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1.  Systemic Delivery of a Novel Liver-Detargeted Oncolytic Adenovirus Causes Reduced Liver Toxicity but Maintains the Antitumor Response in a Breast Cancer Bone Metastasis Model 
Human Gene Therapy  2011;22(9):1137-1142.
We are interested in developing oncolytic adenoviruses for the treatment of bone metastasis of cancer. A key limitation of systemic delivery of oncolytic adenovirus type 5 (Ad5) is that the majority of the virus is taken up by the liver, causing liver damage and systemic toxicity. Given that Ad5 hexon binding with blood coagulation factor X is a key factor in liver sequestration, and that a rare serotype, Ad48, has a diminished capacity to bind with factor X, we have generated mHAd.luc2, a novel hexon-chimeric oncolytic adenovirus. To create mHAd.luc2, seven hypervariable regions of Ad5 hexon were substituted with the corresponding regions from Ad48. Compared with Ad5-based oncolytic virus Ad.luc2, intravenous injection of mHAd.luc2 into nude mice resulted in significantly reduced liver uptake. A single high dose (1.0×1011 viral particles/mouse) of Ad.luc2 resulted in 100% animal death by day 3; whereas none of the mice died in the mHAd.luc2 group. Liver enzyme and liver pathology studies indicated that mHAd.luc2 induced significantly less liver toxicity compared with Ad.luc2. Both mHAd.luc2 and Ad.luc2 exhibited similar binding with breast tumor cells, whereas in the presence of factor X, mHAd.luc2 binding was reduced. Both mHAd.luc2 and Ad.luc2 had nearly equal replication potential in breast cancer cells in vitro. Intravenous injection of mHAd.luc2 and Ad.luc2 into nude mice bearing bone metastases resulted in uptake of the viruses into skeletal tumors, and induced significant inhibition of established bone metastases. Thus, liver-detargeted oncolytic adenovirus can be developed for the treatment of breast cancer bone metastasis.
Zhang and colleagues generate a novel hexon chimeric oncolytic adenovirus, mHAd.luc2, in which the hypervariable regions (HVRs) of adenovirus serotype 5 are substituted with those of Ad48, which is an adenoviral serotype that has reduced hexon-FX binding compared with Ad5. Compared with Ad5-based oncolytic virus Ad.luc2, intravenous injection of mHAd.luc2 into nude mice results in significantly reduced liver uptake and reduced systemic toxicity. Intravenous injection of mHAd.luc2 and Ad.luc2 into nude mice bearing bone metastases results in uptake of the viruses into skeletal tumors, and induces significant inhibition of established bone metastases.
PMCID: PMC3177947  PMID: 21480822
2.  Bioluminescent human breast cancer cell lines that permit rapid and sensitive in vivo detection of mammary tumors and multiple metastases in immune deficient mice 
Breast Cancer Research  2005;7(4):R444-R454.
Our goal was to generate xenograft mouse models of human breast cancer based on luciferase-expressing MDA-MB-231 tumor cells that would provide rapid mammary tumor growth; produce metastasis to clinically relevant tissues such as lymph nodes, lung, and bone; and permit sensitive in vivo detection of both primary and secondary tumor sites by bioluminescent imaging.
Two clonal cell sublines of human MDA-MB-231 cells that stably expressed firefly luciferase were isolated following transfection of the parental cells with luciferase cDNA. Each subline was passaged once or twice in vivo to enhance primary tumor growth and to increase metastasis. The resulting luciferase-expressing D3H1 and D3H2LN cells were analyzed for long-term bioluminescent stability, primary tumor growth, and distal metastasis to lymph nodes, lungs, bone and soft tissues by bioluminescent imaging. Cells were injected into the mammary fat pad of nude and nude-beige mice or were delivered systemically via intracardiac injection. Metastasis was also evaluated by ex vivo imaging and histologic analysis postmortem.
The D3H1 and D3H2LN cell lines exhibited long-term stable luciferase expression for up to 4–6 months of accumulative tumor growth time in vivo. Bioluminescent imaging quantified primary mammary fat pad tumor development and detected early spontaneous lymph node metastasis in vivo. Increased frequency of spontaneous lymph node metastasis was observed with D3H2LN tumors as compared with D3H1 tumors. With postmortem ex vivo imaging, we detected additional lung micrometastasis in mice with D3H2LN mammary tumors. Subsequent histologic evaluation of tissue sections from lymph nodes and lung lobes confirmed spontaneous tumor metastasis at these sites. Following intracardiac injection of the MDA-MB-231-luc tumor cells, early metastasis to skeletal tissues, lymph nodes, brain and various visceral organs was detected. Weekly in vivo imaging data permitted longitudinal analysis of metastasis at multiple sites simultaneously. Ex vivo imaging data from sampled tissues verified both skeletal and multiple soft tissue tumor metastasis.
This study characterized two new bioluminescent MDA-MB-231-luc human breast carcinoma cell lines with enhanced tumor growth and widespread metastasis in mice. Their application to current xenograft models of breast cancer offers rapid and highly sensitive detection options for preclinical assessment of anticancer therapies in vivo.
PMCID: PMC1175057  PMID: 15987449
3.  Bioluminescence Imaging of β Cells and Intrahepatic Insulin Gene Activity under Normal and Pathological Conditions 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(4):e60411.
In diabetes research, bioluminescence imaging (BLI) has been applied in studies of β-cell impairment, development, and islet transplantation. To develop a mouse model that enables noninvasive imaging of β cells, we generated a bacterial artificial chromosome (BAC) transgenic mouse in which a mouse 200-kbp genomic fragment comprising the insulin I gene drives luciferase expression (Ins1-luc BAC transgenic mouse). BLI of mice was performed using the IVIS Spectrum system after intraperitoneal injection of luciferin, and the bioluminescence signal from the pancreatic region analyzed. When compared with MIP-Luc-VU mice [FVB/N-Tg(Ins1-luc)VUPwrs/J] expressing luciferase under the control of the 9.2-kbp mouse insulin I promoter (MIP), the bioluminescence emission from Ins1-luc BAC transgenic mice was enhanced approximately 4-fold. Streptozotocin-treated Ins1-luc BAC transgenic mice developed severe diabetes concomitant with a sharp decline in the BLI signal intensity in the pancreas. Conversely, mice fed a high-fat diet for 8 weeks showed an increase in the signal, reflecting a decrease or increase in the β-cell mass. Although the bioluminescence intensity of the islets correlated well with the number of isolated islets in vitro, the intensity obtained from a living mouse in vivo did not necessarily reflect an absolute quantification of the β-cell mass under pathological conditions. On the other hand, adenovirus-mediated gene transduction of β-cell-related transcription factors in Ins1-luc BAC transgenic mice generated luminescence from the hepatic region for more than 1 week. These results demonstrate that BLI in Ins1-luc BAC transgenic mice provides a noninvasive method of imaging islet β cells and extrapancreatic activity of the insulin gene in the liver under normal and pathological conditions.
