Valerie O'Donnell

Valerie is an Honorary Group Leader, currently based at the the University of Cardiff. She is working with Group Leaders in the Signalling Programme. Valerie’s research is focused on the study of bioactive lipids in circulating blood cells, particularly platelets.  She uses mass spectrometry to identify and characterise new signalling mediators. Since 2007, her group identified large families of lipids made by platelets, neutrophils and monocytes, and demonstrated that these are involved in innate immunity, blood clotting, cardiovascular disease and infection. Translational studies have established a role for these lipids in human thrombotic disease. 

She has developed new methods to quantify aminophospholipids at the platelet surface, for example molecular species of amino-phospholipids and oxidized phospholipids that comprise the pro-coagulant surface, which is essential for blot formation.  She leads/led a programme grant from British Heart Foundation (renewed 2020), and was an ERC Advanced Grant holder (2014-2019). Since 2017, she has been co-lead of LIPID MAPS, a multi-site Biomedical Resource supporting databases, tools, nomenclature and curation of lipids, funded by Wellcome Trust (>66K users, with Edward Dennis and Shankar Subramaniam (UCSD), Simon Andrews and Andrea Lopez, Babraham, and Bill Griffiths, Swansea).

She was Co-Director of the Systems Immunity Research Institute, Cardiff University from 2016-2020. She is co-investigator on an EU Marie Curie ITN (ArthritisHeal, Leiden), an EU Cost Network (EpiLipidNET) and an MRC Partnership Grant (MAP/UK, Imperial), and an Associate Group Lead at UK Dementia Research Institute (UKDRI) at Cardiff University. 

Latest Publications

The Trypanosome-Derived Metabolite Indole-3-Pyruvate Inhibits Prostaglandin Production in Macrophages by Targeting COX2.
Diskin C, Corcoran SE, Tyrrell VJ, McGettrick AF, Zaslona Z, O'Donnell VB, Nolan DP, O'Neill LAJ

The protozoan parasite is the causative agent of the neglected tropical disease human African trypanosomiasis, otherwise known as sleeping sickness. Trypanosomes have evolved many immune-evasion mechanisms to facilitate their own survival, as well as prolonging host survival to ensure completion of the parasitic life cycle. A key feature of the bloodstream form of is the secretion of aromatic keto acids, which are metabolized from tryptophan. In this study, we describe an immunomodulatory role for one of these keto acids, indole-3-pyruvate (I3P). We demonstrate that I3P inhibits the production of PGs in activated macrophages. We also show that, despite the reduction in downstream PGs, I3P augments the expression of cyclooxygenase (COX2). This increase in COX2 expression is mediated in part via inhibition of PGs relieving a negative-feedback loop on COX2. Activation of the aryl hydrocarbon receptor also participates in this effect. However, the increase in COX2 expression is of little functionality, as we also provide evidence to suggest that I3P targets COX activity. This study therefore details an evasion strategy by which a trypanosome-secreted metabolite potently inhibits macrophage-derived PGs, which might promote host and trypanosome survival.

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Journal of immunology (Baltimore, Md. : 1950), 1, 1, 11 Oct 2021

PMID: 34635586

4-Octyl-Itaconate and Dimethyl Fumarate Inhibit COX2 Expression and Prostaglandin Production in Macrophages.
Diskin C, Zotta A, Corcoran SE, Tyrrell VJ, Zaslona Z, O'Donnell VB, O'Neill LAJ

PGs are important proinflammatory lipid mediators, the significance of which is highlighted by the widespread and efficacious use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs in the treatment of inflammation. 4-Octyl itaconate (4-OI), a derivative of the Krebs cycle-derived metabolite itaconate, has recently garnered much interest as an anti-inflammatory agent. In this article, we show that 4-OI limits PG production in murine macrophages stimulated with the TLR1/2 ligand Pam3CSK4. This decrease in PG secretion is due to a robust suppression of cyclooxygenase 2 (COX2) expression by 4-OI, with both mRNA and protein levels decreased. Dimethyl fumarate, a fumarate derivative used in the treatment of multiple sclerosis, with properties similar to itaconate, replicated the phenotype observed with 4-OI. We also demonstrate that the decrease in COX2 expression and inhibition of downstream PG production occurs in an NRF2-independent manner. Our findings provide a new insight into the potential of 4-OI as an anti-inflammatory agent and also identifies a novel anti-inflammatory function of dimethyl fumarate.

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Journal of immunology (Baltimore, Md. : 1950), 1, 1, 11 Oct 2021

PMID: 34635585

Platelets induce free and phospholipid-esterified 12-hydroxyeicosatetraenoic acid generation in colon cancer cells by delivering 12-lipoxygenase.
Contursi A, Schiavone S, Dovizio M, Hinz C, Fullone R, Tacconelli S, Tyrrell VJ, Grande R, Lanuti P, Marchisio M, Zucchelli M, Ballerini P, Lanas A, O'Donnell VB, Patrignani P

Platelets promote tumor metastasis by inducing promalignant phenotypes in cancer cells and directly contributing to cancer-related thrombotic complications. Platelet-derived extracellular vesicles (EVs) can promote epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT) in cancer cells, which confers high-grade malignancy. 12S-hydroxyeicosatetraenoic acid (12-HETE) generated by platelet type 12-lipoxygenase (12-LOX) is considered a key modulator of cancer metastasis through unknown mechanisms. In platelets, 12-HETE can be esterified into plasma membrane phospholipids (PLs), which drive thrombosis. Using cocultures of human platelets and human colon adenocarcinoma cells (line HT29) and LC-MS/MS, we investigated the impact of platelets on cancer cell biosynthesis of 12S-HETE and its esterification into PLs and whether platelet ability to transfer its molecular cargo might play a role. To this aim, we performed coculture experiments with CFSE[5-(and-6)-carboxyfluorescein diacetate, succinimidyl ester]-loaded platelets. HT29 cells did not generate 12S-HETE or express 12-LOX. However, they acquired the capacity to produce 12S-HETE mainly esterified in plasmalogen phospholipid forms following the uptake of platelet-derived medium-sized EVs (mEVs) expressing 12-LOX. 12-LOX was detected in plasma mEV of patients with adenomas/adenocarcinomas, implying their potential to deliver the protein to cancer cells in vivo. In cancer cells exposed to platelets, endogenous but not exogenous 12S-HETE contributed to changes in EMT gene expression, mitigated by three structurally unrelated 12-LOX inhibitors. In conclusion, we showed that platelets induce the generation of primarily esterified 12-HETE in colon cancer cells following mEV-mediated delivery of 12-LOX. The modification of cancer cell phospholipids by 12-HETE may functionally impact cancer cell biology and represent a novel target for anticancer agent development.

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Journal of lipid research, 1, 1, 21 Aug 2021

PMID: 34428433

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