Alexander Flügel

Georg-August-Universität Göttingen, Göttingen, Lower Saxony, Germany

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Publications (54)453.41 Total impact

  • Francesca Odoardi, Winfried Neuhuber, Alexander Flügel
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    ABSTRACT: A recent paper published in Nature reports sensory nerve fibers in the skin that give local immune cells important instructions for the organization of an immune response; in this particular case the cooperation between the nervous and immune systems had disastrous consequences, namely an auto-destruction of the skin.
    Cell research. 06/2014;
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    ABSTRACT: Glucocorticoids (GCs) are the standard therapy for treating multiple sclerosis (MS) patients suffering from an acute relapse. One of the main mechanisms of GC action is held to be the induction of T cell apoptosis leading to reduced lymphocyte infiltration into the CNS, yet our analysis of experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis (EAE) in three different strains of genetically manipulated mice has revealed that the induction of T cell apoptosis is not essential for the therapeutic efficacy of GCs. Instead, we identified the redirection of T cell migration in response to chemokines as a new therapeutic principle of GC action. GCs inhibited the migration of T cells towards CCL19 while they enhanced their responsiveness towards CXCL12. Importantly, blocking CXCR4 signaling in vivo by applying Plerixafor(®) strongly impaired the capacity of GCs to interfere with EAE, as revealed by an aggravated disease course, more pronounced CNS infiltration and a more dispersed distribution of the infiltrating T cells throughout the parenchyma. Our observation that T cells lacking the GC receptor were refractory to CXCL12 further underscores the importance of this pathway for the treatment of EAE by GCs. Importantly, methylprednisolone pulse therapy strongly increased the capacity of peripheral blood T cells from MS patients of different subtypes to migrate towards CXCL12. This indicates that modulation of T cell migration is an important mechanistic principle responsible for the efficacy of high-dose GC therapy not only of EAE but also of MS.
    Acta Neuropathologica 02/2014; · 9.73 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Diffuse and unstoppable infiltration of brain and spinal cord tissue by neoplastic glial cells is the single most important therapeutic problem posed by the common glioma group of tumors: astrocytoma, oligoastrocytoma, oligodendroglioma, their malignant variants and glioblastoma. These neoplasms account for more than two thirds of all malignant central nervous system tumors. However, most glioma research focuses on an examination of the tumor cells rather than on host-specific, tumor micro-environmental cells and factors. This can explain why existing diffuse glioma therapies fail and why these tumors have remained incurable. Thus, there is a great need for innovation. We describe a novel strategy for the development of a more effective treatment of diffuse glioma. Our approach centers on gaining control over the behavior of the microglia, the defense cells of the CNS, which are manipulated by malignant glioma and support its growth. Armoring microglia against the influences from glioma is one of our research goals. We further discuss how microglia precursors may be genetically enhanced to track down infiltrating glioma cells.
    CNS & neurological disorders drug targets 09/2013; · 3.57 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Multiple sclerosis is an autoimmune disease of the central nervous system (CNS) that is initiated when self-reactive T cells enter the brain and become locally activated after encountering their specific nervous antigens. When and where the disease-relevant antigen encounters occur is unclear. Here we combined fluorescently labeled nuclear factor of activated T cells (NFAT) with histone protein H2B to create a broadly applicable molecular sensor for intravital imaging of T cell activation. In experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis, an animal model for multiple sclerosis, we report that effector T cells entering the CNS become activated after short contacts with leptomeningeal phagocytes. During established disease, the activation process is extended to the depth of the CNS parenchyma, where the cells form contacts with microglia and recruited phagocytes. We show that it is the activation processes during the preclinical phase rather than during established disease that are essential for the intensity and duration of the disease bout.
