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1.  HEF1, a Novel Target of Wnt Signaling, Promotes Colonic Cell Migration and Cancer Progression 
Oncogene  2011;30(23):2633-2643.
Misregulation of the canonical Wnt/β-catenin pathway and aberrant activation of Wnt signaling target genes are common in colorectal cancer and contribute to cancer progression. Altered expression of HEF1 (Human Enhancer of Filamentation 1, also known as NEDD9 or Cas-L) has been implicated in progression of melanoma, breast, and colorectal cancer. However, the regulation of HEF1 and the role of HEF1 in colorectal cancer tumorigenesis are not fully understood. We here identify HEF1 as a novel Wnt signaling target. The expression of HEF1 was up-regulated by Wnt3a, β-catenin, and Dvl2 in a dose-dependent fashion, and was suppressed following β-catenin down-regulation by shRNA. In addition, elevated HEF1 mRNA and protein levels were observed in colorectal cancer cell lines and primary tumor tissues, as well as in the colon and adenoma polyps of Apcmin/+ mice. Moreover, HEF1 levels in human colorectal tumor tissues increased with the tumor grade. Chromatin immunoprecipitation (ChIP) assays and HEF1 promoter analyses revealed three functional TCF-binding sites in the promoter of HEF1 responsible for HEF1 induction by Wnt signaling. Ectopic expression of HEF1 increased cell proliferation and colony formation, while down-regulation of HEF1 in SW480 cells by shRNA had the opposite effects and inhibited the xenograft tumor growth. Furthermore, overexpression of HEF1 in SW480 cells promoted cell migration and invasion. Together, our results determined a novel role of HEF1 as a mediator of the canonical Wnt/β-catenin signaling pathway for cell proliferation, migration, and tumorigenesis, as well as an important player in colorectal tumorigenesis and progression. HEF1 may represent an attractive candidate for drug targeting in colorectal cancer.
PMCID: PMC3164309  PMID: 21317929
HEF1; Wnt signaling; colorectal cancer; tumorigenesis
2.  The Docking Protein HEF1 Is an Apoptotic Mediator at Focal Adhesion Sites 
Molecular and Cellular Biology  2000;20(14):5184-5195.
HEF1 (human enhancer of filamentation 1) is a member of a docking protein family that includes p130Cas and Efs. Through assembly of multiple protein interactions at focal adhesion sites, these proteins activate signaling cascades in response to integrin receptor binding of the extracellular matrix. The HEF1 protein is cell cycle regulated, with full-length forms cleaved in mitosis at a caspase consensus site to generate an amino-terminal 55-kDa form that localizes to the mitotic spindle. The identification of a caspase cleavage site in HEF1 led us to investigate whether HEF1 belongs to a select group of caspase substrates cleaved in apoptosis to promote the morphological changes characteristic of programmed cell death. Significantly, inducing expression of HEF1 in MCF-7 or HeLa cells causes extensive apoptosis, as assessed by multiple criteria. Endogenous HEF1 is cleaved into 65- and 55-kDa fragments and a newly detected 28-kDa form in response to the induction of apoptosis, paralleling cleavage of poly(ADP-ribose) polymerase and focal adhesion kinase (FAK); the death-promoting activity of over-expressed HEF1 is associated with production of the 28-kDa form. While the generation of the cleaved HEF1 forms is caspase dependent, the accumulation of HEF1 forms is further regulated by the proteasome, as the proteasome inhibitors N-acetyl-l-leucinyl-l-leucinyl-l-norleucinyl and lactacystin enhance their stability. Finally, the induction of HEF1 expression also increases Jun N-terminal protein kinase (JNK) activation, and activated JNK colocalizes with HEF1, implicating this pathway in HEF1 action. Based on these results, we propose that dysregulation of HEF1 and its family members along with FAK may signal the destruction of focal adhesion sites and regulate the onset of apoptosis.
PMCID: PMC85967  PMID: 10866674
3.  Human enhancer of filamentation 1 is a mediator of hypoxia-inducible factor-1α-mediated migration in colorectal carcinoma cells 
Cancer research  2010;70(10):4054-4063.
Human enhancer of filamentation 1 (HEF1, also known as NEDD9 or Cas-L) is a scaffolding protein that is implicated in regulating diverse cellular processes, such as cellular attachment, motility, cell cycle progression, apoptosis and inflammation. Here, we identify HEF1 as a novel hypoxia-inducible factor-1α (HIF-1α) regulated gene and reveal that HEF1 mediates hypoxia-induced migration of colorectal carcinoma cells. HEF1 is highly expressed in cultured colorectal carcinoma cells exposed to hypoxia and in the hypoxic areas of human colorectal cancer specimens. Moreover, our data demonstrates that HIF-1α mediates the effects of hypoxia on induction of HEF1 expression via binding to a hypoxia-responsive element (HRE) of the HEF1 promoter in CRC cells. Importantly, the induction of HEF1 expression significantly enhances hypoxia-stimulated HIF-1α transcriptional activity by modulating the interaction between HIF-1α and its transcriptional cofactor p300. Inhibition of HEF1 expression also reduced the levels of hypoxia-inducible genes, including those that regulate cell motility. Cell migration was reduced dramatically following knockdown of HEF1 expression under hypoxic conditions. Thus, this positive feedback loop may contribute to adaptive responses of carcinoma cells in encountering hypoxia during cancer progression.
