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1.  Tissue-Infiltrating Neutrophils Constitute the Major In Vivo Source of Angiogenesis-Inducing MMP-9 in the Tumor Microenvironment12 
Neoplasia (New York, N.Y.)  2014;16(10):771-788.
According to established notion, one of the major angiogenesis-inducing factors, pro-matrix metalloproteinase-9 (proMMP-9), is supplied to the tumor microenvironment by tumor-associated macrophages (TAMs). Accumulated evidence, however, indicates that tumor-associated neutrophils (TANs) are also critically important for proMMP-9 delivery, especially at early stages of tumor development. To clarify how much angiogenic proMMP-9 is actually contributed by TAMs and TANs, we quantitatively evaluated TAMs and TANs from different tumor types, including human xenografts and syngeneic murine tumors grown in wild-type and Mmp9-knockout mice. Whereas host MMP-9 competence was required for full angiogenic potential of both normal and tumor-associated leukocytes, direct comparisons of neutrophils versus macrophages and TANs versus TAMs demonstrated that macrophages and TAMs secrete 40- to 50-fold less proMMP-9 than the same numbers of neutrophils or TANs. Correspondingly, the levels of MMP-9–mediated in vivo angiogenesis induced by neutrophils and TANs substantially exceeded those induced by macrophages and TAMs. MMP-9–delivering TANs were also required for development of metastasis-supporting intratumoral vasculature, characterized by ≥ 11-μm size lumens and partial coverage with stabilizing pericytes. Importantly, MMP-9–producing TAMs exhibit M2-skewed phenotype but do not express tissue inhibitor of metalloproteinases-1 (TIMP-1), a novel characteristic allowing them to secrete TIMP-1–free, neutrophil-like MMP-9 zymogen unencumbered by its natural inhibitor. Together, our findings support the notion whereby TANs, capable of immediate release of their pre-stored cargo, are the major contributors of highly angiogenic MMP-9, whereas tumor-influxing precursors of macrophages require time to differentiate, polarize into M2-skewed TAMs, shut down their TIMP-1 expression, and only then, initiate relatively low-level production of TIMP-free MMP-9 zymogen.
PMCID: PMC4212255  PMID: 25379015
BM, bone marrow; BMD, bone marrow–derived; CM, conditioned medium; IL, interleukin; KO, knockout; M-CSF, macrophage colony-stimulating factor; MMP, matrix metalloproteinase; PB, peripheral blood; PBD, peripheral blood–derived; TAM, tumor-associated macrophage; TAN, tumor-associated neutrophil; TIMP, tissue inhibitor of metalloproteinases
2.  The timing of TGF-β inhibition affects the generation of antigen-specific CD8+ T Cells 
BMC Immunology  2013;14:30.
Transforming growth factor (TGF)-β is a potent immunosuppressive cytokine necessary for cancer growth. Animal and human studies have shown that pharmacologic inhibition of TGF-β slows the growth rate of established tumors and occasionally eradicates them altogether. We observed, paradoxically, that inhibiting TGF-β before exposing animals to tumor cells increases tumor growth kinetics. We hypothesized that TGF-β is necessary for the anti-tumor effects of cytotoxic CD8+ T lymphocytes (CTLs) during the early stages of tumor initiation.
BALB/c mice were pretreated with a blocking soluble TGF-β receptor (sTGF-βR, TGF-β-blockade group, n=20) or IgG2a (Control group, n=20) before tumor inoculation. Tumor size was followed for 6 weeks. In vivo lymphocyte assays and depletion experiments were then performed to investigate the immunological basis of our results. Lastly, animals were pretreated with either sTGF-βR (n=6) or IgG2a (n=6) prior to immunization with an adenoviral vector encoding the human papillomavirus E7 gene (Ad.E7). One week later, flow cytometry was utilized to measure the number of splenic E7-specific CD8+ T cells.
Inhibition of TGF-β before the injection of tumor cells resulted in significantly larger average tumor volumes on days 11, 17, 22, 26 and 32 post tumor-inoculation (p < 0.05). This effect was due to the inhibition of CTLs, as it was not present in mice with severe combined immunodeficiency (SCID) or those depleted of CD8+ T cells. Furthermore, pretreatment with sTGF-βR inhibited tumor-specific CTL activity in a Winn Assay. Tumors grew to a much larger size when mixed with CD8+ T cells from mice pretreated with sTGF-βR than when mixed with CD8+ T cells from mice in the control group: 96 mm3 vs. 22.5 mm3, respectively (p < 0.05). In addition, fewer CD8+ T cells were generated in Ad.E7-immunized mice pretreated with sTGF-βR than in mice from the control group: 0.6% total CD8+ T cells vs. 1.9%, respectively (p < 0.05).
These studies provide the first in vivo evidence that TGF-β may be necessary for anti-tumor immune responses in certain cancers. This finding has important implications for our understanding of anti-tumor immune responses, the role of TGF-β in the immune system, and the future development of TGF-β inhibiting drugs.
PMCID: PMC3725164  PMID: 23865808
Malignant mesothelioma; Tumor immunology; Immune suppression; TGF-β; CD8+ Cytotoxic T cell
3.  Analysis of tanshinone IIA induced cellular apoptosis in leukemia cells by genome-wide expression profiling 
Tanshinone IIA (Tan IIA) is a diterpene quinone extracted from the root of Salvia miltiorrhiza, a Chinese traditional herb. Although previous studies have reported the anti-tumor effects of Tan IIA on various human cancer cells, the underlying mechanisms are not clear. The current study was undertaken to investigate the molecular mechanisms of Tan IIA's apoptotic effects on leukemia cells in vitro.
The cytotoxicity of Tan IIA on different types of leukemia cell lines was evaluated by the 3-[4,5-dimethylthiazol-2,5]-diphenyl tetrazolium bromide (MTT) assay on cells treated without or with Tan IIA at different concentrations for different time periods. Cellular apoptosis progression with and without Tan IIA treatment was analyzed by Annexin V and Caspase 3 assays. Gene expression profiling was used to identify the genes regulated after Tan IIA treatment and those differentially expressed among the five cell lines. Confirmation of these expression regulations was carried out using real-time quantitative PCR and ELISA. The antagonizing effect of a PXR inhibitor L-SFN on Tan IIA treatment was tested using Colony Forming Unit Assay.
Our results revealed that Tan IIA had different cytotoxic activities on five types of leukemia cells, with the highest toxicity on U-937 cells. Tan IIA inhibited the growth of U-937 cells in a time- and dose-dependent manner. Annexin V and Caspase-3 assays showed that Tan IIA induced apoptosis in U-937 cells. Using gene expression profiling, 366 genes were found to be significantly regulated after Tan IIA treatment and differentially expressed among the five cell lines. Among these genes, CCL2 was highly expressed in untreated U-937 cells and down-regulated significantly after Tan IIA treatment in a dose-dependent manner. RT-qPCR analyses validated the expression regulation of 80% of genes. Addition of L- sulforaphane (L-SFN), an inhibitor of Pregnane × receptor (PXR) significantly attenuated Tan IIA's effects using colony forming assays.
