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1.  HdmX overexpression inhibits oncogene induced cellular senescence 
Cell Cycle  2010;9(16):3376-3382.
Cellular senescence is an irreversible state of terminal growth arrest that requires functional p53. Acting to block tumor formation, induction of senescence has also been demonstrated to contribute to tumor clearance via the immune system following p53 reactivation.1,2 the Hdm2-antagonist, Nutlin-3a, has been shown to reactivate p53 and induce a quiescent state in various cancer cell lines,3,4 similar to the G1 arrest observed upon RNAi targeting of Hdm2 in MCF7 breast cancer.5 In the present study we show that HdmX, a negative regulator of p53, impacts the senescence pathway. Specifically, overexpression of HdmX blocks Ras mediated senescence in primary human fibroblasts. the interaction of HdmX with p53 and the re-localization of HdmX to the nucleus through Hdm2 association appear to be required for this activity. Furthermore, inhibiting HdmX in prostate adenocarcinoma cells expressing wild-type p53, mutant Ras and high levels of HdmX-induced cellular senescence as measured by an increase in irreversible β-galactosidase staining. Together these results suggest that HdmX overexpression may contribute to tumor formation by blocking senescence and that targeting HdmX may represent an attractive anti-cancer therapeutic approach.
PMCID: PMC3041169  PMID: 20724842
HdmX; p53; Ras; senescence; LNCaP
2.  Alterations in gene expression and sensitivity to genotoxic stress following HdmX or Hdm2 knockdown in human tumor cells harboring wild-type p53 
Aging (Albany NY)  2009;1(1):89-108.
While half of all human tumors possess p53 mutations, inactivation of wild-type p53 can also occur through a variety of mechanisms that do not involve p53 gene mutation or deletion. Our laboratory has been interested in tumor cells possessing wild-type p53 protein and elevated levels of HdmX and/or Hdm2, two critical negative regulators of p53 function. In this study we utilized RNAi to knockdown HdmX or Hdm2 in MCF7 human breast cancer cells, which harbor wild-type p53 and elevated levels of HdmX and Hdm2 then examined gene expression changes and effects on cell growth. Cell cycle and growth assays confirmed that the loss of either HdmX or Hdm2 led to a significant growth inhibition and G1 cell cycle arrest. Although the removal of overexpressed HdmX/2 appears limited to an anti-proliferative effect in MCF7 cells, the loss of HdmX and/or Hdm2 enhanced cytotoxicity in these same cells exposed to DNA damage. Through the use of Affymetrix GeneChips and subsequent RT-qPCR validations, we uncovered a subset of anti-proliferative p53 target genes activated upon HdmX/2 knockdown. Interestingly, a second set of genes, normally transactivated by E2F1 as cells transverse the G1-S phase boundary, were found repressed in a p21-dependent manner following HdmX/2 knockdown. Taken together, these results provide novel insights into the reactivation of p53 in cells overexpressing HdmX and Hdm2.
PMCID: PMC2783638  PMID: 19946469
p53; HdmX; Hdm2; RNAi; gene expression profiling
3.  Alterations in gene expression and sensitivity to genotoxic stress following HdmX or Hdm2 knockdown in human tumor cells harboring wild-type p53 
Aging  2009;1(1):89-108.
While half of all human tumors possess p53 mutations, inactivation of wild-type p53 can also occur through a variety of mechanisms that do not involve p53 gene mutation or deletion. Our laboratory has been interested in tumor cells possessing wild-type p53 protein and elevated levels of HdmX and/or Hdm2, two critical negative regulators of p53 function. In this study we utilized RNAi to knockdown HdmX or Hdm2 in MCF7 human breast cancer cells, which harbor wild-type p53 and elevated levels of HdmX and Hdm2 then examined gene expression changes and effects on cell growth. Cell cycle and growth assays confirmed that the loss of either HdmX or Hdm2 led to a significant growth inhibition and G1 cell cycle arrest. Although the removal of overexpressed HdmX/2 appears limited to an anti-proliferative effect in MCF7 cells, the loss of HdmX and/or Hdm2 enhanced cytotoxicity in these same cells exposed to DNA damage. Through the use of Affymetrix GeneChips and subsequent RT-qPCR validations, we uncovered a subset of anti-proliferative p53 target genes activated upon HdmX/2 knockdown. Interestingly, a second set of genes, normally transactivated by E2F1 as cells transverse the G1-S phase boundary, were found repressed in a p21-dependent manner following HdmX/2 knockdown. Taken together, these results provide novel insights into the reactivation of p53 in cells overexpressing HdmX and Hdm2.
PMCID: PMC2783638  PMID: 19946469
p53; HdmX; Hdm2; RNAi; gene expression profiling
4.  Full-length hdmX transcripts decrease following genotoxic stress 
Oncogene  2008;27(52):6657-6666.
