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1.  Enhanced expression of transforming growth factor β1 in the rat brain after a localized cerebral injury 
Brain research  1992;587(2):216-225.
It is becoming clear that transforming growth factor β (TGFβ) may be a key factor regulating inflammatory and tissue specific wound responses. Because the formation of a glial-collagen scar at CNS lesion sites is thought to contribute to the pathology associated with penetrating CNS injuries, and because in the periphery TGFβ1 stimulates fibroblast deposition of scar tissue, we used in situ hybridization and immunohistochemistry to investigate the effect of a defined cerebral lesion on the local expression of TGFβ1. Induction of TGFβ1 mRNA and protein is relatively diffuse in the neuropile around the margins of the lesion at 1, 2 and 3 days, but becomes localized to the region of the glial scar at 7 and 14 days. The signal intensity for TGFβ1 mRNA and protein is maximal between 2 and 3 days and decreases between 7 and 14 days after lesion. The predominant cell types in the neuropile localizing TGFβ1 mRNA and protein have the morphological characteristics of astrocytes, although macrophages are also detected. An induction of TGFβ1 mRNA was also observed in endothelial cells of the meninges, hippocampal fissure and choroid plexus, at 2 and 3 days, However, this is dramatically reduced by 7 days and has disappeared by 14 days. These results suggest a role for TGPβ1, not only in inflammation, but also in the tissue-specific glial scar formation that occurs in the CNS. Furthermore, they suggest a potential therapeutic use of TGFβ1 antagonists in the CNS to help limit the pathogenesis associated with matrix deposition in the wound.
PMCID: PMC4310563  PMID: 1525658
Transforming growth factor β1; mRNA; Injury; Central nervous system; Glial scar; Astrocyte
2.  A Synthetic Triterpenoid CDDO-Im Inhibits Tumorsphere Formation by Regulating Stem Cell Signaling Pathways in Triple-Negative Breast Cancer 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(9):e107616.
Triple-negative breast cancer is associated with poor prognosis because of a high rate of tumor recurrence and metastasis. Previous studies demonstrated that the synthetic triterpenoid, CDDO-Imidazolide (CDDO-Im) induced cell cycle arrest and apoptosis in triple-negative breast cancer. Since a small subpopulation of cancer stem cells has been suggested to be responsible for drug resistance and metastasis of tumors, our present study determined whether the effects of CDDO-Im in triple-negative breast cancer are due to the inhibition of a cancer stem cell subpopulation. CDDO-Im treatment markedly induced cell cycle arrest at G2/M-phase and apoptosis in the triple-negative breast cancer cell lines, SUM159 and MDA-MB-231. Because SUM159 cells were more sensitive to CDDO-Im than MDA-MB-231 cells, the effects of CDDO-Im on the cancer stem cell subpopulation were further investigated in SUM159 cells. SUM159 cells formed tumorspheres in culture, and the cancer stem cell subpopulation, CD24−/EpCAM+ cells, was markedly enriched in SUM159 tumorspheres. The CD24−/EpCAM+ cells in SUM159 tumorspheres were significantly inhibited by CDDO-Im treatment. CDDO-Im also significantly decreased sphere forming efficiency and tumorsphere size in both primary and secondary sphere cultures. PCR array of stem cell signaling genes showed that expression levels of many key molecules in the stem cell signaling pathways, such as Notch, TGF-β/Smad, Hedgehog and Wnt, were significantly down-regulated by CDDO-Im in SUM159 tumorspheres. Protein levels of Notch receptors (c-Notch1, Notch1 and Notch3), TGF-β/Smad (pSmad2/3) and Hedgehog downstream effectors (GLI1) also were markedly reduced by CDDO-Im. In conclusion, the present study demonstrates that the synthetic triterpenoid, CDDO-Im, is a potent anti-cancer agent against triple-negative breast cancer cells by targeting the cancer stem cell subpopulation.
PMCID: PMC4167992  PMID: 25229616
3.  Oral administration of a Gemini vitamin D analog, a synthetic triterpenoid and the combination prevents mammary tumorigenesis driven by ErbB2 overexpression 
Human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (HER2 or ErbB2), a member of ErbB receptor tyrosine kinases, is overexpressed in approximately 20 % of human breast cancer, and the ErbB2 signaling pathway is a critical therapeutic target for ErbB2-overexpressing breast cancer. We investigated the inhibitory effects of the Gemini vitamin D analog BXL0124, the synthetic triterpenoid CDDO-Im and the combination on the tumorigenesis of ErbB2-overexpressing breast cancer. MMTV-ErbB2/neu transgenic mice were treated with BXL0124, CDDO-Im or the combination from 3 months of age until the end of the experiment. Formation and growth of MMTV-ErbB2/neu mammary tumors were monitored every week, and all three treatments delayed the development of mammary tumors without significant toxicity. Decreased activation of ErbB2 as well as other ErbB receptors, ErbB1 and ErbB3, in MMTV-ErbB2/neu mammary tumors was shown by all treatments. Protein levels of downstream targets of the ErbB2 signaling pathway, including activated-Erk1/2, activated-Akt, c-Myc, CycD1 and Bcl2, were repressed by all three treatments, with the combination treatment exhibiting the strongest effects. To investigate therapeutic efficacy, the combination of BXL0124 and CDDO-Im was given to MMTV-ErbB2/neu mice after mammary tumors were established between 23-30 weeks of age. Short-term treatment with the combination did not show effects on tumor growth nor the ErbB2 signaling pathway. The present study demonstrates BXL0124, CDDO-Im and the combination as potential agents for prevention, but not treatment, against the tumorigenesis of ErbB2-overexpressing breast cancer.
