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1.  Progesterone receptor membrane component 1 deficiency attenuates growth while promoting chemosensitivity of human endometrial xenograft tumors 
Cancer letters  2014;356(2 0 0):434-442.
Endometrial cancer is the leading gynecologic cancer in women in the United States with 52,630 women predicted to be diagnosed with the disease in 2014. The objective of this study was to determine if progesterone (P4) receptor membrane component 1 (PGRMC1) influenced endometrial cancer cell viability in response to chemotherapy in vitro and in vivo. A Jentiviral-based shRNA knockdown approach was used to generate stable PGRMC1-intact and PGRMC1-deplete Ishikawa endometrial cancer cell lines that also lacked expression of the classical progesterone receptor (PGR). Progesterone treatment inhibited mitosis of PGRMC1-intact, but not PGRMC1-deplete cells, suggesting that PGRMC1 mediates the anti-mitotic actions of P4.To test the hypothesis that PGRMC1 attenuates chemotherapy-induced apoptosis, PGRMC1-intact and PGRMC1-deplete cells were treated in vitro with vehicle, P4 (1 μM), doxorubicin (Dox. 2 μg/ml). or P4 + Dox for 48 h. Doxorubicin treatment of PGRMC1-intact cells resulted in a significant increase in cell death; however, co-treatment with P4 significantly attenuated Dex-induced cell death. This response to P4 was lost in PGRMC1-deplete cells. To extend these observations in vivo, a xenograft model was employed where PGRMC1-intact and PGRMC1-deplete endometrial tumors were generated following subcutaneous and intraperitonea l inoculation of immunocompromised NOD/SCIO and nude mice, respectively. Tumors derived from PGRMC1-deplete cells grew slower than tumors from PGRMC1-intact cells. Mice harboring endometrial tumors were then given three treatments of vehicle (1:1 cremophor EL: ethanol + 0.9% saline) or chemotherapy [Paclitaxel (15 mg/kg, i.p.) followed after an interval of 30 minutes by CARBOplatin (SO mg/kg)] at five day intervals. In response to chemotherapy, tumor volume decreased approximately four-fold more in PGRMC1-deplete tumors when compared with PGRMC1 intact control tumors, suggesting that PGRMC1 promotes tumor cell viability during chemotherapeutic stress. In sum, these in vitro and in vivo findings demonstrate that PGRMC1 plays a prominent role in the growth and chemoresistance of human endometrial tumors.
PMCID: PMC4259802  PMID: 25304370
Cancer; Chemotherapy; Endometrial; PGRMC1; Progesterone; Xenograft
2.  A microfluidic device for label-free, physical capture of circulating tumor cell-clusters 
Nature methods  2015;12(7):685-691.
Cancer cells metastasize through the bloodstream either as single migratory circulating tumor cells (CTCs) or as multicellular groupings (CTC-clusters). Existing technologies for CTC enrichment are designed primarily to isolate single CTCs, and while CTC-clusters are detectable in some cases, their true prevalence and significance remain to be determined. Here, we developed a microchip technology (Cluster-Chip) specifically designed to capture CTC-clusters independent of tumor-specific markers from unprocessed blood. CTC-clusters are isolated through specialized bifurcating traps under low shear-stress conditions that preserve their integrity and even two-cell clusters are captured efficiently. Using the Cluster-Chip, we identify CTC-clusters in 30–40% of patients with metastatic cancers of the breast, prostate and melanoma. RNA sequencing of CTC-clusters confirms their tumor origin and identifies leukocytes within the clusters as tissue-derived macrophages. Together, the development of a device for efficient capture of CTC-clusters will enable detailed characterization of their biological properties and role in cancer metastasis.
PMCID: PMC4490017  PMID: 25984697
3.  Single-Cell RNA Sequencing Identifies Extracellular Matrix Gene Expression by Pancreatic Circulating Tumor Cells 
Cell reports  2014;8(6):1905-1918.
