockout mice and found that IL-6 is upregulated in macrophages and dendritic cells derived from whole lung tissue of these mice compared with that in respective cells derived from wild-type littermates. These results indicate that Dragon is an important negative regulator of IL-6 expression in immune cells and that Dragon-deficient mice may be a useful model for studying immune and inflammatory disorders.
    The Journal of Immunology 02/2011; 186(3):1369-76. · 5.52 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Monocytes recruited to ischemic myocardium originate from a reservoir in the spleen, and the release from their splenic niche relies on angiotensin (Ang) II signaling. Because monocytes are centrally involved in tissue repair after ischemia, we hypothesized that early angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitor therapy impacts healing after myocardial infarction partly via effects on monocyte traffic. In a mouse model of permanent coronary ligation, enalapril arrested the release of monocytes from the splenic reservoir and consequently reduced their recruitment into the healing infarct by 45%, as quantified by flow cytometry of digested infarcts. Time-lapse intravital microscopy revealed that enalapril reduces monocyte motility in the spleen. In vitro migration assays and Western blotting showed that this was caused by reduced signaling through the Ang II type 1 receptor. We then studied the long-term consequences of blocked splenic monocyte release in atherosclerotic apolipoprotein (apo)E(-/-) mice, in which infarct healing is impaired because of excessive inflammation in the cardiac wound. Enalapril improved histologic healing biomarkers and reduced inflammation in infarcts measured by FMT-CT (fluorescence molecular tomography in conjunction with x-ray computed tomography) of proteolytic activity. ACE inhibition improved MRI-derived ejection fraction by 14% on day 21, despite initially comparable infarct size. In apoE(-/-) mice, ischemia/reperfusion injury resulted in larger infarct size and enhanced monocyte recruitment and was reversible by enalapril treatment. Splenectomy reproduced antiinflammatory effects of enalapril. This study suggests that benefits of early ACE inhibition after myocardial infarction can partially be attributed to its potent antiinflammatory impact on the splenic monocyte reservoir.
    Circulation Research 10/2010; 107(11):1364-73. · 11.86 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Optical projection tomography is a new ex vivo imaging technique that allows imaging of whole organs in three dimensions at high spatial resolutions. In this Letter we demonstrate its capability to tomographically visualize molecular activity in whole organs of mice. In particular, eosinophil activity in asthmatic lungs is resolved using a Born-normalized fluorescence optical projection tomography and employing a near-IR molecular probe. The possibility to achieve molecularly sensitive imaging contrast in optical projection tomography by means of targeted and activatable imaging reporter agents adds a new range of capabilities for investigating molecular signatures of pathophysiological processes and a wide variety of diseases and their development.
    Optics Letters 04/2010; 35(7):1088-90. · 3.39 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: To test a novel self-activating viridin (SAV) prodrug that slowly releases wortmannin, a potent phosphoinositide 3-kinase inhibitor, in a model of antibody-mediated inflammatory arthritis. The SAV prodrug was administered to K/BxN mice or to C57BL/6 (B6) mice that had been injected with K/BxN serum. Ankle thickness was measured, and histologic changes were scored after a 10-day disease course (serum-transfer arthritis). Protease activity was measured by a near-infrared imaging approach using a cleavable cathepsin-selective probe. Further near-infrared imaging techniques were used to analyze early changes in vascular permeability after serum injection, as well as neutrophil-endothelial cell interactions. Neutrophil functions were assessed using an oxidative burst assay as well as a degranulation assay. SAV prevented ankle swelling in mice with serum-transfer arthritis in a dose-dependent manner. It also markedly reduced the extent of other features of arthritis, such as protease activity and histology scores for inflammation and joint erosion. Moreover, SAV was an effective therapeutic agent. The underlying mechanisms for the antiinflammatory activity were manifold. Endothelial permeability after serum injection was reduced, as was firm neutrophil attachment to endothelial cells. Endothelial cell activation by tumor necrosis factor alpha was impeded by SAV, as measured by the expression of vascular cell adhesion molecule. Crucial neutrophil functions, such as generation of reactive oxygen species and degranulation of protease-laden vesicles, were decreased by SAV administration. A novel SAV prodrug proved strongly antiinflammatory in a murine model of antibody-induced inflammatory arthritis. Its activity could be attributed, at least in part, to the inhibition of neutrophil and endothelial cell functions.
