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1.  Sulfatide Preserves Insulin Crystals Not by Being Integrated in the Lattice but by Stabilizing Their Surface 
Journal of Diabetes Research  2016;2016:6179635.
Background. Sulfatide is known to chaperone insulin crystallization within the pancreatic beta cell, but it is not known if this results from sulfatide being integrated inside the crystal structure or by binding the surface of the crystal. With this study, we aimed to characterize the molecular mechanisms underlying the integral role for sulfatide in stabilizing insulin crystals prior to exocytosis. Methods. We cocrystallized human insulin in the presence of sulfatide and solved the structure by molecular replacement. Results. The crystal structure of insulin crystallized in the presence of sulfatide does not reveal ordered occupancy representing sulfatide in the crystal lattice, suggesting that sulfatide does not permeate the crystal lattice but exerts its stabilizing effect by alternative interactions such as on the external surface of insulin crystals. Conclusions. Sulfatide is known to stabilize insulin crystals, and we demonstrate here that in beta cells sulfatide is likely coating insulin crystals. However, there is no evidence for sulfatide to be built into the crystal lattice.
PMCID: PMC4769769  PMID: 26981544
2.  Pyruvate sensitizes pancreatic tumors to hypoxia-activated prodrug TH-302 
Hypoxic niches in solid tumors harbor therapy-resistant cells. Hypoxia-activated prodrugs (HAPs) have been designed to overcome this resistance and, to date, have begun to show clinical efficacy. However, clinical HAPs activity could be improved. In this study, we sought to identify non-pharmacological methods to acutely exacerbate tumor hypoxia to increase TH-302 activity in pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC) tumor models.
Three human PDAC cell lines with varying sensitivity to TH-302 (Hs766t > MiaPaCa-2 > SU.86.86) were used to establish PDAC xenograft models. PDAC cells were metabolically profiled in vitro and in vivo using the Seahorse XF system and hyperpolarized 13C pyruvate MRI, respectively, in addition to quantitative immunohistochemistry. The effect of exogenous pyruvate on tumor oxygenation was determined using electroparamagnetic resonance (EPR) oxygen imaging. Hs766t and MiaPaCa-2 cells exhibited a glycolytic phenotype in comparison to TH-302 resistant line SU.86.86. Supporting this observation is a higher lactate/pyruvate ratio in Hs766t and MiaPaCa xenografts as observed during hyperpolarized pyruvate MRI studies in vivo. Coincidentally, response to exogenous pyruvate both in vitro (Seahorse oxygen consumption) and in vivo (EPR oxygen imaging) was greatest in Hs766t and MiaPaCa models, possibly due to a higher mitochondrial reserve capacity. Changes in oxygen consumption and in vivo hypoxic status to pyruvate were limited in the SU.86.86 model. Combination therapy of pyruvate plus TH-302 in vivo significantly decreased tumor growth and increased survival in the MiaPaCa model and improved survival in Hs766t tumors.
Using metabolic profiling, functional imaging, and computational modeling, we show improved TH-302 activity by transiently increasing tumor hypoxia metabolically with exogenous pyruvate. Additionally, this work identified a set of biomarkers that may be used clinically to predict which tumors will be most responsive to pyruvate + TH-302 combination therapy. The results of this study support the concept that acute increases in tumor hypoxia can be beneficial for improving the clinical efficacy of HAPs and can positively impact the future treatment of PDAC and other cancers.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s40170-014-0026-z) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4310189  PMID: 25635223
Hypoxia; Hypoxia-activated prodrugs; TH-302; Tumor microenvironment; Metabolism; Pancreatic cancer; Functional imaging; Computational modeling
3.  Evaluation of the “Steal” Phenomenon on the Efficacy of Hypoxia Activated Prodrug TH-302 in Pancreatic Cancer 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(12):e113586.
