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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Open Access Policy Deposits

This series is automatically populated with publications deposited by UCLA David Geffen School of Medicine Department of Molecular & Medical Pharmacology researchers in accordance with the University of California’s open access policies. For more information see Open Access Policy Deposits and the UC Publication Management System.

Reprogramming cholesterol metabolism in macrophages and its role in host defense against cholesterol-dependent cytolysins.


Cholesterol is a critical lipid for all mammalian cells, ensuring proper membrane integrity, fluidity, and biochemical function. Accumulating evidence indicates that macrophages rapidly and profoundly reprogram their cholesterol metabolism in response to activation signals to support host defense processes. However, our understanding of the molecular details underlying how and why cholesterol homeostasis is specifically reshaped during immune responses remains less well understood. This review discusses our current knowledge of cellular cholesterol homeostatic machinery and introduces emerging concepts regarding how plasma membrane cholesterol is partitioned into distinct pools. We then discuss how proinflammatory signals can markedly reshape the cholesterol metabolism of macrophages, with a focus on the differences between MyD88-dependent pattern recognition receptors and the interferon signaling pathway. We also discuss recent work investigating the capacity of these proinflammatory signals to selectively reshape plasma membrane cholesterol homeostasis. We examine how these changes in plasma membrane cholesterol metabolism influence sensitivity to a set of microbial pore-forming toxins known as cholesterol-dependent cytolysins that specifically target cholesterol for their effector functions. We also discuss whether lipid metabolic reprogramming can be leveraged for therapy to mitigate tissue damage mediated by cholesterol-dependent cytolysins in necrotizing fasciitis and other related infections. We expect that advancing our understanding of the crosstalk between metabolism and innate immunity will help explain how inflammation underlies metabolic diseases and highlight pathways that could be targeted to normalize metabolic homeostasis in disease states.

Cover page of Multiple early factors anticipate post-acute COVID-19 sequelae.

Multiple early factors anticipate post-acute COVID-19 sequelae.


Post-acute sequelae of COVID-19 (PASC) represent an emerging global crisis. However, quantifiable risk factors for PASC and their biological associations are poorly resolved. We executed a deep multi-omic, longitudinal investigation of 309 COVID-19 patients from initial diagnosis to convalescence (2-3 months later), integrated with clinical data and patient-reported symptoms. We resolved four PASC-anticipating risk factors at the time of initial COVID-19 diagnosis: type 2 diabetes, SARS-CoV-2 RNAemia, Epstein-Barr virus viremia, and specific auto-antibodies. In patients with gastrointestinal PASC, SARS-CoV-2-specific and CMV-specific CD8+ T cells exhibited unique dynamics during recovery from COVID-19. Analysis of symptom-associated immunological signatures revealed coordinated immunity polarization into four endotypes, exhibiting divergent acute severity and PASC. We find that immunological associations between PASC factors diminish over time, leading to distinct convalescent immune states. Detectability of most PASC factors at COVID-19 diagnosis emphasizes the importance of early disease measurements for understanding emergent chronic conditions and suggests PASC treatment strategies.

Cardiomyocytes disrupt pyrimidine biosynthesis in nonmyocytes to regulate heart repair.


Various populations of cells are recruited to the heart after cardiac injury, but little is known about whether cardiomyocytes directly regulate heart repair. Using a murine model of ischemic cardiac injury, we demonstrate that cardiomyocytes play a pivotal role in heart repair by regulating nucleotide metabolism and fates of nonmyocytes. Cardiac injury induced the expression of the ectonucleotidase ectonucleotide pyrophosphatase/phosphodiesterase 1 (ENPP1), which hydrolyzes extracellular ATP to form AMP. In response to AMP, cardiomyocytes released adenine and specific ribonucleosides that disrupted pyrimidine biosynthesis at the orotidine monophosphate (OMP) synthesis step and induced genotoxic stress and p53-mediated cell death of cycling nonmyocytes. As nonmyocytes are critical for heart repair, we showed that rescue of pyrimidine biosynthesis by administration of uridine or by genetic targeting of the ENPP1/AMP pathway enhanced repair after cardiac injury. We identified ENPP1 inhibitors using small molecule screening and showed that systemic administration of an ENPP1 inhibitor after heart injury rescued pyrimidine biosynthesis in nonmyocyte cells and augmented cardiac repair and postinfarct heart function. These observations demonstrate that the cardiac muscle cell regulates pyrimidine metabolism in nonmuscle cells by releasing adenine and specific nucleosides after heart injury and provide insight into how intercellular regulation of pyrimidine biosynthesis can be targeted and monitored for augmenting tissue repair.

