Autophagy is critical for maintaining cellular homeostasis, coping with metabolic stress, and limiting oxidative damage. Several autophagy-deficient or knockout models show increased tumor incidence, implicating autophagy as a tumor suppressor. Autophagy is involved in multiple processes which may curb transformation, including the control of oncogene-induced senescence (OIS), which can limit progression to full malignancy, and efficient antigen presentation, which is crucial for immune cell recognition and elimination of nascent cancer cells. Activation of the autophagy pathway may therefore hold promise as a chemoprevention strategy. Caloric restriction, bioactive dietary compounds, or specific pharmacological activators of the autophagy pathway are all possible avenues to explore in harnessing the autophagy pathway in cancer prevention.
Neuroblastoma is a pediatric malignancy that arises from the neural crest and patients with high-risk neuroblastoma that typically harbor amplifications of MYCN have an extremely poor prognosis. The tyrosine hydroxylase (TH) promoter-driven TH-MYCN transgenic mouse model faithfully recapitulates many hallmarks of human MYCN-amplified neuroblastoma. A key downstream target of Myc oncoproteins in tumorigenesis is ornithine decarboxylase (Odc), the rate-limiting enzyme of polyamine biosynthesis. Indeed, sustained treatment with the Odc suicide inhibitor α-difluoromethylornithine (DFMO), or Odc heterozygosity, markedly impairs lymphoma development in Eμ-Myc transgenic mice, and these effects are linked to the induction of the cyclin dependent kinase (Cdk) inhibitor p27Kip1, which is normally repressed by Myc. Here we report that DFMO treatment, but not Odc heterozygosity impairs MYCN-induced neuroblastoma, and that in this malignancy transient DFMO treatment is sufficient to confer protection. The selective anti-cancer effects of DFMO on mouse and human MYCN-amplified neuroblastoma also rely on its ability to disable Myc's proliferative response, yet in this tumor context DFMO targets the expression of the p21Cip1 Cdk inhibitor, which is also suppressed by Myc oncoproteins. These findings suggest that agents such as DFMO that target the polyamine pathway may show efficacy in high-risk, MYCN-amplified neuroblastoma.
neuroblastoma; MYCN; ornithine decarboxylase; DFMO; p21Cip1
Autophagy is an ancient, intracellular degradative system which plays important roles in regulating protein homeostasis and which is essential for survival when cells are faced with metabolic stress. Increasing evidence suggests that autophagy also functions as a tumor suppressor mechanism that harnesses the growth and/or survival of cells as they transition towards a rapidly dividing malignant state. However, the impact of autophagy on cancer progression and on the efficacy of cancer therapeutics is controversial. In particular, although the induction of autophagy has been reported after treatment with a number of therapeutic agents, including imatinib, this response has variously been suggested to either impair or contribute to the effects of anticancer agents. More recent studies support the notion that autophagy compromises the efficacy of anticancer agents, where agents such as chloroquine (CQ) that impair autophagy augment the anticancer activity of histone deacetylase (HDAC) inhibitors and alkylating agents. Inhibition of autophagy is a particularly attractive strategy for the treatment of imatinib-refractory chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML) since a combination of CQ with the HDAC inhibitor suberoylanilide hydroxamic acid (SAHA) compromises the survival of even BCR-ABL-T315I+ imatinib-resistant CML. Additional studies are clearly needed to establish the clinical utility of autophagy inhibitors and to identify patients most likely to benefit from this novel therapeutic approach.
