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1.  Survivin safeguards chromosome numbers and protects from aneuploidy independently from p53 
Molecular Cancer  2014;13:107.
Survivin, a member of the inhibitor of apoptosis (IAP) gene family, has a dual role in mitosis and in apoptosis. It is abundantly expressed in every human tumor, compared with normal tissues. During mitosis Survivin assembles with the chromosomal passenger complex and regulates chromosomal segregation. Here, we aim to explore whether interference with the mitotic function of Survivin is linked to p53-mediated G1 cell cycle arrest and affects chromosomal stability.
In this study, we used HCT116, SBC-2, and U87-MG and generated corresponding isogenic p53-deficient cells. Retroviral vectors were used to stably knockdown Survivin. The resulting phenotype, in particular the mechanisms of cell cycle arrest and of initiation of aneuploidy, were investigated by Western Blot analysis, confocal laser scan microscopy, proliferation assays, spectral karyotyping and RNAi.
In all cell lines Survivin-RNAi did not induce instant apoptosis but caused polyplodization irrespective of p53 status. Strikingly, polyploidization after knockdown of Survivin resulted in merotelic kinetochore spindle assemblies, γH2AX-foci, and DNA damage response (DDR), which was accompanied by a transient p53-mediated G1-arrest. That p53 wild type cells specifically arrest due to DNA damage was shown by simultaneous inhibition of ATM and DNA-PK, which abolished induction of p21waf/cip. Cytogenetic analysis revealed chromosomal aberrations indicative for DNA double strand break repair by the mechanism of non-homologous end joining (NHEJ), only in Survivin-depleted cells.
Our findings suggest that Survivin plays an essential role in proper amphitelic kinetochore-spindle assembly and that constraining Survivin’s mitotic function results in polyploidy and aneuploidy which cannot be controlled by p53. Therefore, Survivin critically safeguards chromosomal stability independently from p53.
PMCID: PMC4041913  PMID: 24886358
Survivin; p53; p21waf/cip; ATM; DNA-PKCS
2.  Essential Role of Survivin, an Inhibitor of Apoptosis Protein, in T Cell Development, Maturation, and Homeostasis 
Survivin is an inhibitor of apoptosis protein that also functions during mitosis. It is expressed in all common tumors and tissues with proliferating cells, including thymus. To examine its role in apoptosis and proliferation, we generated two T cell–specific survivin-deficient mouse lines with deletion occurring at different developmental stages. Analysis of early deleting survivin mice showed arrest at the pre–T cell receptor proliferating checkpoint. Loss of survivin at a later stage resulted in normal thymic development, but peripheral T cells were immature and significantly reduced in number. In contrast to in vitro studies, loss of survivin does not lead to increased apoptosis. However, newborn thymocyte homeostatic and mitogen-induced proliferation of survivin-deficient T cells were greatly impaired. These data suggest that survivin is not essential for T cell apoptosis but is crucial for T cell maturation and proliferation, and survivin-mediated homeostatic expansion is an important physiological process of T cell development.
PMCID: PMC1887718  PMID: 14699085
proliferation; apoptosis; T cell development; survivin; IAP
3.  Forced Expression of Survivin-2B Abrogates Mitotic Cells and Induces Mitochondria-dependent Apoptosis by Blockade of Tubulin Polymerization and Modulation of Bcl-2, Bax, and Survivin* 
The Journal of biological chemistry  2007;282(37):27204-27214.
It has been previously shown that both survivin and the survivin splice variant survivin-2B are localized in mitochondria. Whereas the mechanism involved in blockade of mitochondria-mediated apoptosis by survivin has been extensively studied, the role of survivin-2B in regulation of apoptosis has not been well defined. In the present study, we report that in addition to mitochondria, survivin-2B is also localized in the microtubule organization center (MTOC) and, in contrast to other survivin isoforms (i.e. survivin and survivin-ΔEx3), behaves as a proapoptotic molecule. We show that forced expression of survivin-2B blocks tubulin polymerization, ablates mitotic cells, and induces mitochondria-dependent apoptosis. The mitochondria-mediated apoptosis induced by survivin-2B was indicated by Smac release from mitochondria, activation of caspases 9 and 3, and loss of mitochondrial potential, while caspase-8 remained inactive. Further analysis of the mechanism for the mitochondria-associated events of apoptosis induced by forced expression of survivin-2B revealed down-regulation of the pro-survival factor Bcl-2 and up-regulation of the pro-apoptotic factor Bax in mitochondria, while the apoptosis-inducing factor (AIF) remains unchanged. Our studies further showed that taxol (paclitaxel) treatment of cancer cells not only up-regulates survivin but also down-regulates survivin-2B and that forced expression of survivin-2B sensitizes cells to taxol-induced cell growth inhibition and cell death, while silencing of endogenous survivin-2B transcripts by survivin-2B-specific siRNA made cells resistant to taxol treatment. These findings advance our current knowledge about survivin-2B and may help to develop novel approaches for cancer treatment.
PMCID: PMC2827256  PMID: 17656368
4.  Melanocyte expression of Survivin promotes development and metastasis of UV-induced melanoma in HGF-transgenic mice 
Cancer research  2007;67(11):5172-5178.