Pancreatic ductal adenocarcinomas are desmoplastic and hypoxic, both of which are associated with poor prognosis. Hypoxia-activated prodrugs (HAPs) are specifically activated in hypoxic environments to release cytotoxic or cytostatic effectors. TH-302 is a HAP that is currently being evaluated in a Phase III clinical trial in pancreatic cancer. Using animal models, we show that tumor hypoxia can be exacerbated using a vasodilator, hydralazine, improving TH-302 efficacy. Hydralazine reduces tumor blood flow through the “steal” phenomenon, in which atonal immature tumor vasculature fails to dilate in coordination with normal vasculature. We show that MIA PaCa-2 tumors exhibit a “steal” effect in response to hydralazine, resulting in decreased tumor blood flow and subsequent tumor pH reduction. The effect is not observed in SU.86.86 tumors with mature tumor vasculature, as measured by CD31 and smooth muscle actin (SMA) immunohistochemistry staining. Combination therapy of hydralazine and TH-302 resulted in a reduction in MIA PaCa-2 tumor volume growth after 18 days of treatment. These studies support a combination mechanism of action for TH-302 with a vasodilator that transiently increases tumor hypoxia.
PMCID: PMC4273999  PMID: 25532146
4.  Mechanisms of buffer therapy resistance 
Neoplasia (New York, N.Y.)  2014;16(4):354-364.e3.
Many studies have shown that the acidity of solid tumors contributes to local invasion and metastasis. Oral pH buffers can specifically neutralize the acidic pH of tumors and reduce the incidence of local invasion and metastatic formation in multiple murine models. However, this effect is not universal as we have previously observed that metastasis is not inhibited by buffers in some tumor models, regardless of buffer used. B16-F10 (murine melanoma), LL/2 (murine lung) and HCT116 (human colon) tumors are resistant to treatment with lysine buffer therapy, whereas metastasis is potently inhibited by lysine buffers in MDA-MB-231 (human breast) and PC3M (human prostate) tumors. In the current work, we confirmed that sensitive cells utilized a pH-dependent mechanism for successful metastasis supported by a highly glycolytic phenotype that acidifies the local tumor microenvironment resulting in morphological changes. In contrast, buffer-resistant cell lines exhibited a pH-independent metastatic mechanism involving constitutive secretion of matrix degrading proteases without elevated glycolysis. These results have identified two distinct mechanisms of experimental metastasis, one of which is pH-dependent (buffer therapy sensitive cells) and one which is pH-independent (buffer therapy resistant cells). Further characterization of these models has potential for therapeutic benefit.
PMCID: PMC4094835  PMID: 24862761
ECAR, extracellular acidification rate; MMPs, matrix metalloproteases; OCR, oxygen consumption rate; OXPHOS, oxidative Phosphorylation; pHe, extracellular pH
5.  Buffer Therapy for Cancer 
Oral administration of pH buffers can reduce the development of spontaneous and experimental metastases in mice, and has been proposed in clinical trials. Effectiveness of buffer therapy is likely to be affected by diet, which could contribute or interfere with the therapeutic alkalinizing effect. Little data on food pH buffering capacity was available. This study evaluated the pH and buffering capacity of different foods to guide prospective trials and test the effect of the same buffer (lysine) at two different ionization states. Food groups were derived from the Harvard Food Frequency Questionnaire. Foods were blended and pH titrated with acid from initial pH values until 4.0 to determine “buffering score”, in mmol H+/pH unit. A “buffering score” was derived as the mEq H+ consumed per serving size to lower from initial to a pH 4.0, the postprandial pH of the distal duodenum. To differentiate buffering effect from any metabolic byproduct effects, we compared the effects of oral lysine buffers prepared at either pH 10.0 or 8.4, which contain 2 and 1 free base amines, respectively. The effect of these on experimental metastases formation in mice following tail vein injection of PC-3M prostate cancer cells were monitored with in vivo bioluminescence. Carbohydrates and dairy products’ buffering score varied between 0.5 and 19. Fruits and vegetables showed a low to zero buffering score. The score of meats varied between 6 and 22. Wine and juices had negative scores. Among supplements, sodium bicarbonate and Tums® had the highest buffering capacities, with scores of 11 and 20 per serving size, respectively. The “de-buffered” lysine had a less pronounced effect of prevention of metastases compared to lysine at pH 10. This study has demonstrated the anti-cancer effects of buffer therapy and suggests foods that can contribute to or compete with this approach to manage cancer.
