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1.  Betulinic Acid Induces Bax/Bak-Independent Cytochrome c Release in Human Nasopharyngeal Carcinoma Cells 
Molecules and Cells  2012;33(5):517-524.
Betulinic acid (BetA) is an effective and potential anticancer chemical derived from plants. BetA can kill a broad range of tumor cell lines, but has no effect on untransformed cells. The chemical also kills melanoma, leukemia, lung, colon, breast, prostate and ovarian cancer cells via induction of apoptosis, which depends on caspase activation. However, no reports are yet available about the effects of BetA on nasopharyngeal carcinoma (NPC), a widely spread malignancy in the world, especially in East Asia. In this study, we first showed that BetA can effectively kill CNE2 cells, a cell line derived from NPC. BetA-induced CNE2 apoptosis was characterized by typical apoptosis hallmarks: caspase activation, DNA fragmentation, and cytochrome c release. Overexpression of Bcl-2 and Bcl-xL could partially prevent apoptosis caused by BetA. Moreover, Bax was not activated during the induction of apoptosis. Bax/Bak knockdown and wild-type CNE2 cells showed the same kinetics of cytochrome c release. We then showed that BetA may impair mitochondrial permeability transition pores (mPTPs), which may partially contribute to cytochrome c release. These observations suggest that BetA may serve as a potent and effective anticancer agent in NPC treatment. Further exploration of the mechanism of action of BetA could yield novel break-throughs in anti-cancer drug discovery.
doi:10.1007/s10059-012-0022-5
PMCID: PMC3887732  PMID: 22526391
apoptosis; Betulinic acid; cytochrome c release; mPTP; nasopharyngeal carcinoma
2.  Sensitization for Anticancer Drug-Induced Apoptosis by Betulinic Acid1 
Neoplasia (New York, N.Y.)  2005;7(2):162-170.
Abstract
We previously described that betulinic acid (BetA), a naturally occurring pentacyclic triterpenoid, induces apoptosis in tumor cells through the mitochondrial pathway. Here, for the first time, we provide evidence that BetA cooperated with anticancer drugs to induce apoptosis and to inhibit clonogenic survival of tumor cells. Combined treatment with BetA and anticancer drugs acted in concert to induce loss of mitochondrial membrane potential and the release of cytochrome c and Smac from mitochondria, resulting in activation of caspases and apoptosis. Overexpression of Bcl-2, which blocked mitochondrial perturbations, also inhibited the cooperative effect of BetA and anticancer drugs, indicating that cooperative interaction involved the mitochondrial pathway. Notably, cooperation of BetA and anticancer drugs was found for various cytotoxic compounds with different modes of action (e.g., doxorubicin, cisplatin, Taxol, VP16, or actinomycin D). Importantly, BetA and anticancer drugs cooperated to induce apoptosis in different tumor cell lines, including p53 mutant cells, and also in primary tumor cells, but not in human fibroblasts indicating some tumor specificity. These findings indicate that using BetA as sensitizer in chemotherapy-based combination regimens may be a novel strategy to enhance the efficacy of anticancer therapy, which warrants further investigation.
PMCID: PMC1501129  PMID: 15802021
Apoptosis; betulinic acid; cancer; mitochondria; resistance
3.  Inhibition of BET bromodomain proteins as a therapeutic approach in prostate cancer 
Oncotarget  2013;4(12):2419-2429.
BET (bromodomain and extra-terminal) proteins regulate gene expression through their ability to bind to acetylated chromatin and subsequently activate RNA PolII-driven transcriptional elongation. Small molecule BET inhibitors prevent binding of BET proteins to acetylated histones and inhibit transcriptional activation of BET target genes. BET inhibitors attenuate cell growth and survival in several hematologic cancer models, partially through the down-regulation of the critical oncogene, MYC. We hypothesized that BET inhibitors will regulate MYC expression in solid tumors that frequently over-express MYC. Here we describe the effects of the highly specific BET inhibitor, I-BET762, on MYC expression in prostate cancer models. I-BET762 potently reduced MYC expression in prostate cancer cell lines and a patient-derived tumor model with subsequent inhibition of cell growth and reduction of tumor burden in vivo. Our data suggests that I-BET762 effects are partially driven by MYC down-regulation and underlines the critical importance of additional mechanisms of I-BET762 induced phenotypes.
PMCID: PMC3926837  PMID: 24293458
BET; Brd4; c-Myc; prostate cancer; bromodomain
4.  BET Inhibition Silences Expression of MYCN and BCL2 and Induces Cytotoxicity in Neuroblastoma Tumor Models 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(8):e72967.
