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2.  Lethal Giant Larvae 1 Tumour Suppressor Activity Is Not Conserved in Models of Mammalian T and B Cell Leukaemia 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(1):e87376.
In epithelial and stem cells, lethal giant larvae (Lgl) is a potent tumour suppressor, a regulator of Notch signalling, and a mediator of cell fate via asymmetric cell division. Recent evidence suggests that the function of Lgl is conserved in mammalian haematopoietic stem cells and implies a contribution to haematological malignancies. To date, direct measurement of the effect of Lgl expression on malignancies of the haematopoietic lineage has not been tested. In Lgl1−/− mice, we analysed the development of haematopoietic malignancies either alone, or in the presence of common oncogenic lesions. We show that in the absence of Lgl1, production of mature white blood cell lineages and long-term survival of mice are not affected. Additionally, loss of Lgl1 does not alter leukaemia driven by constitutive Notch, c-Myc or Jak2 signalling. These results suggest that the role of Lgl1 in the haematopoietic lineage might be restricted to specific co-operating mutations and a limited number of cellular contexts.
PMCID: PMC3903681  PMID: 24475281
3.  MADM-ML, a Mouse Genetic Mosaic System with Increased Clonal Efficiency 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(10):e77672.
Mosaic Analysis with Double Markers (MADM) is a mouse genetic system that allows simultaneous gene knockout and fluorescent labeling of sparse, clonally-related cells within an otherwise normal mouse, thereby circumventing embryonic lethality problems and providing single-cell resolution for phenotypic analysis in vivo. The clonal efficiency of MADM is intrinsically low because it relies on Cre/loxP-mediated mitotic recombination between two homologous chromosomes rather than within the same chromosome, as in the case of conditional knockout (CKO). Although sparse labeling enhances in vivo resolution, the original MADM labels too few or even no cells when a low-expressing Cre transgene is used or a small population of cells is studied. Recently, we described the usage of a new system, MADM-ML, which contains three mutually exclusive, self-recognizing loxP variant sites as opposed to a single loxP site present in the original MADM system (referred to as MADM-SL in this paper). Here we carefully compared the recombination efficiency between MADM-SL and MADM-ML using the same Cre transgene, and found that the new system labels significantly more cells than the original system does. When we established mouse medulloblastoma models with both the original and the new MADM systems, we found that, while the MADM-SL model suffered from varied tumor progression and incomplete penetrance, the MADM-ML model had consistent tumor progression and full penetrance of tumor formation. Therefore MADM-ML, with its higher recombination efficiency, will broaden the applicability of MADM for studying many biological questions including normal development and disease modeling at cellular resolution in vivo.
PMCID: PMC3797059  PMID: 24143253
4.  Basement Membrane-Rich Organoids with Functional Human Blood Vessels Are Permissive Niches for Human Breast Cancer Metastasis 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(8):e72957.
Metastasic breast cancer is the leading cause of death by malignancy in women worldwide. Tumor metastasis is a multistep process encompassing local invasion of cancer cells at primary tumor site, intravasation into the blood vessel, survival in systemic circulation, and extravasation across the endothelium to metastasize at a secondary site. However, only a small percentage of circulating cancer cells initiate metastatic colonies. This fact, together with the inaccessibility and structural complexity of target tissues has hampered the study of the later steps in cancer metastasis. In addition, most data are derived from in vivo models where critical steps such as intravasation/extravasation of human cancer cells are mediated by murine endothelial cells. Here, we developed a new mouse model to study the molecular and cellular mechanisms underlying late steps of the metastatic cascade. We have shown that a network of functional human blood vessels can be formed by co-implantation of human endothelial cells and mesenchymal cells, embedded within a reconstituted basement membrane-like matrix and inoculated subcutaneously into immunodeficient mice. The ability of circulating cancer cells to colonize these human vascularized organoids was next assessed in an orthotopic model of human breast cancer by bioluminescent imaging, molecular techniques and immunohistological analysis. We demonstrate that disseminated human breast cancer cells efficiently colonize organoids containing a functional microvessel network composed of human endothelial cells, connected to the mouse circulatory system. Human breast cancer cells could be clearly detected at different stages of the metastatic process: initial arrest in the human microvasculature, extravasation, and growth into avascular micrometastases. This new mouse model may help us to map the extravasation process with unprecedented detail, opening the way for the identification of relevant targets for therapeutic intervention.
PMCID: PMC3738545  PMID: 23951338
5.  Visualizing Active Enzyme Complexes Using a Photoreactive Inhibitor for Proximity Ligation – Application on γ-Secretase 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(5):e63962.
