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Human placenta expresses and secretes NKG2D ligands via exosomes that down-modulate the cognate receptor expression: evidence for immunosuppressive function
Umeå University, Faculty of Medicine, Department of Clinical Microbiology, Clinical Immunology.
Umeå University, Faculty of Medicine, Department of Clinical Microbiology, Clinical Immunology.
Umeå University, Faculty of Medicine, Department of Clinical Microbiology, Clinical Immunology.
Umeå University, Faculty of Medicine, Department of Clinical Sciences, Obstetrics and Gynaecology.
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2009 (English)In: Journal of Immunology, ISSN 0022-1767, E-ISSN 1550-6606, Vol. 183, no 1, 340-351 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

During mammalian pregnancy maternal-fetal tolerance involves a number of immunosuppressive factors produced by placenta. Recently, placenta-derived exosomes have emerged as new immune regulators in the maternal immune tolerance. Exosomes are membrane nanovesicles with defined morphology, which are secreted from endosomal multivesicular bodies (MVB) upon fusion with the plasma membrane. Previously, we reported that the MHC class I chain-related (MIC) proteins A and B, human ligands of the activating NK cell receptor NKG2D, are expressed by placenta, sorted to MVB of syncytiotrophoblast and probably released via MIC-bearing exosomes. In this report, we show that the second family of human NKG2D ligands, the UL-16 binding proteins (ULBP), is also expressed by placenta. Importantly, this expression was not due to placental CMV infection. Immunoelectron microscopy disclosed that ULBP1-5 are produced and retained in MVB of the syncytiotrophoblast on microvesicles/exosomes. Using human placenta explant cultures and different assays, we demonstrate that exosomes bearing NKG2D ligands are released by human placenta. Isolated placental exosomes carried ULBP1-5 and MIC on their surface and induced down-regulation of the NKG2D receptor on NK, CD8(+), and gammadelta T cells, leading to reduction of their in vitro cytotoxicity without affecting the perforin-mediated lytic pathway. Release of placental NKG2D ligands via exosomes is an alternative mechanism for generation of bioactive soluble form of these ligands. These findings highlight a role for NKG2D ligand-bearing placental exosomes in the fetal immune escape and support the view of placenta as a unique immunosuppressive organ.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2009. Vol. 183, no 1, 340-351 p.
National Category
Immunology in the medical area Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Medicine
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-36070DOI: 10.4049/jimmunol.0803477PubMedID: 19542445OAI: oai:DiVA.org:umu-36070DiVA: diva2:351719
Available from: 2010-09-15 Created: 2010-09-15 Last updated: 2017-12-12Bibliographically approved
In thesis
1. Exosomes and the NKG2D receptor-ligand system in pregnancy and cancer: using stress for survival
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Exosomes and the NKG2D receptor-ligand system in pregnancy and cancer: using stress for survival
2010 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Although not obvious at first sight, several parallels can be drawn between pregnancy andcancer. Many proliferative, invasive and immune tolerance mechanisms that supportnormal pregnancy are also exploited by malignancies to establish a nutrient supply andevade or edit the immune response of the host. The human placenta, of crucial importancefor pregnancy success, and its main cells, the trophoblast, share several features withmalignant cells such as high cell proliferation rate, lack of cell-contact inhibition andinvasiveness. Both in cancer and in pregnancy, the immune defense mechanisms,potentially threatening the survival of the tumor or the fetus, are progressively blunted oreven turned into tumor- or pregnancy-promoting players.

Amongst immune mechanisms that are meant to protect the host from cancer and can be apotential threat to the fetus, the NKG2D receptor-ligand system stands out as the mostpowerful, stress-inducible “danger detector” system that comprises the activating NK cellreceptor NKG2D and its ligands, the MIC (MHC class I Chain-related proteins A and B)and ULBP (UL-16 Binding Proteins) families. It is the major cytotoxic mechanism in thebody promoting surveillance and homeostasis. In the present thesis we investigate theNKG2D receptor-ligand system in human early normal pregnancy and in theleukemia/lymphoma cell lines Jurkat and Raji and ask the questions “How is the NKG2Dreceptor-ligand system functioning in pregnancy and tumor? How is the danger of cytotoxicattack of the fetus avoided? Why is the immunosurveillance function compromised incancer patients?”

