The unmethylated CpG motifs present in bacterial DNA interact with toll-like receptor 9 to trigger a pro-inflammatory immune response. CpG DNA also improves antigen presenting cell function, thereby facilitating the development of adaptive immunity. Since joining the NCI, my laboratory established that synthetic oligonucleotides expressing immunostimulatory CpG motifs (CpG ODN) could be conjugated to apoptotic tumor cells to generate tumor vaccines that were rapidly internalized by professional APCs, promoted DC maturation, and boosted the induction of tumor-specific immunity. In multiple murine models, we found that vaccination with CpG conjugated killed cell vaccines significantly reduced susceptibility to tumor challenge. This effect was observed both in mice pre-vaccinated and then challenged and in animals immunized with our CpG-adjuvanted apoptotic tumor vaccine up to 5 weeks post challenge. The addition of agents known to boost NK and T cell activation, such as 4-1BB MAb, synergistically enhanced the anti-tumor effect of CpG ODN. The general utility of this approach was established by testing 6 different tumor types and showing activity in each case. However, the ability of this approach to eradicate tumors waned as tumor burden increased. To some extent, we believe this reflects the induction of an immunosuppressive microenvironment surrounding the large established cancers that inhibits Ag-specific cellular responses and thus interferes with CpG-mediated immunotherapy. Myeloid-derived suppressor cells (MDSC) represent an important constituent of this immunosuppressive milieu. Large numbers of MDSC are present in and near tumor sites where they inhibit the activity of antigen-specific T and NK cells. Our ongoing studies indicate that when CpG ODN are injected directly into a tumor, they reduce the immunosuppressive activity of monocytic (CD11b+, Ly6G neg, Ly6C high) MDSC. Monocytic MDSC express TLR9 and respond to CpG stimulation by i) losing their ability to suppress T cell function, ii) producing Th1 cytokines and iii) differentiating into macrophages with tumoricidal capability. These findings provide insight into a novel mechanism by which CpG ODN contribute to tumor regression, and support intra-tumoral injection as the optimal route for their delivery. Our ongoing research aims to identify the optimal therapeutic window for CpG ODN delivery, and examine whether the protective immune responses they elicit can be accelerated and/or magnified by combining them with other immunomodulatory agents (such as additional TLR ligands and small molecule agonistic immune potentiators). Efforts to optimize the therapeutic utility of CpG ODN require a detailed understanding of the cells they activate (both directly and indirectly), their duration of action, and the regulatory pathways involved in mediating these responses. To clarify these issues, we are using microarray technology to identify the genes and networks central to the immune stimulation elicited by CpG ODN. Such experiments are conducted in vitro on highly purified cell subpopulations (including human pDC) and in vivo studies of mice to monitor gene expression under physiologic conditions. Our most recent results show that a subset of genes characterized by shared anti-viral activity was consistently up-regulated by ODNs that otherwise mediate discrete functions. This group of genes was largely dependent on autocrine type I interferon (IFN) signaling, as their induction was blocked by neutralizing antibody targeting the type I IFN receptor. Coupling these experiments with a meta-analysis of other published works led to the identification of a set of 32 functionally conserved genes that was reproducibly activated by different types of CpG DNA in different species and cell types. Functionally, these core genes support a type I IFN response to viral infection, and differ from genes up-regulated by only a single type of CpG ODN. These findings help define the conserved and sequence-specific patterns of gene activation triggered via TLR9 and improve our understanding of the immunomodulatory effects elicited by CpG ODN.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Cancer Institute (NCI)
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Shirota, Hidekazu; Klinman, Dennis M; Ito, Shuku-Ei et al. (2017) IL4 from T Follicular Helper Cells Downregulates Antitumor Immunity. Cancer Immunol Res 5:61-71
Tan, Cuiyan; Wandu, Wambui S; Lee, R Steven et al. (2017) Shedding New Light on the Process of ""Licensing"" for Pathogenicity by Th Lymphocytes. J Immunol 198:681-690
Zampeli, Evangelia; Klinman, Dennis M; Gershwin, M Eric et al. (2017) A comprehensive evaluation for the treatment of lupus nephritis. J Autoimmun 78:1-10
Kayraklioglu, Neslihan; Scheiermann, Julia; Alvord, W Gregory et al. (2017) Effect of Calcium Carbonate Encapsulation on the Activity of Orally Administered CpG Oligonucleotides. Mol Ther Nucleic Acids 8:243-249
Bayik, Defne; Gursel, Ihsan; Klinman, Dennis M (2016) Structure, mechanism and therapeutic utility of immunosuppressive oligonucleotides. Pharmacol Res 105:216-25
Bode, Christian; Fox, Mario; Tewary, Poonam et al. (2016) Human plasmacytoid dentritic cells elicit a Type I Interferon response by sensing DNA via the cGAS-STING signaling pathway. Eur J Immunol 46:1615-21
Steinhagen, Folkert; Rodriguez, Luis G; Tross, Debra et al. (2016) IRF5 and IRF8 modulate the CAL-1 human plasmacytoid dendritic cell line response following TLR9 ligation. Eur J Immunol 46:647-55
Klinman, Dennis M; Sato, Takashi; Shimosato, Takeshi (2016) Use of nanoparticles to deliver immunomodulatory oligonucleotides. Wiley Interdiscip Rev Nanomed Nanobiotechnol 8:631-7
Klinman, Dennis M (2015) Therapeutic implications of orally delivered immunomodulatory oligonucleotides. Mol Ther 23:222-3
Wang, Jing; Shirota, Yuko; Bayik, Defne et al. (2015) Effect of TLR agonists on the differentiation and function of human monocytic myeloid-derived suppressor cells. J Immunol 194:4215-21

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