Here, we present a highly sensitive method to study protein-protein interactions and subcellular location selectively for active multicomponent enzymes. We apply the method on γ-secretase, the enzyme complex that catalyzes the cleavage of the amyloid precursor protein (APP) to generate amyloid β-peptide (Aβ), the major causative agent in Alzheimer disease (AD). The novel assay is based on proximity ligation, which can be used to study protein interactions in situ with very high sensitivity. In traditional proximity ligation assay (PLA), primary antibody recognition is typically accompanied by oligonucleotide-conjugated secondary antibodies as detection probes. Here, we first performed PLA experiments using antibodies against the γ-secretase components presenilin 1 (PS1), containing the catalytic site residues, and nicastrin, suggested to be involved in substrate recognition. To selectively study the interactions of active γ-secretase, we replaced one of the primary antibodies with a photoreactive γ-secretase inhibitor containing a PEG linker and a biotin group (GTB), and used oligonucleotide-conjugated streptavidin as a probe. Interestingly, significantly fewer interactions were detected with the latter, novel, assay, which is a reasonable finding considering that a substantial portion of PS1 is inactive. In addition, the PLA signals were located more peripherally when GTB was used instead of a PS1 antibody, suggesting that γ-secretase matures distal from the perinuclear ER region. This novel technique thus enables highly sensitive protein interaction studies, determines the subcellular location of the interactions, and differentiates between active and inactive γ-secretase in intact cells. We suggest that similar PLA assays using enzyme inhibitors could be useful also for other enzyme interaction studies.
PMCID: PMC3663845  PMID: 23717518
6.  Silencing of APE1 Enhances Sensitivity of Human Hepatocellular Carcinoma Cells to Radiotherapy In Vitro and in a Xenograft Model 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(2):e55313.
Resistance to radiotherapy is a key limitation for the treatment of human hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). To overcome this problem, we investigated the correlation between radioresistance and the human apurinic/apyrimidinic endonuclease (APE1), a bifunctional protein, which plays an important role in DNA repair and redox regulation activity of transcription factors. In the present study, we examined the radiosensitivity profiles of three human HCC cell lines, HepG2, Hep3B, and MHCC97L, using the adenoviral vector Ad5/F35-mediated APE1 siRNA (Ad5/F35-siAPE1). The p53 mutant cell lines MHCC97L showed radioresistance, compared with HepG2 and Hep3B cells. APE1 was strongly expressed in MHCC97L cells and was induced by irradiation in a dose-dependent manner, and Ad5/F35-siAPE1 effectively inhibited irradiation-induced APE1 and p53 expression. Moreover, silencing of APE1 significantly potentiated the growth inhibition and apoptosis induction by irradiation in all tested human HCC cell lines. In addition, Ad5/F35-siAPE1 significantly enhanced inhibition of tumor growth and potentiated cell apoptosis by irradiation both in HepG2 and MHCC97L xenografts. In conclusion, down regulation of APE1 could enhance sensitivity of human HCC cells to radiotherapy in vitro and in vivo.
PMCID: PMC3572126  PMID: 23418439
7.  No Evidence for a Functional Role of Bi-Directional Notch Signaling during Angiogenesis 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(12):e53074.
The Delta-Notch pathway is a signal exchanger between adjacent cells to regulate numerous differentiation steps during embryonic development. Blood vessel formation by sprouting angiogenesis requires high expression of the Notch ligand DLL4 in the leading tip cell, while Notch receptors in the trailing stalk cells are activated by DLL4 to achieve strong Notch signaling activity. Upon ligand binding, Notch receptors are cleaved by ADAM proteases and gamma-secretase. This releases the intracellular Notch domain that acts as a transcription factor. There is evidence that also Notch ligands (DLL1, DLL4, JAG1, JAG2) are processed upon receptor binding to influence transcription in the ligand-expressing cell. Thus, the existence of bi-directional Delta-Notch signaling has been proposed. We report here that the Notch ligands DLL1 and JAG1 are processed in endothelial cells in a gamma-secretase-dependent manner and that the intracellular ligand domains accumulate in the cell nucleus. Overexpression of JAG1 intracellular domain (ICD) as well as DLL1-ICD, DLL4-ICD and NOTCH1-ICD inhibited endothelial proliferation. Whereas NOTCH1-ICD strongly repressed endothelial migration and sprouting angiogenesis, JAG1-ICD, DLL1-ICD and DLL4-ICD had no significant effects. Consistently, global gene expression patterns were only marginally affected by the processed Notch ligands. In addition to its effects as a transcription factor, NOTCH1-ICD promotes cell adhesion to the extracellular matrix in a transcription-independent manner. However, JAG1-ICD, DLL1-ICD and DLL4-ICD did not influence endothelial cell adhesion. In summary, reverse signaling of Notch ligands appears to be dispensable for angiogenesis in cellular systems.
