Reactive oxygen species (ROS), a by-product of cellular metabolism, damage intracellular macromolecules and, in excess, can promote normal hematopoietic stem cell differentiation and exhaustion1–3. However, mechanisms that regulate ROS levels in leukemia-initiating cells (LICs) and the biological role of ROS in these cells remain largely unknown. We show here the ROSlow subset of CD44+ cells in T-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia (T-ALL), a malignancy of immature T-cell progenitors, to be highly enriched in the most aggressive LICs, and that ROS are maintained at low levels by downregulation of protein kinase C theta (PKCθ). Strikingly, primary mouse T-ALLs lacking PKCθ show improved LIC activity whereas enforced PKCθ expression in both mouse and human primary T-ALLs compromised LIC activity. We also demonstrate that PKCθ is positively regulated by RUNX1, and that NOTCH1, which is frequently activated by mutation in T-ALL4–6 and required for LIC activity in both mouse and human models7,8, downregulates PKCθ and ROS via a novel pathway involving induction of RUNX3 and subsequent repression of RUNX1. These results reveal key functional roles for PKCθ and ROS in T-ALL and suggest that aggressive biological behavior in vivo could be limited by therapeutic strategies that promote PKCθ expression/activity or ROS accumulation.
Notch receptors participate in a highly conserved signalling pathway that regulates normal development and tissue homeostasis in a context- and dose-dependent manner. Deregulated Notch signalling has been implicated in many diseases, but the clearest example of a pathogenic role is found in T cell lymphoblastic leukaemia/lymphoma (T-LL), in which the majority of human and murine tumours have acquired mutations that lead to aberrant increases in Notch1 signalling. Remarkably, it appears that the selective pressure for Notch mutations is virtually unique among cancers to T-LL, presumably reflecting a special context-dependent role for Notch in normal T cell progenitors. Nevertheless, there are some recent reports suggesting that Notch signalling has subtle yet important roles in other forms of hematologic malignancy as well. Here, we review the role of Notch signalling in various blood cancers, focusing on T-LL with an eye toward targeted therapeutics.
Notch signaling; oncogene; T-cell lymphoblastic leukemia/lymphoma; chromosomal rearrangements; targeted therapy
Gain-of-function experiments have demonstrated the potential of Notch signals to expand primitive hematopoietic progenitors, but whether Notch physiologically regulates hematopoietic stem cell (HSC) homeostasis in vivo is unclear. To answer this question, we evaluated the effect of global deficiencies of canonical Notch signaling in rigorous HSC assays. Hematopoietic progenitors expressing dominant negative Mastermind-like1 (DNMAML), a potent inhibitor of Notch-mediated transcriptional activation, achieved stable long-term reconstitution of irradiated hosts and showed a normal frequency of progenitor fractions enriched for long-term HSCs. Similar results were observed with cells lacking CSL/RBPJ, a DNA-binding factor that is required for canonical Notch signaling. Notch-deprived progenitors provided normal long-term reconstitution after secondary competitive transplantation. Furthermore, Notch target genes were expressed at low levels in primitive hematopoietic progenitors. Taken together, these results rule out an essential physiological role for cell-autonomous canonical Notch signals in HSC maintenance.
Recent deep sequencing of cancer genomes has produced an explosion of new data implicating Notch signaling in several human cancers. Unlike most other pathways, these data indicate that Notch signaling can be either oncogenic or tumor suppressive, depending on the cellular context. In some instances, these relationships were predicted from mouse models or presaged by developmental roles for Notch, but in other cases were unanticipated. This review discusses the pathogenic and translational significance of these new findings.
