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1.  Anterior gradient protein 2 promotes survival, migration and invasion of papillary thyroid carcinoma cells 
Molecular Cancer  2014;13:160.
Through a transcriptome microarray analysis, we have isolated Anterior gradient protein 2 (AGR2) as a gene up-regulated in papillary thyroid carcinoma (PTC). AGR2 is a disulfide isomerase over-expressed in several human carcinomas and recently linked to endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stress. Here, we analyzed the expression of AGR2 in PTC and its functional role.
Expression of AGR2 was studied by immunohistochemistry and real time PCR in normal thyroids and in PTC samples. The function of AGR2 was studied by knockdown in PTC cells and by ectopic expression in non-transformed thyroid cells. The role of AGR2 in the ER stress was analyzed upon treatment of cells, expressing or not AGR2, with Bortezomib and analyzing by Western blot the expression levels of GADD153.
PTC over-expressed AGR2 at mRNA and protein levels. Knockdown of AGR2 in PTC cells induced apoptosis and decreased migration and invasion. Ectopic expression of AGR2 in non-transformed human thyroid cells increased migration and invasion and protected cells from ER stress induced by Bortezomib.
AGR2 is a novel marker of PTC and plays a role in thyroid cancer cell survival, migration, invasion and protection from ER stress.
PMCID: PMC4094684  PMID: 24976026
Thyroid cancer; AGR2; Endoplasmic reticulum stress; Survival; Migration and invasion
2.  The estrogen-regulated anterior gradient 2 (AGR2) protein in breast cancer: a potential drug target and biomarker 
Initially discovered as an estrogen-responsive gene in breast cancer cell lines, anterior gradient 2 (AGR2) is a developmentally regulated gene belonging to the protein disulfide isomerase (PDI) gene family. Developmentally, AGR2 is expressed in the mammary gland in an estrogen-dependent manner, and AGR2 knockout and overexpression mouse models indicate that the gene promotes lobuloalveolar development by stimulating cell proliferation. Although AGR2 overexpression alone seems insufficient for breast tumorigenesis in mice, several lines of investigations suggest that AGR2 promotes breast tumorigenesis. Overexpression of AGR2 in several breast cancer cell lines increases cell survival in clonogenic assays and cell proliferation, whereas AGR2 loss of function leads to decreased cell cycle progression and cell death. In addition, AGR2 was shown to promote metastasis of breast epithelial cells in an in vivo metastasis assay. As a PDI, AGR2 is thought to be involved in the unfolded protein response that alleviates endoplasmic reticulum stress. Since cancer has to overcome proteotoxic stress due to excess protein production, AGR2 may be one of many pro-survival factors recruited to assist in protein folding or degradation or both. When AGR2 is secreted, it plays a role in cellular adhesion and dissemination of metastatic tumor cells. In breast cancer, AGR2 expression is associated with estrogen receptor (ER)-positive tumors; its overexpression is a predictor of poor prognosis. The AGR2 gene is directly targeted by ER-alpha, which is preferentially bound in tumors with poor outcome. Whereas aromatase inhibitor therapy decreases AGR2 expression, tamoxifen acts as an agonist of AGR2 expression in ER-positive tumors, perhaps contributing to tamoxifen resistance. AGR2 is also overexpressed in a subset of ER-negative tumors. Furthermore, AGR2 expression is associated with the dissemination of metastatic breast cancer cells and can be used as a marker to identify circulating tumor cells and metastatic cells in sentinel lymph nodes. In conclusion, AGR2 is a promising drug target in breast cancer and may serve as a useful prognostic indicator as well as a marker of breast cancer metastasis.
PMCID: PMC3672732  PMID: 23635006
3.  Prostate cancer cell phenotypes based on AGR2 and CD10 expression 
The combination of expression patterns of AGR2 and CD10 by prostate cancer provided four phenotypes that correlated with clinical outcome. Based on immunophenotyping, CD10lowAGR2high, CD10highAGR2high, CD10lowAGR2low, and CD10highAGR2low were distinguished. AGR2+ tumors were associated with longer recurrence-free survival and CD10+ tumors with shorter recurrence-free survival. In high-stage cases, the CD10lowAGR2high phenotype was associated with a 9-fold higher recurrence-free survival than the CD10highAGR2low phenotype. The CD10highAGR2high and CD10lowAGR2low phenotypes were intermediate. The CD10highAGR2low phenotype was most frequent in high-grade primary tumors. Conversely, bone and other soft tissue metastases, and derivative xenografts, expressed more AGR2 and less CD10. AGR2 protein was readily detected in tumor metastases. The CD10highAGR2low phenotype in primary tumors is predictive of poor outcome; however, the CD10lowAGR2high phenotype is more common in metastases. It appears that AGR2 has a protective function in primary tumors but may have a role in the distal spread of tumor cells.
PMCID: PMC3638070  PMID: 23348903
Prostate cancer; AGR2; CD10; cancer cell phenotypes; patient stratification; bone and soft tissue metastases; xenografts
4.  ErbB3 binding protein 1(EBP1) is a potent repressor of the metastasis-associated gene AGR2 in prostate cancer 
Cancer research  2010;70(1):240-248.