PMCID: PMC3532505  PMID: 23300864
8.  Inhibition of Fibroblast Growth by Notch1 Signaling Is Mediated by Induction of Wnt11-Dependent WISP-1 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(6):e38811.
Fibroblasts are an integral component of stroma and important source of growth factors and extracellular matrix (ECM). They play a prominent role in maintaining tissue homeostasis and in wound healing and tumor growth. Notch signaling regulates biological function in a variety of cells. To elucidate the physiological function of Notch signaling in fibroblasts, we ablated Notch1 in mouse (Notch1Flox/Flox) embryonic fibroblasts (MEFs). Notch1-deficient (Notch1−/−) MEFs displayed faster growth and motility rate compared to Notch1Flox/Flox MEFs. Such phenotypic changes, however, were reversible by reconstitution of Notch1 activation via overexpression of the intracellular domain of Notch1 (NICD1) in Notch1-deficient MEFs. In contrast, constitutive activation of Notch1 signaling by introducing NICD1 into primary human dermal fibroblasts (FF2441), which caused pan-Notch activation, inhibited cell growth and motility, whereas cellular inhibition was relievable when the Notch activation was countered with dominant-negative mutant of Master-mind like 1 (DN-MAML-1). Functionally, “Notch-activated” stromal fibroblasts could inhibit tumor cell growth/invasion. Moreover, Notch activation induced expression of Wnt-induced secreted proteins-1 (WISP-1/CCN4) in FF2441 cells while deletion of Notch1 in MEFs resulted in an opposite effect. Notably, WISP-1 suppressed fibroblast proliferation, and was responsible for mediating Notch1's inhibitory effect since siRNA-mediated blockade of WISP-1 expression could relieve cell growth inhibition. Notch1-induced WISP-1 expression appeared to be Wnt11-dependent, but Wnt1-independent. Blockade of Wnt11 expression resulted in decreased WISP-1 expression and liberated Notch-induced cell growth inhibition. These findings indicated that inhibition of fibroblast proliferation by Notch pathway activation is mediated, at least in part, through regulating Wnt1-independent, but Wnt11-dependent WISP-1 expression.
PMCID: PMC3371022  PMID: 22715413
9.  Alternative promoter usage at the Notch1 locus supports ligand-independent signaling in T cell development and leukemogenesis 
Immunity  2010;33(5):685-698.
Loss of Ikaros has been correlated with Notch activation in T cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia (T-ALL), however, the mechanism remains unknown. We identified promoters in Notch1 that drive expression of Notch1 proteins active in the absence of ligand. Ikaros bound to both canonical and alternative Notch1 promoters and its loss increased permissive chromatin, facilitating recruitment of transcription regulators. At early stages of leukemogenesis, increased basal expression from the canonical and 5’-alternative promoters initiated a feed-back loop, progressively augmenting Notch1 signaling. Ikaros also repressed intragenic promoters that are cryptic in wild-type, poised in pre-leukemic, and active in leukemic cells and which also produced ligand-independent Notch1 proteins. Only ligand-independent Notch1 isoforms were required for Ikaros-mediated leukemogenesis. Notch1 alternative-promoter usage was observed at stages of T cell development dependent on Notch signaling and during T-ALL progression. These studies identify a network of epigenetic and transcriptional regulators that control conventional and unconventional Notch signaling during normal development and leukemogenesis.
PMCID: PMC3072037  PMID: 21093322
Notch1; Ikaros; leukemogenesis; epigenetic regulation; ligand-independent; promoters; chromatin accessibility
10.  Notch Ankyrin Repeat Domain Variation Influences Leukemogenesis and Myc Transactivation 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(10):e25645.
The functional interchangeability of mammalian Notch receptors (Notch1-4) in normal and pathophysiologic contexts such as cancer is unsettled. We used complementary in vivo, cell-based and structural analyses to compare the abilities of activated Notch1-4 to support T cell development, induce T cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia/lymphoma (T-ALL), and maintain T-ALL cell growth and survival.
Principal Findings
We find that the activated intracellular domains of Notch1-4 (ICN1-4) all support T cell development in mice and thymic organ culture. However, unlike ICN1-3, ICN4 fails to induce T-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia/lymphoma (T-ALL) and is unable to rescue the growth of Notch1-dependent T-ALL cell lines. The ICN4 phenotype is mimicked by weak gain-of-function forms of Notch1, suggesting that it stems from a failure to transactivate one or more critical target genes above a necessary threshold. Experiments with chimeric receptors demonstrate that the Notch ankyrin repeat domains differ in their leukemogenic potential, and that this difference correlates with activation of Myc, a direct Notch target that has an important role in Notch-associated T-ALL.