Notch signaling; tumor suppressor; oncogene
ZNF143 is a zinc-finger protein involved in the transcriptional regulation of both coding and non-coding genes from polymerase II and III promoters. Our study deciphers the genome-wide regulatory role of ZNF143 in relation with the two previously unrelated transcription factors Notch1/ICN1 and thanatos-associated protein 11 (THAP11) in several human and murine cells. We show that two distinct motifs, SBS1 and SBS2, are associated to ZNF143-binding events in promoters of >3000 genes. Without co-occupation, these sites are also bound by Notch1/ICN1 in T-lymphoblastic leukaemia cells as well as by THAP11, a factor involved in self-renewal of embryonic stem cells. We present evidence that ICN1 binding overlaps with ZNF143 binding events at the SBS1 and SBS2 motifs, whereas the overlap occurs only at SBS2 for THAP11. We demonstrate that the three factors modulate expression of common target genes through the mutually exclusive occupation of overlapping binding sites. The model we propose predicts that the binding competition between the three factors controls biological processes such as rapid cell growth of both neoplastic and stem cells. Overall, our study establishes a novel relationship between ZNF143, THAP11 and ICN1 and reveals important insights into ZNF143-mediated gene regulation.
The NOTCH1 receptor is cleaved within its extracellular domain by furin during its maturation, yielding two subunits that are held together noncovalently by a juxtamembrane heterodimerization (HD) domain. Normal NOTCH1 signaling is initiated by the binding of ligand to the extracellular subunit, which renders the transmembrane subunit susceptible to two successive cleavages within and C terminal to the heterodimerization domain, catalyzed by metalloproteases and γ-secretase, respectively. Because mutations in the heterodimerization domain of NOTCH1 occur frequently in human T-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia (T-ALL), we assessed the effect of 16 putative tumor-associated mutations on Notch1 signaling and HD domain stability. We show here that 15 of the 16 mutations activate canonical NOTCH1 signaling. Increases in signaling occur in a ligand-independent fashion, require γ-secretase activity, and correlate with an increased susceptibility to cleavage by metalloproteases. The activating mutations cause soluble NOTCH1 heterodimers to dissociate more readily, either under native conditions (n = 3) or in the presence of urea (n = 11). One mutation, an insertion of 14 residues immediately N terminal to the metalloprotease cleavage site, increases metalloprotease sensitivity more than all others, despite a negligible effect on heterodimer stability by comparison, suggesting that the insertion may expose the S2 site by repositioning it relative to protective NOTCH1 ectodomain residues. Together, these studies show that leukemia-associated HD domain mutations render NOTCH1 sensitive to ligand-independent proteolytic activation through two distinct mechanisms.
Notch receptors participate in a conserved signaling pathway that controls the development of diverse tissues and cell types, including lymphoid cells. Signaling is normally initiated through one or more ligand-mediated proteolytic cleavages that permit nuclear translocation of the intracellular portion of the Notch receptor (ICN), which then binds and activates transcription factors of the Su(H)/CBF1 family. Several mammalian Notch receptors are oncogenic when constitutively active, including Notch1, a gene initially identified based on its involvement in a (7;9) chromosomal translocation found in sporadic T-cell lymphoblastic leukemias and lymphomas (T-ALL). To investigate which portions of ICN1 contribute to transformation, we performed a structure-transformation analysis using a robust murine bone marrow reconstitution assay. Both the ankyrin repeat and C-terminal transactivation domains were required for T-cell leukemogenesis, whereas the N-terminal RAM domain and a C-terminal domain that includes a PEST sequence were nonessential. Induction of T-ALL correlated with the transactivation activity of each Notch1 polypeptide when fused to the DNA-binding domain of GAL4, with the exception of polypeptides deleted of the ankyrin repeats, which lacked transforming activity while retaining strong transactivation activity. Transforming polypeptides also demonstrated moderate to strong activation of the Su(H)/CBF1-sensitive HES-1 promoter, while polypeptides with weak or absent activity on this promoter failed to cause leukemia. These experiments define a minimal transforming region for Notch1 in T-cell progenitors and suggest that leukemogenic signaling involves recruitment of transcriptional coactivators to ICN1 nuclear complexes.