Tan IIA has significant growth inhibition effects on U-937 cells through the induction of apoptosis. And Tan IIA-induced apoptosis might result from the activation of PXR, which suppresses the activity of NF-κB and lead to the down-regulation of CCL2 expression.
PMCID: PMC3398275  PMID: 22248096
Gene expression profiling; apoptosis; CCL2; U-937 cell lines; tanshinone IIA (Tan IIA)
4.  Transcriptomic Analysis Comparing Tumor-Associated Neutrophils with Granulocytic Myeloid-Derived Suppressor Cells and Normal Neutrophils 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(2):e31524.
The role of myeloid cells in supporting cancer growth is well established. Most work has focused on myeloid-derived suppressor cells (MDSC) that accumulate in tumor-bearing animals, but tumor-associated neutrophils (TAN) are also known to be capable of augmenting tumor growth. However, little is known about their evolution, phenotype, and relationship to naïve neutrophils (NN) and to the granulocytic fraction of MDSC (G-MDSC).
In the current study, a transcriptomics approach was used in mice to compare these cell types. Our data show that the three populations of neutrophils are significantly different in their mRNA profiles with NN and G-MDSC being more closely related to each other than to TAN. Structural genes and genes related to cell-cytotoxicity (i.e. respiratory burst) were significantly down-regulated in TAN. In contrast, many immune-related genes and pathways, including genes related to the antigen presenting complex (e.g. all six MHC-II complex genes), and cytokines (e.g. TNF-α, IL-1-α/β), were up-regulated in G-MDSC, and further up-regulated in TAN. Thirteen of the 25 chemokines tested were markedly up-regulated in TAN compared to NN, including striking up-regulation of chemoattractants for T/B-cells, neutrophils and macrophages.
This study characterizes different populations of neutrophils related to cancer, pointing out the major differences between TAN and the other neutrophil populations.
PMCID: PMC3279406  PMID: 22348096
5.  TGF-β and immune cells: an important regulatory axis in the tumor microenvironment and progression 
Trends in immunology  2010;31(6):220-227.
Transforming growth factor β (TGF-β) plays an important role in tumor initiation and progression, functioning as both a suppressor and a promoter. The mechanisms underlying this dual role of TGF-β remain unclear. TGF-β exerts systemic immune suppression and inhibits host immunosurveillance. Neutralizing TGF-β enhances CD8+ T-cell- and NK-cell-mediated anti-tumor immune responses. It also increases neutrophil-attracting chemokines resulting in recruitment and activation of neutrophils with an antitumor phenotype. In addition to its systemic effects, TGF-β regulates infiltration of inflammatory/immune cells and cancer-associated fibroblasts in the tumor microenvironment causing direct changes in tumor cells. Understanding TGF-β regulation at the interface of tumor and host immunity should provide insights into developing effective TGF-β antagonists and biomarkers for patient selection and efficacy of TGF-β antagonist treatment.
PMCID: PMC2891151  PMID: 20538542
6.  Hyperinsulinemia Promotes Metastasis to the Lung in a Mouse Model of Her2-mediated Breast Cancer 
Endocrine-related cancer  2013;20(3):391-401.
The Her2 oncogene is expressed in approximately 25% of human breast cancers and is associated with metastatic progression and poor outcome. Epidemiological studies report that breast cancer incidence and mortality rates are higher in women with type 2 diabetes. Here we use a mouse model of Her2-mediated breast cancer on a background of hyperinsulinemia to determine how elevated circulating insulin levels affect Her2-mediated primary tumor growth and lung metastasis. Hyperinsulinemic (MKR+/+) mice were crossed with doxycycline-inducible NeuNT (MTB/TAN) mice to produce the MTB/TAN/MKR+/+ mouse model. Both MTB/TAN and MTB/TAN/MKR+/+ mice were administered doxycycline in drinking water to induce NeuNT mammary tumor formation. In tumor tissues removed at two, four and six weeks of Neu-NT overexpression, we observed increased tumor mass and higher phosphorylation of the insulin receptor (IR)/insulin-like growth factor receptor 1 (IGF-1R), suggesting that activation of these receptors in conditions of hyperinsulinemia could contribute to the increased growth of mammary tumors. After 12 weeks on doxycycline, although no significant further increase in tumor weight was observed in MTB/TAN/MKR+/+ compared to MTB/TAN mice, the number of lung metastases was significantly higher in MTB/TAN/MKR+/+ mice compared to controls (MTB/TAN/MKR+/+ 16.41 ± 4.18 vs. MTB/TAN 5.36 ± 2.72). In tumors at the six week time-point, we observed an increase in vimentin, a cytoskeletal protein and marker of mesenchymal cells, associated with epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition and cancer associated fibroblasts. We conclude that hyperinsulinemia in MTB/TAN/MKR+/+ mice resulted in larger primary tumors, with more mesenchymal cells and therefore, more aggressive tumors with more numerous pulmonary metastases.
PMCID: PMC4093836  PMID: 23572162
7.  Synergistic enhancement of CD8+ T cell-mediated tumor vaccine efficacy by an anti-TGF-β monoclonal antibody 
TGF-β is an immunosuppressive cytokine, having direct suppressive activity against conventional CD4+ and CD8+T cells and NK cells, thereby inhibiting tumor immunosurveillance. Here we investigated possible synergy between anti-TGF-β (1D11) and a peptide vaccine on induction of anti-tumor immunity, and the mechanisms accounting for synergistic efficacy.
Experimental Design
The effect of combination treatment with a peptide vaccine and anti-TGF-β was examined in a subcutaneous TC1 tumor model, as well as the mechanisms of protection induced by this treatment.
Anti-TGF-β significantly and synergistically improved vaccine efficacy as measured by reduction in primary tumor growth, although anti-TGF-β alone had no impact. The number of tumor antigen-specific CTL with high functional avidity as measured by IFN-γ production and lytic activity was significantly increased in vaccinated mice by TGF-β neutralization. Although TGF-β is known to play a critical role in CD4+Foxp3+ Treg cells, Treg depletion/suppression by an anti-CD25 mAb (PC61) prior to tumor challenge did not enhance vaccine efficacy, and adding anti-TGF-β did not affect Treg numbers in lymph nodes or tumors or their function. Also, TGF-β neutralization had no effect on IL-17-producing T cells, which are induced by TGF-β and IL-6. Absence of type II NKT cells, which induce myeloid cells to produce TGF-β was not sufficient to eliminate all sources of suppressive TGF-β. Finally, the synergistic protection induced by anti-TGF-β vaccine augmentation was mediated by CD8+ T cells since anti-CD8 treatment completely abrogated the effect.
These results suggest that TGF-β blockade may be useful for enhancing cancer vaccine efficacy.