We conclude that the leukemogenic potentials of Notch receptors vary, and that this functional difference stems in part from divergence among the highly conserved ankyrin repeats, which influence the transactivation of specific target genes involved in leukemogenesis.
PMCID: PMC3192765  PMID: 22022427
11.  Barx1-Mediated Inhibition of Wnt Signaling in the Mouse Thoracic Foregut Controls Tracheo-Esophageal Septation and Epithelial Differentiation 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(7):e22493.
Mesenchymal cells underlying the definitive endoderm in vertebrate animals play a vital role in digestive and respiratory organogenesis. Although several signaling pathways are implicated in foregut patterning and morphogenesis, and despite the clinical importance of congenital tracheal and esophageal malformations in humans, understanding of molecular mechanisms that allow a single tube to separate correctly into the trachea and esophagus is incomplete. The homoebox gene Barx1 is highly expressed in prospective stomach mesenchyme and required to specify this organ. We observed lower Barx1 expression extending contiguously from the proximal stomach domain, along the dorsal anterior foregut mesenchyme and in mesenchymal cells between the nascent esophagus and trachea. This expression pattern exactly mirrors the decline in Wnt signaling activity in late development of the adjacent dorsal foregut endoderm and medial mainstem bronchi. The hypopharynx in Barx1−/− mouse embryos is abnormally elongated and the point of esophago-tracheal separation shows marked caudal displacement, resulting in a common foregut tube that is similar to human congenital tracheo-esophageal fistula and explains neonatal lethality. Moreover, the Barx1−/− esophagus displays molecular and cytologic features of respiratory endoderm, phenocopying abnormalities observed in mouse embryos with activated ß-catenin. The zone of canonical Wnt signaling is abnormally prolonged and expanded in the proximal Barx1−/− foregut. Thus, as in the developing stomach, but distinct from the spleen, Barx1 control of thoracic foregut specification and tracheo-esophageal septation is tightly associated with down-regulation of adjacent Wnt pathway activity.
PMCID: PMC3142160  PMID: 21799872
12.  Critical Role of the Rb Family in Myoblast Survival and Fusion 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(3):e17682.
The tumor suppressor Rb is thought to control cell proliferation, survival and differentiation. We recently showed that differentiating Rb-deficient mouse myoblasts can fuse to form short myotubes that quickly collapse through a mechanism involving autophagy, and that autophagy inhibitors or hypoxia could rescue the defect leading to long, twitching myotubes. Here we determined the contribution of pRb relatives, p107 and p130, to this process. We show that chronic or acute inactivation of Rb plus p107 or p130 increased myoblast cell death and reduced myotube formation relative to Rb loss alone. Treatment with autophagy antagonists or hypoxia extended survival of double-knockout myotubes, which appeared indistinguishable from control fibers. In contrast, triple mutations in Rb, p107 and p130, led to substantial increase in myoblast death and to elongated bi-nuclear myocytes, which seem to derive from nuclear duplication, as opposed to cell fusion. Under hypoxia, some rare, abnormally thin triple knockout myotubes survived and twitched. Thus, mutation of p107 or p130 reduces survival of Rb-deficient myoblasts during differentiation but does not preclude myoblast fusion or necessitate myotube degeneration, whereas combined inactivation of the entire Rb family produces a distinct phenotype, with drastically impaired myoblast fusion and survival.
PMCID: PMC3053373  PMID: 21423694
13.  A Signature Inferred from Drosophila Mitotic Genes Predicts Survival of Breast Cancer Patients 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(2):e14737.
The classification of breast cancer patients into risk groups provides a powerful tool for the identification of patients who will benefit from aggressive systemic therapy. The analysis of microarray data has generated several gene expression signatures that improve diagnosis and allow risk assessment. There is also evidence that cell proliferation-related genes have a high predictive power within these signatures.
We thus constructed a gene expression signature (the DM signature) using the human orthologues of 108 Drosophila melanogaster genes required for either the maintenance of chromosome integrity (36 genes) or mitotic division (72 genes).
The DM signature has minimal overlap with the extant signatures and is highly predictive of survival in 5 large breast cancer datasets. In addition, we show that the DM signature outperforms many widely used breast cancer signatures in predictive power, and performs comparably to other proliferation-based signatures. For most genes of the DM signature, an increased expression is negatively correlated with patient survival. The genes that provide the highest contribution to the predictive power of the DM signature are those involved in cytokinesis.
This finding highlights cytokinesis as an important marker in breast cancer prognosis and as a possible target for antimitotic therapies.
