Feb 2020, Volume 14 Issue 1

Cover illustration

  • IHC detection of AcK27-HOXB9 in the normal pancreatic tissue. (Courtesy of Drs. Hongquan Zhang, Weigang Fang, and Jun Zhan. See pages 91?100 by Xiaoran Sun et al. for more information.)

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    Honglu Zhou, Songmei Wang, Lorenz von Seidlein, Xuanyi Wang

    With the improvements of sanitation and nationwide safe water supply the occurrence of bacterial diarrhea declined remarkably, while viruses became the leading causes of acute gastroenteritis (AGE). Of these viruses, noroviruses (NoVs) are responsible for a considerable burden of gastroenteritis, especially in children<2 years and elderly≥65 years. NoVs circulating in the Chinese population are antigenically highly diverse with the genotype GII.4 being the dominant strain followed by GII.3. Given the widespread contamination in environmental sources, and highly infectious nature of NoVs, vaccination would be the desirable strategy for the control of NoV infections. However, a better understanding of acquired immunity after infection, and a reliable immunological surrogate marker are urgently needed, since two vaccine candidates based on virus-like particles (VLPs) are currently moving into clinical evaluations in China.

    Xiaoxin Wu, Lanlan Xiao, Lanjuan Li

    Since the first case of novel H7N9 infection was reported, China has experienced five epidemics of H7N9. During the fifth wave, a highly pathogenic H7N9 strain emerged. Meanwhile, the H7N9 virus continues to accumulate mutations, and its affinity for the human respiratory epithelial sialic acid 2-6 receptor has increased. Therefore, a pandemic is still possible. In the past 6 years, we have accumulated rich experience in dealing with H7N9, especially in terms of virus tracing, epidemiological research, key site mutation monitoring, critical disease mechanisms, clinical treatment, and vaccine development. In the research fields above, significant progress has been made to effectively control the spread of the epidemic and reduce the fatality rate. To fully document the research progress concerning H7N9, we reviewed the clinical and epidemiological characteristics of H7N9, the key gene mutations of the virus, and H7N9 vaccine, thus providing a scientific basis for further monitoring and prevention of H7N9 influenza epidemics.

    Wenzhan Jing, Jue Liu, Min Liu

    China has the world’s largest burden of hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection, but the country has made considerable progress in preventing its mother-to-child transmission (MTCT) in the past three decades. This feat is made possible due to the high coverage of birth-dose hepatitis B vaccine (HepB,>95%), hepatitis B surface antigen (HBsAg) screening for pregnant women (>99%), and hepatitis B immunoglobulin plus HepB for newborns whose mothers are HBsAg positive (>99%). Studies on the optimal antiviral treatment regimen for pregnant women with high HBV-DNA load have also been conducted. However, China still faces challenges in eliminating MTCT of HBV. The overall HBsAg prevalence among pregnant women is considered an intermediate endemic. The prevalence of HBsAg among pregnant women from remote, rural, or ethnic minority areas is higher than that of the national level because of limited health resources and public health education for HBV. The coverage for maternal and child healthcare and immunization services should be improved, especially in western regions. Integration of current services to prevent MTCT of HBV with other relevant health services can increase the acceptability, efficiency, and coverage of these services, particularly in remote areas and ethnic minority areas. By doing so, progress toward key milestones and targets to eliminate hepatitis B as the main public health threat by 2030 can be achieved.

    Qian Wang, Linqi Zhang

    Remarkable progress has been achieved for prophylactic and therapeutic interventions against human immunodeficiency virus type I (HIV-1) through antiretroviral therapy. However, vaccine development has remained challenging. Recent discoveries in broadly neutralizing monoclonal antibodies (bNAbs) has led to the development of multiple novel vaccine approaches for inducing bNAbs-like antibody response. Structural and dynamic studies revealed several vulnerable sites and states of the HIV-1 envelop glycoprotein (Env) during infection. Our review aims to highlight these discoveries and rejuvenate our endeavor in HIV-1 vaccine design and development.

    Jie Pan, Zhengchao Shi, Dingsai Lin, Ningmin Yang, Fei Meng, Lang Lin, Zhencheng Jin, Qingjie Zhou, Jiansheng Wu, Jianzhong Zhang, Youming Li

    An effective eradication therapy of Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) should be used for the first time. In this study, we assessed whether tailored therapy based on antibiotic susceptibility testing is more effective than traditional therapy. We also evaluated the factors that cause treatment failure in high-resistance areas. For this multicenter trial, we recruited 467 H. pylori-positive patients. The patients were randomly assigned to receive tailored triple therapy (TATT), tailored bismuth-containing quadruple therapy (TABQT), or traditional bismuth-containing quadruple therapy (TRBQT). For the TATT and TABQT groups, antibiotic selection proceeded via susceptibility testing using an agar-dilution test. The patients in the TRBQT group were given amoxicillin, clarithromycin, esomeprazole, and bismuth. Successful eradication was defined as a negative 13C-urea breath test at least eight weeks after the treatment ended. Susceptibility testing was conducted using an agar-dilution test. The eradication rate was examined via intention-to-treat (ITT) and per-protocol (PP) analyses. The clarithromycin, levofloxacin, and metronidazole resistance rates were 26.12%, 28.69%, and 96.79%, respectively. Resistance against amoxicillin and furazolidone was rare. The eradication rates for TATT, TRBQT, and TABQT were 67.32%, 63.69%, and 85.99% in the ITT analysis (P<0.001) and 74.64%, 68.49%, and 91.22% in the PP analysis (P<0.001), respectively. The efficacy of TABQT was affected by clarithromycin resistance, and bismuth exerted a direct influence on TATT failure. TABQT was the most efficacious regimen for use in high-resistance regions, especially among clarithromycin-susceptible patients.

