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1.  Characterization of Notch1 Antibodies That Inhibit Signaling of Both Normal and Mutated Notch1 Receptors 
PLoS ONE  2010;5(2):e9094.
Background
Notch receptors normally play a key role in guiding a variety of cell fate decisions during development and differentiation of metazoan organisms. On the other hand, dysregulation of Notch1 signaling is associated with many different types of cancer as well as tumor angiogenesis, making Notch1 a potential therapeutic target.
Principal Findings
Here we report the in vitro activities of inhibitory Notch1 monoclonal antibodies derived from cell-based and solid-phase screening of a phage display library. Two classes of antibodies were found, one directed against the EGF-repeat region that encompasses the ligand-binding domain (LBD), and the second directed against the activation switch of the receptor, the Notch negative regulatory region (NRR). The antibodies are selective for Notch1, inhibiting Jag2-dependent signaling by Notch1 but not by Notch 2 and 3 in reporter gene assays, with EC50 values as low as 5±3 nM and 0.13±0.09 nM for the LBD and NRR antibodies, respectively, and fail to recognize Notch4. While more potent, NRR antibodies are incomplete antagonists of Notch1 signaling. The antagonistic activity of LBD, but not NRR, antibodies is strongly dependent on the activating ligand. Both LBD and NRR antibodies bind to Notch1 on human tumor cell lines and inhibit the expression of sentinel Notch target genes, including HES1, HES5, and DTX1. NRR antibodies also strongly inhibit ligand-independent signaling in heterologous cells transiently expressing Notch1 receptors with diverse NRR “class I” point mutations, the most common type of mutation found in human T-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia (T-ALL). In contrast, NRR antibodies failed to antagonize Notch1 receptors bearing rare “class II” or “class III” mutations, in which amino acid insertions generate a duplicated or constitutively sensitive metalloprotease cleavage site. Signaling in T-ALL cell lines bearing class I mutations is partially refractory to inhibitory antibodies as compared to cell-penetrating gamma-secretase inhibitors.
Conclusions/Significance
Antibodies that compete with Notch1 ligand binding or that bind to the negative regulatory region can act as potent inhibitors of Notch1 signaling. These antibodies may have clinical utility for conditions in which inhibition of signaling by wild-type Notch1 is desired, but are likely to be of limited value for treatment of T-ALLs associated with aberrant Notch1 activation.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0009094
PMCID: PMC2817004  PMID: 20161710
2.  Effects of S1 Cleavage on the Structure, Surface Export, and Signaling Activity of Human Notch1 and Notch2 
PLoS ONE  2009;4(8):e6613.
Background
Notch receptors are normally cleaved during maturation by a furin-like protease at an extracellular site termed S1, creating a heterodimer of non-covalently associated subunits. The S1 site lies within a key negative regulatory region (NRR) of the receptor, which contains three highly conserved Lin12/Notch repeats and a heterodimerization domain (HD) that interact to prevent premature signaling in the absence of ligands. Because the role of S1 cleavage in Notch signaling remains unresolved, we investigated the effect of S1 cleavage on the structure, surface trafficking and ligand-mediated activation of human Notch1 and Notch2, as well as on ligand-independent activation of Notch1 by mutations found in human leukemia.
Principal Findings
The X-ray structure of the Notch1 NRR after furin cleavage shows little change when compared with that of an engineered Notch1 NRR lacking the S1-cleavage loop. Likewise, NMR studies of the Notch2 HD domain show that the loop containing the S1 site can be removed or cleaved without causing a substantial change in its structure. However, Notch1 and Notch2 receptors engineered to resist S1 cleavage exhibit unexpected differences in surface delivery and signaling competence: S1-resistant Notch1 receptors exhibit decreased, but detectable, surface expression and ligand-mediated receptor activation, whereas S1-resistant Notch2 receptors are fully competent for cell surface delivery and for activation by ligands. Variable dependence on S1 cleavage also extends to T-ALL-associated NRR mutations, as common class 1 mutations display variable decrements in ligand-independent activation when introduced into furin-resistant receptors, whereas a class 2 mutation exhibits increased signaling activity.
Conclusions/Significance
S1 cleavage has distinct effects on the surface expression of Notch1 and Notch2, but is not generally required for physiologic or pathophysiologic activation of Notch proteins. These findings are consistent with models for receptor activation in which ligand-binding or T-ALL-associated mutations lead to conformational changes of the NRR that permit metalloprotease cleavage.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0006613
PMCID: PMC2726630  PMID: 19701457
3.  Leukemia-associated NOTCH1 alleles are weak tumor initiators but accelerate K-ras–initiated leukemia  
The Journal of Clinical Investigation  2008;118(9):3181-3194.
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.
doi:10.1172/JCI35090
PMCID: PMC2491459  PMID: 18677410

Results 1-3 (3)