PMCID: PMC3046113  PMID: 21386884
14.  Nuclear and Cytoplasmic Accumulation of Ep-ICD Is Frequently Detected in Human Epithelial Cancers 
PLoS ONE  2010;5(11):e14130.
We previously demonstrated that nuclear and cytoplasmic accumulation of the intracellular domain (Ep-ICD) of epithelial cell adhesion molecule (EpCAM) accompanied by a reciprocal reduction of its extracellular domain (EpEx), occurs in aggressive thyroid cancers. This study was designed to determine whether similar accumulation of Ep-ICD is a common event in other epithelial cancers.
Methodology and Results
Ten epithelial cancers were immunohistochemically analyzed using Ep-ICD and EpEx domain-specific antibodies. The subcellular localization of EpEx and Ep-ICD in the human colon adenocarcinoma cell line CX-1 was observed using immunofluorescence. Nuclear and cytoplasmic Ep-ICD expression was increased in cancers of the breast (31 of 38 tissues, 82%), prostate (40 of 49 tissues, 82%), head and neck (37 of 57 tissues, 65%) and esophagus (17 of 46 tissues, 37%) compared to their corresponding normal tissues that showed membrane localization of the protein. Importantly, Ep-ICD was not detected in the nuclei of epithelial cells in most normal tissues. High nuclear and cytoplasmic Ep-ICD accumulation also occurred in the other six epithelial cancer types analyzed - lung, colon, liver, bladder, pancreatic, and ovarian. A concomitant reduction in membrane EpEx expression was observed in a subset of all cancer types. Receiver operating characteristic curve analysis revealed nuclear Ep-ICD distinguished breast cancers with 82% sensitivity and 100% specificity and prostate cancers with 82% sensitivity and 78% specificity. Similar findings were observed for cytoplasmic accumulation of Ep-ICD in these cancers. We provide clinical evidence of increased nuclear and cytoplasmic Ep-ICD accumulation and a reduction in membranous EpEx in these cancers.
Increased nuclear and cytoplasmic Ep-ICD was observed in all epithelial cancers analyzed and distinguished them from normal tissues with high-sensitivity, specificity, and AUC. Development of a robust high throughput assay for Ep-ICD will facilitate the determination of its diagnostic, prognostic and therapeutic relevance in epithelial cancers.
PMCID: PMC2994724  PMID: 21152431
15.  Essential Role for the d-Asb11 cul5 Box Domain for Proper Notch Signaling and Neural Cell Fate Decisions In Vivo 
PLoS ONE  2010;5(11):e14023.
ECS (Elongin BC-Cul2/Cul5-SOCS-box protein) ubiquitin ligases recruit substrates to E2 ubiquitin-conjugating enzymes through a SOCS-box protein substrate receptor, an Elongin BC adaptor and a cullin (Cul2 or Cul5) scaffold which interacts with the RING protein. In vitro studies have shown that the conserved amino acid sequence of the cullin box in SOCS-box proteins is required for complex formation and function. However, the in vivo importance of cullin boxes has not been addressed. To explore the biological functions of the cullin box domain of ankyrin repeat and SOCS-box containing protein 11 (d-Asb11), a key mediator of canonical Delta-Notch signaling, we isolated a zebrafish mutant lacking the Cul5 box (Asb11Cul). We found that homozygous zebrafish mutants for this allele were defective in Notch signaling as indicated by the impaired expression of Notch target genes. Importantly, asb11Cul fish were not capable to degrade the Notch ligand DeltaA during embryogenesis, a process essential for the initiation of Notch signaling during neurogenesis. Accordingly, proper cell fate specification within the neurogenic regions of the zebrafish embryo was impaired. In addition, Asb11Cul mRNA was defective in the ability to transactivate a her4::gfp reporter DNA when injected in embryos. Thus, our study reporting the generation and the characterization of a metazoan organism mutant in the conserved cullin binding domain of the SOCS-box demonstrates a hitherto unrecognized importance of the SOCS-box domain for the function of this class of cullin-RING ubiquitin ligases and establishes that the d-Asb11 cullin box is required for both canonical Notch signaling and proper neurogenesis.
PMCID: PMC2988792  PMID: 21124961
16.  Suppression of TGFβ-Induced Epithelial-Mesenchymal Transition Like Phenotype by a PIAS1 Regulated Sumoylation Pathway in NMuMG Epithelial Cells 
PLoS ONE  2010;5(11):e13971.
