Research

Scroll through the 4 publications from CERID labs, PIs, and lab technicians publications that have hit the PubMed stands since the end of January! The scope of the publications is wide, covering a number of important pathogens and viruses from Trypanosoma brucei to HIV-1. Read on for highlights from the abstract and the diseases studied in this month’s publication roundup by following the links! Publications are listed by the date published. All descriptions of the work have been paraphrased from the publications' respective abstracts and are cited as such.

Profile of publication including the title, CERID Authors, CERID lab, journal, and PMID. Pictured with image of the pathogen under a microscope

Methionyl-tRNA synthetase (MetRS) inhibitors are under investigation for the treatment of intestinal infections caused by Giardia lamblia. To properly analyse the therapeutic potential of the MetRS inhibitor 1717, experimental tools including a robust cell-based assay and a murine model of infection were developed based on novel strains of G. lamblia that employ luciferase reporter systems to quantify viable parasites. Systematic screening of Giardia-specific promoters and luciferase variants led to the development of a strain expressing the click beetle green luciferase. Further modifying this strain to express NanoLuc created a dual reporter strain capable of quantifying parasites in both the trophozoite and cyst stages. These strains were used to develop a high-throughput cell assay and a mouse infection model. A library of MetRS inhibitors was screened in the cell assay and Compound-1717 was tested for efficacy in the mouse infection model. Cell viability in in vitro compound screens was quantified via bioluminescence readouts while infection loads in mice were monitored with non-invasive whole-animal imaging and faecal analysis. Compound-1717 was effective in clearing mice of Giardia infection in 3 days at varying doses, which was supported by data from enzymatic and phenotypic cell assays. The new in vitro and in vivo assays based on luciferase expression by engineered G. lamblia strains are useful for the discovery and development of new therapeutics for giardiasis. MetRS inhibitors, as validated by Compound-1717, have promising anti-giardiasis properties that merit further study as alternative therapeutics. Read the full article here!
 

Profile of publication including the title, CERID Authors, CERID lab, journal, and PMID. Pictured with image of the pathogen under a microscope

The work began with the screening of a library of 700,000 small molecules for inhibitors of Trypanosoma brucei growth (a phenotypic screen). The resulting set of 1035 hit compounds was reviewed by a team of medicinal chemists, leading to the nomination of 17 chemically distinct scaffolds for further investigation. The first triage step was the assessment for brain permeability (looking for brain levels at least 20% of plasma levels) in order to optimize the chances of developing candidates for treating late-stage human African trypanosomiasis. Eleven scaffolds subsequently underwent hit-to-lead optimization using standard medicinal chemistry approaches. Over a period of six years in an academic setting, 1539 analogs to the 11 scaffolds were synthesized. Eight scaffolds were discontinued either due to insufficient improvement in antiparasitic activity (5), poor pharmacokinetic properties (2), or a slow (static) antiparasitic activity (1). Three scaffolds were optimized to the point of curing the acute and/or chronic T. brucei infection model in mice. The progress was accomplished without knowledge of the mechanism of action (MOA) for the compounds, although the MOA has been discovered in the interim for one compound series. Studies on the safety and toxicity of the compounds are planned to help select candidates for potential clinical development. This research demonstrates the power of the phenotypic drug discovery approach for neglected tropical diseases. Read the full article here!
 
Profile of publication including the title, CERID Authors, CERID lab, journal, and PMID. Pictured with image of the pathogen under a microscope
Diseases due to mycobacteria, including tuberculosis, leprosy, and Buruli ulcer, rank among the top causes of death and disability worldwide. Animal studies have revealed the importance of T cells in controlling these infections. However, the specific antigens recognized by T cells that confer protective immunity and their associated functions remain to be definitively established. T cells that respond to mycobacterial peptide antigens exhibit classical features of adaptive immunity and have been well-studied in humans and animal models. Recently, innate-like T cells that recognize lipid and metabolite antigens have also been implicated. Specifically, T cells that recognize mycobacterial glycolipid antigens (mycolipids) have been shown to confer protection to tuberculosis in animal models and share some biological characteristics with adaptive and innate-like T cells. Here, we review the existing data suggesting that mycolipid-specific T cells exist on a spectrum of "innateness," which will influence how they can be leveraged to develop new diagnostics and vaccines for mycobacterial diseases. Read the full article here!
 
Profile of publication including the title, CERID Authors, CERID lab, journal, and PMID. Pictured with image of the pathogen under a microscope
Pharmacological HIV-1 reactivation to reverse latent infection has been extensively studied. However, HIV-1 reactivation also occurs naturally, as evidenced by occasional low-level viremia ("blips") during antiretroviral treatment (ART). Clarifying where blips originate from and how they happen could provide clues to stimulate latency reversal more effectively and safely, or to prevent viral rebound following ART cessation. We studied HIV-1 reactivation in the female genital tract, a dynamic anatomical target for HIV-1 infection throughout all disease stages. We found that primary endocervical epithelial cells from several women reactivated HIV-1 from latently infected T cells. The endocervical cells' HIV-1 reactivation capacity further increased upon TLR3 stimulation with poly(I:C) double-stranded RNA or infection with herpes simplex virus 2 (HSV-2). Notably, acyclovir did not eliminate HSV-2-induced HIV-1 reactivation. While endocervical epithelial cells secreted high amounts of several cytokines and chemokines, especially TNFα, CCL3, CCL4 and CCL20, their HIV-1 reactivation capacity was almost completely blocked by TNFα neutralization alone. Thus, immunosurveillance activities by columnar epithelial cells in the endocervix can cause endogenous HIV-1 reactivation, which may contribute to viral blips during ART or rebound following ART interruption. Read full article here!