Circulating tumor cells (CTCs) are shed from primary tumors into the bloodstream, mediating the hematogenous spread of cancer to distant organs. To define their composition, we compared genome-wide expression profiles of CTCs with matched primary tumors in a mouse model of pancreatic cancer, isolating individual CTCs using epitope-independent microfluidic capture, followed by single-cell RNA sequencing. CTCs clustered separately from primary tumors and tumor-derived cell lines, showing low-proliferative signatures, enrichment for the stem-cell-associated gene Aldh1a2, biphenotypic expression of epithelial and mesenchymal markers, and expression of Igfbp5, a gene transcript enriched at the epithelial-stromal interface. Mouse as well as human pancreatic CTCs exhibit a very high expression of stromal-derived extracellular matrix (ECM) proteins, including SPARC, whose knockdown in cancer cells suppresses cell migration and invasiveness. The aberrant expression by CTCs of stromal ECM genes points to their contribution of microenvironmental signals for the spread of cancer to distant organs.
PMCID: PMC4230325  PMID: 25242334
4.  Circulating Tumor Cell Clusters are Oligoclonal Precursors of Breast Cancer Metastasis 
Cell  2014;158(5):1110-1122.
Clusters of circulating tumor cells (CTC-clusters) are present in the blood of patients with cancer but their contribution to metastasis is not well defined. Using mouse models with tagged mammary tumors, we demonstrate that CTC-clusters arise from oligoclonal tumor cell groupings and not from intravascular aggregation events. Although rare in the circulation compared with single CTCs, CTC-clusters have 23-50-fold increased metastatic potential. In patients with breast cancer, single-cell resolution RNA sequencing of CTC-clusters and single CTCs, matched within individual blood samples, identifies the cell junction component plakoglobin as highly differentially expressed. In mouse models, knockdown of plakoglobin abrogates CTC-cluster formation and suppresses lung metastases. In breast cancer patients, both abundance of CTC-clusters and high tumor plakoglobin levels denote adverse outcomes. Thus, CTC-clusters are derived from multicellular groupings of primary tumor cells held together through plakoglobin-dependent intercellular adhesion, and while rare, they greatly contribute to the metastatic spread of cancer.
PMCID: PMC4149753  PMID: 25171411
5.  RB Loss in Resistant EGFR Mutant Lung Adenocarcinomas that Transform to Small Cell Lung Cancer 
Nature communications  2015;6:6377.
Tyrosine kinase inhibitors (TKIs) are effective treatments for non-small cell lung cancers (NSCLCs) with epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) mutations. However, relapse typically occurs after an average of one year of continuous treatment. A fundamental histological transformation from NSCLC to small cell lung cancer (SCLC) is observed in a subset of the resistant cancers, but the molecular changes associated with this transformation remain unknown. Analysis of tumor samples and cell lines derived from resistant EGFR mutant patients revealed that RB is lost in 100% of these SCLC transformed cases, but rarely in those that remain NSCLC. Further, increased neuroendocrine marker and decreased EGFR expression as well as greater sensitivity to BCL2 family inhibition are observed in resistant SCLC transformed cancers compared to resistant NSCLCs. Together, these findings suggest that this subset of resistant cancers ultimately adopt many of the molecular and phenotypic characteristics of classical SCLC.
PMCID: PMC4357281  PMID: 25758528
6.  RB loss in resistant EGFR mutant lung adenocarcinomas that transform to small-cell lung cancer 
Nature Communications  2015;6:6377.
Tyrosine kinase inhibitors are effective treatments for non-small-cell lung cancers (NSCLCs) with epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) mutations. However, relapse typically occurs after an average of 1 year of continuous treatment. A fundamental histological transformation from NSCLC to small-cell lung cancer (SCLC) is observed in a subset of the resistant cancers, but the molecular changes associated with this transformation remain unknown. Analysis of tumour samples and cell lines derived from resistant EGFR mutant patients revealed that Retinoblastoma (RB) is lost in 100% of these SCLC transformed cases, but rarely in those that remain NSCLC. Further, increased neuroendocrine marker and decreased EGFR expression as well as greater sensitivity to BCL2 family inhibition are observed in resistant SCLC transformed cancers compared with resistant NSCLCs. Together, these findings suggest that this subset of resistant cancers ultimately adopt many of the molecular and phenotypic characteristics of classical SCLC.
Resistance to tyrosine kinase inhibitors occurs in treatments of non-small-cell lung cancers (NSCLCs) with EGFR mutations but the mechanisms underlying this acquired resistance are unknown. Here the authors examine the molecular changes that occur in resistant cancers that transition from NSCLC to small-cell lung cancer phenotype and implicate loss of retinoblastoma in this process.
