Kai W Wucherpfennig

Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Boston, Massachusetts, United States

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Publications (166)1787.54 Total impact

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    ABSTRACT: Investigators from academia and industry gathered on August 14, 2014, in Boston at the Inaugural ImVacS conference entitled “Target Discovery for T Cell Therapy: Next Step to Advance Immunotherapies”. Novel targets, discovery strategies and enabling technologies were presented and discussed.
    No preview · Article · Jul 2015
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    ABSTRACT: To investigate the clinical and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) features of anti-myelin oligodendrocyte glycoprotein (MOG) antibody-seropositive pediatric demyelinating syndromes. Serum samples collected from 74 children with suspected demyelinating disorders whom were being followed at Massachusetts General Hospital were incubated with control green fluorescent protein (GFP)- and MOG-GFP-transfected Jurkat cell clones. The binding ratios were calculated using flow cytometry. Using statistical analyses, we compared the demographic, clinical and radiological features in our seropositive and seronegative patients. We found that 13 out of 74 (17.5%) patients were seropositive for MOG. The MOG-seropositive patients were younger than the seronegative patients (p = 0.049). No single disease category predominated among the seropositive patients, nor was one group more likely to have a polyphasic course. There were two out of four neuromyelitis optica (NMO) patients who had MOG antibodies; both were seronegative for aquaporin -4 (AQP4) antibodies. One had monophasic disease and the other had frequent relapses. There was a bimodal distribution of the MOG-seropositive patients by age at onset, with a distinct younger group (4-8 years) having a high prevalence of encephalopathy and an older group (13-18 years), whom presented almost exclusively with optic neuritis. MRI analysis demonstrated the absence of corpus callosum lesions in the seropositive patients (p = 0.012). The annualized relapse rate (ARR) and the Expanded Disability Status Scale (EDSS) results at 2 years did not differ between the seropositive and seronegative patients. MOG antibodies are found across a variety of pediatric demyelinating syndromes having some distinct clinical and MRI features. © The Author(s), 2015.
    Full-text · Article · Jun 2015 · Multiple Sclerosis
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    Ludvig M Sollid · Wouter Pos · Kai W Wucherpfennig
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    ABSTRACT: It will soon be 50 years since the first MHC associations with human disease were described. These seminal studies opened a flourishing area of research, yet much remains to be discovered. Genome-wide association studies of autoimmune diseases have demonstrated that the MHC region has effect sizes that supersede those for any non-MHC locus for most diseases. Thus, an understanding of how particular MHC alleles confer susceptibility will be essential for a comprehensive understanding of autoimmune disease pathogenesis. Here we review recent exciting findings in this important field.
    Full-text · Article · Dec 2014 · Current Opinion in Immunology
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    ABSTRACT: Survival for patients with glioblastoma, the most common high-grade primary CNS tumor, remains poor despite multiple therapeutic interventions including intensifying cytotoxic therapy, targeting dysregulated cell signaling pathways, and blocking angiogenesis. Exciting, durable clinical benefits have recently been demonstrated for a number of other challenging cancers using a variety of immunotherapeutic approaches. Much modern research confirms that the CNS is immunoactive rather than immunoprivileged. Preliminary results of clinical studies demonstrate that varied vaccine strategies have achieved encouraging evidence of clinical benefit for glioblastoma patients, although multiple variables will likely require systematic investigation before optimal outcomes are realized. Initial preclinical studies have also revealed promising results with other immunotherapies including cell-based approaches and immune checkpoint blockade. Clinical studies to evaluate a wide array of immune therapies for malignant glioma patients are being rapidly developed. Important considerations going forward include optimizing response assessment and identifiying correlative biomarkers for predict therapeutic benefit. Finally, the potential of complementary combinatorial immunotherapeutic regimens is highly exciting and warrants expedited investigation.
