Professor Rachel Simmonds FRSB

Professor of Immunopathogenesis
B.Sc. (Manchester), PhD (Imperial)
+44 (0)1483 684714

Academic and research departments

School of Biosciences.


University roles and responsibilities

  • Director of Post-Graduate Research for the Department of Microbial Sciences

    Academic networks


      Research interests

      Research collaborations

      Indicators of esteem

      • Member of the Wellcome Trust Expert Review Group on Pathogen Biology

      • Editorial board of Tuberculosis

      • Member of the Biochemical Society's Awards Committee

      • Visiting Research Fellow at University of Southampton

      • Visiting Lecturer at the University of Ghana

      Tandem Tag
      polysome profiling


      Postgraduate research supervision



      Nicola Ivan Lorè, Sho Yamasaki, Rachel E. Simmonds, Eun-Kyeong Jo (2023)Editorial: Host-pathogen interactions in nontuberculous mycobacterial infections, In: Frontiers in immunology141201159 Frontiers Media

      Nonmycobacterial (NTM) lung infections are emerging as global health threats; however, the molecular mechanisms underlying host-microbial interactions are poorly understood compared to tuberculosis caused by Mycobacterium tuberculosis. NTM-host interactions are complex and dynamic processes between the mycobacterial components and host factors, influencing the infection outcomes. While NTM evolves numerous strategies to establish the infection and evade from host’s defense system, the host cells encounter the pathogenic stresses through a range of typical (immune) and non-typical components to induce defensive pathways that limit or eradicate intracellular pathogenic replications. Here, a special issue of articles discusses how NTM bacteria modulate the host defense system, in which immune and nonimmune components are functionally involved in the antimicrobial responses, and how different host cell types participate in the protective responses against NTM infections. In doing so, we outline several weapons harboring the therapeutic potential in a tug-of-war at the interface of host and NTM bacteria. A more detailed understanding of underlying NTM-host crosstalks will provide new alternative therapeutic and preventive strategies for NTM infections, which are often refractory to the conventional antibiotic-based regiments (1).

      Louise Tzung-Harn Hsieh, Belinda Hall, Jane Newcombe, Tom Mendum, Yagnesh Umrania, Michael Deery, Wei Shi, Francisco Salguero, Rachel Simmonds Mycolactone causes catastrophic Sec61-dependent loss of the endothelial glycocalyx and basement membrane: a new indirect mechanism driving tissue necrosis in Mycobacterium ulcerans infection, In: bioRxiv Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press

      The drivers of tissue necrosis in Mycobacterium ulcerans infection (Buruli ulcer disease) have historically been ascribed solely to the directly cytotoxic action of the diffusible exotoxin, mycolactone. However, its role in the clinically-evident vascular component of disease aetiology remains poorly explained. We have now dissected mycolactone's effects on primary vascular endothelial cells in vitro and in vivo. We show that mycolactone-induced changes in endothelial morphology, adhesion, migration, and permeability are dependent on its action at the Sec61 translocon. Unbiased quantitative proteomics identified a profound effect on proteoglycans, driven by rapid loss of type II transmembrane proteins of the Golgi, including enzymes required for glycosaminoglycan (GAG) synthesis, combined with a reduction in the core proteins themselves. Loss of the glycocalyx is likely to be of particular mechanistic importance, since knockdown of galactosyltransferase II (beta-1,3-galactotransferase 6; B3Galt6), the GAG linker-building enzyme, phenocopied the permeability and phenotypic changes induced by mycolactone. Additionally, mycolactone depleted many secreted basement membrane components and microvascular basement membranes were disrupted in vivo. Remarkably, exogenous addition of laminin-511 reduced endothelial cell rounding, restored cell attachment and reversed the defective migration caused by mycolactone. Hence supplementing mycolactone-depleted extracellular matrix may be a future therapeutic avenue, to improve wound healing rates. Competing Interest Statement The authors have declared no competing interest.

      Daniel Klionsky, Amal Kamal Abdel-Aziz, Sara Abdelfatah, Mahmoud Abdellatif, Asghar Abdoli, Steffen Abel, Hagai Abeliovich, Marie Abildgaard, Yakubu Princely Abudu, Abraham Acevedo-Arozena, Iannis Adamopoulos, Khosrow Adeli, Timon Adolph, Annagrazia Adornetto, Elma Aflaki, Galila Agam, Anupam Agarwal, Bharat Aggarwal, Maria Agnello, Patrizia Agostinis, Javed Agrewala, Alexander Agrotis, Patricia Aguilar, S Tariq Ahmad, Zubair Ahmed, Ulises Ahumada-Castro, Sonja Aits, Shu Aizawa, Yunus Akkoc, Tonia Akoumianaki, Hafize Aysin Akpinar, Ahmed Al-Abd, Lina Al-Akra, Abeer Al-Gharaibeh, Moulay Alaoui-Jamali, Simon Alberti, Elísabet Alcocer-Gómez, Cristiano Alessandri, Muhammad Ali, M Abdul Alim Al-Bari, Saeb Aliwaini, Javad Alizadeh, Eugènia Almacellas, Alexandru Almasan, Alicia Alonso, Guillermo D Alonso, Nihal Altan-Bonnet, Dario C Altieri, Élida M. C Álvarez, Sara Alves, Cristine Alves Da Costa, Mazen Alzaharna, Marialaura Amadio, Consuelo Amantini, Cristina Amaral, Susanna Ambrosio, Amal Amer, Veena Ammanathan, Zhenyi An, Stig Andersen, Shaida Andrabi, Magaiver Andrade-Silva, Allen Andres, Sabrina Angelini, David Ann, Uche Anozie, Mohammad Ansari, Pedro Antas, Adam Antebi, Zuriñe Antón, Tahira Anwar, Lionel Apetoh, Nadezda Apostolova, Toshiyuki Araki, Yasuhiro Araki, Kohei Arasaki, Wagner Araújo, Jun Araya, Catherine Arden, Maria-Angeles Arévalo, Sandro Arguelles, Esperanza Arias, Jyothi Arikkath, Hirokazu Arimoto, Aileen Ariosa, Darius Armstrong-James, Laetitia Arnauné-Pelloquin, Angeles Aroca, Daniela Arroyo, Ivica Arsov, Rubén Artero, Dalia Maria Lucia Asaro, Michael Aschner, Milad Ashrafizadeh, Osnat Ashur-Fabian, Atanas Atanasov, Alicia Au, Patrick Auberger, Holger Auner, RACHEL SIMMONDS, Laure Aurelian (2021)Guidelines for the use and interpretation of assays for monitoring autophagy (4th edition)1, In: Autophagy17(1)pp. 1-382 Taylor & Francis