    Shengfen Wang, Yang Zhou, Bing Zhao, Xichao Ou, Hui Xia, Yang Zheng, Yuanyuan Song, Qian Cheng, Xinyang Wang, Yanlin Zhao

    The aim of this study was to characterize rpoC gene mutations in Mycobacterium tuberculosis (MTB) and investigate the factors associated with rpoC mutations and the relation between rpoC mutations and tuberculosis (TB) transmission. A total of 245 MTB clinical isolates from patients with TB in six provinces and two municipalities in China were characterized based on gene mutations through DNA sequencing of rpoC and rpoB genes, phenotyping via standard drug susceptibility testing, and genotypic profiling by mycobacterial interspersed repetitive unit-variable number tandem repeat (MIRU-VNTR) typing. Approximately 36.4% of the rifampin-resistant isolates harbored nonsynonymous mutations in the rpoC gene. Twenty-nine nonsynonymous single mutations and three double mutations were identified. The rpoC mutations at locus 483 (11.3%) were predominant, and the mutations at V483G, W484G, I491V, L516P, L566R, N698K, and A788E accounted for 54.5% of the total detected mutations. Fifteen new mutations in the rpoC gene were identified. Rifampin resistance and rpoB mutations at locus 531 were significantly associated with rpoC mutations. MIRU-VNTR genotype results indicated that 18.4% of the studied isolates were clustered, and the rpoC mutations were not significantly associated with MIRU-VNTR clusters. A large proportion of rpoC mutation was observed in the rifampicin-resistant MTB isolates. However, the findings of this study do not support the association of rpoC mutation with compensated transmissibility.

    Jiahui Xu, Qianqian Wang, Elaine Lai Han Leung, Ying Li, Xingxing Fan, Qibiao Wu, Xiaojun Yao, Liang Liu

    Bromodomain PHD-finger transcription factor (BPTF) is the largest subunit of the nucleosome remodeling factor and plays an important role in chromatin remodeling for gene activation through its association with histone acetylation or methylation. BPTF is also involved in oncogene transcription in diverse progressions of cancers. Despite clinical trials for inhibitors of bromodomain and extra-terminal family proteins in human cancers, no potent and selective inhibitor targeting the BPTF bromodomain has been discovered. In this study, we identified a potential inhibitor, namely, C620-0696, by computational docking modeling to target bromodomain. Results of biolayer interferometry revealed that compound C620-0696 exhibited high binding affinity to the BPTF bromodomain. Moreover, C620-0696 was cytotoxic in BPTF with a high expression of non-small-cell lung cancer (NSCLC) cells. It suppressed the expression of the BPTF target gene c-MYC, which is known as an oncogenic transcriptional regulator in various cancers. C620-0696 also partially inhibited the migration and colony formation of NSCLC cells owing to apoptosis induction and cell cycle blockage. Thus, our study presents an effective strategy to target a bromodomain factor-mediated tumorigenesis in cancers with small molecules, supporting further exploration of the use of these inhibitors in oncology.

    Yuan Gao, Zhilei Wang, Jinfa Tang, Xiaoyi Liu, Wei Shi, Nan Qin, Xiaoyan Wang, Yu Pang, Ruisheng Li, Yaming Zhang, Jiabo Wang, Ming Niu, Zhaofang Bai, Xiaohe Xiao

    Epimedii Folium (EF) combined with Psoraleae Fructus (PF) is a common modern preparation, but liver injury caused by Chinese patent medicine preparations containing EF and PF has been frequently reported in recent years. Zhuangguguanjiewan pills (ZGW), which contain EF and PF, could induce immune idiosyncratic liver injury according to clinical case reports and a nonhepatotoxic dose of lipopolysaccharide (LPS) model. This present study evaluated the liver injury induced by EF or PF alone or in combination and investigated the related mechanism by using the LPS model. Liver function indexes and pathological results showed that either EF or PF alone or in combination led to liver injury in normal rats; however, EF or PF alone could lead to liver injury in LPS-treated rats. Moreover, EF combined with PF could induce a greater degree of injury than that caused by EF or PF alone in LPS-treated rats. Furthermore, EF or PF alone or in combination enhanced the LPS-stimulated inflammatory cytokine production, implying that IL-1β, which is processed and released by activating the NLRP3 inflammasome, is a specific indicator of EF-induced immune idiosyncratic hepatotoxicity. Thus, EF may induce liver injury through enhancing the LPS-mediated proinflammatory cytokine production and activating the NLRP3 inflammasome. In addition, the metabolomics analysis results showed that PF affected more metabolites in glycerophospholipid and sphingolipid metabolic pathways compared with EF in LPS model, suggesting that PF increased the responsiveness of the liver to LPS or other inflammatory mediators via modulation of multiple metabolic pathways. Therefore, EF and PF combination indicates traditional Chinese medicine incompatibility, considering that it induces idiosyncratic hepatotoxicity under immunological stress conditions.