PMCID: PMC4357281  PMID: 25758528
7.  Dominant effects of the Huntington's disease HTT CAG repeat length are captured in gene-expression data sets by a continuous analysis mathematical modeling strategy 
Human Molecular Genetics  2013;22(16):3227-3238.
In Huntington's disease (HD), the size of the expanded HTT CAG repeat mutation is the primary driver of the processes that determine age at onset of motor symptoms. However, correlation of cellular biochemical parameters also extends across the normal repeat range, supporting the view that the CAG repeat represents a functional polymorphism with dominant effects determined by the longer allele. A central challenge to defining the functional consequences of this single polymorphism is the difficulty of distinguishing its subtle effects from the multitude of other sources of biological variation. We demonstrate that an analytical approach based upon continuous correlation with CAG size was able to capture the modest (∼21%) contribution of the repeat to the variation in genome-wide gene expression in 107 lymphoblastoid cell lines, with alleles ranging from 15 to 92 CAGs. Furthermore, a mathematical model from an iterative strategy yielded predicted CAG repeat lengths that were significantly positively correlated with true CAG allele size and negatively correlated with age at onset of motor symptoms. Genes negatively correlated with repeat size were also enriched in a set of genes whose expression were CAG-correlated in human HD cerebellum. These findings both reveal the relatively small, but detectable impact of variation in the CAG allele in global data in these peripheral cells and provide a strategy for building multi-dimensional data-driven models of the biological network that drives the HD disease process by continuous analysis across allelic panels of neuronal cells vulnerable to the dominant effects of the HTT CAG repeat.
PMCID: PMC3723309  PMID: 23595883
8.  Prenatal Exposure to BPA Alters the Epigenome of the Rat Mammary Gland and Increases the Propensity to Neoplastic Development 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(7):e99800.
Exposure to environmental estrogens (xenoestrogens) may play a causal role in the increased breast cancer incidence which has been observed in Europe and the US over the last 50 years. The xenoestrogen bisphenol A (BPA) leaches from plastic food/beverage containers and dental materials. Fetal exposure to BPA induces preneoplastic and neoplastic lesions in the adult rat mammary gland. Previous results suggest that BPA acts through the estrogen receptors which are detected exclusively in the mesenchyme during the exposure period by directly altering gene expression, leading to alterations of the reciprocal interactions between mesenchyme and epithelium. This initiates a long sequence of altered morphogenetic events leading to neoplastic transformation. Additionally, BPA induces epigenetic changes in some tissues. To explore this mechanism in the mammary gland, Wistar-Furth rats were exposed subcutaneously via osmotic pumps to vehicle or 250 µg BPA/kg BW/day, a dose that induced ductal carcinomas in situ. Females exposed from gestational day 9 to postnatal day (PND) 1 were sacrificed at PND4, PND21 and at first estrus after PND50. Genomic DNA (gDNA) was isolated from the mammary tissue and immuno-precipitated using anti-5-methylcytosine antibodies. Detection and quantification of gDNA methylation status using the Nimblegen ChIP array revealed 7412 differentially methylated gDNA segments (out of 58207 segments), with the majority of changes occurring at PND21. Transcriptomal analysis revealed that the majority of gene expression differences between BPA- and vehicle-treated animals were observed later (PND50). BPA exposure resulted in higher levels of pro-activation histone H3K4 trimethylation at the transcriptional initiation site of the alpha-lactalbumin gene at PND4, concomitantly enhancing mRNA expression of this gene. These results show that fetal BPA exposure triggers changes in the postnatal and adult mammary gland epigenome and alters gene expression patterns. These events may contribute to the development of pre-neoplastic and neoplastic lesions that manifest during adulthood.
PMCID: PMC4079328  PMID: 24988533
9.  Regulatory Decisions on Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals Should be Based on the Principles of Endocrinology 
For years, scientists from various disciplines have studied the effects of endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) on the health and wellbeing of humans and wildlife. Some studies have specifically focused on the effects of low doses, i.e. those in the range that are thought to be safe for humans and/or animals. Others have focused on the existence of non-monotonic dose-response curves. These concepts challenge the way that chemical risk assessment is performed for EDCs. Continued discussions have clarified exactly what controversies and challenges remain. We address several of these issues, including why the study and regulation of EDCs should incorporate endocrine principles; what level of consensus there is for low dose effects; challenges to our understanding of non-monotonicity; and whether EDCs have been demonstrated to produce adverse effects. This discussion should result in a better understanding of these issues, and allow for additional dialogue on their impact on risk assessment.