      In 2008, we published the first set of guidelines for standardizing research in autophagy. Since then, this topic has received increasing attention, and many scientists have entered the field. Our knowledge base and relevant new technologies have also been expanding. Thus, it is important to formulate on a regular basis updated guidelines for monitoring autophagy in different organisms. Despite numerous reviews, there continues to be confusion regarding acceptable methods to evaluate autophagy, especially in multicellular eukaryotes. Here, we present a set of guidelines for investigators to select and interpret methods to examine autophagy and related processes, and for reviewers to provide realistic and reasonable critiques of reports that are focused on these processes. These guidelines are not meant to be a dogmatic set of rules, because the appropriateness of any assay largely depends on the question being asked and the system being used. Moreover, no individual assay is perfect for every situation, calling for the use of multiple techniques to properly monitor autophagy in each experimental setting. Finally, several core components of the autophagy machinery have been implicated in distinct autophagic processes (canonical and noncanonical autophagy), implying that genetic approaches to block autophagy should rely on targeting two or more autophagy-related genes that ideally participate in distinct steps of the pathway. Along similar lines, because multiple proteins involved in autophagy also regulate other cellular pathways including apoptosis, not all of them can be used as a specific marker for bona fide autophagic responses. Here, we critically discuss current methods of assessing autophagy and the information they can, or cannot, provide. Our ultimate goal is to encourage intellectual and technical innovation in the field.

      Pratiti Bhadra, Scott Dos Santos, Igor Gamayun, Tillman Pick, Clarissa Neumann, Joy Ogbechi, Belinda S Hall, Richard Zimmermann, Volkhard Helms, Rachel Simmonds, Adolfo Cavalié (2021)Mycolactone enhances the Ca2+ leak from endoplasmic reticulum by trapping Sec61 translocons in a Ca2+ permeable state, In: Biochemical journal478(22)pp. 4005-4024 Portland Press

      The Mycobacterium ulcerans exotoxin, mycolactone, is an inhibitor of co-translational translocation via the Sec61 complex. Mycolactone has previously been shown to bind to, and alter the structure of, the major translocon subunit Sec61α, and change its interaction with ribosome nascent chain complexes. In addition to its function in protein translocation into the ER, Sec61 also plays a key role in cellular Ca2+ homeostasis, acting as a leak channel between the endoplasmic reticulum (ER) and cytosol. Here, we have analysed the effect of mycolactone on cytosolic and ER Ca2+ levels using compartment-specific sensors. We also used molecular docking analysis to explore potential interaction sites for mycolactone on translocons in various states. These results show that mycolactone enhances the leak of Ca2+ ions via the Sec61 translocon, resulting in a slow but substantial depletion of ER Ca2+. This leak was dependent on mycolactone binding to Sec61α because resistance mutations in this protein completely ablated the increase. Molecular docking supports the existence of a mycolactone-binding transient inhibited state preceding translocation and suggests mycolactone may also bind Sec61α in its idle state. We propose that delayed ribosomal release after translation termination and/or translocon “breathing” during rapid transitions between the idle and intermediate-inhibited states allow for transient Ca2+ leak, and mycolactone’s stabilisation of the latter underpins the phenotype observed.

      Nathifa A Moyo, Dave Westcott, Rachel Simmonds, Falko Steinbach (2023)Equine Arteritis Virus in Monocytic Cells Suppresses Differentiation and Function of Dendritic Cells, In: Viruses15(1)

      Equine viral arteritis is an infectious disease of equids caused by equine arteritis virus (EAV), an RNA virus of the family Arteriviridae. Dendritic cells (DC) are important modulators of the immune response with the ability to present antigen to naïve T cells and can be generated in vitro from monocytes (MoDC). DC are important targets for many viruses and this interaction is crucial for the establishment-or rather not-of an anti-viral immunity. Little is known of the effect EAV has on host immune cells, particularly DC. To study the interaction of eqDC with EAV in vitro, an optimized eqMoDC system was used, which was established in a previous study. MoDC were infected with strains of different genotypes and pathogenicity. Virus replication was determined through titration and qPCR. The effect of the virus on morphology, phenotype and function of cells was assessed using light microscopy, flow cytometry and in vitro assays. This study confirms that EAV replicates in monocytes and MoDC. The replication was most efficient in mature MoDC, but variable between strains. Only the virulent strain caused a significant down-regulation of certain proteins such as CD14 and CD163 on monocytes and of CD83 on mature MoDC. Functional studies conducted after infection showed that EAV inhibited the endocytic and phagocytic capacity of Mo and mature MoDC with minimal effect on immature MoDC. Infected MoDC showed a reduced ability to stimulate T cells. Ultimately, EAV replication resulted in an apoptosis-mediated cell death. Thus, EAV evades the host anti-viral immunity both by inhibition of antigen presentation early after infection and through killing infected DC during replication.

