Mouse genome rewriting and tailoring of three important disease loci
Genetically engineered mouse models (GEMMs) help us to understand human pathologies and develop new therapies, yet faithfully recapitulating human diseases in mice is challenging. Advances in genomics have highlighted the importance of non-coding regulatory genome sequences, which control spatiotemporal gene expression patterns and splicing in many human diseases1,2. Including regulatory extensive genomic regions, which requires large-scale genome engineering, should enhance the quality of disease modelling. Existing methods set limits on the size and efficiency of DNA delivery, hampering the routine creation of highly informative models that we call genomically rewritten and tailored GEMMs (GREAT-GEMMs). Here we describe 'mammalian switching antibiotic resistance markers progressively for integration' (mSwAP-In), a method for efficient genome rewriting in mouse embryonic stem cells. We demonstrate the use of mSwAP-In for iterative genome rewriting of up to 115 kb of a tailored Trp53 locus, as well as for humanization of mice using 116 kb and 180 kb human ACE2 loci. The ACE2 model recapitulated human ACE2 expression patterns and splicing, and notably, presented milder symptoms when challenged with SARS-CoV-2 compared with the existing K18-hACE2 model, thus representing a more human-like model of infection. Finally, we demonstrated serial genome writing by humanizing mouse Tmprss2 biallelically in the ACE2 GREAT-GEMM, highlighting the versatility of mSwAP-In in genome writing.
Single-Cell Analysis of CX3CR1+ Cells Reveals a Pathogenic Role for BIRC5+ Myeloid Proliferating Cells Driven by Staphylococcus aureus Leukotoxins
Our previous studies identified a population of stem cell-like proliferating myeloid cells within inflamed tissues that could serve as a reservoir for tissue macrophages to adopt different activation states depending on the microenvironment. By lineage-tracing cells derived from CX3CR1+ precursors in mice during infection and profiling by single-cell RNA sequencing, in this study, we identify a cluster of BIRC5+ myeloid cells that expanded in the liver during chronic infection with either the parasite Schistosoma mansoni or the bacterial pathogen Staphylococcus aureus. In the absence of tissue-damaging toxins, S. aureus infection does not elicit these BIRC5+ cells. Moreover, deletion of BIRC5 from CX3CR1-expressing cells results in improved survival during S. aureus infection. Hence the combination of single-cell RNA sequencing and genetic fate-mapping CX3CR1+ cells revealed a toxin-dependent pathogenic role for BIRC5 in myeloid cells during S. aureus infection.
MAVS signaling is required for preventing persistent chikungunya heart infection and chronic vascular tissue inflammation
Chikungunya virus (CHIKV) infection has been associated with severe cardiac manifestations, yet, how CHIKV infection leads to heart disease remains unknown. Here, we leveraged both mouse models and human primary cardiac cells to define the mechanisms of CHIKV heart infection. Using an immunocompetent mouse model of CHIKV infection as well as human primary cardiac cells, we demonstrate that CHIKV directly infects and actively replicates in cardiac fibroblasts. In immunocompetent mice, CHIKV is cleared from cardiac tissue without significant damage through the induction of a local type I interferon response from both infected and non-infected cardiac cells. Using mice deficient in major innate immunity signaling components, we found that signaling through the mitochondrial antiviral-signaling protein (MAVS) is required for viral clearance from the heart. In the absence of MAVS signaling, persistent infection leads to focal myocarditis and vasculitis of the large vessels attached to the base of the heart. Large vessel vasculitis was observed for up to 60 days post infection, suggesting CHIKV can lead to vascular inflammation and potential long-lasting cardiovascular complications. This study provides a model of CHIKV cardiac infection and mechanistic insight into CHIKV-induced heart disease, underscoring the importance of monitoring cardiac function in patients with CHIKV infections.
Age-dependent differences in efferocytosis determine the outcome of opsonophagocytic protection from invasive pathogens
In early life, susceptibility to invasive infection skews toward a small subset of microbes, whereas other pathogens associated with diseases later in life, including Streptococcus pneumoniae (Spn), are uncommon among neonates. To delineate mechanisms behind age-dependent susceptibility, we compared age-specific mouse models of invasive Spn infection. We show enhanced CD11b-dependent opsonophagocytosis by neonatal neutrophils improved protection against Spn during early life. The augmented function of neonatal neutrophils was mediated by higher CD11b surface expression at the population level due to dampened efferocytosis, which also resulted in more CD11bhi "aged" neutrophils in peripheral blood. Dampened efferocytosis during early life could be attributed to the lack of CD169+ macrophages in neonates and reduced systemic expressions of multiple efferocytic mediators, including MerTK. On experimentally impairing efferocytosis later in life, CD11bhi neutrophils increased and protection against Spn improved. Our findings reveal how age-dependent differences in efferocytosis determine infection outcome through the modulation of CD11b-driven opsonophagocytosis and immunity.