Previous studies have suggested that the mdmX gene is constitutively transcribed, and that MdmX protein activity is instead controlled by cellular localization and DNA damage induced Mdm2-mediated ubiquitination leading to proteasomal degradation. In these studies, we report that the human mdmX (hdmX) mRNA is reproducibly decreased in various human cell lines following treatment with various DNA-damaging agents. Repression of hdmX transcripts is observed in DNAdamaged HCT116 colon cancer cells and in isogenic p53−/− cells, suggesting that this effect is p53-independent. Reduction in the amount of hdmX transcript occurs in both human tumor cell lines and primary human diploid fibroblasts, and results in a significant reduction of HdmX protein. Examination of hdmX promoter activity suggests that damage-induced repression of hdmX mRNA is not significantly impacted by transcription initiation. In contrast, changes in hdmX mRNA splicing appear to partly explain the reduction in full-length hdmX mRNA levels in tumor cell lines with the destabilization of full-length hdmX transcripts, potentially through microRNA miR-34a regulation, also impacting transcript levels. Taken together, this study uncovers previously unrecognized cellular mechanisms by which hdmX mRNA levels are kept low following genotoxic stress.
PMCID: PMC2610866  PMID: 18711402
HdmX; p53; transcription; splicing; micro-RNAs
5.  BH3 activation blocks Hdmx suppression of apoptosis and co-operates with Nutlin to induce cell death 
Cell cycle (Georgetown, Tex.)  2008;7(13):1973-1982.
The Hdmx protein restricts p53 activity in vivo and is overexpressed in a significant fraction of human tumors that retain the wild type p53 allele. An understanding of how Hdmx limits p53 activation and blocks apoptosis could therefore lead to development of novel therapeutic agents. We previously showed that Hdmx modulates tumor cell sensitivity to Nutlin-3a, a potent antagonist of the p53/Hdm2 interaction. In this report, we demonstrate that this also applies to MI-219, another Hdm2 antagonist. Thus, the inability to disrupt Hdmx/p53 complexes is a potential barrier to the efficacy of these compounds as single agents. We show that sensitivity to apoptosis in cells with high Hdmx levels is restored by combined treatment with Nutlin and a Bcl-2 family member antagonist to activate Bax. The data are consistent with a model in which Hdmx attenuates p53-dependent activation of the intrinsic apoptotic pathway, and that this occurs upstream of Bax activation. Thus, selectively inhibiting Hdm2 and activating Bax is one effective strategy to induce apoptosis in tumors with high Hdmx levels. Our findings also indicate that preferential induction of apoptosis in tumor versus normal cells occurs using appropriate drug doses.
PMCID: PMC2625302  PMID: 18604177
p53; apoptosis; Hdmx; Mdmx; bcl-2
6.  HDMX regulates p53 activity and confers chemoresistance to 3-Bis(2-chloroethyl)-1-nitrosourea 
Neuro-Oncology  2010;12(9):956-966.
Glioblastoma multiforme (GBM) is one of the deadliest tumors afflicting humans, and the mechanisms of its onset and progression remain largely undefined. Our attempts to elucidate its molecular pathogenesis through DNA copy-number analysis by genome-wide digital karyotyping and single nucleotide polymorphism arrays identified a dramatic focal amplification on chromosome 1q32 in 4 of 57 GBM tumors. Quantitative real-time PCR measurements revealed that HDMX is the most commonly amplified and overexpressed gene in the 1q32 locus. Further genetic screening of 284 low- and high-grade gliomas revealed that HDMX amplifications occur solely in pediatric and adult GBMs and that they are mutually exclusive of TP53 mutations and MDM2 amplifications. Here, we demonstrate that HDMX regulates p53 to promote GBM growth and attenuates tumor response to chemotherapy. In GBM cells, HDMX overexpression inhibits p53-mediated transcriptional activation of p21, releases cells from G0 to G1 phase, and enhances cellular proliferation. HDMX overexpression does not affect the expression of PUMA and BAX proapoptotic genes. While in GBM cells treated with the chemotherapeutic agent 1,3-bis(2-chloroethyl)-1-nitrosourea (BCNU), HDMX appears to stabilize p53 and promote phosphorylation of the DNA double-stranded break repair protein H2AX, up-regulate the DNA repair gene VPX, stimulate DNA repair, and confer resistance to BCNU. In summary, HDMX exhibits bona fide oncogenic properties and offers a promising molecular target for GBM therapeutic intervention.
PMCID: PMC2940701  PMID: 20472715
chemoresistance; GBM; HDMX; oncogene; p53
7.  Abrogation of Wip1 expression by RITA-activated p53 potentiates apoptosis induction via activation of ATM and inhibition of HdmX 
Cell Death and Differentiation  2011;18(11):1736-1745.