We previously found the apoptosis inhibitor Survivin to be expressed in melanocytic nevi and melanoma, but not in normal melanocytes. To investigate the role of Survivin in melanoma development and progression, we examined the consequences of forced Survivin expression in melanocytes in vivo. Transgenic (Tg) mouse lines (Dct-Survivin) were generated with melanocyte-specific expression of Survivin, and melanocytes grown from Dct-Survivin mice expressed Survivin. Dct-Survivin melanocytes exhibited decreased susceptibility to UV-induced apoptosis but no difference in proliferative capacity compared to melanocytes derived from non-Tg littermates. Induction of nevi in Dct-Survivin and non-Tg mice by topical application of DMBA did not reveal significant differences in lesion onset (median 10 wks) or density (4 lesions/mouse after 15 wks). Dct-Survivin mice were bred with melanoma-prone MH19/HGF-B6 Tg mice and all progeny expressing either individual, neither, or both (Survivin/HGF) transgenes were UV-treated as neonates and then monitored for 43 wks. Melanocytes in neonatal Survivin+/HGF+ mouse skin were less susceptible to UV-induced apoptosis than those from Survivin−/HGF+ mice. Onset of melanocytic tumors was earlier (median 18 vs. 24 wks, p = .01, log-rank test) and overall tumor density was greater (7.7 vs. 5.2 tumors/mouse, p = .04) in Survivin+/HGF+ compared to Survivin−/HGF+ mice. Strikingly, melanomas arising in Survivin+/HGF+ mice demonstrated a greater tendency for lymph node (35% vs. 0%, p = .04) and lung (53% vs. 22%) metastasis, and lower rates of spontaneous apoptosis, than those in Survivin−/HGF+ mice. These studies demonstrate a role for Survivin in promoting both early and late events of UV-induced melanoma development in vivo.
PMCID: PMC2292453  PMID: 17545596
Survivin; apoptosis; melanocyte; melanoma; transgenic
We examined whether Survivin expression is associated with an increased risk of metastasis in prostate cancer.
Methods and Materials
A total of 205 patients with T1 (23%) and T2 (77%) prostate cancer were treated with conventional external beam radiation therapy from 1991 to 1993 at the Massachusetts General Hospital. Of the patients, 62 had adequate and suitable-stained tumor material for Survivin analysis. Median follow-up was 102 months (range, 5–127 months). Distant failure was determined on the basis of clinical criteria. In preclinical studies, replication-deficient adenovirus encoding phosphorylation-defective Survivin Thr34 → Ala dominant-negative mutant pAd-S(T34A) or short hairpin RNA (shRNA) was used to inhibit Survivin in prostate cancer models, and the cell motility, morphology, and metastasis were investigated.
Our correlative data on men with early-stage (T1/T2) prostate cancers treated at Massachusetts General Hospital by definitive radiotherapy indicated that overexpression of Survivin (positive staining in ≥10% cells) was associated with a significantly increased risk for the subsequent development of distant metastasis (p = 0.016) in the univariate analysis. In the multivariate analysis, overexpression of Survivin remained an independent predictor of distant metastasis (p = 0.008). The inhibition of Survivin dramatically inhibited invasiveness of prostate cancer cells in the in vitro invasion assay and spontaneous metastasis in the Dunning prostate cancer in vivo model. Furthermore, attenuation of Survivin resulted in changes in the microtubule cytoskeleton, loss of cellular polarity, and loss of motility.
This study suggests that Survivin may be a potentially important prognostic marker and promising therapeutic target in metastatic prostate cancer.
PMCID: PMC4348096  PMID: 20231071
Survivin; Prostate cancer; Metastasis
6.  Postnatal Expansion of the Pancreatic β-Cell Mass Is Dependent on Survivin 
Diabetes  2008;57(10):2718-2727.
OBJECTIVE—Diabetes results from a deficiency of functional β-cells due to both an increase in β-cell death and an inhibition of β-cell replication. The molecular mechanisms responsible for these effects in susceptible individuals are mostly unknown. The objective of this study was to determine whether a gene critical for cell division and cell survival in cancer cells, survivin, might also be important for β-cells.
RESEARCH DESIGN AND METHODS—We generated mice harboring a conditional deletion of survivin in pancreatic endocrine cells using mice with a Pax-6-Cre transgene promoter construct driving tissue-specific expression of Cre-recombinase in these cells. We performed metabolic studies and immunohistochemical analyses to determine the effects of a mono- and biallelic deletion of survivin.
RESULTS—Selective deletion of survivin in pancreatic endocrine cells in the mouse had no discernible effects during embryogenesis but was associated with striking decreases in β-cell number after birth, leading to hyperglycemia and early-onset diabetes by 4 weeks of age. Serum insulin levels were significantly decreased in animals lacking endocrine cell survivin, with relative stability of other hormones. Exogenous expression of survivin in mature β-cells lacking endogenous survivin completely rescued the hyperglycemic phenotype and the decrease in β-cell mass, confirming the specificity of the survivin effect in these cells.
CONCLUSIONS—Our findings implicate survivin in the maintenance of β-cell mass through both replication and antiapoptotic mechanisms. Given the widespread involvement of survivin in cancer, a novel role for survivin may well be exploited in β-cell regulation in diseased states, such as diabetes.
PMCID: PMC2551682  PMID: 18599523
7.  Increased Levels of Survivin, via Association With Heat Shock Protein 90, in Mucosal T Cells From Patients With Crohn’s Disease 
Gastroenterology  2012;143(4):1017-26.e9.
Defective apoptosis of lamina propria T cells (LPTs) is involved in the pathogenesis of Crohn’s disease. Survivin, a member of the inhibitors of apoptosis family, prevents cell death and regulates cell division. Survivin has been studied extensively in cancer, but little is known about its role in Crohn’s disease.
LPTs were isolated from mucosal samples of patients with Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis and healthy individuals (controls). LPTs were activated with interleukin-2 or via CD3, CD2, and CD28 signaling, and cultured at 42°C to induce heat shock. Survivin expression was assessed by immunohistochemistry, confocal microscopy, and immunoblotting; survivin levels were reduced by RNA interference. Cell viability, apoptosis, and proliferation were measured by trypan blue exclusion, annexin-V/7-Aminoactinomycin D staining, and uptake of [3]thymidine, respectively.