PMCID: PMC3767182  PMID: 23856074
Gemini Vitamin D analog; synthetic triterpenoid; ErbB2-positive breast cancer
4.  The rexinoid LG100268 and the synthetic triterpenoid CDDO-methyl amide are more potent than erlotinib for prevention of mouse lung carcinogenesis 
Molecular cancer therapeutics  2008;7(5):1251-1257.
Female A/J mice injected with the carcinogen vinyl carbamate develop atypical adenomatous hyperplasias in lungs 4 weeks after injection with the carcinogen. The number and severity of tumors then increase over time, making these mice a useful model for evaluating potential chemopreventive agents. The rexinoid LG100268 (LG268), a selective ligand for the retinoid X receptor, and the methyl amide of the synthetic triterpenoid 2-cyano-3,12-dioxooleana-1,9(11)-dien-28-oic acid (CDDO) both significantly reduced the number, size, and severity of the histopathology of lung tumors in female A/J mice when fed in diet for 14 to 20 weeks. The total tumor burden was 85% to 87% lower in mice fed LG268 and CDDO-MA than in controls, and the percentage of high-grade tumors decreased from 59% in the controls to 25% or 30% with CDDO-MA and LG268. Erlotinib, which is used to treat lung cancer patients and is an inhibitor of the epidermal growth factor receptor, was less effective in this model. Immunohistochemical staining of geminin, a marker of cell cycle progression, was higher in lung sections from control mice than in mice treated with LG268. Because rexinoids and triterpenoids signal through different biological pathways, they should be tested in combination for the prevention of lung cancer.
PMCID: PMC4036619  PMID: 18483313
5.  Synthetic triterpenoid induces 15-PGDH expression and suppresses inflammation-driven colon carcinogenesis 
The Journal of Clinical Investigation  2014;124(6):2472-2482.
Colitis-associated colon cancer (CAC) develops as a result of inflammation-induced epithelial transformation, which occurs in response to inflammatory cytokine-dependent downregulation of 15-hydroxyprostaglandin dehydrogenase (15-PGDH) and subsequent suppression of prostaglandin metabolism. Agents that both enhance 15-PGDH expression and suppress cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2) production may more effectively prevent CAC. Synthetic triterpenoids are a class of small molecules that suppress COX-2 as well as inflammatory cytokine signaling. Here, we found that administration of the synthetic triterpenoid 2-cyano-3,12-dioxooleana-1,9(11)-dien-C28-methyl ester (CDDO-Me) suppresses CAC in mice. In a spontaneous, inflammation-driven intestinal neoplasia model, deletion of Smad4 specifically in T cells led to progressive production of inflammatory cytokines, including TNF-α, IFN-γ, iNOS, IL-6, IL-1β; as well as activation of STAT1 and STAT3; along with suppression of 15-PGDH expression. Oral administration of CDDO-Me to mice with SMAD4-deficient T cells increased survival and suppressed intestinal epithelial neoplasia by decreasing production of inflammatory mediators and increasing expression of 15-PGDH. Induction of 15-PGDH by CDDO-Me was dose dependent in epithelial cells and was abrogated following treatment with TGF-β signaling inhibitors in vitro. Furthermore, CDDO-Me–dependent 15-PGDH induction was not observed in Smad3–/– mice. Similarly, CDDO-Me suppressed azoxymethane plus dextran sodium sulfate–induced carcinogenesis in wild-type animals, highlighting the potential of small molecules of the triterpenoid family as effective agents for the chemoprevention of CAC in humans.
PMCID: PMC4089461  PMID: 24837432
6.  Nrf2 has a protective role against neuronal and capillary degeneration in retinal ischemia-reperfusion injury 
Free radical biology & medicine  2011;51(1):216-224.
Retinal ischemia-reperfusion (I/R) involves extensive increase in reactive oxygen species as well as pro-inflammatory changes that result in significant histopathologic damage, including neuronal and vascular degeneration. Nrf2 has a well-known cytoprotective role in many tissues, but its protective function in the retina is unclear. We investigated the possible role of Nrf2 as a protective mechanism in retinal ischemia-reperfusion injury using Nrf2 −/− mice. I/R resulted in an increase in retinal levels of superoxide and pro-inflammatory mediators, as well as leukocyte infiltration of the retina and vitreous, in Nrf2 +/+ mice. These effects were greatly accentuated in Nrf2 −/− mice. With regard to histopathologic damage, Nrf2 −/− mice exhibited loss of cells in the ganglion cell layer and markedly accentuated retinal capillary degeneration, as compared to wild-type. Treatment with the Nrf2 activator CDDO-Me increased antioxidant gene expression and normalized I-R induced superoxide in the retina in wild-type but not Nrf2 −/− mice. CDDO-Me treatment abrogated retinal capillary degeneration induced by I/R in wild-type, but not Nrf2 −/− mice. These studies indicate that Nrf2 is an important cytoprotective mechanism in the retina in response to ischemia-reperfusion injury and suggest that pharmacologic induction of Nrf2 could be a new therapeutic strategy for retinal ischemia-reperfusion and other retinal diseases.