Inactivation of the p53 tumour suppressor, either by mutation or by overexpression of its inhibitors Hdm2 and HdmX is the most frequent event in cancer. Reactivation of p53 by targeting Hdm2 and HdmX is therefore a promising strategy for therapy. However, Hdm2 inhibitors do not prevent inhibition of p53 by HdmX, which impedes p53-mediated apoptosis. Here, we show that p53 reactivation by the small molecule RITA leads to efficient HdmX degradation in tumour cell lines of different origin and in xenograft tumours in vivo. Notably, HdmX degradation occurs selectively in cancer cells, but not in non-transformed cells. We identified the inhibition of the wild-type p53-induced phosphatase 1 (Wip1) as the major mechanism important for full engagement of p53 activity accomplished by restoration of the ataxia telangiectasia mutated (ATM) kinase-signalling cascade, which leads to HdmX degradation. In contrast to previously reported transactivation of Wip1 by p53, we observed p53-dependent repression of Wip1 expression, which disrupts the negative feedback loop conferred by Wip1. Our study reveals that the depletion of both HdmX and Wip1 potentiates cell death due to sustained activation of p53. Thus, RITA is an example of a p53-reactivating drug that not only blocks Hdm2, but also inhibits two important negative regulators of p53 – HdmX and Wip1, leading to efficient elimination of tumour cells.
PMCID: PMC3190111  PMID: 21546907
p53; HdmX; RITA; Wip1; cancer
8.  Amplification of Mdmx (or Mdm4) Directly Contributes to Tumor Formation by Inhibiting p53 Tumor Suppressor Activity 
Molecular and Cellular Biology  2004;24(13):5835-5843.
Human tumors are believed to harbor a disabled p53 tumor suppressor pathway, either through direct mutation of the p53 gene or through aberrant expression of proteins acting in the p53 pathway, such as p14ARF or Mdm2. A role for Mdmx (or Mdm4) as a key negative regulator of p53 function in vivo has been established. However, a direct contribution of Mdmx to tumor formation remains to be demonstrated. Here we show that retrovirus-mediated Mdmx overexpression allows primary mouse embryonic fibroblast immortalization and leads to neoplastic transformation in combination with HRasV12. Furthermore, the human Mdmx ortholog, Hdmx, was found to be overexpressed in a significant percentage of various human tumors and amplified in 5% of primary breast tumors, all of which retained wild-type p53. Hdmx was also amplified and highly expressed in MCF-7, a breast cancer cell line harboring wild-type p53, and interfering RNA-mediated reduction of Hdmx markedly inhibited the growth potential of these cells in a p53-dependent manner. Together, these results make Hdmx a new putative drug target for cancer therapy.
PMCID: PMC480894  PMID: 15199139
9.  In vivo activation of the p53 tumor suppressor pathway by an engineered cyclotide 
Journal of the American Chemical Society  2013;135(31):11623-11633.
The overexpression of Hdm2 and HdmX is a common mechanism used by many tumor cells to inactive the p53 tumor suppressor pathway promoting cell survival. Targeting Hdm2 and HdmX has emerged as a validated therapeutic strategy for treating cancers with wild-type p53. Small linear peptides mimicking the N-terminal fragment of p53 have been shown to be potent Hdm2/HdmX antagonists. The potential therapeutic use of these peptides, however, is limited by their poor stability and bioavailability. Here, we report the engineering of the cyclotide MCoTI-I to efficiently antagonize intracellular p53 degradation. The resulting cyclotide MCo-PMI was able to bind with low nanomolar affinity to both Hdm2 and HdmX, showed high stability in human serum and was cytotoxic to wild-type p53 cancer cell lines by activating the p53 tumor suppressor pathway both in vitro and in vivo. These features make the cyclotide MCoTI-I an optimal scaffold for targeting intracellular protein-protein interactions.
PMCID: PMC3767463  PMID: 23848581
cyclotide; protein engineering; protein interactions; therapeutics
10.  N-Acylpolyamine Inhibitors of HDM2 and HDMX Binding to p53 
Bioorganic & medicinal chemistry  2009;17(23):7884-7893.
Selective inhibition of protein-protein interactions important for cellular processes could lead to the development of new therapies against disease. In the area of cancer, overexpression of the proteins human double minute 2 (HDM2) and its homolog HDMX has been linked to tumor aggressiveness. Both HDM2 and HDMX bind to p53 and prevent cell cycle arrest or apoptosis in damaged cells. Developing a strategy to simultaneously prevent the binding of both HDM2 and HDMX to p53 is an essential feature of inhibitors to restore p53 activity in a number of different cancers. Inhibition of protein-protein interactions with synthetic molecules is an emerging area of research that requires new inhibitors tailored to mimic the types of interfaces between proteins. Our strategy to create inhibitors of protein-protein interactions is to develop a non-natural scaffold that may be used as a starting point to identify important molecular components necessary for inhibition. In this study, we report an N-acylpolyamine (NAPA) scaffold that supports numerous sidechains in a compact atomic arrangement. NAPAs were constructed by a series of reductive aminations between amino acid derivatives followed by acylation at the resulting secondary amine. An optimized NAPA was able to equally inhibit the association of both HDM2 and HDMX with p53. Our results demonstrate some of the challenges associated with targeting multiple protein-protein interactions involved in overlapping cellular processes.