PMCID: PMC2871069  PMID: 20442290
Human enhancer of filamentation 1 (HEF1); hypoxia; HIF-1α; colorectal cancer; carcinoma cell migration
4.  Molecular basis for HEF1/NEDD9/Cas-L action as a multifunctional coordinator of invasion, apoptosis and cell cycle 
Upregulation of the scaffolding protein HEF1, also known as NEDD9 and Cas-L, has recently been identified as a pro-metastatic stimulus in a number of different solid tumors, and has also been strongly associated with pathogenesis of BCR-Abl-dependent tumors. As the evidence mounts for HEF1/NEDD9/Cas-L as a key player in metastatic cancer, it is timely to review the molecular regulation of HEF1/NEDD9/Cas-L. Most of the mortality associated with cancer arises from uncontrolled metastases, thus a better understanding of the properties of proteins specifically associated with promotion of this process may yield insights that improve cancer diagnosis and treatment. In this review, we summarize the extensive literature regarding HEF1/NEDD9/CAS-L expression and function in signaling relevant to cell attachment, migration, invasion; cell cycle; apoptosis; and oncogenic signal transduction. The complex function of HEF1/NEDD9/CAS-L revealed by this analysis leads us to propose a model in which alleviation of cell cycle checkpoints and acquired resistance to apoptosis is permissive for a HEF1/NEDD9/CAS-L-promoted pro-metastatic phenotype.
PMCID: PMC1976382  PMID: 17703068
HEF1/NEDD9/CAS-L; NEDD9; Cas-L; metastasis; scaffolding adaptor protein; invasion; mitosis; apoptosis; signal transduction
5.  Cell Cycle-Regulated Processing of HEF1 to Multiple Protein Forms Differentially Targeted to Multiple Subcellular Compartments 
Molecular and Cellular Biology  1998;18(6):3540-3551.
HEF1, p130Cas, and Efs/Sin constitute a family of multidomain docking proteins that have been implicated in coordinating the regulation of cell adhesion. Each of these proteins contains an SH3 domain, conferring association with focal adhesion kinase; a domain rich in SH2-binding sites, phosphorylated by or associating with a number of oncoproteins, including Abl, Crk, Fyn, and others; and a highly conserved carboxy-terminal domain. In this report, we show that the HEF1 protein is processed in a complex manner, with transfection of a single cDNA resulting in the generation of at least four protein species, p115HEF1, p105HEF1, p65HEF1, and p55HEF1. We show that p115HEF1 and p105HEF1 are different phosphorylation states of the full-length HEF1. p55HEF1, however, encompasses only the amino-terminal end of the HEF1 coding sequence and arises via cleavage of full-length HEF1 at a caspase consensus site. We find that HEF1 proteins are abundantly expressed in epithelial cells derived from breast and lung tissue in addition to the lymphoid cells in which they have been predominantly studied to date. In MCF-7 cells, we find that expression of the endogenous HEF1 proteins is cell cycle regulated, with p105HEF1 and p115HEF1 being rapidly upregulated upon induction of cell growth, whereas p55HEF1 is produced specifically at mitosis. While p105HEF1 and p115HEF1 are predominantly cytoplasmic and localize to focal adhesions, p55HEF1 unexpectedly is shown to associate with the mitotic spindle. In support of a role at the spindle, two-hybrid library screening with HEF1 identifies the human homolog of the G2/M spindle-regulatory protein Dim1p as a specific interactor with a region of HEF1 encompassed in p55HEF1. In sum, these data suggest that HEF1 may directly connect morphological control-related signals with cell cycle regulation and thus play a role in pathways leading to the progression of cancer.
PMCID: PMC108935  PMID: 9584194
6.  A Novel Cas Family Member, HEPL, Regulates FAK and Cell Spreading 
Molecular Biology of the Cell  2008;19(4):1627-1636.
For over a decade, p130Cas/BCAR1, HEF1/NEDD9/Cas-L, and Efs/Sin have defined the Cas (Crk-associated substrate) scaffolding protein family. Cas proteins mediate integrin-dependent signals at focal adhesions, regulating cell invasion and survival; at least one family member, HEF1, regulates mitosis. We here report a previously undescribed novel branch of the Cas protein family, designated HEPL (for HEF1-Efs-p130Cas-like). The HEPL branch is evolutionarily conserved through jawed vertebrates, and HEPL is found in some species lacking other members of the Cas family. The human HEPL mRNA and protein are selectively expressed in specific primary tissues and cancer cell lines, and HEPL maintains Cas family function in localization to focal adhesions, as well as regulation of FAK activity, focal adhesion integrity, and cell spreading. It has recently been demonstrated that upregulation of HEF1 expression marks and induces metastasis, whereas high endogenous levels of p130Cas are associated with poor prognosis in breast cancer, emphasizing the clinical relevance of Cas proteins. Better understanding of the complete protein family should help inform prediction of cancer incidence and prognosis.
PMCID: PMC2291417  PMID: 18256281
7.  Proteolysis of the Docking Protein HEF1 and Implications for Focal Adhesion Dynamics 
Molecular and Cellular Biology  2001;21(15):5094-5108.
The dynamic regulation of focal adhesions is implicated in cellular processes of proliferation, differentiation, migration, and apoptosis. The focal adhesion-associated docking protein HEF1 is cleaved by caspases during both mitosis and apoptosis. Common to both of these cellular processes is the loss of focal adhesions, transiently during mitosis and permanently during apoptosis. The proteolytic processing of HEF1 during both mitosis and apoptosis therefore posits a general role for HEF1 as a sensor of altered adhesion states. In this study, we find that HEF1 undergoes proteolytic processing specifically in response to cellular detachment, while HEF1 proteolysis is prevented by specific integrin receptor ligation and focal adhesion formation. We show that overexpression of a C-terminal caspase-derived 28-kDa HEF1 peptide causes cellular rounding that is demonstrably separable from apoptosis. Mutation of the divergent helix-loop-helix motif found in 28-kDa HEF1 significantly reduces the induction of apoptosis by this peptide, while deletion of the amino-terminal 28 amino acids of 28-kDa HEF1 completely abrogates the induction of apoptosis. Conversely, these mutations have no effect on the rounding induced by 28-kDa HEF1. Finally, we detect a novel focal adhesion targeting domain located in the C terminus of HEF1 and show that this activity is necessary for HEF1-induced cell spreading. Together, these data suggest that proteolytic and other posttranslational modifications of HEF1 in response to loss of adhesion serve to modulate the disassembly of focal adhesions.
