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1.  Endotrophin triggers adipose tissue fibrosis and metabolic dysfunction 
Nature communications  2014;5:3485.
We recently identified endotrophin as an adipokine with potent tumour-promoting effects. However, the direct effects of local accumulation of endotrophin in adipose tissue have not yet been studied. Here we use a doxycycline-inducible adipocyte-specific endotrophin overexpression model to demonstrate that endotrophin plays a pivotal role in shaping a metabolically unfavourable microenvironment in adipose tissue during consumption of a high-fat diet (HFD). Endotrophin serves as a powerful co-stimulator of pathologically relevant pathways within the ‘unhealthy’ adipose tissue milieu, triggering fibrosis and inflammation and ultimately leading to enhanced insulin resistance. We further demonstrate that blocking endotrophin with a neutralizing antibody ameliorates metabolically adverse effects and effectively reverses metabolic dysfunction induced during HFD exposure. Collectively, our findings demonstrate that endotrophin exerts a major influence in adipose tissue, eventually resulting in systemic elevation of pro-inflammatory cytokines and insulin resistance, and the results establish endotrophin as a potential target in the context of metabolism and cancer.
PMCID: PMC4076823  PMID: 24647224
2.  Regulation of ERBB3/HER3 signaling in cancer 
Oncotarget  2014;5(21):10222-10236.
ERBB3/HER3 is emerging as a molecular target for various cancers. HER3 is overexpressed and activated in a number of cancer types under the conditions of acquired resistance to other HER family therapeutic interventions such as tyrosine kinase inhibitors and antibody therapies. Regulation of the HER3 expression and signaling involves numerous HER3 interacting proteins. These proteins include PI3K, Shc, and E3 ubiquitin ligases NEDD4 and Nrdp1. Furthermore, recent identification of a number of HER3 oncogenic mutations in colon and gastric cancers elucidate the role of HER3 in cancer development. Despite the strong evidence regarding the role of HER3 in cancer, the current understanding of the regulation of HER3 expression and activation requires additional research. Moreover, the lack of biomarkers for HER3-driven cancer poses a big challenge for the clinical development of HER3 targeting antibodies. Therefore, a better understanding of HER3 regulation should improve the strategies to therapeutically target HER3 for cancer therapy.
PMCID: PMC4279368  PMID: 25400118
HER3; NEDD4; Biomarkers; Monoclonal antibodies; Molecular therapeutics
3.  Engagement of immune effector cells by trastuzumab induces HER2/ERBB2 downregulation in cancer cells through STAT1 activation 
Trastuzumab has been widely used for the treatment of human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (HER2) overexpressing breast cancer for more than a decade. However, reports on the involvement of HER2 downregulation in trastuzumab’s mechanism of action are inconsistent. The aim of this study is to investigate if the dependence of trastuzumab-mediated cancer cell HER2 downregulation on immune effector cells represents a novel mechanism of action for trastuzumab.
HER2 expression was evaluated by Western blotting, flow cytometry, and real-time polymerase chain reaction (PCR) in cell lysates from co-cultures of multiple cancer cell lines with peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) in the presence or absence of trastuzumab. The engagement of immune cells by trastuzumab through Fc gamma receptors (FcγRs) was tested using three trastuzumab variants with compromised or no Fc (fragment crystallizable) functions and FcγRs blocking experiments. The engagement of immune cells by trastuzumab in HER2 downregulation was also evaluated in in vivo mouse xenograft tumor models.
HER2 downregulation of cancer cells by trastuzumab occurred only when trastuzumab was actively engaged with immune cells and cancer cells, as demonstrated consistently in co-cultures of cancer cell lines with PBMCs and in vivo mouse xenograft tumor models. We further demonstrated that HER2 downregulation in cancer cells by immune-cell-engaged trastuzumab was at the transcriptional level, not through the HER2 degradation pathway. Activation of signal transducer and activator of transcription 1 (STAT1) in cancer cells by the increased interferon gamma (IFN-γ) production in immune cells played an important role in downregulating HER2 in cancer cells upon engagement of immune cells by trastuzumab. Furthermore, HER2 downregulation in cancer cells induced by trastuzumab engagement of immune cells was correlated with the antibody’s antitumor efficacy in vivo.