PMCID: PMC2784108  PMID: 19880322
11.  A Stapled p53 Helix Overcomes HDMX-Mediated Suppression of p53 
Cancer cell  2010;18(5):411-422.
Cancer cells neutralize p53 by deletion, mutation, proteasomal degradation, or sequestration to achieve a pathologic survival advantage. Targeting the E3 ubiquitin ligase HDM2 can lead to a therapeutic surge in p53 levels. However, the efficacy of HDM2 inhibition can be compromised by overexpression of HDMX, an HDM2 homologue that binds and sequesters p53. Here we report that a stapled p53 helix preferentially targets HDMX, blocks the formation of inhibitory p53-HDMX complexes, induces p53-dependent transcriptional upregulation, and thereby overcomes HDMX-mediated cancer resistance in vitro and in vivo. Importantly, our analysis of p53 interaction dynamics provides a blueprint for reactivating the p53 pathway in cancer by matching HDM2, HDMX, or dual inhibitors to the appropriate cellular context.
PMCID: PMC3050021  PMID: 21075307
12.  Differential Roles of ATM- and Chk2-Mediated Phosphorylations of Hdmx in Response to DNA Damage†  
Molecular and Cellular Biology  2006;26(18):6819-6831.
The p53 tumor suppressor plays a major role in maintaining genomic stability. Its activation and stabilization in response to double strand breaks (DSBs) in DNA are regulated primarily by the ATM protein kinase. ATM mediates several posttranslational modifications on p53 itself, as well as phosphorylation of p53's essential inhibitors, Hdm2 and Hdmx. Recently we showed that ATM- and Hdm2-dependent ubiquitination and subsequent degradation of Hdmx following DSB induction are mediated by phosphorylation of Hdmx on S403, S367, and S342, with S403 being targeted directly by ATM. Here we show that S367 phosphorylation is mediated by the Chk2 protein kinase, a downstream kinase of ATM. This phosphorylation, which is important for subsequent Hdmx ubiquitination and degradation, creates a binding site for 14-3-3 proteins which controls nuclear accumulation of Hdmx following DSBs. Phosphorylation of S342 also contributed to optimal 14-3-3 interaction and nuclear accumulation of Hdmx, but phosphorylation of S403 did not. Our data indicate that binding of a 14-3-3 dimer and subsequent nuclear accumulation are essential steps toward degradation of p53's inhibitor, Hdmx, in response to DNA damage. These results demonstrate a sophisticated control by ATM of a target protein, Hdmx, which itself is one of several ATM targets in the ATM-p53 axis of the DNA damage response.
PMCID: PMC1592859  PMID: 16943424
13.  Effects of HDM2 antagonism on sunitinib resistance, p53 activation, SDF-1 induction, and tumor infiltration by CD11b+/Gr-1+ myeloid derived suppressor cells 
Molecular Cancer  2013;12:17.
The studies reported herein were undertaken to determine if the angiostatic function of p53 could be exploited as an adjunct to VEGF-targeted therapy in the treatment of renal cell carcinoma (RCC).
Nude/beige mice bearing human RCC xenografts were treated with various combinations of sunitinib and the HDM2 antagonist MI-319. Tumors were excised at various time points before and during treatment and analyzed by western blot and IHC for evidence of p53 activation and function.
Sunitinib treatment increased p53 levels in RCC xenografts and transiently induced the expression of p21waf1, Noxa, and HDM2, the levels of which subsequently declined to baseline (or undetectable) with the emergence of sunitinib resistance. The development of resistance and the suppression of p53-dependent gene expression temporally correlated with the induction of the p53 antagonist HDMX. The concurrent administration of MI-319 markedly increased the antitumor and anti-angiogenic activities of sunitinib and led to sustained p53-dependent gene expression. It also suppressed the expression of the chemokine SDF-1 (CXCL12) and the influx of CD11b+/Gr-1+ myeloid-derived suppressor cells (MDSC) otherwise induced by sunitinib. Although p53 knockdown markedly reduced the production of the angiostatic peptide endostatin, the production of endostatin was not augmented by MI-319 treatment.
The evasion of p53 function (possibly through the expression of HDMX) is an essential element in the development of resistance to VEGF-targeted therapy in RCC. The maintenance of p53 function through the concurrent administration of an HDM2 antagonist is an effective means of delaying or preventing the development of resistance.
PMCID: PMC3637597  PMID: 23497256
p53; HDM2; HDMX; MI-319; Renal cell carcinoma; Myeloid-derived suppressor cells (MDSC); SDF-1; Endostatin; Collagen prolyl hydroxylase
14.  Functional profiling of p53-binding sites in Hdm2 and Hdmx using a genetic selection system 
Bioorganic & medicinal chemistry  2010;18(16):6099-6108.
