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1.  PRAME Is a Golgi-Targeted Protein That Associates with the Elongin BC Complex and Is Upregulated by Interferon-Gamma and Bacterial PAMPs 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(2):e58052.
Preferentially expressed antigen in melanoma (PRAME) has been described as a cancer-testis antigen and is associated with leukaemias and solid tumours. Here we show that PRAME gene transcription in leukaemic cell lines is rapidly induced by exposure of cells to bacterial PAMPs (pathogen associated molecular patterns) in combination with type 2 interferon (IFNγ). Treatment of HL60 cells with lipopolysaccharide or peptidoglycan in combination with IFNγ resulted in a rapid and transient induction of PRAME transcription, and increased association of PRAME transcripts with polysomes. Moreover, treatment with PAMPs/IFNγ also modulated the subcellular localisation of PRAME proteins in HL60 and U937 cells, resulting in targeting of cytoplasmic PRAME to the Golgi. Affinity purification studies revealed that PRAME associates with Elongin B and Elongin C, components of Cullin E3 ubiquitin ligase complexes. This occurs via direct interaction of PRAME with Elongin C, and PRAME colocalises with Elongins in the Golgi after PAMP/IFNγ treatment. PRAME was also found to co-immunoprecipitate core histones, consistent with its partial localisation to the nucleus, and was found to bind directly to histone H3 in vitro. Thus, PRAME is upregulated by signalling pathways that are activated in response to infection/inflammation, and its product may have dual functions as a histone-binding protein, and in directing ubiquitylation of target proteins for processing in the Golgi.
PMCID: PMC3584020  PMID: 23460923
2.  Duplication and positive selection among hominin-specific PRAME genes 
BMC Genomics  2005;6:120.
The physiological and phenotypic differences between human and chimpanzee are largely specified by our genomic differences. We have been particularly interested in recent duplications in the human genome as examples of relatively large-scale changes to our genome. We performed an in-depth evolutionary analysis of a region of chromosome 1, which is copy number polymorphic among humans, and that contains at least 32 PRAME (Preferentially expressed antigen of melanoma) genes and pseudogenes. PRAME-like genes are expressed in the testis and in a large number of tumours, and are thought to possess roles in spermatogenesis and oogenesis.
Using nucleotide substitution rate estimates for exons and introns, we show that two large segmental duplications, of six and seven human PRAME genes respectively, occurred in the last 3 million years. These duplicated genes are thus hominin-specific, having arisen in our genome since the divergence from chimpanzee. This cluster of PRAME genes appears to have arisen initially from a translocation approximately 95–85 million years ago. We identified multiple sites within human or mouse PRAME sequences which exhibit strong evidence of positive selection. These form a pronounced cluster on one face of the predicted PRAME protein structure.
We predict that PRAME genes evolved adaptively due to strong competition between rapidly-dividing cells during spermatogenesis and oogenesis. We suggest that as PRAME gene copy number is polymorphic among individuals, positive selection of PRAME alleles may still prevail within the human population.
PMCID: PMC1262708  PMID: 16159394
3.  Increased PRAME-Specific CTL Killing of Acute Myeloid Leukemia Cells by Either a Novel Histone Deacetylase Inhibitor Chidamide Alone or Combined Treatment with Decitabine 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(8):e70522.
As one of the best known cancer testis antigens, PRAME is overexpressed exclusively in germ line tissues such as the testis as well as in a variety of solid and hematological malignant cells including acute myeloid leukemia. Therefore, PRAME has been recognized as a promising target for both active and adoptive anti-leukemia immunotherapy. However, in most patients with PRAME-expressing acute myeloid leukemia, PRAME antigen-specific CD8+ CTL response are either undetectable or too weak to exert immune surveillance presumably due to the inadequate PRAME antigen expression and PRAME-specific antigen presentation by leukemia cells. In this study, we observed remarkably increased PRAME mRNA expression in human acute myeloid leukemia cell lines and primary acute myeloid leukemia cells after treatment with a novel subtype-selective histone deacetylase inhibitor chidamide in vitro. PRAME expression was further enhanced in acute myeloid leukemia cell lines after combined treatment with chidamide and DNA demethylating agent decitabine. Pre-treatment of an HLA-A0201+ acute myeloid leukemia cell line THP-1 with chidamide and/or decitabine increased sensitivity to purified CTLs that recognize PRAME100–108 or PRAME300–309 peptide presented by HLA-A0201. Chidamide-induced epigenetic upregulation of CD86 also contributed to increased cytotoxicity of PRAME antigen-specific CTLs. Our data thus provide a new line of evidence that epigenetic upregulation of cancer testis antigens by a subtype-selective HDAC inhibitor or in combination with hypomethylating agent increases CTL cytotoxicity and may represent a new opportunity in future design of treatment strategy targeting specifically PRAME-expressing acute myeloid leukemia.
PMCID: PMC3734248  PMID: 23940586
4.  PRAME expression in head and neck cancer correlates with markers of poor prognosis and might help in selecting candidates for retinoid chemoprevention in pre-malignant lesions 
Oral oncology  2012;49(2):144-151.
PRAME (Preferentially Expressed Antigen in Melanoma) is a tumor-associated antigen recognized by immunocytes, and it induces cytotoxic T cell-mediated responses in melanoma. PRAME expression in tumors interferes with retinoic acid receptor (RAR) signaling thus promoting tumor progression. Here, we study PRAME expression in head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC) to determine its potential clinical significance.
Materials and Methods
PRAME expression in HNSCC was evaluated by immunohistochemistry in tissue microarrays of primary tumors (n=53), metastatic lymph nodes (n=8) and normal oral mucosa (n=11). Biopsies of dysplastic oral lesions (n=12) were also examined. PRAME expression levels in tissues were correlated with markers of poor prognosis in HNSCC. PRAME mRNA in HNSCC cell lines and in normal immortalized human keratinocytes (HaCaT cell line) was measured by qRT-PCR, and the protein expression by flow cytometry and western blots.