Epithelial-mesenchymal-transition (EMT) is a fundamental cellular process that is critical for normal development and tumor metastasis. The transforming growth factor beta (TGFβ) is a potent inducer of EMT like effects, but the mechanisms that regulate TGFβ-induced EMT remain incompletely understood. Using the widely employed NMuMG mammary epithelial cells as a model to study TGFβ-induced EMT, we report that TGFβ downregulates the levels of the SUMO E3 ligase PIAS1 in cells undergoing EMT. Gain and loss of function analyses indicate that PIAS1 acts in a SUMO ligase dependent manner to suppress the ability of TGFβ to induce EMT in these cells. We also find that TGFβ inhibits sumoylation of the PIAS1 substrate SnoN, a transcriptional regulator that antagonizes TGFβ-induced EMT. Accordingly, loss of function mutations of SnoN sumoylation impair the ability of SnoN to inhibit TGFβ-induced EMT in NMuMG cells. Collectively, our findings suggest that PIAS1 is a novel negative regulator of EMT and reveal that inhibition of the PIAS1-SnoN sumoylation pathway represents a key mechanism by which TGFβ induces EMT, with important implications in normal development and tumor metastasis.
PMCID: PMC2980481  PMID: 21103059
17.  Molecular Decoy to the Y-Box Binding Protein-1 Suppresses the Growth of Breast and Prostate Cancer Cells whilst Sparing Normal Cell Viability 
PLoS ONE  2010;5(9):e12661.
The Y-box binding protein-1 (YB-1) is an oncogenic transcription/translation factor that is activated by phosphorylation at S102 whereby it induces the expression of growth promoting genes such as EGFR and HER-2. We recently illustrated by an in vitro kinase assay that a novel peptide to YB-1 was highly phosphorylated by the serine/threonine p90 S6 kinases RSK-1 and RSK-2, and to a lesser degree PKCα and AKT. Herein, we sought to develop this decoy cell permeable peptide (CPP) as a cancer therapeutic. This 9-mer was designed as an interference peptide that would prevent endogenous YB-1S102 phosphorylation based on molecular docking. In cancer cells, the CPP blocked P-YB-1S102 and down-regulated both HER-2 and EGFR transcript level and protein expression. Further, the CPP prevented YB-1 from binding to the EGFR promoter in a gel shift assay. Notably, the growth of breast (SUM149, MDA-MB-453, AU565) and prostate (PC3, LNCap) cancer cells was inhibited by ∼90% with the CPP. Further, treatment with this peptide enhanced sensitivity and overcame resistance to trastuzumab in cells expressing amplified HER-2. By contrast, the CPP had no inhibitory effect on the growth of normal immortalized breast epithelial (184htert) cells, primary breast epithelial cells, nor did it inhibit differentiation of hematopoietic progenitors. These data collectively suggest that the CPP is a novel approach to suppressing the growth of cancer cells while sparing normal cells and thereby establishes a proof-of-concept that blocking YB-1 activation is a new course of cancer therapeutics.
PMCID: PMC2937023  PMID: 20844753
18.  Stretch-Induced Stress Fiber Remodeling and the Activations of JNK and ERK Depend on Mechanical Strain Rate, but Not FAK 
PLoS ONE  2010;5(8):e12470.
Cells within tissues are subjected to mechanical forces caused by extracellular matrix deformation. Cells sense and dynamically respond to stretching of the matrix by reorienting their actin stress fibers and by activating intracellular signaling proteins, including focal adhesion kinase (FAK) and the mitogen-activated proteins kinases (MAPKs). Theoretical analyses predict that stress fibers can relax perturbations in tension depending on the rate of matrix strain. Thus, we hypothesized stress fiber organization and MAPK activities are altered to an extent dependent on stretch frequency.
Principal Findings
Bovine aortic endothelial cells and human osteosarcoma cells expressing GFP-actin were cultured on elastic membranes and subjected to various patterns of stretch. Cyclic stretching resulted in strain rate-dependent increases in stress fiber alignment, cell retraction, and the phosphorylation of the MAPKs JNK, ERK and p38. Transient step changes in strain rate caused proportional transient changes in the levels of JNK and ERK phosphorylations without affecting stress fiber organization. Disrupting stress fiber contractile function with cytochalasin D or Y27632 decreased the levels of JNK and ERK phosphorylation. Previous studies indicate that FAK is required for stretch-induced cell alignment and MAPK activations. However, cyclic uniaxial stretching induced stress fiber alignment and the phosphorylation of JNK, ERK and p38 to comparable levels in FAK-null and FAK-expressing mouse embryonic fibroblasts.
These results indicate that cyclic stretch-induced stress fiber alignment, cell retraction, and MAPK activations occur as a consequence of perturbations in fiber strain. These findings thus shed new light into the roles of stress fiber relaxation and reorganization in maintenance of tensional homeostasis in a dynamic mechanical environment.
PMCID: PMC2930005  PMID: 20814573
19.  Low CD10 mRNA Expression Identifies High-Risk Ductal Carcinoma In Situ (DCIS) 
PLoS ONE  2010;5(8):e12100.
