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Telomerase is a ribonucleoprotein enzyme that is necessary for overcoming telomere shortening in human germ and stem cells. Mutations in telomerase or other telomere-maintenance proteins can lead to diseases characterized by depletion of hematopoietic stem cells and bone marrow failure (BMF). Telomerase localization to telomeres requires an interaction with a region on the surface of the telomere-binding protein TPP1 known as the TEL patch. Here, we identify a family with aplastic anemia and other related hematopoietic disorders in which a 1-amino-acid deletion in the TEL patch of TPP1 (K170) segregates with disease. All family members carrying this mutation, but not those with wild-type TPP1, have short telomeres. When introduced into 293T cells, TPP1 with the K170 mutation is able to localize to telomeres but fails to recruit telomerase to telomeres, supporting a causal relationship between this TPP1 mutation and bone marrow disorders. ACD/TPP1 is thus a newly identified telomere-related gene in which mutations cause aplastic anemia and related BMF disorders.

Our understanding of the pathophysiology of aplastic anemia is undergoing significant revision, with implications for diagnosis and treatment. Constitutional and acquired disease is poorly delineated, as lesions in some genetic pathways cause stereotypical childhood syndromes and also act as risk factors for clinical manifestations in adult life. Telomere diseases are a prominent example of this relationship. Accelerated telomere attrition is the result of mutations in telomere repair genes and genes encoding components of the shelterin complex and related proteins. Genotype-phenotype correlations show genes responsible for X-linked (DKC1) and severe recessive childhood dyskeratosis congenita, typically with associated mucocutaneous features, and others (TERC and TERT) for more subtle presentation as telomeropathy in adults, in which multiorgan failure may be prominent. Telomerase mutations also are etiologic in familial pulmonary fibrosis and cryptic liver disease. Detection of a telomere disease requires awareness in the clinic, appropriate laboratory testing of telomere content, and genetic sequencing. In treatment decisions, genetic screening of related donors for hematopoietic stem cell transplantation is critical, and androgen therapy may be helpful. Telomeres shorten normally with aging, as well as under environmental circumstances, with regenerative stress and oxidative damage. Telomere biology is complexly related to oncogenesis: telomere attrition is protective by enforcing senescence or apoptosis in cells with a long mitotic history, but telomere loss also can destabilize the genome by chromosome rearrangement and aneuploidy.

Diamond-Blackfan anemia, Shwachman-Diamond syndrome, and dyskeratosis congenita are inherited syndromes characterized by marrow failure, congenital anomalies, and cancer predisposition. Genetic and molecular studies have uncovered distinct abnormalities in ribosome biogenesis underlying each of these 3 disorders. How defects in ribosomes, the essential organelles required for protein biosynthesis in all cells, cause tissue-specific abnormalities in human disease remains a question of fundamental scientific and medical importance. Here we review the overlapping and distinct clinical features of these 3 syndromes and discuss current knowledge regarding the ribosomal pathways disrupted in each of these disorders. We also explore the increasing complexity of ribosome biology and how this informs our understanding of developmental biology and human disease.

Once thought to be rare disorders, the myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS) are now recognized as among the most common hematological neoplasms, probably affecting >30 000 patients per year in the United States. US regulatory approval of azacitidine, decitabine, and lenalidomide between 2004 and 2006 seemed to herald a new era in the development of disease-modifying therapies for MDS, but there have been no further drug approvals for MDS indications in the United States in the last 8 years. The available drugs are not curative, and few of the compounds that are currently in development are likely to be approved in the near future. As a result, MDS diagnoses continue to place a heavy burden on both patients and health care systems. Incomplete understanding of disease pathology, the inherent biological complexity of MDS, and the presence of comorbid conditions and poor performance status in the typical older patient with MDS have been major impediments to development of effective novel therapies. Here we discuss new insights from genomic discoveries that are illuminating MDS pathogenesis, increasing diagnostic accuracy, and refining prognostic assessment, and which will one day contribute to more effective treatments and improved patient outcomes.