PRAME was expressed in HNSCC cell lines and HNSCC lesions. PRAME expression in dysplastic mucosa was variable. No or only weak expression was found in normal cells or tissues. PRAME expression levels significantly correlated with the tumor grade, size, nodal involvement and the clinical status of HNSCC patients.
Elevated PRAME expression associates with clinicopathologic markers of poor outcome in HNSCC and might identify potential candidates with pre-cancerous lesions for chemoprevention with retinoids.
PMCID: PMC3607432  PMID: 22944049
head and neck cancer; PRAME overexpression; larynx dysplasia; oral mucosa; immunohistochemistry; clinical association
5.  Expression of cancer-testis antigens MAGEA1, MAGEA3, ACRBP, PRAME, SSX2, and CTAG2 in myxoid and round cell liposarcoma 
Myxoid and round-cell liposarcoma is a frequently encountered liposarcoma subtype. The mainstay of treatment remains surgical excision with or without chemoradiation. However, treatment options are limited in the setting of metastatic disease. Cancer-testis antigens are immunogenic antigens with the expression largely restricted to testicular germ cells and various malignancies, making them attractive targets for cancer immunotherapy. Gene expression studies have reported the expression of various cancer-testis antigens in liposarcoma, with mRNA expression of CTAG1B, CTAG2, MAGEA9, and PRAME described specifically in myxoid and round-cell liposarcoma. Herein, we further explore the expression of the cancer-testis antigens MAGEA1, ACRBP, PRAME, and SSX2 in myxoid and round-cell liposarcoma by immunohistochemistry in addition to determining mRNA levels of CTAG2 (LAGE-1), PRAME, and MAGEA3 by quantitative real-time PCR. Samples in formalin-fixed paraffin-embedded blocks (n=37) and frozen tissue (n=8) were obtained for immunohistochemistry and quantitative real-time PCR, respectively. Full sections were stained with antibodies to MAGEA1, ACRBP, PRAME, and SSX2 and staining was assessed for intensity (1–2+) and percent tumor positivity. The gene expression levels of CTAG2, PRAME, and MAGEA3 were measured by quantitative real-time PCR. In total, 37/37 (100%) of the samples showed predominantly strong, homogenous immunoreactivity for PRAME. There was a variable, focal expression of MAGEA1 (11%) and SSX2 (16%) and no expression of ACRBP. Quantitative real-time PCR demonstrated PRAME and CTAG2 transcripts in all eight samples: six tumors with high mRNA levels; two tumors with low mRNA levels. The gene expression of MAGEA3 was not detected in the majority of cases. In conclusion, myxoid and round-cell liposarcomas consistently express PRAME by immunohistochemistry as well as CTAG2 and PRAME by qualitative real-time PCR. This supports the use of cancer-testis antigen-targeted immunotherapy in the treatment of this malignancy.
PMCID: PMC4287229  PMID: 24457462
cancer-testis antigens; immunotherapeutics; myxoid and round-cell liposarcoma
6.  NYESO-1/LAGE-1s and PRAME Are Targets for Antigen Specific T Cells in Chondrosarcoma following Treatment with 5-Aza-2-Deoxycitabine 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(2):e32165.
Chondrosarcoma has no proven systemic option in the metastatic setting. The development of a non-cross-resistant strategy, such as cellular immunotherapy using antigen-specific T cells would be highly desirable. NY-ESO-1 and PRAME are members of the Cancer Testis Antigen (CTA) family that have been identified as promising targets for T cell therapy. LAGE-1 is a cancer testis antigen 90% homologous to NY-ESO-1, sharing the 157–165 A*0201 NY-ESO-1 epitope with its transcript variant, LAGE-1s. A number of CTA's have been induced using 5-Aza-2-Deoxycitabine (5-Aza-dC) in other cancers. We sought to evaluate the feasibility of targeting chondrosarcoma tumors using NY-ESO-1/LAGE-1s and PRAME specific T cells using 5-Aza-dC to induce antigen expression.
We used 11 flash frozen tumors from the University of Washington tumor bank to test for the expression of NY-ESO-1, PRAME, LAGE-1s and LAGE-1L in chondrosarcoma tumors. Using four chondrosarcoma cell lines we tested the expression of these CTA's with and without 5-Aza-dC treatments. Finally, using NY-ESO-1/LAGE-1s and PRAME specific effectors that we generated from sarcoma patients, we evaluated the ability of these T cells to lyse A*0201 expressing chondrosarcoma cell lines in vitro both with and without 5-Aza-dC treatment.
A minority (36%) of chondrosarcoma tumors expressed either NY-ESO-1 or LAGE-1s at >10% of our reference value and none expressed PRAME at that level. However, in all four of the chondrosarcoma cell lines tested, NY-ESO-1 and PRAME expression could be induced following treatment with 5-Aza-dC including in cell lines where expression was absent or barely detectable. Furthermore, NY-ESO-1/LAGE-1s and PRAME specific CD8+ effector T cells were able to specifically recognize and lyse A*0201 expressing chondrosarcoma cell lines following 5-Aza-dC treatment.
These data suggest that adoptive immunotherapy in combination with 5-Aza-dC may be a potential strategy to treat unresectable or metastatic chondrosarcoma patients where no proven systemic therapies exist.
PMCID: PMC3288075  PMID: 22384167
7.  Expression of MAGE-A3, NY-ESO-1, LAGE-1 and PRAME in urothelial carcinoma 
British Journal of Cancer  2012;107(1):116-122.
The potential for cancer-testis (CT) antigens as targets for immunotherapy in cancer patients has been heavily investigated, and currently cancer vaccine trials based on the CT antigens, MAGE-A3 and NY-ESO-1, are being carried out.