Optimal management of breast ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS) is controversial, and many patients are still overtreated. The local death of myoepithelial cells (MECs) is believed to be a pre-requisite to tumor invasion. We thus hypothesized that loss of CD10 expression, a MEC surface peptidase, would signify basement membrane disruption and confer increased risk of relapse in DCIS. The aim of our study was to retrospectively evaluate the prognostic value of CD10 in DCIS.
Experimental Design
CD10 expression was evaluated by quantitative RT-PCR and immunohistochemistry using paraffin-embedded samples of normal breast tissue (n = 11); of morphologically normal ducts associated with DCIS (n = 10); and of DCIS without an invasive component (n = 154).
CD10 immunostaining was only observed in MECs in normal tissue and in DCIS. Normal tissue showed high mRNA expression levels of CD10, whereas DCIS showed a variable range. After a median follow-up of 6 years, DCIS with CD10 expression below the levels observed in normal tissue (71%) demonstrated a higher risk of local relapse (HR = 1.88; [95CI:1.30–2.70], p = 0.001) in univariate analysis. No relapse was observed in patients expressing high CD10 mRNA levels (29%) similar to the ones observed in normal tissue. In multivariate analysis including known prognostic factors, low CD10 mRNA expression remained significant (HR = 2.25; [95%CI:1.24–4.09], p = 0.008), as did the recently revised Van Nuys Prognostic Index (VNPI) score (HR = 2.03; [95%CI:1.23–3.35], p = 0.006).
The decrease of CD10 expression in MECs is associated with a higher risk of relapse in DCIS; this knowledge has the potential to improve DCIS management.
PMCID: PMC2938371  PMID: 20856894
20.  Redefining the Expression and Function of the Inhibitor of Differentiation 1 in Mammary Gland Development 
PLoS ONE  2010;5(8):e11947.
The accumulation of poorly differentiated cells is a hallmark of breast neoplasia and progression. Thus an understanding of the factors controlling mammary differentiation is critical to a proper understanding of breast tumourigenesis. The Inhibitor of Differentiation 1 (Id1) protein has well documented roles in the control of mammary epithelial differentiation and proliferation in vitro and breast cancer progression in vivo. However, it has not been determined whether Id1 expression is sufficient for the inhibition of mammary epithelial differentiation or the promotion of neoplastic transformation in vivo. We now show that Id1 is not commonly expressed by the luminal mammary epithelia, as previously reported. Generation and analysis of a transgenic mouse model of Id1 overexpression in the mammary gland reveals that Id1 is insufficient for neoplastic progression in virgin animals or to prevent terminal differentiation of the luminal epithelia during pregnancy and lactation. Together, these data demonstrate that there is no luminal cell-autonomous role for Id1 in mammary epithelial cell fate determination, ductal morphogenesis and terminal differentiation.
PMCID: PMC2914758  PMID: 20689821
21.  Bcl-2 Regulates HIF-1α Protein Stabilization in Hypoxic Melanoma Cells via the Molecular Chaperone HSP90 
PLoS ONE  2010;5(7):e11772.
Hypoxia-Inducible Factor 1 (HIF-1) is a transcription factor that is a critical mediator of the cellular response to hypoxia. Enhanced levels of HIF-1α, the oxygen-regulated subunit of HIF-1, is often associated with increased tumour angiogenesis, metastasis, therapeutic resistance and poor prognosis. It is in this context that we previously demonstrated that under hypoxia, bcl-2 protein promotes HIF-1/Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor (VEGF)-mediated tumour angiogenesis.
Methodology/Principal Findings
By using human melanoma cell lines and their stable or transient derivative bcl-2 overexpressing cells, the current study identified HIF-1α protein stabilization as a key regulator for the induction of HIF-1 by bcl-2 under hypoxia. We also demonstrated that bcl-2-induced accumulation of HIF-1α protein during hypoxia was not due to an increased gene transcription or protein synthesis. In fact, it was related to a modulation of HIF-1α protein expression at a post-translational level, indeed its degradation rate was faster in the control lines than in bcl-2 transfectants. The bcl-2-induced HIF-1α stabilization in response to low oxygen tension conditions was achieved through the impairment of ubiquitin-dependent HIF-1α degradation involving the molecular chaperone HSP90, but it was not dependent on the prolyl hydroxylation of HIF-1α protein. We also showed that bcl-2, HIF-1α and HSP90 proteins form a tri-complex that may contribute to enhancing the stability of the HIF-1α protein in bcl-2 overexpressing clones under hypoxic conditions. Finally, by using genetic and pharmacological approaches we proved that HSP90 is involved in bcl-2-dependent stabilization of HIF-1α protein during hypoxia, and in particular the isoform HSP90β is the main player in this phenomenon.