PMCID: PMC2804258  PMID: 19861451
TGF-β; vaccine; CD8+ T cells
8.  Blockade of TGF-β enhances tumor vaccine efficacy mediated by CD8+ T cells 
Though TGF-β inhibition enhances anti-tumor immunity mediated by CD8+ T cells in several tumor models, it is not always sufficient for rejection of tumors. In the present study, to maximize the anti-tumor effect of TGF-β blockade, we tested the effect of anti-TGF-β combined with an irradiated tumor vaccine in a subcutaneous CT26 colon carcinoma tumor model. The irradiated tumor cell vaccine alone in prophylactic setting significant delayed tumor growth, whereas anti-TGF-β antibodies alone did not show any anti-tumor effect. However, tumor growth was inhibited significantly more in vaccinated mice treated with anti-TGF-β antibodies compared to vaccinated mice without anti-TGF-β suggesting that anti-TGF-β synergistically enhanced irradiated tumor vaccine efficacy. CD8+ T cell-depletion completely abrogated the vaccine efficacy, so protection required CD8+ T cells. Depletion of CD25+ T regulatory cells led to the almost complete rejection of tumors without the vaccine, whereas anti-TGF-β did not change the number of CD25+ T regulatory cells in un-vaccinated and vaccinated mice. Though the abrogation of CD1d-restricted NKT cells, which have been reported to induce TGF-β production by MDSC through an IL-13-IL-4R-STAT6 pathway, partially enhanced anti-tumor immunity regardless of vaccination, abrogation of the NKT cell-IL-13-IL-4R-STAT-6 immunoregulatory pathway did not enhance vaccine efficacy. Taken together, these data indicated that anti-TGF-β enhances efficacy of a prophylactic vaccine in normal individuals despite their not having the elevated TGF-β levels found in cancer patients and that the effect is not dependent on TGF-β solely from CD4+CD25+ T regulatory cells or the NKT cell-IL-13-IL-4R-STAT-6 immunoregulatory pathway.
PMCID: PMC2818422  PMID: 19830696
9.  Monocyte Chemoattractant Protein–1 Blockade Inhibits Lung Cancer Tumor Growth by Altering Macrophage Phenotype and Activating CD8+ Cells 
The role of chemokines in the pathogenesis of lung cancer has been increasingly appreciated. Monocyte chemoattractant protein–1 (MCP-1, also known as CCL2) is secreted from tumor cells and associated tumor stromal cells. The blockade of CCL2, as mediated by neutralizing antibodies, was shown to reduce tumorigenesis in several solid tumors, but the role of CCL2 in lung cancer remains controversial, with evidence of both protumorigenic and antitumorigenic effects. We evaluated the effects and mechanisms of CCL2 blockade in several animal models of non–small-cell lung cancer (NSCLC). Anti-murine–CCL2 monoclonal antibodies were administered in syngeneic flank and orthotopic models of NSCLC. CCL2 blockade significantly slowed the growth of primary tumors in all models studied, and inhibited lung metastases in a model of spontaneous lung metastases of NSCLC. In contrast to expectations, no significant effect of treatment was evident in the number of tumor-associated macrophages recruited into the tumor after CCL2 blockade. However, a change occurred in the polarization of tumor-associated macrophages to a more antitumor phenotype after CCL2 blockade. This was associated with the activation of cytotoxic CD8+ T lymphocytes (CTLs). The antitumor effects of CCL2 blockade were completely lost in CB-17 severe combined immunodeficient mice or after CD8 T-cell depletion. Our data from NSCLC models show that CCL2 blockade can inhibit the tumor growth of primary and metastatic disease. The mechanisms of CCL2 blockade include an alteration of the tumor macrophage phenotype and the activation of CTLs. Our work supports further evaluation of CCL2 blockade in thoracic malignancies.
PMCID: PMC3049234  PMID: 20395632
tumor immunology; CCL2; lung cancer; mesothelioma; tumor-associated macrophages
10.  Combined targeting of TGF-β1 and integrin β3 impairs lymph node metastasis in a mouse model of non-small-cell lung cancer 
Molecular Cancer  2014;13:112.
Transforming Growth Factor beta (TGF-β) acts as a tumor suppressor early in carcinogenesis but turns into tumor promoter in later disease stages. In fact, TGF-β is a known inducer of integrin expression by tumor cells which contributes to cancer metastatic spread and TGF-β inhibition has been shown to attenuate metastasis in mouse models. However, carcinoma cells often become refractory to TGF-β-mediated growth inhibition. Therefore identifying patients that may benefit from anti-TGF-β therapy requires careful selection.
We performed in vitro analysis of the effects of exposure to TGF-β in NSCLC cell chemotaxis and adhesion to lymphatic endothelial cells. We also studied in an orthotopic model of NSCLC the incidence of metastases to the lymph nodes after inhibition of TGF-β signaling, β3 integrin expression or both.
We offer evidences of increased β3-integrin dependent NSCLC adhesion to lymphatic endothelium after TGF-β exposure. In vivo experiments show that targeting of TGF-β and β3 integrin significantly reduces the incidence of lymph node metastasis. Even more, blockade of β3 integrin expression in tumors that did not respond to TGF-β inhibition severely impaired the ability of the tumor to metastasize towards the lymph nodes.
These findings suggest that lung cancer tumors refractory to TGF-β monotherapy can be effectively treated using dual therapy that combines the inhibition of tumor cell adhesion to lymphatic vessels with stromal TGF-β inhibition.
PMCID: PMC4049383  PMID: 24884715
Integrin; TGF-β; Metastases; Lymph nodes; Lymphatic vessels
11.  Exosome derived from epigallocatechin gallate treated breast cancer cells suppresses tumor growth by inhibiting tumor-associated macrophage infiltration and M2 polarization 
BMC Cancer  2013;13:421.
Tumor-associated macrophages (TAM) play an important role in tumor microenvironment. Particularly, M2 macrophages contribute to tumor progression, depending on the expression of NF-κB. Tumor-derived exosomes can modulate tumor microenvironment by transferring miRNAs to immune cells. Epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG) has well known anti-tumor effects; however, no data are available on the influence of EGCG on communication with cancer cells and TAM.
Murine breast cancer cell lines, 4T1, was used for in vivo and ex vivo studies. Exosome was extracted from EGCG-treated 4T1 cells, and the change of miRNAs was screened using microarray. Tumor cells or TAM isolated from murine tumor graft were incubated with exosomes derived from EGCG-treated and/or miR-16 inhibitor-transfected 4T1 cells. Chemokines for monocytes (CSF-1 and CCL-2), cytokines both with high (IL-6 and TGF-β) and low (TNF-α) expression in M2 macrophages, and molecules in NF-κB pathway (IKKα and Iκ-B) were evaluated by RT-qPCR or western blot.