PMCID: PMC87235  PMID: 11438665
8.  Deregulation of HEF1 Impairs M-Phase Progression by Disrupting the RhoA Activation Cycle 
Molecular Biology of the Cell  2006;17(3):1204-1217.
The focal adhesion-associated signaling protein HEF1 undergoes a striking relocalization to the spindle at mitosis, but a function for HEF1 in mitotic signaling has not been demonstrated. We here report that overexpression of HEF1 leads to failure of cells to progress through cytokinesis, whereas depletion of HEF1 by small interfering RNA (siRNA) leads to defects earlier in M phase before cleavage furrow formation. These defects can be explained mechanistically by our determination that HEF1 regulates the activation cycle of RhoA. Inactivation of RhoA has long been known to be required for cytokinesis, whereas it has recently been determined that activation of RhoA at the entry to M phase is required for cellular rounding. We find that increased HEF1 sustains RhoA activation, whereas depleted HEF1 by siRNA reduces RhoA activation. Furthermore, we demonstrate that chemical inhibition of RhoA is sufficient to reverse HEF1-dependent cellular arrest at cytokinesis. Finally, we demonstrate that HEF1 associates with the RhoA-GTP exchange factor ECT2, an orthologue of the Drosophila cytokinetic regulator Pebble, providing a direct means for HEF1 control of RhoA. We conclude that HEF1 is a novel component of the cell division control machinery and that HEF1 activity impacts division as well as cell attachment signaling events.
PMCID: PMC1382310  PMID: 16394104
9.  Ableson Kinases Negatively Regulate Invadopodia Function and Invasion in Head and Neck Squamous Cell Carcinoma by Inhibiting an HB-EGF Autocrine Loop 
Oncogene  2012;32(40):4766-4777.
Head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC) has a proclivity for locoregional invasion. HNSCC mediates invasion in part through invadopodia-based proteolysis of the extracellular matrix (ECM). Activation of Src, Erk1/2, Abl and Arg downstream of epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) modulates invadopodia activity through phosphorylation of the actin regulatory protein cortactin. In MDA-MB-231 breast cancer cells, Abl and Arg function downstream of Src to phosphorylate cortactin, promoting invadopodia ECM degradation activity and thus assigning a pro-invasive role for Ableson kinases. We report that Abl kinases have an opposite, negative regulatory role in HNSCC where they suppress invadopodia and tumor invasion. Impairment of Abl expression or Abl kinase activity with imatinib mesylate enhanced HNSCC matrix degradation and 3D collagen invasion, functions that were impaired in MDA-MB-231. HNSCC lines with elevated EGFR and Src activation did not contain increased Abl or Arg kinase activity, suggesting Src could bypass Abl/Arg to phosphorylate cortactin and promote invadopodia ECM degradation. Src transformed Abl−/−/Arg−/− fibroblasts produced ECM degrading invadopodia containing pY421 cortactin, indicating that Abl/Arg are dispensable for invadopodia function in this system. Imatinib treated HNSCC cells had increased EGFR, Erk1/2 and Src activation, enhancing cortactin pY421 and pS405/418 required for invadopodia function. Imatinib stimulated shedding of the EGFR ligand heparin-binding EGF-like growth factor (HB-EGF) from HNSCC cells, where soluble HB-EGF enhanced invadopodia ECM degradation in HNSCC but not in MDA-MB-231. HNSCC cells treated with inhibitors of the EGFR invadopodia pathway indicated that EGFR and Src are required for invadopodia function. Collectively our results indicate that Abl kinases negatively regulate HNSCC invasive processes through suppression of an HB-EGF autocrine loop responsible for activating a EGFR-Src-cortactin cascade, in contrast to the invasion promoting functions of Abl kinases in breast and other cancer types. Our results provide mechanistic support for recent failed HNSCC clinical trials utilizing imatinib.
PMCID: PMC3896120  PMID: 23146907
Abl; imatinib mesylate; invadopodia; invasion; head and neck cancer; cortactin
10.  Human head and neck squamous cell carcinoma cells are both targets and effectors for the angiogenic cytokine, VEGF 
Journal of cellular biochemistry  2008;105(5):1202-1210.
Former vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) - head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC) studies have focused on VEGF’s contributions toward tumor-associated angiogenesis. Previously, we have shown that HNSCC cells produce high levels of VEGF. We therefore hypothesized that VEGF serves a biphasic role i.e. proangiogenic and protumorigenic in HNSCC pathogenesis. Western blots confirmed the presence of VEGF’s primary mitogenic receptors, VEGFR-2/KDR and VEGFR-1/Flt-1 in cultured HNSCC cells. Subsequent studies evaluated VEGF’s effects on HNSCC intracellular signaling, mitogenesis, invasive capacities and matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs) activities. Introduction of hrVEGF165 initiated ROS-mediated intracellular signaling, resulting in kinase activation and phosphorylation of KDR and Erk1/2. As high endogenous VEGF production rendered HNSCC cells refractory to exogenous VEGF’s mitogenic effects, siRNA was employed, inhibiting endogenous VEGF production for up to 96h. Relative to transfection vector matched controls, siRNA treated HNSCC cells showed a significant decrease in proliferation at both 30nM and 50nM siRNA doses. Addition of exogenous hrVEGF165 (30ng/ml and 50ng/ml) to siRNA-silenced HNSCC cells resulted in dose-dependent increases in cell proliferation. Cell invasion assays showed VEGF is a potent HNSCC chemoattractant and demonstrated that VEGF pretreatment enhanced invasiveness of HNSCC cells. Conditioned media from VEGF challenged HNSCC cells showed a moderate increase in gelatinase activity. Our results demonstrate, for the first time, that HNSCC cells are both targets and effectors for VEGF. These data introduce the prospect that VEGF targeted therapy has the potential to fulfill both anti-angiogenic and anti-tumorigenic functions.