PMCID: PMC3617225  PMID: 23593212
4.  Monitoring immediate-early gene expression through firefly luciferase imaging of HRS/J hairless mice 
BMC Physiology  2003;3:8.
Gene promoters fused to the firefly luciferase gene (luc) are useful for examining gene regulation in live transgenic mice and they provide unique views of functioning organs. The dynamics of gene expression in cells and tissues expressing luciferase can be observed by imaging this enzyme's bioluminescent oxidation of luciferin. Neural pathways involved in specific behaviors have been identified by localizing expression of immediate-early genes such as c-fos. A transgenic mouse line with luc controlled by the human c-fos promoter (fos::luc) has enabled gene expression imaging in brain slice cultures. To optimize imaging of immediate-early gene expression throughout intact mice, the present study examined fos::luc mice and a second transgenic mouse containing luc controlled by the human cytomegalovirus immediate-early gene 1 promoter and enhancer (CMV::luc). Because skin pigments and hair can significantly scatter light from underlying structures, the two transgenic lines were crossed with a hairless albino mouse (HRS/J) to explore which deep structures could be imaged. Furthermore, live anesthetized mice were compared with overdosed mice.
Bioluminescence imaging of anesthetized mice over several weeks corresponded with expression patterns in mice imaged rapidly after a lethal overdose. Both fos::luc and CMV::luc mice showed quantifiable bright bioluminescence in ear, nose, paws, and tail whether they were anesthetized or overdosed. CMV::luc and fos::luc neonates had bioluminescence patterns similar to those of adults, although intensity was significantly higher in neonates. CMV::luc mice crossed with HRS/J mice had high expression in bone, claws, head, pancreas, and skeletal muscle, but less in extremities than haired CMV::luc mice. Imaging of brain bioluminescence through the neonatal skull was also practical. By imaging luciferin autofluorescence it was clear that substrate distribution did not restrict bioluminescence imaging to capillaries after injection. Luciferin treatment and anesthesia during imaging did not adversely affect circadian rhythms in locomotor activity.
Imaging of gene expression patterns with luciferase can be extended from studies of live animals to rapid imaging of mice following a pentobarbital overdose before significant effects from postmortem changes occurs. Bioluminescent transgenic mice crossed with HRS/J mice are valuable for examining gene expression in deep tissues.
PMCID: PMC194750  PMID: 12927048
5.  Longitudinal Imaging of Cancer Cell Metastases in Two Preclinical Models: A Correlation of Noninvasive Imaging to Histopathology 
Metastatic spread is the leading cause of death from cancer. Early detection of cancer at primary and metastatic sites by noninvasive imaging modalities would be beneficial for both therapeutic intervention and disease management. Noninvasive imaging modalities such as bioluminescence (optical), positron emission tomography (PET)/X-ray computed tomography (CT), and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) can provide complementary information and accurately measure tumor growth as confirmed by histopathology. Methods. We validated two metastatic tumor models, MDA-MD-231-Luc and B16-F10-Luc intravenously injected, and 4T1-Luc cells orthotopically implanted into the mammary fat pad. Longitudinal whole body bioluminescence imaging (BLI) evaluated metastasis, and tumor burden of the melanoma cell line (B16-F10-Luc) was correlated with (PET)/CT and MRI. In addition, ex vivo imaging evaluated metastasis in relevant organs and histopathological analysis was used to confirm imaging. Results. BLI revealed successful colonization of cancer cells in both metastatic tumor models over a 4-week period. Furthermore, lung metastasis of B16-F10-Luc cells imaged by PET/CT at week four showed a strong correlation (R2 = 0.9) with histopathology. The presence and degree of metastasis as determined by imaging correlated (R2 = 0.7) well with histopathology findings. Conclusions. We validated two metastatic tumor models by longitudinal noninvasive imaging with good histopathology correlation.
PMCID: PMC3958723  PMID: 24724022
6.  ATP binding cassette transporters modulate both coelenterazine- and D-luciferin- based bioluminescence imaging 
Molecular imaging  2011;10(3):215-226.
Bioluminescence imaging (BLI) of luciferase reporters provides a cost-effective and sensitive means to image biological processes. However, transport of luciferase substrates across the cell membrane does affect BLI-readout-intensity from intact living cells.
To investigate the effect of ATP-binding cassette (ABC) transporters on BLI readout, we generated Click Beetle-(cLuc), Firefly-(fLuc), Renilla-(rLuc), and Gaussia-(gLuc) luciferase HEK-293 reporter cells that overexpressed different ABC-transporters (ABCB1, ABCC1 and ABCG2). In vitro studies showed a significant BLI intensity decrease in intact-cells compared to cell-lysates, when ABCG2 was overexpressed in HEK-293/cLuc, fLuc, and rLuc cells. Selective ABC-transporter inhibitors were also applied. Inhibition of ABCG2 activity increased the BLI intensity >2-fold in HEK-293/cLuc, fLuc and rLuc cells; inhibition of ABCB1 elevated the BLI intensity 2-fold only in HEK-293/rLuc cells. BLI of xenografts derived from HEK-293/ABC-transporter/luciferase-reporter cells confirmed the results of inhibitor treatment in vivo.
These findings demonstrate that coelenterazine-based rLuc-BLI intensity can be modulated by ABCB1 and ABCG2. ABCG2 modulates D-luciferin-based BLI in a luciferase-type-independent manner. Little ABC-transporter effect on gLuc-BLI intensity is observed since a large fraction of gLuc is secreted. The expression level of ABC-transporters is one key factor affecting BLI intensity, and this may be particularly important in luciferase-based applications in stem cell research.