This study reveals that engagement of immune effector cells by trastuzumab induces HER2 downregulation in HER2-expressing cancer cells, which represents a new function of immune cells in trastuzumab-mediated antitumor efficacy and serves as a novel mechanism of action for trastuzumab. Our results imply that HER2 downregulation in cancer cells treated by trastuzumab may predict active engagement of immune effector cells in tumor microenvironment.
PMCID: PMC4053225  PMID: 24693969
4.  A single proteolytic cleavage within the lower hinge of trastuzumab reduces immune effector function and in vivo efficacy 
Breast Cancer Research : BCR  2012;14(4):R116.
Recent studies reported that human IgG antibodies are susceptible to specific proteolytic cleavage in their lower hinge region, and the hinge cleavage results in a loss of Fc-mediated effector functions. Trastuzumab is a humanized IgG1 therapeutic monoclonal antibody for the treatment of HER2-overexpressing breast cancers, and its mechanisms of action consist of inhibition of HER2 signaling and Fc-mediated antibody-dependent cellular cytotoxicity (ADCC). The objective of this study is to investigate the potential effect of proteinase hinge cleavage on the efficacy of trastuzumab using both a breast cancer cell culture method and an in vivo mouse xenograft tumor model.
Trastuzumab antibody was incubated with a panel of human matrix metalloproteinases, and proteolytic cleavage in the lower hinge region was detected using both western blotting and mass spectrometry. Single hinge cleaved trastuzumab (scIgG-T) was purified and evaluated for its ability to mediate ADCC and inhibition of breast cancer cell proliferation in vitro as well as anti-tumor efficacy in the mouse xenograft tumor model. Infiltrated immune cells were detected in tumor tissues by immunohistochemistry.
scIgG-T retains HER2 antigen binding activity and inhibits HER2-mediated downstream signaling and cell proliferation in vitro when compared with the intact trastuzumab. However, scIgG-T lost Fc-mediated ADCC activity in vitro, and had significantly reduced anti-tumor efficacy in a mouse xenograft tumor model. Immunohistochemistry showed reduced immune cell infiltration in tumor tissues treated with scIgG-T when compared with those treated with the intact trastuzumab, which is consistent with the decreased ADCC mediated by scIgG-T in vitro.
Trastuzumab can be cleaved by matrix metalloproteinases within the lower hinge. scIgG-T exhibited a significantly reduced anti-tumor efficacy in vivo due to the weakened immune effector function such as ADCC. The results suggest that the lower hinge cleavage of trastuzumab can occur in the tumor microenvironment where matrix metalloproteinases often have high levels of expression and scIgG-T might compromise its anti-tumor efficacy in the clinic. However, further studies are needed to validate these hypotheses in the clinical setting.
PMCID: PMC3680949  PMID: 22873525
5.  ERBB3 (HER3) is a key sensor in the regulation of ERBB-mediated signaling in both low and high ERBB2 (HER2) expressing cancer cells 
Cancer Medicine  2012;1(1):28-38.
Aberrant expression and activation of EGFR and ERBB2 (HER2) have been successfully targeted for cancer therapeutics. Recent evidence from both basic and clinical studies suggests that ERBB3 (HER3) serves as a key activator of downstream signaling through dimerization with other ERBB proteins and plays a critical role in the widespread clinical resistance to EGFR and HER2 targeting cancer therapies. As a result, HER3 is actively pursued as an antibody therapeutic target for cancer. Ligand binding is thought to be a prerequisite for dimerization of HER3 with other ERBB proteins, which results in phosphorylation of its c-terminal tyrosine residues and activation of downstream AKT and MAPK signaling pathways. In this study, we report that an anti-HER2 monoclonal antibody (HER2Mab), which blocks HER2 dimerization with HER3, induces HER3 dimerization with EGFR in both low and high HER2 expressing cancer cells. Treatment of the low HER2 expressing MCF7 cancer cells with HER2Mab promoted cell proliferation and migration in the absence of HER3 ligand stimulation. Follow-up studies revealed that HER2Mab-induced HER3 signaling via EGFR/HER3 dimerization and activation of downstream AKT signaling pathways. These results suggest that equilibrium of dimerization among the ERBB proteins can be perturbed by HER2Mab and HER3 plays a key role in sensing the perturbation.
