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1.  Dissecting the signaling pathways associated with the oncogenic activity of MLK3 P252H mutation 
BMC Cancer  2014;14:182.
Background
MLK3 gene mutations were described to occur in about 20% of microsatellite unstable gastrointestinal cancers and to harbor oncogenic activity. In particular, mutation P252H, located in the kinase domain, was found to have a strong transforming potential, and to promote the growth of highly invasive tumors when subcutaneously injected in nude mice. Nevertheless, the molecular mechanism underlying the oncogenic activity of P252H mutant remained elusive.
Methods
In this work, we performed Illumina Whole Genome arrays on three biological replicas of human HEK293 cells stably transfected with the wild-type MLK3, the P252H mutation and with the empty vector (Mock) in order to identify the putative signaling pathways associated with P252H mutation.
Results
Our microarray results showed that mutant MLK3 deregulates several important colorectal cancer- associated signaling pathways such as WNT, MAPK, NOTCH, TGF-beta and p53, helping to narrow down the number of potential MLK3 targets responsible for its oncogenic effects. A more detailed analysis of the alterations affecting the WNT signaling pathway revealed a down-regulation of molecules involved in the canonical pathway, such as DVL2, LEF1, CCND1 and c-Myc, and an up-regulation of DKK, a well-known negative regulator of canonical WNT signaling, in MLK3 mutant cells. Additionally, FZD6 and FZD10 genes, known to act as negative regulators of the canonical WNT signaling cascade and as positive regulators of the planar cell polarity (PCP) pathway, a non-canonic WNT pathway, were found to be up-regulated in P252H cells.
Conclusion
The results provide an overall view of the expression profile associated with mutant MLK3, and they support the functional role of mutant MLK3 by showing a deregulation of several signaling pathways known to play important roles in the development and progression of colorectal cancer. The results also suggest that mutant MLK3 may be a novel modulator of WNT signaling, and pinpoint the activation of PCP pathway as a possible mechanism underlying the invasive potential of MLK3 mutant cells.
doi:10.1186/1471-2407-14-182
PMCID: PMC3995575  PMID: 24628919
Colorectal cancer; MLK3; WNT pathway; MSI; Planar cell polarity
2.  The importance of E-cadherin binding partners to evaluate the pathogenicity of E-cadherin missense mutations associated to HDGC 
In hereditary diffuse gastric cancer (HDGC), CDH1 germline gene alterations are causative events in 30% of the cases. In 20% of HDGC families, CDH1 germline mutations are of the missense type and the mutation carriers constitute a problem in terms of genetic counseling and surveillance. To access the pathogenic relevance of missense mutations, we have previously developed an in vitro method to functionally characterize them. Pathogenic E-cadherin missense mutants fail to aggregate and become more invasive, in comparison with cells expressing the wild-type (WT) protein. Herein, our aim was to develop a complementary method to unravel the pathogenic significance of E-cadherin missense mutations. We used cells stably expressing WT E-cadherin and seven HDGC-associated mutations (five intracellular and two extracellular) and studied by proximity ligation assays (PLA) how these mutants bind to fundamental regulators of E-cadherin function and trafficking. We focused our attention on the interaction with: p120, β-catenin, PIPKIγ and Hakai. We showed that cytoplasmic E-cadherin mutations affect the interaction of one or more binding partners, compromising the E-cadherin stability at the plasma membrane and likely affecting the adhesion complex competence. In the present work, we demonstrated that the study of the interplay between E-cadherin and its binding partners, using PLA, is an easy, rapid, quantitative and highly reproducible technique that can be applied in routine labs to verify the pathogenicity of E-cadherin missense mutants for HDGC diagnosis, especially those located in the intracellular domain of the protein.
doi:10.1038/ejhg.2012.159
PMCID: PMC3573198  PMID: 22850631
HDGC; E-cadherin; CDH1 mutations; E-cadherin trafficking; E-cadherin binding partners; diagnostic method
3.  Insulin/IGF-I Signaling Pathways Enhances Tumor Cell Invasion through Bisecting GlcNAc N-glycans Modulation. An Interplay with E-Cadherin 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(11):e81579.