PMCID: PMC4052835  PMID: 21496450
ABC transporters; Bioluminescence imaging; Coelenterazine; D-luciferin; Stem cells
7.  Reporter gene-expressing bone marrow-derived stromal cells are immune-tolerated following implantation in the central nervous system of syngeneic immunocompetent mice 
BMC Biotechnology  2009;9:1.
Cell transplantation is likely to become an important therapeutic tool for the treatment of various traumatic and ischemic injuries to the central nervous system (CNS). However, in many pre-clinical cell therapy studies, reporter gene-assisted imaging of cellular implants in the CNS and potential reporter gene and/or cell-based immunogenicity, still remain challenging research topics.
In this study, we performed cell implantation experiments in the CNS of immunocompetent mice using autologous (syngeneic) luciferase-expressing bone marrow-derived stromal cells (BMSC-Luc) cultured from ROSA26-L-S-L-Luciferase transgenic mice, and BMSC-Luc genetically modified using a lentivirus encoding the enhanced green fluorescence protein (eGFP) and the puromycin resistance gene (Pac) (BMSC-Luc/eGFP/Pac). Both reporter gene-modified BMSC populations displayed high engraftment capacity in the CNS of immunocompetent mice, despite potential immunogenicity of introduced reporter proteins, as demonstrated by real-time bioluminescence imaging (BLI) and histological analysis at different time-points post-implantation. In contrast, both BMSC-Luc and BMSC-Luc/eGFP/Pac did not survive upon intramuscular cell implantation, as demonstrated by real-time BLI at different time-points post-implantation. In addition, ELISPOT analysis demonstrated the induction of IFN-γ-producing CD8+ T-cells upon intramuscular cell implantation, but not upon intracerebral cell implantation, indicating that BMSC-Luc and BMSC-Luc/eGFP/Pac are immune-tolerated in the CNS. However, in our experimental transplantation model, results also indicated that reporter gene-specific immune-reactive T-cell responses were not the main contributors to the immunological rejection of BMSC-Luc or BMSC-Luc/eGFP/Pac upon intramuscular cell implantation.
We here demonstrate that reporter gene-modified BMSC derived from ROSA26-L-S-L-Luciferase transgenic mice are immune-tolerated upon implantation in the CNS of syngeneic immunocompetent mice, providing a research model for studying survival and localisation of autologous BMSC implants in the CNS by real-time BLI and/or histological analysis in the absence of immunosuppressive therapy.
PMCID: PMC2630974  PMID: 19128466
8.  Dual-Wavelength Imaging of Tumor Progression by Activatable and Targeting Near-Infrared Fluorescent Probes in a Bioluminescent Breast Cancer Model 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(2):e31875.
Bioluminescence imaging (BLI) has shown its appeal as a sensitive technique for in vivo whole body optical imaging. However, the development of injectable tumor-specific near-infrared fluorescent (NIRF) probes makes fluorescence imaging (FLI) a promising alternative to BLI in situations where BLI cannot be used or is unwanted (e.g., spontaneous transgenic tumor models, or syngeneic mice to study immune effects).
In this study, we addressed the questions whether it is possible to detect tumor progression using FLI with appropriate sensitivity and how FLI correlates with BLI measurements. In addition, we explored the possibility to simultaneously detect multiple tumor characteristics by dual-wavelength FLI (∼700 and ∼800 nm) in combination with spectral unmixing. Using a luciferase-expressing 4T1-luc2 mouse breast cancer model and combinations of activatable and targeting NIRF probes, we showed that the activatable NIRF probes (ProSense680 and MMPSense680) and the targeting NIRF probes (IRDye 800CW 2-DG and IRDye 800CW EGF) were either activated by or bound to 4T1-luc2 cells. In vivo, we implanted 4T1-luc2 cells orthotopically in nude mice and were able to follow tumor progression longitudinally both by BLI and dual-wavelength FLI. We were able to reveal different probe signals within the tumor, which co-localized with immuno-staining. Moreover, we observed a linear correlation between the internal BLI signals and the FLI signals obtained from the NIRF probes. Finally, we could detect pulmonary metastases both by BLI and FLI and confirmed their presence histologically.
Taken together, these data suggest that dual-wavelength FLI is a feasible approach to simultaneously detect different features of one tumor and to follow tumor progression with appropriate specificity and sensitivity. This study may open up new perspectives for the detection of tumors and metastases in various experimental models and could also have clinical applications, such as image-guided surgery.
PMCID: PMC3278453  PMID: 22348134
9.  The unique angiogenic and vasculogenic properties of renal cell carcinoma in a xenograft model of bone metastasis are associated with high levels of vegf-a and decreased ang-1 expression 
Management of various tumor metastases to bone has dramatically improved, but this is not so for renal cell carcinoma (RCC), which is a difficult surgical problem due to its great vascularity. Furthermore, the unique mechanisms that mediate RCC vasculogenesis in bone remain unknown. To understand this process we developed a xenograft model that recapitulates highly vascular RCC vs. less vascular tumors that metastasize to bone. Human tumor cell lines of RCC (786-O), prostate cancer (PC3), lung cancer (A549), breast cancer (MDA-MB231) and melanoma (A375) were transfected with firefly luciferase (Luc), injected into the tibiae of nude mice, and differences in growth, osteolysis and vascularity were assessed by longitudinal bioluminescent imaging (BLI), micro-CT for measurement of calcified tissues and vascularity and histology. The results showed that while RCC-Luc has reduced growth and osteolytic potential vs. the other tumor lines, it displayed a significant increase in vascular volume (p<0.05). This expansion was due to 3- and 5-fold increases in small and large vessel numbers respectively. In vitro gene expression profiling revealed that RCC-Luc expresses significantly (p<0.05) more vegf-a (10-fold) and 20-30-fold less ang-1 vs. the other lines. These data demonstrate the utility of this model to study the unique vasculogenic properties of RCC bone metastases.
PMCID: PMC3213285  PMID: 21809376
Renal Cell Carcinoma (RCC); vasculogenesis; bone metastasis; xenograft
10.  Intravenous Administration of Adenoviruses Targeting Transforming Growth Factor Beta Signaling Inhibits Established Bone Metastases in 4T1 Mouse Mammary Tumor Model in an Immunocompetent Syngeneic Host 
Cancer gene therapy  2012;19(9):630-636.