Paroxysmal nocturnal hemoglobinuria (PNH) is a rare bone marrow failure disorder that manifests with hemolytic anemia, thrombosis, and peripheral blood cytopenias. The absence of two glycosylphosphatidylinositol (GPI)-anchored proteins, CD55 and CD59, leads to uncontrolled complement activation that accounts for hemolysis and other PNH manifestations. GPI anchor protein deficiency is almost always due to somatic mutations in phosphatidylinositol glycan class A (PIGA), a gene involved in the first step of GPI anchor biosynthesis; however, alternative mutations that cause PNH have recently been discovered. In addition, hypomorphic germ-line PIGA mutations that do not cause PNH have been shown to be responsible for a condition known as multiple congenital anomalies-hypotonia-seizures syndrome 2. Eculizumab, a first-in-class monoclonal antibody that inhibits terminal complement, is the treatment of choice for patients with severe manifestations of PNH. Bone marrow transplantation remains the only cure for PNH but should be reserved for patients with suboptimal response to eculizumab.

Fanconi anemia (FA) represents a paradigm of rare genetic diseases, where the quest for cause and cure has led to seminal discoveries in cancer biology. Although a total of 16 FA genes have been identified thus far, the biochemical function of many of the FA proteins remains to be elucidated. FA is rare, yet the fact that 5 FA genes are in fact familial breast cancer genes and FA gene mutations are found frequently in sporadic cancers suggest wider applicability in hematopoiesis and oncology. Establishing the interaction network involving the FA proteins and their associated partners has revealed an intersection of FA with several DNA repair pathways, including homologous recombination, DNA mismatch repair, nucleotide excision repair, and translesion DNA synthesis. Importantly, recent studies have shown a major involvement of the FA pathway in the tolerance of reactive aldehydes. Moreover, despite improved outcomes in stem cell transplantation in the treatment of FA, many challenges remain in patient care.

First-line therapy of severe aplastic anemia (SAA) with high-dose cyclophosphamide causes toxicity and increased short-term mortality. We investigated cyclophosphamide at a lower, more moderate dose in combination with aggressive supportive care to determine whether severe infections might be avoided and hematologic outcomes defined for this regimen. From 2010 to 2012, 22 patients received cyclophosphamide at 120 mg/kg plus cyclosporine and antibacterial, antiviral, and antifungal prophylaxis. Toxicity was considerable, mainly due to prolonged absolute neutropenia, which occurred regardless of pretherapy blood counts, and persisted an average of 2 months. Granulocyte transfusions for uncontrolled infection were required in 5 patients, confirmed fungal infections were documented in 6, and 9 patients died. Nine patients (41%) responded at 6 months. After a median follow-up of 2.2 years, relapse occurred in 2 patients, and cytogenetic abnormalities (including monosomy 7) were observed in 4 patients. Although cyclophosphamide has activity in SAA, its toxicity is not justified when far less dangerous alternatives are available. This trial was registered at www.clinicaltrials.gov as #NCT01193283.

Advances in the design of chimeric antigen receptors (CARs) have improved the antitumor efficacy of redirected T cells. However, functional heterogeneity of CAR T cells limits their therapeutic potential and is associated with toxicity. We proposed that CAR expression in Vα24-invariant natural killer T (NKT) cells can build on the natural antitumor properties of these cells while their restriction by monomorphic CD1d limits toxicity. Primary human NKT cells were engineered to express a CAR against the GD2 ganglioside (CAR.GD2), which is highly expressed by neuroblastoma (NB). We compared CAR.GD2 constructs that encoded the CD3 chain alone, with CD28, 4-1BB, or CD28 and 4-1BB costimulatory endodomains. CAR.GD2 expression rendered NKT cells highly cytotoxic against NB cells without affecting their CD1d-dependent reactivity. We observed a striking T helper 1–like polarization of NKT cells by 4-1BB-containing CARs. Importantly, expression of both CD28 and 4-1BB endodomains in the CAR.GD2 enhanced in vivo persistence of NKT cells. These CAR.GD2 NKT cells effectively localized to the tumor site had potent antitumor activity, and repeat injections significantly improved the long-term survival of mice with metastatic NB. Unlike T cells, CAR.GD2 NKT cells did not induce graft-versus-host disease. These results establish the potential of NKT cells to serve as a safe and effective platform for CAR-directed cancer immunotherapy.