The aberrant activation of the developmentally regulated anterior gradient protein 2 (AGR2) gene has been associated with a metastatic phenotype. However, its mechanism of action and its regulation in prostate cancer is unknown. We had previously found that the ErbB3 binding protein 1 (EBP1), whose expression is reduced in prostate cancer, is a putative repressor of AGR2. The current study demonstrates that overexpression of AGR2 promotes the motility and invasiveness of non-metastatic LNCaP cells, while silencing of AGR2 in metastatic LNCaP derivative C4–2B cells significantly reduced cell invasion, suggesting AGR2 is an important determinant of the invasive capacity in human prostate cancer. Further, we provide evidence that the anti-invasive effect of EBP1 occurs, at least in part, through its ability to inhibit the expression of AGR2. EBP1 suppresses the promoter activity of the AGR2 gene, downregulates Foxa1 & Foxa2-stimulated AGR2 transcription and decreases metastatic behavior. In contrast, ablation of EBP1 upregulates the expression of the AGR2 gene, enhances Foxa1 and Foxa2–stimulated AGR2 promoter activity, and results in a more metastatic phenotype. We also found a significant inverse correlation between EBP1 and AGR2 levels in prostate cancer cell lines and importantly, primary prostate tumors. Collectively, our results highlight a previously uncharacterized EBP1-Foxa-AGR2 signaling circuit that has potential mechanistic and functional significance in therapeutic management of metastatic prostate cancer.
PMCID: PMC3724404  PMID: 20048076
5.  AGR2 Is Induced in Asthma and Promotes Allergen-Induced Mucin Overproduction 
Mucins are gel-forming proteins that are responsible for the characteristic viscoelastic properties of mucus. Mucin overproduction is a hallmark of asthma, but the cellular requirements for airway mucin production are poorly understood. The endoplasmic reticulum (ER) protein anterior gradient homolog 2 (AGR2) is required for production of the intestinal mucin MUC2, but its role in the production of the airway mucins MUC5AC and MUC5B is not established. Microarray data were analyzed to examine the relationship between AGR2 and MUC5AC expression in asthma. Immunofluorescence was used to localize AGR2 in airway cells. Coimmunoprecipitation was used to identify AGR2-immature MUC5AC complexes. Agr2−/− mice were used to determine the role of AGR2 in allergic airway disease. AGR2 localized to the ER of MUC5AC- and MUC5B-producing airway cells and formed a complex with immature MUC5AC. AGR2 expression increased together with MUC5AC expression in airway epithelium from “Th2-high” asthmatics. Allergen-challenged Agr2−/− mice had greater than 50% reductions in MUC5AC and MUC5B proteins compared with allergen-challenged wild-type mice. Impaired mucin production in Agr2−/− mice was accompanied by an increase in the proportion of mucins contained within the ER and by evidence of ER stress in airway epithelium. This study shows that AGR2 increases with mucin overproduction in individuals with asthma and in mouse models of allergic airway disease. AGR2 interacts with immature mucin in the ER and loss of AGR2 impairs allergen-induced MUC5AC and MUC5B overproduction.
PMCID: PMC3423459  PMID: 22403803
asthma; airway epithelium; mucus; endoplasmic reticulum stress; protein disulfide isomerase
6.  Human Oral Isolate Lactobacillus fermentum AGR1487 Reduces Intestinal Barrier Integrity by Increasing the Turnover of Microtubules in Caco-2 Cells 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(11):e78774.
Lactobacillus fermentum is found in fermented foods and thought to be harmless. In vivo and clinical studies indicate that some L. fermentum strains have beneficial properties, particularly for gastrointestinal health. However, L. fermentum AGR1487 decreases trans-epithelial electrical resistance (TEER), a measure of intestinal barrier integrity. The hypothesis was that L. fermentum AGR1487 decreases the expression of intestinal cell tight junction genes and proteins, thereby reducing barrier integrity. Transcriptomic and proteomic analyses of Caco-2 cells (model of human intestinal epithelial cells) treated with L. fermentum AGR1487 were used to obtain a global view of the effect of the bacterium on intestinal epithelial cells. Specific functional characteristics by which L. fermentum AGR1487 reduces intestinal barrier integrity were examined using confocal microscopy, cell cycle progression and adherence bioassays. The effects of TEER-enhancing L. fermentum AGR1485 were investigated for comparison. L. fermentum AGR1487 did not alter the expression of Caco-2 cell tight junction genes (compared to L. fermentum AGR1485) and tight junction proteins were not able to be detected. However, L. fermentum AGR1487 increased the expression levels of seven tubulin genes and the abundance of three microtubule-associated proteins, which have been linked to tight junction disassembly. Additionally, Caco-2 cells treated with L. fermentum AGR1487 did not have defined and uniform borders of zona occludens 2 around each cell, unlike control or AGR1485 treated cells. L. fermentum AGR1487 cells were required for the negative effect on barrier integrity (bacterial supernatant did not cause a decrease in TEER), suggesting that a physical interaction may be necessary. Increased adherence of L. fermentum AGR1487 to Caco-2 cells (compared to L. fermentum AGR1485) was likely to facilitate this cell-to-cell interaction. These findings illustrate that bacterial strains of the same species can cause contrasting host responses and suggest that food-safe status should be given to individual strains not species.
PMCID: PMC3828418  PMID: 24244356
7.  The estrogen-responsive Agr2 gene regulates mammary epithelial proliferation and facilitates lobuloalveolar development 
Developmental biology  2012;369(2):249-260.
Agr2 is a putative protein disulfide isomerase (PDI) initially identified as an estrogen-responsive gene in breast cancer cell lines. While Agr2 expression in breast cancer is positively correlated with estrogen receptor (ER) expression, it is upregulated in both hormone dependent and independent carcinomas. Several in vitro and xenograft studies have implicated Agr2 in different oncogenic features of breast cancer; however, the physiological role of Agr2 in normal mammary gland development remains to be defined. Agr2 expression is developmentally regulated in the mammary gland, with maximum expression during late pregnancy and lactation. Using a mammary gland specific knockout mouse model, we show that Agr2 facilitates normal lobuloalveolar development by regulating mammary epithelial cell proliferation; we found no effects on apoptosis in Agr2−/− mammary epithelial cells. Consequently, mammary glands of Agr2−/− females exhibit reduced expression of milk proteins, and by two weeks post-partum their pups are smaller in size. Utilizing a conditional mouse model, we show that Agr2 constitutive expression drives precocious lobuloalveolar development and increased milk protein expression in the virgin mammary gland. In vitro studies using knock down and overexpression strategies in estrogen receptor positive and negative mammary epithelial cell lines demonstrate a role for Agr2 in estradiol-induced cell proliferation. In conclusion, the estrogen-responsive Agr2, a candidate breast cancer oncogene, regulates epithelial cell proliferation and lobuloalveolar development in the mammary gland. The pro-proliferative effects of Agr2 may explain its actions in early tumorigenesis.