Upregulation of structurally homologous oncoproteins Hdm2 and Hdmx has been linked to the depletion or inactivation of their common regulation target the tumor suppressor p53 protein leading to the progression of cancer. The restoration of the p53 function, rendered suppressed or dormant by these negative regulators, establishes, therefore, a unique opportunity for a targeted induction of apoptosis in cancers that retain wild-type p53. While several small molecules have been reported to rescue the tumor suppressor by antagonizing the Hdm2–p53 interaction, these agents displayed limited application scope by being ineffective in tumors enriched with active Hdmx. Here, we describe the use of a genetic selection system and encoded library of conformationally preorganized peptides to perform functional profiling of each regulator revealing specific recognition features that guide the antagonism of Hdm2–p53 and Hdmx–p53 interactions. Structure-activity relationship analysis of the most effective leads identified functional and structural elements mediating selective recognition of the two structurally related regulators, while providing convenient starting points for further activity optimization.
PMCID: PMC2922946  PMID: 20638853
Hdm2; Hdmx; Protein-protein interactions; Genetic selection; Cyclic peptides
15.  p53 activation by Ni(II) is a HIF-1α independent response causing caspases 9/3-mediated apoptosis in human lung cells 
Toxicology and applied pharmacology  2013;269(3):233-239.
Hypoxia mimic nickel(II) is a human respiratory carcinogen with a suspected epigenetic mode of action. We examined whether Ni(II) elicits a toxicologically significant activation of the tumor suppressor p53, which is typically associated with genotoxic responses. We found that treatments of H460 human lung epithelial cells with NiCl2 caused activating phosphorylation at p53-Ser15, accumulation of p53 protein and depletion of its inhibitor MDM4 (HDMX). Confirming activation of p53, its knockdown suppressed the ability of Ni(II) to upregulate MDM2 and p21 (CDKN1A). Unlike DNA damage, induction of GADD45A by Ni(II) was p53-independent. Ni(II) also increased p53-Ser15 phosphorylation and p21 expression in normal human lung fibroblasts. Although Ni(II)-induced stabilization of HIF-1α occurred earlier, it had no effect on p53 accumulation and Ser15 phosphorylation. Ni(II)-treated H460 cells showed no evidence of necrosis and their apoptosis and clonogenic death were suppressed by p53 knockdown. The apoptotic role of p53 involved a transcription-dependent program triggering the initiator caspase 9 and its downstream executioner caspase 3. Two most prominently upregulated proapoptotic genes by Ni(II) were PUMA and NOXA but only PUMA induction required p53. Knockdown of p53 also led to derepression of antiapoptotic MCL1 in Ni(II)-treated cells. Overall, our results indicate that p53 plays a major role in apoptotic death of human lung cells by Ni(II). Chronic exposure to Ni(II) may promote selection of resistant cells with inactivated p53, providing an explanation for the origin of p53 mutations by this epigenetic carcinogen.
PMCID: PMC3666101  PMID: 23566959
nickel; p53; apoptosis; HIF-1; hypoxia; cancer
16.  Mda-9/Syntenin Is Expressed in Uveal Melanoma and Correlates with Metastatic Progression 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(1):e29989.
Uveal melanoma is an aggressive cancer that metastasizes to the liver in about half of the patients, with a high lethality rate. Identification of patients at high risk of metastases may provide indication for a frequent follow-up for early detection of metastases and treatment. The analysis of the gene expression profiles of primary human uveal melanomas showed high expression of SDCBP gene (encoding for syndecan-binding protein-1 or mda-9/syntenin), which appeared higher in patients with recurrence, whereas expression of syndecans was lower and unrelated to progression. Moreover, we found that high expression of SDCBP gene was related to metastatic progression in two additional independent datasets of uveal melanoma patients. More importantly, immunohistochemistry showed that high expression of mda-9/syntenin protein in primary tumors was significantly related to metastatic recurrence in our cohort of patients. Mda-9/syntenin expression was confirmed by RT-PCR, immunofluorescence and immunohistochemistry in cultured uveal melanoma cells or primary tumors. Interestingly, mda-9/syntenin showed both cytoplasmic and nuclear localization in cell lines and in a fraction of patients, suggesting its possible involvement in nuclear functions. A pseudo-metastatic model of uveal melanoma to the liver was developed in NOD/SCID/IL2Rγ null mice and the study of mda-9/syntenin expression in primary and metastatic lesions revealed higher mda-9/syntenin in metastases. The inhibition of SDCBP expression by siRNA impaired the ability of uveal melanoma cells to migrate in a wound–healing assay. Moreover, silencing of SDCBP in mda-9/syntenin-high uveal melanoma cells inhibited the hepatocyte growth factor (HGF)-triggered invasion of matrigel membranes and inhibited the activation of FAK, AKT and Src. Conversely syntenin overexpression in mda-9/syntenin-low uveal melanoma cells mediated opposite effects. These results suggest that mda-9/syntenin is involved in uveal melanoma progression and that it warrants further investigation as a candidate molecular marker of metastases and a potential therapeutic target.