A neonatal mouse model characterizes transmissibility of SARS-CoV-2 variants and reveals a role for ORF8
Small animal models have been a challenge for the study of SARS-CoV-2 transmission, with most investigators using golden hamsters or ferrets. Mice have the advantages of low cost, wide availability, less regulatory and husbandry challenges, and the existence of a versatile reagent and genetic toolbox. However, adult mice do not robustly transmit SARS-CoV-2. Here we establish a model based on neonatal mice that allows for transmission of clinical SARS-CoV-2 isolates. We characterize tropism, respiratory tract replication and transmission of ancestral WA-1 compared to variants Alpha (B.1.1.7), Beta (B.1.351), Gamma (P.1), Delta (B.1.617.2), Omicron BA.1 and Omicron BQ.1.1. We identify inter-variant differences in timing and magnitude of infectious particle shedding from index mice, both of which shape transmission to contact mice. Furthermore, we characterize two recombinant SARS-CoV-2 lacking either the ORF6 or ORF8 host antagonists. The removal of ORF8 shifts viral replication towards the lower respiratory tract, resulting in significantly delayed and reduced transmission in our model. Our results demonstrate the potential of our neonatal mouse model to characterize viral and host determinants of SARS-CoV-2 transmission, while revealing a role for an accessory protein in this context.
CD169+ macrophage intrinsic IL-10 production regulates immune homeostasis during sepsis
Macrophages facilitate critical functions in regulating pathogen clearance and immune homeostasis in tissues. The remarkable functional diversity exhibited by macrophage subsets is dependent on tissue environment and the nature of the pathological insult. Our current knowledge of the mechanisms that regulate the multifaceted counter-inflammatory responses mediated by macrophages remains incomplete. Here, we report that CD169+ macrophage subsets are necessary for protection under excessive inflammatory conditions. We show that in the absence of these macrophages, even under mild septic conditions, mice fail to survive and exhibit increased production of inflammatory cytokines. Mechanistically, CD169+ macrophages control inflammatory responses via interleukin-10 (IL-10), as CD169+ macrophage-specific deletion of IL-10 was lethal during septic conditions, and recombinant IL-10 treatment reduced lipopolysaccharide (LPS)-induced lethality in mice lacking CD169+ macrophages. Collectively, our findings show a pivotal homeostatic role for CD169+ macrophages and suggest they may serve as an important target for therapy under damaging inflammatory conditions.
A neonatal mouse model characterizes transmissibility of SARS-CoV-2 variants and reveals a role for ORF8
Small animal models have been a challenge for the study of SARS-CoV-2 transmission, with most investigators using golden hamsters or ferrets 1,2 . Mice have the advantages of low cost, wide availability, less regulatory and husbandry challenges, and the existence of a versatile reagent and genetic toolbox. However, adult mice do not transmit SARS-CoV-2 3 . Here we establish a model based on neonatal mice that allows for transmission of clinical SARS-CoV-2 isolates. We characterize tropism, respiratory tract replication and transmission of ancestral WA-1 compared to variants alpha (B.1.1.7), beta (B.1.351), gamma (P.1), delta (B.1.617.2) and omicron (B.1.1.529). We identify inter-variant differences in timing and magnitude of infectious particle shedding from index mice, both of which shape transmission to contact mice. Furthermore, we characterize two recombinant SARS-CoV-2 lacking either the ORF6 or ORF8 host antagonists. The removal of ORF8 shifts viral replication towards the lower respiratory tract, resulting in significantly delayed and reduced transmission. Our results demonstrate the potential of our neonatal mouse model to characterize viral and host determinants of SARS-CoV-2 transmission, while revealing for the first time a role for an accessory protein this context.