autophagy; imatinib; resistance; chronic myelogenous leukemia
The universal cyclin-Cdk inhibitor p27Kip1 functions as a tumor suppressor and reduced levels of p27Kip1 connote poor prognosis in several human malignancies. p27Kip1 levels are predominately regulated by ubiquitin-mediated turnover of the protein, which is marked for destruction by the E3 ubiquitin ligase SCFSkp2 complex following its phosphorylation by the cyclin E-Cdk2 complex. Binding of phospho-p27Kip1 is directed by the Skp2 F-box protein, and this is greatly augmented by its allosteric regulator Cks1. We have established that programmed expression of c-Myc in the B cells of Eμ-Myc transgenic mice triggers p27Kip1 destruction by inducing Cks1, that this response controls Myc-driven proliferation, and that loss of Cks1 markedly delays Myc-induced lymphomagenesis and cancels the dissemination of these tumors. Here, we report that elevated levels of Skp2 are a characteristic of Eμ-Myc lymphomas and of human Burkitt lymphoma that bear MYC/immunoglobulin chromosomal translocations. As expected, Myc-mediated suppression of p27Kip1 was abolished in Skp2-null Eμ-Myc B cells. However, the impact of Skp2 loss on Myc-driven proliferation and lymphomagenesis was surprisingly modest compared to the effects of Cks1 loss. Collectively these findings suggest that Cks1 targets in addition to p27Kip1 are critical for Myc-driven proliferation and tumorigenesis.
Myc; Skp2; p27Kip1; lymphomagenesis
Genome reduction is a hallmark of obligate intracellular pathogens such as Chlamydia, where adaptation to intracellular growth has resulted in the elimination of genes encoding biosynthetic enzymes. Accordingly, chlamydiae rely heavily on the host cell for nutrients yet their specific source is unclear. Interestingly, chlamydiae grow within a pathogen-defined vacuole that is in close apposition to lysosomes. Metabolically-labeled uninfected host cell proteins were provided as an exogenous nutrient source to chlamydiae-infected cells, and uptake and subsequent labeling of chlamydiae suggested lysosomal degradation as a source of amino acids for the pathogen. Indeed, Bafilomycin A1 (BafA1), an inhibitor of the vacuolar H+/ATPase that blocks lysosomal acidification and functions, impairs the growth of C. trachomatis and C. pneumoniae, and these effects are especially profound in C. pneumoniae. BafA1 induced the marked accumulation of material within the lysosomal lumen, which was due to the inhibition of proteolytic activities, and this response inhibits chlamydiae rather than changes in lysosomal acidification per se, as cathepsin inhibitors also inhibit the growth of chlamydiae. Finally, the addition of cycloheximide, an inhibitor of eukaryotic protein synthesis, compromises the ability of lysosomal inhibitors to block chlamydial growth, suggesting chlamydiae directly access free amino acids in the host cytosol as a preferred source of these nutrients. Thus, chlamydiae co-opt the functions of lysosomes to acquire essential amino acids.
Deregulated c-Myc expression is a hallmark of several human cancers where it promotes proliferation and an aggressive tumour phenotype. Myc overexpression is associated with reduced activity of Rel/NF-κB, transcription factors that control the immune response, cell survival, and transformation, and that are frequently altered in cancer. The Rel/NF-κB family member NFKB2 is altered by chromosomal translocations or deletions in lymphoid malignancies and deletion of the C-terminal ankyrin domain of NF-κB2 augments lymphocyte proliferation.
Precancerous Eμ-Myc-transgenic B cells, Eμ-Myc lymphomas and human Burkitt lymphoma samples were assessed for Nfkb2 expression. The contribution of Nfkb2 to Myc-driven apoptosis, proliferation, and lymphomagenesis was tested genetically in vivo.
Here we report that the Myc oncoprotein suppresses Nfkb2 expression in vitro in primary mouse fibroblasts and B cells, and in vivo in the Eμ-Myc transgenic mouse model of human Burkitt lymphoma (BL). NFKB2 suppression by Myc was also confirmed in primary human BL. Promoter-reporter assays indicate that Myc-mediated suppression of Nfkb2 occurs at the level of transcription. The contribution of Nfkb2 to Myc-driven lymphomagenesis was tested in vivo, where Nfkb2 loss was shown to accelerate lymphoma development in Eμ-Myc transgenic mice, by impairing Myc's apoptotic response.
Nfkb2 is suppressed by c-Myc and harnesses Myc-driven lymphomagenesis. These data thus link Myc-driven lymphomagenesis to the non-canonical NF-κB pathway.