PMCID: PMC3902067  PMID: 23411111
weight of evidence; organizational; adaptive effect; hormesis; human exposure; epidemiology; flare
10.  HD CAGnome: A Search Tool for Huntingtin CAG Repeat Length-Correlated Genes 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(4):e95556.
The length of the huntingtin (HTT) CAG repeat is strongly correlated with both age at onset of Huntington’s disease (HD) symptoms and age at death of HD patients. Dichotomous analysis comparing HD to controls is widely used to study the effects of HTT CAG repeat expansion. However, a potentially more powerful approach is a continuous analysis strategy that takes advantage of all of the different CAG lengths, to capture effects that are expected to be critical to HD pathogenesis.
Methodology/Principal Findings
We used continuous and dichotomous approaches to analyze microarray gene expression data from 107 human control and HD lymphoblastoid cell lines. Of all probes found to be significant in a continuous analysis by CAG length, only 21.4% were so identified by a dichotomous comparison of HD versus controls. Moreover, of probes significant by dichotomous analysis, only 33.2% were also significant in the continuous analysis. Simulations revealed that the dichotomous approach would require substantially more than 107 samples to either detect 80% of the CAG-length correlated changes revealed by continuous analysis or to reduce the rate of significant differences that are not CAG length-correlated to 20% (n = 133 or n = 206, respectively). Given the superior power of the continuous approach, we calculated the correlation structure between HTT CAG repeat lengths and gene expression levels and created a freely available searchable website, “HD CAGnome,” that allows users to examine continuous relationships between HTT CAG and expression levels of ∼20,000 human genes.
Our results reveal limitations of dichotomous approaches compared to the power of continuous analysis to study a disease where human genotype-phenotype relationships strongly support a role for a continuum of CAG length-dependent changes. The compendium of HTT CAG length-gene expression level relationships found at the HD CAGnome now provides convenient routes for discovery of candidates influenced by the HD mutation.
PMCID: PMC3994101  PMID: 24751919
11.  Aberrant silencing of imprinted genes on chromosome 12qF1 in mouse induced pluripotent stem cells 
Nature  2010;465(7295):175-181.
Induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) have been generated by enforced expression of defined sets of transcription factors in somatic cells. It remains controversial whether iPSCs are molecularly and functionally equivalent to blastocyst-derived embryonic stem cells (ESCs). By comparing genetically identical mouse ESCs and iPSCs, we show here that the overall mRNA and miRNA expression patterns of these cell types are indistinguishable with the exception of a few transcripts and miRNAs encoded on chromosome 12qF1. Specifically, maternally expressed imprinted genes in the Dlk1-Dio3 cluster including Gtl2, Rian and Mirg as well as a larger number of miRNAs encoded within this region were aberrantly silenced in the majority of iPSC clones, irrespective of their cell type of origin. Consistent with a developmental role of the Dlk1-Dio3 gene cluster, iPSC clones with repressed Gtl2 contributed poorly to chimeras and failed to support the development of entirely iPSC-derived animals (“all-iPSC mice”). In contrast, iPSC clones with normal expression levels of these genes contributed to high-grade chimeras and generated viable all-iPSC mice. Importantly, treatment of an iPSC clone that had silenced Dlk1-Dio3 and failed to give rise to all-iPSC animals with a histone deacetylase inhibitor reactivated the locus and rescued its ability to support full-term development of exclusively iPSC-derived mice. Thus, the expression state of a single imprinted gene cluster distinguishes most murine iPSCs from ESCs and allows for the prospective identification of iPSC clones that have the full development potential of ESCs.
PMCID: PMC3987905  PMID: 20418860
12.  Synthetic Lethal Interaction of Combined BCL-XL and MEK Inhibition Promotes Tumor Regressions in KRAS Mutant Cancer Models 
Cancer cell  2012;23(1):121-128.