Changes in glycosylation are considered a hallmark of cancer, and one of the key targets of glycosylation modifications is E-cadherin. We and others have previously demonstrated that E-cadherin has a role in the regulation of bisecting GlcNAc N-glycans expression, remaining to be determined the E-cadherin-dependent signaling pathway involved in this N-glycans expression regulation. In this study, we analysed the impact of E-cadherin expression in the activation profile of receptor tyrosine kinases such as insulin receptor (IR) and IGF-I receptor (IGF-IR). We demonstrated that exogenous E-cadherin expression inhibits IR, IGF-IR and ERK 1/2 phosphorylation. Stimulation with insulin and IGF-I in MDA-MD-435 cancer cells overexpressing E-cadherin induces a decrease of bisecting GlcNAc N-glycans that was accompanied with alterations on E-cadherin cellular localization. Concomitantly, IR/IGF-IR signaling activation induced a mesenchymal-like phenotype of cancer cells together with an increased tumor cell invasion capability. Altogether, these results demonstrate an interplay between E-cadherin and IR/IGF-IR signaling as major networking players in the regulation of bisecting N-glycans expression, with important effects in the modulation of epithelial characteristics and tumor cell invasion. Here we provide new insights into the role that Insulin/IGF-I signaling play during cancer progression through glycosylation modifications.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0081579
PMCID: PMC3839884  PMID: 24282611
4.  The Bacterial Protein Azurin Impairs Invasion and FAK/Src Signaling in P-Cadherin-Overexpressing Breast Cancer Cell Models 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(7):e69023.
P-cadherin overexpression occurs in about 30% of all breast carcinomas, being a poor prognostic factor for breast cancer patients. In a cellular background of wild-type E-cadherin, we have previously shown that its expression promotes invasion, motility and migration of breast cancer cells due to the induced secretion of metalloproteases (MMPs) to the extracellular medium and to the concomitant shedding of a pro-invasive soluble form of this protein (sP-cad). Azurin is secreted by Pseudomonas aeruginosa and induces in vitro and in vivo cytotoxicity after its preferential penetration in human cancer cells relative to normal cells. Three different breast cancer cell lines, MCF-7/AZ.Mock, MCF-7/AZ.Pcad and SUM149 were treated with sub-killing doses of azurin. Invasion of these cells was measured using Matrigel Invasion Assays and MTT assays were performed to determine cell viability upon treatment and the effects on cadherins expression was determined by Western blot and Immunofluorescence. Gelatin Zymography was used to determine activity of MMP2 in the conditioned media of azurin treated and untreated cells and the phosphorylation levels of intracellular signaling proteins were determined by Western blot. The invasive phenotype of these breast cancer cells was significantly reduced by azurin. Azurin (50–100 µM) also caused a specific decrease on P-cadherin protein levels from 30–50% in MCF-7/AZ.Pcad and SUM149 breast cancer cell lines, but the levels of E-cadherin remain unaltered. More, the levels of sP-cad and the activity of MMP2 were reduced in the extracellular media of azurin treated cells and we also observed a decrease in the phosphorylation levels of both FAK and Src proteins. Our data show that azurin specifically targets P-cadherin, not E-cadherin, abrogating P-cadherin-mediated invasive effects and signaling. Therefore, azurin could possibly be considered a therapeutic tool to treat poor-prognosis breast carcinomas overexpressing P-cadherin in a wild type E-cadherin context.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0069023
PMCID: PMC3716805  PMID: 23894398
5.  Crosstalk between Helicobacter pylori and Gastric Epithelial Cells Is Impaired by Docosahexaenoic Acid 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(4):e60657.
H. pylori colonizes half of the world's population leading to gastritis, ulcers and gastric cancer. H. pylori strains resistant to antibiotics are increasing which raises the need for alternative therapeutic approaches. Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) has been shown to decrease H. pylori growth and its associated-inflammation through mechanisms poorly characterized. We aimed to explore DHA action on H. pylori-mediated inflammation and adhesion to gastric epithelial cells (AGS) and also to identify bacterial structures affected by DHA. H. pylori growth and metabolism was assessed in liquid cultures. Bacterial adhesion to AGS cells was visualized by transmission electron microscopy and quantified by an Enzyme Linked Immunosorbent Assay. Inflammatory proteins were assessed by immunoblotting in infected AGS cells, previously treated with DHA. Bacterial total and outer membrane protein composition was analyzed by 2-dimensional gel electrophoresis. Concentrations of 100 µM of DHA decreased H. pylori growth, whereas concentrations higher than 250 µM irreversibly inhibited bacteria survival. DHA reduced ATP production and adhesion to AGS cells. AGS cells infected with DHA pre-treated H. pylori showed a 3-fold reduction in Interleukin-8 (IL-8) production and a decrease of COX2 and iNOS. 2D electrophoresis analysis revealed that DHA changed the expression of H. pylori outer membrane proteins associated with stress response and metabolism and modified bacterial lipopolysaccharide phenotype. As conclusions our results show that DHA anti-H. pylori effects are associated with changes of bacteria morphology and metabolism, and with alteration of outer membrane proteins composition, that ultimately reduce the adhesion of bacteria and the burden of H. pylori-related inflammation.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0060657
PMCID: PMC3618039  PMID: 23577140
6.  CLMP Is Essential for Intestinal Development, but Does Not Play a Key Role in Cellular Processes Involved in Intestinal Epithelial Development 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(2):e54649.
