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Immunodeficiency and Inflammation Unit

This image depicts the process of reprogramming human fibroblasts to induce pluripotency.

Eric Hanson, M.D.
Head, Immunodeficiency and Inflammation Unit
Autoimmunity Branch
Phone: 301-402-6776

Research Overview

Our goal is to understand fundamental signaling processes that lead to immune-mediated disease. Our approach is to focus on the molecular mechanisms involved in the activation and regulation of the NF-kB family transcription factors. To this end, we have established a genetics research program to evaluate individuals with known or currently undiagnosed rare genetic syndromes characterized by phenotypes of autoimmunity or inflammatory disease in the setting of immune deficiency.

Molecular Characterization of Signaling Defects in NEMO Syndrome

NF-kB plays a crucial role in gene expression both during normal development and within the context of the immune response. Hypomorphic mutation in NEMO, a key regulator of the NF-kB pathway, results in a primary immunodeficiency, which in some cases, is accompanied by inflammatory disease. At the NIH Clinical Research Center, we study individuals with mutation in NEMO. Our earlier work indicates that genotype/phenotype correlations exist in NEMO Syndrome, and that inflammatory disease phenotypes occur due to mutation in one of two “hot-spots” of the gene. One of these hot-spots codes for a domain in the C-terminus that recognizes polyubiquitin chains. Our most recent work indicates that this domain regulates canonical IKK kinase activity by recruiting a negative regulator upon receptor activation (Figure 1). We found that the second hot-spot appears to be critical in regulating the production of proinflammatory cytokines and type I interferon in response to viral infection (Figure 2). Ongoing work suggests that processing of the p65 subunit of NF-kB by the kinase TBK1 is dependent on this second domain. The molecular mechanisms elucidated by the study of NEMO mutations found in our patients’ mutations apply to inflammatory diseases as disparate as multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus and Crohn’s disease.

Finding Novel Genetic Causes of Inflammatory Disease

In addition to studying individuals with known NEMO mutation, we also evaluate individuals with NEMO-like Syndrome whose clinical phenotypes suggest mutation in a gene that is functionally related to NF-kB activation. In collaboration with investigators at NIAID, we are evaluating two boys with NEMO-like Syndrome, which has led us to the discovery of IL-21R deficiency as a cause of primary immunodeficiency.

Future Directions

We have generated induced pluripotent (IPS) cell lines from our patients bearing NEMO and IL-21R mutation. Current work involves developing methods to differentiate IPS cells to monocyte-like and T cell-like cells in a “xeno-free” system. Our goal is to eventually use these cells therapeutically in humans. Another current major effort is the use of powerful new gene-editing approaches to correct disease-causing mutations in IPS cells derived from patients. Using genomic techniques, we plan to use differentiated patient-derived IPS cells to determine the cell-specific differential roles of NEMO in NF-kB activation. In addition, we are currently generating NEMO knock-in mice to further understand how altered signaling events lead to disease, and how IPS cells and their derivatives may eventually be used therapeutically.

The NEMO C-terminus ubiquitin binding domain negatively regulates TNF and TLR-induced NF-kB activation by recruiting A20 (A). In its absence, canonical IKK activity is enhanced (B)

Figure 1: The NEMO C-terminus ubiquitin binding domain negatively regulates TNF and TLR-induced NF-kB activation by recruiting A20 (A). In its absence, canonical IKK activity is enhanced (B).

NEMO/TBK1 interaction is required for RLR induced p65 phosphorylation and nuclear translocation

Figure 2: NEMO/TBK1 interaction is required for RLR induced p65 phosphorylation and nuclear translocation.

Selected Publications

Kotlarz D, Ziętara N, Uzel G, Weidemann T, Braun CJ, Diestelhorst J, Krawitz PM, Robinson PN, Hecht J, Puchałka J, Gertz EM, Schäffer AA, Lawrence MG, Kardava L, Pfeifer D, Baumann U, Pfister ED, Hanson EP, Schambach A, Jacobs R, Kreipe H, Moir S, Milner JD, Schwille P, Mundlos S, Klein C. Loss-of-function mutations in the IL-21 receptor gene cause a primary immunodeficiency syndrome.J Exp Med. 2013 Mar 11;210(3):433-43. doi: 10.1084/jem.20111229. Epub 2013 Feb 25. PubMed Icon

Keller MD, Petersen M, Ong P, Church J, Risma K, Burham J, Jain A, Stiehm ER, Hanson EP, Uzel G, Deardorff MA, Orange JS.Hypohidrotic ectodermal dysplasia and immunodeficiency with coincident NEMO and EDA mutations. Front Immunol. 2011 Nov 8;2:61. doi: 10.3389/fimmu.2011.00061 PubMed Icon

Karamchandani-Patel G1, Hanson EP, Saltzman R, Kimball CE, Sorensen RU, Orange JS. Congenital alterations of NEMO glutamic acid 223 result in hypohidrotic ectodermal dysplasia and immunodeficiency with normal serum IgG levels. Ann Allergy Asthma Immunol. 2011 Jul;107(1):50-6. doi: 10.1016/j.anai.2011.03.009 PubMed Icon

Devora GA, Sun L, Chen Z, van Oers NS, Hanson EP, Orange JS, de la Morena MT. A novel missense mutation in the nuclear factor-κB essential modulator (NEMO) gene resulting in impaired activation of the NF-κB pathway and a unique clinical phenotype presenting as MRSA subdural empyema. J Clin Immunol. 2010 Nov;30(6):881-5. PubMed Icon

Yatherajam G, Banerjee PP, McCorkell KA, Solt LA, Hanson EP, Madge LA, Kang S, Worley PF, Orange JS, May MJ. Cutting edge: association with I kappa B kinase beta regulates the subcellular localization of Homer3. J Immunol. 2010 Sep 1;185(5):2665-9 PubMed Icon

Salt BH, Niemela JE, Pandey R, Hanson EP, Deering RP, Quinones R, Jain A, Orange JS, Gelfand EW. IKBKG (nuclear factor-kappa B essential modulator) mutation can be associated with opportunistic infection without impairing Toll-like receptor function. J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2008 Apr;121(4):976-82. PubMed Icon

Cacalano NA, Migone TS, Bazan F, Hanson EP, Chen M, Candotti F, O'Shea JJ, Johnston JA. Autosomal SCID caused by a point mutation in the N-terminus of Jak3: mapping of the Jak3-receptor interaction domain. EMBO J. 1999; 18(6):1549-58. PubMed Icon

Zhou YJ, Hanson EP, Chen YQ, Magnuson K, Chen M, Swann PG, Wange RL, Changelian PS, O'Shea JJ. Distinct tyrosine phosphorylation sites in JAK3 kinase domain positively and negatively regulate its enzymatic activity. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA. 1997; 94(25):13850-5. PubMed Icon

Chen M, Cheng A, Chen YQ, Hymel A, Hanson EP, Kimmel L, Minami Y, Taniguchi T, Changelian PS, O'Shea JJ.The amino terminus of JAK3 is necessary and sufficient for binding to the common gamma chain and confers the ability to transmit interleukin 2-mediated signals. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1997 Jun 24;94(13):6910-5. PubMed Icon

Johnston JA, Wang LM, Hanson EP, Sun XJ, White MF, Oakes SA, Pierce JH, O'Shea JJ. Interleukins 2, 4, 7, and 15 stimulate tyrosine phosphorylation of insulin receptor substrates 1 and 2 in T cells. Potential role of JAK kinases. J Biol Chem. 1995 Dec 1;270(48):28527-30. PubMed Icon

See extended list of publications


Reviewed May 12, 2014