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1.  Embryonic Expression and Function of the Xenopus Ink4d Cyclin D-Dependent Kinase Inhibitor 
Here we report the cloning and functional characterization of the cyclin D-dependent kinase 4 and 6 (Cdk4/6) inhibitory protein Cdkn2d/p19Ink4d of Xenopuslaevis (Xl-Ink4d). Xl-Ink4d is the only Ink4 family gene highly expressed during Xenopus development and its transcripts were detected maternally and during neurulation. The Xl-Ink4d protein has 63% identity to mouse and human Cdkn2d/p19Ink4d and its function as a negative regulator of cell cycle traverse is evolutionary conserved. Indeed, Xl-lnk4d can functionally substitute for mouse Cdkn2d in binding to mouse Cdk4 and inhibiting cyclin-D1-dependent CDK4 kinase activity. Further, enforced expression of Xl-lnk4d arrests mouse fibroblasts in the G1 phase of the cell cycle. These findings indicate that CDKN2d/p19Ink4d is conserved through vertebrate evolution and suggest Xl-lnk4d may contribute to the development of Xenopuslaevis.
PMCID: PMC4192657  PMID: 25309971
Xenopuslaevis; Cyclin-dependent kinase inhibitor; Ink4d; Cdkn2d; Cell cycle
2.  Melanoma patient-derived xenografts accurately model the disease and develop fast enough to guide treatment decisions 
Oncotarget  2014;5(20):9609-9618.
The development of novel therapies against melanoma would benefit from individualized tumor models to ensure the rapid and accurate identification of biomarkers of therapy response. Previous studies have suggested that patient-derived xenografts (PDXes) could be useful. However, the utility of PDXes in guiding real-time treatment decisions has only been reported in anecdotal forms. Here tumor biopsies from patients with stage III and IV metastatic malignant melanoma were transplanted into immunocompromised mice to generate PDXes. 23/26 melanoma biopsies generated serially transplantable PDX models, and their histology, mutation status and expression profile resembled their corresponding patient biopsy. The potential treatment for one patient was revealed by an in vitro drug screen and treating PDXes with the MEK inhibitor trametinib. In another patient, the BRAF mutation predicted the response of both the patient and its corresponding PDXes to MAPK-targeted therapy. Importantly, in this unselected group of patients, the time from biopsy for generation of PDXes until death was significantly longer than the time required to reach the treatment phase of the PDXes. Thus, it could be clinically meaningful to use this type of platform for melanoma patients as a pre-selection tool in clinical trials.
PMCID: PMC4259423  PMID: 25228592
melanoma; mouse models; patient-derived xenografts
3.  Improved cryopreservation of human hepatocytes using a new xeno free cryoprotectant solution 
World Journal of Hepatology  2012;4(5):176-183.
AIM: To optimize a xeno-free cryopreservation protocol for primary human hepatocytes.
METHODS: The demand for cryopreserved hepatocytes is increasing for both clinical and research purposes. Despite several hepatocyte cryopreservation protocols being available, improvements are urgently needed. We first compared controlled rate freezing to polystyrene box freezing and did not find any significant change between the groups. Using the polystyrene box freezing, we compared two xeno-free freezing solutions for freezing of primary human hepatocytes: a new medium (STEM-CELLBANKER, CB), which contains dimethylsulphoxide (DMSO) and anhydrous dextrose, both permeating and non-permeating cryoprotectants, and the frequently used DMSO - University of Wisconsin (DMSO-UW) medium. The viability of the hepatocytes was assessed by the trypan blue exclusion method as well as a calcein-esterase based live-dead assay before and after cryopreservation. The function of the hepatocytes was evaluated before and after cryopreservation by assessing enzymatic activity of 6 major cytochrome P450 isoforms (CYPs): CYP1A2, CYP2C9, CYP2C19, CYP2D6, CYP3A4 and CYP3A7.
