Molecular mechanisms underpinning IFN-gamma and TNF-alpha synergy in intestinal epithelial cells

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Woznicki, Jerzy A.
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University College Cork
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Cytokine-driven signalling shapes immune homeostasis and guides inflammatory responses mainly through induction of specific gene expression programmes both within and outside the immune cell compartment. These transcriptional outputs are often amplified via cytokine synergy, which sets a stimulatory threshold that safeguards from exacerbated inflammation and immunopathology. In this study, we investigated the molecular mechanisms underpinning synergy between two pivotal Th1 cytokines, IFN-γ and TNF-α, in human intestinal epithelial cells. These two proinflammatory mediators induce a unique state of signalling and transcriptional synergy implicated in processes such as antiviral and antitumour immunity, intestinal barrier and pancreatic β-cell dysfunction. Since its discovery more than 30 years ago, this biological phenomenon remains, however, only partially defined. Here, using a functional genomics approach including RNAi perturbation screens and small-molecule inhibitors, we identified two new regulators of IFN-γ/TNF-α-induced chemokine and antiviral gene and protein expression, a Bcl-2 protein BCL-G and a histone demethylase UTX. We also discovered that IFN-γ/TNF-α synergise to trigger a coordinated shutdown of major receptor tyrosine kinases expression in colon cancer cells. Together, these findings extend our current understanding of how IFN-γ/TNF-α synergy elicits qualitatively and quantitatively distinct outputs in the intestinal epithelium. Given the well-documented role of this synergistic state in immunopathology of various disorders, our results may help to inform the identification of high quality and biologically relevant druggable targets for diseases characterised by an IFN-γ/TNF-α high immune signature
Cytokines , Intestinal epithelial cells , Signal transduction , Epigenetics , Transcriptional regulation
Woznicki, J.A. 2014. Molecular mechanisms underpinning IFN-gamma and TNF-alpha synergy in intestinal epithelial cells. PhD Thesis, University College Cork.