Loss-of-function mutations in CLMP have been found in patients with Congenital Short Bowel Syndrome (CSBS), suggesting that its encoded protein plays a major role in intestinal development. CLMP is a membrane protein that co-localizes with tight junction proteins, but its function is largely unknown. We expressed wild-type (WT)-CLMP and a mutant-CLMP (associated with CSBS) in human intestinal epithelial T84 cells that, as we show here, do not produce endogenous CLMP. We investigated the effects of WT-CLMP and mutant-CLMP proteins on key cellular processes that are important for intestinal epithelial development, including migration, proliferation, viability and transepithelial resistance. Our data showed that expression of WT-CLMP or mutant-CLMP does not affect any of these processes. Moreover, our aggregation assays in CHO cells show that CLMP does not act as a strong adhesion molecule. Thus, our data suggest that, in the in vitro model systems we used, the key processes involved in intestinal epithelial development appear to be unaffected by WT-CLMP or mutant-CLMP. Further research is needed to determine the role of CLMP in the development of the intestine.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0054649
PMCID: PMC3584079  PMID: 23460781
7.  CCAAT/Enhancer Binding Protein β (C/EBPβ) Isoforms as Transcriptional Regulators of the Pro-Invasive CDH3/P-Cadherin Gene in Human Breast Cancer Cells 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(2):e55749.
P-cadherin is a cell-cell adhesion molecule codified by the CDH3 gene, which expression is highly associated with undifferentiated cells in normal adult epithelial tissues, as well as with poorly differentiated carcinomas. In breast cancer, P-cadherin is frequently overexpressed in high-grade tumours and is a well-established indicator of aggressive tumour behaviour and poor patient prognosis. However, till now, the mechanisms controlling CDH3 gene activation have been poorly explored. Since we recently described the existence of several CCAAT/Enhancer Binding Protein β (C/EBPβ) transcription factor binding sites at the CDH3 promoter, the aim of this study was to assess if the distinct C/EBPβ isoforms were directly involved in the transcriptional activation of the CDH3 gene in breast cancer cells. DNA-protein interactions, mutation analysis and luciferase reporter assay studies have been performed. We demonstrated that C/EBPβ is co-expressed with P-cadherin in breast cancer cells and all the three isoforms function as transcriptional regulators of the CDH3 gene, directly interacting with specific regions of its promoter. Interestingly, this transcriptional activation was only reflected at the P-cadherin protein level concerning the LIP isoform. Taken together, our data show that CDH3 is a newly defined transcriptional target gene of C/EBPβ isoforms in breast cancer, and we also identified the binding sites that are relevant for this activation.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0055749
PMCID: PMC3566012  PMID: 23405208
8.  Docosahexaenoic Acid Inhibits Helicobacter pylori Growth In Vitro and Mice Gastric Mucosa Colonization 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(4):e35072.
H. pylori drug-resistant strains and non-compliance to therapy are the major causes of H. pylori eradication failure. For some bacterial species it has been demonstrated that fatty acids have a growth inhibitory effect. Our main aim was to assess the ability of docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) to inhibit H. pylori growth both in vitro and in a mouse model. The effectiveness of standard therapy (ST) in combination with DHA on H. pylori eradication and recurrence prevention success was also investigated. The effects of DHA on H. pylori growth were analyzed in an in vitro dose-response study and n in vivo model. We analized the ability of H. pylori to colonize mice gastric mucosa following DHA, ST or a combination of both treatments. Our data demonstrate that DHA decreases H. pylori growth in vitro in a dose-dependent manner. Furthermore, DHA inhibits H. pylori gastric colonization in vivo as well as decreases mouse gastric mucosa inflammation. Addition of DHA to ST was also associated with lower H. pylori infection recurrence in the mouse model. In conclusion, DHA is an inhibitor of H. pylori growth and its ability to colonize mouse stomach. DHA treatment is also associated with a lower recurrence of H. pylori infection in combination with ST. These observations pave the way to consider DHA as an adjunct agent in H. pylori eradication treatment.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0035072
PMCID: PMC3328494  PMID: 22529974
9.  E-Cadherin Destabilization Accounts for the Pathogenicity of Missense Mutations in Hereditary Diffuse Gastric Cancer 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(3):e33783.