      Justice Boakye-Appiah, Belinda Hall, Rajko Reljic, Rachel E Simmonds (2023)Current Progress and Prospects for a Buruli Ulcer Vaccine Springer International Publishing

      Buruli ulcer (BU), one of the skin-related neglected tropical diseases (skin NTDs), is a necrotizing and disabling cutaneous disease caused by subcutaneous infection with Mycobacterium ulcerans. Leading on from the World Health Organization’s (WHO) establishment of a global BU initiative in 1998, >67,000 cases of BU have been reported from over 32 countries, mostly from West Africa and Australia. While treatment is currently in the transition period from rifampicin plus streptomycin (injection) to an all-oral regimen, it cannot hope to eradicate this opportunistic environmental pathogen. M. ulcerans is genetically very similar to related pathogenic organisms M. marinum, M. leprae and M. tuberculosis. However, M. ulcerans carries a unique megaplasmid, pMUM001, encoding the biosynthetic machinery responsible for production of a lipid-like exotoxin virulence factor, mycolactone. This diffusible compound causes the substantial divergence in BU’s pathogenic aetiology from other mycobacterial infections. Hence, mycolactone is cytotoxic and immunosuppressive and causes vascular dysfunction in infected skin. A major recent advance in our understanding of BU pathogenesis has been agreement on the mycolactone’s mechanism of action in host cells, targeting the Sec61 translocon during a major step in secretory and membrane protein biogenesis. While vaccine development for all mycobacteria has been challenging, mycolactone production likely presents a particular challenge in the development of a BU vaccine. The live-attenuated vaccine BCG is known to provide only partial and transient protection in humans but provides a convenient baseline in mouse preclinical studies where it can delay, but not prevent, disease progression. No experimental vaccine strategy has yet conferred greater protection than BCG. However, there is now the prospect of developing a vaccine against mycolactone itself, which may provide hope for the future.

      Louise Tzung-Harn Hsieh, Scott J Dos Santos, Belinda S Hall, Joy Ogbechi, Aloysius D Loglo, Francisco Javier Salguero, Marie-Thérèse Ruf, Gerd Pluschke, Rachel E Simmonds (2022)Aberrant stromal tissue factor localisation and mycolactone-driven vascular dysfunction, exacerbated by IL-1β, are linked to fibrin formation in Buruli ulcer lesions, In: PLoS pathogens18(1)e1010280pp. e1010280-e1010280

      Buruli ulcer (BU) is a neglected tropical disease caused by subcutaneous infection with Mycobacterium ulcerans and its exotoxin mycolactone. BU displays coagulative necrosis and widespread fibrin deposition in affected skin tissues. Despite this, the role of the vasculature in BU pathogenesis remains almost completely unexplored. We hypothesise that fibrin-driven ischemia can be an 'indirect' route to mycolactone-dependent tissue necrosis by a mechanism involving vascular dysfunction. Here, we tracked >900 vessels within contiguous tissue sections from eight BU patient biopsies. Our aim was to evaluate their vascular and coagulation biomarker phenotype and explore potential links to fibrin deposition. We also integrated this with our understanding of mycolactone's mechanism of action at Sec61 and its impact on proteins involved in maintaining normal vascular function. Our findings showed that endothelial cell dysfunction is common in skin tissue adjacent to necrotic regions. There was little evidence of primary haemostasis, perhaps due to mycolactone-dependent depletion of endothelial von Willebrand factor. Instead, fibrin staining appeared to be linked to the extrinsic pathway activator, tissue factor (TF). There was significantly greater than expected fibrin staining around vessels that had TF staining within the stroma, and this correlated with the distance it extended from the vessel basement membrane. TF-induced fibrin deposition in these locations would require plasma proteins outside of vessels, therefore we investigated whether mycolactone could increase vascular permeability in vitro. This was indeed the case, and leakage was further exacerbated by IL-1β. Mycolactone caused the loss of endothelial adherens and tight junctions by the depletion of VE-cadherin, TIE-1, TIE-2 and JAM-C; all Sec61-dependent proteins. Taken together, our findings suggest that both vascular and lymphatic vessels in BU lesions become "leaky" during infection, due to the unique action of mycolactone, allowing TF-containing structures and plasma proteins into skin tissue, ultimately leading to local coagulopathy and tissue ischemia.

      BELINDA SUZETTE HALL, LOUISE TZUNG-HARN HSIEH, Maria Manifava, Marie-Thérèse Ruf, Gerd Pluschke, Nicholas Ktistakis, RACHEL SIMMONDS, Scott J. Dos Santos (2021)Inhibition of the SEC61 translocon by mycolactone induces a protective autophagic response controlled by EIF2S1-dependent translation that does not require ULK1 activity, In: Autophagy Taylor and Francis

      The Mycobacterium ulcerans exotoxin, mycolactone, is responsible for the immunosuppression and tissue necrosis that characterizes Buruli ulcer. Mycolactone inhibits SEC61-dependent co-translational translocation of proteins into the endoplasmic reticulum and the resultant cytosolic translation triggers degradation of mislocalized proteins by the ubiquitin-proteasome system. Inhibition of SEC61 by mycolactone also activates multiple EIF2S1/eIF2α kinases in the integrated stress response (ISR). Here we show mycolactone increased canonical markers of selective macroautophagy/autophagy LC3B-II, ubiquitin and SQSTM1/p62 in diverse disease-relevant primary cells and cell lines. Increased formation of puncta positive for the early autophagy markers WIPI2, RB1CC1/FIP200 and ATG16L1 indicates increased initiation of autophagy. The mycolactone response was SEC61A1-dependent and involved a pathway that required RB1CC1 but not ULK. Deletion of Sqstm1 reduced cell survival in the presence of mycolactone, suggesting this response protects against the increased cytosolic protein burden caused by the toxin. However, reconstitution of baseline SQSTM1 expression in cells lacking all autophagy receptor proteins could not rescue viability. Translational regulation by EIF2S1 in the ISR plays a key role in the autophagic response to mycolactone. Mycolactone-dependent induction of SQSTM1 was reduced in eif2ak3−/-/perk−/- cells while the p-EIF2S1 antagonist ISRIB reversed the upregulation of SQSTM1 and reduced RB1CC1, WIPI2 and LC3B puncta formation. Increased SQSTM1 staining could be seen in Buruli ulcer patient skin biopsy samples, reinforcing genetic data that suggests autophagy is relevant to disease pathology. Since selective autophagy and the ISR are both implicated in neurodegeneration, cancer and inflammation, the pathway uncovered here may have a broad relevance to human disease.