RESULTS: The new cryoprotectant combination preserved hepatocyte viability significantly better than the standard DMSO-UW protocol (P < 0.01). There was no significant difference in viability estimation between both the trypan blue (TB) and the Live-Dead Assay methods. There was a correlation between viability of fresh hepatocytes and the difference in cell viability between CB and DMSO protocols (r2 = 0.69) using the TB method. However, due to high within-group variability in the activities of the major CYPs, any statistical between-group differences were precluded. Cryopreservation of human hepatocytes using the cryoprotectant combination was a simple and xeno-free procedure yielding better hepatocyte viability. Thus, it may be a better alternative to the standard DMSO-UW protocol. Estimating CYP activities did not seem to be a relevant way to compare hepatocyte function between different groups due to high normal variability between different liver samples.
CONCLUSION: The cryoprotectant combination may be a better alternative to the standard DMSO-UW protocol in primary human hepatocyte cryopreservation.
PMCID: PMC3365437  PMID: 22662286
Human hepatocytes; Viability; Cytochrome P540; Dimethylsulphoxide; Cryoprotectant; Cryopreservation
4.  Mouse Genetics Suggests Cell-Context Dependency for Myc-Regulated Metabolic Enzymes during Tumorigenesis 
PLoS Genetics  2012;8(3):e1002573.
c-Myc (hereafter called Myc) belongs to a family of transcription factors that regulates cell growth, cell proliferation, and differentiation. Myc initiates the transcription of a large cast of genes involved in cell growth by stimulating metabolism and protein synthesis. Some of these, like those involved in glycolysis, may be part of the Warburg effect, which is defined as increased glucose uptake and lactate production in the presence of adequate oxygen supply. In this study, we have taken a mouse-genetics approach to challenge the role of select Myc-regulated metabolic enzymes in tumorigenesis in vivo. By breeding λ-Myc transgenic mice, ApcMin mice, and p53 knockout mice with mouse models carrying inactivating alleles of Lactate dehydrogenase A (Ldha), 3-Phosphoglycerate dehydrogenase (Phgdh) and Serine hydroxymethyltransferase 1 (Shmt1), we obtained offspring that were monitored for tumor development. Very surprisingly, we found that these genes are dispensable for tumorigenesis in these genetic settings. However, experiments in fibroblasts and colon carcinoma cells expressing oncogenic Ras show that these cells are sensitive to Ldha knockdown. Our genetic models reveal cell context dependency and a remarkable ability of tumor cells to adapt to alterations in critical metabolic pathways. Thus, to achieve clinical success, it will be of importance to correctly stratify patients and to find synthetic lethal combinations of inhibitors targeting metabolic enzymes.
Author Summary
Cancer occurs when cells change their behavior and start to divide in an uncontrolled manner. To achieve this altered behavior, cells need to change their metabolism to be able to grow even when nutrient and oxygen supplies are limiting. Therefore, targeting metabolic pathways could be used to treat patients suffering from cancer. Here we studied a gene called MYC, which can regulate many metabolic pathways. By using genetically modified mice we can show that tumors have a remarkable ability to change their metabolism, even if key enzymes are removed. Taken together, our data suggest that metabolic disturbance by drugs in the clinic may present a future challenge.
PMCID: PMC3305401  PMID: 22438825
5.  Overexpression of Cholesterol 7α-hydroxylase promotes hepatic bile acid synthesis and secretion and maintains cholesterol homeostasis 
Hepatology (Baltimore, Md.)  2011;53(3):996-1006.
We reported previously that mice overexpressing Cyp7a1 (Cyp7a1-tg) are protected against high fat diet-induced hypercholesterolemia, obesity and insulin resistance (1). Here we investigated the underlying mechanism of bile acid signaling in maintaining cholesterol homeostasis in Cyp7a1-tg mice. Cyp7a1-tg mice had 2-fold higher Cyp7a1 activity and bile acid pool than wild type mice. Gallbladder bile acid composition changed from predominantly cholic acid (57%) in wild type to chenodeoxycholic acid (54%) in Cyp7a1-tg mice. Cyp7a1-tg mice had higher biliary and fecal cholesterol and bile acid secretion rates than wild type mice. Surprisingly, hepatic de novo cholesterol synthesis was markedly induced in Cyp7a1-tg mice but intestine fractional cholesterol absorption in Cyp7a1-tg mice remained the same as wild type mice despite increased intestine bile acids. Interestingly, hepatic but not intestinal expression of several cholesterol (ABCG5/G8, SR-B1) and bile acid (ABCB11) transporters were significantly induced in Cyp7a1-tg mice. Treatment of mouse or human hepatocytes with a farnesoid X receptor (FXR) agonist GW4064 or bile acids induced hepatic Abcg5/g8 expression. A functional FXR binding site was identified in the Abcg5 gene promoter. Study of tissue-specific Fxr knockout mice demonstrated that loss of the Fxr gene in the liver attenuated bile acid induction of hepatic Abcg5/g8 and gallbladder cholesterol content, suggesting a role of FXR in the regulation of cholesterol transport. In summary, this study revealed a new mechanism by which increased Cyp7a1 activity expands the hydrophobic bile acid pool, stimulating hepatic cholesterol synthesis and biliary cholesterol secretion without increasing intestinal cholesterol absorption. This study demonstrated that Cyp7a1 plays a critical role in maintaining cholesterol homeostasis and underscores the importance of bile acid signaling in regulating overall cholesterol homeostasis.