E-cadherin is critical for the maintenance of tissue architecture due to its role in cell-cell adhesion. E-cadherin mutations are the genetic cause of Hereditary Diffuse Gastric Cancer (HDGC) and missense mutations represent a clinical burden, due to the uncertainty of their pathogenic role. In vitro and in vivo, most mutations lead to loss-of-function, although the causal factor is unknown for the majority. We hypothesized that destabilization could account for the pathogenicity of E-cadherin missense mutations in HDGC, and tested our hypothesis using in silico and in vitro tools. FoldX algorithm was used to calculate the impact of each mutation in E-cadherin native-state stability, and the analysis was complemented with evolutionary conservation, by SIFT. Interestingly, HDGC patients harbouring germline E-cadherin destabilizing mutants present a younger age at diagnosis or death, suggesting that the loss of native-state stability of E-cadherin accounts for the disease phenotype. To elucidate the biological relevance of E-cadherin destabilization in HDGC, we investigated a group of newly identified HDGC-associated mutations (E185V, S232C and L583R), of which L583R is predicted to be destabilizing. We show that this mutation is not functional in vitro, exhibits shorter half-life and is unable to mature, due to premature proteasome-dependent degradation, a phenotype reverted by stabilization with the artificial mutation L583I (structurally tolerated). Herein we report E-cadherin structural models suitable to predict the impact of the majority of cancer-associated missense mutations and we show that E-cadherin destabilization leads to loss-of-function in vitro and increased pathogenicity in vivo.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0033783
PMCID: PMC3309996  PMID: 22470475
10.  Loss and Recovery of Mgat3 and GnT-III Mediated E-cadherin N-glycosylation Is a Mechanism Involved in Epithelial-Mesenchymal-Epithelial Transitions 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(3):e33191.
Background
N-acetylglucosaminyltransferase-III (GnT-III) is a glycosyltransferase encoded by Mgat3 that catalyzes the addition of β1,4-bisecting-N-acetylglucosamine on N-glycans. GnT-III has been pointed as a metastases suppressor having varying effects on cell adhesion and migration. We have previously described the existence of a functional feedback loop between E-cadherin expression and GnT-III-mediated glycosylation. The effects of GnT-III-mediated glycosylation on E-cadherin expression and cellular phenotype lead us to evaluate Mgat3 and GnT-III-glycosylation role during Epithelial-Mesenchymal-Transition (EMT) and the reverted process, Mesenchymal-Epithelial-Transition (MET).
Methodology/Principal Findings
We analyzed the expression profile and genetic mechanism controlling Mgat3 expression as well as GnT-III-mediated glycosylation, in general and specifically on E-cadherin, during EMT/MET. We found that during EMT, Mgat3 expression was dramatically decreased and later recovered when cells returned to an epithelial-like phenotype. We further identified that Mgat3 promoter methylation/demethylation is involved in this expression regulation. The impact of Mgat3 expression variation, along EMT/MET, leads to a variation in the expression levels of the enzymatic product of GnT-III (bisecting GlcNAc structures), and more importantly, to the specific modification of E-cadherin glycosylation with bisecting GlcNAc structures.
Conclusions/Significance
Altogether, this work identifies for the first time Mgat3 glycogene expression and GnT-III-mediated glycosylation, specifically on E-cadherin, as a novel and major component of the EMT/MET mechanism signature, supporting its role during EMT/MET.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0033191
PMCID: PMC3302839  PMID: 22427986
11.  ADP-Ribosylation Factor 6 Mediates E-Cadherin Recovery by Chemical Chaperones 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(8):e23188.
E-cadherin plays a powerful tumor suppressor role. Germline E-cadherin mutations justify 30% of Hereditary Diffuse Gastric Cancer (HDGC) and missense mutations are found in 30% of these families. We found possible to restore in vitro mutant E-cadherin associated to HDGC syndrome by using Chemical Chaperones (CCs). Herein, our aim was to disclose the molecular mechanisms underlying the CCs effects in E-cadherin regulation. Using cells stably expressing WT E-cadherin or two HDGC-associated missense mutations, we show that upon DMSO treatment, not only mutant E-cadherin is restored and stabilized at the plasma membrane (PM), but also Arf6 and PIPKIγ expressions are altered. We show that modulation of Arf6 expression partially mimics the effect of CCs, suggesting that the cellular effects observed upon CCs treatment are mediated by Arf6. Further, we show that E-cadherin expression recovery is specifically linked to Arf6 due to its role on endocytosis and recycling pathways. Finally, we demonstrated that, as DMSO, several others CCs are able to modulate the trafficking machinery through an Arf6 dependent mechanism. Interestingly, the more effective compounds in E-cadherin recovery to PM are those that simultaneously inhibit Arf6 and stimulate PIPKIγ expression and binding to E-cadherin. Here, we present the first evidence of a direct influence of CCs in cellular trafficking machinery and we show that this effect is of crucial importance in the context of juxtamembrane E-cadherin missense mutations associated to HDGC. We propose that this influence should be taken into account when exploring the therapeutic potential of this type of chemicals in genetic diseases associated to protein-misfolding.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0023188
PMCID: PMC3154279  PMID: 21853084
12.  Allele-specific CDH1 downregulation and hereditary diffuse gastric cancer 
Human Molecular Genetics  2009;19(5):943-952.