      Background: The innate immune response is a tightly regulated process that reacts rapidly in response to pathogen-associated molecular patterns(PAMPs) such as lipopolysaccharide (LPS). Evidence is accumulating thatmicroRNAs contribute to this, although few studies have examined the earlyevents that constitute the “primary” response. LPS-dependent changes to miRNA expression were studied inMethods:primary human monocyte-derived macrophages (1°MDMs). An unbiasedscreen by microarray was validated by qPCR and a method for the absolutequantitation of miRNAs was also developed, utilising 5’ phosphorylatedRNA oligonucleotide templates. RNA immunoprecipitation was performedto explore incorporation of miRNAs into the RNA-induced silencingcomplex (RISC). The effect of miRNA functional inhibition on TNFexpression (mRNA and secretion) was investigated. Of the 197 miRNAs expressed in 1°MDMs, only five were inducedResults:>1.5-fold. The most strongly induced was miR-155-3p, the partner strand tomiR-155-5p, which are both derived from the MIR155HG/BIC gene(pri-miR-155). The abundance of miR-155-3p was induced transiently~250-fold at 2-4hrs and then returned towards baseline, mirroringpri-miR-155. Other PAMPs, IL-1β, and TNF caused similar responses.IL-10, NF-κB, and JNK inhibition reduced these responses,unlike cytokine-suppressing mycolactone. Absolute quantitation revealedthat miRNA abundance varies widely from donor-to-donor, and showed thatmiR-155-3p abundance is substantially less than miR-155-5p inunstimulated cells. However, at its peak there were 446-1,113 copies/cell,and miR-155-3p was incorporated into the RISC with an efficiency similar tomiR-16-5p and miR-155-5p. Inhibition of neither miRNA affected TNFsecretion after 2hrs in 1°MDMs, but technical challenges here are noted. Dynamic regulation of miRNAs during the primary responseConclusions:is rare, with the exception of miR-155-3p. Further work is required toestablish whether its low abundance, even at the transient peak, issufficient for biological activity and to determine whether there are specificmechanisms determining its biogenesis from miR-155 precursor.

      Mycolactone is a polyketide macrolide lipid-like secondary metabolite synthesized by Mycobacterium ulcerans, the causative agent of BU (Buruli ulcer), and is the only virulence factor for this pathogen identified to date. Prolonged exposure to high concentrations of mycolactone is cytotoxic to diverse mammalian cells (albeit with varying efficiency), whereas at lower doses it has a spectrum of immunosuppressive activities. Combined, these pleiotropic properties have a powerful influence on local and systemic cellular function that should explain the pathophysiology of BU disease. The last decade has seen significant advances in our understanding of the molecular mechanisms underlying these effects in a range of different cell types. The present review focuses on the current state of our knowledge of mycolactone function, and its molecular and cellular targets, and seeks to identify commonalities between the different functional and cellular systems. Since mycolactone influences fundamental cellular processes (cell division, cell death and inflammation), getting to the root of how mycolactone achieves this could have a profound impact on our understanding of eukaryotic cell biology.

      C Brenner, RE Simmonds, S Wood, V Rose, M Feldmann, J Turner (2012)TLR signalling and adapter utilization in primary human in vitro differentiated adipocytes., In: Scand J Immunol76(4)pp. 359-370 John Wiley & Sons

      Toll-like receptors (TLRs) are central to innate immunity and yet their expression is widespread and not restricted to professional inflammatory cells. TLRs have been reported on adipocytes and have been implicated in obesity-associated pathologies such as diabetes. Why TLRs are found on adipocytes is not clear although one hypothesis is that they may coordinate energy utilization for the energy intensive process of an immune response. We have explored TLR signalling in primary human in vitro differentiated adipocytes and investigated the specific adapter molecules that are involved. Only lipopolysaccharide (LPS), poly(I:C), Pam3CSK4 and MALP-2 could induce the production of IL-6, IL-8 and MCP-1 by adipocytes. Poly(I:C) alone caused a strong induction of type I interferons, as assessed by IP-10 production. Using siRNA, it was confirmed that LPS-dependent signalling in adipocytes occurs via TLR4 utilizing the adapter molecules MyD88, Mal and TRIF and caused rapid degradation of IκBα. Pam3CSK4 signalling utilized TLR2, MyD88 and Mal (but not TRIF). However, the response to poly(I:C) observed in these cells appeared not to require TRIF, but MyD88 was required for induction of NFκB-dependent cytokines by Poly(I:C). Despite this, IκBα degradation could not be detected in poly(I:C) stimulated adipocytes at any time-point up to 4 h. Indeed, IL-6 transcription was not induced until 8-16 h after exposure. These data suggest that Pam3CSK4 and LPS signal via the expected routes in human adipocytes, whereas poly(I:C)/TLR3 signalling may act via a TRIF-independent, MyD88-dependent route.