Notch proteins are transmembrane receptors that normally adopt a resting state poised to undergo activating proteolysis upon ligand engagement. Receptor quiescence is maintained by three LIN12/Notch repeats (LNRs), which wrap around a heterodimerization domain (HD) divided by furin cleavage at site S1 during maturation. Ligand binding initiates signaling by inducing sensitivity of the HD to proteolysis at the regulated S2 cleavage site. Here, we used hydrogen exchange mass spectrometry to examine the solution dynamics of the Notch1 negative regulatory region in autoinhibited states before and after S1 cleavage, in a proteolytically sensitive “on” state, and in a complex with an inhibitory antibody. Conversion to the “on” state leads to accelerated deuteration in the S2 region and in nearby secondary structural elements within the HD. In contrast, complexation with the inhibitory antibody retards deuteration around the S2 site. Together, these studies reveal how S2 site exposure is promoted by receptor activation and suppressed by inhibitory antibodies.
NUT midline carcinoma (NMC) is a lethal pediatric tumor defined by the presence of BRD-NUT fusion proteins that arrest differentiation. Here we explore the mechanisms underlying the ability of BRD4-NUT to prevent squamous differentiation. In both gain-of and loss-of-expression assays we find that expression of BRD4-NUT is associated with globally decreased histone acetylation and transcriptional repression. Bulk chromatin acetylation can be restored by treatment of NMC cells with histone deacetylase inhibitors (HDACi), engaging a program of squamous differentiation and arrested growth in vitro that closely mimics the effects of siRNA mediated attenuation of BRD4-NUT expression. The potential therapeutic utility of HDACi differentiation therapy was established in three different NMC xenograft models, where it produced significant growth inhibition and a survival benefit. Based on these results and translational studies performed with patient-derived primary tumor cells, a child with NMC was treated with the FDA-approved HDAC inhibitor, vorinostat. An objective response was obtained after five weeks of therapy, as determined by positron emission tomography. These findings provide preclinical support for trials of HDACi in patients with NMC.
BRD4; NUT; epigenetic; differentiation; fusion oncogene
Notch-driven expression of IGF1R promotes the growth, viability, and transplantability of T-ALL cells.
T cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia (T-ALL) is an aggressive cancer of immature T cells that often shows aberrant activation of Notch1 and PI3K–Akt pathways. Although mutations that activate PI3K–Akt signaling have previously been identified, the relative contribution of growth factor-dependent activation is unclear. We show here that pharmacologic inhibition or genetic deletion of insulin-like growth factor 1 receptor (IGF1R) blocks the growth and viability of T-ALL cells, whereas moderate diminution of IGF1R signaling compromises leukemia-initiating cell (LIC) activity as defined by transplantability in syngeneic/congenic secondary recipients. Furthermore, IGF1R is a Notch1 target, and Notch1 signaling is required to maintain IGF1R expression at high levels in T-ALL cells. These findings suggest effects of Notch on LIC activity may be mediated in part by enhancing the responsiveness of T-ALL cells to ambient growth factors, and provide strong rationale for use of IGF1R inhibitors to improve initial response to therapy and to achieve long-term cure of patients with T-ALL.
Acute myeloid leukemia (AML) is the most common form of acute leukemia in adults. Long-term survival of patients with AML has changed little over the past decade, necessitating the identification and validation of new AML targets. Integration of genomic approaches with small-molecule and genetically based high-throughput screening holds the promise of improved discovery of candidate targets for cancer therapy. Here, we identified a role for glycogen synthase kinase 3α (GSK-3α) in AML by performing 2 independent small-molecule library screens and an shRNA screen for perturbations that induced a differentiation expression signature in AML cells. GSK-3 is a serine-threonine kinase involved in diverse cellular processes, including differentiation, signal transduction, cell cycle regulation, and proliferation. We demonstrated that specific loss of GSK-3α induced differentiation in AML by multiple measurements, including induction of gene expression signatures, morphological changes, and cell surface markers consistent with myeloid maturation. GSK-3α–specific suppression also led to impaired growth and proliferation in vitro, induction of apoptosis, loss of colony formation in methylcellulose, and anti-AML activity in vivo. Although the role of GSK-3β has been well studied in cancer development, these studies support a role for GSK-3α in AML.