Hereditary diffuse gastric cancer (HDGC) is an autosomal dominant cancer susceptibility syndrome characterized by early-onset diffuse gastric cancer (DGC) and lobular breast cancer. E-cadherin (CDH1) heterozygous germline mutations and deletions are found in 40% of families. Independent of CDH1 alterations, most HDGC tumours display mislocalized or absent E-cadherin immunoexpression, therefore undetected defects at the CDH1 locus may still be involved. We aimed at determining whether CDH1 mutation-negative probands display germline CDH1 allele-specific expression (ASE) imbalance, using a single-nucleotide primer extension-based procedure and tried to uncover the underlying molecular defect. CDH1 ASE analysis was performed using three intragenic SNPs in RNA extracted from the blood of 21 cancer-free individuals and 22 HDGC probands (5 CDH1 mutation carriers and 17 CDH1 negative). Germline promoter methylation, deletions and haplotype-related susceptibility at the CDH1 locus were analysed. Both CDH1 alleles from cancer-free individuals displayed equivalent expression levels, whereas monoallelic CDH1 expression or high allelic expression imbalance (AI) was present in 80% of CDH1 mutant and 70.6% (n = 12) of CDH1-negative HDGC probands. Germline deletions and promoter hypermethylation were found in 25% of probands displaying high CDH1 AI. No particular haplotype was found to be associated with CDH1 high AI. Germline CDH1 AI is highly frequent among CDH1 mutation-negative probands but was not seen in cancer-free individuals. This implicates the CDH1 locus in the majority of mutation-negative HDGC families.
doi:10.1093/hmg/ddp537
PMCID: PMC2816607  PMID: 19965908
13.  Analysis of microsatellite instability in medulloblastoma 
Neuro-Oncology  2009;11(5):458-467.
Medulloblastoma is the most common malignant brain tumor in children. The presence of microsatellite instability (MSI) in brain tumors, particularly medulloblastomas, has not been properly addressed. The aim of the present study was to evaluate the role of MSI in medulloblastoma carcinogenesis. MSI status was determined in 36 patients using a pentaplex PCR of quasimonomorphic markers (NR27, NR21, NR24, BAT25, and BAT26). Methylation status of mismatch repair (MMR) genes was achieved by methylation-specific multiplex ligation-dependent probe amplification (MLPA). In addition, MutS homolog 6 (MSH6) expression was determined by immunohistochemistry. Mutations of 10 MSI target genes (TCF4, XRCC2, MBD4, MRE11, ATR, MSH3, TGFBR2, RAD50, MSH6, and BAX) were studied by pentaplex PCR followed by analysis with GeneScan 3.7 software. Mutation analysis of hotspot regions of β-catenin (CTNNB1) and BRAF (v-raf murine sarcoma viral oncogene homolog B1) oncogenes was performed by PCR single-strand conformation polymorphism analysis followed by direct sequencing. Among the 36 tumors, we found four (11%) cases with instability, one with high MSI and three with low MSI. Methylation analysis of MMR genes in cases presenting shifts on the MSI markers revealed mild hypermethylation of MSH6 in 75% of cases, yet MSH6 was expressed in all the tumors. The MSI target genes MBD4 (methyl-CpG binding domain protein 4) and MRE11 (meiotic recombination 11 homolog A) were mutated in two different tumors. No CTNNB1 or BRAF mutations were found. This study is the most comprehensive analysis of MSI in medulloblastomas to date. We observed the presence of MSI together with mutations of MSI target genes in a small fraction of cases, suggesting a new genetic pathway for a role in medulloblastoma development.
doi:10.1215/15228517-2008-115
PMCID: PMC2765336  PMID: 19179424
medulloblastoma; microsatellite instability; mismatch repair; target genes
16.  Tumour selection advantage of non‐dominant negative P53 mutations in homozygotic MDM2‐SNP309 colorectal cancer cells 
Journal of Medical Genetics  2006;44(1):75-80.