    Arthritis & Rheumatology 08/2009; 60(8):2314-24. · 7.48 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: A current paradigm states that monocytes circulate freely and patrol blood vessels but differentiate irreversibly into dendritic cells (DCs) or macrophages upon tissue entry. Here we show that bona fide undifferentiated monocytes reside in the spleen and outnumber their equivalents in circulation. The reservoir monocytes assemble in clusters in the cords of the subcapsular red pulp and are distinct from macrophages and DCs. In response to ischemic myocardial injury, splenic monocytes increase their motility, exit the spleen en masse, accumulate in injured tissue, and participate in wound healing. These observations uncover a role for the spleen as a site for storage and rapid deployment of monocytes and identify splenic monocytes as a resource that the body exploits to regulate inflammation.
    Science 07/2009; 325(5940):612-616. · 31.20 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Tumor-associated macrophages (TAMs) invade the tumor stroma in many cancers, yet their role is incompletely understood. To visualize and better understand these critical cells in tumor progression, we screened a portfolio of rationally selected, injectable agents to image endogenous TAMs ubiquitously in three different cancer models (colon carcinoma, lung adenocarcinoma, and soft tissue sarcoma). AMTA680, a functionally derivatized magneto-fluorescent nanoparticle, labeled a subset of myeloid cells with an "M2" macrophage phenotype, whereas other neighboring cells, including tumor cells and a variety of other leukocytes, remained unlabeled. We further show that AMTA680-labeled endogenous TAMs are not altered and can be tracked noninvasively at different resolutions and using various imaging modalities, e.g., fluorescence molecular tomography, magnetic resonance imaging, and multiphoton and confocal intravital microscopy. Quantitative assessment of TAM distribution and activity in vivo identified that these cells cluster in delimited foci within tumors, show relatively low motility, and extend cytoplasmic protrusions for prolonged physical interactions with neighboring tumor cells. Noninvasive imaging can also be used to monitor TAM-depleting regimen quantitatively. Thus, AMTA680 or related cell-targeting agents represent appropriate injectable vehicles for in vivo analysis of the tumor microenvironment.
    Neoplasia (New York, N.Y.) 06/2009; 11(5):459-68, 2 p following 468. · 5.48 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Eosinophils are multifunctional leukocytes that degrade and remodel tissue extracellular matrix through production of proteolytic enzymes, release of proinflammatory factors to initiate and propagate inflammatory responses, and direct activation of mucus secretion and smooth muscle cell constriction. Thus, eosinophils are central effector cells during allergic airway inflammation and an important clinical therapeutic target. Here we describe the use of an injectable MMP-targeted optical sensor that specifically and quantitatively resolves eosinophil activity in the lungs of mice with experimental allergic airway inflammation. Through the use of real-time molecular imaging methods, we report the visualization of eosinophil responses in vivo and at different scales. Eosinophil responses were seen at single-cell resolution in conducting airways using near-infrared fluorescence fiberoptic bronchoscopy, in lung parenchyma using intravital microscopy, and in the whole body using fluorescence-mediated molecular tomography. Using these real-time imaging methods, we confirmed the immunosuppressive effects of the glucocorticoid drug dexamethasone in the mouse model of allergic airway inflammation and identified a viridin-derived prodrug that potently inhibited the accumulation and enzyme activity of eosinophils in the lungs. The combination of sensitive enzyme-targeted sensors with noninvasive molecular imaging approaches permitted evaluation of airway inflammation severity and was used as a model to rapidly screen for new drug effects. Both fluorescence-mediated tomography and fiberoptic bronchoscopy techniques have the potential to be translated into the clinic.
    Journal of Clinical Investigation 01/2009; 118(12):4058-66. · 12.81 Impact Factor

Publication Stats

788 Citations
175.08 Total Impact Points

Institutions

  • 2009–2013
    • Massachusetts General Hospital
      • Center for Systems Biology
      Boston, MA, United States
    • Harvard Medical School
      • Department of Medicine
      Boston, Massachusetts, United States