A 61-year-old man treated with an autologous transplant for multiple myeloma was incidentally found to have a high level of BCR-ABL fusion gene-positive cells in his bone marrow. We describe the clinical decision-making process that led us to initiate therapy with imatinib, despite the absence of any clinical evidence of chronic myelogenous leukemia or other BCR-ABL associated hematologic malignancy.
Ligand-induced proteolysis of Notch produces an intracellular effector domain that transduces essential signals by regulating target gene transcription. This function relies on formation of transcriptional activation complexes that include intracellular Notch, a Mastermind co-activator, and the CSL transcription factor bound to cognate DNA. These complexes form higher order assemblies on paired, head-to-head CSL recognition sites. Here, we report the X-ray structure of a dimeric human Notch1 transcription complex loaded on the paired site from the human HES1 promoter. The small interface between the Notch ankyrin domains can accommodate DNA bending and untwisting to allow a range of spacer lengths between the two sites. Remarkably, cooperative dimerization occurs on the Hes5 promoter at a sequence that diverges from the CSL-binding consensus at one of the sites. These studies reveal how promoter organizational features control cooperativity and thus, the responsiveness of different promoters to Notch signaling.
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.
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.
Numerous studies have reported positive associations of environmental exposure to polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and p,p′-dichlorodiphenyldichloroethylene (p,p′-DDE) with the risk of non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL). In a case-control study nested within the Nurses’ Health Study, a prospective cohort of US women, we measured concentrations of PCBs and p,p′-DDE in blood samples from 145 women diagnosed with NHL at least six months after blood draw, and 290 age- and race-matched controls. We used conditional logistic regression to estimate the odds ratios (ORs) and 95% confidence intervals (CIs) for each quartile of exposure relative to the lowest quartile. We also evaluated these associations for major histologic subtypes of NHL. There was no consistent evidence of an association of p,p′-DDE, total PCBs, immunotoxic or individual PCB congeners with risk of NHL. These results do not support the hypothesis of a positive association between PCB exposure and development of NHL.
organochlorine; polychlorinated biphenyl; PCB; DDT; non-Hodgkin lymphoma
Environmental exposure to polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and p,p′-dichlorodiphenyldichloroethylene (p,p′-DDE) has been associated with the risk of non-Hodgkin lymphoma.
We conducted a case-control study nested within the Physicians’ Health Study, a prospective cohort established in 1982. We measured concentrations of PCBs and p,p′-DDE in baseline blood samples from 205 men later diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma and 409 age- and race-matched controls. Lipid-adjusted organochlorine concentrations were categorized into quintiles based on the distribution among controls. We used conditional logistic regression to estimate the odds ratios (ORs) and 95% confidence intervals (CIs) for each quintile relative to the lowest quintile. We also evaluated these associations for major histologic subtypes of non-Hodgkin lymphoma.
The risk of non-Hodgkin lymphoma was positively associated with the sum of 51 PCB congeners assayed (ΣPCB); the group of immunotoxic congeners; the individual congeners 118, 138, 153, and 180; and the sum of these four congeners. The simple OR for the highest quintile of lipid-adjusted ΣPCB versus the lowest was 1.9 (95% CI = 1.1-3.2; test for trend P = 0.001), with similar trends for individual congeners and groups defined as above. Adjustment for height, body mass index, alcohol intake, smoking, and fish intake did not substantially change the effect estimates. No association was observed for p,p′-DDE. There was no evidence of statistical heterogeneity in effects by histologic subtype of lymphoma; however, this analysis was underpowered.
These results support the hypothesis of a positive association between PCB exposure and development of NHL in men.