EGCG suppressed tumor growth in murine breast cancer model, which was associated with decreased TAM and M2 macrophage infiltration. Expression of chemokine for monocytes (CSF-1 and CCL-2) were low in tumor cells from EGCG-treated mice, and cytokines of TAM was skewed from M2- into M1-like phenotype by EGCG as evidenced by decreased IL-6 and TGF-β and increased TNF-α. Ex vivo incubation of isolated tumor cells with EGCG inhibited the CSF-1 and CCL-2 expression. Ex vivo incubation of TAM with exosomes from EGCG-treated 4T1 cells led to IKKα suppression and concomitant I-κB accumulation; increase of IL-6 and TGF-β; and, decrease of TNF-α. EGCG up-regulated miR-16 in 4T1 cells and in the exosomes. Treatment of tumor cells or TAM with exosomes derived from EGCG-treated and miR-16-knock-downed 4T1 cells restored the above effects on chemokines, cytokines, and NF-κB pathway elicited by EGCG-treated exosomes.
Our data demonstrate that EGCG up-regulates miR-16 in tumor cells, which can be transferred to TAM via exosomes and inhibits TAM infiltration and M2 polarization. We suggest a novel mechanism by which EGCG exerts anti-tumor activity via regulation of TAM in tumor microenvironment.
PMCID: PMC3848851  PMID: 24044575
EGCG; Exosomes; miR-16; Tumor microenvironment; Tumor-associated macrophages (TAM)
12.  Quantitative analysis of transient and sustained transforming growth factor-β signaling dynamics 
Mathematical modeling and experimental analyses reveal that TGF-β ligand depletion has an important role in converting short-term graded signaling responses to long-term switch-like responses.
Cells respond in real time to the absolute number of TGF-β molecules in their environment.A single pulse of TGF-β stimulation results in transient SMAD activation whereas repeated short pulses of stimulation result in sustained SMAD activation.Ligand-induced short-term TGF-β/SMAD signaling activation is graded while long-term signaling response is switch-like or ultrasensitive.TGF-β ligand depletion is a major cause of conversion from graded short-term responses to ultrasensitive long-term responses.
The transforming growth factor-β (TGF-β) pathway is a prominent signaling pathway that regulates diverse aspects of cellular homeostasis, including proliferation, differentiation, migration, and death (Massague, 1998). Remarkably, the pleiotropic biological effects of TGF-β are mediated by a relatively simple signaling module (Clarke and Liu, 2008). An interesting question is how such an apparently straightforward and simple cascade can generate a wide array of biological responses depending on the cellular context.
Members of the TGF-β superfamily are frequently used as morphogens in early embryo development (Green, 2002). The best-studied examples include Dpp in Drosophila and Activin in Xenopus (Gurdon and Bourillot, 2001; Lander, 2007). In the developmental context, cells can respond to a graded ligand concentration and produce discrete biological responses (e.g., transcription of certain genes, proliferation, or differentiation; Green, 2002). To convert continuous morphogen stimulation into discrete responses, mechanisms must exist to provide a threshold for the cellular response. How variable TGF-β ligand doses quantitatively control intracellular signaling dynamics and how continuous ligand doses are translated into discontinuous cellular fate decisions remains poorly understood.
We have previously reported that ligand molecules per cell is the input variable to which the cells respond, and ligand number per cell is the best predictor of signaling responses (Zi and Klipp, 2007a; Clarke et al, 2009). Here, we developed an improved mathematical model to predict TGF-β signaling responses by calibrating the model with various experimental data sets from different TGF-β stimulations. Using a combined experimental and mathematical modeling approach, we showed that TGF-β pulse stimulation results in transient activation of the pathway while repeated short pulses at short time intervals lead to a sustained activation similar to persistent ligand exposure.
We next investigate the system response to variable doses of TGF-β in HaCaT cells. Our mathematical model predicts that the short-term Smad2 phosphorylation (after 45 min of TGF-β stimulation) is a graded response, while long-term Smad2 activation (after 24 h of TGF-β stimulation) is a switch-like response (Figure 5A and B). As shown in Figure 5A–D, both short- and long-term Smad2 phosphorylation can be saturated but doses of TGF-β that cause maximum response are quite different. Additionally, the shapes of response curves were different. The short-term Smad2 activation was a graded (Michaelis–Menten-like) response with a very low apparent Hill coefficient of about 0.8 (Figure 5A and C) while the long-term Smad2 activation (P-Smad2 at 24 h) yielded a switch-like response with an apparent Hill coefficient of about 4.5 (Figure 5B and D). Thus, the Smad2 response is initially graded and sharpens over time to become ultrasensitive. To address whether TGF-β-inducible gene expression responses are graded or switch-like in the short and long term, we measured mRNA levels of Smad7, an early responsive gene of TGF-β and protein levels of p21 and PAI-1 whose inductions are delayed and late, respectively. The experimental data show that Smad7 induction exhibits a graded response with corresponding Hill coefficients of about 1.3 (Figure 5E), which is consistent with the graded P-Smad2 response at 45 min (Figure 5A and C). PAI-1 induction in response to variable doses of TGF-β for 24 h is highly ultrasensitive with an apparent Hill coefficient of ∼5.3. Compared with Smad7 and PAI-1, p21 induction is only modest ultrasensitive (nHill≈2) (Figure 5G). These results suggest short-term gene induction by TGF-β appears to be graded while long-term targets are more switch-like. Finally, we measured the growth inhibitory response of HaCaT cells to variable doses of TGF-β. The level of BrdU incorporation is also ultrasensitive with an apparent Hill coefficient of about 4.3 (Figure 5H). Therefore, the long-term TGF-β growth inhibitory response also shows a switch-like behavior. Finally, we show that TGF-β depletion affects long-term Smad phosphorylation and switch-like response of TGF-β signaling system. These findings shed new light on how continuous ligand doses are translated into discontinuous cell fate decisions in biological systems.
In summary, we have shown that the dose and time course of TGF-β stimulation have profound effects on Smad signaling dynamics. The rate of ligand depletion controls the duration of Smad2 phosphorylation. Cells can respond to a short pulse of TGF-β stimulation, and periodic short ligand exposures are sufficient to generate long-term signaling responses. Short-term TGF-β stimulation causes only transient pathway activation and can be terminated by ligand depletion. TGF-β-induced Smad2 phosphorylation is graded in the short-term but ultrasensitive (switch-like) in the long-term (Figure 7). Additionally, cell growth arrest in response to TGF-β shows switch-like rather than graded behavior. Our modeling and experimental analyses suggest that ligand depletion is likely to be involved in sharpening a graded response into a switch-like response.