    Nature medicine 04/2013; · 27.14 Impact Factor
  • Fred Lühder, Ralf Gold, Alexander Flügel, Ralf A Linker
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    ABSTRACT: The concept of neuroprotective autoimmunity implies that immune cells, especially autoantigen-specific T cells, infiltrate the central nervous system (CNS) after injury and contribute to neuroregeneration and repair by secreting soluble factors. Amongst others, neurotrophic factors and neurotrophins such as brain-derived neurotropic factor (BDNF) are considered to play an important role in this process. New data raise the possibility that this concept could also be extended to neuroinflammatory diseases such as multiple sclerosis (MS) where autoantigen-specific T cells infiltrate the CNS, causing axonal/neuronal damage on the one hand, but also providing neuroprotective support on the other hand. In this review, we summarize the current knowledge on BDNF levels analyzed in MS patients in different compartments and its correlation with clinical parameters. Furthermore, new approaches in experimental animal models are discussed that attempt to decipher the functional relevance of BDNF in autoimmune demyelination.
    Archivum Immunologiae et Therapiae Experimentalis 01/2013; · 2.38 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: The blood–brain barrier (BBB) and the environment of the central nervous system (CNS) guard the nervous tissue from peripheral immune cells. In the autoimmune disease multiple sclerosis, myelin-reactive T-cell blasts are thought to transgress the BBB and create a pro-inflammatory environment in the CNS, thereby making possible a second autoimmune attack that starts from the leptomeningeal vessels and progresses into the parenchyma. Using a Lewis rat model of experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis, we show here that contrary to the expectations of this concept, T-cell blasts do not efficiently enter the CNS and are not required to prepare the BBB for immune-cell recruitment. Instead, intravenously transferred T-cell blasts gain the capacity to enter the CNS after residing transiently within the lung tissues. Inside the lung tissues, they move along and within the airways to bronchus-associated lymphoid tissues and lung-draining mediastinal lymph nodes before they enter the blood circulation from where they reach the CNS. Effector T cells transferred directly into the airways showed a similar migratory pattern and retained their full pathogenicity. On their way the T cells fundamentally reprogrammed their gene-expression profile, characterized by downregulation of their activation program and upregulation of cellular locomotion molecules together with chemokine and adhesion receptors. The adhesion receptors include ninjurin 1, which participates in T-cell intravascular crawling on cerebral blood vessels. We detected that the lung constitutes a niche not only for activated T cells but also for resting myelin-reactive memory T cells. After local stimulation in the lung, these cells strongly proliferate and, after assuming migratory properties, enter the CNS and induce paralytic disease. The lung could therefore contribute to the activation of potentially autoaggressive T cells and their transition to a migratory mode as a prerequisite to entering their target tissues and inducing autoimmune disease.
    Nature 08/2012; 488(7413):675-9. · 38.60 Impact Factor
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    Acta Neuropathologica 08/2012; 124(4):593-8. · 9.73 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) is involved in neuronal and glial development and survival. While neurons and astrocytes are its main cellular source in the central nervous system (CNS), bioactive BDNF is also expressed in immune cells and in lesions of multiple sclerosis and its animal model experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis (EAE). Previous data revealed that BDNF exerts neuroprotective effects in myelin oligodendrocyte glycoprotein-induced EAE. Using a conditional knock-out model with inducible deletion of BDNF, we here show that clinical symptoms and structural damage are increased when BDNF is absent during the initiation phase of clinical EAE. In contrast, deletion of BDNF later in the disease course of EAE did not result in significant changes, either in the disease course or in axonal integrity. Bone marrow chimeras revealed that the deletion of BDNF in the CNS alone, with no deletion of BDNF in the infiltrating immune cells, was sufficient for the observed effects. Finally, the therapeutic effect of glatiramer acetate, a well-characterized disease-modifying drug with the potential to modulate BDNF expression, was partially reversed in mice in which BDNF was deleted shortly before the onset of disease. In summary, our data argue for an early window of therapeutic opportunity where modulation of BDNF may exert neuroprotective effects in experimental autoimmune demyelination.