    Full-text · Article · Sep 2014 · Neuro-Oncology
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    ABSTRACT: Fibroblastic reticular cells (FRCs) are known to inhabit T cell-rich areas of lymphoid organs, where they function to facilitate interactions between T cells and dendritic cells. However, in vivo manipulation of FRCs has been limited by a dearth of genetic tools that target this lineage. Here, using a mouse model to conditionally ablate FRCs, we demonstrated their indispensable role in antiviral T cell responses. Unexpectedly, loss of FRCs also attenuated humoral immunity due to impaired B cell viability and follicular organization. Follicle-resident FRCs established a favorable niche for B lymphocytes via production of the cytokine BAFF. Thus, our study indicates that adaptive immunity requires an intact FRC network and identifies a subset of FRCs that control B cell homeostasis and follicle identity.
    Full-text · Article · Aug 2014 · Nature Immunology
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    ABSTRACT: The TCR:CD3 complex transduces signals that are critical for optimal T cell development and adaptive immunity. In resting T cells, the CD3ε cytoplasmic tail associates with the plasma membrane via a proximal basic-rich stretch (BRS). In this study, we show that mice lacking a functional CD3ε-BRS exhibited substantial reductions in thymic cellularity and limited CD4(-)CD8(-) double-negative (DN) 3 to DN4 thymocyte transition, because of enhanced DN4 TCR signaling resulting in increased cell death and TCR downregulation in all subsequent populations. Furthermore, positive, but not negative, T cell selection was affected in mice lacking a functional CD3ε-BRS, which led to limited peripheral T cell function and substantially reduced responsiveness to influenza infection. Collectively, these results indicate that membrane association of the CD3ε signaling domain is required for optimal thymocyte development and peripheral T cell function.
    Full-text · Article · Jun 2014 · The Journal of Immunology
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    ABSTRACT: Recently, several neutralizing anti-HIV antibodies have been isolated from memory B cells of HIV-infected individuals. Despite extensive evidence of B cell dysfunction in HIV disease, little is known about the cells from which these rare HIV-specific antibodies originate. Accordingly, we used HIV envelope gp140 and CD4 or coreceptor (CoR) binding site (bs) mutant probes to evaluate HIV-specific responses in peripheral blood B cells of HIV-infected individuals at various stages of infection. In contrast to non-HIV responses, HIV-specific responses against gp140 were enriched within abnormal B cells, namely activated and exhausted memory subsets, which are largely absent in the blood of uninfected individuals. Responses against the CoRbs, which is a poorly neutralizing epitope, arose early, whereas those against the well-characterized neutralizing epitope CD4bs were delayed and infrequent. Enrichment of the HIV-specific response within resting memory B cells, the predominant subset in uninfected individuals, did occur in certain infected individuals who maintained low levels of plasma viremia and immune activation with or without antiretroviral therapy. The distribution of HIV-specific responses among memory B cell subsets was corroborated by transcriptional analyses. Taken together, our findings provide valuable insight into virus-specific B cell responses in HIV infection and demonstrate that memory B cell abnormalities may contribute to the ineffectiveness of the antibody response in infected individuals.
    No preview · Article · Jun 2014 · Journal of Clinical Investigation
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    ABSTRACT: In order to survey a universe of major histocompatibility complex (MHC)-presented peptide antigens whose numbers greatly exceed the diversity of the T cell repertoire, T cell receptors (TCRs) are thought to be cross-reactive. However, the nature and extent of TCR cross-reactivity has not been conclusively measured experimentally. We developed a system to identify MHC-presented peptide ligands by combining TCR selection of highly diverse yeast-displayed peptide-MHC libraries with deep sequencing. Although we identified hundreds of peptides reactive with each of five different mouse and human TCRs, the selected peptides possessed TCR recognition motifs that bore a close resemblance to their known antigens. This structural conservation of the TCR interaction surface allowed us to exploit deep-sequencing information to computationally identify activating microbial and self-ligands for human autoimmune TCRs. The mechanistic basis of TCR cross-reactivity described here enables effective surveillance of diverse self and foreign antigens without necessitating degenerate recognition of nonhomologous peptides.