PMCID: PMC3997112  PMID: 21545836
Apoptosis; Capillary degeneration; Cytokines; Inflammation; Ischemia-reperfusion; Knockout mice; Nuclear factor erythroid-2 related factor 2; Reactive oxygen species; Retina; Triterpenoids
7.  NADPH oxidase and Nrf2 regulate gastric aspiration-induced inflammation and acute lung injury 
Recruitment of neutrophils and release of reactive oxygen species are considered to be major pathogenic components driving acute lung injury (ALI). However, NADPH oxidase, the major source of reactive oxygen species in activated phagocytes, can paradoxically limit inflammation and injury. We hypothesized that NADPH oxidase protects against ALI by limiting neutrophilic inflammation and by activating Nrf2, a transcriptional factor that induces anti-oxidative and cytoprotective pathways. Our objective was to delineate the roles of NADPH oxidase and Nrf2 in modulating acute lung inflammation and injury in clinically relevant models of acute gastric aspiration injury, a major cause of ALI. Acid aspiration caused increased ALI (as assessed by bronchoalveolar lavage fluid albumin concentration) in both NADPH oxidase-deficient (p47phox−/−) mice and in Nrf2−/− mice compared to wild-type mice. NADPH oxidase reduced airway neutrophil accumulation, but Nrf2 decreased ALI without affecting neutrophil recovery. Acid injury resulted in a 120-fold increase in mitochondrial DNA, a pro-inflammatory and injurious product of cellular necrosis, in cell-free bronchoalveolar lavage fluid. Pharmacologic activation of Nrf2 by the triterpenoid, CDDO-Im, limited aspiration-induced ALI in wild-type mice and reduced endothelial cell injury caused by mitochondrial extract-primed human neutrophils, leading to the conclusion that NADPH oxidase and Nrf2 have coordinated, but distinct, functions in modulating inflammation and injury. These results also point to Nrf2 as a therapeutic target to limit ALI by attenuating neutrophil-induced cellular injury.
PMCID: PMC3563868  PMID: 23296708
8.  ΔNp63α Mediated Activation of Bone Morphogenetic Protein Signaling Governs Stem Cell Activity and Plasticity in Normal and Malignant Mammary Epithelial Cells 
Cancer research  2012;73(2):1020-1030.
Genetic analysis of TP63indicates that ΔNp63 isoforms are required for preservation of regenerative stasis within diverse epithelial tissues. In squamous carcinomas, TP63 is commonly amplified, and ΔNp63α confers a potent survival advantage. Genome-wide occupancy studies demonstrate that ΔNp63 promotes bidirectional target gene regulation by binding >5000 sites throughout the genome; however, the subset of targets mediating discreet activities of TP63 remains unclear. We report that ΔNp63α activates BMP signaling by inducing the expression of BMP7. Immunohistochemical analysis indicates that hyper-activation of BMP signaling is common in human breast cancers, most notably in the basal molecular subtype, as well as in several mouse models of breast cancer. Suppression of BMP signaling in vitro with LDN193189, a small molecule inhibitor of BMP Type I Receptor kinases, represses clonogenicity and diminishes the cancer stem cell enriched ALDH1+ population. Importantly, LDN193189 blocks reconstitution of mixed ALDH1+/ALDH1- cultures indicating that BMP signaling may govern aspects of cellular plasticity within tumor hierarchies. These results show that BMP signaling enables reversion of committed populations to a stem-like state, potentially supporting progression and maintenance of tumorigenesis. Treatment of a mouse model of breast cancer with LDN193189 caused reduced expression of markers associated with epithelial to mesenchymal transition (EMT). Furthermore, in vivo limiting dilution analysis assays revealed that LDN193189 treatment suppressed tumor-initiating capacity and increased tumor latency. These studies support a model in which ΔNp63α-mediated activation of BMP signaling governs epithelial cell plasticity, EMT, and tumorigenicity during breast cancer initiation and progression.
PMCID: PMC3739305  PMID: 23243027
BMP signaling; Breast Cancer; ΔNp63α; Epithelial to Mesenchymal Transition; Mammary Stem Cells
9.  Targeting Nrf2-Mediated Gene Transcription by Extremely Potent Synthetic Triterpenoids Attenuate Dopaminergic Neurotoxicity in the MPTP Mouse Model of Parkinson's Disease 
Antioxidants & Redox Signaling  2013;18(2):139-157.
Although the etiology of Parkinson's disease (PD) remains unclear, ample empirical evidence suggests that oxidative stress is a major player in the development of PD and in 1-methyl-4-phenyl-1,2,3,6-tetrahydropyridine (MPTP) neurotoxicity. Nuclear factor E2-related factor 2 (Nrf2) is a redox-sensitive transcription factor that upregulates a battery of antioxidant response element (ARE)-driven antioxidative and cytoprotective genes that defend against oxidative stress. Aims: We evaluated whether the strategy of activation of Nrf2 and its downstream network of cytoprotective genes with small molecule synthetic triterpenoids (TP) attenuate MPTP-induced PD in mice. Results: We show that synthetic TP are thus far the most potent and direct activators of the Nrf2 pathway using a novel Neh2-luciferase reporter. They upregulate several cytoprotective genes, including those involved in glutathione biosynthesis in vitro. Oral administration of TP that were structurally modified to penetrate the brain-induced messenger RNA and protein levels for a battery of Nrf2-dependent cytoprotective genes reduced MPTP-induced oxidative stress and inflammation, and ameliorated dopaminergic neurotoxicity in mice. The neuroprotective effect of these TP against MPTP neurotoxicity was dependent on Nrf2, since treatment with TP in Nrf2 knockout mice failed to block against MPTP neurotoxicity and induce Nrf2-dependent cytoprotective genes. Innovation: Extremely potent synthetic TP that are direct activators of the Nrf2 pathway block dopaminergic neurodegeneration in the MPTP mouse model of PD. Conclusion: Our results indicate that activation of Nrf2/antioxidant response element (ARE) signaling by synthetic TP is directly associated with their neuroprotective effects against MPTP neurotoxicity and suggest that targeting the Nrf2/ARE pathway is a promising approach for therapeutic intervention in PD. Antioxid. Redox Signal. 18, 139–157.