Background
Mdm2 is a natural inhibitor of p53 function and its overexpression impairs p53 transcriptional activity. T→G single‐nucleotide polymorphism at position 309 (SNP309) of mdm2 induces overexpression of mdm2, but inhibits p53.
Objectives
To determine whether SNP309 is a risk‐modifier polymorphism in colorectal cancer (CRC) and whether tumour selection of P53 mutations are influenced by SNP309.
Methods
Single‐stranded conformation polymorphism and automatic sequencing were performed.
Results
SNP309 is not associated with the risk of CRC or recurrence of tumours. These data do not over‐ride the tumour‐selection capabilities of P53 mutations in CRC. However, a significant association with non‐dominant‐negative P53 mutations (p = 0.02) was found.
Conclusions
MDM2‐SNP309 favours tumour selection of non‐dominant negative P53 mutations in CRC, which also show an earlier age of tumour onset.
doi:10.1136/jmg.2006.042572
PMCID: PMC2597912  PMID: 16825434
17.  Mixed lineage kinase 3 gene mutations in mismatch repair deficient gastrointestinal tumours 
Human Molecular Genetics  2009;19(4):697-706.
Mixed lineage kinase 3 (MLK3) is a serine/threonine kinase, regulating MAPkinase signalling, in which cancer-associated mutations have never been reported. In this study, 174 primary gastrointestinal cancers (48 hereditary and 126 sporadic forms) and 7 colorectal cancer cell lines were screened for MLK3 mutations. MLK3 mutations were significantly associated with MSI phenotype in primary tumours (P = 0.0005), occurring in 21% of the MSI carcinomas. Most MLK3 somatic mutations identified were of the missense type (62.5%) and more than 80% of them affected evolutionarily conserved residues. A predictive 3D model points to the functional relevance of MLK3 missense mutations, which cluster in the kinase domain. Further, the model shows that most of the altered residues in the kinase domain probably affect MLK3 scaffold properties, instead of its kinase activity. MLK3 missense mutations showed transforming capacity in vitro and cells expressing the mutant gene were able to develop locally invasive tumours, when subcutaneously injected in nude mice. Interestingly, in primary tumours, MLK3 mutations occurred in KRAS and/or BRAF wild-type carcinomas, although not being mutually exclusive genetic events. In conclusion, we have demonstrated for the first time the presence of MLK3 mutations in cancer and its association to mismatch repair deficiency. Further, we demonstrated that MLK3 missense mutations found in MSI gastrointestinal carcinomas are functionally relevant.
doi:10.1093/hmg/ddp536
PMCID: PMC2807374  PMID: 19955118
18.  Microbial-based therapy of cancer 
Bioengineered Bugs  2009;1(3):178-190.
The use of bacteria in the regression of certain forms of cancer has been recognized for more than a century. Much effort, therefore, has been spent over the years in developing wild-type or modified bacterial strains to treat cancer. However, their use at the dose required for therapeutic efficacy has always been associated with toxicity problems and other deleterious effects. Recently, the old idea of using bacteria in the treatment of cancer has attracted considerable interest and new genetically engineered attenuated strains as well as microbial compounds that might have specific anticancer activity without side effects are being evaluated for their ability to act as new anticancer agents. This involves the use of attenuated bacterial strains and expressing foreign genes that encode the ability to convert non-toxic prodrugs to cytotoxic drugs. Novel strategies also include the use of bacterial products such as proteins, enzymes, immunotoxins and secondary metabolites, which specifically target cancer cells and cause tumor regression through growth inhibition, cell cycle arrest or apoptosis induction. In this review we describe the current knowledge and discuss the future directions regarding the use of bacteria or their products, in cancer therapy.
doi:10.4161/bbug.1.3.10903
PMCID: PMC3026423  PMID: 21326924
cancer therapy; anticancer agents from microbial sources; drug development; Pseudomonas aeruginosa; azurin; multi-targeting drugs in cancer therapy
19.  Proliferation and survival molecules implicated in the inhibition of BRAF pathway in thyroid cancer cells harbouring different genetic mutations 
BMC Cancer  2009;9:387.
Background
Thyroid carcinomas show a high prevalence of mutations in the oncogene BRAF which are inversely associated with RAS or RET/PTC oncogenic activation. The possibility of using inhibitors on the BRAF pathway as became an interesting therapeutic approach. In thyroid cancer cells the target molecules, implicated on the cellular effects, mediated by inhibition of BRAF are not well established. In order to fill this lack of knowledge we studied the proliferation and survival pathways and associated molecules induced by BRAF inhibition in thyroid carcinoma cell lines harbouring distinct genetic backgrounds.