KRAS is the most commonly mutated oncogene, yet no effective targeted therapies exist for KRAS mutant cancers. We developed a pooled shRNA-drug screen strategy to identify genes that, when inhibited, cooperate with MEK inhibitors to effectively treat KRAS mutant cancer cells. The anti-apoptotic BH3 family gene BCL-XL emerged as a top hit through this approach. ABT-263 (navitoclax), a chemical inhibitor that blocks the ability of BCL-XL to bind and inhibit pro-apoptotic proteins, in combination with a MEK inhibitor led to dramatic apoptosis in many KRAS mutant cell lines from different tissue types. This combination caused marked in vivo tumor regressions in KRAS mutant xenografts and in a genetically engineered KRAS-driven lung cancer mouse model, supporting combined BCL-XL/MEK inhibition as a potential therapeutic approach for KRAS mutant cancers.
PMCID: PMC3667614  PMID: 23245996
13.  MicroRNA-33 and the SREBP Host Genes Cooperate to Control Cholesterol Homeostasis 
Science (New York, N.Y.)  2010;328(5985):10.1126/science.1189123.
Proper coordination of cholesterol biosynthesis and trafficking is essential to human health. The sterol regulatory element binding proteins (SREBPs) are key transcription regulators of genes involved in cholesterol biosynthesis/uptake. We show here that microRNAs (miR-33a/b) embedded within introns of the SREBP genes target the ATP-binding cassette transporter A1 (ABCA1), an important regulator of high-density lipoprotein (HDL) synthesis and reverse cholesterol transport, for post-transcriptional repression. Antisense inhibition of miR-33 in cell lines causes upregulation of ABCA1 expression and increased cholesterol efflux, and injection of mice on a western-type diet with locked nucleic acid (LNA)-antisense oligonucleotides results in elevated plasma HDL. Collectively, our findings indicate that miR-33 acts in concert with the SREBP host genes to control cholesterol homeostasis, and suggest that miR-33 may represent a therapeutic target for ameliorating cardiometabolic diseases.
PMCID: PMC3840500  PMID: 20466882
14.  Masculine Epigenetic Sex Marks of the CYP19A1/Aromatase Promoter in Genetically Male Chicken Embryonic Gonads Are Resistant to Estrogen-Induced Phenotypic Sex Conversion1 
Biology of Reproduction  2012;87(1):23.
Sex of birds is genetically determined through inheritance of the ZW sex chromosomes (ZZ males and ZW females). Although the mechanisms of avian sex determination remains unknown, the genetic sex is experimentally reversible by in ovo exposure to exogenous estrogens (ZZ-male feminization) or aromatase inhibitors (ZW-female masculinization). Expression of various testis- and ovary-specific marker genes during the normal and reversed gonadal sex differentiation in chicken embryos has been extensively studied, but the roles of sex-specific epigenetic marks in sex differentiation are unknown. In this study, we show that a 170-nt region in the promoter of CYP19A1/aromatase, a key gene required for ovarian estrogen biosynthesis and feminization of chicken embryonic gonads, contains highly quantitative, nucleotide base-level epigenetic marks that reflect phenotypic gonadal sex differentiation. We developed a protocol to feminize ZZ-male chicken embryonic gonads in a highly quantitative manner by direct injection of emulsified ethynylestradiol into yolk at various developmental stages. Taking advantage of this experimental sex reversal model, we show that the epigenetic sex marks in the CYP19A1/aromatase promoter involving DNA methylation and histone lysine methylation are feminized significantly but only partially in sex-converted gonads even when morphological and transcriptional marks of sex differentiation show complete feminization, being indistinguishable from gonads of normal ZW females. Our study suggests that the epigenetic sex of chicken embryonic gonads is more stable than the morphologically or transcriptionally characterized sex differentiation, suggesting the importance of the nucleotide base-level epigenetic sex in gonadal sex differentiation.
Quantitative epigenetic marks in the CYP19A1/aromatase promoter in male chicken embryonic gonads reveal that epigenetic sex is more resistant to estrogen-induced sex reversal than morphological or transcriptional sex factors.
PMCID: PMC3406558  PMID: 22539680
embryo; endocrine disruptors; epigenetics; gene regulation; sex determination
15.  Low-Dose BPA Exposure Alters the Mesenchymal and Epithelial Transcriptomes of the Mouse Fetal Mammary Gland 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(5):e63902.