BET family proteins are epigenetic regulators known to control expression of genes involved in cell growth and oncogenesis. Selective inhibitors of BET proteins exhibit potent anti-proliferative activity in a number of hematologic cancer models, in part through suppression of the MYC oncogene and downstream Myc-driven pathways. However, little is currently known about the activity of BET inhibitors in solid tumor models, and whether down-regulation of MYC family genes contributes to sensitivity. Here we provide evidence for potent BET inhibitor activity in neuroblastoma, a pediatric solid tumor associated with a high frequency of MYCN amplifications. We treated a panel of neuroblastoma cell lines with a novel small molecule inhibitor of BET proteins, GSK1324726A (I-BET726), and observed potent growth inhibition and cytotoxicity in most cell lines irrespective of MYCN copy number or expression level. Gene expression analyses in neuroblastoma cell lines suggest a role of BET inhibition in apoptosis, signaling, and N-Myc-driven pathways, including the direct suppression of BCL2 and MYCN. Reversal of MYCN or BCL2 suppression reduces the potency of I-BET726-induced cytotoxicity in a cell line-specific manner; however, neither factor fully accounts for I-BET726 sensitivity. Oral administration of I-BET726 to mouse xenograft models of human neuroblastoma results in tumor growth inhibition and down-regulation MYCN and BCL2 expression, suggesting a potential role for these genes in tumor growth. Taken together, our data highlight the potential of BET inhibitors as novel therapeutics for neuroblastoma, and suggest that sensitivity is driven by pleiotropic effects on cell growth and apoptotic pathways in a context-specific manner.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0072967
PMCID: PMC3751846  PMID: 24009722
5.  Betulinic Acid Suppresses STAT3 Activation Pathway Through Induction of Protein Tyrosine Phosphatase SHP-1 in Human Multiple Myeloma Cells 
STAT3 activation has been associated with survival, proliferation and invasion of various human cancers. Whether betulinic acid, a pentacyclic triterpene, can modulates the STAT3 pathway, was investigated in human multiple myeloma (MM) cells. We found that betulinic acid inhibited constitutive activation of STAT3, Src kinase, JAK1 and JAK2. Pervanadate reversed the betulinic acid -induced down regulation of STAT3 activation, suggesting the involvement of a protein tyrosine phosphatase (PTP). Furthermore, betulinic acid induced the expression of the PTP SHP-1 and silencing of the SHP-1 gene abolished the ability of betulinic acid to inhibit STAT3 activation and rescues betulinic acid-induced cell death. Betulinic acid also downregulated the expression of STAT3-regulated gene products such as bcl-xL, bcl-2, cyclin D1, and survivin. This correlated with an increase in apoptosis as indicated by an increase in the sub-G1 cell population and an increase in caspase-3–induced PARP cleavage. Consistent with these results, over expression of constitutive active STAT3 significantly reduced the betulinic acid-induced apoptosis. Betulinic acid also enhanced the apoptosis induced by thalidomide (from 10% to 55%) and bortezomib (from 5% to 70%) in MM cells. Overall, our results suggest that betulinic acid down regulates STAT3 activation through upregulation of SHP-1 and this may have potential in sensitization of STAT3 over expressing tumors to chemotherapeutic agents.
doi:10.1002/ijc.25059
PMCID: PMC2877157  PMID: 19937797
Betulinic acid; STAT3; JAK1; JAK2; SHP-1; apoptosis
6.  Betulin Is a Potent Anti-Tumor Agent that Is Enhanced by Cholesterol 
PLoS ONE  2009;4(4):e1.
Betulinic Acid (BetA) and its derivatives have been extensively studied in the past for their anti-tumor effects, but relatively little is known about its precursor Betulin (BE). We found that BE induces apoptosis utilizing a similar mechanism as BetA and is prevented by cyclosporin A (CsA). BE induces cell death more rapidly as compared to BetA, but to achieve similar amounts of cell death a considerably higher concentration of BE is needed. Interestingly, we observed that cholesterol sensitized cells to BE-induced apoptosis, while there was no effect of cholesterol when combined with BetA. Despite the significantly enhanced cytotoxicity, the mode of cell death was not changed as CsA completely abrogated cell death. These results indicate that BE has potent anti-tumor activity especially in combination with cholesterol.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0005361
PMCID: PMC2671171  PMID: 19399186
7.  BetS Is a Major Glycine Betaine/Proline Betaine Transporter Required for Early Osmotic Adjustment in Sinorhizobium meliloti 
Journal of Bacteriology  2002;184(10):2654-2663.
Hybridization to a PCR product derived from conserved betaine choline carnitine transporter (BCCT) sequences led to the identification of a 3.4-kb Sinorhizobium meliloti DNA segment encoding a protein (BetS) that displays significant sequence identities to the choline transporter BetT of Escherichia coli (34%) and to the glycine betaine transporter OpuD of Bacillus subtilis (30%). Although the BetS protein shows a common structure with BCCT systems, it possesses an unusually long hydrophilic C-terminal extension (169 amino acids). After heterologous expression of betS in E. coli mutant strain MKH13, which lacks choline, glycine betaine, and proline transport systems, both glycine betaine and proline betaine uptake were restored, but only in cells grown at high osmolarity or subjected to a sudden osmotic upshock. Competition experiments demonstrated that choline, ectoine, carnitine, and proline were not effective competitors for BetS-mediated betaine transport. Kinetic analysis revealed that BetS has a high affinity for betaines, with Kms of 16 ± 2 μM and 56 ± 6 μM for glycine betaine and proline betaine, respectively, in cells grown in minimal medium with 0.3 M NaCl. BetS activity appears to be Na+ driven. In an S. meliloti betS mutant, glycine betaine and proline betaine uptake was reduced by about 60%, suggesting that BetS represents a major component of the overall betaine uptake activities in response to salt stress. β-Galactosidase activities of a betS-lacZ strain grown in various conditions showed that betS is constitutively expressed. Osmotic upshock experiments performed with wild-type and betS mutant cells, treated or not with chloramphenicol, indicated that BetS-mediated betaine uptake is the consequence of immediate activation of existing proteins by high osmolarity, most likely through posttranslational activation. Growth experiments underscored the crucial role of BetS as an emerging system involved in the rapid acquisition of betaines by S. meliloti subjected to osmotic upshock.
doi:10.1128/JB.184.10.2654-2663.2002
PMCID: PMC135037  PMID: 11976294
8.  Study of the betulin enriched birch bark extracts effects on human carcinoma cells and ear inflammation 
Background
Pentacyclic triterpenes, mainly betulin and betulinic acid, are valuable anticancer agents found in the bark of birch tree. This study evaluates birch bark extracts for the active principles composition.
