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1.  MYC, a downstream target of BRD-NUT, is necessary and sufficient for the blockade of differentiation in NUT midline carcinoma 
Oncogene  2013;33(13):1736-1742.
NUT midline carcinoma (NMC) is an aggressive type of squamous cell carcinoma that is defined by the presence of BRD-NUT fusion oncogenes, which encode chimeric proteins that block differentiation and maintain tumor growth. BRD-NUT oncoproteins contain two bromodomains whose binding to acetylated histones is required for the blockade of differentiation in NMC, but the mechanisms by which BRD-NUT act remain uncertain. Here we provide evidence that MYC is a key downstream target of BRD4-NUT. Expression profiling of NMCs show that the set of genes whose expression is maintained by BRD4-NUT is highly enriched for MYC upregulated genes, and MYC and BRD4-NUT protein expression is strongly correlated in primary NMCs. More directly, we find that BRD4-NUT associates with the MYC promoter and is required to maintain MYC expression in NMC cell lines. Moreover, both siRNA knockdown of MYC and a dominant-negative form of MYC, omomyc, induce differentiation of NMC cells. Conversely, differentiation of NMC cells induced by knockdown of BRD4-NUT is abrogated by enforced expression of MYC. Together, these findings suggest that MYC is a downstream target of BRD4-NUT that is required for maintenance of NMC cells in an undifferentiated, proliferative state. Our findings support a model in which dysregulation of MYC by BRD-NUT fusion proteins has a central role in the pathogenesis of NMC.
PMCID: PMC3942361  PMID: 23604113
BRD4; NUT; MYC; epigenetic; differentiation; fusion oncogene
2.  Vitamin C Promotes Maturation of T-Cells 
Antioxidants & Redox Signaling  2013;19(17):2054-2067.
Aims: Vitamin C (ascorbic acid) is thought to enhance immune function, but the mechanisms involved are obscure. We utilized an in vitro model of T-cell maturation to evaluate the role of ascorbic acid in lymphocyte development. Results: Ascorbic acid was essential for the developmental progression of mouse bone marrow-derived progenitor cells to functional T-lymphocytes in vitro and also played a role in vivo. Ascorbate-mediated enhancement of T-cell development was lymphoid cell-intrinsic and independent of T-cell receptor (TCR) rearrangement. Analysis of TCR rearrangements demonstrated that ascorbic acid enhanced the selection of functional TCRαβ after the stage of β-selection. Genes encoding the coreceptor CD8 as well as the kinase ZAP70 were upregulated by ascorbic acid. Pharmacologic inhibition of methylation marks on DNA and histones enhanced ascorbate-mediated differentiation, suggesting an epigenetic mechanism of Cd8 gene regulation via active demethylation by ascorbate-dependent Fe2+ and 2-oxoglutarate-dependent dioxygenases. Innovation: We speculate that one aspect of gene regulation mediated by ascorbate occurs at the level of chromatin demethylation, mediated by Jumonji C (JmjC) domain enzymes that are known to be reliant upon ascorbate as a cofactor. JmjC domain enzymes are also known to regulate transcription factor activity. These two mechanisms are likely to play key roles in the modulation of immune development and function by ascorbic acid. Conclusion: Our results provide strong experimental evidence supporting a role for ascorbic acid in T-cell maturation as well as insight into the mechanism of ascorbate-mediated enhancement of immune function. Antioxid. Redox Signal. 19, 2054–2067.
PMCID: PMC3869442  PMID: 23249337
3.  PKCθ Regulates T-Cell Leukemia-Initiating Activity via Reactive Oxygen Species 
Nature medicine  2012;18(11):1693-1698.
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.
PMCID: PMC3738873  PMID: 23086478
4.  Gauging NOTCH1 Activation in Cancer Using Immunohistochemistry 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(6):e67306.