PMCID: PMC3872072  PMID: 24371544
Food buffering capacity; acid-base; pH; metastasis; sodium bicarbonate
6.  Targeting the Metabolic Microenvironment of Tumors 
The observation of aerobic glycolysis by tumor cells in 1924 by Otto Warburg, and subsequent innovation of imaging glucose uptake by tumors in patients with PET-CT has incited a renewed interest in the altered metabolism of tumors. As tumors grow in situ, a fraction of it is further away from their blood supply, leading to decreased oxygen concentrations (hypoxia), which induces the hypoxia response pathways of HIF1α, mTOR and UPR. In normal tissues, these responses mitigate hypoxic stress and induce neo-angiogenesis. In tumors, these pathways are dysregulated and lead to decreased perfusion and exacerbation of hypoxia as a result of immature and chaotic blood vessels. Hypoxia selects for a glycolytic phenotype and resultant acidification of the tumor microenvironment, facilitated by upregulation of proton transporters. Acidification selects for enhanced metastatic potential and reduced drug efficacy through ion trapping. In this review, we provide a comprehensive summary of pre-clinical and clinical drugs under development for targeting aerobic glycolysis, acidosis, hypoxia and hypoxia-response pathways. Hypoxia and acidosis can be manipulated, providing further therapeutic benefit for cancers that feature these common phenotypes.
PMCID: PMC3796340  PMID: 22959024
Warburg Effect; tumor microenvironment; tumor hypoxia; tumor acidosis; tumor metabolism
7.  Acid-Mediated Tumor Proteolysis: Contribution of Cysteine Cathepsins12 
Neoplasia (New York, N.Y.)  2013;15(10):1125-1137.
One of the noncellular microenvironmental factors that contribute to malignancy of solid tumors is acidic peritumoral pH. We have previously demonstrated that extracellular acidosis leads to localization of the cysteine pro-tease cathepsin B on the tumor cell membrane and its secretion. The objective of the present study was to determine if an acidic extracellular pH such as that observed in vivo (i.e., pHe 6.8) affects the activity of proteases, e.g., cathepsin B, that contribute to degradation of collagen IV by tumor cells when grown in biologically relevant three-dimensional (3D) cultures. For these studies, we used 1) 3D reconstituted basement membrane overlay cultures of human carcinomas, 2) live cell imaging assays to assess proteolysis, and 3) in vivo imaging of active tumor proteases. At pHe 6.8, there were increases in pericellular active cysteine cathepsins and in degradation of dye-quenched collagen IV, which was partially blocked by a cathepsin B inhibitor. Imaging probes for active cysteine cathepsins localized to tumors in vivo. The amount of bound probe decreased in tumors in bicarbonate-treated mice, a treatment previously shown to increase peritumoral pHe and reduce local invasion of the tumors. Our results are consistent with the acid-mediated invasion hypothesis and with a role for cathepsin B in promoting degradation of a basement membrane protein substrate, i.e., type IV collagen, in an acidic peritumoral environment.
PMCID: PMC3819629  PMID: 24204192
8.  Free Base Lysine Increases Survival and Reduces Metastasis in Prostate Cancer Model 
Journal of cancer science & therapy  2011;Suppl 1(4):JCST-S1-004.
Malignant tumor cells typically metabolize glucose anaerobically to lactic acid even under normal oxygen tension, a phenomenon called aerobic glycolysis or the Warburg effect. This results in increased acid production and the acidification of the extracellular microenvironment in solid tumors. H+ ions tend to flow along concentration gradients into peritumoral normal tissue causing extracellular matrix degradation and increased tumor cell motility thus promoting invasion and metastasis. We have shown that reducing this acidity with sodium bicarbonate buffer decreases the metastatic fitness of circulating tumor cells in prostate cancer and other cancer models. Mathematical models of the tumor-host dynamics predicted that buffers with a pka around 7 will be more effective in reducing intra- and peri-tumoral acidosis and, thus, and possibly more effective in inhibiting tumor metastasis than sodium bicarbonate which has a pKa around 6. Here we test this prediction the efficacy of free base lysine; a non-bicarbonate/non-volatile buffer with a higher pKa (~10), on prostate tumor metastases model.