We developed a method to isolate and culture villous trophoblast from early human normalplacenta and used it to study the NKG2D receptor-ligand system. We discovered that theNKG2D ligand families of molecules MICA/B and ULBP1-5 are constitutively expressedby the syncytiotrophoblast of the chorionic villi. Using immnunoelectron microscopy, westudied the expression of these molecules at the subcellular level and could show for thefirst time that they are preferably expressed on microvesicles in multivesicular bodies(MVB) of the late endosomal compartment and are secreted as exosomes. Exosomes arenanometer sized microvesicles of endosomal origin, produced and secreted by a great7variety of normal and tumor cells. The exosomes are packages of proteins and ribonucleicacids that function as “mail” or “messengers” between cells conveying different biologicalinformation. We isolated and studied exosomes from placental explant cultures. We foundthat they carry NKG2D ligands on their surface and are able to bind and down-regulate thecognate receptor on NK-, CD8+ and T cells. The down-regulation selectively causedimpairment of the cytotoxic response of the cells but did not affect their lytic ability asmeasured by perforin content and gene transcription. Thus, the NKG2D ligand-bearingexosomes suppress the cytotoxic activity of the cells in the vicinity of the placenta, leavingtheir cytolytic machinery intact, ready to function when the cognate receptor isrestored/recycled. These findings highlight the role of placental exosomes in the fetalmaternalimmune escape and support the view of placenta as an unique immunomodulatoryorgan.

Next, we studied the expression and exosomal release of NKG2D ligands by tumor cellsusing the leukemia cell lines Jurkat and Raji as a tumor model. We found that NKG2Dligand-bearing exosomes with similar immunosuppressive properties as placental exosomesare constitutively secreted by the tumor cells, as a mechanism to blunt the cytotoxicresponse of the immune cells and thus protect themselves from cytotoxic attack by the host.Interestingly, we found that thermal- and oxidative stress up-regulates the exosomesecretion and the amount of exosome-secreted NKG2D ligands. Our results imply thattumor therapies that cause stress-induced damage, such as thermotherapy and stripping ofoxygen supply to the tumor, might have a previously unrecognized side effect causingenhanced exosome production and secretion, which in turn suppresses the natural antitumorimmune response and thus should be taken into account when designing an optimaltherapy of cancer patients.

In conclusion, we describe a novel stress-inducible mechanism shared by placenta andtumors as an immune escape strategy. We found that placenta- and tumor-derived NKG2Dligand-bearing exosomes can suppress immune responses to promote the survival and wellbeing of the fetus or the tumor. Our work comprises an important contribution to theelucidation of the NKG2D ligand-receptor system and its mode of operation in the humanbody and opens new perspectives for designing novel therapies for infertility and cancer.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Umeå: Umeå university, 2010. 64 p.
Series
Umeå University medical dissertations, ISSN 0346-6612 ; 1375
Keyword
Exsosomes, NKG2D, MICA, MICB, ULBP, human placenta, trophoblast, syncytiotrophoblast, thermal stress, oxidative stress, leukemia, lymphoma
Research subject
Immunology
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-37122 (URN)978-91-7459-072-2 (ISBN)
Public defence
2010-11-12, Betula, Norrlands universitetssjukhus, Umeå, 09:00 (English)
Opponent
Supervisors
Available from: 2010-10-23 Created: 2010-10-20 Last updated: 2010-10-23Bibliographically approved
2. Immunomodulation during human pregnancy: placental exosomes as vehicles of immune suppression.
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Immunomodulation during human pregnancy: placental exosomes as vehicles of immune suppression.
2014 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

The mammalian pregnancy comprises a challenge to the maternal immune system since the fetus is semi-allogeneic and could thus be rejected. Pregnancy success is associated with the placenta that is not only essential for oxygen supply, nourishment and pregnancy hormones but also plays a role in the protection of the fetus against maternal immunologic attack. The aim of the current studies was to elucidate the role of human placenta as an immunomodulatory organ with a special focus on placental exosomes as vehicles for establishment of maternal tolerance to the fetus.