    Acta Neuropathologica 02/2012; 123(2):247-58. · 9.73 Impact Factor
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    Nature medicine 01/2012; 18(1):66-70. · 27.14 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis (EAE) is an animal model of multiple sclerosis, a chronic inflammatory and demyelinating disease of the CNS. Albino Oxford (AO) rats are resistant to the induction of EAE, while the disease can be readily induced in Dark Agouti (DA) rats. Here we investigated a potential contribution of the CNS milieu in the limitation of the encephalitogenic autoimmune response. EAE was induced by immunization of the respective rat strains with spinal cord homogenate emulsified in complete Freund's adjuvant. AO rats did not exhibit clinical signs after immunization while DA rats developed severe neurologic deficits. Infiltration of immune cells into spinal cords (SC) was evident in both strains 12-14 days after the immunization. EAE lesions of AO rats contained substantially lower numbers of CD4+ T cells and CD11b+ cells compared to those in DA rats. This went together with lower levels of interferon (IFN)-γ and interleukin (IL)-17 in the cells isolated from SC. We found a dramatic increase of CXCL12 expression in SC tissue and microvessels of AO rats, whereas DA rats markedly decreased the expression of this chemokine within their CNS. Administration of the CXCL12 antagonist AMD3100 to a substrain of AO rats that developed a weak EAE led to earlier onset and exacerbation of the disease. These results suggest a role of CXCL12 in down-regulating autoimmune processes in AO rats during EAE. Therapeutic modulation of CXCL12 could be a promising strategy for the treatment of CNS autoimmunity.
    Immunobiology 04/2011; 216(9):979-87. · 2.81 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: T cell vaccination (TCV) with irradiated encephalitogenic T cells induces resistance to EAE. However, the fate of the encephalitogenic T cells in vivo following TCV has yet to be studied. Here we used anti-MBP encephalitogenic T cells that were transduced to express GFP to study the effects of TCV on these cells. In naïve rats or in control-vaccinated (Ova-GFP) rats injected i.v. with GFP-labeled effector cells, high numbers of effector T cells were found along with macrophages, CD8 T cells and Non-GFP CD4 cells in the spleens, parathymic lymph nodes (PTLN) and spinal cords. In contrast, the recipients that had been treated with TCV (anti-MBP T-cell lines) showed few if any GFP-labeled effector T cells throughout the disease (day 1-8) and their spinal cords were almost clear of macrophages, CD4 and CD8 cells. Splenocytes in the control groups secreted IFNgamma in response to MBP and showed high numbers of IFNgamma secreting CD4 and CD8 cells in their spinal cords at the disease peak. In the TCV-protected groups, splenocytes showed no reactivity to MBP but secreted IFNgamma in response to irradiated encephalitogenic T cells--an anti-idiotypic response. Thus, TCV leads to a marked decrease in the numbers of effector T cells in the CNS and lymphoid organs, to a marked reduction in the Th1 cytokine producing cells in the CNS, and to the appearance of T cells responsive to the anti-MBP effector T cells.
    Journal of Autoimmunity 09/2010; 35(2):135-44. · 8.15 Impact Factor
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    Naoto Kawakami, Alexander Flügel
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    ABSTRACT: Since the first applications of two-photon microscopy in immunology 10 years ago, the number of studies using this advanced technology has increased dramatically. The two-photon microscope allows long-term visualization of cell motility in the living tissue with minimal phototoxicity. Using this technique, we examined brain autoantigen-specific T cell behavior in experimental autoimmune encephalitomyelitis, the animal model of human multiple sclerosis. Even before disease symptoms appear, the autoreactive T cells arrive at their target organ. There they crawl along the intraluminal surface of central nervous system (CNS) blood vessels before they extravasate. In the perivascular environment, the T cells meet phagocytes that present autoantigens. This contact activates the T cells to penetrate deep into the CNS parenchyma, where the infiltrated T cells again can find antigen, be further activated, and produce cytokines, resulting in massive immune cell recruitment and clinical disease.
