Professional Education

  • Doctor of Philosophy, University of Kansas (2017)

Stanford Advisors

All Publications

  • Activation of mTORC1 at late endosomes misdirects T cell fate decision in older individuals. Science immunology Jin, J., Kim, C., Xia, Q., Gould, T. M., Cao, W., Zhang, H., Li, X., Weiskopf, D., Grifoni, A., Sette, A., Weyand, C. M., Goronzy, J. J. 2021; 6 (60)


    The nutrient-sensing mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) is integral to cell fate decisions after T cell activation. Sustained mTORC1 activity favors the generation of terminally differentiated effector T cells instead of follicular helper and memory T cells. This is particularly pertinent for T cell responses of older adults who have sustained mTORC1 activation despite dysfunctional lysosomes. Here, we show that lysosome-deficient T cells rely on late endosomes rather than lysosomes as an mTORC1 activation platform, where mTORC1 is activated by sensing cytosolic amino acids. T cells from older adults have an increased expression of the plasma membrane leucine transporter SLC7A5 to provide a cytosolic amino acid source. Hence, SLC7A5 and VPS39 deficiency (a member of the HOPS complex promoting early to late endosome conversion) substantially reduced mTORC1 activities in T cells from older but not young individuals. Late endosomal mTORC1 is independent of the negative-feedback loop involving mTORC1-induced inactivation of the transcription factor TFEB that controls expression of lysosomal genes. The resulting sustained mTORC1 activation impaired lysosome function and prevented lysosomal degradation of PD-1 in CD4+ T cells from older adults, thereby inhibiting their proliferative responses. VPS39 silencing of human T cells improved their expansion to pertussis and to SARS-CoV-2 peptides in vitro. Furthermore, adoptive transfer of CD4+ Vps39-deficient LCMV-specific SMARTA cells improved germinal center responses, CD8+ memory T cell generation, and recall responses to infection. Thus, curtailing late endosomal mTORC1 activity is a promising strategy to enhance T cell immunity.

    View details for DOI 10.1126/sciimmunol.abg0791

    View details for PubMedID 34145066

  • FOXO1 deficiency impairs proteostasis in aged T cells SCIENCE ADVANCES Jin, J., Li, X., Hu, B., Kim, C., Cao, W., Zhang, H., Weyand, C. M., Goronzy, J. J. 2020; 6 (17)
  • Distinct Age-Related Epigenetic Signatures in CD4 and CD8 T Cells. Frontiers in immunology Hu, B., Jadhav, R. R., Gustafson, C. E., Le Saux, S., Ye, Z., Li, X., Tian, L., Weyand, C. M., Goronzy, J. J. 2020; 11: 585168


    Healthy immune aging is in part determined by how well the sizes of naive T cell compartments are being maintained with advancing age. Throughout adult life, replenishment largely derives from homeostatic proliferation of existing naive and memory T cell populations. However, while the subpopulation composition of CD4 T cells is relatively stable, the CD8 T cell compartment undergoes more drastic changes with loss of naive CD8 T cells and accumulation of effector T cells, suggesting that CD4 T cells are more resilient to resist age-associated changes. To determine the epigenetic basis for these differences in behaviors, we compared chromatin accessibility maps of CD4 and CD8 T cell subsets from young and old individuals and related the results to the expressed transcriptome. The dominant age-associated signatures resembled hallmarks of differentiation, which were more pronounced for CD8 naive and memory than the corresponding CD4 T cell subsets, indicating that CD8 T cells are less able to keep cellular quiescence upon homeostatic proliferation. In parallel, CD8 T cells from old adults, irrespective of their differentiation state, displayed greater reduced accessibility to genes of basic cell biological function, including genes encoding ribosomal proteins. One possible mechanism is the reduced expression of the transcription factors YY1 and NRF1. Our data suggest that chromatin accessibility signatures can be identified that distinguish CD4 and CD8 T cells from old adults and that may confer the higher resilience of CD4 T cells to aging.

    View details for DOI 10.3389/fimmu.2020.585168

    View details for PubMedID 33262764

  • Ecto-NTPDase CD39 is a negative checkpoint that inhibits follicular helper cell generation. The Journal of clinical investigation Cao, W. n., Fang, F. n., Gould, T. n., Li, X. n., Kim, C. n., Gustafson, C. n., Lambert, S. n., Weyand, C. M., Goronzy, J. J. 2020


    Vaccination is a mainstay in preventive medicine, reducing morbidity and mortality from infection, largely by generating pathogen-specific neutralizing antibodies. However, standard immunization strategies are insufficient with increasing age due to immunological impediments, including defects in T follicular helper (Tfh) cells. Here, we found that Tfh generation is inversely linked to the expression of the ecto-NTPDase CD39 that modifies purinergic signaling. The lineage-determining transcription factor BCL6 inhibited CD39 expression, while increased Tfh frequencies were found in individuals with a germline polymorphism preventing transcription of ENTPD1, encoding CD39. In in vitro human and in vivo mouse studies, Tfh generation and germinal center responses were enhanced by reducing CD39 expression through the inhibition of the cAMP/PKA/p-CREB pathway, or by blocking adenosine signaling downstream of CD39 using the selective adenosine A2a receptor antagonist istradefylline. Thus, purinergic signaling in differentiating T cells can be targeted to improve vaccine responses, in particular in older individuals who have increased CD39 expression.