PMCID: PMC3258266  PMID: 22267972
17.  Targeting Mdm2 and Mdmx in cancer therapy 
Genomic and proteomic profiling of human tumor samples and tumor-derived cell lines are essential for the realization of personalized therapy in oncology. Identification of the changes required for tumor initiation or maintenance will likely provide new targets for small molecule and biologic therapeutics. For example, inactivation of the p53 tumor suppressor pathway occurs in most human cancers. While this can be due to frank p53 gene mutation, almost half of all cancers retain the wild type p53 allele, indicating the pathway is disabled by other means. Alternate mechanisms include deletion or epigenetic inactivation of the p53 positive regulator, arf, methylation of the p53 promoter or elevated expression of the p53 regulators Mdm2 and Mdmx. This review discusses current models of p53 regulation by Mdm2 and Mdmx, and presents the rationale for design of future Mdmx-specific therapeutics based on our knowledge of its structure and biological functions. For simplicity, we use Mdmx throughout this review although the protein is also known as Mdm4 in mouse and Hdmx/Hdm4 in humans. A more detailed discussion of Mdm2 as an oncogene and as a target for chemotherapy can be found elsewhere (1-4).
PMCID: PMC2629357  PMID: 19147532
18.  DNA Damage-Induced Cell Cycle Regulation and Function of Novel Chk2 Phosphoresidues▿ †  
Molecular and Cellular Biology  2006;26(21):7832-7845.
Chk2 kinase is activated by DNA damage to regulate cell cycle arrest, DNA repair, and apoptosis. Phosphorylation of Chk2 in vivo by ataxia telangiectasia-mutated (ATM) on threonine 68 (T68) initiates a phosphorylation cascade that promotes the full activity of Chk2. We identified three serine residues (S19, S33, and S35) on Chk2 that became phosphorylated in vivo rapidly and exclusively in response to ionizing radiation (IR)-induced DNA double-strand breaks in an ATM- and Nbs1-dependent but ataxia telangiectasia- and Rad3-related-independent manner. Phosphorylation of these residues, restricted to the G1 phase of the cell cycle, was induced by a higher dose of IR (>1 Gy) than that required for phosphorylation of T68 (0.25 Gy) and declined by 45 to 90 min, concomitant with a rise in Chk2 autophosphorylation. Compared to the wild-type form, Chk2 with alanine substitutions at S19, S33, and S35 (Chk2S3A) showed impaired dimerization, defective auto- and trans-phosphorylation activities, and reduced ability to promote degradation of Hdmx, a phosphorylation target of Chk2 and regulator of p53 activity. Besides, Chk2S3A failed to inhibit cell growth and, in response to IR, to arrest G1/S progression. These findings underscore the critical roles of S19, S33, and S35 and argue that these phosphoresidues may serve to fine-tune the ATM-dependent response of Chk2 to increasing amounts of DNA damage.
PMCID: PMC1636737  PMID: 16940182
19.  In silico improvement of β3-peptide inhibitors of p53•hDM2 and p53•hDMX 
There is great interest in molecules capable of inhibiting the interactions between p53 and its negative regulators hDM2 and hDMX, as these molecules have validated potential against cancers in which one or both oncoproteins are overexpressed. We reported previously that appropriately substituted β3-peptides inhibit these interactions and, more recently, that minimally cationic β3-peptides are sufficiently cell permeable to upregulate p53-dependent genes in live cells. These observations, coupled with the known stability of β-peptides in a cellular environment, and the recently reported structures of hDM2 and hDMX, motivated us to exploit computational modeling to identify β-peptides with improved potency and/or selectivity. This exercise successfully identified a new β3-peptide, β53-16, that possesses the highly desirable attribute of high affinity for both hDM2 as well as hDMX and identifies the 3,4-dichlorophenyl moiety as a novel determinant of hDMX affinity.
PMCID: PMC2754742  PMID: 19415930
20.  Hypoxia Promotes Uveal Melanoma Invasion through Enhanced Notch and MAPK Activation 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(8):e105372.
The transcriptional response promoted by hypoxia-inducible factors has been associated with metastatic spread of uveal melanoma. We found expression of hypoxia-inducible factor 1α (HIF-1α) protein in well-vascularized tumor regions as well as in four cell lines grown in normoxia, thus this pathway may be important even in well-oxygenated uveal melanoma cells. HIF-1α protein accumulation in normoxia was inhibited by rapamycin. As expected, hypoxia (1% pO2) further induced HIF-1α protein levels along with its target genes VEGF and LOX. Growth in hypoxia significantly increased cellular invasion of all 5 uveal melanoma lines tested, as did the introduction of an oxygen-insensitive HIF-1α mutant into Mel285 cells with low HIF-1α baseline levels. In contrast, HIF-1α knockdown using shRNA significantly decreased growth in hypoxia, and reduced by more than 50% tumor invasion in four lines with high HIF-1α baseline levels. Pharmacologic blockade of HIF-1α protein expression using digoxin dramatically suppressed cellular invasion both in normoxia and in hypoxia. We found that Notch pathway components, including Jag1-2 ligands, Hes1-Hey1 targets and the intracellular domain of Notch1, were increased in hypoxia, as well as the phosphorylation levels of Erk1-2 and Akt. Pharmacologic and genetic inhibition of Notch largely blocked the hypoxic induction of invasion as did the pharmacologic suppression of Erk1-2 activity. In addition, the increase in Erk1-2 and Akt phosphorylation by hypoxia was partially reduced by inhibiting Notch signaling. Our findings support the functional importance of HIF-1α signaling in promoting the invasive capacity of uveal melanoma cells in both hypoxia and normoxia, and suggest that pharmacologically targeting HIF-1α pathway directly or through blockade of Notch or Erk1-2 pathways can slow tumor spread.