We have examined the effect of adenoviruses expressing soluble transforming growth factor receptorII-Fc (sTGFβRIIFc) in a 4T1 mouse mammary tumor bone metastasis model using syngeneic BALB/c mice. Infection of 4T1 cells with a non-replicating adenovirus, Ad(E1-).sTβRFc, or with two oncolytic adenoviruses, Ad.sTβRFc and TAd.sTβRFc, expressing sTGFβRIIFc (the human TERT promoter drives viral replication in TAd.sTβRFc) produced sTGFβRIIFc protein. Oncolytic adenoviruses produced viral replication and induced cytotoxicity in 4T1 cells. 4T1 cells were resistant to the cytotoxic effects of TGFβ-1 (up to 10 ng/ml). However, TGFβ-1 induced the phosphorylation of SMAD2 and SMAD3, which were inhibited by co-incubation with sTGFβRIIFc protein. TGFβ-1 also induced IL-11, a well-known osteolytic factor. Intracardiac injection of 4T1-luc2 cells produced bone metastases by day 4. Intravenous injection of Ad.sTβRFc (on days 5 and 7) followed by bioluminescence imaging (BLI) of mice on days 7, 11 and 14 in tumor bearing mice indicated inhibition of bone metastasis progression (p<0.05). X-ray radiography of mice on day 14 showed a significant reduction of the lesion size by Ad.sTβRFc (p<0.01) and TAd.sTβRFc (p<0.05). Replication-deficient virus Ad(E1-).sTβRFc expressing sTGFβRIIFc showed some inhibition of bone metastasis, while Ad(E1-).Null was not effective in inhibiting bone metastases. Thus, systemic administration of Ad.sTβRFc and TAd.sTβRFc can inhibit bone metastasis in the 4T1 mouse mammary tumor model, and can be developed as potential anti-tumor agents for breast cancer.
PMCID: PMC3424293  PMID: 22744210
Breast cancer; mouse model; TGFβ; oncolytic adenovirus; systemic delivery
11.  Rapid obtention of stable, bioluminescent tumor cell lines using a tCD2-luciferase chimeric construct 
BMC Biotechnology  2011;11:26.
Bioluminescent tumor cell lines are experimental tools of major importance for cancer investigation, especially imaging of tumors in xenografted animals. Stable expression of exogenous luciferase in tumor cells combined to systemic injection of luciferin provides an excellent signal/background ratio for external optical imaging. Therefore, there is a need to rationalize and speed up the production of luciferase-positive tumor cell lines representative of multiple tumor phenotypes. For this aim we have designed a fusion gene linking the luciferase 2 protein to the c-terminus of a truncated form of the rat CD2 protein (tCD2-luc2). To allow simultaneous assessment of the wild-type luciferase 2 in a context of tCD2 co-expression, we have made a bicistronic construct for concomitant but separate expression of these two proteins (luc2-IRES-tCD2). Both the mono- and bi-cistronic constructs were transduced in lymphoid and epithelial cells using lentiviral vectors.
The tCD2-luc2 chimera behaves as a type I membrane protein with surface presentation of CD2 epitopes. One of these epitopes reacts with the OX34, a widely spread, high affinity monoclonal antibody. Stably transfected cells are sorted by flow cytometry on the basis of OX34 staining. In vitro and, moreover, in xenografted tumors, the tCD2-luc2 chimera retains a substantial and stable luciferase activity, although not as high as the wild-type luciferase expressed from the luc2-IRES-tCD2 construct. Expression of the tCD2-luc2 chimera does not harm cell and tumor growth.
Lentiviral transduction of the chimeric tCD2-luc2 fusion gene allows selection of cell clones with stable luciferase expression in less than seven days without antibiotic selection. We believe that it will be helpful to increase the number of tumor cell lines available for in vivo imaging and assessment of novel therapeutic modalities. On a longer term, the tCD2-luc2 chimera has the potential to be expressed from multi-cassette vectors in combination with various inserts of interest.
PMCID: PMC3078863  PMID: 21435248
12.  Animal Models of Bone Metastasis 
Animal models are important tools to investigate the pathogenesis and develop treatment strategies for bone metastases in humans. However, there are few spontaneous models of bone metastasis despite the fact that rodents (rats and mice) and other animals (dogs and cats) often spontaneously develop cancer. Therefore, most experimental models of bone metastasis in rodents require injection or implantation of neoplastic cells into orthotopic locations, bones, or the left ventricle of the heart.
The current study reviews the natural incidence and clinical manifestation of bone metastases of mammary and prostate carcinoma in animals, as well as the experimental models developed in mice using animal and human-derived neoplasms.
Rats, mice, dogs, and cats often develop spontaneous mammary carcinoma, but bone metastases are rare. Intact and neutered dogs develop prostate carcinoma that is usually androgen independent and may be associated with regional bone invasion or distant bone metastasis. Normal dog prostate tissue induces new bone formation in vivo and can serve as a model of osteoblastic metastasis without concurrent bone destruction. Experimental models of osteolytic, osteoblastic, and mixed osteolytic/osteoblastic bone metastases include syngeneic rodent neoplasms or human xenografts implanted at orthotopic sites (e.g., breast or prostate glands) in immunodeficient mice, injection of cancer cells into the left ventricle of the heart, or direct injection into bones. New transgenic mouse models of cancer have a low incidence of spontaneous bone metastasis, but cell lines derived from these tumors can be selected in vivo for increased incidence of bone metastasis. It is essential to validate and correctly interpret the lesions in models of bone metastasis to accurately correlate the data from animal models to human disease. Animal models have provided support for the “seed and soil” hypothesis of bone metastasis. However, the roles of vascular patterns in the metaphyses of long bones and rapid bone turnover in young animals in the pathogenesis of metastasis in experimental models are uncertain. Improvements in the imaging of experimental animals in vivo using fluorescent markers or light emitted from luciferase have led to increased sensitivity of detection and more accurate quantification of bone metastases. For example, imaging of human prostate carcinoma PC-3M cells transfected with luciferase, following injection into the left ventricle, has demonstrated that there is rapid localization of tumor cells to bones and other organs, such as the kidneys and lungs.