We used specific q-RT-PCR assays to analyse the expression of the CT genes MAGE-A3, NY-ESO-1 (CTAG1B), LAGE-1 (CTAG2) and PRAME in a panel of bladder tumours from 350 patients with long-term follow-up and detailed treatment information.
Overall, 43% of the tumours expressed MAGE-A3, 35% expressed NY-ESO-1, 27% expressed LAGE-1 and 20% expressed PRAME. In all, 56% of the tumours expressed at least one of the CT genes analysed. Univariate Cox regression analysis of CT gene expression in non-muscle-invasive tumours showed that expression of MAGE-A3 (P=0.026), LAGE-1 (P=0.001) and NY-ESO-1 (P=0.040) was significantly associated with a shorter progression-free survival. In addition, we found that patients with tumours expressing PRAME responded poorly to chemotherapy (P=0.02, χ2-test).
Cancer-testis genes are frequently expressed in bladder cancer and especially in tumours of high stage and grade. In addition, the CT gene expression may have both prognostic and predictive value. Development of specific immunotherapy against the CT antigens in bladder cancer may ultimately increase patient survival.
PMCID: PMC3389414  PMID: 22596240
bladder cancer; CT genes; immunotherapy; PCR; prognosis
8.  Gcn4 misregulation reveals a direct role for the evolutionary conserved EKC/KEOPS in the t6A modification of tRNAs 
Nucleic Acids Research  2011;39(14):6148-6160.
The EKC/KEOPS complex is universally conserved in Archaea and Eukarya and has been implicated in several cellular processes, including transcription, telomere homeostasis and genomic instability. However, the molecular function of the complex has remained elusive so far. We analyzed the transcriptome of EKC/KEOPS mutants and observed a specific profile that is highly enriched in targets of the Gcn4p transcriptional activator. GCN4 expression was found to be activated at the translational level in mutants via the defective recognition of the inhibitory upstream ORFs (uORFs) present in its leader. We show that EKC/KEOPS mutants are defective for the N6-threonylcarbamoyl adenosine modification at position 37 (t6A37) of tRNAs decoding ANN codons, which affects initiation at the inhibitory uORFs and provokes Gcn4 de-repression. Structural modeling reveals similarities between Kae1 and bacterial enzymes involved in carbamoylation reactions analogous to t6A37 formation, supporting a direct role for the EKC in tRNA modification. These findings are further supported by strong genetic interactions of EKC mutants with a translation initiation factor and with threonine biosynthesis genes. Overall, our data provide a novel twist to understanding the primary function of the EKC/KEOPS and its impact on several essential cellular functions like transcription and telomere homeostasis.
PMCID: PMC3152333  PMID: 21459853
9.  The Drosophila EKC/KEOPS complex 
Fly  2013;7(3):168-172.
The TOR signaling pathway is crucial in the translation of nutritional inputs into the protein synthesis machinery regulation, allowing animal growth. We recently identified the Bud32 (yeast)/PRPK (human) ortholog in Drosophila, Prpk (p53-related protein kinase), and found that it is required for TOR kinase activity. Bud32/PRPK is an ancient and atypical kinase conserved in evolution from Archeae to humans, being essential for Archeae. It has been linked with p53 stabilization in human cell culture and its absence in yeast causes a slow-growth phenotype. This protein has been associated to KEOPS (kinase, putative endopeptidase and other proteins of small size) complex together with Kae1p (ATPase), Cgi-121 and Pcc1p. This complex has been implicated in telomere maintenance, transcriptional regulation, bud site selection and chemical modification of tRNAs (tRNAs). Bud32p and Kae1p have been related with N6-threonylcarbamoyladenosine (t6A) synthesis, a particular chemical modification that occurs at position 37 of tRNAs that pair A-starting codons, required for proper translation in most species. Lack of this modification causes mistranslations and open reading frame shifts in yeast. The core constituents of the KEOPS complex are present in Drosophila, but their physical interaction has not been reported yet. Here, we present a review of the findings regarding the function of this complex in different organisms and new evidence that extends our recent observations of Prpk function in animal growth showing that depletion of Kae1 or Prpk, in accordance with their role in translation in yeast, is able to induce the unfolded protein response (UPR) in Drosophila. We suggest that EKC/KEOPS complex could be integrating t6A-modified tRNA availability with translational rates, which are ultimately reflected in animal growth.
PMCID: PMC4049849  PMID: 23823807
growth; tRNA modification; translation; TOR signaling; PRPK; Kae1
10.  PRAME expression and clinical outcome of breast cancer 
British Journal of Cancer  2008;99(3):398-403.
The tumour antigen PReferentially expressed Antigen of MElanoma (PRAME) is expressed in a variety of malignancies, including breast cancer. We have analysed PRAME gene expression in relation to clinical outcome for 295 primary breast cancer patients. Kaplan–Meier survival curves show a correlation of PRAME expression levels with increased rates of distant metastases and decreased overall patient survival. This correlation existed both for the entire patient group (n=295) and for the subgroup of patients (n=185) who did not receive adjuvant chemotherapy. Multivariable analysis indicated that PRAME is an independent marker of shortened metastasis-free interval in patients who did not receive adjuvant chemotherapy. PRAME expression was associated with tumour grade and negative oestrogen receptor status. We conclude that PRAME expression is a prognostic marker for clinical outcome of breast cancer, independent of traditional clinicopathological markers.
PMCID: PMC2527791  PMID: 18648365
PRAME; tumour antigen; prognosis; metastasis; survival; microarray
11.  Functional assignment of KEOPS/EKC complex subunits in the biosynthesis of the universal t6A tRNA modification 
Nucleic Acids Research  2013;41(20):9484-9499.