PMCID: PMC4148307  PMID: 25166211
21.  MicroRNA-34b/c suppresses uveal melanoma cell proliferation and migration through multiple targets 
Molecular Vision  2012;18:537-546.
MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are endogenously expressed, small noncoding RNAs that inhibit gene expression by binding to target mRNAs. Recent studies have revealed that miRNAs function as tumor suppressors or oncogenes. In the present study, we investigated the role of miRNA-34b/c in uveal melanoma.
Real-time reverse transcriptase polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) was performed to detect the expression level of miR-34b/c in uveal melanoma cells and primary samples. Subsequently, uveal melanoma cell proliferation was examined by the MTS (3-[4,5-dimethylthiazol-2-yl]-5-[3-carboxymethoxyphenyl]-2-[4-sulfophenyl] -2H-tetrazolium, inner salt) assay, clone formation assay, and flow cytometry. Cell apoptosis was measured by caspase3/7 assay. Cell migration was evaluated by transwell migration assay. The target of miR-34b/c was predicted by bioinformatics and validated by luciferase assay. In addition, the effect of miR-34b/c on c-Met, cell cycle-related proteins, v-akt murine thymoma viral oncogene homolog (Akt) and extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK) pathway was determined by western blotting.
miR-34b/c expression, which was dramatically decreased in uveal melanoma cells and clinical samples, can be upregulated by doxorubicin and epigenetic drugs. The transfection of miR-34b/c into uveal melanoma cells leads to a significant reduction in cell growth and migration. miR-34b/c caused cell cycle G1 arrest rather than the induction of apoptosis. Met proto-oncogene (c-Met) was identified as a target of miR-34b/c in uveal melanoma cells. Furthermore, miR-34b/c was confirmed to downregulate the expression of c-Met, p-Akt, and cell cycle–related proteins by western blotting.
Our results demonstrate that both miR-34b and miR-34c act as tumor suppressors in uveal melanoma cell proliferation and migration through the downregulation of multiple targets.
PMCID: PMC3298424  PMID: 22419847
22.  PD-L1: PD-1 Interaction Contributes to the Functional Suppression of T-Cell Responses to Human Uveal Melanoma Cells In Vitro 
To assess the expression of PD-L1 on human uveal melanomas and its potential to suppress T-cell function.
A panel of primary and metastatic uveal melanoma cell lines was evaluated for PD-L1 expression by RT-PCR and flow cytometric analysis. Uveal melanoma-containing eyes were examined for PD-L1 expression by immunohistochemistry. PD-L1 function was tested by coculturing IFN-γ-pretreated uveal melanoma cells with activated Jurkat T cells for 48 hours and assessing T-cell production of IL-2 by ELISA.
Five of the nine primary and one of the five metastatic uveal melanoma cell lines tested constitutively expressed PD-L1 protein at various levels. However, all primary and metastatic uveal melanoma cell lines upregulated PD-L1 expression after stimulation with IFN-γ. Immunohistochemistry demonstrated that PD-L1 was not expressed by primary uveal melanomas in situ. IL-2 production by activated Jurkat T cells was decreased significantly when the cells were cocultured with IFN-γ-pretreated uveal melanoma cells. More than 70% of IL-2 production was restored by addition of either anti-PD-L1 or anti-PD-1 antibody to the coculture assays (P < 0.01).
Expression of PD-L1 by uveal melanoma cells regulates T-cell function by suppressing IL-2 production. The results imply that the presence of IFN-γ in the tumor local microenvironment promotes upregulation of PD-L1 expression by uveal melanoma, which may, in part, promote immune escape by impairing T-cell function. The selective blockade of PD-L1 is a potential strategy in T-cell-based immunotherapy for uveal melanoma.
PMCID: PMC2465808  PMID: 18296654
23.  Notch Signaling Promotes Growth and Invasion in Uveal Melanoma 
To determine whether uveal melanoma, the most common primary intraocular malignancy in adults, requires Notch activity for growth and metastasis.
Experimental Design
Expression of Notch pathway members was characterized in primary tumor samples and in cell lines, along with the effects of Notch inhibition or activation on tumor growth and invasion.