      SM Sacre, A Lo, B Gregory, RE Simmonds, L Williams, M Feldmann, FM Brennan, BM Foxwell (2008)Inhibitors of TLR8 Reduce TNF Production from Human Rheumatoid Synovial Membrane Cultures, In: JOURNAL OF IMMUNOLOGY181(11)pp. 8002-8009 AMER ASSOC IMMUNOLOGISTS
      B Mille-Baker, SM Rezende, RE Simmonds, PJ Mason, DA Lane, MA Laffan (2003)Deletion or replacement of the second EGF-hke domain of protein S results in loss of APC cofactor activity, In: BLOOD101(4)pp. 1416-1418 AMER SOC HEMATOLOGY
      E Biguzzi, C Razzari, DA Lane, G Castaman, A Cappellari, P Bucciarelli, G Fontana, M Margaglione, G D'Andrea, RE Simmonds, SM Rezende, R Preston, D Prisco, EM Faioni (2005)Molecular diversity and thrombotic risk in Protein S deficiency: The PROSIT study, In: HUMAN MUTATION25(3)pp. 259-269 WILEY-LISS
      RE Simmonds, FV Lali, T Smallie, PLC Small, BM Foxwell (2009)Mycolactone Inhibits Monocyte Cytokine Production by a Posttranscriptional Mechanism, In: JOURNAL OF IMMUNOLOGY182(4)pp. 2194-2202 AMER ASSOC IMMUNOLOGISTS
      M McKenna, Rachel Simmonds, S High (2017)Mycolactone reveals substrate-driven complexity of Sec61-dependent transmembrane protein biogenesis, In: Journal of Cell Science130pp. 1307-1320 Company of Biologists

      Mycolactone is the exotoxin virulence factor produced by Mycobacterium ulcerans, the pathogen responsible for Buruli ulcer. The skin lesions and immunosuppression characteristic of this disease result from the action of mycolactone, which targets the Sec61 complex and inhibits the co-translational translocation of secretory proteins into the endoplasmic reticulum. In this study, we investigate the effect of mycolactone on the Sec61-dependent biogenesis of different classes of transmembrane protein (TMP). Our data suggest that the effect of mycolactone on TMP biogenesis depends on how the nascent chain initially engages the Sec61 complex. For example, translocation of TMP lumenal domains driven by an N-terminal, cleavable signal sequence is efficiently inhibited by mycolactone. In contrast, the effect of mycolactone on protein translocation driven solely by a non-cleavable signal anchor/transmembrane domain depends on which flanking region is translocated. For example, while translocation of the region N-terminal to a signal anchor/transmembrane domain is refractive to mycolactone, C-terminal translocation is efficiently inhibited. Our findings highlight the diversity of Sec61-dependent translocation and provide a molecular basis for understanding the effect of mycolactone on the biogenesis of different TMPs.

      Guanghui Zong, Zhijian Hu, Sarah O’Keefe, Dale Tranter, Michael J. Iannotti, Ludivine Baron, Belinda Hall, Katherine Corfield, Anja O. Paatero, Mark J. Henderson, Peristera Roboti, Jianhong Zhou, Xianwei Sun, Mugunthan Govindarajan, Jason M. Rohde, Nicolas Blanchard, Rachel Simmonds, James Inglese, Yuchun Du, Caroline Demangel, Stephen High, Ville O. Paavilainen, Wei Q. Shi (2019)Ipomoeassin F Binds Sec61α to Inhibit Protein Translocation, In: Journal of the American Chemical Society141(21)pp. 8450-8461 American Chemical Society

      Ipomoeassin F is a potent natural cytotoxin that inhibits growth of many tumor cell lines with single-digit nanomolar potency. However, its biological and pharmacological properties have remained largely unexplored. Building upon our earlier achievements in total synthesis and medicinal chemistry, we used chemical proteomics to identify Sec61α (protein transport protein Sec61 subunit alpha isoform 1), the pore-forming subunit of the Sec61 protein translocon, as a direct binding partner of ipomoeassin F in living cells. The interaction is specific and strong enough to survive lysis conditions, enabling a biotin analogue of ipomoeassin F to pull down Sec61α from live cells, yet it is also reversible, as judged by several experiments including fluorescent streptavidin staining, delayed competition in affinity pulldown, and inhibition of TNF biogenesis after washout. Sec61α forms the central subunit of the ER protein translocation complex, and the binding of ipomoeassin F results in a substantial, yet selective, inhibition of protein translocation in vitro and a broad ranging inhibition of protein secretion in live cells. Lastly, the unique resistance profile demonstrated by specific amino acid single-point mutations in Sec61α provides compelling evidence that Sec61α is the primary molecular target of ipomoeassin F and strongly suggests that the binding of this natural product to Sec61α is distinctive. Therefore, ipomoeassin F represents the first plant-derived, carbohydrate-based member of a novel structural class that offers new opportunities to explore Sec61α function and to further investigate its potential as a therapeutic target for drug discovery.