Results
New improved extraction methods were applied on the bark of Betula pendula in order to reach the maximum content in active principles. Extracts were analyzed by HPLC-MS, Raman, SERS and 13C NMR spectroscopy which revealed a very high yield of betulin (over 90%). Growth inhibiting effects were measured in vitro on four malignant human cell lines: A431 (skin epidermoid carcinoma), A2780 (ovarian carcinoma), HeLa (cervix adenocarcinoma) and MCF7 (breast adenocarcinoma), by means of MTT assay. All of the prepared bark extracts exerted a pronounced antiproliferative effect against human cancer cell lines. In vivo studies involved the anti-inflammatory effect of birch extracts on TPA-induced model of inflammation in mice.
Conclusions
The research revealed the efficacy of the extraction procedures as well as the antiproliferative and anti-inflammatory effects of birch extracts.
doi:10.1186/1752-153X-6-137
PMCID: PMC3527166  PMID: 23158079
Betulin; Birch extract; Anticancer; Raman; SERS; 13C NMR
9.  Targeting MYCN in Neuroblastoma by BET Bromodomain Inhibition 
Cancer discovery  2013;3(3):308-323.
Bromodomain inhibition comprises a promising therapeutic strategy in cancer, particularly for hematologic malignancies. To date, however, genomic biomarkers to direct clinical translation have been lacking. We conducted a cell-based screen of genetically-defined cancer cell lines using a prototypical inhibitor of BET bromodomains. Integration of genetic features with chemosensitivity data revealed a robust correlation between MYCN amplification and sensitivity to bromodomain inhibition. We characterized the mechanistic and translational significance of this finding in neuroblastoma, a childhood cancer with frequent amplification of MYCN. Genome-wide expression analysis demonstrated downregulation of the MYCN transcriptional program accompanied by suppression of MYCN transcription. Functionally, bromodomain-mediated inhibition of MYCN impaired growth and induced apoptosis in neuroblastoma. BRD4 knock-down phenocopied these effects, establishing BET bromodomains as transcriptional regulators of MYCN. BET inhibition conferred a significant survival advantage in three in vivo neuroblastoma models, providing a compelling rationale for developing BET bromodomain inhibitors in patients with neuroblastoma.
Significance
Biomarkers of response to small-molecule inhibitors of BET bromodomains, a new compound class with promising anti-cancer activity, have been lacking. Here, we reveal MYCN amplification as a strong genetic predictor of sensitivity to BET bromodomain inhibitors, demonstrate a mechanistic rationale for this finding, and provide a translational framework for clinical trial development of BET bromodomain inhibitors for pediatric patients with MYCN-amplified neuroblastoma.
doi:10.1158/2159-8290.CD-12-0418
PMCID: PMC3672953  PMID: 23430699
BET bromodomain inhibitor; JQ1; MYCN; neuroblastoma; BRD4
10.  Retigeric Acid B Exhibits Antitumor Activity through Suppression of Nuclear Factor-κB Signaling in Prostate Cancer Cells in Vitro and in Vivo 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(5):e38000.
Previously, we reported that retigeric acid B (RB), a natural pentacyclic triterpenic acid isolated from lichen, inhibited cell growth and induced apoptosis in androgen-independent prostate cancer (PCa) cells. However, the mechanism of action of RB remains unclear. In this study, we found that using PC3 and DU145 cells as models, RB inhibited phosphorylation levels of IκBα and p65 subunit of NF-κB in a time- and dosage-dependent manner. Detailed study revealed that RB blocked the nuclear translocation of p65 and its DNA binding activity, which correlated with suppression of NF-κB-regulated proteins including Bcl-2, Bcl-xL, cyclin D1 and survivin. NF-κB reporter assay suggested that RB was able to inhibit both constitutive activated-NF-κB and LPS (lipopolysaccharide)-induced activation of NF-κB. Overexpression of RelA/p65 rescued RB-induced cell death, while knockdown of RelA/p65 significantly promoted RB-mediated inhibitory effect on cell proliferation, suggesting the crucial involvement of NF-κB pathway in this event. We further analyzed antitumor activity of RB in in vivo study. In C57BL/6 mice carrying RM-1 homografts, RB inhibited tumor growth and triggered apoptosis mainly through suppressing NF-κB activity in tumor tissues. Additionally, DNA microarray data revealed global changes in the gene expression associated with cell proliferation, apoptosis, invasion and metastasis in response to RB treatment. Therefore, our findings suggested that RB exerted its anti-tumor effect by targeting the NF-κB pathway in PCa cells, and this could be a general mechanism for the anti-tumor effect of RB in other types of cancers as well.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0038000
PMCID: PMC3362538  PMID: 22666431
11.  NF-κB activation enhances cell death by antimitotic drugs in human prostate cancer cells 
Molecular Cancer  2010;9:182.
Background
NF-κB is a transcription factor that promotes inhibition of apoptosis and resistance to chemotherapy. It is commonly believed that inhibition of NF-κB activity can increase sensitivity of cancer cells to chemotherapy. However, there is evidence that NF-κB activation can sensitize cells to apoptosis and that inhibition of NF-κB results in resistance to chemotherapy. In prostate cancer, it is not clear in the different cell types (androgen-dependent and castration-resistant) if activation or inhibition of NF-κB is required for stimulation of apoptosis by chemotherapy.