Mammalian cells can decode the concentration of extracellular transforming growth factor-β (TGF-β) and transduce this cue into appropriate cell fate decisions. How variable TGF-β ligand doses quantitatively control intracellular signaling dynamics and how continuous ligand doses are translated into discontinuous cellular fate decisions remain poorly understood. Using a combined experimental and mathematical modeling approach, we discovered that cells respond differently to continuous and pulsating TGF-β stimulation. The TGF-β pathway elicits a transient signaling response to a single pulse of TGF-β stimulation, whereas it is capable of integrating repeated pulses of ligand stimulation at short time interval, resulting in sustained phospho-Smad2 and transcriptional responses. Additionally, the TGF-β pathway displays different sensitivities to ligand doses at different time scales. While ligand-induced short-term Smad2 phosphorylation is graded, long-term Smad2 phosphorylation is switch-like to a small change in TGF-β levels. Correspondingly, the short-term Smad7 gene expression is graded, while long-term PAI-1 gene expression is switch-like, as is the long-term growth inhibitory response. Our results suggest that long-term switch-like signaling responses in the TGF-β pathway might be critical for cell fate determination.
PMCID: PMC3130555  PMID: 21613981
mathematical model; Smad; TGF-β; ultrasensitivity
13.  Hypoxia and TGF-β Drive Breast Cancer Bone Metastases through Parallel Signaling Pathways in Tumor Cells and the Bone Microenvironment 
PLoS ONE  2009;4(9):e6896.
Most patients with advanced breast cancer develop bone metastases, which cause pain, hypercalcemia, fractures, nerve compression and paralysis. Chemotherapy causes further bone loss, and bone-specific treatments are only palliative. Multiple tumor-secreted factors act on the bone microenvironment to drive a feed-forward cycle of tumor growth. Effective treatment requires inhibiting upstream regulators of groups of prometastatic factors. Two central regulators are hypoxia and transforming growth factor (TGF)- β. We asked whether hypoxia (via HIF-1α) and TGF-β signaling promote bone metastases independently or synergistically, and we tested molecular versus pharmacological inhibition strategies in an animal model.
Methodology/Principal Findings
We analyzed interactions between HIF-1α and TGF-β pathways in MDA-MB-231 breast cancer cells. Only vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) and the CXC chemokine receptor 4 (CXCR4), of 16 genes tested, were additively increased by both TGF-β and hypoxia, with effects on the proximal promoters. We inhibited HIF-1α and TGF-β pathways in tumor cells by shRNA and dominant negative receptor approaches. Inhibition of either pathway decreased bone metastasis, with no further effect of double blockade. We tested pharmacologic inhibitors of the pathways, which target both the tumor and the bone microenvironment. Unlike molecular blockade, combined drug treatment decreased bone metastases more than either alone, with effects on bone to decrease osteoclastic bone resorption and increase osteoblast activity, in addition to actions on tumor cells.
Hypoxia and TGF-β signaling in parallel drive tumor bone metastases and regulate a common set of tumor genes. In contrast, small molecule inhibitors, by acting on both tumor cells and the bone microenvironment, additively decrease tumor burden, while improving skeletal quality. Our studies suggest that inhibitors of HIF-1α and TGF-β may improve treatment of bone metastases and increase survival.
PMCID: PMC2731927  PMID: 19727403
14.  Altered metabolic and adhesive properties and increased tumorigenesis associated with increased expression of transforming growth factor beta 1 
The Journal of Cell Biology  1992;118(3):715-726.
Transforming growth factor-beta (TGF-beta) is a potent mediator of cell proliferation and extracellular matrix formation, depending on the cell type and the physiological conditions. TGF-beta is usually secreted in a "latent" complex that needs activation before it can exert its effects. Several observations correlate increased expression of TGF- beta 1 with tumorigenesis. To evaluate the physiological relevance of increased TGF-beta 1 synthesis in tumor cells we established cell clones overexpressing TGF-beta 1 and observed the resulting physiological changes in TGF-beta overproducing cells in vitro and in vivo. As a model system we used the human E1A-transformed 293 tumor cells, which are insensitive to the direct growth modulatory effects of TGF-beta. The selection of this cell line allows an assessment of physiological alterations independent of TGF-beta induced proliferative changes. The use of two TGF-beta 1 expression vectors containing either the natural or a modified TGF-beta 1 precursor cDNA permitted the establishment of separate 293 cell lines overexpressing latent or active TGF-beta. Comparison of the resulting changes in glycolytic rate, adhesiveness and integrin and plasminogen activator expression established that, in vitro, both types of clones behaved similarly, indicating that expression of latent TGF-beta induces autocrine changes in the tumor cells and thus suggesting that some level of cell- associated activation occurs. TGF-beta overexpression resulted in an increased metabolic rate due to enhanced glycolysis, a property long associated with tumor cells. This increased glycolysis was not associated with altered proliferation. Cells overexpressing TGF-beta also displayed enhanced fibronectin mRNA and plasminogen activator synthesis and increased adhesiveness in vitro. They showed enhanced survival when plated sparsely on plastic in the absence of serum, and attached more readily to laminin. In addition, synthesis of several beta 1 integrins, in particular the alpha 1/beta 1, alpha 2/beta 1, and alpha 3/beta 1, all of which recognize laminin, were enhanced. Finally, cells overexpressing active TGF-beta, but not latent TGF-beta, also showed increased tumorigenicity in nude mice. Thus, an increase in endogenous TGF-beta synthesis confers several proliferation-independent phenotypic changes which may be of significance for the survival of the tumor cell inoculum or its subsequent growth, and for tumor formation and development. In the case of cells expressing active TGF-beta, the release of active TGF-beta into the vicinity of the tumor cells may also result in a more hospitable environment for tumor growth.
PMCID: PMC2289543  PMID: 1639853
15.  Gastric cancer cells induce human CD4+Foxp3+ regulatory T cells through the production of TGF-β1 
AIM: To elucidate the molecular and cellular features responsible for the increase of regulatory T cells (Tregs) in gastric cancer.
METHODS: The frequencies of CD4+Foxp3+ Tregs and the level of transforming growth factor-β1 (TGF-β1) were analyzed from 56 patients with gastric cancer by flow cytometry and enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay respectively. Foxp3 gene expression was analyzed by real-time polymerase chain reaction. The gastric cancer microenvironment was modeled by establishing the co-culture of gastric cancer cell line, MGC-803, with sorting CD4+ T cells. The normal gastric mucosa cell line, GES-1, was used as the control. The production of TGF-β1 was detected in supernatant of MGC and GES-1. The carboxyfluorescein diacetatesuccinimidyl ester (CFSE) dilution assay was performed to evaluate the proliferation characteristics of induced Tregs. Neutralizing anti-TGF-β1 antibody was added to the co-culture system for neutralization experiments.