The bone marrow niche is thought to act as a permissive microenvironment required for emergence or progression of hematologic cancers. We hypothesized that osteoblasts, components of the niche involved in hematopoietic stem cell (HSC) function, influence the fate of leukemic blasts. We show that osteoblast numbers decrease by 55% in myelodysplasia and acute myeloid leukemia patients. Further, genetic depletion of osteoblasts in mouse models of acute leukemia increased circulating blasts and tumor engraftment in the marrow and spleen leading to higher tumor burden and shorter survival. Myelopoiesis increased and was coupled with a reduction in B lymphopoiesis and compromised erythropoiesis, suggesting that hematopoietic lineage/progression was altered. Treatment of mice with acute myeloid or lymphoblastic leukemia with a pharmacologic inhibitor of the synthesis of duodenal serotonin, a hormone suppressing osteoblast numbers, inhibited loss of osteoblasts. Maintenance of the osteoblast pool restored normal marrow function, reduced tumor burden, and prolonged survival. Leukemia prevention was attributable to maintenance of osteoblast numbers because inhibition of serotonin receptors alone in leukemic blasts did not affect leukemia progression. These results suggest that osteoblasts play a fundamental role in propagating leukemia in the marrow and may be a therapeutic target to induce hostility of the niche to leukemia blasts.

Emerging evidence indicates that innate immunodeficiency syndromes are linked to mutations in innate receptors and to specific infections. X-linked lymphoproliferative syndrome type-2 (XLP-2) is associated with deficiency in X-linked inhibitor of apoptosis protein (XIAP), with poorly understood molecular mechanisms. Here we showed that XIAP deficiency selectively impaired B-cell chronic lymphocytic leukemia/lymphoma 10 (BCL10)-mediated innate responses to dectin-1 ligands but did not affect responses to various Toll-like receptor agonists. Consequently, Xiap–/– mice became highly vulnerable on Candida albicans infection. The compromised early innate responses led to the persistent presence of C albicans and inflammatory cytokines in Xiap–/– mice. Furthermore, priming of Xiap–/– mice with the dectin-1 ligand curdlan alone resulted in XLP-2–like syndromes. Restoration of dectin-1–induced Rac1 activation and phagocytosis by resolvin D1, but not up-regulation of nuclear factor-B, rescued Xiap–/– mice from C albicans lethal infection. Therefore, development of XLP-2 in XIAP-deficient patients could be partly due to sustained inflammation as a consequence of defective BCL10-dependent innate immunity toward specific pathogens. Importantly, our results suggest the potential therapeutic value of resolvin D1 in the treatment of XLP-2 and innate immunodeficiency syndromes.

Antiplatelet-antibody-producing B cells play a key role in immune thrombocytopenia (ITP) pathogenesis; however, little is known about T-cell dysregulations that support B-cell differentiation. During the past decade, T follicular helper cells (TFHs) have been characterized as the main T-cell subset within secondary lymphoid organs that promotes B-cell differentiation leading to antibody class-switch recombination and secretion. Herein, we characterized TFHs within the spleen of 8 controls and 13 ITP patients. We show that human splenic TFHs are the main producers of interleukin (IL)-21, express CD40 ligand (CD154), and are located within the germinal center of secondary follicles. Compared with controls, splenic TFH frequency is higher in ITP patients and correlates with germinal center and plasma cell percentages that are also increased. In vitro, IL-21 stimulation combined with an anti-CD40 agonist antibody led to the differentiation of splenic B cells into plasma cells and to the secretion of antiplatelet antibodies in ITP patients. Overall, these results point out the involvement of TFH in ITP pathophysiology and the potential interest of IL-21 and CD40 as therapeutic targets in ITP.