LPTs from patients with Crohn’s disease had higher levels of survivin than LPTs from patients with ulcerative colitis or controls. RNA knockdown of survivin in LPTs inhibited their proliferation and promoted apoptosis. Levels of survivin were low in LPTs from patients with ulcerative colitis and controls as a result of ubiquitin-mediated proteasome degradation. In LPTs from patients with Crohn’s disease, survivin bound to the heat shock protein (HSP)90, and therefore was resistant to proteasome degradation. Incubating LPTs with 17-N-allylamino-17-demethoxygeldanamycin, an inhibitor of HSP90, reduced levels of survivin and induced apoptosis.
Levels of survivin are increased in LPTs from patients with Crohn’s disease (compared with ulcerative colitis and controls) because survivin interacts with HSP90 and prevents proteasome degradation. This allows LPTs to avoid apoptosis. Strategies to restore apoptosis to these cells might be developed to treat patients with Crohn’s disease.
PMCID: PMC3578578  PMID: 22749932
Inflammatory Bowel Disease; IAP; 17-AAG; Immune Regulation
8.  Inflammation-associated Cell Cycle–independent Block of Apoptosis by Survivin in Terminally Differentiated Neutrophils 
The Journal of Experimental Medicine  2004;199(10):1343-1354.
Survivin has received great attention due to its expression in many human tumors and its potential as a therapeutic target in cancer. Survivin expression has been described to be cell cycle–dependent and restricted to the G2-M checkpoint, where it inhibits apoptosis in proliferating cells. In agreement with this current view, we found that survivin expression was high in immature neutrophils, which proliferate during differentiation. In contrast with immature cells, mature neutrophils contained only little or no survivin protein. Strikingly, these cells reexpressed survivin upon granulocyte/macrophage colony-stimulating factor (CSF) or granulocyte CSF stimulation in vitro and under inflammatory conditions in vivo. Moreover, survivin-deficient mature neutrophils were unable to increase their lifespan after survival factor exposure. Together, our findings demonstrate the following: (a) overexpression of survivin occurs in primary, even terminally differentiated cells and is not restricted to proliferating cells; and (b) survivin acts as an inhibitor of apoptosis protein in a cell cycle–independent manner. Therefore, survivin plays distinct and independent roles in the maintenance of the G2-M checkpoint and in apoptosis control, and its overexpression is not restricted to proliferating cells. These data provide new insights into the regulation and function of survivin and have important implications for the pathogenesis, diagnosis, and treatment of inflammatory diseases and cancer.
PMCID: PMC2211817  PMID: 15148334
antisense; cancer; cytokines; differentiation; infection
9.  Role of survivin phosphorylation by aurora B in mitosis 
Cell Cycle  2007;6(15):1878-1885.
The chromosomal protein passenger complex, a key mitotic regulator, consists of at least four proteins, INCENP, Aurora B, Survivin and Borealin. Survivin, in contrast to the other members of the chromosomal protein passenger complex (CPC), is mobile at metaphase. This protein is also phosphorylated by Aurora B at Threonine 117. In this work we have studied the role of the phosphorylation of Survivin in mitotosis by using non phosphorylable T117A and phosphomimic T117E silent resistant Survivin mutants, inducible cell lines expressing these mutants and a combination of siRNA, time-lapse microscopy and FRAP analysis. Time lapse microscopy and FRAP analysis show that Survivin T117A mutant is very stably associated with centromeres and its expression induces a prometaphasic arrest in endogenous survivin depleted cells. In addition, Survivin T117A was unable to rescue the phenotypes of the endogenous survivin depleted cells. Expressed in these cells, the phosphomimic Survivin T117E mutant exhibits a very weak interaction with the centromeres and behaves as a dominant negative mutant inducing severe mitotic defects. Our data suggest that the Aurora B generated phosphorylation/dephosphorylation cycle of Survivin is required for proper proceeding of mitosis.
PMCID: PMC3323923  PMID: 17671419
Centromere; genetics; HeLa Cells; Humans; Metaphase; Microtubule-Associated Proteins; metabolism; Mitosis; Mutation; genetics; Phosphorylation; Protein-Serine-Threonine Kinases; genetics; metabolism; RNA, Small Interfering; genetics; Thymidine; genetics; inactive X chromosome; histone variant; macroH2A distribution
10.  The Detergent-Soluble Cytoplasmic Pool of Survivin Suppresses Anoikis and Its Expression Is Associated with Metastatic Disease of Human Colon Cancer 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(2):e55710.
Survivin is a component of the chromosomal passenger complex (CPC) that is essential for accurate chromosome segregation. Interfering with the function of Survivin in mitosis leads to chromosome segregation errors and defective cytokinesis. Survivin contains a Baculovirus IAP Repeat (BIR) and therefore was originally classified as inhibitor of apopotosis protein (IAP), yet its role in apoptosis after cellular stress remains largely unknown. We demonstrate here, that Survivin predominantly suppresses anoikis, a form of programmed cell death induced by loss of cellular adhesion to extracellular matrix. Interestingly, cells ectopically overexpressing EGFP-Survivin showed after loss of cell-matrix-interaction a decreased expression of IκB-α. Subsequent subcellular protein fractionation and immunoprecipitation experiments revealed that XIAP interacts with detergent-soluble Survivin which is known to cooperatively activate NF-κB signaling. Examination of the expression levels of detergent soluble Survivin in colorectal cancer cell lines and in colorectal cancerous tissues revealed that detergent soluble cytoplasmic Survivin levels correlated inversely with anoikis susceptibility in colorectal cancer. Therefore, the detergent soluble cytoplasmic Survivin might be a promising predictive biomarker for lymph node and distant metastases of colorectal cancer. We conclude that an anti-apoptotic function of detergent-soluble Survivin in interphase cells experiencing anoikis is mediated at least via XIAP/IκB-α/NF-κB signaling.
PMCID: PMC3565976  PMID: 23405201
11.  Impaired neurogenesis, learning and memory and low seizure threshold associated with loss of neural precursor cell survivin 
BMC Neuroscience  2010;11:2.
