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1.  Androgen receptor signaling regulates DNA repair in prostate cancers 
Cancer discovery  2013;3(11):1245-1253.
We demonstrate that the androgen receptor (AR) regulates a transcriptional program of DNA repair genes that promotes prostate cancer radioresistance, providing a potential mechanism by which androgen deprivation therapy (ADT) synergizes with ionizing radiation (IR). Using a model of castration-resistant prostate cancer, we show that second-generation antiandrogen therapy results in downregulation of DNA repair genes. Next, we demonstrate that primary prostate cancers display a significant spectrum of AR transcriptional output which correlates with expression of a set of DNA repair genes. Employing RNA-seq and ChIP-seq, we define which of these DNA repair genes are both induced by androgen and represent direct AR targets. We establish that prostate cancer cells treated with IR plus androgen demonstrate enhanced DNA repair and decreased DNA damage and furthermore that antiandrogen treatment causes increased DNA damage and decreased clonogenic survival. Finally, we demonstrate that antiandrogen treatment results in decreased classical non-homologous end joining.
PMCID: PMC3888815  PMID: 24027196
2.  Vaccinia virus GLV-1h153 is a novel agent for detection and effective local control of positive surgical margins for breast cancer 
Surgery is currently the definitive treatment for early-stage breast cancer. However, the rate of positive surgical margins remains unacceptably high. The human sodium iodide symporter (hNIS) is a naturally occurring protein in human thyroid tissue, which enables cells to concentrate radionuclides. The hNIS has been exploited to image and treat thyroid cancer. We therefore investigated the potential of a novel oncolytic vaccinia virus GLV1h-153 engineered to express the hNIS gene for identifying positive surgical margins after tumor resection via positron emission tomography (PET). Furthermore, we studied its role as an adjuvant therapeutic agent in achieving local control of remaining tumors in an orthotopic breast cancer model.
GLV-1h153, a replication-competent vaccinia virus, was tested against breast cancer cell lines at various multiplicities of infection (MOIs). Cytotoxicity and viral replication were determined. Mammary fat pad tumors were generated in athymic nude mice. To determine the utility of GLV-1h153 in identifying positive surgical margins, 90% of the mammary fat pad tumors were surgically resected and subsequently injected with GLV-1h153 or phosphate buffered saline (PBS) in the surgical wound. Serial Focus 120 microPET images were obtained six hours post-tail vein injection of approximately 600 μCi of 124I-iodide.
Viral infectivity, measured by green fluorescent protein (GFP) expression, was time- and concentration-dependent. All cell lines showed less than 10% of cell survival five days after treatment at an MOI of 5. GLV-1h153 replicated efficiently in all cell lines with a peak titer of 27 million viral plaque forming units (PFU) ( <10,000-fold increase from the initial viral dose ) by Day 4. Administration of GLV-1h153 into the surgical wound allowed positive surgical margins to be identified via PET scanning. In vivo, mean volume of infected surgically resected residual tumors four weeks after treatment was 14 mm3 versus 168 mm3 in untreated controls (P < 0.05).
This is the first study to our knowledge to demonstrate a novel vaccinia virus carrying hNIS as an imaging tool in identifying positive surgical margins of breast cancers in an orthotopic murine model. Moreover, our results suggest that GLV-1h153 is a promising therapeutic agent in achieving local control for positive surgical margins in resected breast tumors.
PMCID: PMC3672815  PMID: 23506710
3.  Tunneling Nanotubes 
Tunneling nanotubes are actin-based cytoplasmic extensions that function as intercellular channels in a wide variety of cell types.There is a renewed and keen interest in the examination of modes of intercellular communication in cells of all types, especially in the field of cancer biology. Tunneling nanotubes –which in the literature have also been referred to as “membrane nanotubes,” “’intercellular’ or ‘epithelial’ bridges,” or “cytoplasmic extensions” – are under active investigation for their role in facilitating direct intercellular communication. These structures have not, until recently, been scrutinized as a unique and previously unrecognized form of direct cell-to-cell transmission of cellular cargo in the context of human cancer. Our recent study of tunneling nanotubes in human malignant pleural mesothelioma and lung adenocarcinomas demonstrated efficient transfer of cellular contents, including proteins, Golgi vesicles, and mitochondria, between cells derived from several well-established cancer cell lines. Further, we provided effective demonstration that such nanotubes can form between primary malignant cells from human patients. For the first time, we also demonstrated the in vivo relevance of these structures in humans, having effectively imaged nanotubes in intact solid tumors from patients. Here we provide further analysis and discussion on our findings, and offer a prospective ‘road map’ for studying tunneling nanotubes in the context of human cancer. We hope that further understanding of the mechanisms, methods of transfer, and particularly the role of nanotubes in tumor-stromal cross-talk will lead to identification of new selective targets for cancer therapeutics.