PMCID: PMC3514006  PMID: 22746536
10.  The combination of the histone deacetylase inhibitor vorinostat and synthetic triterpenoids reduces tumorigenesis in mouse models of cancer 
Carcinogenesis  2012;34(1):199-210.
Novel drugs and drug combinations are needed for the chemoprevention and treatment of cancer. We show that the histone deacetylase inhibitor vorinostat [suberoylanilide hydroxamic acid (SAHA)] and the methyl ester or ethyl amide derivatives of the synthetic triterpenoid 2-cyano-3,12-dioxooleana-1,9(11)-dien-28-oic acid (CDDO-Me and CDDO-Ea, respectively) cooperated to inhibit the de novo synthesis of nitric oxide in RAW 264.7 macrophage-like cells and in primary mouse peritoneal macrophages. Additionally, SAHA enhanced the ability of synthetic triterpenoids to delay formation of estrogen receptor-negative mammary tumors in MMTV-polyoma middle T (PyMT) mice. CDDO-Me (50mg/kg diet) and SAHA (250mg/kg diet) each significantly delayed the initial development of tumors by 4 (P < 0.001) and 2 (P < 0.05) weeks, respectively, compared with the control group in the time required to reach 50% tumor incidence. CDDO-Ea (400mg/kg diet), as a single agent, did not delay tumor development. The combination of either triterpenoid with SAHA was significantly more potent than the individual drugs for delaying tumor development, with a 7 week (P < 0.001) delay before 50% tumor incidence was reached. SAHA, alone and in combination with CDDO-Me, also significantly (P < 0.05) inhibited the infiltration of tumor-associated macrophages into the mammary glands of PyMT mice and levels of the chemokine macrophage colony-stimulating factor in primary PyMT tumor cells. In addition, SAHA and the synthetic triterpenoids cooperated to suppress secreted levels of the pro-angiogenic factor matrix metalloproteinase-9. Similar results were observed in mouse models of pancreatic and lung cancer. At concentrations that were anti-inflammatory, SAHA had no effect on histone acetylation. These studies suggest that both SAHA and triterpenoids effectively delay tumorigenesis, thereby demonstrating a promising, novel drug combination for chemoprevention.
PMCID: PMC3534195  PMID: 23042302
11.  NRF2 and cancer: the good, the bad and the importance of context 
Nature reviews. Cancer  2012;12(8):10.1038/nrc3278.
Many studies of chemopreventive drugs have suggested that their beneficial effects on suppression of carcinogenesis and many other chronic diseases are mediated through activation of the transcription factor NFE2- related factor 2 (NRF2). More recently, genetic analyses of human tumours have indicated that NRF2 may conversely be oncogenic and cause resistance to chemotherapy. It is therefore controversial whether the activation, or alternatively the inhibition, of NRF2 is a useful strategy for the prevention or treatment of cancer. This Opinion article aims to rationalize these conflicting perspectives by critiquing the context dependence of NRF2 functions and the experimental methods behind these conflicting data.
PMCID: PMC3836441  PMID: 22810811
12.  A novel acetylenic tricyclic bis-(cyano enone) potently induces phase 2 cytoprotective pathways and blocks liver carcinogenesis induced by aflatoxin 
Cancer research  2008;68(16):6727-6733.
A novel acetylenic tricyclic bis-(cyano enone), TBE-31, is a lead compound in a series of tricyclic compounds with enone functionalities in rings A and C. Nanomolar concentrations of this potent multifunctional molecule suppress the induction of the inflammatory protein, iNOS; activate phase 2 cytoprotective enzymes in vitro and in vivo; block cell proliferation; and induce differentiation and apoptosis of leukemia cells. Oral administration of TBE-31 also significantly reduces formation of aflatoxin-DNA adducts and decreases size and number of aflatoxin-induced pre-neoplastic hepatic lesions in rats by more than 90%. Because of the two cyano enones in rings A and C, TBE-31 may directly interact with dithiothreitol and protein targets such as Keap1 that contain reactive cysteine residues. The above findings suggest that TBE-31 should also be tested for chemoprevention and chemotherapy in relevant models of cancer and against other chronic, degenerative diseases in which inflammation and oxidative stress contribute to disease pathogenesis.
PMCID: PMC3767150  PMID: 18701497
Chemoprevention; aflatoxin; Nrf2; triterpenoid; tricyclic bis-enone; TBE-31
13.  The synthetic triterpenoid CDDO-methyl ester modulates microglial activities, inhibits TNF production, and provides dopaminergic neuroprotection 
Recent animal and human studies implicate chronic activation of microglia in the progressive loss of CNS neurons. The inflammatory mechanisms that have neurotoxic effects and contribute to neurodegeneration need to be elucidated and specifically targeted without interfering with the neuroprotective effects of glial activities. Synthetic triterpenoid analogs of oleanolic acid, such as methyl-2-cyano-3,12-dioxooleana-1,9-dien-28-oate (CDDO-Me, RTA 402) have potent anti-proliferative and differentiating effects on tumor cells, and anti-inflammatory activities on activated macrophages. We hypothesized that CDDO-Me may be able to suppress neurotoxic microglial activities while enhancing those that promote neuronal survival. Therefore, the aims of our study were to identify specific microglial activities modulated by CDDO-Me in vitro, and to determine the extent to which this modulation affords neuroprotection against inflammatory stimuli.