      J Ogbechi, MT Ruf, BS Hall, K Bodman-Smith, M Vogel, HL Wu, A Stainer, CT Esmon, J Ahnström, G Pluschke, RE Simmonds (2015)Mycolactone-Dependent Depletion of Endothelial Cell Thrombomodulin Is Strongly Associated with Fibrin Deposition in Buruli Ulcer Lesions., In: PLoS Pathog11(7) PLoS

      A well-known histopathological feature of diseased skin in Buruli ulcer (BU) is coagulative necrosis caused by the Mycobacterium ulcerans macrolide exotoxin mycolactone. Since the underlying mechanism is not known, we have investigated the effect of mycolactone on endothelial cells, focussing on the expression of surface anticoagulant molecules involved in the protein C anticoagulant pathway. Congenital deficiencies in this natural anticoagulant pathway are known to induce thrombotic complications such as purpura fulimans and spontaneous necrosis. Mycolactone profoundly decreased thrombomodulin (TM) expression on the surface of human dermal microvascular endothelial cells (HDMVEC) at doses as low as 2ng/ml and as early as 8hrs after exposure. TM activates protein C by altering thrombin's substrate specificity, and exposure of HDMVEC to mycolactone for 24 hours resulted in an almost complete loss of the cells' ability to produce activated protein C. Loss of TM was shown to be due to a previously described mechanism involving mycolactone-dependent blockade of Sec61 translocation that results in proteasome-dependent degradation of newly synthesised ER-transiting proteins. Indeed, depletion from cells determined by live-cell imaging of cells stably expressing a recombinant TM-GFP fusion protein occurred at the known turnover rate. In order to determine the relevance of these findings to BU disease, immunohistochemistry of punch biopsies from 40 BU lesions (31 ulcers, nine plaques) was performed. TM abundance was profoundly reduced in the subcutis of 78% of biopsies. Furthermore, it was confirmed that fibrin deposition is a common feature of BU lesions, particularly in the necrotic areas. These findings indicate that there is decreased ability to control thrombin generation in BU skin. Mycolactone's effects on normal endothelial cell function, including its ability to activate the protein C anticoagulant pathway are strongly associated with this. Fibrin-driven tissue ischemia could contribute to the development of the tissue necrosis seen in BU lesions.

      Joy Ogbechi, Belinda Hall, Thomas Sbarrato, Jack Taunton, Anne E. Willis, Ronald C. Wek, Rachel Simmonds (2018)Inhibition of Sec61-dependent translocation by mycolactone uncouples the integrated stress response from ER stress, driving cytotoxicity via translational activation of ATF4, In: Cell Death & Disease9397 Nature Publishing Group

      Mycolactone is the exotoxin virulence factor of Mycobacterium ulcerans that causes the neglected tropical disease Buruli ulcer. We recently showed it to be a broad spectrum inhibitor of Sec61-dependent co-translational translocation of proteins into the endoplasmic reticulum (ER). An outstanding question is the molecular pathway linking this to its known cytotoxicity. We have now used translational profiling to better understand the reprogramming that occurs in cells exposed to mycolactone. Gene ontology identified enrichment in genes involved in cellular response to stress, and apoptosis signalling amongst those showing enhanced translation. Validation of these results supports a mechanism by which mycolactone activates an integrated stress response meditated by phosphorylation of eIF2α via multiple kinases (PERK, GCN, PKR) without activation of the ER stress sensors IRE1 or ATF6. The response therefore uncouples the integrated stress response from ER stress, and features translational and transcription modes of genes expression that feature the key regulatory transcription factor ATF4. Emphasizing the importance of this uncoupled response in cytotoxicity, downstream activation of this pathway is abolished in cells expressing mycolactone-resistant Sec61α variants. Using multiple genetic and biochemical approaches, we demonstrate that eIF2α phosphorylation is responsible for mycolactone-dependent translation attenuation, which initially protects cells from cell death. However, chronic activation without stress remediation enhances autophagy and apoptosis of cells by a pathway facilitated by ATF4 and CHOP. Our findings demonstrate that priming events at the ER can result in the sensing of stress within different cellular compartments.

      M McKenna, RE Simmonds, S High (2016)Mechanistic insights into the inhibition of Sec61-dependent co- and post-translational translocation by mycolactone., In: Journal of Cell Science129 The Company of Biologists

      The virulence factor mycolactone is responsible for the immunosuppression and tissue necrosis that characterise Buruli ulcer, a disease caused by infection with Mycobacterium ulcerans. In this study, we confirm that Sec61, the protein-conducting channel that coordinates entry of secretory proteins into the endoplasmic reticulum, is a primary target of mycolactone, and characterise the nature of its inhibitory effect. We conclude that mycolactone constrains the ribosome-nascent chain-Sec61 complex, consistent with its broad-ranging perturbation of the co-translational translocation of classical secretory proteins. In contrast, the effect of mycolactone on the post-translational, ribosome-independent translocation of short secretory proteins through the Sec61 complex is dependent on both signal sequence hydrophobicity and the translocation competence of the mature domain. Changes to protease sensitivity strongly suggest that mycolactone acts by inducing a conformational change in the pore-forming Sec61α subunit. These findings establish that mycolactone inhibits Sec61-mediated protein translocation and highlight differences between the co- and post-translational routes that the Sec61 complex mediates. We propose that mycolactone also provides a useful tool for further delineating the molecular mechanisms of Sec61-dependent protein translocation.

      Samuel F. Gérard, Belinda S. Hall, Afroditi M. Zaki, Katherine A. Corfield, Peter U. Mayerhofer, Catia Costa, Daniel K. Whelligan, Philip C. Biggin, Rachel E. Simmonds, Matthew K. Higgins (2020)Structure of the Inhibited State of the Sec Translocon, In: Molecular Cell79(3)pp. 406-415.e7 Cell Press

      Protein secretion in eukaryotes and prokaryotes involves a universally conserved protein translocation chan-nel formed by the Sec61 complex. Unrelated small-molecule natural products and synthetic compoundsinhibit Sec61 with differential effects for different substrates or for Sec61 from different organisms, makingthis a promising target for therapeutic intervention. To understand the mode of inhibition and provide insightinto the molecular mechanism of this dynamic translocon, we determined the structure of mammalian Sec61inhibited by theMycobacterium ulceransexotoxin mycolactone via electron cryo-microscopy. Unexpect-edly, the conformation of inhibited Sec61 is optimal for substrate engagement, with mycolactone wedgingopen the cytosolic side of the lateral gate. The inability of mycolactone-inhibited Sec61 to effectively trans-port substrate proteins implies that signal peptides and transmembrane domains pass through the site occu-pied by mycolactone. This provides a foundation for understanding the molecular mechanism of Sec61 inhib-itors and reveals novel features of translocon function and dynamics.

