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1.  MUC1 in macrophage contributions to cigarette smoke-induced lung cancer 
Cancer research  2013;74(2):460-470.
Expression of the pro-oncogenic mucin MUC1 is elevated by inflammation in airway epithelial cells, but the contributions of MUC1 to the development of lung cancer are uncertain. In this study, we developed our finding that cigarette smoke (CS) increases Muc1 expression in lung macrophages, where we hypothesized it might contribute to CS-induced transformation of bronchial epithelial cells. In human macrophages, CS extract (CSE) strongly induced MUC1 expression through a mechanism involving the nuclear receptor PPAR-γ. CSE-induced ERK activation was also required for MUC1 expression, but it had little effect on MUC1 transcription. RNAi-mediated attenuation of MUC1 suppressed CSE-induced secretion of TNF-α from macrophages, by suppressing the activity of the TNF-α processing enzyme TACE, arguing that MUC1 is required for CSE-induced and TACE-mediated TNF-α secretion. Similarly, MUC1 blockade after CSE induction through suppression of PPAR-γ or ERK inhibited TACE activity and TNF-α secretion. Conditioned media from CSE-treated macrophages induced MUC1 expression and potentiated CSE-induced transformation of human bronchial epithelial cells (HBEC) in a TNF-α-dependent manner. Together, our results identify a signaling pathway involving PPAR-γ, ERK and MUC1 that is used by CSE to trigger TNF-α secretion from macrophages. Further, our results show how that MUC1 contributes to smoking-induced lung cancers that are driven by inflammatory signals driven by macrophages
doi:10.1158/0008-5472.CAN-13-1713
PMCID: PMC3947020  PMID: 24282280
MUC1; PPAR-γ; TACE; TNF-α; transformation
2.  EMT and stem cell-like properties associated with miR-205 and miR-200 epigenetic silencing are early manifestations during carcinogen-induced transformation of human lung epithelial cells 
Cancer research  2011;71(8):3087-3097.
Epithelial mesenchymal transition (EMT) is strongly associated with cancer progression, but its potential role during premalignant development has not been studied. Here we show that a four-week exposure of immortalized human bronchial epithelial cells (HBECs) to tobacco carcinogens can induce a persistent, irreversible, and multifaceted dedifferentiation program marked by EMT and the emergence of stem cell-like properties. EMT induction was epigenetically driven, initially by chromatin remodeling through H3K27me3 enrichment and later by ensuing DNA methylation to sustain silencing of tumor suppressive microRNAs miR-200b, miR-200c, and miR-205, which were implicated in the dedifferentiation program in HBECs and also in primary lung tumors. Carcinogen-treated HBECs acquired stem-like features characterized by their ability to form spheroids with branching tubules and enrichment of the CD44high/CD24low, CD133, and ALDH1 stem cell-like markers. miRNA overexpression studies indicated that regulation of the EMT, stem-like, and transformed phenotypes in HBECs were distinct events. Our findings extend present concepts of how EMT participates in cancer pathophysiology by showing that EMT induction can participate in cancer initiation to promote the clonal expansion of premalignant lung epithelial cells.
doi:10.1158/0008-5472.CAN-10-3035
PMCID: PMC3078195  PMID: 21363915
methylation; miRNA; EMT; stem cells; transformation
3.  The A/G Allele of Rs16906252 Predicts for MGMT Methylation and Is Selectively Silenced in Premalignant Lesions from Smokers and in Lung Adenocarcinomas 
Purpose
To address the association between sequence variants within the MGMT promoter-enhancer region and methylation of MGMT in premalignant lesions from smokers and lung adenocarcinomas, their biological effects on gene regulation, and targeting MGMT for therapy.
Experimental Design
SNPs identified through sequencing a 1.9kb fragment 5' of MGMT were examined in relation to MGMT methylation in 169 lung adenocarcinomas and 1731 sputum samples from smokers. The effect of promoter haplotypes on MGMT expression was tested using a luciferase reporter assay and cDNA expression analysis along with allele-specific sequencing for methylation. The response of MGMT methylated lung cancer cell lines to the alkylating agent temozolomide was assessed.
Results
The A allele of rs16906252 and the haplotype containing this SNP were strongly associated with increased risk for MGMT methylation in adenocarcinomas (ORs ≥ 94). This association was observed to a lesser extent in sputum samples in both smoker cohorts. The A allele was selectively methylated in primary lung tumors and cell lines heterozygous for rs16906252. With the most common haplotype as the reference, a 20–41% reduction in promoter activity was seen for the haplotype carrying the A allele that correlated with lower MGMT expression. The sensitivity of lung cancer cell lines to temozolamide was strongly correlated with levels of MGMT methylation and expression.
Conclusions
These studies provide strong evidence that the A allele of a MGMT promoter-enhancer SNP is a key determinant for MGMT methylation in lung carcinogenesis. Moreover, temozolamide treatment may benefit a subset of lung cancer patients methylated for MGMT.
doi:10.1158/1078-0432.CCR-10-3026
PMCID: PMC3070839  PMID: 21355081
MGMT; allele specific methylation; single nucleotide polymorphism; sputum; lung cancer
4.  Combination Therapy with Vidaza and Entinostat Suppresses Tumor Growth and Reprograms the Epigenome in an Orthotopic Lung Cancer Model 
Cancer research  2011;71(2):454-462.
