PhD, Radboud University, Medical Sciences (2017)
MSc, Radboud University, Molecular Mechanisms of Disease (2013)
BSc, Heinrich-Heine-University, Biochemistry (2011)
COVID-19 represents a global crisis, yet major knowledge gaps remain about human immunity to SARS-CoV-2. We analyzed immune responses in 76 COVID-19 patients and 69 healthy individuals from Hong Kong and Atlanta. In PBMCs of COVID-19 patients, there was reduced expression of HLA-DR and pro-inflammatory cytokines by myeloid cells, and impaired mTOR-signaling and IFN-alpha production by plasmacytoid DCs. In contrast, there were enhanced plasma levels of inflammatory mediators, including EN-RAGE, TNFSF14, and oncostatin-M, which correlated with disease severity and increased bacterial products in human plasma. Single-cell transcriptomics revealed no type-I IFN, reduced HLA-DR in myeloid cells of severe patients, and transient expression of IFN-stimulated genes. This was consistent with bulk PBMC transcriptomics, and transient, low plasma IFN-alpha levels during infection. These results reveal mechanisms and potential therapeutic targets for COVID-19.
View details for DOI 10.1126/science.abc6261
View details for PubMedID 32788292
Systems vaccinology leverages high-throughput 'omics' technologies, such as transcriptomics, metabolomics, and mass cytometry, coupled with computational approaches to construct a global map of the complex processes that occur during an immune response to vaccination. Its goal is to define the mechanisms of protective immunity and to identify cellular and molecular correlates of vaccine efficacy. Emerging technological advances including integration of multi-omics datasets, and single-cell genomic and epigenomic profiling of immune responses, have invigorated systems vaccinology, and provide new insights into the mechanisms by which the cellular and molecular information underlying immune memory is stored in the innate and adaptive immune systems. Here, we will review these emerging directions in systems vaccinology, with a particular focus on the epigenome, and its impact on modulating vaccination induced memory in the innate and adaptive immune systems.
View details for DOI 10.1016/j.coi.2020.05.001
View details for PubMedID 32504952
Recent efforts toward an HIV vaccine focus on inducing broadly neutralizing antibodies, but eliciting both neutralizing antibodies (nAbs) and cellular responses may be superior. Here, we immunized macaques with an HIV envelope trimer, either alone to induce nAbs, or together with a heterologous viral vector regimen to elicit nAbs and cellular immunity, including CD8+ tissue-resident memory T cells. After ten vaginal challenges with autologous virus, protection was observed in both vaccine groups at 53.3% and 66.7%, respectively. A nAb titer >300 was generally associated with protection but in the heterologous viral vector + nAb group, titers <300 were sufficient. In this group, protection was durable as the animals resisted six more challenges 5 months later. Antigen stimulation of T cells in ex vivo vaginal tissue cultures triggered antiviral responses in myeloid and CD4+ T cells. We propose that cellular immune responses reduce the threshold of nAbs required to confer superior and durable protection.
View details for DOI 10.1038/s41591-020-0858-8
View details for PubMedID 32393800
Amongst various microfluidic platform designs frequently used for cellular analysis, droplet-microfluidics provides a robust tool for isolating and analyzing cells at the single-cell level by eliminating the influence of external factors on the cellular microenvironment. Encapsulation of cells in droplets is dictated by the Poisson distribution as a function of the number of cells present in each droplet and the average number of cells per volume of droplet. Primary cells, especially immune cells, or clinical specimens can be scarce and loss-less encapsulation of cells remains challenging. In this paper, we present a new methodology that uses pipette-tips to load cells to droplet-based microfluidic devices without the significant loss of cells. With various cell types , we demonstrate efficient cell encapsulation in droplets that closely corresponds to the encapsulation efficiency predicted by the Poisson distribution. Our method ensures loss-less loading of cells to microfluidic platforms and can be easily adapted for downstream single cell analysis, e.g., to decode cellular interactions between different cell types.
View details for PubMedID 30799837
Type I interferon (IFN) is a key driver of immunity to infections and cancer. Plasmacytoid dendritic cells (pDCs) are uniquely equipped to produce large quantities of type I IFN but the mechanisms that control this process are poorly understood. Here we report on a droplet-based microfluidic platform to investigate type I IFN production in human pDCs at the single-cell level. We show that type I IFN but not TNFα production is limited to a small subpopulation of individually stimulated pDCs and controlled by stochastic gene regulation. Combining single-cell cytokine analysis with single-cell RNA-seq profiling reveals no evidence for a pre-existing subset of type I IFN-producing pDCs. By modulating the droplet microenvironment, we demonstrate that vigorous pDC population responses are driven by a type I IFN amplification loop. Our study highlights the significance of stochastic gene regulation and suggests strategies to dissect the characteristics of immune responses at the single-cell level.