RESULTS: The level of serum TGF-β1 in gastric cancer patients (15.1 ± 5.5 ng/mL) was significantly higher than that of the gender- and age-matched healthy controls (10.3 ± 3.4 ng/mL) (P < 0.05). Furthermore, the higher TGF-β1 level correlated with the increased population of CD4+Foxp3+ Tregs in advanced gastric cancer (r = 0.576, P < 0.05). A significant higher frequency of CD4+Foxp3+ Tregs was observed in PBMCs cultured with the supernatant of MGC than GES-1 (10.6% ± 0.6% vs 8.7% ± 0.7%, P < 0.05). Moreover, using the purified CD4+CD25- T cells, we confirmed that the increased Tregs were mainly induced from the conversation of CD4+CD25- naive T cells, and induced Tregs were functional and able to suppress the proliferation of effector T cells. Finally, we demonstrated that gastric cancer cells induced the increased CD4+Foxp3+ Tregs via producing TGF-β1. Gastric cancer cells upregulated the production of TGF-β1 and blockade of TGF-β1 partly abrogated Tregs phenotype.
CONCLUSION: Gastric cancer cell can induce Tregs development via producing TGF-β1, by which the existence of cross-talk between the tumor and immune cells might regulate anti-tumor immune responses.
PMCID: PMC3082757  PMID: 21528082
Transforming growth factor-β1; Regulatory T cells; Gastric cancer; Immune suppression
16.  TGF-β blockade controls ascites by preventing abnormalization of lymphatic vessels in orthotopic human ovarian carcinoma models 
Ovarian cancer patients with malignant ascites have poor prognosis. The accumulation of ascites is caused by an imbalance between fluid extravasation from the blood vessels and reabsorption by lymphatic vessels. Whereas, the role of Transforming Growth Factor beta (TGF-β) in tumor progression has been well studied, the role of TGF-β in lymphatic vessel function is far from understood. Here, we sought to dissect the role of TGF-β blockade in the formation of ascites.
Experimental Design
We used soluble TGF-β Receptor II (sTβRII) to block TGF-β signaling in two orthotopic human ovarian carcinoma models: SKOV3ip1 and Hey-A8. We measured tumor proliferation, apoptosis, lymphangiogenesis and angiogenesis by immunohistochemical staining, and examined diaphragm lymphatic vessel network by intraperitoneal injection of a fluorescent dye. Diaphragm lymphatic vessel function was assessed by tracking fluorescent beads in the diaphragm and measuring their drainage rate.
TGF-β blockade impaired tumor growth in both models, accompanied by a decreased tumor cell proliferation and angiogenesis. More strikingly, TGF-β blockade almost completely abolished ascites formation. TGF-β blockade significantly inhibited the expression of VEGF, which is the major contributor to ascites formation. At the same time, TGF-β blockade prevent ‘abnormalization’ of diaphragm lymphatic vessels and improved ascites drainage.
TGF-β blockade decreased ascites by both inhibiting ascites formation and improving ascites drainage. Based on our finding, it is reasonable to consider the use of TGF-β blockade as a palliative treatment for symptomatic ascites.
PMCID: PMC3060297  PMID: 21278244
17.  Promoting effect of neutrophils on lung tumorigenesis is mediated by CXCR2 and neutrophil elastase 
Molecular Cancer  2013;12:154.
Tumor cells produce various cytokines and chemokines that attract leukocytes. Leukocytes can amplify parenchymal innate immune responses, and have been shown to contribute to tumor promotion. Neutrophils are among the first cells to arrive at sites of inflammation, and the increased number of tumor-associated neutrophils is linked to poorer outcome in patients with lung cancer.
We have previously shown that COPD-like airway inflammation promotes lung cancer in a K-ras mutant mouse model of lung cancer (CC-LR). This was associated with severe lung neutrophilic influx due to the increased level of neutrophil chemoattractant, KC. To further study the role of neutrophils in lung tumorigenesis, we depleted neutrophils in CC-LR mice using an anti-neutrophil antibody. This resulted in a significant reduction in lung tumor number. We further selectively inhibited the main receptor for neutrophil chemo-attractant KC, CXCR2. Similarly, this resulted in suppression of neutrophil recruitment into the lung of CC-LR mice followed by significant tumor reduction. Neutrophil elastase (NE) is a potent elastolytic enzyme produced by neutrophils at the site of inflammation. We crossed the CC-LR mice with NE knock-out mice, and found that lack of NE significantly inhibits lung cancer development. These were associated with significant reduction in tumor cell proliferation and angiogenesis.
We conclude that lung cancer promotion by inflammation is partly mediated by activation of the IL-8/CXCR2 pathway and subsequent recruitment of neutrophils and release of neutrophil elastase. This provides a baseline for future clinical trials using the IL-8/CXCR2 pathway or NE inhibitors in patients with lung cancer.
PMCID: PMC3923587  PMID: 24321240
Neutrophil; Elastase; Lung cancer; Inflammation; CXCR2; K-ras
18.  Combination of SLC administration and Tregs depletion is an attractive strategy for targeting hepatocellular carcinoma 
Molecular Cancer  2013;12:153.
Secondary lymphoid tissue chemokine (SLC) is a key CC chemokine for chemotaxis of immune cells and has been an attractive candidate for anti-tumor treatments. However, among the immune cells recruited by SLC to tumors, the CD25+ Foxp3+ regulatory T cells (Tregs) compromise the anti-tumor effects. In this study, we proposed the combination therapy of intratumoral co-administration of SLC and anti-CD25 monoclonal antibodies (mAbs). We hypothesized that the intratumoral injections of SLC and depletion of Tregs would have stronger inhibition effects on the progression of hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) in mice.
C57BL/6 mice were inoculated subcutaneously with the murine HCC cell line, and mice with visible tumors were treated intratumorally with SLC, SLC plus anti-CD25 mAbs or the control antibodies. The percentages of Tregs, effector CD8+ T cells and CD4+ T cells were checked in the tumors, lymph nodes, spleen and liver at regular intervals. The levels of intratumoral IL-12, IFN-γ, IL-10 and TGF-β1 were evaluated. The final anti-tumor effects were measured by the tumor volume and weight as well as the intratumoral activity of MMP2 and MMP9. Bone-marrow-derived dendritic cells were used to explore the mechanisms of maturation induced by SLC in vitro.
Our experiments showed the combination therapy significantly decreased the frequency of Tregs, and increased CD8+ T cells and CD4+ T cells at tumor sites. These alterations were accompanied by an increased level of IL-12 and IFN-γ, and decreased level of IL-10 and TGF-β1. Unexpectedly, we observed a significantly decreased percentage of Tregs, and increased CD8+ T cells and CD4+ T cells in the lymph nodes, spleen and liver after the combination therapy. The growth and invasiveness of HCC was also maximally inhibited in the combination therapy compared with the SLC alone. Furthermore, we confirmed SLC induced the maturation of DCs via NF-κB p65 and this maturation would benefit the combination therapy.
Our data demonstrated that intratumoral co-administration of SLC and anti-CD25 mAbs was an effective treatment for HCC, which was correlated with the altered tumor microenvironment and systemically optimized percentages of Tregs, CD8+ T cells and CD4+ T cells in peripheral immune organs.
PMCID: PMC3914677  PMID: 24304581
SLC; DCs; Tregs; HCC; Anti-tumor immunity
19.  Transforming Growth Factor–β Signaling in Hepatocytes Promotes Hepatic Fibrosis and Carcinogenesis in Mice With Hepatocyte-Specific Deletion of TAK1 
Gastroenterology  2013;144(5):1042-1054.e4.