PMCID: PMC3544427  PMID: 23342251
Anti-HER2 antibody; EGFR; ERBB2/HER2; ERBB3/HER3; MCF7; signaling
6.  Glycoengineered Pichia produced anti-HER2 is comparable to trastuzumab in preclinical study 
mAbs  2011;3(3):289-298.
Mammalian cell culture systems are used predominantly for the production of therapeutic monoclonal antibody (mAb) products. A number of alternative platforms, such as Pichia engineered with a humanized N-linked glycosylation pathway, have recently been developed for the production of mAbs. The glycosylation profiles of mAbs produced in glycoengineered Pichia are similar to those of mAbs produced in mammalian systems. This report presents for the first time the comprehensive characterization of an anti-human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (HER2) mAb produced in glycoengineered Pichia, and a study comparing the anti-HER2 from Pichia, which had an amino acid sequence identical to trastuzumab, with trastuzumab. The comparative study covered a full spectrum of preclinical evaluation, including bioanalytical characterization, in vitro biological functions, in vivo anti-tumor efficacy and pharmacokinetics in both mice and non-human primates. Cell signaling and proliferation assays showed that anti-HER2 from Pichia had antagonist activities comparable to trastuzumab. However, Pichia-produced material showed a 5-fold increase in binding affinity to FcγIIIA and significantly enhanced antibody dependent cell-mediated cytotoxicity (ADCC) activity, presumably due to the lack of fucose on N-glycans. In a breast cancer xenograft mouse model, anti-HER2 was comparable to trastuzumab in tumor growth inhibition. Furthermore, comparable pharmacokinetic profiles were observed for anti-HER2 and trastuzumab in both mice and cynomolgus monkeys. We conclude that glycoengineered Pichia provides an alternative production platform for therapeutic mAbs and may be of particular interest for production of antibodies for which ADCC is part of the clinical mechanism of action.
PMCID: PMC3149709  PMID: 21487242
glycoengineered Pichia; anti-HER2; trastuzumab; xenograft; PK; ADCC
7.  Distinct expression profiles of Notch-1 protein in human solid tumors: Implications for development of targeted therapeutic monoclonal antibodies 
Biological therapies, such as monoclonal antibodies (mAbs) that target tumor-associated antigens have been considered an effective therapeutic approach in oncology. In considering Notch-1 receptor as a potential target, we performed immunohistochemistry on tissue microarrays to determine 1) whether the receptor is overexpressed in tumor cells as compared to their corresponding normal tissues and 2) the clinical significance of its expression levels in human breast, colorectal, lung and prostate cancers. We found that the expression of Notch-1 protein was overexpressed in primary colorectal adenocarcinoma and nonsmall cell lung carcinoma (NSCLC), but not in primary ductal breast carcinoma or prostate adenocarcinoma. Further analysis revealed that higher levels of Notch-1 protein expression were significantly associated with poorer differentiation of breast and prostate tumors. Strikingly, for NSCLC, the expression levels of Notch-1 protein were found to be inversely correlated with tumor differentiation and progression. For colorectal tumors, however, no correlation of Notch-1 protein expression was found with any tumor clinicopathological parameters, in spite of its overexpression in tumor cells. Our data demonstrated the complexity of Notch-1 protein expression in human solid tumors and further supported the notion that the roles of Notch-1 expression in tumorigenesis are highly context-dependent. The findings could provide the basis for development of distinct therapeutic strategies of Notch-1 mAbs for its applications in the treatment of suitable types of human cancers.
PMCID: PMC2898104  PMID: 20631820
Notch-1; target therapy; tissue microarray; immunohistochemistry
8.  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

Results 1-8 (8)