Mutations in genes encoding proteins that are involved in mitochondrial heme synthesis, iron-sulfur cluster biogenesis, and mitochondrial protein synthesis have previously been implicated in the pathogenesis of the congenital sideroblastic anemias (CSAs). We recently described a syndromic form of CSA associated with B-cell immunodeficiency, periodic fevers, and developmental delay (SIFD). Here we demonstrate that SIFD is caused by biallelic mutations in TRNT1, the gene encoding the CCA-adding enzyme essential for maturation of both nuclear and mitochondrial transfer RNAs. Using budding yeast lacking the TRNT1 homolog, CCA1, we confirm that the patient-associated TRNT1 mutations result in partial loss of function of TRNT1 and lead to metabolic defects in both the mitochondria and cytosol, which can account for the phenotypic pleiotropy.

Impact on the timing of first postpartum venous thromboembolism (VTE) for women with specific risk factors is of crucial importance when planning the duration of thromboprophylaxis regimen. We observed this using a large linked primary and secondary care database containing 222 334 pregnancies resulting in live and stillbirth births between 1997 and 2010. We assessed the impact of risk factors on the timing of postpartum VTE in term of absolute rates (ARs) and incidence rate ratios (IRRs) using a Poisson regression model. Women with preeclampsia/eclampsia and postpartum acute systemic infection had the highest risk of VTE during the first 3 weeks postpartum (ARs ≥2263/100 000 person-years; IRR ≥2.5) and at 4-6 weeks postpartum (AR ≥1360; IRR ≥3.5). Women with body mass index (BMI) >30 kg/m2 or those having cesarean delivery also had elevated rates up to 6 weeks (AR ≥1425 at 1-3 weeks and ≥722 at 4-6 weeks). Women with postpartum hemorrhage or preterm birth, had significantly increased VTE rates only in the first 3 weeks (AR ≥1736; IRR ≥2). Our findings suggest that the duration of the increased VTE risk after childbirth varies based on the type of risk factors and can extend up to the first 3 to 6 weeks postpartum.

Hematopoietic cell transplantation is curative in many patients. However, graft-versus-host disease (GVHD), triggered by alloreactive donor cells, has remained a major complication. Here, we show an inverse correlation between plasma α-1-antitrypsin (AAT) levels in human donors and the development of acute GVHD in the recipients (n = 111; P = .0006). In murine models, treatment of transplant donors with human AAT resulted in an increase in interleukin-10 messenger RNA and CD8+CD11c+CD205+ major histocompatibility complex class II+ dendritic cells (DCs), and the prevention or attenuation of acute GVHD in the recipients. Ablation of DCs (in AAT-treated CD11c-DTR donors) decreased CD4+CD25+FoxP3+ regulatory T cells to one-third and abrogated the anti-GVHD effect. The graft-versus-leukemia (GVL) effect of donor cells (against A20 tumor cells) was maintained or even enhanced with AAT treatment of the donor, mediated by an expanded population of NK1.1+, CD49B+, CD122+, CD335+ NKG2D-expressing natural killer (NK) cells. Blockade of NKG2D significantly suppressed the GVL effect. Metabolic analysis showed a high glycolysis–high oxidative phosphorylation profile for NK1.1+ cells, CD4+CD25+FoxP3+ T cells, and CD11c+ DCs but not for effector T cells, suggesting a cell type–specific effect of AAT. Thus, via altered metabolism, AAT exerts effective GVHD protection while enhancing GVL effects.