Survivin is a unique member of the inhibitor of apoptosis protein (IAP) family in that it exhibits antiapoptotic properties and also promotes the cell cycle and mediates mitosis as a chromosome passenger protein. Survivin is highly expressed in neural precursor cells in the brain, yet its function there has not been elucidated.
To examine the role of neural precursor cell survivin, we first showed that survivin is normally expressed in periventricular neurogenic regions in the embryo, becoming restricted postnatally to proliferating and migrating NPCs in the key neurogenic sites, the subventricular zone (SVZ) and the subgranular zone (SGZ). We then used a conditional gene inactivation strategy to delete the survivin gene prenatally in those neurogenic regions. Lack of embryonic NPC survivin results in viable, fertile mice (SurvivinCamcre) with reduced numbers of SVZ NPCs, absent rostral migratory stream, and olfactory bulb hypoplasia. The phenotype can be partially rescued, as intracerebroventricular gene delivery of survivin during embryonic development increases olfactory bulb neurogenesis, detected postnatally. SurvivinCamcre brains have fewer cortical inhibitory interneurons, contributing to enhanced sensitivity to seizures, and profound deficits in memory and learning.
The findings highlight the critical role that survivin plays during neural development, deficiencies of which dramatically impact on postnatal neural function.
PMCID: PMC2817683  PMID: 20051123
12.  Suppression of survivin promoter activity by YM155 involves disruption of Sp1-DNA interaction in the survivin core promoter 
YM155, a novel survivin suppressant, shows potent antitumor activity against various human cancers and is currently in phase II clinical trials. In this study, we investigated whether YM155 selectively inhibits survivin transcription. We hypothesize that inhibition of survivin transcription plays a role in YM155-mediated survivin inhibition. We found that YM155 inhibited survivin promoter activity, while it showed minimal inhibitory effect on four control gene promoters in transfection and luciferase activity assay experiments, indicating its selectivity. Transfection of various survivin promoter-luciferase constructs followed by luciferase assays revealed that the survivin core promoter (269 bp) plays a major role in YM155-mediated inhibitory effects. However, flow cytometry analysis indicated that inhibition of survivin promoter activity by YM155 is cell cycle-independent without G1 cell arrests. Electrophoretic mobility shift assays (EMSA) identified that YM155 abrogates nuclear proteins binding to the region of -149 to -71, in which Sp1 is a major candidate, and that YM155 treatment induces Sp1 re-subcellular localization without inhibiting its expression. Forced expression of Sp1 neutralized YM155-mediated downregulation of survivin promoter activity. Consistently, mutation of the identified Sp1 sites in the oligonucleotide probe diminished DNA-protein interactions in EMSA experiments, and mutation of the Sp1 sites in the survivin promoter-luciferase construct diminished survivin promoter activity. These findings indicate that YM155 inhibition of survivin expression is at least in part through its inhibition of survivin transcription by disruption of Sp1 interaction with the region of -149 to -71 in the survivin core promoter.
PMCID: PMC3388737  PMID: 22773958
YM155; the survivin promoter; cancer cells
13.  Role of the 2 zebrafish survivin genes in vasculo-angiogenesis, neurogenesis, cardiogenesis and hematopoiesis 
Normal growth and development of organisms requires maintenance of a dynamic balance between systems that promote cell survival and those that induce apoptosis. The molecular mechanisms that regulate these processes remain poorly understood, and thus further in vivo study is required. Survivin is a member of the inhibitor of apoptosis protein (IAP) family, that uniquely also promotes mitosis and cell proliferation. Postnatally, survivin is hardly detected in most tissues, but is upregulated in all cancers, and as such, is a potential therapeutic target. Prenatally, survivin is also highly expressed in several tissues. Fully delineating the properties of survivin in vivo in mice has been confounded by early lethal phenotypes following survivin gene inactivation.
To gain further insights into the properties of survivin, we used the zebrafish model. There are 2 zebrafish survivin genes (Birc5a and Birc5b) with overlapping expression patterns during early development, prominently in neural and vascular structures. Morpholino-induced depletion of Birc5a causes profound neuro-developmental, hematopoietic, cardiogenic, vasculogenic and angiogenic defects. Similar abnormalities, all less severe except for hematopoiesis, were evident with suppression of Birc5b. The phenotypes induced by morpholino knockdown of one survivin gene, were rescued by overexpression of the other, indicating that the Birc5 paralogs may compensate for each. The potent vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) also entirely rescues the phenotypes induced by depletion of either Birc5a and Birc5b, highlighting its multi-functional properties, as well as the power of the model in characterizing the activities of growth factors.
Overall, with the zebrafish model, we identify survivin as a key regulator of neurogenesis, vasculo-angiogenesis, hematopoiesis and cardiogenesis. These properties of survivin, which are consistent with those identified in mice, indicate that its functions are highly conserved across species, and point to the value of the zebrafish model in understanding the role of this IAP in the pathogenesis of human disease, and for exploring its potential as a therapeutic target.
PMCID: PMC2670274  PMID: 19323830
14.  FoxM1, a Forkhead Transcription Factor Is a Master Cell Cycle Regulator for Mouse Mature T Cells but Not Double Positive Thymocytes 
PLoS ONE  2010;5(2):e9229.
FoxM1 is a forkhead box transcription factor and a known master regulator required for different phases of the cell cycle. In cell lines, FoxM1 deficient cells exhibit delayed S phase entry, aneuploidy, polyploidy and can't complete mitosis. In vivo, FoxM1 is expressed mostly in proliferating cells but is surprisingly also found in non-proliferating CD4+CD8+ double positive thymocytes. Here, we addressed the role of FoxM1 in T cell development by generating and analyzing two different lines of T-cell specific FoxM1 deficient mice. As expected, FoxM1 is required for proliferation of early thymocytes and activated mature T cells. Defective expression of many cell cycle proteins was detected, including cyclin A, cyclin B1, cdc2, cdk2, p27 and the Rb family members p107 and p130 but surprisingly not survivin. Unexpectedly, loss of FoxM1 only affects a few cell cycle proteins in CD4+CD8+ thymocytes and has little effect on their sensitivity to apoptosis and the subsequent steps of T cell differentiation. Thus, regulation of cell cycle genes by FoxM1 is stage- and context-dependent.