GALECTIN-9 PROTECTS HUMANIZED ACE2-IMMUNOCOMPETENT MICE from SARS-CoV-2 INFECTION [Meeting Abstract]
Background: Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID19) pandemic caused by severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV2) remains a global health emergency even with effective vaccines and limited FDA-approved therapies. To limit mortality and morbidity across the spectrum of disease, the need for therapeutics remains critical. Galectin9 (gal9) is a beta-galactoside binding protein that modulates cell-cell and cell-matrix interactions. In response to SARS-CoV2 infection, it has been shown that circulating gal9 levels are elevated in patient sera with moderate to severe disease. Additionally, it has been reported that gal9 unexpectedly may competitively bind the host ACE2 receptor, potentially impeding viral entry. Therefore, we hypothesized that early recombinant gal-9 treatment post infection may prevent binding of the virus to susceptible host cells resulting in decreased severity of SARS-CoV2-associated disease.
Method(s): To determine the therapeutic potential of gal9 for treating COVID19, we infected K18-hACE2 transgenic mice intranasally with 104 particle forming units (PFU) of SARS-CoV2. 6 hours post infection (hpi), mice were treated with a single dose of 30 ug of recombinant human gal9 (rhgal9) or PBS intraperitoneally and subsequently monitored 12 days for morbidity. Subgroups of mice were humanely euthanized at 2 and 5 days pi (dpi) for viral plaque assay, flow cytometry, and protein analysis from lung tissue and bronchial alveolar lavage (BAL).
Result(s): We found that mice treated with rhgal9 during the acute phase of infection exhibit improved survival compared to PBS treated animals (25%, p<0.0001). We found that at 5 dpi, rhgal9 treated mice exhibited enhanced viral clearance in the BAL but not in the lung parenchyma. Additionally, we found increased CD8 T cell (p<0.001) and decreased neutrophil (p<0.05) frequencies in the lung at 5 dpi. Finally, we found that BAL fluid had elevated levels of Type 1 Interferon [IFNa (p<0.01) and IFNb (p<0.01)] at 2 dpi and increased MyD88 proinflammatory cytokines [IL1a (p<0.05), IL1b (p<0.01), TNFa (p<0.05), and MIP1a (p<0.05) at 5 dpi.
Conclusion(s): Our study suggests that rhgal9 treatment may be potentially therapeutic for treating acute COVID19. Our data suggest that rhgal9 treatment in combination with other anti-inflammatory mediators may curtail damaging inflammation associated with SARS-CoV2 disease. Further studies are required to determine the optimal time, combination and duration of treatment pi to effectively target the gal9 pathways
Helminth resistance is mediated by differential activation of recruited monocyte-derived alveolar macrophages and arginine depletion
Macrophages are known to mediate anti-helminth responses, but it remains uncertain which subsets are involved or how macrophages actually kill helminths. Here, we show rapid monocyte recruitment to the lung after infection with the nematode parasite Nippostrongylus brasiliensis. In this inflamed tissue microenvironment, these monocytes differentiate into an alveolar macrophage (AM)-like phenotype, expressing both SiglecF and CD11c, surround invading parasitic larvae, and preferentially kill parasites inÂ vitro. Monocyte-derived AMs (Mo-AMs) express type 2-associated markers and show a distinct remodeling of the chromatin landscape relative to tissue-derived AMs (TD-AMs). In particular, they express high amounts of arginase-1 (Arg1), which we demonstrate mediates helminth killing through L-arginine depletion. These studies indicate that recruited monocytes are selectively programmed in the pulmonary environment to express AM markers and an anti-helminth phenotype.
Microbial signatures in the lower airways of mechanically ventilated COVID-19 patients associated with poor clinical outcome
Respiratory failure is associated with increased mortality in COVID-19 patients. There are no validated lower airway biomarkers to predict clinical outcome. We investigated whether bacterial respiratory infections were associated with poor clinical outcome of COVID-19 in a prospective, observational cohort of 589 critically ill adults, all of whom required mechanical ventilation. For a subset of 142 patients who underwent bronchoscopy, we quantified SARS-CoV-2 viral load, analysed the lower respiratory tract microbiome using metagenomics and metatranscriptomics and profiled the host immune response. Acquisition of a hospital-acquired respiratory pathogen was not associated with fatal outcome. Poor clinical outcome was associated with lower airway enrichment with an oral commensal (Mycoplasma salivarium). Increased SARS-CoV-2 abundance, low anti-SARS-CoV-2 antibody response and a distinct host transcriptome profile of the lower airways were most predictive of mortality. Our data provide evidence that secondary respiratory infections do not drive mortality in COVID-19 and clinical management strategies should prioritize reducing viral replication and maximizing host responses to SARS-CoV-2.