Results
Our data indicate that the response of prostate cancer (PC) cells to the antimitotic drugs docetaxel (Doc) and 2-methoxyestradiol (2ME2) is dependent on the levels of NF-κB activity. In androgen-dependent LNCaP cells, Doc and 2ME2 treatment increased the low basal NF-κB activity, as determined by Western blot analysis of phospho-IκBα/p65, NF-κB promoter reporter assays, and p65 localization. Treatment of LNCaP cells with parthenolide, a pharmacologic inhibitor of NF-κB, or introduction of dominant-negative IκBα, or an shRNA specific for p65, a component of the NF-κB heterodimer, blocked apoptosis induced by Doc and 2ME2. In castration-resistant DU145 and PC3 cells, Doc and 2ME2 had little effect on the high basal NF-κB activity and addition of parthenolide did not enhance cell death. However, the combination of Doc or 2ME2 with betulinic acid (BA), a triterpenoid that activates NF-κB, stimulated apoptosis in LNCaP and non-apoptotic cell death in DU145 and PC3 cells. Increased sensitivity to cell death mediated by the Doc or 2ME2 + BA combination is likely due to increased NF-κB activity.
Conclusions
Our data suggest that the combination of antimitotic drugs with NF-κB inhibitors will have antagonistic effects in a common type of PC cell typical of LNCaP. However, combination strategies utilizing antimitotic drugs with BA, an activator of NF-κB, will universally enhance cell death in PC cells, notably in the aggressive, castration-resistant variety that does not respond to conventional therapies.
doi:10.1186/1476-4598-9-182
PMCID: PMC2908581  PMID: 20618955
12.  Natural Proteasome Inhibitor Celastrol Suppresses Androgen-Independent Prostate Cancer Progression by Modulating Apoptotic Proteins and NF-kappaB 
PLoS ONE  2010;5(12):e14153.
Background
Celastrol is a natural proteasome inhibitor that exhibits promising anti-tumor effects in human malignancies, especially the androgen-independent prostate cancer (AIPC) with constitutive NF-κB activation. Celastrol induces apoptosis by means of proteasome inhibition and suppresses prostate tumor growth. However, the detailed mechanism of action remains elusive. In the current study, we aim to test the hypothesis that celastrol suppresses AIPC progression via inhibiting the constitutive NF-κB activity as well as modulating the Bcl-2 family proteins.
Methodology/Principal Findings
We examined the efficacy of celastrol both in vitro and in vivo, and evaluated the role of NF-κB in celastrol-mediated AIPC regression. We found that celastrol inhibited cell proliferation in all three AIPC cell lines (PC-3, DU145 and CL1), with IC50 in the range of 1–2 µM. Celastrol also suppressed cell migration and invasion. Celastrol significantly induced apoptosis as evidenced by increased sub-G1 population, caspase activation and PARP cleavage. Moreover, celastrol promoted cleavage of the anti-apoptotic protein Mcl-1 and activated the pro-apoptotic protein Noxa. In addition, celastrol rapidly blocked cytosolic IκBα degradation and nuclear translocation of RelA. Likewise, celastrol inhibited the expression of multiple NF-κB target genes that are involved in proliferation, invasion and anti-apoptosis. Celastrol suppressed AIPC tumor progression by inhibiting proliferation, increasing apoptosis and decreasing angiogenesis, in PC-3 xenograft model in nude mouse. Furthermore, increased cellular IκBα and inhibited expression of various NF-κB target genes were observed in tumor tissues.
Conclusions/Significance
Our data suggest that, via targeting the proteasome, celastrol suppresses proliferation, invasion and angiogenesis by inducing the apoptotic machinery and attenuating constitutive NF-κB activity in AIPC both in vitro and in vivo. Celastrol as an active ingredient of traditional herbal medicine could thus be developed as a new therapeutic agent for hormone-refractory prostate cancer.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0014153
PMCID: PMC3000808  PMID: 21170316
13.  Altered IgE epitope presentation: A model for hypoallergenic activity revealed for Bet v 1 trimer 
Molecular immunology  2010;48(4):431-441.
In order to reduce side effects in the course of allergen specific immunotherapy hypoallergenic allergen derivatives with reduced IgE reactivity have been made by genetic engineering. In contrast to other recombinant hypoallergenic allergen derivatives which showed reduced IgE reactivity, a recombinant trimer of the major birch pollen allergen Bet v 1 showed reduced allergenic activity despite preserved IgE reactivity. We studied rBet v 1 trimer by SDS-PAGE, mass spectrometry, circular dichroism and gel filtration. Furthermore we investigated IgE and IgG reactivity of the rBet v 1 trimer in solid and liquid phase assays and compared its allergenic activity with that of rBet v 1 wildtype using basophil activation assays. In solid phase immunoassays rBet v 1 trimer exhibited even stronger IgE reactivity than the rBet v 1 wildtype, whereas both proteins were equally well recognized by Bet v 1-specific IgG antibody probes. In fluid phase IgE experiments rBet v 1 trimer inhibited IgE reactivity to rBet v 1 wildtype but showed a more than 10-fold reduced allergenic activity compared to the rBet v 1 monomer. By analytical gel filtration it was demonstrated that, despite its monomeric appearance in SDS-PAGE the trimer occurred in fluid phase in the form of defined high molecular weight (>600 kDa) aggregates whereas rBet v 1 wildtype strictly appeared as monomeric protein. The results indicate that the hypoallergenic nature of the rBet v 1 trimer is due to formation of defined high molecular weight aggregates which may be responsible for an altered presentation of IgE epitopes in a form with reduced capacity to crosslink effector-cell bound IgE. We thus provide evidence for a novel mechanism for hypoallergenic activity.