Fixed, paraffin-embedded (FPE) tissues are a potentially rich resource for studying the role of NOTCH1 in cancer and other pathologies, but tests that reliably detect activated NOTCH1 (NICD1) in FPE samples have been lacking. Here, we bridge this gap by developing an immunohistochemical (IHC) stain that detects a neoepitope created by the proteolytic cleavage event that activates NOTCH1. Following validation using xenografted cancers and normal tissues with known patterns of NOTCH1 activation, we applied this test to tumors linked to dysregulated Notch signaling by mutational studies. As expected, frequent NICD1 staining was observed in T lymphoblastic leukemia/lymphoma, a tumor in which activating NOTCH1 mutations are common. However, when IHC was used to gauge NOTCH1 activation in other human cancers, several unexpected findings emerged. Among B cell tumors, NICD1 staining was much more frequent in chronic lymphocytic leukemia than would be predicted based on the frequency of NOTCH1 mutations, while mantle cell lymphoma and diffuse large B cell lymphoma showed no evidence of NOTCH1 activation. NICD1 was also detected in 38% of peripheral T cell lymphomas. Of interest, NICD1 staining in chronic lymphocytic leukemia cells and in angioimmunoblastic lymphoma was consistently more pronounced in lymph nodes than in surrounding soft tissues, implicating factors in the nodal microenvironment in NOTCH1 activation in these diseases. Among carcinomas, diffuse strong NICD1 staining was observed in 3.8% of cases of triple negative breast cancer (3 of 78 tumors), but was absent from 151 non-small cell lung carcinomas and 147 ovarian carcinomas. Frequent staining of normal endothelium was also observed; in line with this observation, strong NICD1 staining was also seen in 77% of angiosarcomas. These findings complement insights from genomic sequencing studies and suggest that IHC staining is a valuable experimental tool that may be useful in selection of patients for clinical trials.
PMCID: PMC3688991  PMID: 23825651
5.  High-level IGF1R expression is required for leukemia-initiating cell activity in T-ALL and is supported by Notch signaling 
The Journal of Experimental Medicine  2011;208(9):1809-1822.
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.
PMCID: PMC3171095  PMID: 21807868
6.  Development of a 2-Plex Luminex-Based Competitive Immunoassay to Quantify Neutralizing Antibodies Induced by Virus-Like Particles for Human Papillomavirus 16 and 18 
Human papillomavirus (HPV) L1 virus-like particles (VLPs) were proven an effective vaccine candidate to prevent against HPV-16 and -18 infections. In order to evaluate the potency of our produced HPV-16 and -18 L1 VLPs-based vaccine candidates, also to quantify neutralizing antibodies induced by them, a 2-plex Luminex-based competitive immunoassay was developed. Unlike the published paper, the no-biotin conjugated neutralizing mAbs spiked normal human serum (NHS) was used for standard curve preparation, while phycoerythrin (PE) was not labeled directly to neutralizing mAbs for signaling. After the coupling optimization of VLPs to microspheres and the neutralizing mAbs biotinylation, the 2-plex standard curve was prepared with good fit and high dynamic range. In addition, no cross-reactivity was also confirmed. The 2-plex Luminex-based immunoassay represents good potential not only for vaccine candidate's evaluation but also for its further clinical use.
PMCID: PMC3144720  PMID: 21808597
7.  Characterization of Notch1 Antibodies That Inhibit Signaling of Both Normal and Mutated Notch1 Receptors 
PLoS ONE  2010;5(2):e9094.
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.
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.
PMCID: PMC2817004  PMID: 20161710
8.  Distinct roles of IL-7 and stem cell factor in the OP9-DL1 T cell differentiation culture system 
Experimental hematology  2006;34(12):1730-1740.
The OP9-DL1 culture system is an in vitro model for T cell development in which activation of the Notch pathway by Delta-like 1 promotes differentiation of mature T cells from progenitors. The roles of specific cytokines in this culture system have not been well defined, and controversy regarding the role of IL7 has recently emerged. We examined the roles played by IL7, Flt3 ligand, and stem cell factor (SCF) in differentiation of adult bone marrow cells in the OP9-DL1 culture system.
Hematopoietic progenitor cells isolated from mouse bone marrow were cultured with OP9 or OP9-DL1 stromal cells and evaluated for T and B lymphocyte differentiation using immunofluorescent staining.
IL-7 provided both survival/proliferation and differentiation signals in a dose-dependent manner. T cell development from the CD4/CD8 double negative (DN) stage to the CD4/CD8 double positive (DP) stage required IL-7 provided by the stromal cells, while differentiation from the DP to the CD8 single positive (SP) stage required addition of exogenous IL-7. SCF favored the proliferation of DN lymphoid progenitors and inhibited differentiation to the DP stage in a dose-dependent manner. Conversely, blocking the function of SCF expressed endogenously by OP9-DL1 cells inhibited proliferation of lymphoid progenitors and accelerated T lineage differentiation. Flt3 ligand promoted proliferation without affecting differentiation.
These results validate the OP9-DL1 model for the analysis of T cell development from bone marrow-derived progenitor cells, and demonstrate specific roles of SCF, IL-7, and Flt3L in promoting efficient T lineage differentiation.
PMCID: PMC1762031  PMID: 17157170

Results 1-8 (8)