      JB Rance, GA Follows, PN Cockerill, C Bonifer, DA Lane, RE Simmonds (2003)Regulation of the human endothelial cell protein C receptor gene promoter by multiple Sp1 binding sites, In: BLOOD101(11)pp. 4393-4401 AMER SOC HEMATOLOGY
      SM Rezende, DA Lane, B Mille-Baker, MM Samama, J Conard, RE Simmonds (2002)Protein S Gla-domain mutations causing impaired Ca2+-induced phospholipid binding and severe functional protein S deficiency, In: BLOOD100(8)pp. 2812-2819 AMER SOC HEMATOLOGY
      BS Hall, K Hill, M McKenna, J Ogbechi, S High, AE Willis, RE Simmonds (2014)The Pathogenic Mechanism of the Mycobacterium ulcerans Virulence Factor, Mycolactone, Depends on Blockade of Protein Translocation into the ER, In: PLOS PATHOGENS10(4)e1004061 PUBLIC LIBRARY SCIENCE
      BELINDA SUZETTE HALL, LOUISE TZUNG-HARN HSIEH, Sandra Sacre, RACHEL SIMMONDS (2021)The one that got away: how macrophage-derived IL-1? escapes the mycolactone-dependent Sec61 blockade in Buruli ulcer, In: Frontiers in immunology Frontiers

      Buruli ulcer (BU), caused by Mycobacterium ulcerans, is a devastating necrotizing skin disease. Key to its pathogenesis is mycolactone, the exotoxin virulence factor that is both immunosuppressive and cytotoxic. The discovery that the essential Sec61 translocon is the major cellular target of mycolactone explains much of the disease pathology, including the immune blockade. Sec61 inhibition leads to a loss in production of nearly all cytokines from monocytes, macrophages, dendritic cells and T cells, as well as antigen presentation pathway proteins and costimulatory molecules. However, there has long been evidence that the immune system is not completely incapable of responding to M. ulcerans infection. In particular, IL-1β was recently shown to be present in BU lesions, and to be induced from M. ulcerans-exposed macrophages in a mycolactone-dependent manner. This has important implications for our understanding of BU, showing that mycolactone can act as the “second signal” for IL-1β production without inhibiting the pathways of unconventional secretion it uses for cellular release. In this Perspective article, we validate and discuss this recent advance, which is entirely in-line with our understanding of mycolactone’s inhibition of the Sec61 translocon. However, we also show that the IL-1 receptor, which uses the conventional secretory pathway, is sensitive to mycolactone blockade at Sec61. Hence, a more complete understanding of the mechanisms regulating IL-1β function in skin tissue, including the transient intra-macrophage stage of M. ulcerans infection, is urgently needed to uncover the double-edged sword of IL-1β in BU pathogenesis, treatment and wound healing.

      Joanna Julia Anne Butler, Roderick Hay, Richard Odame Phillips, Caroline Erolin, Rachel Simmonds (2022)Medical Illustration of Buruli ulcer with plaque and raised area University of Surrey

      A medical illustration of Buruli ulcer (BU) at the plaque stage with a raised portion of skin. BU is part of a set of skin related neglected topical diseases (skin NTDs), which are chronic infectious diseases found in tropical and sub-tropical regions of the world. The purpose to illustrate how BU plaque with raised skin presents, provided for use within visual communications and for educational purposes regarding skin NTDs. The original purpose for use by health care workers in Ghana, Africa.

      Joanna Julia Anne Butler, Roderick Hay, Richard Odame Phillips, Caroline Erolin, Rachel Simmonds (2022)Medical Illustration of Buruli ulcer with plaque and oedema University of Surrey

      A medical illustration of Buruli ulcer (BU) at the plaque stage with oedema which is additional swelling. BU is part of a set of skin related neglected topical diseases (skin NTDs), which are chronic infectious diseases found in tropical and sub-tropical regions of the world. The purpose to illustrate how BU plaque with oedema presents on the skin, provided for use within visual communication and for educational purposes regarding skin NTDs. The original purpose for use by health care workers in Ghana, Africa.

      Joanna Julia Anne Butler, Roderick Hay, Caroline Erolin, Rachel Simmonds (2022)Medical Illustration of Buruli ulcer with an early stage lesion University of Surrey

      A medical illustration of Buruli ulcer (BU) at the small lesion stage. BU is part of a set of skin related neglected topical diseases (skin NTDs), which are chronic infectious diseases found in tropical and sub-tropical regions of the world. The purpose to illustrate how BU at the small lesion stage presents on the skin, provided for use within visual communications and for educational purposes regarding skin NTDs. The original purpose for use by health care workers in Ghana, Africa.

      Joanna Julia Anne Butler, Roderick Hay, Caroline Erolin, Rachel Simmonds (2022)Medical Illustration of Buruli ulcer with a late stage lesion University of Surrey

      A medical illustration of Buruli ulcer (BU) at the large lesion stage. BU is part of a set of skin related neglected topical diseases (skin NTDs), which are chronic infectious diseases found in tropical and sub-tropical regions of the world. The purpose to illustrate how BU with a large lesion presents on the skin, provided for use within visual communications and for educational purposes regarding skin NTDs. The original purpose for use by health care workers in Ghana, Africa.