doi:10.1016/j.molimm.2010.09.016
PMCID: PMC4067515  PMID: 21093057
Immunotherapy; Protein aggregation; Recombinant hypoallergenic molecules; rBet v 1
14.  Midkine is a NF-κB-inducible gene that supports prostate cancer cell survival 
Background
Midkine is a heparin-binding growth factor that is over-expressed in various human cancers and plays important roles in cell transformation, growth, survival, migration, and angiogenesis. However, little is known about the upstream factors and signaling mechanisms that regulate midkine gene expression.
Methods
Two prostate cancer cell lines LNCaP and PC3 were studied for their expression of midkine. Induction of midkine expression in LNCaP cells by serum, growth factors and cytokines was determined by Western blot analysis and/or real-time quantitative reverse-transcription – polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR). The cell viability was determined by the trypan blue exclusion assay when the LNCaP cells were treated with tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNFα) and/or recombinant midkine. When the LNCaP cells were treated with recombinant midkine, activation of intracellular signalling pathways was determined by Western blot analysis. Prostate tissue microarray slides containing 129 cases (18 normal prostate tissues, 40 early stage cancers, and 71 late stage cancers) were assessed for midkine expression by immunohistochemical staining.
Results
We identified that fetal bovine serum, some growth factors (epidermal growth factor, androgen, insulin-like growth factor-I, and hepatocyte growth factor) and cytokines (TNFα and interleukin-1beta) induced midkine expression in a human prostate cancer cell line LNCaP cells. TNFα also induced midkine expression in PC3 cells. TNFα was the strongest inducer of midkine expression via nuclear factor-kappa B pathway. Midkine partially inhibited TNFα-induced apoptosis in LNCaP cells. Knockdown of endogenous midkine expression by small interfering RNA enhanced TNFα-induced apoptosis in LNCaP cells. Midkine activated extracellular signal-regulated kinase 1/2 and p38 mitogen-activated protein kinase pathways in LNCaP cells. Furthermore, midkine expression was significantly increased in late stage prostate cancer, which coincides with previously reported high serum levels of TNFα in advanced prostate cancer.
Conclusion
These findings provide the first demonstration that midkine expression is induced by certain growth factors and cytokines, particularly TNFα, which offers new insight into understanding how midkine expression is increased in the late stage prostate cancer.
doi:10.1186/1755-8794-1-6
PMCID: PMC2254643  PMID: 18275606
15.  Suppression of STAT3 and HIF-1 Alpha Mediates Anti-Angiogenic Activity of Betulinic Acid in Hypoxic PC-3 Prostate Cancer Cells 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(6):e21492.
Background
Signal transducer and activator of transcription 3 (STAT3) is a transcription factor that regulates various cellular processes such as cell survival, angiogenesis and proliferation. In the present study, we examined that betulinic acid (BA), a triterpene from the bark of white birch, had the inhibitory effects on hypoxia-mediated activation of STAT3 in androgen independent human prostate cancer PC-3 cells.
Methodology/Principal Findings
BA inhibited the protein expression and the transcriptional activities of hypoxia-inducible factor-1α (HIF-1α) under hypoxic condition. Consistently, BA blocked hypoxia-induced phosphorylation, DNA binding activity and nuclear accumulation of STAT3. In addition, BA significantly reduced cellular and secreted levels of vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF), a critical angiogenic factor and a target gene of STAT3 induced under hypoxia. Furthermore, BA prevented in vitro capillary tube formation in human umbilical vein endothelial cells (HUVECs) maintained in conditioned medium of hypoxic PC-3 cells, implying anti-angiogenic activity of BA under hypoxic condition. Of note, chromatin immunoprecipitation (ChiP) assay revealed that BA inhibited binding of HIF-1α and STAT3 to VEGF promoter. Furthermore, silencing STAT3 using siRNA transfection effectively enhanced the reduced VEGF production induced by BA treatment under hypoxia.