Direct inhibition of transcription factor complexes remains a central challenge in the discipline of ligand discovery. In general, these proteins lack surface involutions suitable for high-affinity binding by small molecules. Here we report the design of synthetic, cell-permeable, stabilized α-helical peptides that target a critical protein–protein interface in the NOTCH transactivation complex. We demonstrate that direct, high-affinity binding of the hydrocarbon-stapled peptide SAHM1 prevents assembly of the active transcriptional complex. Inappropriate NOTCH activation is directly implicated in the pathogenesis of several disease states, including T-cell acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (T-ALL). The treatment of leukaemic cells with SAHM1 results in genome-wide suppression of NOTCH-activated genes. Direct antagonism of the NOTCH transcriptional program causes potent, NOTCH-specific anti-proliferative effects in cultured cells and in a mouse model of NOTCH1-driven T-ALL.
Tribbles homolog 2 (Trib2) was identified as a down-regulated transcript in leukemic cells undergoing growth arrest. To investigate the effects of Trib2 in hematopoietic progenitors, mice were reconstituted with hematopoietic stem cells retrovirally expressing Trib2. Trib2-transduced bone marrow cells exhibited a growth advantage ex vivo and readily established factor-dependent cell lines. In vivo, Trib2-reconstituted mice uniformly developed fatal transplantable acute myelogenous leukemia (AML). In mechanistic studies, we found that Trib2 associated with and inhibited C/EBPα. Furthermore, Trib2 expression was elevated in a subset of human AML patient samples. Together, our data identify Trib2 as an oncogene that induces AML through a mechanism involving inactivation of C/EBPα.
Notch proteins constitute the receptors of a highly conserved signaling pathway that influences cell fate decisions both during development and in adults. A proteolytic cascade induced by ligand stimulation results in release of the Notch intracellular domain from the cell membrane, allowing it to enter the nucleus and form a complex with a DNA-bound transcription factor called CSL and a coactivator of the Mastermind family. Assembly of this Notch nuclear complex is the key step in the transcriptional response to a Notch signal. In the studies reported here, we have mapped residues important for the stabilization of this multiprotein-DNA complex using site-directed mutagenesis, determined the affinity of the three-domain form of CSL for its various partners, and investigated sources of cooperativity in complex formation by monitoring the influence of various components of the complex on the interactions of CSL with its other partners. Our findings are consistent with a model for complex assembly in which the RAM domain of Notch increases the effective concentration of the ANK domain for its binding site on the Rel-homology region of CSL, enabling docking of the ANK domain and subsequent recruitment of the MAML co-activator.
Signal transduction; Fluorescence resonance energy transfer; CSL; Mastermind; Protein-protein interaction
Gain-of-function NOTCH1 mutations are found in 50%–70% of human T cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia/lymphoma (T-ALL) cases. Gain-of-function NOTCH1 alleles that initiate strong downstream signals induce leukemia in mice, but it is unknown whether the gain-of-function NOTCH1 mutations most commonly found in individuals with T-ALL generate downstream signals of sufficient strength to induce leukemia. We addressed this question by expressing human gain-of-function NOTCH1 alleles of varying strength in mouse hematopoietic precursors. Uncommon gain-of-function NOTCH1 alleles that initiated strong downstream signals drove ectopic T cell development and induced leukemia efficiently. In contrast, although gain-of-function alleles that initiated only weak downstream signals also induced ectopic T cell development, these more common alleles failed to efficiently initiate leukemia development. However, weak gain-of-function NOTCH1 alleles accelerated the onset of leukemia initiated by constitutively active K-ras and gave rise to tumors that were sensitive to Notch signaling pathway inhibition. These data show that induction of leukemia requires doses of Notch1 greater than those needed for T cell development and that most NOTCH1 mutations found in T-ALL cells do not generate signals of sufficient strength to initiate leukemia development. Furthermore, low, nonleukemogenic levels of Notch1 can complement other leukemogenic events, such as activation of K-ras. Even when Notch1 participates secondarily, the resulting tumors show “addiction” to Notch, providing a further rationale for evaluating Notch signaling pathway inhibitors in leukemia.