We tested the synthetic triterpenoid methyl-2-cyano-3,12-dioxooleana-1,9-dien-28-oate (CDDO-Me, RTA 402) in various in vitro assays using the murine BV2 microglia cell line, mouse primary microglia, or mouse primary peritoneal macrophages to investigate its effects on proliferation, inflammatory gene expression, cytokine secretion, and phagocytosis. The antioxidant and neuroprotective effects of CDDO-Me were also investigated in primary neuron/glia cultures from rat basal forebrain or ventral midbrain.
We found that at low nanomolar concentrations, treatment of rat primary mesencephalon neuron/glia cultures with CDDO-Me resulted in attenuated LPS-, TNF- or fibrillar amyloid beta 1–42 (Aβ1–42) peptide-induced increases in reactive microglia and inflammatory gene expression without an overall effect on cell viability. In functional assays CDDO-Me blocked death in the dopaminergic neuron-like cell line MN9D induced by conditioned media (CM) of LPS-stimulated BV2 microglia, but did not block cell death induced by addition of TNF to MN9D cells, suggesting that dopaminergic neuroprotection by CDDO-Me involved inhibition of microglial-derived cytokine production and not direct inhibition of TNF-dependent pro-apoptotic pathways. Multiplexed immunoassays of CM from LPS-stimulated microglia confirmed that CDDO-Me-treated BV2 cells produced decreased levels of specific subsets of cytokines, in particular TNF. Lastly, CDDO-Me enhanced phagocytic activity of BV2 cells in a stimulus-specific manner but inhibited generation of reactive oxygen species (ROS) in mixed neuron/glia basal forebrain cultures and dopaminergic cells.
The neuroimmune modulatory properties of CDDO-Me indicate that this potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compound may have therapeutic potential to modify the course of neurodegenerative diseases characterized by chronic neuroinflammation and amyloid deposition. The extent to which synthetic triterpenoids afford therapeutic benefit in animal models of Parkinson's and Alzheimer's disease deserves further investigation.
PMCID: PMC2396606  PMID: 18474101
14.  Pharmacological induction of heme oxygenase-1 by a triterpenoid protects neurons against ischemic injury 
Background and Purpose
Heme oxygenase-1 (HO-1) is an inducible phase-2 enzyme that degrades toxic heme; its role in cerebral ischemia is not fully understood. We hypothesize that chemically induced HO-1 upregulation with the novel triterpenoid CDDO-Im (2-cyano-3,12 dioxooleana-1,9 dien-28-oyl imidazolide), a robust inducer of phase-2 genes, protects neurons against ischemic injury.
Using three different models of ischemia, including oxygen-glucose deprivation (OGD) in neuronal cultures, global ischemia in rats and focal ischemia in mice, we determined 1) whether CDDO-Im induces HO-1 expression and protect against ischemic injury, and 2) whether HO-1 inhibition disrupts the neuroprotective effect of CDDO-Im.
CDDO-Im treatment (50–300 nmol/L) resulted in 8-fold HO-1 upregulation in cultured neurons and protected against OGD. The protection was abolished when the cultures were transfected with Nrf2-shRNA or co-incubated with tin protoporphyrin IX (Sn-PPIX), a specific HO-1 inhibitor. In the rat model of global ischemia, intracerebroventricular (ICV) infusion of CDDO-Im (0.5–1.5 μg) augmented HO-1 expression in hippocampal neurons and resulted in significant increases in CA1 neuronal survival after global ischemia. To further strengthen the clinical relevance of the CDDO-Im treatment, we tested its effects in the mouse model of temporary focal ischemia (60 min). Post-ischemic intraperitoneal injection of CDDO-Im (10–100 μg) enhanced HO-1 expression and significantly reduced neurological dysfunction and infarct volume. ICV infusion of Sn-PPIX reduced the neuroprotective effect of CDDO-Im against global and focal ischemia.
CDDO-Im confers neuroprotection against ischemic injury by upregulating HO-1, suggesting that enhance of HO-1 expression may be a legitimate strategy for therapeutic intervention of stroke.
PMCID: PMC3335928  PMID: 22461332
stroke; cytoprotective; CDDO; Nrf2
15.  2-Cyano-3,10-dioxooleana-1,9(11)-dien-28-oic acid anhydride. A novel and highly potent anti-inflammatory and cytoprotective agent 
2-Cyano-3,10-dioxooleana-1,9(11)-dien-28-oic acid anhydride (CDDO anhydride) has been synthesized, which is the first example of an oleanane triterpenoid anhydride. CDDO anhydride shows potency similar to or higher than the corresponding acid (CDDO) in various in vitro and in vivo assays related to inflammation and carcinogenesis. Notably, preliminary phamacokinetics studies show that CDDO anhydride levels are higher than CDDO levels in mouse tissues and blood. Further evaluation of CDDO anhydride is in progress.
PMCID: PMC2862379  PMID: 20188548
Triterpene; Oleanolic acid; Acid anhydride; Inhibitors of nitric oxide production; Inducers of heme oxygenase-1
16.  CDDO-Imidazolide inhibits growth and survival of c-Myc-induced mouse B cell and plasma cell neoplasms 
Molecular Cancer  2006;5:22.