PMCID: PMC2643031  PMID: 18802921
VEGF; KDR; Flt-1; Head and neck squamous cell carcinoma; intracellular signaling
11.  Cell Surface Expression of Biologically Active Influenza C Virus HEF Glycoprotein Expressed from cDNA 
Journal of Virology  1999;73(10):8808-8812.
The hemagglutinin, esterase, and fusion (HEF) glycoprotein of influenza C virus possesses receptor binding, receptor destroying, and membrane fusion activities. The HEF cDNAs from influenza C/Ann Arbor/1/50 (HEF-AA) and influenza C/Taylor/1223/47 (HEF-Tay) viruses were cloned and expressed, and transport of HEF to the cell surface was monitored by susceptibility to cleavage by exogenous trypsin, indirect immunofluorescence microscopy, and flow cytometry. Previously it has been found in studies with the C/Johannesburg/1/66 strain of influenza C virus (HEF-JHB) that transport of HEF to the cell surface is severely inhibited, and it is thought that the short cytoplasmic tail, Arg-Thr-Lys, is involved in blocking HEF cell surface expression (F. Oeffner, H.-D. Klenk, and G. Herrler, J. Gen. Virol. 80:363–369, 1999). As the cytoplasmic tail amino acid sequences of HEF-AA and HEF-Tay are identical to that of HEF-JHB, the data indicate that cell surface expression of HEF-AA and HEF-Tay is not inhibited by this amino acid sequence. Furthermore, the abundant cell surface transport of HEF-AA and HEF-Tay indicates that their cell surface expression does not require coexpression of another viral protein. The HEF-AA and HEF-Tay HEF glycoproteins bound human erythrocytes, promoted membrane fusion in a low-pH and trypsin-dependent manner, and displayed esterase activity, indicating that the HEF glycoprotein alone mediates all three known functions at the cell surface.
PMCID: PMC112902  PMID: 10482635
12.  Prostaglandin E2 Induces Human Enhancer of Filamentation 1 to Promote Proliferation of Colorectal Carcinoma Cells 
Cancer research  2010;70(2):824-831.
Elevated expression of cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2) and one of its downstream enzymatic products, prostaglandin E2 (PGE2) have been directly linked to colorectal carcinogenesis in a number of ways. Among which, PGE2 promotes cell proliferation, cell cycle progression, and thus tumor growth. All of the mechanism(s) by which PGE2 signaling regulates cell growth are not completely understood. Here, we demonstrate that PGE2 treatment induces human enhancer of filamentation 1 (HEF1) expression and its link with cell cycle machinery in colorectal cancer cells. PGE2 rapidly stimulated the expression of HEF1 mRNA and protein in colorectal cancer cells. Both PGE2 treatment and HEF1 overexpression resulted in similar effects on cell proliferation, cell cycle progression, and tumor growth. Moreover, knockdown of HEF1 using shRNA suppressed PGE2-driven cell proliferation and cell cycle progression. Cell cycle alterations involved HEF1 fragmentation as well as co-distribution of HEF1 and Aurora A along spindle asters during cell division. Furthermore, HEF1 co-immunoprecipitated with and activated Aurora A. Intriguingly, HEF1 expression was increased in 50% of human colorectal cancers compared with expression in paired normal tissue. These data suggest that PGE2 induces HEF1 expression, which in turn promotes cell cycle progression through its interaction and activation of Aurora A. Clearly, HEF1 is a downstream mediator of PGE2 action during colorectal carcinogenesis.
PMCID: PMC2943830  PMID: 20068165
PGE2; HEF1/NEDD9/Cas-L; colorectal cancer; cell proliferation; cell cycle
13.  Human enhancer of filamentation 1, a novel p130cas-like docking protein, associates with focal adhesion kinase and induces pseudohyphal growth in Saccharomyces cerevisiae. 
Molecular and Cellular Biology  1996;16(7):3327-3337.
Budding in Saccharomyces cerevisiae follows a genetically programmed pattern of cell division which can be regulated by external signals. On the basis of the known functional conservation between a number of mammalian oncogenes and antioncogenes with genes in the yeast budding pathway, we used enhancement of pseudohyphal budding in S. cerevisiae by human proteins expressed from a HeLa cDNA library as a morphological screen to identify candidate genes that coordinate cellular signaling and morphology. In this report, we describe the isolation and characterization of human enhancer of filamentation 1 (HEF1), an SH3-domain-containing protein that is similar in structure to pl30cas, a recently identified docking protein that is a substrate for phosphorylation by a number of oncogenic tyrosine kinases. In contrast to p130cas, the expression of HEF1 appears to be tissue specific. Further, whereas p130cas is localized predominantly at focal adhesions, immunofluorescence indicates that HEF1 localizes to both the cell periphery and the cell nucleus and is differently localized in fibroblasts and epithelial cells, suggesting a more complex role in cell signalling. Through immunoprecipitation and two-hybrid analysis, we demonstrate a direct physical interaction between HEF1 and p130cas, as well as an interaction of the SH3 domain of HEF1 with two discrete proline-rich regions of focal adhesion kinase. Finally, we demonstrate that as with p130cas, transformation with the oncogene v-abl results in an increase in tyrosine phosphorylation on HEF1, mediated by a direct association between HEF1 and v-Abl. We anticipate that HEF1 may prove to be an important linking element between extracellular signalling and regulation of the cytoskeleton.
PMCID: PMC231327  PMID: 8668148
14.  Intracellular dynamics of archaeal FANCM homologue Hef in response to halted DNA replication 
Nucleic Acids Research  2013;41(22):10358-10370.