    Seminars in Immunopathology 09/2010; 32(3):275-87. · 5.38 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Nicotinic acid adenine dinucleotide phosphate represents a newly identified second messenger in T cells involved in antigen receptor-mediated calcium signalling. Its function in vivo is, however, unknown due to the lack of biocompatible inhibitors. Using a recently developed inhibitor, we explored the role of nicotinic acid adenine dinucleotide phosphate in autoreactive effector T cells during experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis, the animal model for multiple sclerosis. We provide in vitro and in vivo evidence that calcium signalling controlled by nicotinic acid adenine dinucleotide phosphate is relevant for the pathogenic potential of autoimmune effector T cells. Live two photon imaging and molecular analyses revealed that nicotinic acid adenine dinucleotide phosphate signalling regulates T cell motility and re-activation upon arrival in the nervous tissues. Treatment with the nicotinic acid adenine dinucleotide phosphate inhibitor significantly reduced both the number of stable arrests of effector T cells and their invasive capacity. The levels of pro-inflammatory cytokines interferon-gamma and interleukin-17 were strongly diminished. Consecutively, the clinical symptoms of experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis were ameliorated. In vitro, antigen-triggered T cell proliferation and cytokine production were evenly suppressed. These inhibitory effects were reversible: after wash-out of the nicotinic acid adenine dinucleotide phosphate antagonist, the effector T cells fully regained their functions. The nicotinic acid derivative BZ194 induced this transient state of non-responsiveness specifically in post-activated effector T cells. Naïve and long-lived memory T cells, which express lower levels of the putative nicotinic acid adenine dinucleotide phosphate receptor, type 1 ryanodine receptor, were not targeted. T cell priming and recall responses in vivo were not reduced. These data indicate that the nicotinic acid adenine dinucleotide phosphate/calcium signalling pathway is essential for the recruitment and the activation of autoaggressive effector T cells within their target organ. Interference with this signalling pathway suppresses the formation of autoimmune inflammatory lesions and thus might qualify as a novel strategy for the treatment of T cell mediated autoimmune diseases.
    Brain 07/2010; 133(Pt 7):1930-43. · 10.23 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: The tissues of the central nervous system are effectively shielded from the blood circulation by specialized vessels that are impermeable not only to cells, but also to most macromolecules circulating in the blood. Despite this seemingly absolute seclusion, central nervous system tissues are subject to immune surveillance and are vulnerable to autoimmune attacks. Using intravital two-photon imaging in a Lewis rat model of experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis, here we present in real-time the interactive processes between effector T cells and cerebral structures from their first arrival to manifest autoimmune disease. We observed that incoming effector T cells successively scanned three planes. The T cells got arrested to leptomeningeal vessels and immediately monitored the luminal surface, crawling preferentially against the blood flow. After diapedesis, the cells continued their scan on the abluminal vascular surface and the underlying leptomeningeal (pial) membrane. There, the T cells encountered phagocytes that effectively present antigens, foreign as well as myelin proteins. These contacts stimulated the effector T cells to produce pro-inflammatory mediators, and provided a trigger to tissue invasion and the formation of inflammatory infiltrations.
    Nature 11/2009; 462(7269):94-8. · 38.60 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: The nucleotide NAADP was recently discovered as a second messenger involved in the initiation and propagation of Ca(2+) signaling in lymphoma T cells, but its impact on primary T cell function is still unknown. An optimized, synthetic, small molecule inhibitor of NAADP action, termed BZ194, was designed and synthesized. BZ194 neither interfered with Ca(2+) mobilization by d-myo-inositol 1,4,5-trisphosphate or cyclic ADP-ribose nor with capacitative Ca(2+) entry. BZ194 specifically and effectively blocked NAADP-stimulated [(3)H]ryanodine binding to the purified type 1 ryanodine receptor. Further, in intact T cells, Ca(2+) mobilization evoked by NAADP or by formation of the immunological synapse between primary effector T cells and astrocytes was inhibited by BZ194. Downstream events of Ca(2+) mobilization, such as nuclear translocation of "nuclear factor of activated T cells" (NFAT), T cell receptor-driven interleukin-2 production, and proliferation in antigen-experienced CD4(+) effector T cells, were attenuated by the NAADP antagonist. Taken together, specific inhibition of the NAADP signaling pathway constitutes a way to specifically and effectively modulate T-cell activation and has potential in the therapy of autoimmune diseases.
    Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 07/2009; 106(26):10678-83. · 9.81 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: cADPR (cyclic ADP-ribose) is a universal Ca(2+) mobilizing second messenger. In T-cells cADPR is involved in sustained Ca(2+) release and also in Ca(2+) entry. Potential mechanisms for the latter include either capacitative Ca(2+) entry, secondary to store depletion by cADPR, or direct activation of the non-selective cation channel TRPM2 (transient receptor potential cation channel, subfamily melastatin, member 2). Here we characterize the molecular target of the newly-described membrane-permeant cADPR agonist 8-Br-N(1)-cIDPR (8-bromo-cyclic IDP-ribose). 8-Br-N(1)-cIDPR evoked Ca(2+) signalling in the human T-lymphoma cell line Jurkat and in primary rat T-lymphocytes. Ca(2+) signalling induced by 8-Br-N(1)-cIDPR consisted of Ca(2+) release and Ca(2+) entry. Whereas Ca(2+) release was sensitive to both the RyR (ryanodine receptor) blocker RuRed (Ruthenium Red) and the cADPR antagonist 8-Br-cADPR (8-bromo-cyclic ADP-ribose), Ca(2+) entry was inhibited by the Ca(2+) entry blockers Gd(3+) (gadolinium ion) and SKF-96365, as well as by 8-Br-cADPR. To unravel a potential role for TRPM2 in sustained Ca(2+) entry evoked by 8-Br-N(1)-cIDPR, TRPM2 was overexpressed in HEK (human embryonic kidney)-293 cells. However, though activation by H(2)O(2) was enhanced dramatically in those cells, Ca(2+) signalling induced by 8-Br-N(1)-cIDPR was almost unaffected. Similarly, direct analysis of TRPM2 currents did not reveal activation or co-activation of TRPM2 by 8-Br-N(1)-cIDPR. In summary, the sensitivity to the Ca(2+) entry blockers Gd(3+) and SKF-96365 is in favour of the concept of capacitative Ca(2+) entry, secondary to store depletion by 8-Br-N(1)-cIDPR. Taken together, 8-Br-N(1)-cIDPR appears to be the first cADPR agonist affecting Ca(2+) release and secondary Ca(2+) entry, but without effect on TRPM2.
    Biochemical Journal 07/2009; 422(1):139-49. · 4.65 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: The aim of this study was to assess the feasibility of transplanting mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs), genetically modified to express glial-derived neurotrophic factor (GDNF), to the contused rat spinal cord, and to subsequently assess their neural differentiation potential. MSCs expressing green fluorescent protein were transduced with a retroviral vector to express the neurotrophin GDNF. The transduction protocol was optimized by using green fluorescent protein-expressing retroviral constructs; approximately 90% of MSCs were transduced successfully after G418 selection. GDNF-transduced MSCs expressed the transgene and secreted growth factor into the media (approximately 12 ng/500,000 cells secreted into the supernatant 2 weeks after transduction). Injuries were established using an impactor device, which applied a given, reproducible force to the exposed spinal cord. GDNF-expressing MSCs were transplanted rostral and caudal to the site of injury. Spinal cord sections were analyzed 2 and 6 weeks after transplantation. We demonstrate that GDNF-transduced MSCs engraft, survive, and express the therapeutic gene up to 6 weeks posttransplantation, while maintaining an undifferentiated phenotype. In conclusion, transplanted MSCs have limited capacity for the replacement of neural cells lost as a result of a spinal cord trauma. However, they provide excellent opportunities for local delivery of neurotrophic factors into the injured tissue. This study underlines the therapeutic benefits associated with cell transplantation and provides a good example of the use of MSCs for gene delivery.