Pituitary tumor-transforming gene-1 (PTTG1) is an oncogene highly expressed in a variety of endocrine, as well as nonendocrine-related cancers. Several tumorigenic mechanisms for PTTG1 have been proposed, one of the best characterized being its capacity to act as a transcriptional activator. To identify novel downstream target genes, we have established cell lines with inducible expression of PTTG1 and a differential display approach to analyze gene expression changes after PTTG1 induction. We identified dlk1 (also known as pref-1) as one of the most abundantly expressed PTTG1 targets. Dlk1 is known to participate in several differentiation processes, including adipogenesis, adrenal gland development, and wound healing. Dlk1 is also highly expressed in neuroendocrine tumors. Here, we show that PTTG1 overexpression inhibits adipogenesis in 3T3-L1 cells and that this effect is accomplished by promoting the stability and accumulation of Dlk1 mRNA, supporting a role for PTTG1 in posttranscriptional regulation. Moreover, both pttg1 and dlk1 genes show concomitant expression in fetal liver and placenta, as well as in pituitary adenomas, breast adenocarcinomas, and neuroblastomas, suggesting that PTTG1 and DLK1 are involved in cell differentiation and transformation.
DNA damage activates the ataxia telangiectasia–mutated and Rad3-related (ATR) kinase signal cascade. How this system is restrained is not understood. We find that in estrogen receptor (ER)-positive breast cancer cells, UV or ionizing radiation and hydroxyurea rapidly activate ATR-dependent phosphorylation of endogenous p53 and Chk1. 17-β-estradiol (E2) substantially blocks ATR activity via plasma membrane-localized ERα. E2/ER reduces the enhanced association of ATR andTopBP1 proteins that follows DNA damage and strongly correlates to ATR activity. E2 inhibits ATR activation through rapid PI3K/AKT signaling: AKT phosphorylates TopBP1 at Serine 1159, thereby preventing the enhanced association of ATR with TopBP1 after DNA damage. E2 also inhibits Claspin:Chk1 protein association via AKT phosphorylation of Chk1, preventing Chk1 signaling to the G2/M checkpoint. ATR-phosphorylation of p53 induces p21 transcription, prevented by E2/ER. E2 delays the assembly and prolongs the resolution of γH2AX and Rad51 nuclear foci and delays DNA repair. E2/ER also increases the chromosomal damage seen from cell exposure to IR. Therefore, the restraint of ATR cascade activation may be a novel estrogen action relevant to breast cancer.
Multiple myeloma (MM) is an incurable plasma cell malignancy. The recent successes of the proteasome inhibitor bortezomib in MM therapy have prompted investigations of its efficacy in combination with other anticancer agents. Polyamines play important roles in regulating tumor cell proliferation and angiogenesis and represent an important therapeutic target. CGC-11093 is a novel polyamine analog that has completed a Phase I clinical trial for the treatment of cancer. Here we report that CGC-11093 selectively augments the in vitro and in vivo anti-myeloma activity of bortezomib. Specifically, the combination of CGC-11093 and bortezomib compromised MM viability and clonogenic survival, and increased drug-induced apoptosis over that achieved by either single agent. Xenografts of MM tumors treated with this combination had marked increases in phospho-JNK-positive cells and apoptosis, and corresponding reductions in tumor burden, tumor vasculature, and the expression of PCNA and the pro-angiogenic cytokine vascular endothelial growth factor. Furthermore, inhibition of JNK with a pharmacological inhibitor or by selective knockdown blunted the efficacy of CGC-11093 and bortezomib. Therefore, CGC-11093 enhances bortezomib's anti-cancer activity by augmenting JNK-mediated apoptosis and blocking angiogenesis. These findings support study of the use of the combination of bortezomib and CGC-11093 in multiple myeloma patients that fail to respond to frontline therapy.