N6-threonylcarbamoyladenosine (t6A) is a universal tRNA modification essential for normal cell growth and accurate translation. In Archaea and Eukarya, the universal protein Sua5 and the conserved KEOPS/EKC complex together catalyze t6A biosynthesis. The KEOPS/EKC complex is composed of Kae1, a universal metalloprotein belonging to the ASHKA superfamily of ATPases; Bud32, an atypical protein kinase and two small proteins, Cgi121 and Pcc1. In this study, we investigated the requirement and functional role of KEOPS/EKC subunits for biosynthesis of t6A. We demonstrated that Pcc1, Kae1 and Bud32 form a minimal functional unit, whereas Cgi121 acts as an allosteric regulator. We confirmed that Pcc1 promotes dimerization of the KEOPS/EKC complex and uncovered that together with Kae1, it forms the tRNA binding core of the complex. Kae1 binds l-threonyl-carbamoyl-AMP intermediate in a metal-dependent fashion and transfers the l-threonyl-carbamoyl moiety to substrate tRNA. Surprisingly, we found that Bud32 is regulated by Kae1 and does not function as a protein kinase but as a P-loop ATPase possibly involved in tRNA dissociation. Overall, our data support a mechanistic model in which the final step in the biosynthesis of t6A relies on a strictly catalytic component, Kae1, and three partner proteins necessary for dimerization, tRNA binding and regulation.
PMCID: PMC3814370  PMID: 23945934
12.  Molecular Insights on Post-chemotherapy Retinoblastoma by Microarray Gene Expression Analysis 
Management of Retinoblastoma (RB), a pediatric ocular cancer is limited by drug-resistance and drug-dosage related side effects during chemotherapy. Molecular de-regulation in post-chemotherapy RB tumors was investigated.
Materials and Methods
cDNA microarray analysis of two post-chemotherapy and one pre-chemotherapy RB tumor tissues was performed, followed by Principle Component Analysis, Gene ontology, Pathway Enrichment analysis and Biological Analysis Network (BAN) modeling. The drug modulation role of two significantly up-regulated genes (p≤0.05) − Ect2 (Epithelial-cell-transforming-sequence-2), and PRAME (preferentially-expressed-Antigen-in-Melanoma) was assessed by qRT-PCR, immunohistochemistry and cell viability assays.
Differential up-regulation of 1672 genes and down-regulation of 2538 genes was observed in RB tissues (relative to normal adult retina), while 1419 genes were commonly de-regulated between pre-chemotherapy and post- chemotherapy RB. Twenty one key gene ontology categories, pathways, biomarkers and phenotype groups harboring 250 differentially expressed genes were dys-regulated (EZH2, NCoR1, MYBL2, RB1, STAMN1, SYK, JAK1/2, STAT1/2, PLK2/4, BIRC5, LAMN1, Ect2, PRAME and ABCC4). Differential molecular expressions of PRAME and Ect2 in RB tumors with and without chemotherapy were analyzed. There was neither up- regulation of MRP1, nor any significant shift in chemotherapeutic IC50, in PRAME over-expressed versus non-transfected RB cells.
Cell cycle regulatory genes were dys-regulated post-chemotherapy. Ect2 gene was expressed in response to chemotherapy-induced stress. PRAME does not contribute to drug resistance in RB, yet its nuclear localization and BAN information, points to its possible regulatory role in RB.
PMCID: PMC3785389  PMID: 24092970
RB; Ect2; PRAME; MYBL2; NCoR1; drug resistance; micro array; chemotherapy
13.  Role of Individual Subunits of the Neurospora crassa CSN Complex in Regulation of Deneddylation and Stability of Cullin Proteins 
PLoS Genetics  2010;6(12):e1001232.
The Cop9 signalosome (CSN) is an evolutionarily conserved multifunctional complex that controls ubiquitin-dependent protein degradation in eukaryotes. We found seven CSN subunits in Neurospora crassa in a previous study, but only one subunit, CSN-2, was functionally characterized. In this study, we created knockout mutants for the remaining individual CSN subunits in N. crassa. By phenotypic observation, we found that loss of CSN-1, CSN-2, CSN-4, CSN-5, CSN-6, or CSN-7 resulted in severe defects in growth, conidiation, and circadian rhythm; the defect severity was gene-dependent. Unexpectedly, CSN-3 knockout mutants displayed the same phenotype as wild-type N. crassa. Consistent with these phenotypic observations, deneddylation of cullin proteins in csn-1, csn-2, csn-4, csn-5, csn-6, or csn-7 mutants was dramatically impaired, while deletion of csn-3 did not cause any alteration in the neddylation/deneddylation state of cullins. We further demonstrated that CSN-1, CSN-2, CSN-4, CSN-5, CSN-6, and CSN-7, but not CSN-3, were essential for maintaining the stability of Cul1 in SCF complexes and Cul3 and BTB proteins in Cul3-BTB E3s, while five of the CSN subunits, but not CSN-3 and CSN-5, were also required for maintaining the stability of SKP-1 in SCF complexes. All seven CSN subunits were necessary for maintaining the stability of Cul4-DDB1 complexes. In addition, CSN-3 was also required for maintaining the stability of the CSN-2 subunit and FWD-1 in the SCFFWD-1 complex. Together, these results not only provide functional insights into the different roles of individual subunits in the CSN complex, but also establish a functional framework for understanding the multiple functions of the CSN complex in biological processes.
Author Summary
Protein degradation is precisely controlled in cells. The ubiquitin-mediated protein degradation pathway is highly conserved in eukaryotes, and the activity of ubiquitin ligases is regulated by the Cop9 signalosome (CSN), a multisubunit complex that is evolutionarily conserved from yeast to humans. Determining how the CSN complex functions biologically is crucial for understanding regulation of the ubiquitin-mediated protein degradation pathway. The filamentous fungus N. crassa is commonly used to study protein degradation. Its CSN complex contains seven subunits (CSN-1 to CSN-7). In this study, we generated knockout mutants of individual CSN subunits and observed the phenotypes of each mutant. We demonstrated that six of the seven CSN subunits were essential for cleaving the ubiquitin-like protein Nedd8 from cullin proteins (which act as scaffolds for ubiquitin ligases). In contrast, loss of the CSN-3 subunit had no effect on cullin neddylation. We also found that each CSN subunit had distinct roles in maintaining the stability of key components of cullin-based ubiquitin ligases. In summary, we systematically investigated the unequal contributions of CSN subunits to deneddylation and the maintenance of cullin-based ubiquitin ligases in N. crassa. Our work establishes a framework for understanding the function of CSN subunits in other eukaryotes.