Conclusions/Significance
Taken together, our results suggest that BA has anti-angiogenic activity by disturbing the binding of HIF-1α and STAT3 to the VEGF promoter in hypoxic PC-3 cells.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0021492
PMCID: PMC3123343  PMID: 21731766
16.  Dissection of immunoglobulin E and T lymphocyte reactivity of isoforms of the major birch pollen allergen Bet v 1: potential use of hypoallergenic isoforms for immunotherapy 
We dissected the T cell activation potency and the immunoglobulin (Ig) E-binding properties (allergenicity) of nine isoforms of Bet v 1 (Bet v 1a-Bet v 1l), the major birch pollen allergen. Immunoblot experiments showed that Bet v 1 isoforms differ in their ability to bind IgE from birch pollen-allergic patients. All patients tested displayed similar IgE-binding patterns toward each particular isoform. Based on these experiments, we grouped Bet v 1 isoforms in three classes: molecules with high IgE-binding activity (isoforms a, e, and j), intermediate IgE- binding (isoforms b, c, and f), and low/no IgE-binding activity (isoforms d, g, and 1). Bet v 1a, a recombinant isoform selected from a cDNA expression library using IgE immunoscreening exhibited the highest IgE-binding activity. Isoforms a, b, d, e, and 1 were chosen as representatives from the three classes for experimentation. The potency of each isoallergen to activate T lymphocytes from birch pollen- allergic patients was assayed using peripheral blood mononuclear cells, allergen-specific T cell lines, and peptide-mapped allergen-specific T cell clones. Among the patients, some displayed a broad range of T cell- recognition patterns for Bet v 1 isoforms whereas others seemed to be restricted to particular isoforms. In spite of this variability, the highest scores for T cell proliferative responses were observed with isoform d (low IgE binder), followed by b, 1, e, and a. In vivo (skin prick) tests showed that the potency of isoforms d and 1 to induce typical urticarial type 1 reactions in Bet v 1-allergic individuals was significantly lower than for isoforms a, b, and e. Taken together, our results indicate that hypoallergenic Bet v 1 isoforms are potent activators of allergen-specific T lymphocytes, and Bet v 1 isoforms with high in vitro IgE-binding activity and in vivo allergenicity can display low T cell antigenicity. Based on these findings, we propose a novel approach for immunotherapy of type I allergies: a treatment with high doses of hypoallergenic isoforms or recombinant variants of atopic allergens. We proceed on the assumption that this measure would modulate the quality of the T helper cell response to allergens in vivo. The therapy form would additionally implicate a reduced risk of anaphylactic side effects.
PMCID: PMC2192443  PMID: 8627171
17.  DNA-binding properties of the BetI repressor protein of Escherichia coli: the inducer choline stimulates BetI-DNA complex formation. 
Journal of Bacteriology  1996;178(6):1663-1670.
The betT and betIBA genes govern glycine betaine synthesis from choline in Escherichia coli. In an accompanying paper we report that the betT and betI promoters are divergently organized and partially overlapping and that both are negatively regulated by BetI in response to choline. (T. Lamark, T.P. Rokenes, J. McDougall, and A.R. Strom, J. Bacteriol. 178:1655-1662, 1996). In this paper, we report that the in vivo synthesis rate of the BetI protein constituted only 10% of that of BetA and BetB dehydrogenase proteins, indicating the existence of a posttranscriptional control of the betIBA operon. A genetically modified BetI protein called BetI*, which carries 7 extra N-terminal amino acids, was purified as a glutathione S-transferase fusion protein. Gel mobility shift assays showed that BetI* formed a complex with a 41-bp DNA fragment containing the -10 and -35 regions of both promoters. Only one stable complex was detected with the 41-bp fragment and all larger promoter-containing fragments tested. In DNase I footprinting, BetI* protected a region of 21 nucleotides covering both the -35 boxes. Choline stimulated complex formation but did not change the binding site of BetI*. We conclude that in vivo BetI is bound to its operator in both repressed and induced cells and that BetI represents a new type of repressor.
PMCID: PMC177852  PMID: 8626295
18.  PFI-1 – A highly Selective Protein Interaction Inhibitor Targeting BET Bromodomains 
Cancer research  2013;73(11):3336-3346.
Bromo and extra terminal (BET) proteins (BRD2, BRD3, BRD4 and BRDT) are transcriptional regulators required for efficient expression of several growth promoting and anti-apoptotic genes as well as for cell cycle progression. BET proteins are recruited to transcriptionally active chromatin via their two N-terminal bromodomains (BRDs), a protein interaction module that specifically recognizes acetylated lysine residues in histones H3 and H4. Inhibition of the BET-histone interaction results in transcriptional down-regulation of a number of oncogenes providing a novel pharmacological strategy for the treatment of cancer. Here we present a potent and highly selective dihydroquinazoline-2-one inhibitor, PFI-1 that efficiently blocks the interaction of BET BRDs with acetylated histone tails. Co-crystal structures showed that PFI-1 acts as an acetyl-lysine (Kac) mimetic inhibitor efficiently occupying the Kac binding site in BRD4 and BRD2. PFI-1 has antiproliferative effects on leukaemic cell lines and efficiently abrogates their clonogenic growth. Exposure of sensitive cell lines with PFI-1 results in G1 cell cycle arrest, down-regulation of MYC expression as well as induction of apoptosis and induces differentiation of primary leukaemic blasts. Intriguingly, cells exposed to PFI-1 showed significant down-regulation of Aurora B kinase, thus attenuating phosphorylation of the Aurora substrate H3S10 providing an alternative strategy for the specific inhibition of this well established oncology target.
doi:10.1158/0008-5472.CAN-12-3292
PMCID: PMC3673830  PMID: 23576556
19.  PFI-1 – A highly Selective Protein Interaction Inhibitor Targeting BET Bromodomains 
Cancer research  2013;73(11):3336-3346.
Bromo and extra terminal (BET) proteins (BRD2, BRD3, BRD4 and BRDT) are transcriptional regulators required for efficient expression of several growth promoting and anti-apoptotic genes as well as for cell cycle progression. BET proteins are recruited to transcriptionally active chromatin via their two N-terminal bromodomains (BRDs), a protein interaction module that specifically recognizes acetylated lysine residues in histones H3 and H4. Inhibition of the BET-histone interaction results in transcriptional down-regulation of a number of oncogenes providing a novel pharmacological strategy for the treatment of cancer. Here we present a potent and highly selective dihydroquinazoline-2-one inhibitor, PFI-1 that efficiently blocks the interaction of BET BRDs with acetylated histone tails. Co-crystal structures showed that PFI-1 acts as an acetyl-lysine (Kac) mimetic inhibitor efficiently occupying the Kac binding site in BRD4 and BRD2. PFI-1 has antiproliferative effects on leukaemic cell lines and efficiently abrogates their clonogenic growth. Exposure of sensitive cell lines with PFI-1 results in G1 cell cycle arrest, down-regulation of MYC expression as well as induction of apoptosis and induces differentiation of primary leukaemic blasts. Intriguingly, cells exposed to PFI-1 showed significant down-regulation of Aurora B kinase, thus attenuating phosphorylation of the Aurora substrate H3S10 providing an alternative strategy for the specific inhibition of this well established oncology target.