Animal models of metastasis have supported drug development and have been useful for identification of metastasis suppressor and promoter genes as novel targets for the development of novel therapies. Further refinement of these models will involve spatiotemporal analysis of the metastatic process by imaging and use of image data to stage disease and guide tissue sampling for gene expression profiling via gene array technology. In the future, integrated analyses of these models will be needed to understand the complexities of this important disease process.
PMCID: PMC3057671  PMID: 15043188
bone metastasis; animal model; breast carcinoma; prostate carcinoma; dog; mouse; rat; imaging; osteoblastic metastasis
13.  Mutation of the Fiber Shaft Heparan Sulphate Binding Site of a 5/3 Chimeric Adenovirus Reduces Liver Tropism 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(4):e60032.
Natural tropism to the liver is a major obstacle in systemic delivery of adenoviruses in cancer gene therapy. Adenovirus binding to soluble coagulation factors and to cellular heparan sulphate proteoglycans via the fiber shaft KKTK domain are suggested to cause liver tropism. Serotype 5 adenovirus constructs with mutated KKTK regions exhibit liver detargeting, but they also transduce tumors less efficiently, possibly due to altered fiber conformation. We constructed Ad5/3lucS*, a 5/3 chimeric adenovirus with a mutated KKTK region. The fiber knob swap was hypothesized to facilitate tumor transduction. This construct was studied with or without additional coagulation factor ablation. Ad5/3lucS* exhibited significantly reduced transduction of human hepatic cells in vitro and mouse livers in vivo. Combination of coagulation factor ablation by warfarinization to Ad5/3lucS* seemed to further enhance liver detargeting. Cancer cell transduction by Ad5/3lucS* was retained in vitro. In vivo, viral particle accumulation in M4A4-LM3 xenograft tumors was comparable to controls, but Ad5/3lucS* transgene expression was nearly abolished. Coagulation factor ablation did not affect tumor transduction. These studies set the stage for further investigations into the effects of the KKTK mutation and coagulation factor ablation in the context of 5/3 serotype chimerism. Of note, the putative disconnect between tumor transduction and transgene expression could prove useful in further understanding of adenovirus biology.
PMCID: PMC3621953  PMID: 23585829
14.  The Critical Role of mRNA Destabilizing Protein Heterogeneous Nuclear Ribonucleoprotein D in 3′ Untranslated Region–Mediated Decay of Low-Density Lipoprotein Receptor mRNA in Liver Tissue 
Previous studies showed that low-density lipoprotein receptor (LDLR) mRNA 3′ untranslated region (UTR) contains regulatory elements responsible for rapid mRNA turnover in hepatic cells and mediates the mRNA stabilization induced by berberine (BBR). Here, we elucidate the underlying mechanism of BBR’s action by characterizing mRNA-binding proteins that modulate LDLR mRNA decay via 3′ UTR in liver tissue in vivo.
Approach and Results
We generated a transgenic mouse model (Alb-Luc-UTR) that expresses Luc-LDLR3′ UTR reporter gene driven by the albumin promoter to study 3′ UTR function in mediating LDLR mRNA decay in liver tissue. We show that treating Alb-Luc-UTR mice with BBR led to significant increases in hepatic bioluminescence signals, Luc-UTR mRNA, and LDLR mRNA levels as compared with control mice. These effects were accompanied by specific reductions of mRNA decay-promoting factor heterogeneous nuclear ribonucleoprotein D (hnRNP D) in liver of BBR-treated mice. Knockdown and overexpression studies further demonstrated that hnRNP D p37 isoform plays a major role in promoting hepatic LDLR mRNA degradation. In addition, we examined LDLR mRNA half-life, Luc-UTR reporter activity, and hnRNP D expression levels in cell lines derived from extrahepatic tissues. We demonstrated that strengths of 3′ UTR in promoting mRNA degradation correlate with hnRNP D cellular abundances in nonhepatic cell lines, thereby suggesting its involvement in LDLR mRNA degradation beyond liver tissue.
hnRNP D is critically involved in LDLR mRNA degradation in liver tissue in vivo. The inverse relationship of hnRNP D abundance with LDLR mRNA levels after BBR treatment suggests the potential of hnRNP D of being a novel therapeutic target for LDL cholesterol lowering.
PMCID: PMC4032120  PMID: 24158514
3′ untranslated regions; AU rich elements; berberine; hypercholesterolemia; receptors; LDL; RNA stability
15.  Visualization of Mitotic Arrest of Cell Cycle with Bioluminescence Imaging in Living Animals 
Molecular Imaging and Biology  2013;15(4):431-440.
Visualization of the cell cycle in living subjects has long been a big challenge. The present study aimed to noninvasively visualize mitotic arrest of the cell cycle with an optical reporter in living subjects.
An N-terminal cyclin B1–luciferase fusion construct (cyclin B-Luc) controlled by the cyclin B promoter, as a mitosis reporter, was generated. HeLa or HCT116 cells stably expressing cyclin B-Luc reporter were used to evaluate its cell cycle-dependent regulation and ubiquitination-mediated degradation. We also evaluated its feasibility to monitor the mitotic arrest caused by Taxotere both in vitro and in vivo.
We showed that the cyclin B-Luc fusion protein was regulated in a cell cycle-dependent manner and accumulated in the mitotic phase (M phase) in cellular assays. The regulation of cyclin B-Luc reporter was mediated by proteasome ubiquitination. In the present study, in vitro imaging showed that antimitotic reagents like Taxotere upregulated the reporter through cell cycle arrest in the M phase. Noninvasive longitudinal bioluminescence imaging further demonstrated an upregulation of the reporter consistent with mitotic arrest induced in tumor xenograft models. Induction of this reporter was also observed with a kinesin spindle protein inhibitor, which causes cell cycle blockage in the M phase.
Our results demonstrate that the cyclin B-Luc reporter can be used to image whether compounds are capable, in vivo, of causing an M phase arrest and/or altering cyclin B turnover. This reporter can also be potentially used in high-throughput screening efforts aimed at discovering novel molecules that will cause cell cycle arrest at the M phase in cultivated cell lines and animal models.