The cellular pathways that Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) manipulates in order to effect its lifelong persistence within hosts and facilitate its transmission between hosts are not well understood. The EBV nuclear antigen 3 (EBNA-3) family of latent infection proteins consists of transcriptional regulators that influence viral and cellular gene expression in EBV-infected cells. To identify EBNA-3B- and EBNA-3C-regulated cellular genes potentially important for virus infection in vivo, we studied a lymphoblastoid cell line (LCL) infected with an unusual EBV mutant, where a genetic manipulation to delete EBNA-3B also resulted in a significant decrease in EBNA-3C expression and slower than normal growth (3B−/3Clow). Transcriptional profiling was performed on the 3B−/3Clow LCLs, and comparison of mutant and wild-type LCL profiles resulted in a group of 21 probe sets representing 16 individual genes showing statistically significant differences in expression. Further quantitative reverse transcription-PCR analyses comparing 3B−/3Clow LCLs to a previously described EBNA-3B mutant (3B−) where EBNA-3C expression was normal revealed three potential EBNA-3B-repressed genes, three potential EBNA-3C-repressed genes, and two potential EBNA-3C-activated genes. The most highly EBNA-3C-repressed gene was Jagged1, a cell surface ligand and inducer of the Notch receptor signaling pathway that is usurped by EBV genes essential for B-cell immortalization. 3B−/3Clow LCLs expressed increased levels of Jagged1 protein and were able to more efficiently induce functional Notch signaling, and this signaling was dependent on Notch cleavage by γ-secretase. However, inhibiting γ-secretase-mediated Notch cleavage did not rescue 3B−/3Clow LCL growth, suggesting that EBNA-3C-mediated repression of this signaling pathway did not contribute to LCL growth in tissue culture. Similarly, expression of the chemokine receptor CXCR4 was reproducibly upregulated in EBNA-3B-null LCLs. Since deletion of EBNA-3B has no significant impact on B-cell immortalization in tissue culture, this finding suggested that EBNA-3B-mediated regulation of CXCR4 may be an important viral strategy for alteration of B-cell homing in the infected host. These studies identify two cellular genes that do not contribute to EBV-induced B-cell growth but whose expression levels are strongly EBNA-3 regulated in EBV-infected primary B cells. These EBV-manipulated cellular pathways may be important for virus survival or transmission in humans, and their independence from EBV-induced B-cell growth makes them potential targets for testing in vivo with the rhesus lymphocryptovirus animal model for EBV infection.
NOTCH1 is a large type I transmembrane receptor that regulates normal T-cell development via a signaling pathway that relies on regulated proteolysis. Ligand binding induces proteolytic cleavages in NOTCH1 that release its intracellular domain (ICN1), which translocates to the nucleus and activates target genes by forming a short-lived nuclear complex with two other proteins, the DNA-binding factor CSL and a Mastermind-like (MAML) coactivator. Recent work has shown that human T-ALL is frequently associated with C-terminal NOTCH1 truncations, which uniformly remove sequences lying between residues 2524 and 2556. This region includes the highly conserved sequence WSSSSP (S4), which based on its amino acid content appeared to be a likely site for regulatory serine phosphorylation events. We show here that the mutation of the S4 sequence leads to hypophosphorylation of ICN1; increased NOTCH1 signaling; and the stabilization of complexes containing ICN1, CSL, and MAML1. Consistent with these in vitro studies, mutation of the WSSSSP sequence converts nonleukemogenic weak gain-of-function NOTCH1 alleles into alleles that cause aggressive T-ALLs in a murine bone marrow transplant model. These studies indicate that S4 is an important negative regulatory sequence and that the deletion of S4 likely contributes to the development of human T-ALL.