PMCID: PMC3465459  PMID: 22819674
Agr2; mammary gland; development; proliferation; estrogen-responsive; knockout; overexpression
8.  Zebrafish Agr2 Is Required for Terminal Differentiation of Intestinal Goblet Cells 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(4):e34408.
Mammalian Anterior Gradient 2 (AGR2) is a protein disulfide isomerase that is required for the production of intestinal mucus and Paneth and goblet cell homeostasis. However, whether increased endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stress occurs in Agr2−/− mice remains a controversial issue.
Methodology/Principal Findings
We characterized the function of zebrafish agr2 by both morpholino antisense oligomer-mediated knockdown and agr2 mRNA overexpression. Fluorescent whole-mount double in situ hybridization indicated that in the intestine, agr2 was only expressed in goblet cells. Significantly increased numbers of immature Alcian blue-stained goblet cells were observed in the intestines of 104- and 120-hours post fertilization (hpf) agr2 morphants. Transmission electron microscopy analyses further confirmed the existence of immature pre-goblet cells containing few mucous granules in the mid-intestines of 104- and 120-hpf agr2 morphants. agr2 expression was not significantly induced by an ER stress inducer, tunicamycin. Expression of the ER chaperone gene hspa5, the spliced form of xbp1s, c/enhancer binding protein homologous protein chop, and the activating transcription factor 4b1 atf4b1 were not significantly induced in either 104-hpf agr2 morphants or agr2-overexpressed embryos. Similar percentages of P-Histone H3-stained M phase cells were identified in intestines of 104-hpf agr2 morphants and control embryos.
Our study demonstrates that in contrast to mouse AGR2, zebrafish Agr2 is expressed in only one intestinal secretory cell type - the goblet cells. Agr2 is essential for terminal differentiation of intestinal goblet cells in zebrafish embryos. Either knockdown of agr2 function or agr2 overexpression could not extensively induce expression of members of the unfolded protein response pathway.
PMCID: PMC3326001  PMID: 22514630
9.  Splice variant transcripts of the anterior gradient 2 gene as a marker of prostate cancer 
Oncotarget  2014;5(18):8681-8689.
Anterior gradient 2 (AGR2) is a gene predominantly expressed in mucus-secreting tissues or in endocrine cells. Its expression is drastically increased in tumors including prostate cancer. Here we investigated whether AGR2 transcript levels can be used as a biomarker to detect prostate cancer (PCa). Using a PCR-based approach, we could show that in addition to the wild-type (AGRwt long and short) transcripts, five other AGR2 splice variants (SV) (referred to as AGR2 SV-C, -E, -F, -G and -H) were present in cancer cell lines. In tissue biopsies, SV-H and AGR2wt (short) distinguished between benign and PCa (p ≤ 0.05 n = 32). In urine exosomes, AGR2 SV-G and SV-H outperformed serum PSA. Receiver operating characteristic (ROC) curves showed the highest discriminatory power of SV-G and SV-H in predicting PCa. AGR2 SV-G and SV-H are potential diagnostic biomarkers for the non-invasive detection of PCa using urine exosomes.
PMCID: PMC4226713  PMID: 25237833
Anterior gradient 2 gene; Exosomes; Prostate cancer diagnosis; Urinary biomarkers; Splice variants
10.  Influence of agr on fibrinogen binding in Staphylococcus aureus Newman. 
Infection and Immunity  1996;64(8):3142-3147.
The ability of Staphylococcus aureus to bind fibrinogen is believed to be important in promoting bacterial adherence to both intravascular catheters and host tissues during infection. We investigated the influence of the global regulator agr on the fibrinogen binding capacity and its relationship to the expression of coagulase (encoded by coa) and clumping factor (encoded by clfA) in strain Newman. Strains were obtained by transducing site-specific mutations of clfA, coa, and agr into strain Newman to obtain single, double, and triple mutants of the respective genes. As expected, the clfA mutant bound less soluble 125I-labeled fibrinogen than the corresponding coa mutant in agr+ strains; however, with agr mutant strains, the upregulation in fibrinogen binding capacity correlated mostly with the increased expression and transcription of coagulase as shown by Western (immunoblot) and Northern (RNA) blot analysis. In particular, the coa agr double mutant resulted in a significant reduction in fibrinogen binding compared with that of the agr mutant. The contribution of clfA to fibrinogen binding in agr-negative strains was less than that of coa (32,740 +/- 1,189 versus 18,141 +/- 334 and 38,919 +/- 1,021 cpm for clfA agr, coa agr, and the single agr mutant, respectively). Thus, coagulase is a major binding protein for soluble fibrinogen in the agr-negative background. In in vitro microtiter and catheter adherence assays with solid-phase fibrinogen, clumping factor, but not coagulase, plays a major role in binding to immobilized fibrinogen. coa transcription was negatively modulated by agr and occurred mainly during the exponential growth phase. In contrast, clfA transcription was agr independent and was strongest during the postexponential phase. Although an agr coa clfA triple mutant bound less soluble fibrinogen than the agr coa double mutant (8,504 +/- 831 versus 18,141 +/- 334 cpm), significant residual fibrinogen binding capacity remained in the triple mutant, thus suggesting an additional fibrinogen binding component. By using direct ligand affinity blotting with 125I-fibrinogen, we could identify coagulase and an additional unidentified 52-kDa protein as a fibrinogen binding component in cell extracts. This band was absent in the extract of the coa clfA double mutant.