    Preview · Article · May 2014 · Cell
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    ABSTRACT: Myeloid cells play important regulatory roles within the tumor environment by directly promoting tumor progression and modulating the function of tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes, and as such, they represent a potential therapeutic target for the treatment of cancer. Although distinct subsets of tumor-associated myeloid cells have been identified, a broader analysis of the complete myeloid cell landscape within individual tumors and also across different tumor types has been lacking. By establishing the developmental and transcriptomic signatures of infiltrating myeloid cells from multiple primary tumors, we found that tumor-associated macrophages (TAM) and tumor-associated neutrophils (TAN), while present within all tumors analyzed, exhibited strikingly different frequencies, gene expression profiles, and functions across cancer types. We also evaluated the impact of anatomic location and circulating factors on the myeloid cell composition of tumors. The makeup of the myeloid compartment was determined by the tumor microenvironment rather than the anatomic location of tumor development or tumor-derived circulating factors. Protumorigenic and hypoxia-associated genes were enriched in TAMs and TANs compared with splenic myeloid-derived suppressor cells. Although all TANs had an altered expression pattern of secretory effector molecules, in each tumor type they exhibited a unique cytokine, chemokine, and associated receptor expression profile. One such molecule, haptoglobin, was uniquely expressed by 4T1 TANs and identified as a possible diagnostic biomarker for tumors characterized by the accumulation of myeloid cells. Thus, we have identified considerable cancer-specific diversity in the lineage, gene expression, and function of tumor-infiltrating myeloid cells. Cancer Immunol Res; 2(7); 1-13. ©2014 AACR.
    Full-text · Article · May 2014
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    Penghui Zhou · Kai W Wucherpfennig
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    ABSTRACT: A key challenge facing the cancer immunology field is the discovery of the most suitable targets for therapeutic intervention. We recently reported a novel RNA-interference (RNAi)-based approach for systematic discovery of such targets in the tumor microenvironment in vivo utilizing pooled shRNA libraries as a screening tool. Here, we discuss applying this unbiased method to develop innovative cancer therapeutics.
    Preview · Article · Apr 2014 · OncoImmunology
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    ABSTRACT: The recognition events that mediate adaptive cellular immunity and regulate antibody responses depend on intercellular contacts between T cells and antigen-presenting cells (APCs). T-cell signalling is initiated at these contacts when surface-expressed T-cell receptors (TCRs) recognize peptide fragments (antigens) of pathogens bound to major histocompatibility complex molecules (pMHC) on APCs. This, along with engagement of adhesion receptors, leads to the formation of a specialized junction between T cells and APCs, known as the immunological synapse, which mediates efficient delivery of effector molecules and intercellular signals across the synaptic cleft. T-cell recognition of pMHC and the adhesion ligand intercellular adhesion molecule-1 (ICAM-1) on supported planar bilayers recapitulates the domain organization of the immunological synapse, which is characterized by central accumulation of TCRs, adjacent to a secretory domain, both surrounded by an adhesive ring. Although accumulation of TCRs at the immunological synapse centre correlates with T-cell function, this domain is itself largely devoid of TCR signalling activity, and is characterized by an unexplained immobilization of TCR-pMHC complexes relative to the highly dynamic immunological synapse periphery. Here we show that centrally accumulated TCRs are located on the surface of extracellular microvesicles that bud at the immunological synapse centre. Tumour susceptibility gene 101 (TSG101) sorts TCRs for inclusion in microvesicles, whereas vacuolar protein sorting 4 (VPS4) mediates scission of microvesicles from the T-cell plasma membrane. The human immunodeficiency virus polyprotein Gag co-opts this process for budding of virus-like particles. B cells bearing cognate pMHC receive TCRs from T cells and initiate intracellular signals in response to isolated synaptic microvesicles. We conclude that the immunological synapse orchestrates TCR sorting and release in extracellular microvesicles. These microvesicles deliver transcellular signals across antigen-dependent synapses by engaging cognate pMHC on APCs.
    Full-text · Article · Feb 2014 · Nature
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    ABSTRACT: Recent clinical trials showed that targeting of inhibitory receptors on T cells induces durable responses in a subset of cancer patients, despite advanced disease. However, the regulatory switches controlling T-cell function in immunosuppressive tumours are not well understood. Here we show that such inhibitory mechanisms can be systematically discovered in the tumour microenvironment. We devised an in vivo pooled short hairpin RNA (shRNA) screen in which shRNAs targeting negative regulators became highly enriched in murine tumours by releasing a block on T-cell proliferation upon tumour antigen recognition. Such shRNAs were identified by deep sequencing of the shRNA cassette from T cells infiltrating tumour or control tissues. One of the target genes was Ppp2r2d, a regulatory subunit of the PP2A phosphatase family. In tumours, Ppp2r2d knockdown inhibited T-cell apoptosis and enhanced T-cell proliferation as well as cytokine production. Key regulators of immune function can therefore be discovered in relevant tissue microenvironments.