Exposure of rodent fetuses to low doses of the endocrine disruptor bisphenol A (BPA) causes subtle morphological changes in the prenatal mammary gland and results in pre-cancerous and cancerous lesions during adulthood. To examine whether the BPA-induced morphological alterations of the fetal mouse mammary glands are a) associated with changes in mRNA expression reflecting estrogenic actions and/or b) dependent on the estrogen receptor α (ERα), we compared the transcriptomal effects of BPA and the steroidal estrogen ethinylestradiol (EE2) on fetal mammary tissues of wild type and ERα knock-out mice. Mammary glands from fetuses of dams exposed to vehicle, 250 ng BPA/kg BW/d or 10 ng EE2/kg BW/d from embryonic day (E) 8 were harvested at E19. Transcriptomal analyses on the ductal epithelium and periductal stroma revealed altered expression of genes involved in the focal adhesion and adipogenesis pathways in the BPA-exposed stroma while genes regulating the apoptosis pathway changed their expression in the BPA-exposed epithelium. These changes in gene expression correlated with previously reported histological changes in matrix organization, adipogenesis, and lumen formation resulting in enhanced maturation of the fat-pad and delayed lumen formation in the epithelium of BPA-exposed fetal mammary glands. Overall similarities in the transcriptomal effects of BPA and EE2 were more pronounced in the epithelium, than in the stroma. In addition, the effects of BPA and EE2 on the expression of various genes involved in mammary stromal-epithelial interactions were suppressed in the absence of ERα. These observations support a model whereby BPA and EE2 act directly on the stroma, which expresses ERα, ERβ and GPR30 in fetal mammary glands, and that the stroma, in turn, affects gene expression in the epithelium, where ERα and ERβ are below the level of detection at this stage of development.
PMCID: PMC3660582  PMID: 23704952
16.  Fulvestrant-Induced Cell Death and Proteasomal Degradation of Estrogen Receptor α Protein in MCF-7 Cells Require the CSK c-Src Tyrosine Kinase 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(4):e60889.
Fulvestrant is a representative pure antiestrogen and a Selective Estrogen Receptor Down-regulator (SERD). In contrast to the Selective Estrogen Receptor Modulators (SERMs) such as 4-hydroxytamoxifen that bind to estrogen receptor α (ERα) as antagonists or partial agonists, fulvestrant causes proteasomal degradation of ERα protein, shutting down the estrogen signaling to induce proliferation arrest and apoptosis of estrogen-dependent breast cancer cells. We performed genome-wide RNAi knockdown screenings for protein kinases required for fulvestrant-induced apoptosis of the MCF-7 estrogen-dependent human breast caner cells and identified the c-Src tyrosine kinase (CSK), a negative regulator of the oncoprotein c-Src and related protein tyrosine kinases, as one of the necessary molecules. Whereas RNAi knockdown of CSK in MCF-7 cells by shRNA-expressing lentiviruses strongly suppressed fulvestrant-induced cell death, CSK knockdown did not affect cytocidal actions of 4-hydroxytamoxifen or paclitaxel, a chemotherapeutic agent. In the absence of CSK, fulvestrant-induced proteasomal degradation of ERα protein was suppressed in both MCF-7 and T47D estrogen-dependent breast cancer cells whereas the TP53-mutated T47D cells were resistant to the cytocidal action of fulvestrant in the presence or absence of CSK. MCF-7 cell sensitivities to fulvestrant-induced cell death or ERα protein degradation was not affected by small-molecular-weight inhibitors of the tyrosine kinase activity of c-Src, suggesting possible involvement of other signaling molecules in CSK-dependent MCF-7 cell death induced by fulvestrant. Our observations suggest the importance of CSK in the determination of cellular sensitivity to the cytocidal action of fulvestrant.
PMCID: PMC3617152  PMID: 23593342
17.  Ascorbic acid prevents loss of Dlk1-Dio3 imprinting and facilitates generation of all-iPS cell mice from terminally differentiated B cells 
Nature genetics  2012;44(4):398-S2.
The generation of induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) often results in aberrant epigenetic silencing of the imprinted Dlk1-Dio3 gene cluster, which compromises the cells’ ability to generate entirely iPSC-derived adult mice (“all-iPSC mice”). Here, we show that reprogramming in the presence of ascorbic acid attenuates hypermethylation of Dlk1-Dio3 by enabling a chromatin configuration that interferes with binding of the de novo DNA methyltransferase Dnmt3a. This allowed us to generate all-iPSC mice from mature B cells, which have thus far failed to support the development of exclusively iPSC-derived postnatal animals. Our data demonstrate that transcription factor-mediated reprogramming can endow a defined, terminally differentiated cell type with a developmental potential equivalent to that of embryonic stem cells. More generally, these findings indicate that culture conditions during cellular reprogramming can strongly influence the epigenetic and biological properties of resultant iPSCs.