multiple myeloma; bortezomib; polyamine analog; therapy
c-Myc-deficient mice fail to develop normal vascular networks and c-Myc-deficient embryonic stem cells fail to provoke a tumor angiogenic response when injected into immune compromised mice. However, the molecular underpinnings of these defects are poorly understood. To assess whether c-Myc indeed contributes to embryonic vasculogenesis we evaluated c-Myc function in Xenopus laevis embryogenesis. Here we report that Xc-Myc is required for the normal assembly of endothelial cells into patent vessels during both angiogenesis and lymphangiogenesis. Accordingly, the specific knockdown of Xc-Myc provokes massive embryonic edema and hemorrhage. Conversely, Xc-Myc overexpression triggers the formation of ectopic vascular beds in embryos. c-Myc is required for normal expression of Slug/Snail2 and Twist, and either XSlug/Snail2 or XTwist could compensate for defects manifest by Xc-Myc knockdown. Importantly, knockdown of Xc-Myc, XSlug/Snail2, or XTwist within the lateral plate mesoderm, but not the neural crest, provoked embryonic edema and hemorrhage. Collectively, these findings support a model in which c-Myc, Twist, and Slug/Snail2 function in a regulatory circuit within lateral plate mesoderm that directs normal vessel formation in both the vascular and lymphatic systems.
Myc; Slug/Snail2; Twist; Vasculogenesis; Lymphangiogenesis; Xenopus
The p53 tumor suppressor pathway limits oncogenesis by inducing cell cycle arrest or apoptosis. A key p53 target gene is PUMA, which encodes a BH3-only proapoptotic protein. Here we demonstrate that Puma deletion in the Eμ-Myc mouse model of Burkitt lymphoma accelerates lymphomagenesis and that ∼75% of Eμ-Myc lymphomas naturally select against Puma protein expression. Furthermore, approximately 40% of primary human Burkitt lymphomas fail to express detectable levels of PUMA and in some tumors this is associated with DNA methylation. Burkitt lymphoma cell lines phenocopy the primary tumors with respect to DNA methylation and diminished PUMA expression, which can be reactivated following inhibition of DNA methyltransferases. These findings establish that PUMA is silenced in human malignancies, and they suggest PUMA as a target for the development of novel chemotherapeutics.
The cellular activity of Yondelis (trabectedin, Ecteinascidin 743, Et743) is known to depend on transcription-coupled nucleotide excision repair (TCR). However, the subsequent cellular effects of Et743 are not fully understood. Here we show that Et743 induces both transcription- and replication-coupled DNA double-strand breaks (DSBs) that are detectible by neutral COMET assay and as γ-H2AX foci that colocalize with 53BP1, Mre11, Ser1981-pATM, and Thr68-pChk2. The transcription coupled-DSBs (TC-DSBs) induced by Et743 depended both on TCR and Mre11-Rad50-Nbs1 (MRN) and were associated with DNA-PK–dependent γ-H2AX foci. In contrast to DNA-PK, ATM phosphorylated H2AX both in NER-proficient and -deficient cells, but its full activation was dependent on H2AX as well as DNA-PK, suggesting a positive feedback loop: DNA-PK-γ-H2AX-ATM. Knocking-out H2AX or inactivating DNA-PK reduced Et743's antiproliferative activity, whereas ATM and MRN tended to act as survival factors. Our results highlight the interplays between ATM and DNA-PK and their impacts on H2AX phosphorylation and cell survival. They also suggest that γ-H2AX may serve as a biomarker in patients treated with Et743 and that molecular profiling of tumors for TCR, MRN, ATM, and DNA-PK might be useful to anticipate tumor response to Et743 treatment.
Autophagy, the primary recycling pathway of cells, plays a critical role in mitochondrial quality control under normal growth conditions and in the response to cellular stress. The Hsp90-Cdc37 chaperone complex coordinately regulates the activity of select kinases to orchestrate many facets of the stress response. Although both maintain mitochondrial integrity, the relationship between Hsp90-Cdc37 and autophagy has not been well characterized. Ulk1, one of the mammalian homologues of yeast Atg1, is a serine-threonine kinase required for mitophagy. Here we show that the interaction between Ulk1 and Hsp90-Cdc37 stabilizes and activates Ulk1, which in turn is required for the phosphorylation and release of Atg13 from Ulk1, and for the recruitment of Atg13 to damaged mitochondria. Hsp90-Cdc37, Ulk1 and Atg13 phosphorylation are all required for efficient mitochondrial clearance. These findings establish a direct pathway that integrates Ulk1- and Atg13- directed mitophagy with the stress response coordinated by Hsp90 and Cdc37.