    Tissue Engineering Part A 04/2009; 15(10):3049-59. · 4.64 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Effector memory T (Tem) cells are essential mediators of autoimmune disease and delayed-type hypersensitivity (DTH), a convenient model for two-photon imaging of Tem cell participation in an inflammatory response. Shortly (3 hr) after entry into antigen-primed ear tissue, Tem cells stably attached to antigen-bearing antigen-presenting cells (APCs). After 24 hr, enlarged Tem cells were highly motile along collagen fibers and continued to migrate rapidly for 18 hr. Tem cells rely on voltage-gated Kv1.3 potassium channels to regulate calcium signaling. ShK-186, a specific Kv1.3 blocker, inhibited DTH and suppressed Tem cell enlargement and motility in inflamed tissue but had no effect on homing to or motility in lymph nodes of naive and central memory T (Tcm) cells. ShK-186 effectively treated disease in a rat model of multiple sclerosis. These results demonstrate a requirement for Kv1.3 channels in Tem cells during an inflammatory immune response in peripheral tissues. Targeting Kv1.3 allows for effector memory responses to be suppressed while central memory responses remain intact.
    Immunity 11/2008; 29(4):602-14. · 19.80 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Delivery of cellular and/or trophic factors to the site of injury may promote neural repair or regeneration and return of function after peripheral nerve or spinal cord injury. Engineered scaffolds provide a platform to deliver therapeutic cells and neurotrophic molecules. We have genetically engineered mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) from the green rat (CZ-004 [SD TgN(act-EGFP)OsbCZ-004]) to express nerve growth factor (NGF) using an adenoviral vector. Cells maintained their stem cell phenotype as judged by expression of CD71 and CD172 markers, and absence of the hematopoietic marker CD45. Cells continued to express green fluorescent protein (GFP) on a long-term basis. Morphology, viability, and growth kinetics were maintained when cells were grown on a poly-lactic-co-glycolic acid (PLGA) polymer scaffold. Under appropriate growth conditions, they differentiated into chondrogenic, osteogenic, and adipogenic phenotypes, demonstrating that they retained their characteristics as MSCs. NGF was secreted from transduced MSCs at physiologically relevant levels ( approximately 25 ng/mL) measured by enzyme-linked immunoabsorbent assay (ELISA). Secreted NGF was functionally active in a neurite growth assay with PC12 cells. We conclude that MSCs are a good candidate for delivery of therapeutic factors into the injured nervous system. They are autologous, may be genetically modified to express neurotrophins, and are compatible with polymer surfaces that may be used as a potential delivery system.
    Tissue Engineering Part A 05/2008; 14(5):681-90. · 4.07 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Administration of the CD28 superagonistic antibody JJ316 is an efficient means to treat autoimmune diseases in rats, but the humanized antibody TGN1412 caused devastating side effects in healthy volunteers during a clinical trial. Here we show that JJ316 treatment of rats induced a dramatic redistribution of T lymphocytes from the periphery to the secondary lymphoid organs, resulting in severe T lymphopenia. Live imaging of secondary lymphoid organs revealed that JJ316 administration almost instantaneously (<2 minutes) arrested T cells in situ. This reduction in T cell motility was accompanied by profound cytoskeletal rearrangements and increased cell size. In addition, surface expression of lymphocyte function-associated antigen-1 was enhanced, endothelial differentiation sphingolipid G protein-coupled receptor 1 and L selectin levels were downregulated, and the cells lost their responsiveness to sphingosine 1-phosphate-directed migration. These proadhesive alterations were accompanied by signs of strong activation, including upregulation of CD25, CD69, CD134, and proinflammatory mediators. However, this did not lead to a cytokine storm similar to the clinical trial. While most of the early changes disappeared within 48 hours, we observed that CD4+CD25+FoxP3+ regulatory T cells experienced a second phase of activation, which resulted in massive cell enlargement, extensive polarization, and increased motility. These data suggest that CD28 superagonists elicit 2 qualitatively distinct waves of activation.
    Journal of Clinical Investigation 04/2008; 118(4):1405-16. · 12.81 Impact Factor

Publication Stats

2k Citations
453.41 Total Impact Points

Institutions

  • 2012
    • Georg-August-Universität Göttingen
      Göttingen, Lower Saxony, Germany
  • 2010
    • Hertie Foundation
      Frankfurt, Hesse, Germany
  • 1999–2010
    • Max Planck Institute of Neurobiology
      München, Bavaria, Germany
  • 2001
    • Ludwig-Maximilian-University of Munich
      • Department of Neurology
      München, Bavaria, Germany