PMCID: PMC2821927  PMID: 20169079
15.  Thy-1 triggers mouse thymocyte apoptosis through a bcl-2-resistant mechanism 
Programmed cell death plays an important role during thymocyte development, since a vast majority (97%) of mouse cortical thymocytes die in thymus, whereas only 3% of these cells are rescued from cell death and positively selected. Although it seems well established that thymocyte fate depends upon appropriate surface-expressed T cell receptor, little is known about the molecular mechanism(s) responsible for the massive thymocyte elimination that occurs in the thymus. We report here that Thy-1 is capable of triggering mouse thymocyte death in vitro through a bcl-2-resistant mechanism. We have previously shown that Thy-1 is involved in mouse thymocyte adhesion to thymic stroma through interaction with an epithelial cell ligand. To examine the Thy- 1 signaling function in thymocytes, we have mimicked its interaction with stromal cells by culturing mouse thymocytes onto tissue culture plates coated with monoclonal antibodies (mAb) directed at distinct Thy- 1 epitope regions. mAb recognizing determinants in a defined Thy-1 structural domain, but not others, were found to induce marked thymocyte apoptosis as evidenced by morphological and biochemical data. Use of a quantitative DNA dot blot assay indicated that Thy-1-mediated thymocyte apoptosis was not blocked by RNA or protein synthesis inhibitors, EGTA, or by cyclosporin A, and differed, therefore, from "activation-driven cell death". Moreover, Thy-1(+)-transfected, but not wild-type AKR1 (Thy-1-d) thymoma cells underwent apoptosis after ligation with apoptosis-inducing, Thy-1-specific mAb. In contrast to thymocytes, the latter event was inhibitable by RNA and protein synthesis inhibitors, an indication that thymocytes, but not thymoma cells, contain the molecular components necessary for Thy-1-driven apoptosis. We further showed that Thy-1-triggered thymocyte death is a developmentally regulated process operative in fetal thymocytes from day 17 of gestation, but not in peripheral T cells. Indeed, the target of apoptosis by anti-Thy-1 was found to reside mainly within the CD4+8+3- and CD4+8+3lo double positive immature thymocyte subsets. Finally, it is of major interest that Thy-1-mediated apoptosis, which was found to be readily detectable in thymocytes from bcl-2-transgenic mice, represents a thus far unique experimental system for studying bcl- 2-resistant thymocyte death mechanism(s).
PMCID: PMC2191406  PMID: 7906706
16.  Survivin splice variants are not essential for mitotic progression or inhibition of apoptosis induced by doxorubicin and radiation 
OncoTargets and therapy  2012;5:7-20.
Survivin is a critical regulator of mitosis, and an inhibitor of apoptosis which is overexpressed in almost all cancers. In the current study, cell cycle profiles of normal proliferating human umbilical vein endothelial cells, prostate cancer, and lung cancer cell lines expressing varying levels of survivin and its splice variants were compared using a novel functional complementation assay. Defects in chromosome segregation and cytokinesis that were observed after depletion of endogenous survivin were not complemented by any of the survivin splice variants: survivin-2B, survivin-3B, survivin-ΔEx3, or survivin-2A when expressed exogenously at a level comparable to endogenous full-length survivin. Survivin variants were not detectable at the endogenous protein level. Cancer cells with higher levels of full-length survivin and survivin-2B expression, exhibited reduced caspase-3 activation following doxorubicin treatment and radiation. Whereas earlier studies focused on function and expression levels of survivin specific to cancer cells, the current study brings forward the essential role of survivin in normal dividing cells. Full-length survivin was found to be associated with Aurora-B kinase in the chromosomal passenger complex and depletion of survivin mimics mitotic phenotypes observed after Aurora-B kinase inhibition, in cancer as well as normal proliferating cells. Thus, our study establishes survivin as a marker of proliferation, rather than a cancer specific marker. Therefore, systemic therapeutic interventions targeting survivin will affect cancer as well as normal proliferating cells.
PMCID: PMC3287415  PMID: 22375097
survivin; survivin splice variants; radiation; mitosis; apoptosis
17.  MicroRNA regulation and therapeutic targeting of survivin in cancer 
Survivin, the smallest member of IAP (inhibitor of apoptosis) family, is a dual functional protein acting as a critical apoptosis inhibitor and key cell cycle regulator. Survivin is usually expressed in embryonic tissues during development and undetectable in most terminally differentiated tissues. Numerous studies demonstrate that survivin is selectively upregulated in almost all types of human malignancies and its overexpression positively correlates with poor prognosis, tumor recurrence, and therapeutic resistance. This differential expression of survivin in tumors and normal tissues draws a great interest to develop survivin-targeted therapy for cancer treatment. Nonetheless, the molecular mechanisms controlling survivin expression in malignant tumor cells have not been fully understood. While aberrant activation of receptor tyrosine kinases (RTKs) and the downstream signaling, such as PI-3K/Akt, MEK/MAPK, mTOR, and STAT pathways, have frequently been shown to upregulate survivin, recent data suggest that a class of noncoding RNAs, microRNAs (miRNAs) also play an important role in survivin dysregulation in human cancers. Here, we focus on survivin expression-regulated by specific miRNAs binding to the 3’-UTR of survivin mRNA, and summarize the latest advances on survivin-targeted therapy in clinical trials and the therapeutic potential of survivin-targeting miRNAs in cancer.