PR domain containing 1 with zinc finger domain (PRDM1)/B lymphocyte–induced maturation protein 1 (BLIMP1) is a transcriptional repressor expressed in a subset of germinal center (GC) B cells and in all plasma cells, and required for terminal B cell differentiation. The BLIMP1 locus lies on chromosome 6q21-q22.1, a region frequently deleted in B cell lymphomas, suggesting that it may harbor a tumor suppressor gene. We report here that the BLIMP1 gene is inactivated by structural alterations in 24% (8 out of 34) activated B cell–like diffuse large cell lymphoma (ABC-DLBCL), but not in GC B cell–like (n = 0/37) or unclassified (n = 0/21) DLBCL. BLIMP1 alterations included gene truncations, nonsense mutations, frameshift deletions, and splice site mutations that generate aberrant transcripts encoding truncated BLIMP1 proteins. In all cases studied, both BLIMP1 alleles were inactivated by deletions or mutations. Furthermore, most non–GC type DLBCL cases (n = 20/26, 77%) lack BLIMP1 protein expression, despite the presence of BLIMP1 mRNA. These results indicate that a sizable fraction of ABC-DLBCL carry an inactive BLIMP1 gene, and suggest that the same gene is inactivated by epigenetic mechanisms in an additional large number of cases. These findings point to a role for BLIMP1 as a tumor suppressor gene, whose inactivation may contribute to lymphomagenesis by blocking post–GC differentiation of B cells toward plasma cells.
Similar to its close relative human herpesvirus 8, rhesus monkey rhadinovirus (RRV) persists predominantly in B cells of its natural host. Rhesus monkey B-cell lines immortalized by the Epstein-Barr-related virus from rhesus monkeys (rhEBV) were used as targets for infection by RRV. These cultured B cells were susceptible to infection by RRV and continued to produce low titers of RRV for months of continuous culture. Infection by RRV did not detectably alter the growth rates of these B-cell lines when it was measured at standard or reduced serum concentrations. Depending on the cell line, 5 to 40% of the B cells stained positive for the RRV genome by fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH). Most RRV-positive cells showed a fine punctate nuclear staining pattern consistent with latent infection, while a small minority of cells (0.2 to 1%) contained large, intensely staining nuclear foci consistent with productive, replicative infection. Greater than 90% of the cells were rhEBV genome positive in a pattern consistent with latent infection, and again only a small minority of cells showed a productive, replicative staining pattern. Dual, two-color FISH staining revealed coinfection of numerous cells with both RRV and rhEBV, but productive replication of RRV and rhEBV was always observed in separate cells, never in the same cell. Thus, productive replication of RRV is unlinked to that of rhEBV; factors that influence activation to productive replication act separately on RRV and rhEBV, even within the same cell. The percentage of B cells expressing green fluorescent protein (GFP) early after infection with a recombinant RRV containing a GFP reporter gene was dose dependent and at a low multiplicity of infection increased progressively over time until 14 to 17 days after infection. These results establish a naturalistic cell culture system for the study of infection and persistence by RRV in rhesus monkey B cells.
Notch proteins are transmembrane receptors that participate in a highly conserved signaling pathway that regulates morphogenesis in metazoans. Newly synthesized Notch receptors are proteolytically cleaved during transit to the cell surface, creating heterodimeric mature receptors comprising noncovalently associated extracellular (NEC) and transmembrane (NTM) subunits. Ligand binding activates Notch by inducing two successive proteolytic cleavages, catalyzed by metalloproteases and gamma-secretase, respectively, that permit the intracellular portion of NTM to translocate to the nucleus and activate transcription of target genes. Prior work has shown that the presence of NEC prevents ligand-independent activation of NTM, but the mechanisms involved are poorly understood. Here, we define the roles of two regions at the C-terminal end of NEC that participate in maintaining the integrity of resting Notch receptors through distinct mechanisms. The first region, a hydrophobic, previously uncharacterized portion of NEC, is sufficient to form stable complexes with the extracellular portion of NTM. The second region, consisting of the three Lin12/Notch repeats, is not needed for heterodimerization but acts to protect NTM from ligand-independent cleavage by metalloproteases. Together, these two contiguous regions of NEC impose crucial restraints that prevent premature Notch receptor activation.