PMCID: PMC2996332  PMID: 21151958
14.  A Phase 1 Study of a Vaccine Targeting Preferentially Expressed Antigen in Melanoma and Prostate-specific Membrane Antigen in Patients With Advanced Solid Tumors 
Preferentially expressed antigen in melanoma (PRAME) and prostate-specific membrane antigen (PSMA) are tumor-associated antigens implicated in cellular differentiation, genetic stability, and angiogenesis. MKC1106-PP is an immunotherapeutic regimen cotargeting PRAME and PSMA, comprised of a recombinant plasmid (pPRA-PSM encoding fragments derived from both antigens) and 2 peptides (E-PRA and E-PSM derived from PRAME and PSMA, respectively). This multicenter study evaluated MKC1106-PP with a fixed plasmid dose and 2 different peptide doses, administered by intralymph node injection in a prime-boost sequence in human leukocyte antigen-A*0201 and tumor-antigen-positive patients with progressing metastatic solid tumors who had failed standard therapy. Immune monitoring was done by tetramer and enzymatic-linked immune spot analysis. The treatment was well tolerated, with no significant differences in safety, immune response, and clinical outcome relative to peptide doses. Fifteen of 24 evaluable patients showed an immune response, as defined by the expansion of PRAME-specific or PSMA-specific T cells in the blood. There were no partial or complete responses by the Response Evaluation Criteria in Solid Tumors. Seven patients showed stable disease (SD) for 6 months or longer, or prostate specific antigen decline: 4 of 10 with prostate carcinoma, 2 of 2 with renal clear cell carcinoma, and 1 of 10 with metastatic melanoma. In addition, there was an association between the induction and persistence of antigen-specific T cells in blood above baseline levels and disease control, defined as SD for 6 months or longer. These results support further development of MKC1106-PP in specific clinical indications.
PMCID: PMC3709852  PMID: 21760528
active immunotherapy; PRAME; PSMA; solid tumor; intralymph node vaccination
15.  Differential Expression of PRAMEL1, a Cancer/Testis Antigen, during Spermatogenesis in the Mouse 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(4):e60611.
PRAME belongs to a group of cancer/testis antigens (CTAs) that are characterized by their restricted expression in normal gametogenic tissues and a variety of tumors. The PRAME family is one of the most amplified gene families in the mouse and other mammalian genomes. Members of the PRAME gene family encode leucine-rich repeat (LRR) proteins functioning as transcription regulators in cancer cells. However, the role of PRAME in normal gonads is unknown. The objective of this study is to characterize the temporal and spatial expression of the mouse Pramel1 gene, and to determine the cellular localization of the PRAMEL1 protein during the mouse spermatogenesis. Our results indicated that the mouse Pramel1 was expressed in testis only. The mRNA and protein expression level was low in the newborn testes, and gradually increased from 1- to 3-week-old testes, and then remained constant after three weeks of age. Immunofluorescent staining on testis sections with the mouse PRAMEL1 antibody revealed that PRAMEL1 was localized in the cytoplasm of spermatocytes and the acrosomal region of round, elongating and elongated spermatids. Further analyses on the testis squash preparation and spermatozoa at a subcellular level indicated that the protein localization patterns of PRAMEL1 were coordinated with morphological alterations during acrosome formation in spermatids, and were significantly different in connecting piece, middle piece and principal piece of the flagellum between testicular and epididymal spermatozoa. Collectively, our results suggest that PRAMEL1 may play a role in acrosome biogenesis and sperm motility.
PMCID: PMC3614976  PMID: 23565261
16.  The cullin protein family 
Genome Biology  2011;12(4):220.
Cullin proteins are molecular scaffolds that have crucial roles in the post-translational modification of cellular proteins involving ubiquitin. The mammalian cullin protein family comprises eight members (CUL1 to CUL7 and PARC), which are characterized by a cullin homology domain. CUL1 to CUL7 assemble multi-subunit Cullin-RING E3 ubiquitin ligase (CRL) complexes, the largest family of E3 ligases with more than 200 members. Although CUL7 and PARC are present only in chordates, other members of the cullin protein family are found in Drosophila melanogaster, Caenorhabditis elegans, Arabidopsis thaliana and yeast. A cullin protein tethers both a substrate-targeting unit, often through an adaptor protein, and the RING finger component in a CRL. The cullin-organized CRL thus positions a substrate close to the RING-bound E2 ubiquitin-conjugating enzyme, which catalyzes the transfer of ubiquitin to the substrate. In addition, conjugation of cullins with the ubiquitin-like molecule Nedd8 modulates activation of the corresponding CRL complex, probably through conformational regulation of the interactions between cullin's carboxy-terminal tail and CRL's RING subunit. Genetic studies in several model organisms have helped to unravel a multitude of physiological functions associated with cullin proteins and their respective CRLs. CRLs target numerous substrates and thus have an impact on a range of biological processes, including cell growth, development, signal transduction, transcriptional control, genomic integrity and tumor suppression. Moreover, mutations in CUL7 and CUL4B genes have been linked to hereditary human diseases.
PMCID: PMC3218854  PMID: 21554755
17.  A Ubiquitin Ligase Complex Regulates Caspase Activation During Sperm Differentiation in Drosophila 
PLoS Biology  2007;5(10):e251.