Despite great interest in cancer chemoprevention, effective agents are few. Here we show that chloroquine, a drug that activates the stress-responsive Atm-p53 tumor-suppressor pathway, preferentially enhances the death of Myc oncogene–overexpressing primary mouse B cells and mouse embryonic fibroblasts (MEFs) and impairs Myc-induced lymphomagenesis in a transgenic mouse model of human Burkitt lymphoma. Chloroquine-induced cell death in primary MEFs and human colorectal cancer cells was dependent upon p53, but not upon the p53 modulators Atm or Arf. Accordingly, chloroquine impaired spontaneous lymphoma development in Atm-deficient mice, a mouse model of ataxia telangiectasia, but not in p53-deficient mice. Chloroquine treatment enhanced markers of both macroautophagy and apoptosis in MEFs but ultimately impaired lysosomal protein degradation. Interestingly, chloroquine-induced cell death was not dependent on caspase-mediated apoptosis, as neither overexpression of the antiapoptotic protein Bcl-2 nor deletion of the proapoptotic Bax and Bak affected chloroquine-induced MEF death. However, when both apoptotic and autophagic pathways were blocked simultaneously, chloroquine-induced killing of Myc-overexpressing cells was blunted. Thus chloroquine induces lysosomal stress and provokes a p53-dependent cell death that does not require caspase-mediated apoptosis. These findings specifically demonstrate that intermittent chloroquine use effectively prevents cancer in mouse models of 2 genetically distinct human cancer syndromes, Burkitt lymphoma and ataxia telangiectasia, suggesting that agents targeting lysosome-mediated degradation may be effective in cancer prevention.
Phospholipase Cγ2 (PLCγ2) is a critical signaling effector of the B-cell receptor (BCR). Here we show that PLCγ2 deficiency impedes early B-cell development, resulting in an increase of B220+ CD43+ BP-1+ CD24hi pre-BCR+ large pre-B cells. PLCγ2 deficiency impairs pre-BCR-mediated functions, leading to enhanced interleukin-7 (IL-7) signaling and elevated levels of RAGs in the selected large pre-B cells. Consequently, PLCγ2 deficiency renders large pre-B cells susceptible to transformation, resulting in dramatic acceleration of Myc-induced lymphomagenesis. PLCγ2−/− Eμ-Myc transgenic mice mainly develop lymphomas of B220+ CD43+ BP-1+ CD24hi pre-BCR+ large pre-B-cell origin, which are uncommon in wild-type Eμ-Myc transgenics. Furthermore, lymphomas from PLCγ2−/− Eμ-Myc transgenic mice exhibited a loss of p27Kip1 and often displayed alterations in Arf or p53. Thus, PLCγ2 plays an important role in pre-BCR-mediated early B-cell development, and its deficiency leads to markedly increased pools of the most at-risk large pre-B cells, which display hyperresponsiveness to IL-7 and express high levels of RAGs, making them prone to secondary mutations and Myc-induced malignancy.
Rhabdomyosarcoma (RMS), the most common pediatric soft-tissue sarcoma, has two major histological subtypes: embryonal RMS (ERMS), which has a favorable prognosis, and alveolar RMS (ARMS), which has a poor outcome. Although both forms of RMS express muscle cell–specific markers, only ARMS cells express PAX3-FOXO1a or PAX7-FOXO1a chimeric proteins. In mice, Pax3 and Pax7 play key roles in muscle cell development and differentiation, and FoxO1a regulates myoblast differentiation and fusion; thus, the aberrant regulation of these proteins may contribute to the development of ARMS. In this paper, we report that FOXO1a is not expressed in primary ARMS tumors or ARMS-derived tumor cell lines and that restoration of FOXO1a expression in ARMS cells is sufficient to induce cell cycle arrest and apoptosis. Strikingly, the effects of FOXO1a are selective, as enforced expression of FOXO1a in ERMS-derived tumor cell lines had no effect. Furthermore, FOXO1a induced apoptosis in ARMS by directly activating the transcription of caspase-3. We conclude that FOXO1a is a potent and specific tumor suppressor in ARMS, suggesting that agents that restore or augment FOXO1a activity may be effective as ARMS therapeutics.