Methods
Suppression of BRAF pathway in thyroid cancer cell lines (8505C, TPC1 and C643) was achieved using RNA interference (RNAi) for BRAF and the kinase inhibitor, sorafenib. Proliferation analysis was performed by BrdU incorporation and apoptosis was accessed by TUNEL assay. Levels of protein expression were analysed by western-blot.
Results
Both BRAF RNAi and sorafenib inhibited proliferation in all the cell lines independently of the genetic background, mostly in cells with BRAFV600E mutation. In BRAFV600E mutated cells inhibition of BRAF pathway lead to a decrease in ERK1/2 phosphorylation and cyclin D1 levels and an increase in p27Kip1. Specific inhibition of BRAF by RNAi in cells with BRAFV600E mutation had no effect on apoptosis. In the case of sorafenib treatment, cells harbouring BRAFV600E mutation showed increase levels of apoptosis due to a balance of the anti-apoptotic proteins Mcl-1 and Bcl-2.
Conclusion
Our results in thyroid cancer cells, namely those harbouring BRAFV600Emutation showed that BRAF signalling pathway provides important proliferation signals. We have shown that in thyroid cancer cells sorafenib induces apoptosis by affecting Mcl-1 and Bcl-2 in BRAFV600E mutated cells which was independent of BRAF. These results suggest that sorafenib may prove useful in the treatment of thyroid carcinomas, particularly those refractory to conventional treatment and harbouring BRAF mutations.
doi:10.1186/1471-2407-9-387
PMCID: PMC2776025  PMID: 19878585
20.  Germline CDH1 deletions in hereditary diffuse gastric cancer families 
Human Molecular Genetics  2009;18(9):1545-1555.
Germline CDH1 point or small frameshift mutations can be identified in 30–50% of hereditary diffuse gastric cancer (HDGC) families. We hypothesized that CDH1 genomic rearrangements would be found in HDGC and identified 160 families with either two gastric cancers in first-degree relatives and with at least one diffuse gastric cancer (DGC) diagnosed before age 50, or three or more DGC in close relatives diagnosed at any age. Sixty-seven carried germline CDH1 point or small frameshift mutations. We screened germline DNA from the 93 mutation negative probands for large genomic rearrangements by Multiplex Ligation-Dependent Probe Amplification. Potential deletions were validated by RT–PCR and breakpoints cloned using a combination of oligo-CGH-arrays and long-range-PCR. In-silico analysis of the CDH1 locus was used to determine a potential mechanism for these rearrangements. Six of 93 (6.5%) previously described mutation negative HDGC probands, from low GC incidence populations (UK and North America), carried genomic deletions (UK and North America). Two families carried an identical deletion spanning 193 593 bp, encompassing the full CDH3 sequence and CDH1 exons 1 and 2. Other deletions affecting exons 1, 2, 15 and/or 16 were identified. The statistically significant over-representation of Alus around breakpoints indicates it as a likely mechanism for these deletions. When all mutations and deletions are considered, the overall frequency of CDH1 alterations in HDGC is ∼46% (73/160). CDH1 large deletions occur in 4% of HDGC families by mechanisms involving mainly non-allelic homologous recombination in Alu repeat sequences. As the finding of pathogenic CDH1 mutations is useful for management of HDGC families, screening for deletions should be offered to at-risk families.
doi:10.1093/hmg/ddp046
PMCID: PMC2667284  PMID: 19168852
21.  BRAF, KRAS and PIK3CA mutations in colorectal serrated polyps and cancer: Primary or secondary genetic events in colorectal carcinogenesis? 
BMC Cancer  2008;8:255.
Background
BRAF, KRAS and PIK3CA mutations are frequently found in sporadic colorectal cancer (CRC). In contrast to KRAS and PIK3CA mutations, BRAF mutations are associated with tumours harbouring CpG Island methylation phenotype (CIMP), MLH1 methylation and microsatellite instability (MSI). We aimed at determine the frequency of KRAS, BRAF and PIK3CA mutations in the process of colorectal tumourigenesis using a series of colorectal polyps and carcinomas. In the series of polyps CIMP, MLH1 methylation and MSI were also studied.
Methods
Mutation analyses were performed by PCR/sequencing. Bisulfite treated DNA was used to study CIMP and MLH1 methylation. MSI was detected by pentaplex PCR and Genescan analysis of quasimonomorphic mononucleotide repeats. Chi Square test and Fisher's Exact test were used to perform association studies.