Oxygen consumption and acid production rate of PC3M prostate cancer cells and normal prostate cells were determined using the Seahorse Extracellular Flux (XF-96) analyzer. In vivo effect of 200 mM lysine started four days prior to inoculation on inhibition of metastasis was examined in PC3M-LUC-C6 prostate cancer model using SCID mice. Metastases were followed by bioluminescence imaging.
PC3M prostate cancer cells are highly acidic in comparison to a normal prostate cell line indicating that reduction of intra- and perit-tumoral acidosis should inhibit metastases formation. In vivo administration of 200 mM free base lysine increased survival and reduced metastasis.
PC3M prostate cancer cells are highly glycolytic and produce large amounts of acid when compared to normal prostate cells. Administration of non-volatile buffer decreased growth of metastases and improved survival indicating acidity plays a significant role in growth and invasion in-vivo.
PMCID: PMC3768133  PMID: 24032073
Tumor Acidosis; PC3M; Prostate Cancer; Oxygen consumption rate; Extracellular acidification rate; Buffers; Free base Lysine
9.  Crystallization and preliminary X-ray analysis of the human long myosin light-chain kinase 1-specific domain IgCAM3 
To gain insight into the structure of the IgCAM3 domain, the IgCAM3 domain of MLCK1 has been expressed, purified and crystallized.
Myosin light-chain kinase-dependent tight junction regulation is a critical event in inflammatory cytokine-induced increases in epithelial paracellular permeability. MLCK is expressed in human intestinal epithelium as two isoforms, long MLCK1 and long MLCK2, and MLCK1 is specifically localized to the tight junction, where it regulates paracellular permeability. The sole difference between these long MLCK splice variants is the presence of an immunoglobulin-like cell-adhesion molecule domain, IgCAM3, in MLCK1. To gain insight into the structure of the IgCAM3 domain, the IgCAM3 domain of MLCK1 has been expressed, purified and crystallized. Preliminary X-ray diffraction data were collected to 2.0 Å resolution and were consistent with the primitive trigonal space group P212121.
PMCID: PMC3034612  PMID: 21301090
IgCAM3 domain; myosin light-chain kinase 1
10.  Crystallization of the focal adhesion kinase targeting (FAT) domain in a primitive orthorhombic space group 
X-ray diffraction data from the targeting (FAT) domain of focal adhesion kinase (FAK) were collected from a single crystal that diffracted to 1.99 Å resolution.
X-ray diffraction data from the targeting (FAT) domain of focal adhesion kinase (FAK) were collected from a single crystal that diffracted to 1.99 Å resolution and reduced to the primitive orthorhombic lattice. A single molecule was predicted to be present in the asymmetric unit based on the Matthews coefficient. The data were phased using molecular-replacement methods using an existing model of the FAK FAT domain. All structures of human focal adhesion kinase FAT domains solved to date have been solved in a C-centered orthorhombic space group.
PMCID: PMC2496861  PMID: 18540077
focal adhesion kinase; targeting domain
11.  Novel Immune-Type Receptors Mediate Allogeneic Recognition 
Immunity  2008;29(2):228-237.
Novel immune-type receptors (NITRs) comprise an exceptionally large, diversified family of activating/inhibitory receptors that has been identified in bony fish. In this study, we characterize the structure of an activating NITR that is expressed by a cytotoxic NK-like cell line and specifically binds an allogeneic B cell target. A single amino acid residue within the NITR immunoglobulin variable (V)-type domain accounts for specificity of the interaction. Structures solved by x-ray crystallography reveal: (1) the V-type domains of NITRs form homodimers resembling heterodimers formed by rearranging antigen binding receptors and (2) both subunits of NITR dimers form ligand-binding surfaces in CDR1 that determine specificity for the nonself target. In the evolution of immune function, it appears that a specific NK-type of innate recognition may be mediated by a complex germline multigene family of V structures resembling those that are somatically diversified in adaptive immune responses.
PMCID: PMC2603606  PMID: 18674935

Results 1-11 (11)