    View details for DOI 10.1172/JCI132417

    View details for PubMedID 32452837

  • Characterization of a metazoan ADA acetyltransferase complex NUCLEIC ACIDS RESEARCH Soffers, J. M., Li, X., Saraf, A., Seidel, C. W., Florens, L., Washburn, M. P., Abmayr, S. M., Workman, J. L. 2019; 47 (7): 3383–94


    The Gcn5 acetyltransferase functions in multiple acetyltransferase complexes in yeast and metazoans. Yeast Gcn5 is part of the large SAGA (Spt-Ada-Gcn5 acetyltransferase) complex and a smaller ADA acetyltransferase complex. In flies and mammals, Gcn5 (and its homolog pCAF) is part of various versions of the SAGA complex and another large acetyltransferase complex, ATAC (Ada2A containing acetyltransferase complex). However, a complex analogous to the small ADA complex in yeast has never been described in metazoans. Previous studies in Drosophila hinted at the existence of a small complex which contains Ada2b, a partner of Gcn5 in the SAGA complex. Here we have purified and characterized the composition of this complex and show that it is composed of Gcn5, Ada2b, Ada3 and Sgf29. Hence, we have named it the metazoan 'ADA complex'. We demonstrate that the fly ADA complex has histone acetylation activity on histones and nucleosome substrates. Moreover, ChIP-Sequencing experiments identified Ada2b peaks that overlap with another SAGA subunit, Spt3, as well as Ada2b peaks that do not overlap with Spt3 suggesting that the ADA complex binds chromosomal sites independent of the larger SAGA complex.

    View details for DOI 10.1093/nar/gkz042

    View details for Web of Science ID 000467965900017

    View details for PubMedID 30715476

    View details for PubMedCentralID PMC6468242

  • Enzymatic modules of the SAGA chromatin-modifying complex play distinct roles in Drosophila gene expression and development GENES & DEVELOPMENT Li, X., Seidel, C. W., Szerszen, L. T., Lange, J. J., Workman, J. L., Abmayr, S. M. 2017; 31 (15): 1588–1600


    The Spt-Ada-Gcn5-acetyltransferase (SAGA) chromatin-modifying complex is a transcriptional coactivator that contains four different modules of subunits. The intact SAGA complex has been well characterized for its function in transcription regulation and development. However, little is known about the roles of individual modules within SAGA and whether they have any SAGA-independent functions. Here we demonstrate that the two enzymatic modules of Drosophila SAGA are differently required in oogenesis. Loss of the histone acetyltransferase (HAT) activity blocks oogenesis, while loss of the H2B deubiquitinase (DUB) activity does not. However, the DUB module regulates a subset of genes in early embryogenesis, and loss of the DUB subunits causes defects in embryogenesis. ChIP-seq (chromatin immunoprecipitation [ChIP] combined with high-throughput sequencing) analysis revealed that both the DUB and HAT modules bind most SAGA target genes even though many of these targets do not require the DUB module for expression. Furthermore, we found that the DUB module can bind to chromatin and regulate transcription independently of the HAT module. Our results suggest that the DUB module has functions within SAGA and independent functions.

    View details for DOI 10.1101/gad.300988.117

    View details for Web of Science ID 000410655400007

    View details for PubMedID 28887412

    View details for PubMedCentralID PMC5630023

  • Reading and Interpreting the Histone Acylation Code GENOMICS PROTEOMICS & BIOINFORMATICS Soffers, J. M., Li, X., Abmayr, S. M., Workman, J. L. 2016; 14 (6): 329–32

    View details for DOI 10.1016/j.gpb.2016.12.001

    View details for Web of Science ID 000391081100001

    View details for PubMedID 28007607

    View details for PubMedCentralID PMC5200937

  • Follicular T-helper cell recruitment governed by bystander B cells and ICOS-driven motility NATURE Xu, H., Li, X., Liu, D., Li, J., Zhang, X., Chen, X., Hou, S., Peng, L., Xu, C., Liu, W., Zhang, L., Qi, H. 2013; 496 (7446): 523-+


    Germinal centres support antibody affinity maturation and memory formation. Follicular T-helper cells promote proliferation and differentiation of antigen-specific B cells inside the follicle. A genetic deficiency in the inducible co-stimulator (ICOS), a classic CD28 family co-stimulatory molecule highly expressed by follicular T-helper cells, causes profound germinal centre defects, leading to the view that ICOS specifically co-stimulates the follicular T-helper cell differentiation program. Here we show that ICOS directly controls follicular recruitment of activated T-helper cells in mice. This effect is independent from ICOS ligand (ICOSL)-mediated co-stimulation provided by antigen-presenting dendritic cells or cognate B cells, and does not rely on Bcl6-mediated programming as an intermediate step. Instead, it requires ICOSL expression by follicular bystander B cells, which do not present cognate antigen to T-helper cells but collectively form an ICOS-engaging field. Dynamic imaging reveals ICOS engagement drives coordinated pseudopod formation and promotes persistent T-cell migration at the border between the T-cell zone and the B-cell follicle in vivo. When follicular bystander B cells cannot express ICOSL, otherwise competent T-helper cells fail to develop into follicular T-helper cells normally, and fail to promote optimal germinal centre responses. These results demonstrate a co-stimulation-independent function of ICOS, uncover a key role for bystander B cells in promoting the development of follicular T-helper cells, and reveal unsuspected sophistication in dynamic T-cell positioning in vivo.

    View details for DOI 10.1038/nature12058

    View details for Web of Science ID 000317984400045

    View details for PubMedID 23619696