Ipilimumab alone or in combination with nivolumab in patients with advanced melanoma who have progressed or relapsed on PD-1 blockade: clinical outcomes and translational biomarker analyses.


There are no validated biomarkers that can aid clinicians in selecting who would best benefit from anticytotoxic T lymphocyte-associated antigen 4 monotherapy versus combination checkpoint blockade in patients with advanced melanoma who have progressive disease after programmed death 1 (PD-1) blockade. We conducted a randomized multicenter phase II trial in patients with advanced melanoma. Patients were randomly assigned to receive either 1 mg/kg of nivolumab plus 3 mg/kg of ipilimumab or 3 mg/kg of ipilimumab every 3 weeks for up to four doses. Patients were stratified by histological subtype and prior response to PD-1 therapy. The primary clinical objective was overall response rate by week 18. Translational biomarker analyses were conducted in patients with blood and tissue samples. Objective responses were seen in 5 of 9 patients in the ipilimumab arm and 2 of 10 patients in the ipilimumab+nivolumab arm; disease control rates (DCRs) (66.7% vs 60.0%) and rates of grade 3-4 adverse events (56% vs 50%) were comparable between arms. In a pooled analysis, patients with clinical benefit (CB), defined as Response Evaluation Criteria in Solid Tumors response or progression-free for 6 months, showed increased circulating CD4+ T cells with higher polyfunctionality and interferon gamma production following treatment. Tumor profiling revealed enrichment of NRAS mutations and activation of transcriptional programs associated with innate and adaptive immunity in patients with CB. In patients with advanced melanoma that previously progressed on PD-1 blockade, objective responses were seen in both arms, with comparable DCRs. Findings from biomarker analyses provided hypothesis-generating signals for validation in future studies of larger patient cohorts. NCT02731729.

HLA-A02:01 restricted T cell receptors against the highly conserved SARS-CoV-2 polymerase cross-react with human coronaviruses.


Cross-reactivity and direct killing of target cells remain underexplored for severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus-2 (SARS-CoV-2)-specific CD8+ T cells. Isolation of T cell receptors (TCRs) and overexpression in allogeneic cells allows for extensive T cell reactivity profiling. We identify SARS-CoV-2 RNA-dependent RNA polymerase (RdRp/NSP12) as highly conserved, likely due to its critical role in the virus life cycle. We perform single-cell TCRαβ sequencing in human leukocyte antigen (HLA)-A02:01-restricted, RdRp-specific T cells from SARS-CoV-2-unexposed individuals. Human T cells expressing these TCRαβ constructs kill target cell lines engineered to express full-length RdRp. Three TCR constructs recognize homologous epitopes from common cold coronaviruses, indicating CD8+ T cells can recognize evolutionarily diverse coronaviruses. Analysis of individual TCR clones may help define vaccine epitopes that can induce long-term immunity against SARS-CoV-2 and other coronaviruses.

Neoadjuvant PD-1 blockade induces T cell and cDC1 activation but fails to overcome the immunosuppressive tumor associated macrophages in recurrent glioblastoma.


Primary brain tumors, such as glioblastoma (GBM), are remarkably resistant to immunotherapy, even though pre-clinical models suggest effectiveness. To understand this better in patients, here we take advantage of our recent neoadjuvant treatment paradigm to map the infiltrating immune cell landscape of GBM and how this is altered following PD-1 checkpoint blockade using high dimensional proteomics, single cell transcriptomics, and quantitative multiplex immunofluorescence. Neoadjuvant PD-1 blockade increases T cell infiltration and the proportion of a progenitor exhausted population of T cells found within the tumor. We identify an early activated and clonally expanded CD8+ T cell cluster whose TCR overlaps with a CD8+ PBMC population. Distinct changes are also observed in conventional type 1 dendritic cells that may facilitate T cell recruitment. Macrophages and monocytes still constitute the majority of infiltrating immune cells, even after anti-PD-1 therapy. Interferon-mediated changes in the myeloid population are consistently observed following PD-1 blockade; these also mediate an increase in chemotactic factors that recruit T cells. However, sustained high expression of T-cell-suppressive checkpoints in these myeloid cells continue to prevent the optimal activation of the tumor infiltrating T cells. Therefore, future immunotherapeutic strategies may need to incorporate the targeting of these cells for clinical benefit.

Development of allogeneic HSC-engineered iNKT cells for off-the-shelf cancer immunotherapy.