Gene-targeted iMycEμ mice that carry a His6-tagged mouse Myc(c-myc)cDNA, MycHis, just 5' of the immunoglobulin heavy-chain enhancer, Eμ, are prone to B cell and plasma cell neoplasms, such as lymphoblastic B-cell lymphoma (LBL) and plasmacytoma (PCT). Cell lines derived from Myc-induced neoplasms of this sort may provide a good model system for the design and testing of new approaches to prevent and treat MYC-driven B cell and plasma cell neoplasms in human beings. To test this hypothesis, we used the LBL-derived cell line, iMycEμ-1, and the newly established PCT-derived cell line, iMycEμ-2, to evaluate the growth inhibitory and death inducing potency of the cancer drug candidate, CDDO-imidazolide (CDDO-Im).
Morphological features and surface marker expression of iMycEμ-2 cells were evaluated using cytological methods and FACS, respectively. mRNA expression levels of the inserted MycHis and normal Myc genes were determined by allele-specific RT-PCR and qPCR. Myc protein was detected by immunoblotting. Cell cycle progression and apoptosis were analyzed by FACS. The expression of 384 "pathway" genes was assessed with the help of Superarray© cDNA macroarrays and verified, in part, by RT-PCR.
Sub-micromolar concentrations of CDDO-Im caused growth arrest and apoptosis in iMycEμ-1 and iMycEμ-2 cells. CDDO-Im-dependent growth inhibition and apoptosis were associated in both cell lines with the up-regulation of 30 genes involved in apoptosis, cell cycling, NFκB signaling, and stress and toxicity responses. Strongly induced (≥10 fold) were genes encoding caspase 14, heme oxygenase 1 (Hmox1), flavin-containing monooxygenase 4 (Fmo4), and three members of the cytochrome P450 subfamily 2 of mixed-function oxygenases (Cyp2a4, Cyp2b9, Cyp2c29). CDDO-Im-dependent gene induction coincided with a decrease in Myc protein.
Growth arrest and killing of neoplastic mouse B cells and plasma cells by CDDO-Im, a closely related derivative of the synthetic triterpenoid 2-cyano-3,12-dioxooleana-1,9-dien-28-oic acid, appears to be caused, in part, by drug-induced stress responses and reduction of Myc.
PMCID: PMC1553469  PMID: 16759389
17.  CDDO-Methyl ester delays breast cancer development in BRCA1-mutated mice 
The breast cancer-associated gene 1 (BRCA1) is the most frequently mutated tumor suppressor gene in familial breast cancers. Mutations in BRCA1 also predispose to other types of cancers, pointing to a fundamental role of this pathway in tumor suppression and emphasizing the need for effective chemoprevention in these high-risk patients. Because the methyl ester of the synthetic triterpenoid 2-cyano-3,12-dioxooleana-1,9(11)-dien-28-oic acid (CDDO-Me) is a potent chemopreventive agent, we tested its efficacy in a highly relevant mouse model of BRCA1-mutated breast cancer. Beginning at 12 weeks of age, Brca1Co/Co;MMTV-Cre;p53+/- mice were fed powdered control diet or diet containing CDDO-Me (50 mg/kg diet). CDDO-Me significantly (P < 0.05) delayed tumor development in the BRCA1-mutated mice by an average of 5.2 weeks. We also observed that levels of ErbB2, pErbB2, and cyclin D1 increased in a time-dependent manner in the mammary glands in BRCA1-deficient mice, and CDDO-Me inhibited the constitutive phosphorylation of ErbB2 in tumor tissues from these mice. In BRCA1-deficient cell lines, the triterpenoids directly interacted with ErbB2, decreased constitutive phosphorylation of ErbB2, inhibited proliferation, and induced G0/G1 arrest. These results suggest that CDDO-Me has the potential to prevent BRCA1-mutated breast cancer.
PMCID: PMC3252488  PMID: 21933912
18.  CDDO-Imidazolide induces DNA damage, G2/M arrest and apoptosis in BRCA1-mutated breast cancer cells 
Breast cancer-associated gene 1 (BRCA1) protein plays important roles in DNA damage and repair, homologous recombination, cell-cycle regulation, and apoptosis. The synthetic triterpenoid 1-[2-cyano-3,12-dioxooleana-1,9(11)-dien-28-oyl]imidazole (CDDO-Imidazolide, CDDO-Im) is a promising anticancer and chemopreventive agent with potent anti-proliferative and apoptotic activities against a wide variety of cancer types. However the mechanisms responsible for the selective apoptotic effects of CDDO-Im in cancer cells remain elusive. In the present work, CDDO-Im induced G2/M arrest and apoptosis in BRCA1-mutated mammary tumor cell lines. Prior to the induction of apoptosis, CDDO-Im induced DNA damage and the phosphorylation of H2AX followed by activation of the DNA damage response. Moreover, CDDO-Im also induced the generation of reactive oxygen species (ROS), which is associated with the induction of DNA damage, in both mouse and human tumor cells containing a BRCA1 mutation. The inhibition of ROS generation by uric acid prevented the induction of DNA damage by CDDO-Im. Furthermore, treatment with CDDO-Im did not induce ROS in non-malignant MCF-10A breast epithelial cells or in E18-14C-27 breast cancer cells with wild-type BRCA1 genes and was not cytotoxic to normal mouse 3T3 fibroblasts, highlighting a selective therapeutic potential of CDDO-Im for BRCA1-associated breast cancer cells. Altogether, our results demonstrate that CDDO-Im induces ROS and subsequent DNA damage, thereby facilitating the activation of the DNA damage checkpoint, G2/M arrest and finally apoptosis in BRCA1-mutated cancer cells. The particular relevance of these findings to the chemoprevention of cancer is discussed.