Hef is an archaeal member of the DNA repair endonuclease XPF (XPF)/Crossover junction endonuclease MUS81 (MUS81)/Fanconi anemia, complementation group M (FANCM) protein family that in eukaryotes participates in the restart of stalled DNA replication forks. To investigate the physiological roles of Hef in maintaining genome stability in living archaeal cells, we studied the localization of Hef–green fluorescent protein fusions by fluorescence microscopy. Our studies revealed that Haloferax volcanii Hef proteins formed specific localization foci under regular growth conditions, the number of which specifically increased in response to replication arrest. Purification of the full-length Hef protein from its native host revealed that it forms a stable homodimer in solution, with a peculiar elongated configuration. Altogether our data indicate that the shape of Hef, significant physicochemical constraints and/or interactions with DNA limit the apparent cytosolic diffusion of halophilic DNA replication/repair complexes, and demonstrate that Hef proteins are dynamically recruited to archaeal eukaryotic-like chromatin to counteract DNA replication stress. We suggest that the evolutionary conserved function of Hef/FANCM proteins is to enhance replication fork stability by directly interacting with collapsed replication forks.
PMCID: PMC3905845  PMID: 24049073
15.  SOX2-RNAi attenuates S-phase entry and induces RhoA-dependent switch to protease-independent amoeboid migration in human glioma cells 
Molecular Cancer  2011;10:137.
SOX2, a high mobility group (HMG)-box containing transcription factor, is a key regulator during development of the nervous system and a persistent marker of neural stem cells. Recent studies suggested a role of SOX2 in tumor progression. In our previous work we detected SOX2 in glioma cells and glioblastoma specimens. Herein, we aim to explore the role of SOX2 for glioma malignancy in particular its role in cell proliferation and migration.
Retroviral shRNA-vectors were utilized to stably knockdown SOX2 in U343-MG and U373-MG cells. The resulting phenotype was investigated by Western blot, migration/invasion assays, RhoA G-LISA, time lapse video imaging, and orthotopic xenograft experiments.
SOX2 depletion results in pleiotropic effects including attenuated cell proliferation caused by decreased levels of cyclinD1. Also an increased TCF/LEF-signaling and concomitant decrease in Oct4 and Nestin expression was noted. Furthermore, down-regulation of focal adhesion kinase (FAK) signaling and of downstream proteins such as HEF1/NEDD9, matrix metalloproteinases pro-MMP-1 and -2 impaired invasive proteolysis-dependent migration. Yet, cells with knockdown of SOX2 switched to a RhoA-dependent amoeboid-like migration mode which could be blocked by the ROCK inhibitor Y27632 downstream of RhoA-signaling. Orthotopic xenograft experiments revealed a higher tumorigenicity of U343-MG glioma cells transduced with shRNA targeting SOX2 which was characterized by increased dissemination of glioma cells.
Our findings suggest that SOX2 plays a role in the maintenance of a less differentiated glioma cell phenotype. In addition, the results indicate a critical role of SOX2 in adhesion and migration of malignant gliomas.
PMCID: PMC3228695  PMID: 22070920
16.  Direct interaction between Smad3, APC10, CDH1 and HEF1 in proteasomal degradation of HEF1 
BMC Cell Biology  2004;5:20.
The Transforming Growth Factor-β (TGF-β) regulates myriad cellular events by signaling through members of the Smad family signal transducers. As a key signal transducer of TGF-β, Smad3 exhibits the property of receptor-activated transcriptional modulator and also the novel ability of regulating the proteasomal degradation of two Smad3 interacting proteins, SnoN and HEF1. It has been shown that Smad3 recruits two types of Ub E3 ligases, Smurf2 and the Anaphase Promoting Complex (APC), to mediate SnoN ubiquitination, thereby enhancing SnoN degradation. The molecular mechanisms underlying Smad3-regulated HEF1 degradation are not well understood. Furthermore, it is not clear how Smad3 recruits the APC complex.
We detected physical interaction between Smad3 and an APC component APC10, as well as the interaction between HEF1 and CDH1, which is the substrate-interacting component within APC. Detailed domain mapping studies revealed distinct subdomains within the MH2 domain of Smad3 for binding to APC10 and HEF1 and suggests the formation of a complex of these four proteins (Smad3, HEF1, APC10 and CDH1). In addition, the protein levels of HEF1 are subjected to the regulation of overexpressed APC10 and CDH1.
Our data suggests that Smad3 may recruit the APC complex via a direct interaction with the APC subunit APC10 to regulate the ubiquitination and degradation of its interactor HEF1, which is recognized as an ubiquitination substrate by the CDH1 subunit of the APC complex.
PMCID: PMC420458  PMID: 15144564
17.  High expression of HEF1 is associated with poor prognosis in urinary bladder carcinoma 
OncoTargets and therapy  2014;7:1319-1326.
Human enhancer of filamentation 1 (HEF1) is a multidomain scaffolding protein that has been thought to play an important role in the tumor progression of various cancers. HEF1 expression has not previously been reported in urinary bladder carcinoma, and little is known about its prognostic significance. The aim of this study was to evaluate the expression patterns of HEF1 in urinary bladder carcinoma and to investigate its prognostic significance. HEF1 expression was analyzed by immunohistochemistry using tissue microarray. A significant relationship between HEF1 expression and sex, tumor size, number of tumors, invasion depth, lymph node metastasis, and distant metastasis was found, and high expression of HEF1 was associated with worse overall survival when compared to low expression of HEF1. Multivariate analysis showed that HEF1 expression was an independent prognostic factor for overall survival in urinary bladder carcinoma. We investigated HEF1 expression in urinary bladder carcinoma and found that high HEF1 expression was associated with advanced stage, large tumor size, and shortened progression-free survival. Although the biologic function of HEF1 in urinary bladder carcinoma remains unknown, the expression of HEF1 can provide new prognostic information for disease progression.