PMCID: PMC3460850  PMID: 23060969
tunneling nanotubes; intercellular bridges; membrane nanotubes; intercellular communication; intercellular transfer; cancer; therapeutics
4.  Tunneling Nanotubes Provide a Unique Conduit for Intercellular Transfer of Cellular Contents in Human Malignant Pleural Mesothelioma 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(3):e33093.
Tunneling nanotubes are long, non-adherent F-actin-based cytoplasmic extensions which connect proximal or distant cells and facilitate intercellular transfer. The identification of nanotubes has been limited to cell lines, and their role in cancer remains unclear. We detected tunneling nanotubes in mesothelioma cell lines and primary human mesothelioma cells. Using a low serum, hyperglycemic, acidic growth medium, we stimulated nanotube formation and bidirectional transfer of vesicles, proteins, and mitochondria between cells. Notably, nanotubes developed between malignant cells or between normal mesothelial cells, but not between malignant and normal cells. Immunofluorescent staining revealed their actin-based assembly and structure. Metformin and an mTor inhibitor, Everolimus, effectively suppressed nanotube formation. Confocal microscopy with 3-dimensional reconstructions of sectioned surgical specimens demonstrated for the first time the presence of nanotubes in human mesothelioma and lung adenocarcinoma tumor specimens. We provide the first evidence of tunneling nanotubes in human primary tumors and cancer cells and propose that these structures play an important role in cancer cell pathogenesis and invasion.
PMCID: PMC3302868  PMID: 22427958
5.  CDK8/9 drive Smad transcriptional action, turnover and YAP interactions in BMP and TGFβ pathways 
Cell  2009;139(4):757-769.
TGFβ and BMP receptor kinases activate Smad transcription factors by C-terminal phosphorylation. We have identified a subsequent agonist-induced phosphorylation that plays a central dual role in Smad transcriptional activation and turnover. As receptor-activated Smads form transcriptional complexes, they are phosphorylated at an interdomain linker region by CDK8 and CDK9, which are components of transcriptional mediator and elongation complexes. These phosphorylations promote Smad transcriptional action, which in the case of Smad1, is mediated by the recruitment of YAP to the phosphorylated linker sites. An effector of the highly conserved Hippo organ size control pathway, YAP supports Smad1-dependent transcription and is required for BMP suppression of neural differentiation of mouse embryonic stem cells. The phosphorylated linker is ultimately recognized by specific ubiquitin ligases, leading to proteasome-mediated turnover of activated Smad proteins. Thus, nuclear CDK8/9 drive a cycle of Smad utilization and disposal that is an integral part of canonical BMP and TGFβ pathways.
PMCID: PMC2818353  PMID: 19914168
6.  Chemical and Morphological Alterations of Spines Within the Hippocampus and Entorhinal Cortex Precede the Onset of Alzheimer’s Disease Pathology in Double Knock-In Mice 
Mice with knock-in of two mutations that affect beta amyloid processing and levels (2xKI) exhibit impaired spatial memory by 9–12 months of age, together with synaptic plasticity dysfunction in the hippocampus. The goal of this study was to identify changes in the molecular and structural characteristics of synapses that precede and thus could exert constraints upon cellular mechanisms underlying synaptic plasticity. Drebrin A is one protein reported to modulate spine sizes and trafficking of proteins to and from excitatory synapses. Thus, we examined levels of drebrin A within postsynaptic spines in the hippocampus and entorhinal cortex. Our electron microscopic immunocytochemical analyses reveal that, by 6 months, the proportion of hippocampal spines containing drebrin A is reduced and this change is accompanied by an increase in the mean size of spines and decreased density of spines. In the entorhinal cortex of 2xKI brains, we detected no decrement in the proportion of spines labeled for drebrin A and no significant change in spine density at 6 months, but rather a highly significant reduction in the level of drebrin A immunoreactivity within each spine. These changes are unlike those observed for the somatosensory cortex of 2xKI mice, in which synapse density and drebrin A immunoreactivity levels remain unchanged at 6 months and older. These results indicate that brains of 2xKI mice, like those of humans, exhibit regional differences of vulnerability, with the hippocampus exhibiting the first signatures of structural changes that, in turn, may underlie the emergent inability to update spatial memory in later months.