PMCID: PMC3538378  PMID: 22387999
18.  A conserved SREBP-1/phosphatidylcholine feedback circuit regulates lipogenesis in metazoans 
Cell  2011;147(4):840-852.
Sterol Regulatory Element-Binding Proteins (SREBPs) activate genes involved in the synthesis and trafficking of cholesterol and other lipids, and therefore are critical for maintaining lipid homeostasis. Aberrant SREBP activity, however, can result in excess stored fat and contribute to obesity, fatty liver disease and insulin resistance, hallmarks of metabolic syndrome. Our studies identify a conserved regulatory circuit in which SREBP-1 controls production of the methyl donor S-adenosylmethionine (SAMe). Methylation is critical for synthesis of phosphatidylcholine (PC), a major membrane component, and we find that blocking SAMe or PC synthesis in C. elegans, mouse liver and human cells causes elevated SREBP-1-dependent transcription and lipid droplet accumulation. Distinct from negative regulation of SREBP-2 by cholesterol, our data suggest a mechanism where maturation of nuclear, transcriptionally active SREBP-1 is controlled by levels of PC. Thus, nutritional or genetic conditions limiting SAMe or PC production may activate SREBP-1, contributing to human metabolic disorders.
PMCID: PMC3384509  PMID: 22035958
19.  Differential effects of the Huntington's disease CAG mutation in striatum and cerebellum are quantitative not qualitative 
Human Molecular Genetics  2011;20(21):4258-4267.
Huntington's disease (HD) involves marked early neurodegeneration in the striatum, whereas the cerebellum is relatively spared despite the ubiquitous expression of full-length mutant huntingtin, implying that inherent tissue-specific differences determine susceptibility to the HD CAG mutation. To understand this tissue specificity, we compared early mutant huntingtin-induced gene expression changes in striatum to those in cerebellum in young Hdh CAG knock-in mice, prior to onset of evident pathological alterations. Endogenous levels of full-length mutant huntingtin caused qualitatively similar, but quantitatively different gene expression changes in the two brain regions. Importantly, the quantitatively different responses in the striatum and cerebellum in mutant mice were well accounted for by the intrinsic molecular differences in gene expression between the striatum and cerebellum in wild-type animals. Tissue-specific gene expression changes in response to the HD mutation, therefore, appear to reflect the different inherent capacities of these tissues to buffer qualitatively similar effects of mutant huntingtin. These findings highlight a role for intrinsic quantitative tissue differences in contributing to HD pathogenesis, and likely to other neurodegenerative disorders exhibiting tissue-specificity, thereby guiding the search for effective therapeutic interventions.
PMCID: PMC3188996  PMID: 21840924
20.  HD CAG-correlated gene expression changes support a simple dominant gain of function 
Human Molecular Genetics  2011;20(14):2846-2860.
Huntington's disease is initiated by the expression of a CAG repeat-encoded polyglutamine region in full-length huntingtin, with dominant effects that vary continuously with CAG size. The mechanism could involve a simple gain of function or a more complex gain of function coupled to a loss of function (e.g. dominant negative-graded loss of function). To distinguish these alternatives, we compared genome-wide gene expression changes correlated with CAG size across an allelic series of heterozygous CAG knock-in mouse embryonic stem (ES) cell lines (HdhQ20/7, HdhQ50/7, HdhQ91/7, HdhQ111/7), to genes differentially expressed between Hdhex4/5/ex4/5 huntingtin null and wild-type (HdhQ7/7) parental ES cells. The set of 73 genes whose expression varied continuously with CAG length had minimal overlap with the 754-member huntingtin-null gene set but the two were not completely unconnected. Rather, the 172 CAG length-correlated pathways and 238 huntingtin-null significant pathways clustered into 13 shared categories at the network level. A closer examination of the energy metabolism and the lipid/sterol/lipoprotein metabolism categories revealed that CAG length-correlated genes and huntingtin-null-altered genes either were different members of the same pathways or were in unique, but interconnected pathways. Thus, varying the polyglutamine size in full-length huntingtin produced gene expression changes that were distinct from, but related to, the effects of lack of huntingtin. These findings support a simple gain-of-function mechanism acting through a property of the full-length huntingtin protein and point to CAG-correlative approaches to discover its effects. Moreover, for therapeutic strategies based on huntingtin suppression, our data highlight processes that may be more sensitive to the disease trigger than to decreased huntingtin levels.