Epigenetic therapy for solid tumors could benefit from an in vivo model that defines tumor characteristics of responsiveness and resistance to facilitate patient selection. Here we report that combining the histone deacetylase inhibitor entinostat with the demethylating agent vidaza profoundly affected growth of K-ras/p53 mutant lung adenocarcinomas engrafted orthotopically in immunocompromised nude rats by targeting and ablating pleomorphic cells that occupied up to 75% of the tumor masses. A similar reduction in tumor burden was seen with epigenetic therapy in K-ras or EGFR mutant tumors growing orthotopically. Increased expression of pro-apoptotic genes and the cyclin dependent kinase inhibitor p21 was seen. Hundreds of genes were demethylated highlighted by the re-expression of polycomb-regulated genes coding for transcription factor binding proteins and the p16 gene, a key regulator of the cell cycle. Highly significant gene expression changes were seen in key regulatory pathways involved in cell cycle, DNA damage, apoptosis, and tissue remodeling. These findings demonstrate the promise for epigenetic therapy in cancer management and provide an orthotopic lung cancer model that can assess therapeutic efficacy and reprogramming of the epigenome in tumors harboring different genetic and epigenetic profiles to guide use of these drugs.
doi:10.1158/0008-5472.CAN-10-3184
PMCID: PMC3075424  PMID: 21224363
lung cancer; DNA methylation; polycomb; epigenetic therapy; nude rat
5.  Discovery of common SNPs in the miR-205/200 family-regulated epithelial to mesenchymal transition pathway and their association with risk for non-small cell lung cancer 
The activation of the epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition (EMT) program is an important step for tumor initiation, invasion, and metastasis in solid tumors, including lung cancer. The purpose of this study was to identify the sequence variants in the miR-205/200 family-regulated EMT pathway and test their association with risk for lung cancer. Fifty samples were resequenced to identify sequence variants in the miR-205/200 family-regulated EMT pathway. The association between tagSNPs and risk for non-small cell lung cancer was discovered and validated in New Mexico (386 cases and 514 controls) and Massachusetts (2453 cases and 1555 controls) case-control studies, respectively. The function of SNPs on miR-200b-a-429 promoter activity was tested using luciferase reporter and expression assays. Forty-one sequence variants with minor allele frequency ≥ 0.03 were identified, and 16 variants were selected as tagSNPs. Genetic association analysis identified that the G allele of rs61768479 was associated with a 50% reduced risk for lung cancer (OR=0.50, 95%CI=0.30-0.85, uncorr-P=0.01); however, this association was not validated (OR=0.90, 95%CI=0.72-1.13, uncorr-P=0.35). The G allele of rs61768479 was associated with lower promoter activity and miR expression by disrupting the binding of NKX2.5. In summary, no association was identified between sequence variants in the miR-205/200 family-regulated EMT pathway and risk for lung cancer. However, this study identified a comprehensive panel of tagSNPs (n=16) in the miR-205/200 family-regulated EMT pathway that can be applied to other EMT-related phenotypes such as cancer chemoresistence and prognosis.
PMCID: PMC3110389  PMID: 21686129
miR-200 family; miR-205; sequence variant; risk; lung cancer
6.  Integrated Molecular and Clinical Analysis of AKT Activation in Metastatic Melanoma 
Purpose
Activation of the PI3K-AKT pathway has been implicated in melanoma based primarily on the prevalence of mutations in PTEN and NRAS. To improve our understanding of the regulation and clinical significance of the PI3K-AKT pathway in melanoma, we quantitatively measured the levels of phosphorylated AKT (P-AKT), its substrate GSK3α/β, and its negative regulator PTEN in clinical metastases. Results were compared to mutational status, clinical outcomes, and sites of metastasis.
Experimental Design
DNA and protein were isolated from dissected frozen melanoma metastases (n=96). Activating mutations of BRAF, NRAS, AKT, PIK3CA, and KIT were detected by mass-spectroscopy genotyping. P-AKT (Ser473 and Thr308), P-GSK3α/β, and PTEN protein expression were measured by reverse phase protein array (RPPA). A panel of human melanoma cells lines (n=58) was analyzed for comparison.
Results
BRAF-mutant tumors had higher levels of P-AKT-Ser473 (P=.01), P-AKT-Thr308 (P=.002), and P-GSK3α/β (P=.08) than NRAS-mutant tumors. Analysis of individual tumors demonstrated that almost all tumors with elevated P-AKT had low PTEN levels; NRAS-mutant tumors had normal PTEN and lower P-AKT. Similar results were observed in melanoma cell lines. Stage III melanoma patients did not differ in overall survival based on activation status of the PI3K-AKT pathway. Brain metastases had significantly higher P-AKT and lower PTEN than lung or liver metastases.