    Full-text · Article · Jan 2014 · Nature
  • Dhruv K Sethi · Susana Gordo · David A Schubert · Kai W Wucherpfennig
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    ABSTRACT: Self-reactive CD4 T cells are thought to have a central role in the pathogenesis of many chronic inflammatory human diseases. Microbial peptides can activate self-reactive T cells, but the structural basis for such crossreactivity is not well understood. The Hy.1B11 T cell receptor (TCR) originates from a patient with multiple sclerosis and recognizes the self-antigen myelin basic protein. Here we report the structural mechanism of TCR crossreactivity with two distinct peptides from human pathogens. The structures show that a single TCR residue (CDR3α F95) makes the majority of contacts with the self-peptide and both microbial peptides (66.7-80.6%) due to a highly tilted TCR-binding topology on the peptide-MHC surface. Further, a neighbouring residue located on the same TCR loop (CDR3α E98) forms an energetically critical interaction with the MHC molecule. These data show how binding by a self-reactive TCR favors crossreactivity between self and microbial antigens.
    No preview · Article · Oct 2013 · Nature Communications
  • Christopher J Harvey · Kai W Wucherpfennig

    No preview · Article · Jul 2013 · Nature Biotechnology
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    Wouter Pos · Dhruv K Sethi · Kai W Wucherpfennig
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    ABSTRACT: Recently, crystal structures of key complexes in antigen presentation have been reported. HLA-DM functions in antigen presentation by catalyzing dissociation of an invariant chain remnant from the peptide binding groove and stabilizing empty MHC class II proteins in a peptide-receptive conformation. The crystal structure of a MHC class II-HLA-DM complex explains how HLA-DM stabilizes an otherwise short-lived transition state and promotes a rapid peptide exchange process that favors the highest-affinity ligands. HLA-DO has sequence similarity with MHC class II molecules yet inhibits antigen presentation. The structure of the HLA-DO-HLA-DM complex shows that it blocks HLA-DM activity as a substrate mimic. Alterations in the efficiency of DM-mediated peptide selection may contribute to autoimmune pathologies, which will be an exciting area for future investigation.
    Full-text · Article · Jul 2013 · Trends in Immunology
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    ABSTRACT: Outcome for glioblastoma (GBM), the most common primary CNS malignancy, remains poor. The overall survival benefit recently achieved with immunotherapeutics for melanoma and prostate cancer support evaluation of immunotherapies for other challenging cancers, including GBM. Much historical dogma depicting the CNS as immunoprivileged has been replaced by data demonstrating CNS immunocompetence and active interaction with the peripheral immune system. Several glioma antigens have been identified for potential immunotherapeutic exploitation. Active immunotherapy studies for GBM, supported by preclinical data, have focused on tumor lysate and synthetic antigen vaccination strategies. Results to date confirm consistent safety, including a lack of autoimmune reactivity; however, modest efficacy and variable immunogenicity have been observed. These findings underscore the need to optimize vaccination variables and to address challenges posed by systemic and local immunosuppression inherent to GBM tumors. Additional immunotherapy strategies are also in development for GBM. Future studies may consider combinatorial immunotherapy strategies with complimentary actions.
    No preview · Article · Jun 2013 · Expert Review of Vaccines
  • Etienne Gagnon · Kai Wucherpfennig

    No preview · Conference Paper · May 2013
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    ABSTRACT: HLA-DR molecules bind microbial peptides in an endosomal compartment and present them on the cell surface for CD4 T cell surveillance. HLA-DM plays a critical role in the endosomal peptide selection process. The structure of the HLA-DM-HLA-DR complex shows major rearrangements of the HLA-DR peptide-binding groove. Flipping of a tryptophan away from the HLA-DR1 P1 pocket enables major conformational changes that position hydrophobic HLA-DR residues into the P1 pocket. These conformational changes accelerate peptide dissociation and stabilize the empty HLA-DR peptide-binding groove. Initially, incoming peptides have access to only part of the HLA-DR groove and need to compete with HLA-DR residues for access to the P2 site and the hydrophobic P1 pocket. This energetic barrier creates a rapid and stringent selection process for the highest-affinity binders. Insertion of peptide residues into the P2 and P1 sites reverses the conformational changes, terminating selection through DM dissociation.