PMCID: PMC3076712  PMID: 21372041
19.  Triterpenoid modulation of IL-17 and Nrf-2 expression ameliorates neuroinflammation and promotes remyelination in autoimmune encephalomyelitis 
Scientific Reports  2011;1:201.
Inflammatory cytokines and endogenous anti-oxidants are variables affecting disease progression in multiple sclerosis (MS). Here we demonstrate the dual capacity of triterpenoids to simultaneously repress production of IL-17 and other pro-inflammatory mediators while exerting neuroprotective effects directly through Nrf2-dependent induction of anti-oxidant genes. Derivatives of the natural triterpene oleanolic acid, namely CDDO-trifluoroethyl-amide (CDDO-TFEA), completely suppressed disease in a murine model of MS, experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis (EAE), by inhibiting Th1 and Th17 mRNA and cytokine production. Encephalitogenic T cells recovered from treated mice were hypo-responsive to myelin antigen and failed to adoptively transfer the disease. Microarray analyses showed significant suppression of pro-inflammatory transcripts with concomitant induction of anti-inflammatory genes including Ptgds and Hsd11b1. Finally, triterpenoids induced oligodendrocyte maturation in vitro and enhanced myelin repair in an LPC-induced non-inflammatory model of demyelination in vivo. These results demonstrate the unique potential of triterpenoid derivatives for the treatment of neuroinflammatory disorders such as MS.
PMCID: PMC3242013  PMID: 22355716
20.  Design, synthesis, and anti-inflammatory activity both in vitro and in vivo of new betulinic acid analogues having an enone functionality in ring A 
Fifteen new betulinic acid analogues were designed, synthesized, and tested for anti-inflammatory activity. Many of these analogues effectively suppress nitric oxide (NO) production in RAW cells stimulated with interferon-γ. Analogue 10 is highly and orally active in vivo for induction of the anti-inflammatory and cytoprotective enzyme, heme oxygenase-1.
PMCID: PMC1950140  PMID: 16996735
triterpene; betulinic acid; inhibitors of nitric oxide production; RAW 264.7 cells; inducer of heme oxygenase-1
21.  Synthetic triterpenoids prolong survival in a transgenic mouse model of pancreatic cancer 
Pancreatic cancer is the fourth leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the U.S. and is nearly always fatal. While early detection offers the most promising approach for reducing the mortality of this disease, there is still a need to develop effective drugs for the prevention and treatment of pancreatic cancer. We tested two promising classes of non-cytotoxic drugs, synthetic oleanane triterpenoids and rexinoids, for the prevention of carcinogenesis in the highly relevant LSL-KrasG12D/+;LSL-Trp53R127H/+;Pdx-1-Cre (KPC) mouse model of pancreatic cancer. KPC transgenic mice closely recapitulate the genetic mutations, clinical symptoms, and histopathology found in human pancreatic cancer. Beginning at 4 wks of age, mice were fed powdered control diet or a diet containing the triterpenoids CDDO-methyl ester (CDDO-Me) or CDDO-ethyl amide (CDDO-EA), the rexinoid LG100268 (LG268), or the combination, until the mice displayed overt symptoms of pancreatic cancer. CDDO-Me, LG268, the combination of CDDO-Me and LG268, and the combination of CDDO-EA and LG268 all significantly (P < 0.05) increased survival in the KPC mice by 3–4 wks. Recent studies have shown that gemcitabine, the current standard of care for human pancreatic cancer, does not extend survival in KPC mice. In cell lines developed from the KPC mice, the triterpenoids directly interact with both STAT3 and IKK to decrease constitutive IL-6 secretion, inhibit constitutive STAT3 phosphorylation, and block the degradation of IKBα when challenged with TNFα. These results suggest that oleanane triterpenoids and rexinoids have the potential to prevent pancreatic cancer.
PMCID: PMC2988079  PMID: 20959520
Triterpenoid; CDDO-Me; CDDO-EA; rexinoid; LG100268; combination therapy; pancreatic cancer; prevention; KPC mice
22.  Tumor-infiltrating myeloid cells induce tumor cell resistance to cytotoxic T cells in mice 
The Journal of Clinical Investigation  2011;121(10):4015-4029.
Cancer immunotherapeutic approaches induce tumor-specific immune responses, in particular CTL responses, in many patients treated. However, such approaches are clinically beneficial to only a few patients. We set out to investigate one possible explanation for the failure of CTLs to eliminate tumors, specifically, the concept that this failure is not dependent on inhibition of T cell function. In a previous study, we found that in mice, myeloid-derived suppressor cells (MDSCs) are a source of the free radical peroxynitrite (PNT). Here, we show that pre-treatment of mouse and human tumor cells with PNT or with MDSCs inhibits binding of processed peptides to tumor cell–associated MHC, and as a result, tumor cells become resistant to antigen-specific CTLs. This effect was abrogated in MDSCs treated with a PNT inhibitor. In a mouse model of tumor-associated inflammation in which the antitumor effects of antigen-specific CTLs are eradicated by expression of IL-1β in the tumor cells, we determined that therapeutic failure was not caused by more profound suppression of CTLs by IL-1β–expressing tumors than tumors not expressing this proinflammatory cytokine. Rather, therapeutic failure was a result of the presence of PNT. Clinical relevance for these data was suggested by the observation that myeloid cells were the predominant source of PNT in human lung, pancreatic, and breast cancer samples. Our data therefore suggest what we believe to be a novel mechanism of MDSC-mediated tumor cell resistance to CTLs.