PMCID: PMC3708287  PMID: 23440602
Optical imaging; Mitotic arrest; Cell cycle; Cyclin B1; Bioluminescence
16.  Differential Post-Surgical Metastasis and Survival in SCID, NOD-SCID and NOD-SCID-IL-2Rγnull Mice with Parental and Subline Variants of Human Breast Cancer: Implications for Host Defense Mechanisms Regulating Metastasis 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(8):e71270.
We compare for the first time, the metastatic aggressiveness of the parental MDA-MB-231 breast cancer cell line and two luciferase-tagged in vivo-derived and selected pro-metastatic variants (LM2-4/luc+ and 164/8-1B/luc+) in SCID, NOD-SCID and NOD-SCID-IL-2Rγnull (NSG) mice following orthotopic implantation and primary tumour resection. The variants are known to be more aggressively metastatic in SCID mice, compared to the parental line which has limited spontaneous metastatic competence in these mice. When 2×106 cells were injected into the mammary fat pad, the growth of the resultant primary tumours was identical for the various cell lines in the three strains of mice. However, metastatic spread of all three cell lines, including the MDA-MB-231 parental cell line, was strikingly more aggressive in the highly immunocompromised NSG mice compared to both NOD-SCID and SCID mice, resulting in extensive multi-organ metastases and a significant reduction in overall survival. While these studies were facilitated by monitoring post-surgical spontaneous metastases using whole body bioluminescence imaging, we observed that the luciferase-tagged parental line showed altered growth and diminished metastatic properties compared to its untagged counterpart. Our results are the first to show that host immunity can have a profound impact on the spread of spontaneous visceral metastases and survival following resection of a primary tumour in circumstances where the growth of primary tumours is not similarly affected; as such they highlight the importance of immunity in the metastatic process, and by extension, suggest certain therapeutic strategies that may have a significant impact on reducing metastasis.
PMCID: PMC3743873  PMID: 23967178
17.  In vivo Tracking of Transplanted Bone Marrow-Derived Mesenchymal Stem Cells in a Murine Model of Stroke by Bioluminescence Imaging 
This study was designed to validate the cell trafficking efficiency of the in vivo bioluminescence image (BLI) study in the setting of transplantation of the luciferase expressing bone marrow-derived mesenchymal stem cells (BMSC), which were delivered at each different time after transient middle cerebral artery occlusion (MCAO) in a mouse model.
Transplanting donor BMSC were prepared by primary cell culture from transgenic mouse expressing luciferase (LUC). Transient focal infarcts were induced in 4-6-week-old male nude mice. The experiment mice were divided into five groups by the time of MSC transplantation : 1) sham-operation group, 2) 2-h group, 3) 1-day group, 4) 3-day group, and 5) 1- week group. BLI for detection of spatial distribution of transplanted MSC was performed by detecting emitted photons. Migration of the transplanted cells to the infarcted area was confirmed by histological examinations. Differences between groups were evaluated by paired t-test.
A focal spot of bioluminescence was observed at the injection site on the next day after transplantation by signal intensity of bioluminescence. After 4 weeks, the mean signal intensities of 2-h, 1-day, 3-day, and 1-week group were 2.6×107 ± 7.4×106, 6.1×106 ± 1.2×106, 1.7×106 ± 4.4×105, and 8.9×106 ± 9.5×105, respectively. The 2-h group showed significantly higher signal intensity (p < 0.01). The engrafted BMSC showed around the infarct border zones on immunohistochemical examination. The counts of LUC-positive cells revealed the highest number in the 2-h group, in agreement with the results of BLI experiments (p < 0.01).
In this study, the results suggested that the transplanted BMSC migrated to the infarct border zone in BLI study and the higher signal intensity of LUC-positive cells seen in 2 hrs after MSC transplantation in MCAO mouse model. In addition, noninvasive imaging in real time is an ideal method for tracking stem cell transplantation. This method can be widely applied to various research fields of cell transplantation therapy.
PMCID: PMC3030077  PMID: 21286474
Stroke; Bone marrow-derived mesenchymal stem cells; Bioluminescence image
18.  Immediate in vivo target-specific cancer cell death after near infrared photoimmunotherapy 
BMC Cancer  2012;12:345.
Near infrared (NIR) photoimmunotherapy (PIT) is a new type of cancer treatment based on a monoclonal antibody (mAb)-NIR phthalocyanine dye, (IR700) conjugate. In vitro cancer-specific cell death occurs during NIR light exposure in cells previously incubated with mAb-IR700 conjugates. However, documenting rapid cell death in vivo is more difficult.
A luciferase-transfected breast cancer cell (epidermal growth factor receptor+, MDA-MB-468luc cells) was produced and used for both in vitro and in vivo experiments for monitoring the cell killing effect of PIT. After validation of cytotoxicity with NIR exposure up to 8 J/cm2in vitro, we employed an orthotopic breast cancer model of bilateral MDA-MB-468luc tumors in female athymic mice, which subsequently received a panitumumab-IR700 conjugate in vivo. One side was used as a control, while the other was treated with NIR light of dose ranging from 50 to 150 J/cm2. Bioluminescence imaging (BLI) was performed before and after PIT.
Dose-dependent cell killing and regrowth was successfully monitored by the BLI signal in vitro. Although tumor sizes were unchanged, BLI signals decreased by >95% immediately after PIT in vivo when light intensity was high (>100 J/cm2), however, in mice receiving lower intensity NIR (50 J/cm2), tumors recurred with gradually increasing BLI signal.
PIT induced massive cell death of targeted tumor cells immediately after exposure of NIR light that was demonstrated with BLI in vivo.
PMCID: PMC3502522  PMID: 22873679
Photoimmunotherapy; Theranostics; Cell death; Epidermal growth factor receptor; Molecular targeting; Monoclonal antibody; Bioluminescence imaging
19.  Molecular bioluminescence imaging as a non-invasive tool for monitoring tumor growth and therapeutic response to MRI-guided laser ablation in a rat model of hepatocellular carcinoma 
Investigative radiology  2013;48(6):413-421.
To quantitatively compare tumor imaging by MRI and molecular bioluminescence imaging (BLI) and test the feasibility of monitoring the effect of MRI-guided laser ablation on tumor viability by 2D BLI and 3D DLIT in an orthotopic rat model of hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC).