Cell-based immunotherapy has become the new-generation cancer medicine, and "off-the-shelf" cell products that can be manufactured at large scale and distributed readily to treat patients are necessary. Invariant natural killer T (iNKT) cells are ideal cell carriers for developing allogeneic cell therapy because they are powerful immune cells targeting cancers without graft-versus-host disease (GvHD) risk. However, healthy donor blood contains extremely low numbers of endogenous iNKT cells. Here, by combining hematopoietic stem cell (HSC) gene engineering and in vitro differentiation, we generate human allogeneic HSC-engineered iNKT (AlloHSC-iNKT) cells at high yield and purity; these cells closely resemble endogenous iNKT cells, effectively target tumor cells using multiple mechanisms, and exhibit high safety and low immunogenicity. These cells can be further engineered with chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) to enhance tumor targeting or/and gene edited to ablate surface human leukocyte antigen (HLA) molecules and further reduce immunogenicity. Collectively, these preclinical studies demonstrate the feasibility and cancer therapy potential of AlloHSC-iNKT cell products and lay a foundation for their translational and clinical development.

ApoA-I mimetics favorably impact cyclooxygenase 2 and bioactive lipids that may contribute to cardiometabolic syndrome in chronic treated HIV.



We investigated whether apolipoprotein A-I (apoA-I) mimetic peptides 4F and 6F can be a novel therapeutic strategy to reduce blood and gut bioactive lipids, proinflammatory effects of endotoxin (LPS) and aberrant activation of cyclooxygenase 2 (COX-2) as instigators of increased risk for cardiometabolic disease in chronic treated HIV.


We used two humanized murine models of chronic treated HIV infection (n = 109 mice) and gut explants from HIV infected (n = 10) persons to determine whether Tg6F and 4F attenuate in vivo and ex vivo increased blood and gut bioactive lipids (measured by mass spectrometry) and intestinal protein levels of COX-2 (measured by immunoassays) in chronic treated HIV.


In these models of HIV, when compared to HIV-1 infected mice on antiretroviral therapy (ART) alone, oral Tg6F in combination with ART attenuated increases in plasma and gut bioactive lipids (and particularly COX lipids) and intestinal COX-2. 4F and Tg6F also reduced ex vivo production of COX-2 protein and associated secretion of bioactive lipids in gut explants from HIV-1 infected persons treated with LPS.


ApoA-I mimetics favorably impact the proinflammatory effects of LPS, COX-2 and production of bioactive lipids that collectively drive gut and systemic inflammation in chronic treated HIV. Given prior experimental evidence that the proinflammatory effects of LPS, COX-2 and gut dysfunction contribute to cardiometabolic syndrome in chronic HIV, apoA-I mimetic peptides may be a novel therapy to treat cardiometabolic syndrome in chronic HIV.

Economical droplet-based microfluidic production of [18F]FET and [18F]Florbetaben suitable for human use.


Current equipment and methods for preparation of radiopharmaceuticals for positron emission tomography (PET) are expensive and best suited for large-scale multi-doses batches. Microfluidic radiosynthesizers have been shown to provide an economic approach to synthesize these compounds in smaller quantities, but can also be scaled to clinically-relevant levels. Batch microfluidic approaches, in particular, offer significant reduction in system size and reagent consumption. Here we show a simple and rapid technique to concentrate the radioisotope, prior to synthesis in a droplet-based radiosynthesizer, enabling production of clinically-relevant batches of [18F]FET and [18F]FBB. The synthesis was carried out with an automated synthesizer platform based on a disposable Teflon-silicon surface-tension trap chip. Up to 0.1 mL (4 GBq) of radioactivity was used per synthesis by drying cyclotron-produced aqueous [18F]fluoride in small increments directly inside the reaction site. Precursor solution (10 µL) was added to the dried [18F]fluoride, the reaction chip was heated for 5 min to perform radiofluorination, and then a deprotection step was performed with addition of acid solution and heating. The product was recovered in 80 µL volume and transferred to analytical HPLC for purification. Purified product was formulated via evaporation and resuspension or a micro-SPE formulation system. Quality control testing was performed on 3 sequential batches of each tracer. The method afforded production of up to 0.8 GBq of [18F]FET and [18F]FBB. Each production was completed within an hour. All batches passed quality control testing, confirming suitability for human use. In summary, we present a simple and efficient synthesis of clinically-relevant batches of [18F]FET and [18F]FBB using a microfluidic radiosynthesizer. This work demonstrates that the droplet-based micro-radiosynthesizer has a potential for batch-on-demand synthesis of 18F-labeled radiopharmaceuticals for human use.