      Sarah O'Keefe, Pratiti Bhadra, Kwabena B. Duah, Guanghui Zong, Levise Tenay, Lauren Andrews, Hayden Schneider, Ashley Anderson, Zhijian Hu, Hazim S. Aljewari, Belinda S. Hall, Rachel E. Simmonds, Volkhard Helms, Stephen High, Wei Q. Shi (2022)Synthesis, Biological Evaluation and Docking Studies of Ring-Opened Analogues of Ipomoeassin F, In: Molecules (Basel, Switzerland)27(14)4419 Mdpi

      The plant-derived macrocyclic resin glycoside ipomoeassin F (Ipom-F) binds to Sec61 alpha and significantly disrupts multiple aspects of Sec61-mediated protein biogenesis at the endoplasmic reticulum, ultimately leading to cell death. However, extensive assessment of Ipom-F as a molecular tool and a therapeutic lead is hampered by its limited production scale, largely caused by intramolecular assembly of the macrocyclic ring. Here, using in vitro and/or in cellula biological assays to explore the first series of ring-opened analogues for the ipomoeassins, and indeed all resin glycosides, we provide clear evidence that macrocyclic integrity is not required for the cytotoxic inhibition of Sec61-dependent protein translocation by Ipom-F. Furthermore, our modeling suggests that open-chain analogues of Ipom-F can interact with multiple sites on the Sec61 alpha subunit, most likely located at a previously identified binding site for mycolactone and/or the so-called lateral gate. Subsequent in silico-aided design led to the discovery of the stereochemically simplified analogue 3 as a potent, alternative lead compound that could be synthesized much more efficiently than Ipom-F and will accelerate future ipomoeassin research in chemical biology and drug discovery. Our work may also inspire further exploration of ring-opened analogues of other resin glycosides.

      SM Rezende, DA Lane, B Zoller, B Mille-Baker, M Laffan, B Dahlback, RE Simmonds (2002)Genetic and phenotypic variability between families with hereditary protein S deficiency, In: THROMBOSIS AND HAEMOSTASIS87(2)pp. 258-265 SCHATTAUER GMBH-VERLAG MEDIZIN NATURWISSENSCHAFTEN
      RE Simmonds, DA Lane (2001)The endothelial cell protein C receptor: A candidate genetic risk factor for thrombosis, In: THROMBOSIS AND HAEMOSTASIS86(4)pp. 939-941 F K SCHATTAUER VERLAG GMBH
      N Moyo, D Westcott, R Simmonds, F Steinbach (2012)Equine arteritis virus replication in monocytic cells suppresses differentiation and function of dendritic cells, In: IMMUNOLOGY137pp. 625-625
      RE Simmonds, J Hermida, SM Rezende, DA Lane (2001)Haemostatic genetic risk factors in arterial thrombosis, In: THROMBOSIS AND HAEMOSTASIS86(1)pp. 374-385
      RE Simmonds, H Ireland, DA Lane, B Zoller, PG de Frutos, B Dahlback (1998)Clarification of the risk for venous thrombosis associated with hereditary protein S deficiency by investigation of a large kindred with a characterized gene defect, In: ANNALS OF INTERNAL MEDICINE128(1)pp. 8-+ AMER COLL PHYSICIANS
      S Gandrille, D Borgel, H Ireland, DA Lane, R Simmonds, PH Reitsma, C Mannhalter, I Pabinger, H Saito, K Suzuki, C Formstone, DN Cooper, Y Espinosa, N Sala, F Bernardi, M Alach (1997)Protein S deficiency: A database of mutations - For the Plasma Coagulation Inhibitors Subcommittee of the Scientific and Standardization Committee of the International Society on Thrombosis and Haemostasis, In: THROMBOSIS AND HAEMOSTASIS77(6)pp. 1201-1214
      RE Simmonds, H Ireland, G Kunz, DA Lane, M Bhavnani, G Castaman, H Hambley, M Laffan, N OConnor, G Sas, CJ Tew, ID Walker (1996)Identification of 19 protein S gene mutations in patients with phenotypic protein S deficiency and thrombosis, In: BLOOD88(11)pp. 4195-4204 W B SAUNDERS CO
      SM Rezende, RE Simmonds, B Zoller, B Dahlback, DA Lane (1999)The molecular basis of type I/III protein S deficiency, In: THROMBOSIS AND HAEMOSTASISpp. 426-427 F K SCHATTAUER VERLAG GMBH
      S Gandrille, D Borgel, N Sala, Y Espinosa-Parrilla, R Simmonds, S Rezende, B Lind, C Mannhalter, I Pabinger, PH Reitsma, C Formstone, DN Cooper, H Saito, K Suzuki, F Bernardi, M Aiach (2000)Protein S deficiency: A database of mutations - Summary of the first update, In: THROMBOSIS AND HAEMOSTASIS84(5)pp. 918-918 F K SCHATTAUER VERLAG GMBH
      BS Hall, R Simmonds, ME Benbow, L Mosi, S Roberts, H Williamso Jordan (2015)Mycobacterium ulcerans and Buruli Ulcer, In: SK Singh (eds.), Human Emerging and Re-emerging Infections: Viral and Parasitic Infections, Volume I1(44) John Wiley and Sons

      Buruli Ulcer (BU) is the third most common mycobacterium disease following only tuberculosis and leprosy. Though BU is thought to be associated with large-and small-scale disturbances to the landscape and bodies of water frequented by human populations, primary prevention of BU is difficult because the mode of transmission is not known. This chapter reviews the most common environmental risk factors for BU and recent research into understanding its transmission. It is predicted that the proteins affected by mycolactone may share an underlying mechanism of production that could explain their co-regulation. Early work on the mechanism of suppression by mycolac-tone was carried out in Jurkat T cells using ASLs and focused on the suppression of IL-2 production. A multidisciplinary approach to treatment and patient care is essential for optimizing treatment outcomes. Physiotherapy is paramount minimizing and/or preventing disabilities.

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