PMCID: PMC174199  PMID: 8757845
11.  Anterior gradient-2 plays a critical role in breast cancer cell growth and survival by modulating cyclin D1, estrogen receptor-α and survivin 
Anterior-gradient 2 (AGR2) is an estrogen-responsive secreted protein. Its upregulation has been well documented in a number of cancers, particularly breast cancer, for which mixed data exist on the prognostic implications of AGR2 expression. Although emerging evidence indicates that AGR2 is associated with poor prognosis, its function and impact on cancer-relevant pathways have not been elucidated in breast cancer.
To investigate the biologic role of AGR2 in breast cancer, AGR2 was transiently knocked down, by using siRNA, in T47 D and ZR-75-1 (estrogen receptor-α (ER)-positive) and MDA-MB-231 and SK-BR-3 (ER-negative) human breast cancer cell lines. The impact of silencing AGR2 was evaluated in both anchorage-dependent and anchorage-independent growth (soft agar, spheroid) assays. Cell-cycle profiles in ER-positive cell lines were determined with BrdU incorporation, and cell death was measured with Annexin V, JC-1, and F7-26 staining. After transiently silencing AGR2 or stimulating with recombinant AGR2, modulation of key regulators of growth and survival pathways was assessed with Western blot. Combination studies of AGR2 knockdown with the antiestrogens tamoxifen and fulvestrant were carried out and assessed at the level of anchorage-dependent growth inhibition and target modulation (cyclin D1, ER).
AGR2 knockdown inhibited growth in anchorage-dependent and anchorage-independent assays, with a more-pronounced effect in ER-positive cell lines. Cyclin D1 levels and BrdU incorporation were reduced with AGR2 knockdown. Conversely, cyclin D1 was induced with recombinant AGR2. AGR2 knockdown induced cell death in ZR-75-1 and T47 D cells, and also downregulated survivin and c-Myc. Evidence of AGR2-ER crosstalk was demonstrated by a reduction of ER at the protein level after transiently silencing AGR2. AGR2 knockdown in combination with fulvestrant or tamoxifen did not preclude the efficacy of the antiestrogens, but enhanced it. In addition, p-Src, implicated in tamoxifen resistance, was downregulated with AGR2 knockdown.
Transiently silencing AGR2 in ER-positive breast cancer cell lines inhibited cell growth and cell-cycle progression and induced cell death. Breast cancer drivers (ER and cyclin D1) as well as cancer-signaling nodes (pSrc, c-Myc, and survivin) were demonstrated to be downstream of AGR2. Collectively, the data presented support the utility of anti-AGR2 therapy in ER-positive breast cancers because of its impact on cancer-relevant pathways.
PMCID: PMC2917027  PMID: 20525379
12.  Relationship of agr Expression and Function with Virulence and Vancomycin Treatment Outcomes in Experimental Endocarditis Due to Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus aureus ▿ 
Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy  2011;55(12):5631-5639.
The accessory gene regulator (agr) locus has been shown to be important for virulence in several animal models of Staphylococcus aureus infection. However, the role of agr in human infections, and specifically in antibiotic treatment, is controversial. Interestingly, agr dysfunction has been associated with reduced vancomycin responses. To systematically investigate the role of agr in virulence and treatment outcome in the context of endovascular infection, 10 well-characterized vancomycin-susceptible methicillin-resistant S. aureus (MRSA) bloodstream isolates (5 agr-I [clonal complex 45, or CC45] and 5 agr-II [CC5]) were studied for (i) agr function, (ii) RNAIII transcriptional profiles, (iii) agr locus sequences, (iv) intrinsic virulence and responses to vancomycin therapy in an experimental infective endocarditis (IE) model, and (v) in vivo RNAIII expression. Significant differences in agr function (determined by delta-hemolysin activity) correlated with the time point of RNAIII transcription (earlier RNAIII onset equals increased agr function). Unexpectedly, four MRSA strains with strong delta-hemolysin activities exhibited significant resistance to vancomycin treatment in experimental IE. In contrast, five of six MRSA strains with weak or no delta-hemolysin activity were highly susceptible to vancomycin therapy in the IE model. agr sequence analyses showed no common single-nucleotide polymorphism predictive of agr functionality. In vivo RNAIII expression in cardiac vegetations did not correlate with virulence or vancomycin treatment outcomes in the IE model. Inactivation of agr in two strains with strong delta-hemolysin activity did not affect virulence or the in vivo efficacy of vancomycin. Our findings suggest that agr dysfunction does not correlate with vancomycin treatment failures in this experimental IE model in two distinct MRSA genetic backgrounds.