The regulatory circuits that orchestrate mammalian myoblast cell fusion during myogenesis are poorly understood. The transcriptional activity of FoxO1a directly regulates this process, yet the molecular mechanisms governing FoxO1a activity during muscle cell differentiation remain unknown. Here we show an autoregulatory loop in which FoxO1a directly activates transcription of the cyclic GMP-dependent protein kinase I (cGKI) gene and where the ensuing cGKI activity phosphorylates FoxO1a and abolishes its DNA binding activity. These findings establish the FoxO1a-to-cGKI pathway as a novel feedback loop that allows the precise tuning of myoblast fusion. Interestingly, this pathway appears to operate independently of muscle cell differentiation programs directed by myogenic transcription factors.
The human ETS family gene TEL2/ETV7 is highly homologous to TEL1/ETV6, a frequent target of chromosome translocations in human leukemia and specific solid tumors. Here we report that TEL2 augments the proliferation and survival of normal mouse B cells and dramatically accelerates lymphoma development in Eμ-Myc transgenic mice. Nonetheless, inactivation of the p53 pathway was a hallmark of all TEL2/Eμ-Myc lymphomas, indicating that TEL2 expression alone is insufficient to bypass this apoptotic checkpoint. Although TEL2 is infrequently up-regulated in human sporadic Burkitt's lymphoma, analysis of pediatric B-cell acute lymphocytic leukemia (B-ALL) samples showed increased coexpression of TEL2 and MYC and/or MYCN in over one-third of B-ALL patients. Therefore, TEL2 and MYC also appear to cooperate in provoking a cadre of human B-cell malignancies.
Myc oncoproteins are overexpressed in most cancers and are sufficient to accelerate cell proliferation and provoke transformation. However, in normal cells Myc also triggers apoptosis. All of the effects of Myc require its function as a transcription factor that dimerizes with Max. This complex induces genes containing CACGTG E-boxes, such as Ornithine decarboxylase (Odc), which harbors two of these elements. Here we report that in quiescent cells the Odc E-boxes are occupied by Max and Mnt, a putative Myc antagonist, and that this complex is displaced by Myc-Max complexes in proliferating cells. Knockdown of Mnt expression by stable retroviral RNA interference triggers many targets typical of the “Myc” response and provokes accelerated proliferation and apoptosis. Strikingly, these effects of Mnt knockdown are even manifest in cells lacking c-myc. Moreover, Mnt knockdown is sufficient to transform primary fibroblasts in conjunction with Ras. Therefore, Mnt behaves as a tumor suppressor. These findings support a model where Mnt represses Myc target genes and Myc functions as an oncogene by relieving Mnt-mediated repression.
Alterations in MYC and p53 are hallmarks of cancer. p53 coordinates the response to gamma irradiation (γ-IR) by either triggering apoptosis or cell cycle arrest. c-Myc activates the p53 apoptotic checkpoint, and thus tumors overexpressing MYC often harbor p53 mutations. Nonetheless, many of these cancers are responsive to therapy, suggesting that Myc may sensitize cells to γ-IR independent of p53. In mouse embryo fibroblasts (MEFs) and in Eμ-myc transgenic B cells in vivo, c-Myc acts in synergy with γ-IR to trigger apoptosis, but alone, when cultured in growth medium, it does not induce a DNA damage response. Surprisingly, c-Myc also sensitizes p53-deficient MEFs to γ-IR-induced apoptosis. In normal cells, and in precancerous B cells of Eμ-myc transgenic mice, this apoptotic response is associated with the suppression of the antiapoptotic regulators Bcl-2 and Bcl-XL and with the concomitant induction of Puma, a proapoptotic BH3-only protein. However, in p53-null MEFs only Bcl-XL expression was suppressed, suggesting levels of Bcl-XL regulate the response to γ-IR. Indeed, Bcl-XL overexpression blocked this apoptotic response, whereas bcl-X-deficient MEFs were inherently and selectively sensitive to γ-IR-induced apoptosis. Therefore, MYC may sensitize tumor cells to DNA damage by suppressing Bcl-X.