We discovered that the syncytiotrophoblast in human normal pregnancy constitutively produces and secretes exosomes. Exosomes are 30-100 nanometer-sized membrane vesicles of endosomal origin that convey intercellular communication. Exosomes are produced and released through the endosomal compartment and reflect the type and the activation state of the cells that produce and secrete them. They carry cytosolic and membrane-bound proteins and nucleic acids and can influence and re-program recipient cells. Depending on their interactions with cells of the immune system they can be divided into immunostimulatory or immunosuppressive.

We developed methods for isolation and culture of trophoblast and placental explants from human normal first trimester pregnancy and isolated exosomes from the culture supernatants.  These exosomes were characterized biochemically and functionally regarding mechanisms with potential importance in the establishment of maternal tolerance towards the fetus. The following aspects were studied: 1) exosomal modulation of the NKG2D receptor-ligand system, a major cytotoxic pathway for NK- and cytotoxic T cells and thus potentially dangerous to the fetus; 2) placental exosome-mediated apoptosis of activated immune effector cells; and 3) Foxp3-expressing T regulatory cells in human pregnant uterine mucosa, the decidua.

Using immuno electron microscopy we show that human early syncytiotrophoblast constitutively expresses the stress-inducible NKG2D ligands MICA/B and ULBP1-5, and the apoptosis inducing molecules FasL and TRAIL. While MICA/B were expressed both on the cell surface and intracellularly on the limiting membrane of multivesicular bodies (MVB) and on exosomes, the ULBP1-5, FasL and TRAIL  were solely  processed through the MVB of the endosomal compartment and secreted on exosomes. The NKG2D ligand-expressing placental exosomes were able to internalize the cognate receptor from the cell surface of activated NK- and T cells thus down regulating their cytotoxic function. In our studies of apoptosis we found that placental exosomes carry the proapoptotic ligands FasL and TRAIL in their active form as a hexameric complex of two homotrimeric molecules, required for triggering of the apoptotic signaling pathways. This finding was supported by the ability of isolated placental FasL/TRAIL expressing exosomes to induce apoptosis in activated peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC) and Jurkat T cells. Additionally, we studied Foxp3-expressing T regulatory (Treg) cells in paired human decidual and blood samples from pregnant women compared to non-pregnant controls. The CD4+CD25+Foxp3+ Treg cells were 10 fold enriched in the decidual mucosa compared to peripheral blood of pregnant women and non-pregnant controls. We discovered a pool of Foxp3-expressing, CD4+CD25- cells in human decidua, a phenotype consistent with naïve/precursor Foxp3+ Treg cells. These results suggest local enrichment of Treg cells in decidua of normal pregnancy. Furthermore, we have results indicating that the exosomes, isolated from placental explant cultures, carry PD-L1 and TGFβ on their surface, molecules known to promote induction of Treg cells. Taken together, our results provide evidence that placental exosomes are immunosuppressive and underline their role in the maternal immune modulation during pregnancy. The constitutive production and secretion of immunosuppressive placental exosomes create a protective exosomal gradient in the blood surrounding the feto-placental unit. This “cloud of immunosuppressive exosomes” conveys immunologic privilege to the developing fetus and thus contributes to the solution of the immunological challenge of mammalian pregnancy. 

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Umeå: Umeå Universitet, 2014. 72 p.
Series
Umeå University medical dissertations, ISSN 0346-6612 ; 1640
Keyword
exosomes, microvesicles, pregnancy, placenta, syncytiotrophoblast, immune privilege, apoptosis, cytotoxicity, T regulatory cells, NKG2D, MICA/B, FasL, TRAIL
National Category
Immunology in the medical area
Research subject
Immunology
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-87566 (URN)978-91-7601-034-1 (ISBN)
Public defence
2014-04-25, A103 - Astrid Fagraeus-salen, byggnad 6A, Norrlands universitetssjukhus, Umeå, 13:00 (English)
Opponent
Supervisors
Available from: 2014-04-04 Created: 2014-04-03 Last updated: 2014-04-04Bibliographically approved

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