PMCID: PMC3232782  PMID: 21968365
13.  In vitro induction of anterior gradient-2-specific cytotoxic T lymphocytes by dendritic cells transduced with recombinant adenoviruses as a potential therapy for colorectal cancer 
Anterior gradient-2 (AGR2) promotes tumor growth, cell migration, and cellular transformation, and is one of the specific mRNA markers for circulating tumor cells in patients with gastrointestinal cancer. We investigated the feasibility of AGR2 as a potent antigen for tumor immunotherapy against colorectal cancer (CRC) cells using dendritic cells (DCs) transduced with a recombinant adenovirus harboring the AGR2 gene (AdAGR2). DCs transduced with a recombinant adenovirus encoding the AGR2 gene (AdAGR2/DCs) were characterized. These genetically-modified DCs expressed AGR2 mRNA as well as AGR2 protein at a multiplicity of infection of 1,000 without any significant alterations in DC viability and cytokine secretion (IL-10 and IL-12p70) compared with unmodified DCs as a control. In addition, AdAGR2 transduction did not impair DC maturation, but enhanced expression of HLA-DR, CD80, and CD86. AdAGR2/DCs augmented the number of IFN-γ-secreting T-cells and elicited potent AGR2-specific cytotoxic T lymphocytes capable of lysing AGR2-expressing CRC cell lines. These results suggest that AGR2 act as a potentially important antigen for immunotherapy against CRC in clinical applications.
PMCID: PMC3277899  PMID: 22089087
AGR2 protein, human; antigens, neoplasm; colorectal neoplasms; dendritic cells; immunotherapy, active
14.  Knockdown of anterior gradient 2 expression extenuates tumor-associated phenotypes of SNU-478 ampulla of Vater cancer cells 
BMC Cancer  2014;14(1):804.
Anterior gradient 2 (AGR2) has been implicated in tumor-associated phenotypes such as cell viability, invasion and metastasis in various human cancers. However, the tumor promoting activity of AGR2 has not yet been determined in biliary tract cancers. Thus, we examined the expression of AGR2 and its tumor-promoting activity in biliary tract cancer cells in this study.
Expression of AGR2 mRNA and protein was analyzed by real time RT-PCR and western blotting, respectively. MTT assay was employed to measure cell viability and pulsed BrdU incorporation by proliferating cells was monitored by flow cytometry. Soft agar colony formation assay and transwell invasion assay were employed to determine anchorage-independent growth and in vitro invasion of the tumor cells, respectively. In vivo tumor formation was examined by injection of tumor cells into immunocompromised mice subcutaneously. Statistical analysis was performed with 2-tailed unpaired Student’s t-test for continuous data and with one-way ANOVA for multiple group comparisons. Bonferroni tests were used for post hoc 2-sample comparisons.
AGR2 mRNA was detected in SNU-245, SNU-478, and SNU-1196 cell lines, and its protein expression was confirmed in SNU-478 and SNU-245 cell lines by western blot analysis. Knockdown of AGR2 expression with an AGR2-specific short hairpin RNA (shRNA) in SNU-478, an ampulla of Vater cancer cell line resulted in decreased cell viability and in decreased anchorage-independent growth by 98%. The AGR2 knockdown also increased the sensitivity of the cells to chemotherapeutic drugs, including gemcitabine, 5-fluorouracil and cisplatin. In addition, SNU-478 cells expressing AGR2-shRNA failed to form detectable tumor xenografts in nude mice, whereas control cells formed tumors with an average size of 179 ± 84 mm3 in 3 weeks. Overexpression of AGR2 in SNU-869 cells significantly increased cell viability through enhanced cell proliferation and the number of Matrigel™-invading cells compared with AGR2-negative SNU-869 cells.
Our findings implicate that AGR2 expression augments tumor-associated phenotypes by increasing proliferative and invasive capacities of the ampulla of Vater cancer cells.
PMCID: PMC4228270  PMID: 25367337
AGR2; Tumor promotion; SNU-478; SNU-869; Biliary tract cancer; Ampulla of Vater
15.  Transcription of Staphylococcus aureus fibronectin binding protein genes is negatively regulated by agr and an agr-independent mechanism. 
Journal of Bacteriology  1997;179(17):5259-5263.
The production of cell surface proteins in Staphylococcus aureus is generally down-regulated in the postexponential growth phase by the global regulator agr. The effector of this regulation is the RNAIII molecule, which is encoded within the agr locus. RNAIII seems to regulate most target genes at the level of transcription, but it also has an effect on the translation of some genes. To study the role of agr on the expression of fibronectin binding proteins (FnBPs), we investigated the transcription and translation of fnb genes in agr mutant strain WA250 and its parent strain, 8325-4. The results show that fnb genes are negatively regulated by agr and also by an agr-independent mechanism that restricts fnb mRNA synthesis to the early exponential phase of growth. Transcription and Western blot analysis of cell-associated FnBPs demonstrated that synthesis of both FnBPA and FnBPB in the wild-type and agr mutant strains took place preferentially during the first hour of growth and rapidly decreased after the second hour. We also confirmed previous results showing that the agr mutant strain has an increased capacity to bind fibronectin compared to its parent agr+ strain. However, while the concentrations of fnb mRNAs and proteins differed by a factor of 16 between the strains, the difference in fibronectin binding was only twofold, indicating that the binding of fibronectin to the bacteria is not proportional to the amount of FnBPs on their surface.
PMCID: PMC179390  PMID: 9286974
16.  Nox2 Modification of LDL Is Essential for Optimal Apolipoprotein B-mediated Control of agr Type III Staphylococcus aureus Quorum-sensing 
PLoS Pathogens  2013;9(2):e1003166.