Materials and Methods
This study was approved by the animal care committee. Rats underwent injection of N1S1 cells stably transfected with an empty vector (N=3) or a luciferase reporter (HSE-luc; N=4) into the liver. All rats underwent MR imaging to assess tumor establishment and volume and 2D BLI to assess tumor luminescence at day 7 with repeat MR imaging and 2D BLI and 3D diffuse luminescence tomography (3D DLIT) in select animals at day 14 and 21. MRI-guided laser ablation of the tumor was performed with pre and post-ablation 2D BLI and/or 3D DLIT (N=2). Tumors underwent histopathologic analysis to assess tumor viability.
MR imaging demonstrated hyperintense T2-weighted lesions at 3/3 and 4/4 sites in empty vector and HSE-luc rats, respectively. 2D BLI quantitation demonstrated 23.0 fold higher radiance in the HSE-luc group compared to the empty vector group at day 7 (p<0.01) and a significant correlation with tumor volume by MRI (r=0.86; p<0.03). Tumor dimensions by 3D DLIT and MRI demonstrated good agreement. 3D DLIT quantitation better agreed with the % of non-viable tumor by histopathology than 2D BLI quantitation following MRI-guided laser ablation.
Bioluminescence imaging is a feasible as non-invasive, quantitative tool for monitoring tumor growth and therapeutic response to thermal ablation in a rat model of HCC.
PMCID: PMC3904185  PMID: 23262791
Magnetic Resonance Imaging; Laser Ablation; Bioluminescence Imaging; Hepatocellular Carcinoma; Animal Model
20.  In Vivo Monitoring of Angiogenesis Inhibition via Down-Regulation of Mir-21 in a VEGFR2-Luc Murine Breast Cancer Model Using Bioluminescent Imaging 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(8):e71472.
MicroRNA-21 (miR-21) is overexpressed in a wide range of cancers and involved in tumor proliferation and metastasis. However, the potential function of miR-21 in regulating tumor angiogenesis has been little disclosed. In this study, we treated the cultured 4T1 murine breast cancer cells and human umbilical vein endothelial cells (HUVECs) with miR-21 mimic, antagomir-21 or negative control (scramble), which were subjected to MTT, terminal deoxynucleotidyl transferase dUTP nick end labeling (TUNEL), quantitative Reverse Transcriptase PCR (qRT-PCR) and immunoblotting analysis. In addition, 4T1 cells were implanted beneath the right breast fat pad of the VEGFR2-luc transgenic mice, which were randomly divided into three groups and received saline, antagomir-21 or scramble treatment once respectively after tumor model establishment. Bioluminescent imaging was used to monitor tumor growth and angiogenesis in vivo at 0d, 3d, 5d, 7d, 10d, and 14d after treatment. Mice were killed at the end of study and tumor tissues were collected for use. The results showed that knockdown of miR-21 by antagomir-21 decreased cell proliferation and induced apoptosis via targeting PTEN both in 4T1 cells and HUVECs. We also found the anti-angiogenesis and anti-tumor effects of antagomir-21 in the VEGFR2-luc transgenic mouse model using bioluminescent imaging. Moreover, the Western blotting data revealed that antagomir-21 inhibited tumor angiogenesis through suppressing HIF-1α/VEGF/VEGFR2-associated signaling pathway. In conclusion, the results from current study demonstrate that antagomir-21 can effectively suppress tumor growth and angiogenesis in VEGFR2-luc mouse breast tumor model and bioluminescent imaging can be used as a tool for noninvasively and continuously monitoring tumor angiogenesis in vivo.
PMCID: PMC3738509  PMID: 23951172
21.  Raloxifene inhibits tumor growth and lymph node metastasis in a xenograft model of metastatic mammary cancer 
BMC Cancer  2010;10:566.
The effects of raloxifene, a novel selective estrogen receptor modulator, were studied in a mouse metastatic mammary cancer model expressing cytoplasmic ERα.
Mammary tumors, induced by inoculation of syngeneic BALB/c mice with BJMC3879luc2 cells, were subsequently treated with raloxifene at 0, 18 and 27 mg/kg/day using mini-osmotic pumps.
In vitro study demonstrated that the ERα in BJMC3879luc2 cells was smaller (between 50 and 64 kDa) than the normal-sized ERα (66 kDa) and showed cytoplasmic localization. A statistically significant but weak estradiol response was observed in this cell line. When BJMC3879luc2 tumors were implanted into mice, the ERα mRNA levels were significantly higher in females than in males. In vitro studies showed that raloxifene induced mitochondria-mediated apoptosis and cell-cycle arrest in the G1-phase and a decrease in the cell population in the S-phase. In animal experiments, tumor volumes were significantly suppressed in the raloxifene-treated groups. The multiplicity of lymph node metastasis was significantly decreased in the 27 mg/kg group. Levels of apoptosis were significantly increased in the raloxifene-treated groups, whereas the levels of DNA synthesis were significantly decreased in these groups. No differences in microvessel density in tumors were observed between the control and raloxifene-treated groups. The numbers of dilated lymphatic vessels containing intraluminal tumor cells were significantly reduced in mammary tumors in the raloxifene-treated groups. The levels of ERα mRNA in mammary tumors tended to be decreased in the raloxifene-treated groups.
These results suggest that the antimetastatic activity of raloxifene in mammary cancer expressing cytoplasmic ERα may be a crucial finding with clinical applications and that raloxifene may be useful as an adjuvant therapy and for the chemoprevention of breast cancer development.
PMCID: PMC2978204  PMID: 20958960
22.  Comprehensive Evaluation of the Anti-Angiogenic and Anti-Neoplastic Effects of Endostar on Liver Cancer through Optical Molecular Imaging 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(1):e85559.