    Full-text · Article · Dec 2012 · Cell
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    Etienne Gagnon · David A Schubert · Susana Gordo · H Hamlet Chu · Kai W Wucherpfennig
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    ABSTRACT: The CD3ε and ζ cytoplasmic domains of the T cell receptor bind to the inner leaflet of the plasma membrane (PM), and a previous nuclear magnetic resonance structure showed that both tyrosines of the CD3ε immunoreceptor tyrosine-based activation motif partition into the bilayer. Electrostatic interactions between acidic phospholipids and clusters of basic CD3ε residues were previously shown to be essential for CD3ε and ζ membrane binding. Phosphatidylserine (PS) is the most abundant negatively charged lipid on the inner leaflet of the PM and makes a major contribution to membrane binding by the CD3ε cytoplasmic domain. Here, we show that TCR triggering by peptide-MHC complexes induces dissociation of the CD3ε cytoplasmic domain from the plasma membrane. Release of the CD3ε cytoplasmic domain from the membrane is accompanied by a substantial focal reduction in negative charge and available PS in TCR microclusters. These changes in the lipid composition of TCR microclusters even occur when TCR signaling is blocked with a Src kinase inhibitor. Local changes in the lipid composition of TCR microclusters thus render the CD3ε cytoplasmic domain accessible during early stages of T cell activation.
    Full-text · Article · Nov 2012 · Journal of Experimental Medicine
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    ABSTRACT: Supported lipid bilayers are an important biomolecular tool for characterizing immunological synapses. Immobilized bilayers presenting tethered ligands on planar substrates have yielded both spatio-temporal and structural insights into how T cell receptors (TCRs) reorganize during the initial formation of synapses upon recognition of peptide antigens bound to major histocompatibility complex (MHC) molecules. The prototypical configuration of these assays, however, limits the extent to which the kinetics and structure of the supramolecular activation clusters of the synapse (that occur in seconds or minutes) can be related to subsequent complex cellular responses, such as cytokine secretion and proliferation, occurring over hours to days. Here we describe a new method that allows correlative measures of both attributes with single-cell resolution by using immobilized lipid bilayers and tethered ligands on the surface of dense arrays of subnanoliter wells. This modification allows each nanowell to function as an artificial antigen-presenting cell (APC), and the synapses formed upon contact can be imaged by fluorescence microscopy. We show that the lipid bilayers remain stable and mobile on the surface of the PDMS, and that modifying the ligands tethered to the bilayer alters the structure of the resulting synapses in expected ways. Finally, we demonstrate that this approach allows the subsequent characterization of secreted cytokines from the activated human T cell clones by microengraving in both antigen- and pan-specific manners. This new technique should allow detailed investigations on how biophysical and structural aspects of the synapse influence the activation of individual T cells and their complex functional responses.
    Preview · Article · Oct 2012 · Lab on a Chip

Publication Stats

11k Citations
1,787.54 Total Impact Points


  • 1996-2015
    • Dana-Farber Cancer Institute
      • Department of Cancer Immunology and AIDS
      Boston, Massachusetts, United States
  • 1991-2014
    • Harvard University
      • • Department of Molecular and Cell Biology
      • • Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology
      Cambridge, Massachusetts, United States
  • 2008
    • Imperial College London
      Londinium, England, United Kingdom
  • 1991-2007
    • Harvard Medical School
      • • Department of Neurology
      • • Department of Medicine
      Boston, Massachusetts, United States
  • 2001
    • University of Massachusetts Boston
      Boston, Massachusetts, United States
  • 1998
    • National Institutes of Health
      • Branch of Neuroimmunology and Virology
      Maryland, United States
  • 1997
    • University of Alberta
      Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
  • 1992-1994
    • Brigham and Women's Hospital
      • Center for Neurologic Diseases
      Boston, MA, United States