Staphylococcus aureus contains an autoinducing quorum-sensing system encoded within the agr operon that coordinates expression of virulence genes required for invasive infection. Allelic variation within agr has generated four agr specific groups, agr I–IV, each of which secretes a distinct autoinducing peptide pheromone (AIP1-4) that drives agr signaling. Because agr signaling mediates a phenotypic change in this pathogen from an adherent colonizing phenotype to one associated with considerable tissue injury and invasiveness, we postulated that a significant contribution to host defense against tissue damaging and invasive infections could be provided by innate immune mechanisms that antagonize agr signaling. We determined whether two host defense factors that inhibit AIP1-induced agrI signaling, Nox2 and apolipoprotein B (apoB), also contribute to innate control of AIP3-induced agrIII signaling. We hypothesized that apoB and Nox2 would function differently against AIP3, which differs from AIP1 in amino acid sequence and length. Here we show that unlike AIP1, AIP3 is resistant to direct oxidant inactivation by Nox2 characteristic ROS. Rather, the contribution of Nox2 to defense against agrIII signaling is through oxidation of LDL. ApoB in the context of oxLDL, and not LDL, provides optimal host defense against S. aureus agrIII infection by binding the secreted signaling peptide, AIP3, and preventing expression of the agr-driven virulence factors which mediate invasive infection. ApoB within the context of oxLDL also binds AIP 1-4 and oxLDL antagonizes agr signaling by all four agr alleles. Our results suggest that Nox2-mediated oxidation of LDL facilitates a conformational change in apoB to one sufficient for binding and sequestration of all four AIPs, demonstrating the interdependence of apoB and Nox2 in host defense against agr signaling. These data reveal a novel role for oxLDL in host defense against S. aureus quorum-sensing signaling.
Author Summary
Staphylococcus aureus is a common colonizer of humans but can also cause severe, invasive infection. S. aureus uses a secreted peptide-based communication system, agr, to induce production of virulence factors needed for invasive infection. Allelic variation has generated four agr types, agr I–IV, and each secretes a distinct autoinducing peptide (AIP1-4) that differs in amino acid sequence and length. Understanding host factors that prevent signaling by each of the four agr specific groups (agrI–IV) could provide opportunities for prevention of infection or therapeutic intervention. We previously demonstrated that apolipoprotein B (apoB), the major structural protein of very low and low density lipoproteins (VLDL, LDL), binds to the secreted agrI peptide, AIP1, and prevents agr signaling. In addition, the NADPH oxidase Nox2 produces reactive oxygen species which directly modify and inactive AIP1. Here we examined the role of apoB and Nox2 in defense against agrIII-signaling. We found that apoB in oxidized LDL, but not in native LDL, mediated optimal binding of AIP3. Also, unlike AIP1, Nox2 did not directly inactivate AIP3. Rather Nox2 contributed to defense against agrIII-signaling by oxidizing LDL. Furthermore, we found that oxLDL bound all four AIPs and antagonized agr signaling by each agr allele in vitro. These results expand our understanding of host defense against S. aureus agr signaling.
PMCID: PMC3573103  PMID: 23459693
17.  Regulation of Neurotoxin Production and Sporulation by a Putative agrBD Signaling System in Proteolytic Clostridium botulinum▿  
Applied and Environmental Microbiology  2010;76(13):4448-4460.
A significant number of genome sequences of Clostridium botulinum and related species have now been determined. In silico analysis of these data revealed the presence of two distinct agr loci (agr-1 and agr-2) in all group I strains, each encoding putative proteins with similarity to AgrB and AgrD of the well-studied Staphylococcus aureus agr quorum sensing system. In S. aureus, a small diffusible autoinducing peptide is generated from AgrD in a membrane-located processing event that requires AgrB. Here the characterization of both agr loci in the group I strain C. botulinum ATCC 3502 and of their homologues in a close relative, Clostridium sporogenes NCIMB 10696, is reported. In C. sporogenes NCIMB 10696, agr-1 and agr-2 appear to form transcriptional units that consist of agrB, agrD, and flanking genes of unknown function. Several of these flanking genes are conserved in Clostridium perfringens. In agreement with their proposed role in quorum sensing, both loci were maximally expressed during late-exponential-phase growth. Modulation of agrB expression in C. sporogenes was achieved using antisense RNA, whereas in C. botulinum, insertional agrD mutants were generated using ClosTron technology. In comparison to the wild-type strains, these strains exhibited drastically reduced sporulation and, for C. botulinum, also reduced production of neurotoxin, suggesting that both phenotypes are controlled by quorum sensing. Interestingly, while agr-1 appeared to control sporulation, agr-2 appeared to regulate neurotoxin formation.
PMCID: PMC2897414  PMID: 20453132
18.  Anterior Gradient Protein-2 Is a Regulator of Cellular Adhesion in Prostate Cancer 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(2):e89940.
Anterior Gradient Protein (AGR-2) is reported to be over-expressed in many epithelial cancers and promotes metastasis. A clear-cut mechanism for its observed function(s) has not been previously identified. We found significant upregulation of AGR-2 expression in a bone metastatic prostate cancer cell line, PC3, following culturing in bone marrow-conditioned medium. Substantial AGR-2 expression was also confirmed in prostate cancer tissue specimens in patients with bone lesions. By developing stable clones of PC3 cells with varying levels of AGR-2 expression, we identified that abrogation of AGR-2 significantly reduced cellular attachment to fibronectin, collagen I, collagen IV, laminin I and fibrinogen. Loss of cellular adhesion was associated with sharp decrease in the expression of α4, α5, αV, β3 and β4 integrins. Failure to undergo apoptosis following detachment is a hallmark of epithelial cancer metastasis. The AGR-2-silenced PC3 cells showed higher resistance to Tumor necrosis factor-related apoptosis- inducing ligand (TRAIL) induced apoptosis in vitro. This observation was also supported by significantly reduced Caspase-3 expression in AGR-2-silenced PC3 cells, which is a key effector of both extrinsic and intrinsic death signaling pathways. These data suggest that AGR-2 influence prostate cancer metastasis by regulation of cellular adhesion and apoptosis.
PMCID: PMC3937391  PMID: 24587138
19.  Antibiotic-Mediated Selection of Quorum-Sensing-Negative Staphylococcus aureus 
mBio  2012;3(6):e00459-12.