PMCID: PMC4300714  PMID: 25628918
Survivin; miRNA; targeted therapy; cancer
18.  Differential regulation of survivin expression and apoptosis by vitamin D3 compounds in two isogenic MCF-7 breast cancer cell sublines 
Oncogene  2005;24(8):1385.
Although both the antiapoptotic function of survivin and vitamin D3 (VD3)-mediated cell growth inhibition and apoptosis have been extensively studied, it is not known whether survivin plays a role in VD3 compound-mediated cell growth inhibition and apoptosis induction. Using an isogenic model of MCF-7 breast adenocarcinoma cells (MCF-7E and MCF-7L sublines that are sensitive and resistant to VD3 compounds), we found that VD3 compounds effectively downregulated survivin in VD3-sensitive MCF-7E cells, which was associated with VD3-induced apoptosis. In contrast, VD3 compounds failed to downregulate survivin in VD3-resistant MCF-7L cells, which showed resistant to VD3-induced apoptosis. However, inhibition of survivin expression by small interfering RNA (siRNA) induced cell death per se and further sensitized VD3-induced apoptosis in MCF-7L cells, indicating that the inability of these cells to respond to VD3 is due to the failure to downregulate survivin. Forced expression of survivin not only blocked VD3-mediated G1 cell accumulation but also increased S and G2/M cell populations. VD3 treatment rapidly triggered the activation of p38 MAPK signaling in MCF-7E cells but not in MCF- 7L cells. Moreover, inhibition of p38 activation diminished VD3-mediated survivin inhibition and partially rescued VD3-induced cell death. We further showed that VD3 increased the expression of TGFβ1 and TGFβ receptor 2, and that blocking the function of TGFβ receptor 2 diminished VD3 compound-mediated survivin downregulation. Thus, we propose that the VD3 compound-induced growth inhibition and apoptosis induction are at least partially dependent on survivin downregulation via VD3-induced TGFβ signaling and the activation of p38 MAPK pathway. Targeting survivin through these pathways may lead to novel applications for cancer therapeutics.
PMCID: PMC2820410  PMID: 15608672
vitamin D3; survivin; apoptosis; p38 MAPK; MCF-7 breast cancer cell
19.  Preclinical efficacy of sepantronium bromide (YM155) in multiple myeloma is conferred by down regulation of Mcl-1 
Oncotarget  2014;5(21):10237-10250.
The inhibitor-of-apoptosis family member survivin has been reported to inhibit apoptosis and regulate mitosis and cytokinesis. In multiple myeloma, survivin has been described to be involved in downstream sequelae of various therapeutic agents. We assessed 1093 samples from previously untreated patients, including two independent cohorts of 392 and 701 patients, respectively. Survivin expression was associated with cell proliferation, adverse prognostic markers, and inferior event-free and overall survival, supporting the evaluation of survivin as a therapeutic target in myeloma. The small molecule suppressant of survivin - YM155 - is in clinical development for the treatment of solid tumors. YM155 potently inhibited proliferation and induced apoptosis in primary myeloma cells and cell lines. Gene expression and protein profiling revealed the critical roles of IL6/STAT3-signaling and the unfolded protein response in the efficacy of YM155. Both pathways converged to down regulate anti-apoptotic Mcl-1 in myeloma cells. Conversely, growth inhibition and apoptotic cell death by YM155 was rescued by ectopic expression of Mcl-1 but not survivin, identifying Mcl-1 as the pivotal downstream target of YM155 in multiple myeloma. Mcl-1 expression was likewise associated with adverse prognostic markers, and inferior survival. Our results strongly support the clinical evaluation of YM155 in patients with multiple myeloma.
PMCID: PMC4279369  PMID: 25296978
apoptotic signaling; Mcl-1; multiple myeloma; survivin
20.  Hepatocyte-specific deletion of the anti-apoptotic protein Mcl-1 triggers proliferation and hepatocarcinogenesis in mice 
Hepatology (Baltimore, Md.)  2010;51(4):1226-1236.
Regulation of hepatocellular apoptosis is crucial for liver homeostasis. Increased sensitivity of hepatocytes towards apoptosis results in chronic liver injury, whereas apoptosis resistance is linked to hepatocarcinogenesis and non-responsiveness to therapy-induced cell death. Recently, we have demonstrated an essential role of the anti-apoptotic Bcl-2 family member Myeloid cell leukemia-1 (Mcl-1) in hepatocyte survival. In mice lacking Mcl-1 specifically in hepatocytes (Mcl-1Δhep) spontaneous apoptosis caused severe liver damage. Here, we demonstrate that chronically increased apoptosis of hepatocytes coincides with strong hepatocyte proliferation resulting in hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). Liver cell tumor formation was observed in >50% of Mcl-1Δhep mice already by the age of 8 months, whereas 12 month-old wild-type and heterozygous Mcl-1flox/wt mice lacked tumors. Tumors revealed a heterogenous spectrum ranging from small dysplastic nodules to HCC. The neoplastic nature of the tumors was confirmed by histology, expression of the HCC marker glutamine synthetase and chromosomal aberrations. Liver carcinogenesis in Mcl-1Δhep mice was paralleled by markedly increased levels of survivin, an important regulator of mitosis which is selectively overexpressed in common human cancers.
The present study provides in vivo evidence that increased apoptosis of hepatocytes not only impairs liver homeostasis but is also accompanied by hepatocyte proliferation and hepatocarcinogenesis. Our findings might have implications for understanding apoptosis-related human liver diseases.
The survival of multicellular organisms depends on the maintenance of tissue homeostasis. Under physiological conditions apoptosis contributes to liver homeostasis by removing damaged hepatocytes. Proliferation, growth and programmed hepatocyte cell death are highly coordinated and tightly controlled events in the normal liver (1).