Transforming growth factor (TGF)-β–activated kinase 1 (TAK1) is activated in different cytokine signaling pathways. Deletion of Tak1 from hepatocytes results in spontaneous development of hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), liver inflammation, and fibrosis. TGF-β activates TAK1 and Smad signaling, which regulate cell death, proliferation, and carcinogenesis. However, it is not clear whether TGF-β signaling in hepatocytes, via TGF-β receptor–2 (Tgfbr2), promotes HCC and liver fibrosis.
We generated mice with hepatocyte-specific deletion of Tak1 (Tak1ΔHep), as well as Tak1/Tgfbr2DHep and Tak1/Smad4ΔHep mice. Tak1flox/flox, Tgfbr2ΔHep, and Smad4ΔHep mice were used as controls, respectively. We assessed development of liver injury, inflammation, fibrosis, and HCC. Primary hepatocytes isolated from these mice were used to assess TGF-β–mediated signaling.
Levels of TGF-β, TGF-βR2, and phospho-Smad2/3 were increased in HCCs from Tak1ΔHep mice, which developed liver fibrosis and inflammation by 1 month and HCC by 9 months. However, Tak1/Tgfbr2ΔHep mice did not have this phenotype, and their hepatocytes did not undergo spontaneous cell death or compensatory proliferation. Hepatocytes from Tak1ΔHep mice incubated with TGF-β did not activate p38, c-Jun N-terminal kinase, or nuclear factor-κB; conversely, TGF-β–mediated cell death and phosphorylation of Smad2/3 were increased, compared with control hepatocytes. Blocking the Smad pathway inhibited TGF-β–mediated death of Tak1−/− hepatocytes. Accordingly, disruption of Smad4 reduced the spontaneous liver injury, inflammation, fibrosis, and HCC that develops in Tak1ΔHep mice. Levels of the anti-apoptotic protein Bcl-xL, β-catenin, connective tissue growth factor, and vascular endothelial growth factor were increased in HCC from Tak1ΔHep mice, but not in HCCs from Tak1/Tgfbr2ΔHep mice. Injection of N-nitrosodiethylamine induced HCC formation in wild-type mice, but less in Tgfbr2ΔHep mice.
TGF-β promotes development of HCC in Tak1ΔHep mice by inducing hepatocyte apoptosis and compensatory proliferation during early phases of tumorigenesis, and inducing expression of anti-apoptotic, pro-oncogenic, and angiogenic factors during tumor progression.
PMCID: PMC3752402  PMID: 23391818
Liver Cancer; Mouse Model; Signal Transduction; Oncogene
20.  Blockade of Autocrine TGF-β Signaling Inhibits Stem Cell Phenotype, Survival, and Metastasis of Murine Breast Cancer Cells 
Transforming growth factor beta (TGF-β) signaling has been implicated in driving tumor progression and metastasis by inducing stem cell-like features in some human cancer cell lines. In this study, we have utilized a novel murine cell line NMuMG-ST, which acquired cancer stem cell (CSC) phenotypes during spontaneous transformation of the untransformed murine mammary cell line NMuMG, to investigate the role of autocrine TGF-β signaling in regulating their survival, metastatic ability, and the maintenance of cancer stem cell characteristics. We have retrovirally transduced a dominant-negative TGF-β type II receptor (DNRII) into the NMuMG-ST cell to abrogate autocrine TGF-β signaling. The expression of DNRII reduced TGF-β sensitivity of the NMuMG-ST cells in various cell-based assays. The blockade of autocrine TGF-β signaling reduced the ability of the cell to grow anchorage-independently and to resist serum deprivation-induced apoptosis. These phenotypes were associated with reduced levels of active and phosphorylated AKT and ERK, and Gli1 expression suggesting that these pathways contribute to the growth and survival of this model system. More interestingly, the abrogation of autocrine TGF-β signaling also led to the attenuation of several features associated with mammary stem cells including epithelial-mesenchymal transition, mammosphere formation, and expression of stem cell markers. When xenografted in athymic nude mice, the DNRII cells were also found to undergo apoptosis and induced significantly lower lung metastasis burden than the control cells even though they formed similar size of xenograft tumors. Thus, our results indicate that autocrine TGF-β signaling is involved in the maintenance and survival of stem-like cell population resulting in the enhanced metastatic ability of the murine breast cancer cells.
PMCID: PMC3593047  PMID: 23482850
Autocrine TGF-beta; Breast cancer; Apoptosis; Lung metastasis; Cancer stem cell
21.  Sesquiterpene lactones isolated from indigenous Middle Eastern plants inhibit tumor promoter-induced transformation of JB6 cells 
Sesquiterpene lactones (SL) are plant secondary metabolites that are known for their anti-fungal, anti-bacterial, anti-inflammatory, and anti-tumor properties. Considering that several SL-derived drugs are currently in cancer clinical trials, we have tested two SL molecules, 3-β-methoxy-iso-seco-tanapartholide (β-tan) isolated from Achillea falcata and salograviolide A (Sal A) isolated from Centaurea ainetensis, for their anti-tumor properties. We used the mouse epidermal JB6P + cells as a model for tumor promotion and cellular transformation. Key players that are involved in cellular transformation and tumorigenesis are the AP-1 and NF-κB transcription factors; therefore, we assessed how β-tan and Sal A modulate their signaling pathways in JB6P + cells.
The effects of β-tan and Sal A on the growth of normal and neoplastic keratinocytes and on the tumor promotion-responsive JB6P + cells were determined using the MTT assay. Anchorage-independent cell growth transformation assays were used to evaluate the anti-tumor promoting properties of these SL molecules in JB6P + cells and dual luciferase reporter assays and western blot analysis were used to investigate their effects on tumor promoter-induced AP-1 and NF-κB activities and protein levels of key AP-1 and NF-кB target genes.
β-tan and Sal A selectively inhibited tumor promoter-induced cell growth and transformation of JB6P + cells at concentrations that do not affect JB6P + and primary keratinocytes basal cell growth. In addition, both molecules reduced basal and tumor promoter-induced NF-κB transcriptional activities, differentially regulated basal and tumor promoter-induced AP-1 transcriptional activities, and modulated key players of the AP-1 and NF-κB signaling pathways.
These results highlight the anti-tumor promoting properties of β-tan and Sal A. These SL molecules isolated from two plant species native to the Middle East may provide opportunities for complementary medicine practices.
PMCID: PMC3439278  PMID: 22776414
22.  TGF-β Receptor Blockade Augments the Effectiveness of Adoptive T-Cell Therapy of Established Solid Cancers 
Adoptive cellular immunotherapy has promise as an approach to eradicate established tumors. However, a significant hurdle in the success of cellular immunotherapy involves recently identified mechanisms of immune suppression on cytotoxic T-cells at the effector phase.