PMCID: PMC3195459  PMID: 21911941
23.  Proteomic Analysis Shows Synthetic Oleanane Triterpenoid Binds to mTOR 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(7):e22862.
New multifunctional drugs that target multiple disease-relevant networks offer a novel approach to the prevention and treatment of many diseases. New synthetic oleanane triterpenoids (SO), such as CDDO (2-cyano-3,12-dioxooleana-1,9-dien-28-oic acid) and its derivatives, are multifunctional compounds originally developed for the prevention and treatment of inflammation and oxidative stress. However, the protein binding partners and mechanisms of action of these SO are not yet fully understood. Here we characterize the putative target profile of one SO, CDDO-Imidazolide (CDDO-Im), by combining affinity purification with mass spectroscopic proteomic analysis to identify 577 candidate binding proteins in whole cells. This SO pharmaco-interactome consists of a diverse but interconnected set of signaling networks; bioinformatic analysis of the protein interactome identified canonical signaling pathways targeted by the SO, including retinoic acid receptor (RAR), estrogen receptor (ER), insulin receptor (IR), janus kinase/signal transducers and activators of transcription (JAK/STAT), and phosphatase and tensin homolog (PTEN). Pull-down studies then further validated a subset of the putative targets. In addition, we now show for the first time that the mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) is a direct target of CDDO-Im. We also show that CDDO-Im blocks insulin-induced activation of this pathway by binding to mTOR and inhibiting its kinase activity. Our basic studies confirm that the SO, CDDO-Im, acts on a protein network to elicit its pharmacological activity.
PMCID: PMC3144948  PMID: 21818401
24.  Anti-inflammatory triterpenoid blocks immune suppressive function of myeloid-derived suppressor cells and improves immune response in cancer 
Myeloid-derived suppressor cells (MDSC) are one of the major factors responsible for immune suppression in cancer. Therefore it would be important to identify effective therapeutic means to modulate these cells.
Experimental Design
We evaluated the effect of the synthetic triterpenoid C-28 methyl ester of 2-cyano-3,12-dioxooleana-1,9,-dien-28-oic acid (CDDO-Me; bardoxolone methyl) in MC38 colon carcinoma, Lewis lung carcinoma, and EL-4 thymoma mouse tumor models as well as blood samples from patients with renal cell cancer and soft tissue sarcoma. Samples were also analyzed from patients with pancreatic cancer treated with CDDO-Me in combination with gemcitabine.
CDDO-Me at concentrations of 25-100 nM completely abrogated immune suppressive activity of MDSC in vitro. CDDO-Me reduced reactive oxygen species in MDSC but did not affect their viability or the levels of nitric oxide and arginase. Treatment of tumor-bearing mice with CDDO-Me did not affect the proportion of MDSC in the spleens but eliminated their suppressive activity. This effect was independent of antitumor activity. CDDO-Me treatment decreased tumor growth in mice. Experiments with immune-deficient SCID-beige mice indicated that this effect was largely mediated by the immune system. CDDO-Me substantially enhanced the antitumor effect of a cancer vaccines. Treatment of pancreatic cancer patients with CDDO-Me did not affect the number of MDSC in peripheral blood but significantly improved the immune response.
CDDO-Me abrogated the immune suppressive effect of MDSC and improved immune responses in tumor-bearing mice and cancer patients. It may represent an attractive therapeutic option by enhancing the effect of cancer immunotherapy.
PMCID: PMC2840181  PMID: 20215551
Tumor immunology; myeloid-derived suppressor cells; triterpenoid
25.  Triterpenoids CDDO-methylester or CDDO-ethylamide and rexinoids LG100268 or NRX194204 for prevention and treatment of lung cancer in mice 
We tested members of two non-cytotoxic classes of drugs, synthetic oleanane triterpenoids and rexinoids, both as individual agents and in combination, for the prevention and treatment of carcinogenesis in a highly relevant animal model of lung cancer. Lung adenocarcinomas were induced in A/J mice by injection of the carcinogen vinyl carbamate. Mice were fed drugs in diet, beginning 1 week after the carcinogen challenge for prevention or 8 weeks later for treatment. The number, size and severity of tumors in the lungs were then evaluated. In the prevention studies, the triterpenoids CDDO-ethyl amide (CDDO-EA) and CDDO-methyl ester (CDDO-Me) reduced the average tumor burden (ATB) in the lungs 86–92%, respectively, compared to the controls, and the rexinoid LG100268 (268) reduced ATB by 50%. The combination of CDDO-EA and 268 reduced ATB by 93%. We show for the first time that these drugs also were highly effective for treatment of experimental lung cancer, and all triterpenoid and rexinoid combinations reduced ATB 85–87% compared to the control group. The triterpenoids also potently inhibited proliferation of VC1 mouse lung carcinoma cells and directly interacted with key regulatory proteins in these cells. In contrast, the rexinoids had little anti-proliferative activity in VC1 cells but were potent inhibitors of the toll-like receptor pathway in macrophage-like cells. Triterpenoids and rexinoids are multifunctional, well-tolerated drugs that target different signaling pathways and are thus highly effective for prevention and treatment of experimental lung cancer.
PMCID: PMC2818234  PMID: 19952361
Triterpenoid; CDDO-ME; CDDO-EA; rexinoid; LG100268; NRX194204; combination therapy; lung cancer; prevention; treatment; A/J mice; inflammation

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