PMCID: PMC4114921  PMID: 25092988
human enhancer of filamentation 1; progression-free survival; immunohistochemistry; metastasis; bladder cancer
18.  NEDD9 Is a Positive Regulator of Epithelial-Mesenchymal Transition and Promotes Invasion in Aggressive Breast Cancer 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(7):e22666.
Epithelial to mesenchymal transition (EMT) plays an important role in many biological processes. The latest studies revealed that aggressive breast cancer, especially the triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC) subtype was frequently associated with apparent EMT, but the mechanisms are still unclear. NEDD9/HEF1/Cas-L is a member of the Cas protein family and was identified as a metastasis marker in multiple cancer types. In this study, we wished to discern the role of NEDD9 in breast cancer progression and to investigate the molecular mechanism by which NEDD9 regulates EMT and promotes invasion in triple-negative breast cancer. We showed that expression of NEDD9 was frequently upregulated in TNBC cell lines, and in aggressive breast tumors, especially in TNBC subtype. Knockdown of endogenous NEDD9 reduced the migration, invasion and proliferation of TNBC cells. Moreover, ectopic overexpression of NEDD9 in mammary epithelial cells led to a string of events including the trigger of EMT, activation of ERK signaling, increase of several EMT-inducing transcription factors and promotion of their interactions with the E-cadherin promoter. Data presented in this report contribute to the understanding of the mechanisms by which NEDD9 promotes EMT, and provide useful clues to the evaluation of the potential of NEDD9 as a responsive molecular target for TNBC chemotherapy.
PMCID: PMC3145662  PMID: 21829474
19.  Abl Family Kinases Modulate T Cell–Mediated Inflammation and Chemokine-Induced Migration Through a HEF1-Rap1 Signaling Module 
Science signaling  2012;5(233):ra51.
Chemokine signaling is critical for T cell function during homeostasis and inflammation, and directs T cell polarity and migration through the activation of specific intracellular pathways. Here, we uncovered a previously uncharacterized role for the Abl family tyrosine kinases Abl and Arg in the regulation of T cell-dependent inflammatory responses, and we showed that the Abl kinases were required for chemokine-induced T cell polarization and migration. Our data demonstrated that Abl and Arg were activated downstream of chemokine receptors and controlled the chemokine-induced tyrosine phosphoylation of human enhancer of filamentation 1(HEF1), an adaptor protein that modulates the activity of the guanosine triphosphatase (GTPase) Rap1. Furthermore, Abl-mediated tyrosine phosphorylation of HEF1 and activation of Rap1 were required for chemokine-induced T cell migration. T cells isolated from conditional knockout mice lacking Abl and Arg exhibited defective homing to lymph nodes and impaired migration to sites of inflammation. These findings suggest that Abl family kinases are potential therapeutic targets for the treatment of T cell–dependent immune disorders that are characterized by chemokine-mediated inflammation.
PMCID: PMC3602906  PMID: 22810897
20.  A genomic approach to the identification and characterization of HOXA13 functional binding elements 
Nucleic Acids Research  2005;33(21):6782-6794.
HOX proteins are important transcriptional regulators in mammalian embryonic development and are dysregulated in human cancers. However, there are few known direct HOX target genes and their mechanisms of regulation are incompletely understood. To isolate and characterize gene segments through which HOX proteins regulate transcription we used cesium chloride centrifugation-based chromatin purification and immunoprecipitation (ChIP). From NIH 3T3-derived HOXA13-FLAG expressing cells, 33% of randomly selected, ChIP clones were reproducibly enriched. Hox-enriched fragments (HEFs) were more AT-rich compared with cloned fragments that failed reproducible ChIP. All HEFs augmented transcription of a heterologous promoter upon coexpression with HOXA13. One HEF was from intron 2 of Enpp2, a gene highly upregulated in these cells and has been implicated in cell motility. Using Enpp2 as a candidate direct target, we identified three additional HEFs upstream of the transcription start site. HOXA13 upregulated transcription from an Enpp2 promoter construct containing these sites, and each site was necessary for full HOXA13-induced expression. Lastly, given that HOX proteins have been demonstrated to interact with histone deacetylases and/or CBP, we explored whether histone acetylation changed at Enpp2 upon HOXA13-induced activation. No change in the general histone acetylation state was observed. Our results support models in which occupation of multiple HOX binding sites is associated with highly activated genes.
PMCID: PMC1301594  PMID: 16321965
21.  Role of the HefC Efflux Pump in Helicobacter pylori Cholesterol-Dependent Resistance to Ceragenins and Bile Salts ▿  
Infection and Immunity  2010;79(1):88-97.
The human gastric pathogen Helicobacter pylori modifies host cholesterol via glycosylation and incorporates the glycosylated cholesterol into its membrane; however, the benefits of cholesterol to H. pylori are largely unknown. We speculated that cholesterol in the H. pylori membrane might alter the susceptibility of these organisms to membrane-disrupting antibacterial compounds. To test this hypothesis, H. pylori strains were cultured in Ham's F-12 chemically defined medium in the presence or absence of cholesterol. The two cultures were subjected to overnight incubations with serial 2-fold dilutions of 10 bile salts and four ceragenins, which are novel bile salt derivatives that mimic membrane-disrupting activity of antimicrobial peptides. H. pylori cultured with cholesterol was substantially more resistant to seven of the bile salts and three ceragenins than H. pylori cultured without cholesterol. In most cases, these cholesterol-dependent differences ranged from 2 to 7 orders of magnitude; this magnitude depended on concentration of the agent. Cholesterol is modified by glycosylation using Cgt, a cholesteryl glycosyltransferase. Surprisingly, a cgt knockout strain still maintained cholesterol-dependent resistance to bile salts and ceragenins, indicating that cholesterol modification was not involved in resistance. We then tested whether three putative, paralogous inner membrane efflux pumps, HefC, HefF, or HefI, played a role. While HefF and HefI appeared unimportant, HefC was shown to play a critical role in the resistance to bile salts and ceragenins by multiple methods in multiple strain backgrounds. Thus, both cholesterol and the putative bile salt efflux pump HefC play important roles in H. pylori resistance to bile salts and ceragenins.