Pneumococcus is the most common and aggressive cause of bacterial meningitis and induces a novel apoptosis-inducing factor–dependent (AIF–dependent) form of brain cell apoptosis. Loss of production of two pneumococcal toxins, pneumolysin and H2O2, eliminated mitochondrial damage and apoptosis. Purified pneumolysin or H2O2 induced microglial and neuronal apoptosis in vitro. Both toxins induced increases of intracellular Ca2+ and triggered the release of AIF from mitochondria. Chelating Ca2+ effectively blocked AIF release and cell death. In experimental pneumococcal meningitis, pneumolysin colocalized with apoptotic neurons of the hippocampus, and infection with pneumococci unable to produce pneumolysin and H2O2 significantly reduced damage. Two bacterial toxins, pneumolysin and, to a lesser extent, H2O2, induce apoptosis by translocation of AIF, suggesting new neuroprotective strategies for pneumococcal meningitis.
The ARF and p53 tumor suppressors mediate Myc-induced apoptosis and suppress lymphoma development in Eμ-myc transgenic mice. Here we report that the proapoptotic Bcl-2 family member Bax also mediates apoptosis triggered by Myc and inhibits Myc-induced lymphomagenesis. Bax-deficient primary pre-B cells are resistant to the apoptotic effects of Myc, and Bax loss accelerates lymphoma development in Eμ-myc transgenics in a dose-dependent fashion. Eighty percent of lymphomas arising in wild-type Eμ-myc transgenics have alterations in the ARF-Mdm2-p53 tumor suppressor pathway characterized by deletions in ARF, mutations or deletions of p53, and overexpression of Mdm2. The absence of Bax did not alter the frequency of biallelic deletion of ARF in lymphomas arising in Eμ-myc transgenic mice or the rate of tumorigenesis in ARF-null mice. Furthermore, Mdm2 was overexpressed at the same frequency in lymphomas irrespective of Bax status, suggesting that Bax resides in a pathway separate from ARF and Mdm2. Strikingly, lymphomas from Bax-null Eμ-myc transgenics lacked p53 alterations, whereas 27% of the tumors in Bax+/− Eμ-myc transgenic mice contained p53 mutations or deletions. Thus, the loss of Bax eliminates the selection of p53 mutations and deletions, but not ARF deletions or Mdm2 overexpression, during Myc-induced tumorigenesis, formally demonstrating that Myc-induced apoptotic signals through ARF/Mdm2 and p53 must bifurcate: p53 signals through Bax, whereas this is not necessarily the case for ARF and Mdm2.
Overexpression and inhibitor studies have suggested that the c-Myc target gene for ornithine decarboxylase (ODC), the enzyme which converts ornithine to putrescine, plays an important role in diverse biological processes, including cell growth, differentiation, transformation, and apoptosis. To explore the physiological function of ODC in mammalian development, we generated mice harboring a disrupted ODC gene. ODC-heterozygous mice were viable, normal, and fertile. Although zygotic ODC is expressed throughout the embryo prior to implantation, loss of ODC did not block normal development to the blastocyst stage. Embryonic day E3.5 ODC-deficient embryos were capable of uterine implantation and induced maternal decidualization yet failed to develop substantially thereafter. Surprisingly, analysis of ODC-deficient blastocysts suggests that loss of ODC does not affect cell growth per se but rather is required for survival of the pluripotent cells of the inner cell mass. Therefore, ODC plays an essential role in murine development, and proper homeostasis of polyamine pools appears to be required for cell survival prior to gastrulation.