Molecular imaging enables non-invasive monitoring of tumor growth, progression, and drug treatment response, and it has become an important tool to promote biological studies in recent years. In this study, we comprehensively evaluated the in vivo anti-angiogenic and anti-neoplastic effects of Endostar on liver cancer based on the optical molecular imaging systems including micro-computer tomography (Micro-CT), bioluminescence molecular imaging (BLI) and fluorescence molecular tomography (FMT). Firefly luciferase (fLuc) and green fluorescent protein (GFP) dual labeled human hepatocellular carcinoma cells (HCC-LM3-fLuc-GFP cells) were used to establish the subcutaneous and orthotopic liver tumor model. After the tumor cells were implanted 14∼18 days, Endostar (5 mg/kg/day) was administered through an intravenous tail vein injection for continuous 14 days. The computer tomography angiography (CTA) and BLI were carried out for the subcutaneous tumor model. FMT was executed for the orthotopic tumor model. The CTA data showed that tumor vessel formation and the peritumoral vasculature of subcutaneous tumor in the Endostar treatment group was significantly inhibited compared to the control group. The BLI data exhibited the obvious tumor inhibition day 8 post-treatment. The FMT detected the tumor suppression effects of Endostar as early as day 4 post-treatment and measured the tumor location. The above data confirmed the effects of Endostar on anti-angiogenesis and tumor suppression on liver cancer. Our system combined CTA, BLI, and FMT to offer more comprehensive information about the effects of Endostar on the suppression of vessel and tumor formation. Optical molecular imaging system enabled the non-invasive and reliable assessment of anti-tumor drug efficacy on liver cancer.
PMCID: PMC3885728  PMID: 24416426
23.  In Vivo Detection of Extrapancreatic Insulin Gene Expression in Diabetic Mice by Bioluminescence Imaging 
PLoS ONE  2010;5(2):e9397.
Extrapancreatic tissues such as liver may serve as potential sources of tissue for generating insulin-producing cells. The dynamics of insulin gene promoter activity in extrapancreatic tissues may be monitored in vivo by bioluminescence-imaging (BLI) of transgenic mice Tg(RIP-luc) expressing the firefly luciferase (luc) under a rat-insulin gene promoter (RIP).
The Tg(RIP-luc) mice were made diabetic by a single injection of the pancreatic β-cell toxin streptozotocin. Control mice were treated with saline. Mice were subject to serum glucose measurement and bioluminescence imaging daily. On day eight of the treatment, mice were sacrificed and tissues harvested for quantitative luciferase activity measurement, luciferase protein cellular localization, and insulin gene expression analysis.
Streptozotocin-induced diabetic Tg(RIP-luc) mice demonstrated a dramatic decline in the BLI signal intensity in the pancreas and a concomitant progressive increase in the signal intensity in the liver. An average of 5.7 fold increase in the liver signal intensity was detected in the mice that were exposed to hyperglycemia for 8 days. Ex vivo quantitative assays demonstrated a 34-fold induction of the enzyme activity in the liver of streptozotocin-treated mice compared to that of the buffer-treated controls. Luciferase-positive cells with oval-cell-like morphology were detected by immunohistochemistry in the liver samples of diabetic mice, but not in that of non-treated control transgenic mice. Gene expression analyses of liver RNA confirmed an elevated expression of insulin genes in the liver tissue exposed to hyperglycemia.
BLI is a sensitive method for monitoring insulin gene expression in extrapancreatic tissues in vivo. The BLI system may be used for in vivo screening of biological events or pharmacologic activators that have the potential of stimulating the generation of extrapancreatic insulin-producing cells.
PMCID: PMC2827564  PMID: 20195523
24.  The Chemokine CCL2 Increases Prostate Tumor Growth and Bone Metastasis through Macrophage and Osteoclast Recruitment1 
Neoplasia (New York, N.Y.)  2009;11(11):1235-1242.
CC chemokine ligand 2 (CCL2, also known as monocyte chemoattractant protein-1) has been demonstrated to recruit monocytes to tumor sites. Monocytes are capable of being differentiated into tumor-associated macrophages (TAMs) and osteoclasts (OCs). TAMs have been shown to promote tumor growth in several cancer types. Osteoclasts have also been known to play an important role in cancer bone metastasis. To investigate the effects of CCL2 on tumorigenesis and its potential effects on bone metastasis of human prostate cancer, CCL2 was overexpressed into a luciferase-tagged human prostate cancer cell line PC-3. In vitro, the conditioned medium of CCL2 overexpressing PC-3luc cells (PC-3lucCCL2) was a potent chemoattractant for mouse monocytes in comparison to a conditioned medium from PC-3lucMock. In addition, CCL2 overexpression increased the growth of transplanted xenografts and increased the accumulation of macrophages in vivo. In a tumor dissemination model, PC-3lucCCL2 enhanced the growth of bone metastasis, which was associated with more functional OCs. Neutralizing antibodies targeting both human and mouse CCL2 inhibited the growth of PC-3luc, which was accompanied by a decrease in macrophage recruitment to the tumor. These findings suggest that CCL2 increases tumor growth and bone metastasis through recruitment of macrophages and OCs to the tumor site.
PMCID: PMC2767225  PMID: 19881959
25.  Galactosylceramide Affects Tumorigenic and Metastatic Properties of Breast Cancer Cells as an Anti-Apoptotic Molecule 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(12):e84191.
It was recently proposed that UDP-galactose:ceramide galactosyltransferase (UGT8), enzyme responsible for synthesis of galactosylceramide (GalCer), is a significant index of tumor aggressiveness and a potential marker for the prognostic evaluation of lung metastases in breast cancer. To further reveal the role of UGT8 and GalCer in breast cancer progression, tumorigenicity and metastatic potential of control MDA-MB-231 cells (MDA/LUC) and MDA-MB-231 cells (MDA/LUC-shUGT8) with highly decreased expression of UGT8 and GalCer after stable expression of shRNA directed against UGT8 mRNA was studied in vivo in athymic nu/nu mice. Control MDA/LUC cells formed tumors and metastatic colonies much more efficiently in comparison to MDA/LUC-shUGT8 cells with suppressed synthesis of GalCer after their, respectively, orthotopic and intracardiac transplantation. These findings indicate that UGT8 and GalCer have a profound effect on tumorigenic and metastatic properties of breast cancer cells. In accordance with this finding, immunohistochemical staining of tumor specimens revealed that high expression of UGT8 accompanied by accumulation of GalCer in MDA-MB-231 cells is associated with a much higher proliferative index and a lower number of apoptotic cells in comparison to the MDA/LUC-shUGT8 cells. In addition, it was found that expression of UGT8 in MDA-MB-231 cells increased their resistance to apoptosis induced by doxorubicin in vitro. Therefore, these data suggest that accumulation of GalCer in tumor cells inhibits apoptosis, which would facilitates metastatic cells to survive in the hostile microenvironment of tumor in target organ.
PMCID: PMC3877204  PMID: 24391908

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