PMCID: PMC3019907  PMID: 20974830
22.  Dcas Supports Cell Polarization and Cell-Cell Adhesion Complexes in Development 
PLoS ONE  2010;5(8):e12369.
Mammalian Cas proteins regulate cell migration, division and survival, and are often deregulated in cancer. However, the presence of four paralogous Cas family members in mammals (BCAR1/p130Cas, EFS/Sin1, NEDD9/HEF1/Cas-L, and CASS4/HEPL) has limited their analysis in development. We deleted the single Drosophila Cas gene, Dcas, to probe the developmental function of Dcas. Loss of Dcas had limited effect on embryonal development. However, we found that Dcas is an important modulator of the severity of the developmental phenotypes of mutations affecting integrins (If and mew) and their downstream effectors Fak56D or Src42A. Strikingly, embryonic lethal Fak56D-Dcas double mutant embryos had extensive cell polarity defects, including mislocalization and reduced expression of E-cadherin. Further genetic analysis established that loss of Dcas modified the embryonal lethal phenotypes of embryos with mutations in E-cadherin (Shg) or its signaling partners p120- and β-catenin (Arm). These results support an important role for Cas proteins in cell-cell adhesion signaling in development.
PMCID: PMC2927436  PMID: 20808771
23.  Tyrosine Y189 in the Substrate Domain of the Adhesion Docking Protein NEDD9 Is Conserved with p130Cas Y253 and Regulates NEDD9-Mediated Migration and Focal Adhesion Dynamics 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(7):e69304.
The focal adhesion docking protein NEDD9/HEF1/Cas-L regulates cell migration and cancer invasion. NEDD9 is a member of the Cas family of proteins that share conserved overall protein-protein interaction domain structure, including a substrate domain that is characterized by extensive tyrosine (Y) phosphorylation. Previous studies have suggested that phosphorylation of Y253 in the substrate domain of the Cas family protein p130Cas is specifically required for p130Cas function in cell migration. While it is clear that tyrosine phosphorylation of the NEDD9 substrate domain is similarly required for the regulation of cell motility, whether individual NEDD9 tyrosine residues have discrete function in regulating motility has not previously been reported. In the present study we have used a global sequence alignment of Cas family proteins to identify a putative NEDD9 equivalent of p130Cas Y253. We find that NEDD9 Y189 aligns with p130Cas Y253 and that it is conserved among NEDD9 vertebrate orthologues. Expression of NEDD9 in which Y189 is mutated to phenylalanine results in increased rates of cell migration and is correlated with increased disassembly of GFP.NEDD9 focal adhesions. Conversely, mutation to Y189D significantly inhibits cell migration. Our previous data has suggested that NEDD9 stabilizes focal adhesions and the present data therefore suggests that phosphorylation of Y189 NEDD9 is required for this function. These findings indicate that the individual tyrosine residues of the NEDD9 substrate domain may serve discrete functional roles. Given the important role of this protein in promoting cancer invasion, greater understanding of the function of the individual tyrosine residues is important for the future design of approaches to target NEDD9 to arrest cancer cell invasion.
PMCID: PMC3706375  PMID: 23874939
24.  Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor Mediates Intracrine Survival in Human Breast Carcinoma Cells through Internally Expressed VEGFR1/FLT1 
PLoS Medicine  2007;4(6):e186.
While vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) expression in breast tumors has been correlated with a poor outcome in the pathogenesis of breast cancer, the expression, localization, and function of VEGF receptors VEGFR1 (also known as FLT1) and VEGFR2 (also known as KDR or FLK1), as well as neuropilin 1 (NRP1), in breast cancer are controversial.
Methods and Findings
We investigated the expression and function of VEGF and VEGF receptors in breast cancer cells. We observed that VEGFR1 expression was abundant, VEGFR2 expression was low, and NRP1 expression was variable. MDA-MB-231 and MCF-7 breast cancer cells, transfected with antisense VEGF cDNA or with siVEGF (VEGF-targeted small interfering RNA), showed a significant reduction in VEGF expression and increased apoptosis as compared to the control cells. Additionally, specifically targeted knockdown of VEGFR1 expression by siRNA (siVEGFR1) significantly decreased the survival of breast cancer cells through down-regulation of protein kinase B (AKT) phosphorylation, while targeted knockdown of VEGFR2 or NRP1 expression had no effect on the survival of these cancer cells. Since a VEGFR1-specific ligand, placenta growth factor (PGF), did not, as expected, inhibit the breast cancer cell apoptosis induced by siVEGF, and since VEGFR1 antibody also had no effects on the survival of these cells, we examined VEGFR1 localization. VEGFR1 was predominantly expressed internally in MDA-MB-231 and MCF-7 breast cancer cells. Specifically, VEGFR1 was found to be colocalized with lamin A/C and was expressed mainly in the nuclear envelope in breast cancer cell lines and primary breast cancer tumors. Breast cancer cells treated with siVEGFR1 showed significantly decreased VEGFR1 expression levels and a lack of VEGFR1 expression in the nuclear envelope.
This study provides, to our knowledge for the first time, evidence of a unique survival system in breast cancer cells by which VEGF can act as an internal autocrine (intracrine) survival factor through its binding to VEGFR1. These results may lead to an improved strategy for tumor therapy based on the inhibition of angiogenesis.
Shalom Avraham and colleagues' study provides evidence of a survival system in breast cancer cells by which VEGF acts as an internal autocrine survival factor through its binding to VEGFR1.