doi:10.1158/0008-5472.CAN-12-3292
PMCID: PMC3673830  PMID: 23576556
20.  Inflammatory Cytokines and Survival Factors from Serum Modulate Tweak-Induced Apoptosis in PC-3 Prostate Cancer Cells 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(10):e47440.
Tumor necrosis factor-like weak inducer of apoptosis (TWEAK, TNFSF12) is a member of the tumor necrosis factor superfamily. TWEAK activates the Fn14 receptor, and may regulate cell death, survival and proliferation in tumor cells. However, there is little information on the function and regulation of this system in prostate cancer. Fn14 expression and TWEAK actions were studied in two human prostate cancer cell lines, the androgen-independent PC-3 cell line and androgen-sensitive LNCaP cells. Additionally, the expression of Fn14 was analyzed in human biopsies of prostate cancer. Fn14 expression is increased in histological sections of human prostate adenocarcinoma. Both prostate cancer cell lines express constitutively Fn14, but, the androgen-independent cell line PC-3 showed higher levels of Fn14 that the LNCaP cells. Fn14 expression was up-regulated in PC-3 human prostate cancer cells in presence of inflammatory cytokines (TNFα/IFNγ) as well as in presence of bovine fetal serum. TWEAK induced apoptotic cell death in PC-3 cells, but not in LNCaP cells. Moreover, in PC-3 cells, co-stimulation with TNFα/IFNγ/TWEAK induced a higher rate of apoptosis. However, TWEAK or TWEAK/TNFα/IFNγ did not induce apoptosis in presence of bovine fetal serum. TWEAK induced cell death through activation of the Fn14 receptor. Apoptosis was associated with activation of caspase-3, release of mitochondrial cytochrome C and an increased Bax/BclxL ratio. TWEAK/Fn14 pathway activation promotes apoptosis in androgen-independent PC-3 cells under certain culture conditions. Further characterization of the therapeutic target potential of TWEAK/Fn14 for human prostate cancer is warranted.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0047440
PMCID: PMC3471822  PMID: 23077618
21.  Androgen Deprivation-Induced Senescence Promotes Outgrowth of Androgen-Refractory Prostate Cancer Cells 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(6):e68003.
Androgen deprivation (AD) is an effective method for initially suppressing prostate cancer (PC) progression. However, androgen-refractory PC cells inevitably emerge from the androgen-responsive tumor, leading to incurable disease. Recent studies have shown AD induces cellular senescence, a phenomenon that is cell-autonomously tumor-suppressive but which confers tumor-promoting adaptations that can facilitate the advent of senescence-resistant malignant cell populations. Because androgen-refractory PC cells emerge clonally from the originally androgen-responsive tumor, we sought to investigate whether AD-induced senescence (ADIS) affects acquisition of androgen-refractory behavior in androgen-responsive LNCaP and LAPC4 prostate cancer cells. We find that repeated exposure of these androgen-responsive cells to senescence-inducing stimuli via cyclic AD leads to the rapid emergence of ADIS-resistant, androgen-refractory cells from the bulk senescent cell population. Our results show that the ADIS phenotype is associated with tumor-promoting traits, notably chemoresistance and enhanced pro-survival mechanisms such as inhibition of p53-mediated cell death, which encourage persistence of the senescent cells. We further find that pharmacologic enforcement of p53/Bax activation via Nutlin-3 prior to establishment of ADIS is required to overcome the associated pro-survival response and preferentially trigger pervasive cell death instead of senescence during AD. Thus our study demonstrates that ADIS promotes outgrowth of androgen-refractory PC cells and is consequently a suboptimal tumor-suppressor response to AD.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0068003
PMCID: PMC3695935  PMID: 23840802
22.  T-Bet Plays a Key Role in NK-Mediated Control of Melanoma Metastatic Disease1 
Antitumor responses depend on type 1 immunity, which is severely impaired in mice deficient for the T-box expressed in T cells (T-bet) transcription factor. Both T-bet-deficient (T-bet–/–) NK and CTL show defective function, which can be overcome by strong stimuli due to the expression of eomesodermin, another member of the T-box family. The effective response from T-bet–/– mice to viral infection and tumor initiation corroborates with these findings. However, T-bet–/– animals fail to control cancer metastasis and are, therefore, highly susceptible to tumor spread. The mechanism of T-bet-dependent resistance to metastatic disease is not known. In this study, we show that T-bet plays a role in inhibiting cancer metastasis by regulating the longevity and function of NK cells. Our data demonstrate that the absence of a proper innate immune response driven by NK cells in T-bet–/– mice precludes the initiation of a potent adaptive response to tumors. Adoptive transfer of wild-type activated NK cells protects T-bet–/– animals after melanoma challenge showing that reconstitution of the NK compartment in these mice is sufficient to mediate a significant reduction in tumor burden. Transfer of T-bet–/– A-NK cells fails to do so, due to their reduced in vivo survival, inefficient lysis of cancer cells, and poor IFN-γ production. Taken together, these results show for the first time an irreplaceable role for T-bet in the NK-mediated cross-talk between innate and adaptive immune responses to metastatic disease.