Results
KRAS, PIK3CA or BRAF occur in 71% of polyps and were mutually exclusive. KRAS mutations occur in 35% of polyps. PIK3CA was found in one of the polyps. V600E BRAF mutations occur in 29% of cases, all of them classified as serrated adenoma. CIMP phenotype occurred in 25% of the polyps and all were mutated for BRAF. MLH1 methylation was not detected and all the polyps were microsatellite stable. The comparison between the frequency of oncogenic mutations in polyps and CRC (MSI and MSS) lead us to demonstrate that KRAS and PIK3CA are likely to precede both types of CRC. BRAF mutations are likely to precede MSI carcinomas since the frequency found in serrated polyps is similar to what is found in MSI CRC (P = 0.9112), but statistically different from what is found in microsatellite stable (MSS) tumours (P = 0.0191).
Conclusion
Our results show that BRAF, KRAS and PIK3CA mutations occur prior to malignant transformation demonstrating that these oncogenic alterations are primary genetic events in colorectal carcinogenesis. Further, we show that BRAF mutations occur in association with CIMP phenotype in colorectal serrated polyps and verified that colorectal serrated polyps and MSI CRC show a similar frequency of BRAF mutations. These results support that BRAF mutations harbour a mild oncogenic effect in comparison to KRAS and suggest that BRAF mutant colorectal cells need to accumulate extra epigenetic alterations in order to acquire full transformation and evolve to MSI CRC.
doi:10.1186/1471-2407-8-255
PMCID: PMC2553419  PMID: 18782444
22.  Epidermal growth factor receptor structural alterations in gastric cancer 
BMC Cancer  2008;8:10.
Background
EGFR overexpression has been described in many human tumours including gastric cancer. In NSCLC patients somatic EGFR mutations, within the kinase domain of the protein, as well as gene amplification were associated with a good clinical response to EGFR inhibitors. In gastric tumours data concerning structural alterations of EGFR remains controversial. Given its possible therapeutic relevance, we aimed to determine the frequency and type of structural alterations of the EGFR gene in a series of primary gastric carcinomas.
Methods
Direct sequencing of the kinase domain of the EGFR gene was performed in a series of 77 primary gastric carcinomas. FISH analysis was performed in 30 cases. Association studies between EGFR alterations and the clinical pathological features of the tumours were performed.
Results
Within the 77 primary gastric carcinomas we found two EGFR somatic mutations and several EGFR polymorphisms in exon 20. Six different intronic sequence variants of EGFR were also found. Four gastric carcinomas showed balanced polysomy or EGFR gene amplification. We verified that gastric carcinoma with alterations of EGFR (somatic mutations or copy number variation) showed a significant increase of tumour size (p = 0.0094) in comparison to wild-type EGFR carcinomas.
Conclusion
We demonstrate that EGFR structural alterations are rare in gastric carcinoma, but whenever present, it leads to tumour growth. We considered that searching for EGFR alterations in gastric cancer is likely to be clinically important in order to identify patients susceptible to respond to tyrosine kinase inhibitors.
doi:10.1186/1471-2407-8-10
PMCID: PMC2244615  PMID: 18199332
23.  Genetic Screening for Familial Gastric Cancer 
Approximately 10% of gastric cancer cases show familial clustering but only 1-3% of gastric carcinomas arise as a result of inherited gastric cancer predisposition syndromes. Direct proof that Hereditary Gastric Cancer a genetic disease with a germline gene defect has come from the demonstration of co-segregation of germline E-cadherin (CDH1) mutations with early onset diffuse gastric cancer in families with an autosomal dominant pattern of inheritance (HDGC). E-cadherin is a transmembrane calcium-dependent cell-adhesion molecule involved in cell-junction formation and the maintenance of epithelial integrity. In this review, we describe frequency and type of CDH1 mutations in sporadic and familial gastric cancer. Further we demonstrate the functional significance of some CDH1 germline missense mutations found in HDGC. We also discuss the CDH1 polymorphisms that have been associated to gastric cancer. We report other types of malignancies associated to HDGC, besides diffuse gastric cancer. Moreover, we review the data available on putative alternative candidate genes screened in familial gastric cancer. Finally, we briefly discuss the role of low-penetrance genes and Helicobacter pylori in gastric cancer. This knowledge is a fundamental step towards accurate genetic counselling, in which a highly specialised pre-symptomatic therapeutic intervention should be offered.
doi:10.1186/1897-4287-2-2-51
PMCID: PMC2839995  PMID: 20233471
gastric cancer; familial gastric cancer; E-cadherin; CDH1; HDGC; hereditary diffuse gastric cancer; inheritance; germline mutation; missense mutation; Helicobacter pylori; low penetrance genes; IL1; TNFα; early onset; genetic counselling; functional analysis

Results 1-23 (23)