PMCID: PMC3079544  PMID: 21319191
Cholesterol 7α-hydroxylase; bile acid synthesis; nuclear receptors; cholesterol transport; ABCG5/G8; SR-BI
6.  The direct Myc target Pim3 cooperates with other Pim kinases in supporting viability of Myc-induced B-cell lymphomas 
Oncotarget  2011;2(6):448-460.
The Pim kinases are weak oncogenes. However, when co-expressed with a strong oncogene, such as c-Myc, Pim kinases potentiate the oncogenic effect resulting in an acceleration of tumorigenesis. In this study we show that the least studied Pim kinase, Pim-3, is encoded by a gene directly regulated by c-Myc via binding to one of the conserved E-boxes within the Pim3 gene. Accordingly, lymphomas arising in Myc-transgenic mice and Burkitt lymphoma cell lines exhibit elevated levels of Pim-3. Interestingly, inhibition of Pim kinases by a novel pan-Pim kinase inhibitor, Pimi, in Myc-induced lymphoma results in cell death that appears independent of caspases. The data indicate that Pim kinase inhibition could be a viable treatment strategy in certain human lymphomas that rely on Pim-3 kinase expression.
PMCID: PMC3248204  PMID: 21646687
cancer; lymphoma; oncogenes; c-Myc; Pim-3
7.  Skp2 directs Myc-mediated suppression of p27Kip1 yet has modest effects on Myc-driven lymphomagenesis 
Molecular cancer research : MCR  2010;8(3):353-362.
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.
PMCID: PMC3095030  PMID: 20197382
Myc; Skp2; p27Kip1; lymphomagenesis
8.  Hepatic Niemann-Pick C1–like 1 regulates biliary cholesterol concentration and is a target of ezetimibe 
Journal of Clinical Investigation  2007;117(7):1968-1978.
Niemann-Pick C1–like 1 (NPC1L1) is required for cholesterol absorption. Intestinal NPC1L1 appears to be a target of ezetimibe, a cholesterol absorption inhibitor that effectively lowers plasma LDL-cholesterol in humans. However, human liver also expresses NPC1L1. Hepatic function of NPC1L1 was previously unknown, but we recently discovered that NPC1L1 localizes to the canalicular membrane of primate hepatocytes and that NPC1L1 facilitates cholesterol uptake in hepatoma cells. Based upon these findings, we hypothesized that hepatic NPC1L1 allows the retention of biliary cholesterol by hepatocytes and that ezetimibe disrupts hepatic function of NPC1L1. To test this hypothesis, transgenic mice expressing human NPC1L1 in hepatocytes (L1-Tg mice) were created. Hepatic overexpression of NPC1L1 resulted in a 10- to 20-fold decrease in biliary cholesterol concentration, but not phospholipid and bile acid concentrations. This decrease was associated with a 30%–60% increase in plasma cholesterol, mainly because of the accumulation of apoE-rich HDL. Biliary and plasma cholesterol concentrations in these animals were virtually returned to normal with ezetimibe treatment. These findings suggest that in humans, ezetimibe may reduce plasma cholesterol by inhibiting NPC1L1 function in both intestine and liver, and hepatic NPC1L1 may have evolved to protect the body from excessive biliary loss of cholesterol.
PMCID: PMC1888567  PMID: 17571164

Results 1-8 (8)