We identified the stabilization of HIF-1α protein as a mechanism through which bcl-2 induces the activation of HIF-1 in hypoxic tumour cells involving the β isoform of molecular chaperone HSP90.
PMCID: PMC2910721  PMID: 20668552
22.  COMMD1 disrupts HIF-1α/β dimerization and inhibits human tumor cell invasion 
The Journal of Clinical Investigation  2010;120(6):2119-2130.
The gene encoding COMM domain–containing 1 (COMMD1) is a prototypical member of the COMMD gene family that has been shown to inhibit both NF-κB– and HIF-mediated gene expression. NF-κB and HIF are transcription factors that have been shown to play a role in promoting tumor growth, survival, and invasion. In this study, we demonstrate that COMMD1 expression is frequently suppressed in human cancer and that decreased COMMD1 expression correlates with a more invasive tumor phenotype. We found that direct repression of COMMD1 in human cell lines led to increased tumor invasion in a chick xenograft model, while increased COMMD1 expression in mouse melanoma cells led to decreased lung metastasis in a mouse model. Decreased COMMD1 expression also correlated with increased expression of genes known to promote cancer cell invasiveness, including direct targets of HIF. Mechanistically, our studies show that COMMD1 inhibits HIF-mediated gene expression by binding directly to the amino terminus of HIF-1α, preventing its dimerization with HIF-1β and subsequent DNA binding and transcriptional activation. Altogether, our findings demonstrate a role for COMMD1 in tumor invasion and provide a detailed mechanism of how this factor regulates the HIF pathway in cancer cells.
PMCID: PMC2877941  PMID: 20458141
23.  COMMD1 Promotes pVHL and O2-Independent Proteolysis of HIF-1α via HSP90/70 
PLoS ONE  2009;4(10):e7332.
The Copper Metabolism MURR1 Domain containing 1 protein COMMD1 has been associated with copper homeostasis, NF-κB signaling, and sodium transport. Recently, we identified COMMD1 as a novel protein in HIF-1 signaling. Mouse embryos deficient for Commd1 have increased expression of hypoxia/HIF-regulated genes i.e. VEGF, PGK and Bnip3. Hypoxia-inducible factors (HIFs) are master regulators of oxygen homeostasis, which control angiogenesis, erythropoiesis, glycolysis and cell survival/proliferation under normal and pathologic conditions. Although HIF activity is mainly controlled by ubiquitination and protein degradation by the von Hippel Lindau (pVHL) tumor suppressor gene other mechanisms have recently been identified that regulate HIF signaling independently of pVHL.
Principal Findings
Here we characterized the mechanism by which COMMD1 regulates HIF-1α protein degradation. We show that COMMD1 competes with the chaperone heat shock protein HSP90β for binding to the NH2-terminal DNA-binding and heterodimerization domain of HIF-1α to regulate HIF-1α stability together with HSP70. Inhibition of HSP90 activity with 17-Allylamino-17-demethoxygeldanamycin (17-AAG) increased COMMD1-mediated HIF-1α degradation independent of ubiquitin and pVHL.
These data reveal a novel role for COMMD1 in conjunction with HSP90β/HSP70 in the ubiquitin and O2-independent regulation of HIF-1α.
PMCID: PMC2750754  PMID: 19802386
24.  Mapping the consequence of Notch1 proteolysis in vivo with NIP-CRE 
Development (Cambridge, England)  2007;134(3):535-544.
The four highly conserved Notch (N) receptors receive short-range signals that control many biological processes during development and in adult vertebrate tissues. The involvement of Notch1 signaling in tissue self-renewal is less clear, however. We developed a novel genetic approach N1IP-CRE (Notch1 Intramembrane Proteolysis) to follow, at high resolution, the descendents of cells experiencing Notch1 activation in the mouse. By combining N1IP-CRE with loss of function analysis, Notch activation patterns were correlated with function during development, self-renewal, and malignancy in selected tissues. Identification of many known functions of Notch1 throughout development validated the utility of this approach. Importantly, novel roles for Notch1 signaling were identified in heart, vasculature, retina and in the stem cell compartments of self-renewing epithelia. We find that the probability of Notch1 activation in different tissues does not always indicate a requirement for this receptor and that gradients of Notch1 activation are evident within one organ. These findings highlight an underappreciated layer of complexity of Notch signaling in vivo. Moreover, NIP-CRE represents a general strategy applicable for monitoring proteolysis-dependent signaling in vivo.
PMCID: PMC2583343  PMID: 17215306
Notch; regulated intramembrane proteolysis (RIP); Cre recombinase; fate mapping; stem cells

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