Conclusions
Quantitative interrogation of the PI3K-AKT pathway in melanoma reveals unexpected significant differences in AKT activation by NRAS mutation and PTEN loss, and hyperactivation of AKT in brain metastases. These findings have implications for the rational development of targeted therapy for this disease.
doi:10.1158/1078-0432.CCR-09-1985
PMCID: PMC2805170  PMID: 19996208
melanoma; signal transduction; AKT; BRAF; NRAS
7.  Dual promoter regulation of death-associated protein kinase gene leads to differentially silenced transcripts by methylation in cancer 
Carcinogenesis  2009;30(12):2023-2030.
Death-associated protein kinase (DAPK), a mediator of apoptotic systems, is silenced by promoter hypermethylation in lung and breast tumors. This gene has a CpG island extending 2500 bp from the translational start site; however, studies characterizing its transcriptional regulation have not been conducted. Two transcripts for DAPK were identified that code for a single protein, while being regulated by two promoters. The previously identified DAPK transcript designated as exon 1 transcript was expressed at levels 3-fold greater than the alternate exon 1b transcript. Deletion constructs of promoter 1 identified a 332 bp region containing a functional CP2-binding site important for expression of the exon 1 transcript. While moderate reporter activity was seen in promoter 2, the region comprising intron 1 and containing a HNF3B-binding site sustained expression of the alternate transcript. Sequencing the DAPK CpG island in tumor cell lines revealed dense, but heterogenous methylation of CpGs that blocked access of the CP2 and HNF3B proteins that in turn, was associated with loss of transcription that was restored by treatment with 5-aza-2′-deoxycytidine. Prevalences were similar for methylation of promoter 1 and 2 and intron 1 in lung tumors, but significantly greater in promoter 2 and intron 1 in breast tumors, indicative of tissue-specific differences in silencing these two transcripts. These studies show for the first time dual promoter regulation of DAPK, a tumor suppressor gene silenced in many cancers, and substantiate the importance of screening for silencing of both transcripts in tumors.
doi:10.1093/carcin/bgp276
PMCID: PMC2792322  PMID: 19917631
8.  An Sp1/Sp3 Binding Polymorphism Confers Methylation Protection 
PLoS Genetics  2008;4(8):e1000162.
Hundreds of genes show aberrant DNA hypermethylation in cancer, yet little is known about the causes of this hypermethylation. We identified RIL as a frequent methylation target in cancer. In search for factors that influence RIL hypermethylation, we found a 12-bp polymorphic sequence around its transcription start site that creates a long allele. Pyrosequencing of homozygous tumors revealed a 2.1-fold higher methylation for the short alleles (P<0.001). Bisulfite sequencing of cancers heterozygous for RIL showed that the short alleles are 3.1-fold more methylated than the long (P<0.001). The comparison of expression levels between unmethylated long and short EBV-transformed cell lines showed no difference in expression in vivo. Electrophorectic mobility shift assay showed that the inserted region of the long allele binds Sp1 and Sp3 transcription factors, a binding that is absent in the short allele. Transient transfection of RIL allele-specific transgenes showed no effects of the additional Sp1 site on transcription early on. However, stable transfection of methylation-seeded constructs showed gradually decreasing transcription levels from the short allele with eventual spreading of de novo methylation. In contrast, the long allele showed stable levels of expression over time as measured by luciferase and ∼2–3-fold lower levels of methylation by bisulfite sequencing (P<0.001), suggesting that the polymorphic Sp1 site protects against time-dependent silencing. Our finding demonstrates that, in some genes, hypermethylation in cancer is dictated by protein-DNA interactions at the promoters and provides a novel mechanism by which genetic polymorphisms can influence an epigenetic state.
Author Summary
The factors that guide DNA hypermethylation in cancer are poorly understood. We identified the candidate tumor-suppressor gene, RIL, as a frequent methylation target in cancer. Here, we report on a 12-bp polymorphic sequence around its transcription start site that creates a long allele. Methylation analysis showed that, in aging colon, colon cancer, and leukemias, the short allele had 2.1–3.1-fold higher methylation than the long allele (P<0.001). Short and long alleles had similar expression levels in EBV-transformed cell lines. Electrophorectic mobility shift assay showed that the inserted region of the long allele binds Sp1 and Sp3 transcription factors. Transfection of RIL allele-specific transgenes showed no effects of the additional Sp1 site on transcription early on, but methylation-seeded constructs showed gradually decreasing transcription from the short allele with eventual spreading of de novo methylation. By contrast, the long allele showed stable expression over time as measured by luciferase, and ∼2–3-fold lower levels of methylation by bisulfite sequencing (P<0.001), suggesting that the polymorphic Sp1 site protects against time-dependent silencing. Our finding demonstrates that in some genes, hypermethylation in cancer is dictated by protein-DNA interactions at the promoters and provides a novel mechanism by which genetic polymorphisms can influence an epigenetic state.
doi:10.1371/journal.pgen.1000162
PMCID: PMC2515197  PMID: 18725933

Results 1-8 (8)