In both insects and mammals, spermatids eliminate their bulk cytoplasm as they undergo terminal differentiation. In Drosophila, this process of dramatic cellular remodeling requires apoptotic proteins, including caspases. To gain further insight into the regulation of caspases, we screened a large collection of sterile male flies for mutants that block effector caspase activation at the onset of spermatid individualization. Here, we describe the identification and characterization of a testis-specific, Cullin-3–dependent ubiquitin ligase complex that is required for caspase activation in spermatids. Mutations in either a testis-specific isoform of Cullin-3 (Cul3Testis), the small RING protein Roc1b, or a Drosophila orthologue of the mammalian BTB-Kelch protein Klhl10 all reduce or eliminate effector caspase activation in spermatids. Importantly, all three genes encode proteins that can physically interact to form a ubiquitin ligase complex. Roc1b binds to the catalytic core of Cullin-3, and Klhl10 binds specifically to a unique testis-specific N-terminal Cullin-3 (TeNC) domain of Cul3Testis that is required for activation of effector caspase in spermatids. Finally, the BIR domain region of the giant inhibitor of apoptosis–like protein dBruce is sufficient to bind to Klhl10, which is consistent with the idea that dBruce is a substrate for the Cullin-3-based E3-ligase complex. These findings reveal a novel role of Cullin-based ubiquitin ligases in caspase regulation.
Author Summary
Caspases are a family of proteases that play important roles in programmed cell death (apoptosis). These enzymes also have nonlethal functions, for example, in inflammation, cell differentiation, and cellular morphogenesis. During maturation, sperm cells eliminate the majority of their cytoplasm and organelles as they are transformed into highly specialized DNA delivery vehicles. Although caspase activation does not kill the entire cell in this case, sperm maturation resembles apoptosis in the sense that many cellular structures are degraded. An important unresolved question is how the lethal activity of apoptotic caspases is regulated to prevent the unwanted death of cells. Here, we show that a Cullin-3–based enzyme complex is required for caspase activation during sperm differentiation in Drosophila. Cullins are known to target cellular proteins for degradation, but their role in caspase regulation was not previously recognized. Our results suggest that a specific Cullin-3 enzyme complex activates caspases by degrading potent caspase inhibitors, thereby providing a model for how apoptotic proteins are regulated during cellular remodeling. Importantly, components of this Cullin-3 enzyme complex are also required for fertility in mice and humans, indicating that this mechanism has been conserved in evolution from fruit flies to humans.
This work suggests that a specific Cullin-3 enzyme complex activates caspases by degrading potent caspase inhibitors.
PMCID: PMC1976628  PMID: 17880263
18.  Knock-Down of PRAME Increases Retinoic Acid Signaling and Cytotoxic Drug Sensitivity of Hodgkin Lymphoma Cells 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(2):e55897.
The prognosis for patients with Hodgkin lymphoma (HL) has improved in recent decades. On the other hand, not all patients can be cured with the currently established therapy regimes and this therapy is associated with several adverse late effects. Therefore it is necessary to develop new therapy strategies. After treatment of L-540 HL cells with 5′-azacytidine (5AC), we observed increased expression of the preferentially expressed antigen in melanoma (PRAME). In addition, we detected an increased resistance of 5AC-treated cells against cytotoxic drugs. We analyzed the influence of PRAME on cell survival of HL cells by knocking down PRAME in the chemotherapy resistant cell line L-428, a cell line that express PRAME at a high level. After knock-down of PRAME using vector based RNA interference we observed increased sensitivity for cisplatin, etoposide and retinoic acid. DNA microarray analysis of HL cells after PRAME knock-down indicated regulation of several genes including down-regulation of known anti-apoptotic factors. Increased retinoic acid signaling in these cells was revealed by increased expression of the retinoic acid metabolizing cytochrome P450 (CYP26B1), a transcriptional target of retinoic acid signaling. Our data suggest that PRAME inhibits retinoic acid signaling in HL cells and that the knock-down of PRAME might be an interesting option for the development of new therapy strategies for patients with chemo-resistant HL.
PMCID: PMC3569423  PMID: 23409080
19.  Analysis of the Cullin Binding Sites of the E4orf6 Proteins of Human Adenovirus E3 Ubiquitin Ligases 
Journal of Virology  2014;88(7):3885-3897.
E4orf6 proteins of human adenoviruses form Cullin-based E3 ubiquitin ligase complexes that degrade cellular proteins, which impedes efficient viral replication. These complexes also include the viral E1B55K product, which is believed to recruit most substrates for ubiquitination. Heterogeneity in the composition of these ligases exists, as serotypes representing some species form Cul5-based complexes (species B2, C, D, and E), whereas others utilize Cul2 (species A and F). Adenovirus type 16 (Ad16; species B1) binds significant levels of both. In this report, we show that the Cul2 binding sequence in E4orf6 of Ad12 (species A) and Ad40 (species F) resembles the cellular consensus Cul2 box. Mutation within this Cul2 box prevents binding not only of Cul2 but also in some cases Elongin C and reduces the ability to degrade target proteins, such as Mre11 and p53. A comparable Cul2 box is not present in E4orf6 of Ad5 and other serotypes that bind Cul5; however, creation of this Cul2 box sequence in Ad5 E4orf6 promoted binding to Cul2 and Cul2-dependent degradation of Mre11. E4orf6 of Ad16 also binds Cul2; however, unlike Ad40, it does not contain an Ad12-like Cul2 box, suggesting that Ad16 binds Cul2 in a unique but perhaps nonfunctional manner, as only Cul5 binding complexes appeared able to degrade Mre11. Our extensive analyses have thus far failed to identify a consensus Cul5 binding sequence, suggesting that association occurs via a novel and perhaps complex pattern of protein-protein interactions. Nevertheless, the identification of the Cul2 box may allow prediction of Cullin specificity for all E4orf6-containing Adenoviridae.