PMCID: PMC3709580  PMID: 18523263
23.  Therapeutic Targeting of BET Bromodomain Proteins in Castration-Resistant Prostate Cancer 
Nature  2014;510(7504):278-282.
Men who develop metastatic castration-resistant prostate cancer (CRPC) invariably succumb to the disease. The development and progression to CRPC following androgen ablation therapy is predominantly driven by unregulated androgen receptor (AR) signaling1-3. Despite the success of recently approved therapies targeting AR signaling such as abiraterone4-6 and second generation anti-androgens MDV3100 (enzalutamide)7,8, durable responses are limited, presumably due to acquired resistance. Recently JQ1 and I-BET, two selective small molecule inhibitors that target the amino-terminal bromodomains of BRD4, have been shown to exhibit anti-proliferative effects in a range of malignancies9-12. Here we show that AR signaling-competent CRPC cell lines are preferentially sensitive to BET bromodomain inhibition. BRD4 physically interacts with the N-terminal domain of AR and can be disrupted by JQ111,13. Like the direct AR antagonist, MDV3100, JQ1 disrupted AR recruitment to target gene loci. In contrast to MDV3100, JQ1 functions downstream of AR, and more potently abrogated BRD4 localization to AR target loci and AR-mediated gene transcription including induction of TMPRSS2-ERG and its oncogenic activity. In vivo, BET bromodomain inhibition was more efficacious than direct AR antagonism in CRPC xenograft models. Taken together, these studies provide a novel epigenetic approach for the concerted blockade of oncogenic drivers in advanced prostate cancer.
doi:10.1038/nature13229
PMCID: PMC4075966  PMID: 24759320
24.  lac fusion analysis of the bet genes of Escherichia coli: regulation by osmolarity, temperature, oxygen, choline, and glycine betaine. 
Journal of Bacteriology  1988;170(11):5208-5215.
The synthesis of glycine betaine, a powerful osmoprotectant, from its precursor, choline, is a function of the bet genes. The bet genes code for the high-affinity transport of choline and the enzymes for its conversion to glycine betaine. These genes map at 7.5 min on the E. coli chromosome and are contained on the conjugative plasmid F'2. To study the transcriptional regulation of the bet genes in response to various environmental conditions, a collection of 30 lac operon fusions was isolated by utilizing the bet genes contained on F'2. Four osmoregulated bet loci (betA, betB, betC, and betT) were identified based on biochemical, regulatory, and merodiploid analysis of these fusions. All of the bet fusions demonstrated a 7- to 10-fold increase in transcription in response to increases in the osmotic strength of the growth medium. Choline further induced expression of lac fusions at the betA, betB, and betT loci when the cells were grown under conditions of osmotic stress. The end product of the pathway, glycine betaine, was a corepressor of choline induction for fusions at the betA and betT loci. Expression of the betA, betB, and betT loci was reduced 7- to 10-fold under anaerobic conditions. In addition, expression of the betB and betT loci was reduced when the cells were grown in high osmolarity at 16 degrees C. These studies demonstrate that the expression of the bet genes is under the control of several environmental stimuli.
PMCID: PMC211592  PMID: 3141381
25.  Butanol Fraction Containing Berberine or Related Compound From Nexrutine® Inhibits NFκB Signaling and Induces Apoptosis in Prostate Cancer Cells 
The Prostate  2009;69(5):494-504.
BACKGROUND
Epidemiological and laboratory studies support the hypothesis that several plant components influence prostate carcinogenesis and holds promise for disease prevention. Previously we reported that Nexrutine® (bark extract from Phellodendron amurense) inhibits proliferation of prostate cancer cells and prostate tumor development in the transgenic adenocarcinoma of mouse prostate (TRAMP) model through modulation of Akt signaling pathway. In the present investigation we conducted studies to further define the mechanism of action of Nexrutine® and to identify the active component associated with its biological activity.
METHODS
Androgen-responsive, androgen-independent human prostate cancer cell lines and tissues from TRAMP mice fed Nexrutine® were used in these studies. Activity guided fractionation identified butanol fraction recapitulating the activities of Nexrutine® assessed by proliferation assays, apoptotic assays (DAPI and TUNEL staining), transient transfections, gel shift assays and Western blotting. In addition ultra-performance liquid chromatography (UPLC) of butanol fraction was used to identify active component of Nexrutine®.
RESULTS
Butanol fraction recapitulated the activities of Nexrutine® in (i) inhibiting proliferation; (ii) inducing apoptosis; and (iii) modulating transcriptional activity of NFκB in prostate cancer cells. Our data also indicates that both Nexrutine® and butanol fraction modulates NFκB transcriptional activity by inhibiting IκBα phosphorylation. Expression of p65 and phosphorylated IκBα are high in tumors from TRAMP mice. In contrast dietary administration of Nexrutine® reduced expression of p65 and phosphorylated IκBα in prostate from TRAMP mice. In addition using UPLC, we have identified berberine or closely related compound in the butanol fraction.
CONCLUSION
The results suggest that berberine or closely related component of butanol fraction may be responsible for the observed biological activities and induce apoptosis in prostate cancer cells by targeting critical cell survival signaling pathways both in vitro and in vivo.
doi:10.1002/pros.20899
PMCID: PMC2674392  PMID: 19107816
nexrutine; apoptosis; fractionation

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