The long term goal of this proposal is to train the applicant to become an independent academic physician- scientist studying the innate immune system and its impact on blood cancers. The principal investigator (PI) has completed PhD training focused on the cellular biology of natural killer (NK) cells, and MD training in internal medicine and hematology-oncology. This application describes a 5 year training program that will provide a mentored educational experience aimed at developing new scientific expertise in molecular profiling, massively parallel sequencing, proteomic analysis, manipulation of microRNAs (miRs), and the generation of mouse models. Dr. Timothy Ley will mentor the Pi's scientific and career development. He is a recognized leader in the field of lymphocyte cytotoxicity, in vivo genetic mouse models, and genomic analysis of leukemia. Furthermore, an advisory committee of medical scientist experts will provide additional scientific and and non-scientific career development guidance. The proposed research will evaluate the role of miRs in the regulation of NK cell cytokine activation. Recent work by the PI in Dr. Ley's laboratory identified two critical cytotoxic molecules, granzyme B (GzmB) and perforin (Prf1), that are post-transcriptionally regulated in NK cells. We hypothesize that miRs regulate GzmB and Prf1 in resting NK cells, and that cytokine-activation releases their block in translation. To address this hypothesis, we propose the following specific aims: 1) We will define the miR expression profiles in resting and cytokine-activated NK cells, and evaluate candidate miRs that may regulate GzmB and Prfl mRNA translation. 2) We will define the mRNA (transcriptome) and protein (proteome) expression profiles of resting and cytokine-activated NK cells, integrate these databases to define the mode of regulation of molecules important during NK cell activation, and define the role of miRs for post-transcriptional regulation. Techniques utilized in the project include miR sequencing, miR microarrays, in vitro and in vivo manipulation of miRs, the generation of a NK cell-specific Cre mouse model, the generation of genetic mouse models deficient in miRs using Cre-Lox, and the global analysis of the NK cell transcriptome and proteome. Washington University provides an ideal setting to train physician-scientists, and will foster an invaluable mentored eduational experience for the PI to realize his career goals in academic medicine.

Public Health Relevance

This overall career development proposal will train an independent physician-scientist for a lifetime of research studying the immune system and cancer. As NK cells are key components of immunity to numerous infectious pathogens, and are involved in the immunosurveillance of malignancy, the research proposed may have far reaching consequences for health and disease. Specifically, a better understanding of NK cell activation may lead to novel immune based stategies to treat hematologic malignancies.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI)
Clinical Investigator Award (CIA) (K08)
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Study Section
Special Emphasis Panel (ZHL1-CSR-O (F1))
Program Officer
Welniak, Lisbeth A
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Washington University
Internal Medicine/Medicine
Schools of Medicine
Saint Louis
United States
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Leong, Jeffrey W; Schneider, Stephanie E; Sullivan, Ryan P et al. (2015) PTEN regulates natural killer cell trafficking in vivo. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 112:E700-9
Romee, Rizwan; Leong, Jeffrey W; Fehniger, Todd A (2014) Utilizing cytokines to function-enable human NK cells for the immunotherapy of cancer. Scientifica (Cairo) 2014:205796
Leong, Jeffrey W; Sullivan, Ryan P; Fehniger, Todd A (2014) microRNA management of NK-cell developmental and functional programs. Eur J Immunol 44:2862-8
Leong, Jeffrey W; Chase, Julie M; Romee, Rizwan et al. (2014) Preactivation with IL-12, IL-15, and IL-18 induces CD25 and a functional high-affinity IL-2 receptor on human cytokine-induced memory-like natural killer cells. Biol Blood Marrow Transplant 20:463-73
Sullivan, Ryan P; Leong, Jeffrey W; Fehniger, Todd A (2013) MicroRNA regulation of natural killer cells. Front Immunol 4:44
Sullivan, Ryan P; Fogel, Leslie A; Leong, Jeffrey W et al. (2013) MicroRNA-155 tunes both the threshold and extent of NK cell activation via targeting of multiple signaling pathways. J Immunol 191:5904-13
Romee, Rizwan; Schneider, Stephanie E; Leong, Jeffrey W et al. (2012) Cytokine activation induces human memory-like NK cells. Blood 120:4751-60
Sullivan, Ryan P; Leong, Jeffrey W; Schneider, Stephanie E et al. (2012) MicroRNA-deficient NK cells exhibit decreased survival but enhanced function. J Immunol 188:3019-30
Leong, Jeffrey W; Sullivan, Ryan P; Fehniger, Todd A (2012) Natural killer cell regulation by microRNAs in health and disease. J Biomed Biotechnol 2012:632329
Fehniger, Todd A; Larson, Sarah; Trinkaus, Kathryn et al. (2011) A phase 2 multicenter study of lenalidomide in relapsed or refractory classical Hodgkin lymphoma. Blood 118:5119-25

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