IMPORTANCE The work described in this paper is a continuation of our in-depth studies on the Cullin-based E3 ligase complexes formed by the viral E4orf6 and E1B55K proteins of all human adenoviruses. This complex induces the degradation of a growing series of cellular proteins that impede efficient viral replication. Some human adenovirus species utilize Cul5, whereas others bind Cul2. In this paper, we are the first to identify the E4orf6 Cul2 binding site, which conforms in sequence to a classic cellular Cul2 box. Ours is the first detailed biochemical and genetic analysis of a Cul2-based adenovirus ligase and provides insights into both the cooperative interactions in forming Cullin-based ligases as well as the universality of formation of all adenovirus ligase complexes. Our work now permits future analysis of the evolutionary significance of the ligase complex, work that is currently in progress in our lab.
PMCID: PMC3993529  PMID: 24453364
20.  Association of SAP130/SF3b-3 with Cullin-RING ubiquitin ligase complexes and its regulation by the COP9 signalosome 
BMC Biochemistry  2008;9:1.
Cullin-RING ubiquitin E3 ligases (CRLs) are regulated by modification of an ubiquitin-like protein, Nedd8 (also known as Rub1) on the cullin subunit. Neddylation is shown to facilitate E3 complex assembly; while un-neddylated cullins are bound by CAND1 that prevents recruitment of the substrates. The level of Nedd8 modification is critically dependent on the COP9 signalosome (CSN), an eight-subunit protein complex containing Nedd8 isopeptidase activity.
We report isolation of SAP130 (SF3b-3) as a CSN1 interacting protein. SAP130 is homologous to DDB1, and is a component of SF3b RNA splicing complex and STAGA/TFTC transcription complexes, but its specific function within these complexes is unknown. We show that SAP130 can interact with a variety of cullin proteins. It forms tertiary complexes with fully assembled CRL E3 complexes such as SCFSkp2, Elongin B/C -Cul2- VHL and Cul4-DDB complex by binding to both N-terminal and C-terminal domain of cullins. SAP130 preferentially associates with neddylated cullins in vivo. However knock-down of CAND1 abolished this preference and increased association of SAP130 with Cul2. Furthermore, we provide evidence that CSN regulates SAP130-Cul2 interaction and SAP130-associated polyubiquitinating activity.
SAP130 is a cullin binding protein that is likely involved in the Nedd8 pathway. The association of SAP130 with various cullin member proteins such as Cul1, Cul2 and Cul4A is modulated by CAND1 and CSN. As an established component of transcription and RNA processing complexes, we hypothesis that SAP130 may link CRL mediated ubiquitination to gene expression.
PMCID: PMC2265268  PMID: 18173839
21.  UBXN7 docks on neddylated cullin complexes using its UIM motif and causes HIF1α accumulation 
BMC Biology  2012;10:36.
The proteins from the UBA-UBX family interact with ubiquitylated proteins via their UBA domain and with p97 via their UBX domain, thereby acting as substrate-binding adaptors for the p97 ATPase. In particular, human UBXN7 (also known as UBXD7) mediates p97 interaction with the transcription factor HIF1α that is actively ubiquitylated in normoxic cells by a CUL2-based E3 ligase, CRL2. Mass spectrometry analysis of UBA-UBX protein immunoprecipitates showed that they interact with a multitude of E3 ubiquitin-ligases. Conspicuously, UBXN7 was most proficient in interacting with cullin-RING ligase subunits. We therefore set out to determine whether UBXN7 interaction with cullins was direct or mediated by its ubiquitylated targets bound to the UBA domain.
We show that UBXN7 interaction with cullins is independent of ubiquitin- and substrate-binding. Instead, it relies on the UIM motif in UBXN7 that directly engages the NEDD8 modification on cullins. To understand the functional consequences of UBXN7 interaction with neddylated cullins, we focused on HIF1α, a CUL2 substrate that uses UBXD7/p97 as a ubiquitin-receptor on its way to proteasome-mediated degradation. We find that UBXN7 over-expression converts CUL2 to its neddylated form and causes the accumulation of non-ubiquitylated HIF1α. Both of these effects are strictly UIM-dependent and occur only when UBXN7 contains an intact UIM motif. We also show that HIF1α carrying long ubiquitin-chains can recruit alternative ubiquitin-receptors, lacking p97's ATP-dependent segregase activity.
Our study shows that independently of its function as a ubiquitin-binding adaptor for p97, UBXN7 directly interacts with neddylated cullins and causes the accumulation of the CUL2 substrate HIF1α. We propose that by sequestering CUL2 in its neddylated form, UBXN7 negatively regulates the ubiquitin-ligase activity of CRL2 and this might prevent recruitment of ubiquitin-receptors other than p97 to nuclear HIF1α.
PMCID: PMC3349548  PMID: 22537386
cullin; NEDD8; p97; ubiquitin-dependent degradation; UBXD7
22.  Prognostic impact of cancer/testis antigen expression in advanced stage multiple myeloma patients 
This study aims to analyze the expression of 14 cancer/testis (CT) antigens in multiple myeloma (MM) to identify possible prognostic markers and therapeutic targets. The expression of MAGEA1, MAGEA2, MAGEA3/6, MAGEA4, MAGEA10, MAGEA12, BAGE1, MAGEC1/CT7, the GAGE family, LAGE-1, PRAME, NY-ESO-1, SPA17 and SSX1 was studied by RT-PCR in 15 normal tissues, a pool of 10 normal bone marrow samples, 3 normal tonsils and bone marrow aspirates from 6 normal donors, 3 monoclonal gammopathies of undetermined significance (MGUS), 5 solitary plasmacytomas, 39 MM samples (95% advanced stage) and the MM cell line U266. MAGEC1/CT7 was expressed in bone marrow aspirates from one MGUS and one plasmacytoma. The frequencies at which CT antigen were found to be expressed in MM patients were MAGEC1/CT7 77%, LAGE-1 49%, MAGEA3/6 41%, MAGEA2 36%, GAGE family 33%, NY-ESO-1 33%, BAGE-1 28%, MAGEA1 26%, PRAME 23%, SSX-1 26%, MAGEA12 20.5%, MAGEA4 0%, and MAGEA10 0%. Cox's regression model showed that GAGE family expression and having >6 CT antigens expressed were independent prognostic factors when all patients were analyzed. However, MAGEC1/CT7 expression was the only independent prognostic factor when non-transplanted patients where analyzed. Based on our findings, MAGEC1/CT7, MAGEA3/6 and LAGE-1 are good candidates for immunotherapy, since together they cover 85% of our MM cases. Furthermore, expression of the GAGE family, >6 CT antigens and MAGEC1/CT7 seem to have impact on MM prognosis.