Staphylococcus aureus is a human commensal that at times turns into a serious bacterial pathogen causing life-threatening infections. For the delicate control of virulence, S. aureus employs the agr quorum-sensing system that, via the intracellular effector molecule RNAIII, regulates virulence gene expression. We demonstrate that the presence of the agr locus imposes a fitness cost on S. aureus that is mediated by the expression of RNAIII. Further, we show that exposure to sublethal levels of the antibiotics ciprofloxacin, mupirocin, and rifampin, each targeting separate cellular functions, markedly increases the agr-mediated fitness cost by inducing the expression of RNAIII. Thus, the extensive use of antibiotics in hospitals may explain why agr-negative variants are frequently isolated from hospital-acquired S. aureus infections but rarely found among community-acquired S. aureus strains. Importantly, agr deficiency correlates with increased duration of and mortality due to bacteremia during antibiotic treatment and with a higher frequency of glycopeptide resistance than in agr-carrying strains. Our results provide an explanation for the frequent isolation of agr-defective strains from hospital-acquired S. aureus infections and suggest that the adaptability of S. aureus to antibiotics involves the agr locus.
Staphylococcus aureus is the most frequently isolated pathogen in intensive care units and a common cause of nosocomial infections, resulting in a high degree of morbidity and mortality. Surprisingly, a large fraction (15 to 60%) of hospital-isolated S. aureus strains are agr defective and lack the main quorum-sensing-controlled virulence regulatory system. This is a problem, as agr-defective strains are associated with a mortality level in bacteremic infections and a probability of glycopeptide resistance greater than those of other strains. We show here that agr-negative strains have a fitness advantage over agr-positive strains in the presence of sublethal concentrations of some antibiotics and that the fitness defect of agr-positive cells is caused by antibiotic-mediated expression of the agr effector molecule RNAIII. These results offer an explanation of the frequent isolation of agr-defective S. aureus strains in hospitals and will influence how we treat S. aureus infections.
PMCID: PMC3509436  PMID: 23143800
20.  SarS, a SarA Homolog Repressible by agr, Is an Activator of Protein A Synthesis in Staphylococcus aureus 
Infection and Immunity  2001;69(4):2448-2455.
The expression of protein A (spa) is repressed by global regulatory loci sarA and agr. Although SarA may directly bind to the spa promoter to downregulate spa expression, the mechanism by which agr represses spa expression is not clearly understood. In searching for SarA homologs in the partially released genome, we found a SarA homolog, encoding a 250-amino-acid protein designated SarS, upstream of the spa gene. The expression of sarS was almost undetectable in parental strain RN6390 but was highly expressed in agr and sarA mutants, strains normally expressing high level of protein A. Interestingly, protein A expression was decreased in a sarS mutant as detected in an immunoblot but returned to near-parental levels in a complemented sarS mutant. Transcriptional fusion studies with a 158- and a 491-bp spa promoter fragment linked to the xylE reporter gene disclosed that the transcription of the spa promoter was also downregulated in the sarS mutant compared with the parental strain. Interestingly, the enhancement in spa expression in an agr mutant returned to a near-parental level in the agr sarS double mutant but not in the sarA sarS double mutant. Correlating with this divergent finding is the observation that enhanced sarS expression in an agr mutant was repressed by the sarA locus supplied in trans but not in a sarA mutant expressing RNAIII from a plasmid. Gel shift studies also revealed the specific binding of SarS to the 158-bp spa promoter. Taken together, these data indicated that the agr locus probably mediates spa repression by suppressing the transcription of sarS, an activator of spa expression. However, the pathway by which the sarA locus downregulates spa expression is sarS independent.
PMCID: PMC98178  PMID: 11254606
21.  Analysis of the Genetic Variability of Genes Encoding the RNA III-Activating Components Agr and TRAP in a Population of Staphylococcus aureus Strains Isolated from Cows with Mastitis 
Journal of Clinical Microbiology  2002;40(11):4060-4067.
The expression of Staphylococcus aureus virulence proteins is under the control of RNA III, a central pleiotropic regulator transcribed from the agr locus. RNA III is activated by at least two two-component systems, one encoded by the agr locus (AgrC-AgrA) and another encoded outside of this locus (TRAP-RAP). In this work, we developed new typing methods based on genes encoding these two systems, which we used to characterize a nonclonal population of S. aureus bovine mastitis isolates. Twelve agr restriction types were identified in this population, but the majority of strains (56.3%) were grouped in the R III-A1 type. No strain isolated from humans, whose agr sequence is available from GenBank, was found to belong to this major type. Restriction maps constructed for all of those agr variants allowed the linking of all types in an evolution scheme and their grouping in one of the four agr interference groups. This analysis indicates that groups 2, 3, and 4 probably evolved from the more frequently encountered type, which belongs to group 1. agr group 1 was also found to be the most prevalent (69.0% of the strains) and the most polymorphic interference group. By developing an agr group-specific multiplex PCR, we confirmed the above classification of strains in the agr interference groups. Four allelic variants of trap were also identified, indicating that this two-component system is also polymorphic. The majority of strains was grouped in the trap 1 type (71.8%). Whereas no relationships between agr group and trap types were found, strains of similar agr restriction type were also of similar trap type (with the exception of strains belonging to the agr R IV-A5 and R VI-A8 types). Our analysis indicates that S. aureus isolated from cows has predominantly a clonal structure and that the highly prevalent agr R III-A1, trap 1 type (56.3% of the strains) probably possesses a genetic background which endows it with superior ability to infect the bovine mammary gland.
PMCID: PMC139642  PMID: 12409375
22.  Occurrence of methicillin resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) among clinical samples in tehran-iran and its correlation with polymorphism of specific accessory gene regulator (AGR) groups 
Brazilian Journal of Microbiology  2012;43(2):779-785.
Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) is responsible for an increasing number of serious hospital and community acquired infections. Virulence gene expression in Staphylococcus aureus is orchestrated by regulators such as the accessory gene regulator (agr). Staphylococcal strains are divided into four major agr groups (agrI-IV) on the basis of agrD and agrC polymorphisms. The purpose of this study was to define the prevalence of MRSA strains in appointed Tehran's hospitals and then to define and compare the proportion of agr I, II, III, IV polymorphisms between MRSA and Methicillin Sensitive Staphylococcus aureus (MSSA) strains. A total of 235 isolates were evaluated by conventional antibiotic susceptibility tests and PCR for agr and mecA genes. 112 strains were MRSA (47.5%) and the most prevalent agr specific group was agr I followed by agr III, agr II and agr IV, respectively. The prevalence of agr groups amongst MRSA and MSSA strains was not statistically significant (P≥0.05). This study suggests that agr I is not only the most prevalent agr type in MRSAs but also the most common one in Methicillin Sensitive Staphylococcus aureus (MSSA) strains in Iran.
PMCID: PMC3768844  PMID: 24031890
Methicillin Resistant Staphylococcus aureus; agr; PCR
23.  SarT, a Repressor of α-Hemolysin in Staphylococcus aureus 
Infection and Immunity  2001;69(8):4749-4758.
In searching the Staphylococcus aureus genome, we found several homologs to SarA. One of these genes, sarT, codes for a basic protein with 118 residues and a predicted molecular size of 16,096 Da. Northern blot analysis revealed that the expression of sarT was repressed by sarA and agr. An insertion sarT mutant generated in S. aureus RN6390 and 8325-4 backgrounds revealed minimal effect on the expression of sarR and sarA. The RNAIII level was notably increased in the sarT mutant, particularly in postexponential-phase cells, while the augmentative effect on RNAII was less. SarT repressed the expression of α-hemolysin, as determined by Northern blotting, Western blotting, and a rabbit erythrocyte hemolytic assay. This repression was relieved upon complementation. Similar to agr and sarA mutants, which predictably displayed a reduction in hla expression, the agr sarT mutant exhibited a lower level of hla transcription than the sarT mutant. In contrast, hla transcription was enhanced in the sarA sarT mutant compared with the single sarA mutant. Collectively, these results indicated that the sarA locus, contrary to the regulatory action of agr, induced α-hemolysin production by repressing sarT, a repressor of hla transcription.
PMCID: PMC98561  PMID: 11447147
24.  Identification of a Staphylococcal AgrB Segment(s) Responsible for Group-Specific Processing of AgrD by Gene Swapping 
Journal of Bacteriology  2004;186(20):6706-6713.
The four gene products of the accessory gene regulator (agr) P2 operon of Staphylococcus aureus assemble a quorum-sensing system: AgrA and AgrC resemble a two-component signal transduction system, and AgrB and AgrD are required to produce an autoinducing peptide. Upon activation, this quorum-sensing system positively regulates the transcription of the P2 operon as well as the P3 operon, whose transcript, RNAIII, regulates the expression of virulence genes. Four groups of S. aureus have been identified based on the agr sequences and the group-specific interaction between the autoinducing peptide and AgrC. AgrB is a transmembrane protein involved in the processing of AgrD propeptide, and its interaction with AgrD is also group specific. In this study, a series of chimeric AgrBs were constructed by swapping between group I and group II AgrBs, and these mutants were used to analyze the group-specific segment(s) in AgrB that was responsible for AgrD processing. Our results revealed that the first transmembrane α-helix and the extracellular loop 1 of group I AgrB were decisive in the specific processing of group I AgrD. In contrast, two hydrophilic segments of group II AgrB played a crucial role in the group-specific processing of group II AgrD. We also found that several chimeric AgrBs were capable of processing AgrD from both groups, suggesting that all AgrB homologues may utilize the same or a similar mechanism in the processing of AgrDs.
PMCID: PMC522183  PMID: 15466021
25.  Staphylococcus aureus Interaction with Phospholipid Vesicles – A New Method to Accurately Determine Accessory Gene Regulator (agr) Activity 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(1):e87270.
The staphylococcal accessory gene regulatory (agr) operon is a well-characterised global regulatory element that is important in the control of virulence gene expression for Staphylococcus aureus, a major human pathogen. Hence, accurate and sensitive measurement of Agr activity is central in understanding the virulence potential of Staphylococcus aureus, especially in the context of Agr dysfunction, which has been linked with persistent bacteraemia and reduced susceptibility to glycopeptide antibiotics. Agr function is typically measured using a synergistic haemolysis CAMP assay, which is believe to report on the level of expression of one of the translated products of the agr locus, delta toxin. In this study we develop a vesicle lysis test (VLT) that is specific to small amphipathic peptides, most notably delta and Phenol Soluble Modulin (PSM) toxins. To determine the accuracy of this VLT method in assaying Agr activity, we compared it to the CAMP assay using 89 clinical Staphylococcus aureus isolates. Of the 89 isolates, 16 were designated as having dysfunctional Agr systems by the CAMP assay, whereas only three were designated as such by VLT. Molecular analysis demonstrated that of these 16 isolates, the 13 designated as having a functional Agr system by VLT transcribed rnaIII and secreted delta toxin, demonstrating they have a functional Agr system despite the results of the CAMP assay. The agr locus of all 16 isolates was sequenced, and only the 3 designated as having a dysfunctional Agr system contained mutations, explaining their Agr dysfunction. Given the potentially important link between Agr dysfunction and clinical outcome, we have developed an assay that determines this more accurately than the conventional CAMP assay.
PMCID: PMC3907525  PMID: 24498061

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