    Min Fei, Li Xiang, Xichen Chai, Jingchun Jin, Tao You, Yiming Zhao, Changgeng Ruan, Yiwen Hao, Li Zhu

    Accumulating evidence suggests that C-type lectin-like receptor-2 (CLEC-2) plays an important role in atherothrombosis. In this case-control study, we investigated the association between CLEC-2 and incidence of coronary artery disease (CAD). A total of 216 patients, including 14 cases of stable angina pectoris (SAP, non-ACS) and 202 cases of acute coronary syndrome (ACS), and 89 non-CAD control subjects were enrolled. Plasma levels of soluble CLEC-2 (sCLEC-2) were measured using the enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA). Compared with the control group (65.69 (55.36–143.22) pg/mL), the plasma levels of sCLEC-2 were significantly increased in patients with CAD (133.67 (88.76–220.09) pg/mL) and ACS (134.16 (88.88–225.81) pg/mL). The multivariate adjusted odds ratios (95% confidence interval) of CAD reached 2.01 (1.52–2.66) (Ptrend<0.001) for each 1-quartile increase in sCLEC-2. Restricted cubic splines showed a positive dose-response association between sCLEC2 and CAD incidence (Plinearity<0.001). The addition of sCLEC-2 to conventional risk factors improved the C statistic (0.821 vs. 0.761, P = 0.004) and reclassification ability (net reclassification improvement: 57.45%, P<0.001; integrated discrimination improvement: 8.27%, P<0.001) for CAD. In conclusion, high plasma sCLEC-2 is independently associated with CAD risk, and the prognostic value of sCLEC-2 may be evaluated in future prospective studies.

    Xiaoran Sun, Jiagui Song, Jing Zhang, Jun Zhan, Weigang Fang, Hongquan Zhang

    Pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC) is the ninth most common human malignancy and the sixth leading cause of cancer-related death in China. AcK27-HOXB9 is a newly identified HOXB9 post-transcriptional modification that can predict the outcome in lung adenocarcinoma and colon cancer well. However, the role of AcK27-HOXB9 in PDAC is unclear. The present study aims to investigate the differential diagnostic role of patients with AcK27-HOXB9 PDAC. Tissue microarrays consisting of 162 pancreatic tumor tissue samples from patients with PDAC and paired normal subjects were used to examine HOXB9 and AcK27-HOXB9 levels and localizations by immunohistochemical analysis and Western blot assay, respectively. HOXB9 was upregulated (P<0.0001), and AcK27-HOXB9 (P=0.0023) was downregulated in patients with PDAC. HOXB9 promoted (P=0.0115), while AcK27-HOXB9 (P=0.0279) inhibited PDAC progression. AcK27-HOXB9 predicted favorable outcome in patients with PDAC (P=0.0412). AcK27-HOXB9 also suppressed PDAC cell migration in a cell migration assay. The results of this study showed that HOXB9 promoted and AcK27-HOXB9 suppressed PDAC progression. The determination of ratio between HOXB9 and AcK27-HOXB9 exhibited potential diagnostic value in patients with PDAC.

    Anqi Chen, Suhua Zhang, Jixi Li, Chaoneng Ji, Jinzhong Chen, Chengtao Li

    Growing evidence suggests that somatic hypermutational status and programmed cell death-1 overexpression are potential predictive biomarkers indicating treatment benefits from immunotherapy using immune checkpoint inhibitors. However, biomarker-matched trials are still limited, and many of the genomic alterations remain difficult to target. To isolate the potential somatic hypermutational tumor from microsatellite instability low/microsatellite stability (MSI-L/MSS) cases, we employed two commercial kits to determine MSI and forensic short tandem repeat (STR) alternations in 250 gastrointestinal (GI) tumors. Three types of forensic STR alternations, namely, allelic loss, Aadd, and Anew, were identified. 62.4% (156/250) of the patients with GI exhibited STR alternation, including 100% (15/15) and 60% (141/235) of the microsatellite high instability and MSI-L/MSS cases, respectively. 30% (75/250) of the patients exhibited STR instability with more than 26.32% (26.32%–84.21%) STR alternation. The cutoff with 26.32% of the STR alternations covered all 15 MSI cases and suggested that it might be a potential threshold. Given the similar mechanism of the mutations of MSI and forensic STR, the widely used forensic identifier STR kit might provide potential usage for identifying hypermutational status in GI cancers.