PMCID: PMC2935785  PMID: 18237105
human; multiple myeloma; CT antigens; mRNA; tissue distribution; prognosis
23.  Diversification of the cullin family 
Cullins are proteins involved in ubiquitination through their participation in multisubunit ubiquitin ligase complexes. In this study, I use comparative genomic data to establish the pattern of emergence and diversification of cullins in eukaryotes.
The available data indicate that there were three cullin genes before the unikont/bikont split, which I have called Culα, Culβ and Culγ. Fungal species have quite strictly conserved these three ancestral genes, with only occasional lineage-specific duplications. On the contrary, several additional genes appeared in the animal or plant lineages. For example, the human genes Cul1, Cul2, Cul5, Cul7 and Parc all derive from the ancestral Culα gene. These results, together with the available functional data, suggest that three different types of ubiquitin ligase cullin-containing complexes were already present in early eukaryotic evolution: 1) SCF-like complexes with Culα proteins; 2) Culβ/BTB complexes; and, 3) Complexes containing Culγ and DDB1-like proteins. Complexes containing elongins have arisen more recently and perhaps twice independently in animals and fungi.
Most of the known types of cullin-containing ubiquitin ligase complexes are ancient. The available data suggest that, since the origin of eukaryotes, complex diversity has been mostly generated by combining closely related subunits, while radical innovations, giving rise to novel types of complexes, have been scarce. However, several protist groups not examined so far contain highly divergent cullins, indicating that additional types of complexes may exist.
PMCID: PMC2785787  PMID: 19925652
24.  Stealing the spotlight: CUL4-DDB1 ubiquitin ligase docks WD40-repeat proteins to destroy 
Cell Division  2007;2:5.
Recent investigation of Cullin 4 (CUL4) has ushered this class of multiprotein ubiquitin E3 ligases to center stage as critical regulators of diverse processes including cell cycle regulation, developmental patterning, DNA replication, DNA damage and repair, and epigenetic control of gene expression. CUL4 associates with DNA Damage Binding protein 1 (DDB1) to assemble an ubiquitin E3 ligase that targets protein substrates for ubiquitin-dependent proteolysis. CUL4 ligase activity is also regulated by the covalent attachment of the ubiquitin-like protein NEDD8 to CUL4, or neddylation, and the COP9 signalosome complex (CSN) that removes this important modification. Recently, multiple WD40-repeat proteins (WDR) were found to interact with DDB1 and serve as the substrate-recognition subunits of the CUL4-DDB1 ubiquitin ligase. As more than 150–300 WDR proteins exist in the human genome, these findings impact a wide array of biological processes through CUL4 ligase-mediated proteolysis. Here, we review the recent progress in understanding the mechanism of CUL4 ubiquitin E3 ligase and discuss the architecture of CUL4-assembled E3 ubiquitin ligase complexes by comparison to CUL1-based E3s (SCF). Then, we will review several examples to highlight the critical roles of CUL4 ubiquitin ligase in genome stability, cell cycle regulation, and histone lysine methylation. Together, these studies provide insights into the mechanism of this novel ubiquitin ligase in the regulation of important biological processes.
PMCID: PMC1805432  PMID: 17280619
25.  The Papillomavirus E7 Oncoprotein Is Ubiquitinated by UbcH7 and Cullin 1- and Skp2-Containing E3 Ligase 
Journal of Virology  2004;78(10):5338-5346.
Recurrent infections with high-risk human papillomaviruses (HPVs) are associated with human cervical cancers. All HPV-associated cancer tissues express the viral oncoproteins E6 and E7, which stimulate cell growth. The expression of E7 is crucial for both the initiation and the maintenance of HPV-associated cancer. Recent studies showed that the level of E7 in cancer cells is regulated by ubiquitin-dependent proteolysis through the 26S proteasome. In this study, we characterized the enzymes involved in the ubiquitin-dependent proteolysis of E7. We show that UbcH7, an E2 ubiquitin-conjugating enzyme, is specifically involved in the ubiquitination of E7. Furthermore, we show that E7 interacts with the SCF (Skp-Cullin-F box) ubiquitin ligase complex containing Cullin 1 (Cul1) and Skp2 and can be ubiquitinated by the Cul1-containing ubiquitin ligase in vitro. Coimmunoprecipitation analyses revealed that E7 interacts with Skp2 and Cul1 in vivo. Finally, the half-life of E7 was found to be significantly longer in Skp2−/− mouse embryo fibroblasts (MEFs) than in wild-type MEFs. Taken together, these results suggest that the Cul1- and Skp2-containing ubiquitin ligase plays a role in the ubiquitination and proteolysis of E7. In HPV type 16-containing cervical carcinoma cell line Caski, E7 localizes to both the cytoplasm and the nucleus. Brief treatment of Caski cells with MG132 (a proteasome inhibitor) causes the accumulation of E7 in discrete nuclear bodies. These nuclear bodies are detergent insoluble and contain polyubiquitinated E7. We suggest that E7 relocates to specific nuclear bodies for proteolysis in HPV-containing epithelial cells.
PMCID: PMC400333  PMID: 15113913

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