Notch receptors, ligands, and targets were expressed in all five cell lines examined and in 30 primary uveal melanoma samples. Interestingly, the three lines with high levels of baseline pathway activity (OCM1, OCM3, and OCM8) had their growth reduced by pharmacologic Notch blockade using the γ-secretase inhibitor (GSI) MRK003. In contrast, two uveal melanoma lines (Mel285 and Mel290) with very low expression of Notch targets were insensitive to the GSI. Constitutively active forms of Notch1 and Notch2 promoted growth of uveal melanoma cultures and were able to rescue the inhibitory effects of GSI. MRK003 treatment also inhibited anchorage-independent clonogenic growth and cell invasion and reduced phosphorylation levels of STAT3 and extracellular signal-regulated kinase (Erk)1/2. Suppression of canonical Notch activity using short hairpin RNA targeting Notch2 or CBF1 was also able to reduce tumor growth and invasion. Finally, intraocular xenograft growth was significantly decreased by GSI treatment.
Our findings suggest that Notch plays an important role in inducing proliferation and invasion in uveal melanoma and that inhibiting this pathway may be effective in preventing tumor growth and metastasis.
PMCID: PMC4648284  PMID: 22228632
24.  Analysis of human MDM4 variants in papillary thyroid carcinomas reveals new potential markers of cancer properties 
A wild-type (wt) p53 gene characterizes thyroid tumors, except for the rare anaplastic histotype. Because p53 inactivation is a prerequisite for tumor development, alterations of p53 regulators represent an alternative way to impair p53 function. Indeed, murine double minute 2 (MDM2), the main p53 negative regulator, is overexpressed in many tumor histotypes including those of the thyroid. A new p53 regulator, MDM4 (a.k.a. MDMX or HDMX) an analog of MDM2, represents a new oncogene although its impact on tumor properties remains largely unexplored. We estimated levels of MDM2, MDM4, and its variants, MDM4-S (originally HDMX-S) and MDM4-211 (originally HDMX211), in a group of 57 papillary thyroid carcinomas (PTC), characterized by wt tumor protein 53, in comparison to matched contra-lateral lobe normal tissue. Further, we evaluated the association between expression levels of these genes and the histopathological features of tumors. Quantitative real-time polymerase chain reaction revealed a highly significant downregulation of MDM4 mRNA in tumor tissue compared to control tissue (P < 0.0001), a finding confirmed by western blot on a subset of 20 tissue pairs. Moreover, the tumor-to-normal ratio of MDM4 levels for each individual was significantly lower in late tumor stages, suggesting a specific downregulation of MDM4 expression with tumor progression. In comparison, MDM2 messenger RNA (mRNA) and protein levels were frequently upregulated with no correlation with MDM4 levels. Lastly, we frequently detected overexpression of MDM4-S mRNA and presence of the aberrant form, MDM4-211 in this tumor group. These findings indicate that MDM4 alterations are a frequent event in PTC. It is worthy to note that the significant downregulation of full-length MDM4 in PTC reveals a novel status of this factor in human cancer that counsels careful evaluation of its role in human tumorigenesis and of its potential as therapeutic target.
PMCID: PMC2359832  PMID: 18335186
MDM4; MDM2; Thyroid carcinoma; MDM4 variants; p53
25.  Uveal Melanoma Expression of Indoleamine 2, 3 Deoxygenase: Establishment of an Immune Privileged Environment by Tryptophan Depletion 
Experimental eye research  2007;85(5):617-625.
The enzyme indoleamine 2, 3-dioxygenase (IDO) catalyzes degradation of tryptophan, an essential amino acid required for lymphocyte activation and proliferation. Many tumors express IDO which implied that it acts as a mechanism to evade T cell-mediated immune attack, and also to establish an immunosuppressive tumor microenvironment. The purpose of this study was to determine whether primary and metastatic uveal melanoma expressed the IDO gene and whether uveal melanoma cells could deplete tryptophan. In situ expression of IDO in primary uveal melanoma from tumor bearing eyes and metastatic uveal melanoma liver tissues was determined by immunohistostaining with IDO-specific antibody. Reverse transcription PCR was used to assess IDO gene transcription by primary and metastatic uveal melanoma cell lines. IDO protein expression was determined by Western blot of uveal melanoma cell protein lysate. IDO catalytic activity was assessed by measuring the presence of kynurenine, a product generated by tryptophan degradation, in uveal melanoma culture supernatants.
Primary uveal melanoma from tumor-bearing eyes and metastatic uveal melanoma from the liver did not express IDO in situ. IDO was not constitutively expressed in either primary or metastatic uveal melanoma cell lines. However, stimulation of primary and metastatic uveal melanoma cell cultures with interferon-gamma (IFN-γ) universally upregulated both IDO gene and protein expression. Culture supernatants from IFN-γ treated primary and metastatic uveal melanoma cell cultures contained elevated levels of kynurenine. Addition of the IDO inhibitor 1-methyl DL-tryptophan significantly diminished kynurenine levels in IFN-γ treated uveal melanoma cell cultures. The results from this study suggest that IFN-γ inducible IDO upregulation by primary and metastatic uveal melanoma may generate a local immune privileged microenvironment to promote escape from T cell-mediated immune surveillance.
PMCID: PMC2695208  PMID: 17870068

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