Editors' Summary
One woman in eight will develop breast cancer during her lifetime. Most of these women live for many years after their diagnosis and many are cured of their cancer. However, sometimes the cancer grows inexorably and spreads (metastasizes) around the body despite the efforts of oncologists. Characteristics of the tumor known as prognostic factors can indicate whether this spreading is likely to happen. Large tumors that have metastasized have a poorer prognosis than small tumors that are confined to the breast. The expression of specific proteins within the tumor also provides prognostic information. One protein whose expression is associated with a poor prognosis is vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF). VEGF stimulates angiogenesis—the growth of new blood vessels. Small tumors get the nutrients needed for their growth from existing blood vessels but large tumors need to organize their own blood supply. They do this, in part, by secreting VEGF. This compound binds to proteins (receptors) on the surface of endothelial cells (the cells lining blood vessels), which then send a signal into the cell instructing it to make new blood vessels. Angiogenesis inhibitors, including molecules that block the activity of VEGF receptors, are being developed for the treatment of cancer.
Why Was This Study Done?
Some breast cancer cell lines (cells isolated from breast cancers and grown in the laboratory) make VEGF and VEGF receptors (VEGFR1, VEGFR2, and neuropilin 1 [NRP1]). But, although some studies have reported an association between VEGFR1 expression in breast tumors and a poor prognosis, other studies have found no expression of VEGFR1 in breast tumors. Consequently, the role of VEGF receptors in breast cancer is unclear. In this study, the researchers analyzed the expression and function of VEGF and its receptors in breast cancer cells to investigate whether and how VEGF helps these cells to survive.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers first examined the expression of VEGF receptors in several human breast cancer cell lines. All of them expressed VEGFR1, some expressed NRP1, but VEGFR2 expression was universally low. They then investigated the function of VEGF and its receptors in two human breast cancer cell lines (MDA-MB-231 and MCF-7). In both cell lines, blocking the expression of VEGF or of VEGFR1 (but not of the other two receptors) reduced cell survival by stimulating a specific process of cell death called apoptosis. Unexpectedly, adding VEGF to the cultures did not reverse the effect of blocking VEGF expression, a result that suggests that VEGF and VEGFR1 do not affect breast cancer cell survival by acting at the cell surface. Accordingly, when the researchers examined where VEGFR1 occurs in the cell, they found it on the membranes around the nucleus of the breast cancer cell lines and not on the cell surface; several primary breast tumors and normal breast tissue had the same localization pattern. Finally, the researchers showed that inhibitors of VEGF action that act at the cell surface did not affect the survival of the breast cancer cell lines.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings suggest that VEGF helps breast cancer cells to survive in a unique way: by binding to VEGFR1 inside the cell. In other words, whereas VEGF normally acts as a paracrine growth factor (it is released by one cell and affects another cell), in breast cancer cells it might act as an internal autocrine (intracrine) survival factor, a factor that affects the cells in which it is produced. These findings need confirming in more cell lines and in primary breast cancers but could have important implications for the treatment of breast cancer. Inhibitors of VEGF and VEGFR1 that act inside the cell (small molecule drugs) might block breast cancer growth more effectively than inhibitors that act at the cell surface (for example, proteins that bind to the receptor), because internally acting inhibitors might both kill the tumor directly and have antiangiogenic effects, whereas externally acting inhibitors could only have the second effect.
Additional Information.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at
US National Cancer Institute information for patients and professionals on breast cancer (in English and Spanish) and on angiogenesis (in English and Spanish)
MedlinePlus Encyclopedia information for patients on breast cancer (in English and Spanish)
CancerQuest, information from Emory University on cancer biology and on angiogenesis and angiogenesis inhibitors (in several languages)
Wikipedia pages on VEGF (note: Wikipedia is a free online encyclopedia that anyone can edit; available in several languages)
PMCID: PMC1885450  PMID: 17550303
25.  A requirement for Nedd9 in luminal progenitor cells prior to mammary tumorigenesis in MMTV-HER2/ErbB2 mice 
Oncogene  2013;33(4):411-420.
Overexpression of the NEDD9/HEF1/Cas-L scaffolding protein is frequent, and drives invasion and metastasis in breast, head and neck, colorectal, melanoma, lung, and other types of cancer. We have examined the consequences of genetic ablation of Nedd9 in the MMTV-HER2/ERBB2/neu mouse mammary tumor model. Unexpectedly, we found that only a limited effect on metastasis in MMTV-neu;Nedd9−/− mice compared to MMTV-neu;Nedd9+/+ mice, but instead a dramatic reduction in tumor incidence (18% versus 80%), and a significantly increased latency until tumor appearance. Orthotopic reinjection and tail vein injection of cells arising from tumors, coupled with in vivo analysis, indicated tumors arising in MMTV-neu;Nedd9−/− mice had undergone mutational selection that overcame the initial requirement for Nedd9. To better understand the defects in early tumor growth, we compared mammary progenitor cell pools from MMTV-neu;Nedd9−/− versus MMTV-neu;Nedd9+/+ mice. The MMTV-neu;Nedd9−/− genotype selectively reduced both the number and colony-forming potential of mammary luminal epithelial progenitor cells, while not affecting basal epithelial progenitors. MMTV-neu;Nedd9−/−mammospheres had striking defects in morphology and cell polarity. All of these defects were seen predominantly in the context of the HER2/neu oncogene, and were not associated with randomization of the plane of mitotic division, but rather with depressed expression the cell attachment protein FAK, accompanied by increased sensitivity to small molecule inhibitors of FAK and SRC. Surprisingly, in spite of these significant differences, only minimal changes were observed in the gene expression profile of Nedd9−/− mice, indicating critical Nedd9-dependent differences in cell growth properties were mediated via post-transcriptional regulation of cell signaling. Coupled with emerging data indicating a role for NEDD9 in progenitor cell populations during the morphogenesis of other tissues, these results indicate a functional requirement for NEDD9 in the growth of mammary cancer progenitor cells.
PMCID: PMC3628996  PMID: 23318423
breast cancer; HER2; mammary precursor cells; drug resistance

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