On the one hand, increased apoptosis sensitivity contributes to liver injury. On the other hand, defective apoptosis was demonstrated to lead to excessive hepatocellular survival and has emerged as a major mechanism by which pre-malignant hepatocytes obtain a competitive advantage over normal liver cells (2). Various molecular alterations have been characterized causing an imbalance in the regulation of apoptosis. Among these are alterations in p53 signalling, expression of death receptors, growth factors and mitochondrial integrity (3). Decreased activity of pro-apoptotic signalling as well as increased activity of anti-apoptotic events are associated with HCC development and progression (4).
Among the main cellular changes that trigger apoptosis of hepatocytes is the permeabilization of the outer mitochondrial membrane followed by the release of pro-apoptotic factors (5). The Bcl-2 protein family plays a pivotal role for mitochondrial integrity and the selective interactions between pro- and anti-apoptotic family members regulate mitochondrial activation (6). Bcl-2 family members are similar within the Bcl-2 homology regions (BH1-BH4) and can be divided in pro- and anti-apoptotic Bcl-2 proteins.
Pro-apoptotic Bcl-2 proteins comprise (1) multi-domain members, which lack the BH4 domain (e.g. Bax, Bak), and (2) BH3-only proteins, which lack BH1, 2 and 4 domains (e.g. Bid, Noxa, Puma). BH3-only proteins initiate the mitochondrial signalling cascade by sensing cellular damage (7). After activation, BH3-only proteins are released to neutralise anti-apoptotic Bcl-2 proteins. Subsequently, Bax and Bak trigger mitochondrial membrane leakage and the release of mitochondrial proteins, including cytochrome c, Smac/DIABLO (second mitochondria-derived activator of caspases/direct IAP-binding protein with low pI) and apoptosis-inducing factor (AIF). Smac/DIABLO proteins inactivate the IAP (inhibitors of apoptosis proteins) family, which consists of IAP1/2, BRUCE, NAIP, ILP2, ML-IAP, survivin and XIAP. XIAP is a direct caspase inhibitor. Other IAPs including survivin have several functions apart from caspase inhibition, eg, triggering of ubiquitination processes (8). Anti-apoptotic Bcl-2 family members (eg, Bcl-2, Bcl-xL and Mcl-1), interact with Bax and Bak to inhibit the activation of mitochondria (7).
Both Bcl-xL and Mcl-1 have been identified as major anti-apoptotic Bcl-2 proteins in the liver (9-11). Liver homeostasis is severely disturbed in Mcl-1Δhep mice (10, 11). Spontaneous hepatocyte apoptosis was observed in livers of Mcl-1Δhep mice in profound liver cell damage and increased susceptibility of hepatocytes towards pro-apoptotic stimuli (10). In addition, Mcl-1 has been shown to be highly expressed in a subset of human HCC, contributing to apoptosis resistance of cancer cells (12, 13). Thus, abrogation of the pro-survival function of Mcl-1 (1) either by diminishing its levels or (2) by inactivating its function, have shown promising results with regards to treatment of HCC (12, 13).
In this study, we show that liver-specific depletion of Mcl-1 increases hepatocyte apoptosis, induces hepatocellular proliferation and causes HCC in the absence of overt inflammation.
PMCID: PMC2936921  PMID: 20099303
liver; hepatocellular carcinoma; apoptosis; Bcl-2 proteins; survivin
21.  Early diagnostic value of survivin and its alternative splice variants in breast cancer 
BMC Cancer  2014;14:176.
The inhibitor of apoptosis (IAP) protein Survivin and its splice variants are differentially expressed in breast cancer tissues. Our previous work showed Survivin is released from tumor cells via small membrane-bound vesicles called exosomes. We, therefore, hypothesize that analysis of serum exosomal Survivin and its splice variants may provide a novel biomarker for early diagnosis of breast cancer.
We collected sera from forty breast cancer patients and ten control patients who were disease free for 5 years after treatment. In addition, twenty-three paired breast cancer tumor tissues from those same 40 patients were analyzed for splice variants. Serum levels of Survivin were analyzed using ELISA and exosomes were isolated from this serum using the commercially available ExoQuick kit, with subsequent Western blots and immunohistochemistry performed.
Survivin levels were significantly higher in all the breast cancer samples compared to controls (p < 0.05) with exosome amounts significantly higher in cancer patient sera compared to controls (p < 0.01). While Survivin and Survivin-∆Ex3 splice variant expression and localization was identical in serum exosomes, differential expression of Survivin-2B protein existed in the exosomes. Similarly, Survivin and Survivin-∆Ex3 proteins were the predominant forms detected in all of the breast cancer tissues evaluated in this study, whereas a more variable expression of Survivin-2B level was found at different cancer stages.
In this study we show for the first time that like Survivin, the Survivin splice variants are also exosomally packaged in the breast cancer patients’ sera, mimicking the survivin splice variant pattern that we also report in breast cancer tissues. Differential expression of exosomal-Survivin, particularly Survivin-2B, may serve as a diagnostic and/or prognostic marker, a “liquid biopsy” if you will, in early breast cancer patients. Furthermore, a more thorough understanding of the role of this prominent antiapoptotic pathway could lead to the development of potential therapeutics for breast cancer patients.
PMCID: PMC3995700  PMID: 24620748
Survivin; Splice variants; Exosomes; Breast cancer
22.  Localization, Dynamics, and Function of Survivin Revealed by Expression of Functional SurvivinDsRed Fusion Proteins in the Living Cell 
Molecular Biology of the Cell  2003;14(1):78-92.