View details for PubMedID 30127440
There has recently been a paradigm shift in the field of dendritic cell (DC)-based immunotherapy, where several clinical studies have confirmed the feasibility and advantageousness of using directly isolated human blood-derived DCs over in vitro differentiated subsets. There are two major DC subsets found in blood; plasmacytoid DCs (pDCs) and myeloid DCs (mDCs), and both have been tested clinically. CD1c+ mDCs are highly efficient antigen-presenting cells that have the ability to secrete IL-12p70, while pDCs are professional IFN-α-secreting cells that are shown to induce innate immune responses in melanoma patients. Hence, combining mDCs and pDCs poses as an attractive, multi-functional vaccine approach. However, type I IFNs have been reported to inhibit IL-12p70 production and mDC-induced T-cell activation. In this study, we investigate the effect of IFN-α on mDC maturation and function. We demonstrate that both recombinant IFN-α and activated pDCs strongly enhance mDC maturation and increase IL-12p70 production. Co-cultured mDCs and pDCs additionally have beneficial effect on NK and NKT-cell activation and also enhances IFN-γ production by allogeneic T cells. In contrast, the presence of type I IFNs reduces the proliferative T-cell response. The mere presence of a small fraction of activated pDCs is sufficient for these effects and the required ratio between the subsets is non-stringent. Taken together, these results support the usage of mDCs and pDCs combined into one immunotherapeutic vaccine with broad immunostimulatory features.
View details for DOI 10.1007/s00262-018-2204-2
View details for PubMedID 30019146
Keyhole limpet hemocyanin (KLH) is used as an immunogenic neo-antigen for various clinical applications and during vaccine development. For advanced monitoring of KLH-based interventions, we developed a flow cytometry-based assay for the ex vivo detection, phenotyping and isolation of KLH-specific B cells. As proof-of-principle, we analyzed 10 melanoma patients exposed to KLH during anti-cancer dendritic cell vaccination. Our assay demonstrated sensitive and specific detection of KLH-specific B cells in peripheral blood and KLH-specific B cell frequencies strongly correlated with anti-KLH serum antibody titers. Profiling of B cell subsets over the vaccination course revealed that KLH-specific B cells matured from naïve to class-switched memory B cells, confirming the prototypic B cell response to a neo-antigen. We conclude that flow-cytometric detection and in-depth phenotyping of KLH-specific B cells is specific, sensitive, and scalable. Our findings provide novel opportunities to monitor KLH-specific immune responses and serve as a blueprint for the development of new flow-cytometric protocols.
View details for DOI 10.1038/srep43486
View details for Web of Science ID 000395636800001
View details for PubMedID 28344338
View details for PubMedCentralID PMC5361210
Insight into the behavior of individual immune cells, in particular cytokine secretion, will contribute to a more fundamental understanding of the immune system. In this work, we have developed a cell membrane-anchored sensor for the detection of cytokines secreted by single cells using a combination of aptamer-based sensors and droplet microfluidics.
View details for DOI 10.1039/c7cc03576d
View details for PubMedID 28675396
Microsatellite instability (MSI), the somatic accumulation of length variations in repetitive DNA sequences called microsatellites, is frequently observed in both hereditary and sporadic colorectal cancer (CRC). It has been established that defects in the DNA mismatch repair (MMR) pathway underlie the development of MSI in CRC. After the inactivation of the DNA MMR pathway, misincorporations, insertions and deletions introduced by DNA polymerase slippage are not properly recognized and corrected. Specific genomic regions, including microsatellites, are more prone for DNA polymerase slippage and, therefore, more susceptible for the introduction of these mutations if the DNA MMR capacity is lost. Some of these susceptible genomic regions are located within the coding regions of genes. Insertions and deletions in these regions may alter their reading frame, potentially resulting in the transcription and translation of frameshift peptides with c-terminally altered amino acid sequences. These frameshift peptides are called neoantigens and are highly immunogenic, which explains the enhanced immunogenicity of MSI CRC. Neoantigens contribute to increased infiltration of tumor tissue with activated neoantigen-specific cytotoxic T lymphocytes, a hallmark of MSI tumors. Currently, neoantigen-based vaccination is being studied in a clinical trial for Lynch syndrome and in a trial for sporadic MSI CRC of advanced stage. In this Focussed Research Review, we summarize current knowledge on molecular mechanisms and address immunological features of tumors with MSI. Finally, we describe their implications for immunotherapeutic approaches and provide an outlook on next-generation immunotherapy involving neoantigens and combinatorial therapies in the setting of MSI CRC.
View details for DOI 10.1007/s00262-016-1832-7
View details for Web of Science ID 000386515000011
View details for PubMedID 27060000
View details for PubMedCentralID PMC5035655
Thus far, dendritic cell (DC)-based immunotherapy of cancer was primarily based on in vitro-generated monocyte-derived DCs, which require extensive in vitro manipulation. Here, we report on a clinical study exploiting primary CD1c(+) myeloid DCs, naturally circulating in the blood.Fourteen stage IV melanoma patients, without previous systemic treatment for metastatic disease, received autologous CD1c(+) myeloid DCs, activated by only brief (16 hours) ex vivo culture and loaded with tumor-associated antigens of tyrosinase and gp100.Our results show that therapeutic vaccination against melanoma with small amounts (3-10 × 10(6)) of myeloid DCs is feasible and without substantial toxicity. Four of 14 patients showed long-term progression-free survival (12-35 months), which directly correlated with the development of multifunctional CD8(+) T-cell responses in three of these patients. In particular, high CD107a expression, indicative for cytolytic activity, and IFNγ as well as TNFα and CCL4 production was observed. Apparently, these T-cell responses are essential to induce tumor regression and promote long-term survival by stalling tumor growth.We show that vaccination of metastatic melanoma patients with primary myeloid DCs is feasible and safe and results in induction of effective antitumor immune responses that coincide with improved progression-free survival. Clin Cancer Res; 22(9); 2155-66. ©2015 AACR.