PMCID: PMC2844449  PMID: 17912741
amyloid precursor protein; presenilin 1; drebrin; excitatory synapses; electron microscopic immunocytochemistry; ultrastructure
7.  SAP97 and CASK mediate sorting of N-Methyl-D-Aspartate Receptors through a novel secretory pathway 
Nature neuroscience  2009;12(8):1011-1019.
Synaptic plasticity is dependent upon the differential sorting, delivery and retention of neurotransmitter receptors, yet the mechanisms underlying these processes are poorly understood. In the present study, we have found that differential sorting of glutamate receptor subtypes begins within the endoplasmic reticulum (ER) of rat hippocampal neurons. While AMPARs are trafficked to the plasma membrane via the conventional somatic Golgi network, NMDARs are diverted from the somatic ER into a specialized ER sub-compartment that bypasses somatic Golgi, merging instead with dendritic Golgi outposts. Intriguingly, this ER sub-compartment is composed of highly mobile vesicles containing the NMDAR subunits NR1 and NR2B, the microtubule-dependent motor protein KIF17, and the postsynaptic adaptor proteins CASK and SAP97. Furthermore, our data demonstrate that the retention and trafficking of NMDARs within this ER sub-compartment requires both CASK and SAP97. These data indicate that NMDARs are sorted away from AMPARs via a non-conventional secretory pathway that utilizes dendritic Golgi outposts.
PMCID: PMC2779056  PMID: 19620977
Glutamate receptors; MAGUK proteins; NMDA receptors; protein trafficking; SAP97; CASK; shRNA; Endoplamic reticulum; Dendritic Golgi
8.  Hearing Loss Raises Excitability in the Auditory Cortex 
Developmental hearing impairments compromise sound discrimination, speech acquisition, and cognitive function; however, the adjustments of functional properties in the primary auditory cortex (A1) remain unknown. We induced sensorineural hearing loss (SNHL) in developing gerbils and then reared the animals for several days. The intrinsic membrane and synaptic properties of layer 2/3 pyramidal neurons were subsequently examined in a thalamocortical brain slice preparation with whole-cell recordings and electron microscopic immunocytochemistry. SNHL neurons displayed a depolarized resting membrane potential, an increased input resistance, and a higher incidence of sustained firing. They also exhibited significantly larger thalamocortically and intracortically evoked excitatory synaptic responses, including a greater susceptibility to the NMDA receptor antagonist AP-5 and the NR2B subunit antagonist ifenprodil. This correlated with an increase in NR2B labeling of asymmetric synapses, as visualized ultrastructurally. Furthermore, decreased frequency and increased amplitude of miniature EPSCs (mEPSCs) in SNHL neurons suggest that a decline in presynaptic release properties is compensated by an increased excitatory response. To verify that the increased thalamocortical excitation was elicited by putative monosynaptic connections, minimum amplitude ventral medial geniculate nucleus-evoked EPSCs were recorded. These minimum-evoked responses were of larger amplitude, and the NMDAergic currents were also larger and longer in SNHL neurons. These findings were supported by significantly longer AP-5-sensitive durations and larger amplitudes of mEPSCs. Last, the amplitudes of intracortically evoked monosynaptic and polysynaptic GABAergic inhibitory synaptic responses were significantly smaller in SNHL neurons. These alterations in cellular properties after deafness reflect an attempt by A1 to sustain an operative level of cortical excitability that may involve homeostatic mechanisms.
PMCID: PMC1764814  PMID: 15829643
homeostasis; synaptic plasticity; GABAA; NMDA receptor; mEPSC; disuse

Results 1-8 (8)