Survivin, a member of the inhibitor of apoptosis protein family, has attracted growing attention due to its expression in various tumors and its potential application in tumor therapy. However, its subcellular localization and function have remained controversial: Recent studies revealed that survivin is localized at the mitotic spindle, binds caspases, and could thus protect cells from apoptosis. The cell cycle-dependent expression of survivin and its antiapoptotic function led to the hypothesis that survivin connects the cell cycle with apoptosis, thus providing a death switch for the termination of defective mitosis. In other studies, survivin was detected at kinetochores, cleavage furrow, and midbody, localizations being characteristic for chromosomal passenger proteins. These proteins are involved in cytokinesis as inferred from the observation that RNA interference and expression of mutant proteins led to cytokinesis defects without an increase in apoptosis. To remedy these discrepancies, we analyzed the localizations of a survivinDsRed fusion protein in HeLa cells by using confocal laser scanning microscopy and time-lapse video imaging. SurvivinDsRed was excluded from the interphase nucleus and was detected in centrosomes and at kinetochores. It dissociated from chromosomes at the anaphase/telophase transition and accumulated at the ends of polar microtubuli where it was immediately condensed to the midbody. Overexpression of both survivinDsRed and of a phosphorylation-defective mutant conferred resistance against apoptosis-inducing reagents, but only the overexpressed mutant protein caused an aberrant cytokinesis. These data characterize in detail the dynamics of survivin in vertebrate cells and confirm that survivin represents a chromosomal passenger protein.
PMCID: PMC140229  PMID: 12529428
23.  Survivin-targeting Artificial MicroRNAs Mediated by Adenovirus Suppress Tumor Activity in Cancer Cells and Xenograft Models 
Survivin is highly expressed in most human tumors and fetal tissue, and absent in terminally differentiated cells. It promotes tumor cell proliferation by negatively regulating cell apoptosis and facilitating cell division. Survivin's selective expression pattern suggests that it might be a suitable target for cancer therapy, which would promote death of transformed but not normal cells. This was tested using artificial microRNAs (amiRNAs) targeting survivin. After screening, two effective amiRNAs, which knocked down survivin expression, were identified and cloned into a replication-defective adenoviral vector. Tumor cells infected with the recombinant vector downregulated expression of survivin and underwent apoptotic cell death. Further studies showed that apoptosis was associated with increases in caspase 3 and cleaved Poly (ADP-ribose) polymerase, and activation of the p53 signaling pathway. Furthermore, amiRNA treatment caused blockade of mitosis and cell cycle arrest at the G2/M phase. In vivo, survivin-targeting amiRNAs expressed by adenoviral vectors effectively delayed growth of hepatocellular and cervical carcinomas in mouse xenograft models. These results indicate that silencing of survivin by amiRNA has potential for treatment of cancer.
PMCID: PMC4459545  PMID: 25368912
artificial microRNA; cancer treatment; survivin
24.  Disabling the mitotic spindle and tumor growth by targeting a cavity-induced allosteric site of survivin 
Oncogene  2011;31(15):1938-1948.
Survivin is a member of the inhibitor of apoptosis protein family and has an essential role in mitosis. Survivin is overexpressed in a large variety of human cancers and represents an attractive target for cancer therapy. Epidermal growth factor receptor and Her/neu-transformed human tumors in particular exhibit high levels of survivin. The survivin protein forms dimers through a conserved region that is critical for subcellular localization and biological functions of the protein. We identified small molecules that target a specific cavity adjacent to the survivin dimerization surfaces. S12, a lead compound identified in the screen, can bind to the survivin protein at the intended target site. Moreover, S12 alters spindle formation, causing mitotic arrest and cell death, and inhibits tumor growth in vitro and in vivo. Cell death occurs in premetaphase stage following mitotic arrest and is not a consequence of general toxicity. Thus, the study validates a novel therapeutic target site in the survivin protein and provides a promising strategy to develop a new class of therapeutic small molecules for the treatment of human cancers.
PMCID: PMC3570121  PMID: 21892210
mitosis; cancer; therapeutic; survivin
25.  The Anti-Apoptosis Protein, Survivin, Mediates Gastric Epithelial Cell Cytoprotection Against Ethanol-Induced Injury via Activation of the p34cdc2 Cyclin Dependent Kinase 
Journal of cellular physiology  2008;215(3):750-764.
The anti-apoptosis protein, survivin, promotes cell survival and mitosis. Recent studies have demonstrated that survivin is expressed in normal gastric mucosa. Using an in vitro model, we examined whether survivin plays a role in the cytoprotection produced in gastric mucosa by mild irritant ethanol (ETOH) against subsequent exposure to concentrated ETOH. Pretreatment of rat gastric epithelial cells with 1% ETOH reduced cell death, in response to subsequent incubation with 5% ETOH, by 94% (P<0.005). This pretreatment also resulted in increased total and phosphorylated survivin protein levels by 180% (P<0.0001) and 540% (P<0.0002), respectively, which required the p34cdc2 cell cycle-dependent kinase. The cytoprotective effect was abrogated upon siRNA knockdown of survivin protein levels. Further, overexpression of exogenous survivin resulted in significant cytoprotection by 62% (P<0.02) in the absence of any pretreatment. We further examined the in vivo relevance of these findings. In fasted rats, administration of 20% ETOH, which we found to be 93% (P<0.0001) cytoprotective against 50% ETOH challenge, resulted in increased total and phosphorylated survivin protein levels by 234% (P<0.001) and 214% (P<0.02), respectively. Administration of 20% ETOH resulted in increased gastric p34cdc2 activity by 146% (P<0.01). Inhibition of p34cdc2 by the potent inhibitor, roscovitine, abolished the increased survivin levels in response to pre-administration of 20% ETOH and reduced the cytoprotection against 50% ETOH challenge by 59% (P<0.01). These results indicate that survivin is a key mediator of cytoprotection against ETOH-induced gastric injury, acting at the epithelial cell level, by a mechanism that is dependent, in part, on p34cdc2.
PMCID: PMC2288653  PMID: 18181150
• Adaptation; • Apoptosis; • Cell death; • Inhibitor; • Phosphorylation

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