View details for DOI 10.1158/1078-0432.CCR-15-2205
View details for Web of Science ID 000375329100011
View details for PubMedID 26712687
Cytotoxic T cells are considered crucial for antitumor immunity and their induction is the aim of various immunotherapeutic strategies. High frequencies of tumor-specific CD8+ T cells alone, however, are no guarantee for long-term tumor control. Here, we analyzed the functionality of tumor-specific CD8+ T cells in melanoma patients upon dendritic cell vaccination by measuring multiple T cell effector functions considered crucial for anticancer immunity, including the expression of pro-inflammatory cytokines, chemokines and cytotoxic markers (IFNγ, TNFα, IL-2, CCL4, CD107a). We identified small numbers of multifunctional (polyfunctional) tumor-specific CD8+ T cells in several patients and dendritic cell therapy was able to improve the functionality of these pre-existing tumor-specific CD8+ T cells. Generated multifunctional CD8+ T cell responses could persist for up to ten years and within the same patient functionality could vary greatly for the different vaccination antigens. Importantly, after one cycle of DC vaccination highly functional CD8+ T cells were only detected in patients displaying prolonged overall survival. Our results shed light on the dynamics of multifunctional tumor-specific CD8+ T cells during metastatic melanoma and reveal a new feature of dendritic cell vaccination in vivo.
View details for PubMedID 26942087
View details for PubMedCentralID PMC4760336
Dendritic cell (DC)-based immunotherapy employs the patients' immune system to fight neoplastic lesions spread over the entire body. This makes it an important therapy option for patients suffering from metastatic melanoma, which is often resistant to chemotherapy. However, conventional cellular vaccination approaches, based on monocyte-derived DCs (moDCs), only achieved modest response rates despite continued optimization of various vaccination parameters. In addition, the generation of moDCs requires extensive ex vivo culturing conceivably hampering the immunogenicity of the vaccine. Recent studies, thus, focused on vaccines that make use of primary DCs. Though rare in the blood, these naturally circulating DCs can be readily isolated and activated thereby circumventing lengthy ex vivo culture periods. The first clinical trials not only showed increased survival rates but also the induction of diversified anti-cancer immune responses. Upcoming treatment paradigms aim to include several primary DC subsets in a single vaccine as pre-clinical studies identified synergistic effects between various antigen-presenting cells.
View details for DOI 10.3389/fimmu.2014.00165
View details for Web of Science ID 000354068100001
View details for PubMedID 24782868
View details for PubMedCentralID PMC3990057
Bioassays that predict clinical outcome are essential to optimize cellular anticancer immunotherapy. We have recently developed a robust and simple skin test to evaluate the capacity of tumor-specific T cells to migrate, recognize their targets and exert effector functions. This bioassay detects T cells with an elevated antineoplastic potential and hence rapidly identifies patients responding to immunotherapy.
View details for DOI 10.4161/onci.27219
View details for Web of Science ID 000339952700004
View details for PubMedID 24653961
View details for PubMedCentralID PMC3960298
Dendritic cells (DCs) are key players in the induction of immune responses. Adoptive transfer of autologous mature DCs loaded with tumor-associated antigens is a promising therapy for the treatment of immunogenic tumors. For a long time, its therapeutic activity was thought to depend solely on the induction of tumor-specific CD8+ and CD4+ T cell responses. More recently, DCs were shown to bidirectionally interact with innate and innate-like immune cells, including natural killer (NK), invariant natural killer T (iNKT), and γδ T cells. These effector cells can amplify responses induced by DCs via several mechanisms, including induction of DC maturation and conventional T cell priming. In addition, NK, iNKT, and γδ T cells possess cytolytic activity and can act directly on tumor cells. Therapeutic strategies targeting these innate and innate-like immune cells hence hold potential to improve current DC vaccination protocols.
View details for DOI 10.1615/CritRevImmunol.2014012204
View details for Web of Science ID 000348413900006
View details for PubMedID 25597314
Here, we present a platform to detect cytokine (IL-2, IFN-γ, TNF-α) secretion of single, activated T-cells in droplets over time. We use a novel droplet-based microfluidic approach to encapsulate cells in monodisperse agarose droplets together with functionalized cytokine-capture beads for subsequent binding and detection of secreted cytokines from single cells. This method allows high-throughput detection of cellular heterogeneity and maps subsets within cell populations with specific functions.
View details for DOI 10.1039/c3lc50945a
View details for Web of Science ID 000326982900003
View details for PubMedID 24185478
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