Transforming growth factor-β (TGF-β) is one of the most important of these immunosuppressive factors because it affects both T-cell and macrophage functions. We thus hypothesized that systemic blockade of TGF-β signaling combined with adoptive T-cell transfer would enhance the effectiveness of the therapy.
Experimental Design
Flank tumors were generated in mice using the OVA-albumin (OA) expressing thymoma cell line, EG7. Splenocytes from transgenic OT-1 mice (whose CD8 T-cells recognize an immunodominant peptide in OA) were activated in vitro and adoptively transferred into mice bearing large tumors in the presence or absence of an orally available TGF-β receptor-I kinase blocker (SM16).
We observed markedly smaller tumors in the group receiving the combination of SM16 chow and adoptive transfer. Additional investigation revealed that TGF-β receptor blockade increased the persistence of adoptively transferred T-cells in the spleen and lymph nodes, increased numbers of adoptively transferred T-cells within tumors, increased activation of these infiltrating T-cells, and altered the tumor microenvironment with a significant increase in TNF-α and decrease in arginase mRNA expression
We found that systemic blockade of TGF-β receptor activity augmented the anti-tumor activity of adoptively transferred T-cells and may thus be a useful adjunct in future clinical trials.
PMCID: PMC2491721  PMID: 18559619
tumor immunology; immunosuppression; TGFβ; Cytotoxic T-cells; cytokines; adoptive transfer
23.  Human Tumour Immune Evasion via TGF-β Blocks NK Cell Activation but Not Survival Allowing Therapeutic Restoration of Anti-Tumour Activity 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(9):e22842.
Immune evasion is now recognized as a key feature of cancer progression. In animal models, the activity of cytotoxic lymphocytes is suppressed in the tumour microenvironment by the immunosuppressive cytokine, Transforming Growth Factor (TGF)-β. Release from TGF-β-mediated inhibition restores anti-tumour immunity, suggesting a therapeutic strategy for human cancer. We demonstrate that human natural killer (NK) cells are inhibited in a TGF-β dependent manner following chronic contact-dependent interactions with tumour cells in vitro. In vivo, NK cell inhibition was localised to the human tumour microenvironment and primary ovarian tumours conferred TGF-β dependent inhibition upon autologous NK cells ex vivo. TGF-β antagonized the interleukin (IL)-15 induced proliferation and gene expression associated with NK cell activation, inhibiting the expression of both NK cell activation receptor molecules and components of the cytotoxic apparatus. Interleukin-15 also promotes NK cell survival and IL-15 excluded the pro-apoptotic transcription factor FOXO3 from the nucleus. However, this IL-15 mediated pathway was unaffected by TGF-β treatment, allowing NK cell survival. This suggested that NK cells in the tumour microenvironment might have their activity restored by TGF-β blockade and both anti-TGF-β antibodies and a small molecule inhibitor of TGF-β signalling restored the effector function of NK cells inhibited by autologous tumour cells. Thus, TGF-β blunts NK cell activation within the human tumour microenvironment but this evasion mechanism can be therapeutically targeted, boosting anti-tumour immunity.
PMCID: PMC3167809  PMID: 21909397
24.  Systemic Blockade of Transforming Growth Factor-β (TGF-β) Signaling Augments the Efficacy of Immunogene Therapy 
Cancer research  2008;68(24):10247-10256.
Locally-produced TGF-β promotes tumor-induced immunosuppression and contributes to resistance to immunotherapy. This paper explores the potential for increased efficacy when combining immunotherapies with TGF-β suppression using the TGF-β type I receptor kinase inhibitor, SM16. Adenovirus expressing IFNβ (Ad.IFNβ) was injected intratumorally once in established subcutaneous AB12 (mesothelioma) and LKR (lung cancer) tumors or intratracheally in a K-ras orthotopic lung tumor model. Mice bearing TC1 (lung cancer) tumors were vaccinated with two injections of adenovirus expressing HPV-E7 (Ad.E7). SM16 was administered orally in formulated chow. Tumor growth was assessed and cytokine-expression and cell populations were measured in tumors and spleens by real time-PCR and flow cytometry. SM16 potentiated the efficacy of both immunotherapies in each of the models and caused changes in the tumor microenvironment. The combination of SM16 and Ad.INFβ increased the number of intratumoral leukocytes (including macrophages, NK cells, and CD8+ cells) and increased the percentage of T-cells expressing the activation marker CD25. SM16 also augmented the anti-tumor effects of Ad.E7 in the TC1 flank tumor model. The combination did not increase HPV-E7 tetramer-positive CD8+ T cells in the spleens, but did induce a marked increase in the tumors. Tumors from SM16-treated mice showed increased mRNA and protein for immunostimulatory cytokines and chemokines, as well as endothelial adhesion molecules, suggesting a mechanism for the increased intratumoral leukocyte trafficking. Blockade of the TGF-β signaling pathway augments the anti-tumor effects of Ad.INFβ immune-activating or Ad.E7 vaccination therapy. The addition of TGF-β blocking agents in clinical trials of immunotherapies may increase efficacy.
PMCID: PMC2637471  PMID: 19074893
tumor immunology; immunosuppression; TGFβ; tumor associated macrophages; cytokines; lung cancer; mesothelioma; tumor vaccine; interferon-β
25.  Loss of PPM1A expression enhances invasion and the epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition in bladder cancer by activating the TGF-β/Smad signaling pathway 
Oncotarget  2014;5(14):5700-5711.
The transforming growth factor-β (TGF-β) signaling pathway is believed to contribute to carcinoma development by increasing cell invasiveness and metastasis and inducing the epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition (EMT). Protein phosphatase PPM1A has been reported to dephosphorylate TGF-β-activated Smad2/3, thus inhibiting the TGF-β signaling pathway. In this study, we investigated the role of PPM1A in bladder cancer. PPM1A protein expression was analyzed in 145 bladder cancer specimens. The loss of PPM1A expression was predictive of poor survival and high muscle-invasiveness. PPM1A was more commonly deficient among muscle-invasive relapse samples compared to primary tumors in twenty paired bladder cancer tissues. Functional studies indicated that blockade of PPM1A through lentivirus-mediated RNA interference significantly promoted urinary bladder cancer (BCa) cell motility, the EMT in vitro and metastasis in vivo, and these effects were dependent on the TGF-β/Smad signaling pathway. The increase in p-Smad2/3 induced by TGF-β1 correlated with the degree of PPM1A depletion in BCa cells, which resulted in an altered expression profile of TGF-β-inducible genes. The correlations between PPM1A and biomarkers related to the TGF-β signaling pathway and tumor invasion were also detected in BCa samples. These results demonstrate that loss of PPM1A is associated with the development of tumor invasion in bladder cancer.
PMCID: PMC4170610  PMID: 25026293
urinary bladder cancer; PPM1A; TGF-β signaling; muscle-invasive; EMT

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