PMCID: PMC3118763  PMID: 21536587
21.  Bortezomib Enhances the Efficacy of Fulvestrant by Amplifying the Aggregation of the Estrogen Receptor, Which Leads to a Proapoptotic Unfolded Protein Response 
Clinical Cancer Research  2011;17(8):2292-2300.
Fulvestrant is known to promote the degradation of the estrogen receptor (ER) in the nucleus. However, fulvestrant also promotes the aggregation of the newly synthesized ER in the cytoplasm. Accumulation of protein aggregates leads to cell death but this effect is limited as a result of their elimination by the proteasome. We tested whether combining fulvestrant with the proteasome inhibitor, bortezomib, could enhance the accumulation of ER aggregates and cause apoptotic cell death.
Experimental Design
The rate of aggregation of the ER was monitored in ER+ breast cancer cells lines, T47D, ZR-75.1, BT474, MDA-MB-361, MCF-7, fulvestrant resistance MCF-7, and tamoxifen-resistant T47D-cyclin D1 cells. Activation of the unfolded protein response, apoptosis, and metabolic rate were also monitored in these cell lines following treatment with fulvestrant, bortezomib, or bortezomib in combination with fulvestrant.
We found that bortezomib enhances the fulvestrant-mediated aggregation of the ER in the cytoplasm without blocking the degradation of the ER in the nucleus. Further, these aggregates activate a sustained unfolded protein response leading to apoptotic cell death. Further, we show that the combination induced tumor regression in a breast cancer mouse model of tamoxifen resistance.
Adding bortezomib to fulvestrant enhances its efficacy by taking advantage of the unique ability of fulvestrant to promote cytoplasmic aggregates of the ER. As this effect of fulvestrant is independent of the transcriptional activity of the ER, these results suggest that this novel combination may be effective in breast cancers that are ER+ but estrogen independent.
PMCID: PMC3232249  PMID: 21292820
22.  Cell type of origin influences the molecular and functional properties of mouse induced pluripotent stem cells 
Nature biotechnology  2010;28(8):848-855.
Induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) have been derived from various somatic cell populations through ectopic expression of defined factors. It remains unclear whether iPSCs generated from different cell types are molecularly and functionally similar. Here we show that iPSCs obtained from mouse fibroblasts, hematopoietic and myogenic cells exhibit distinct transcriptional and epigenetic patterns. Moreover, we demonstrate that cellular origin influences the in vitro differentiation potentials of iPSCs into embryoid bodies and different hematopoietic cell types. Notably, continuous passaging of iPSCs largely attenuates these differences. Our results suggest that early-passage iPSCs retain a transient epigenetic memory of their somatic cells of origin, which manifests as differential gene expression and altered differentiation capacity. These observations may influence ongoing attempts to use iPSCs for disease modeling and could also be exploited in potential therapeutic applications to enhance differentiation into desired cell lineages.
PMCID: PMC3148605  PMID: 20644536
23.  Genome-wide analysis of YY2 versus YY1 target genes 
Nucleic Acids Research  2010;38(12):4011-4026.
Yin Yang 1 (YY1) is a critical transcription factor controlling cell proliferation, development and DNA damage responses. Retrotranspositions have independently generated additional YY family members in multiple species. Although Drosophila YY1 [pleiohomeotic (Pho)] and its homolog [pleiohomeotic-like (Phol)] redundantly control homeotic gene expression, the regulatory contributions of YY1-homologs have not yet been examined in other species. Indeed, targets for the mammalian YY1 homolog YY2 are completely unknown. Using gene set enrichment analysis, we found that lentiviral constructs containing short hairpin loop inhibitory RNAs for human YY1 (shYY1) and its homolog YY2 (shYY2) caused significant changes in both shared and distinguishable gene sets in human cells. Ribosomal protein genes were the most significant gene set upregulated by both shYY1 and shYY2, although combined shYY1/2 knock downs were not additive. In contrast, shYY2 reversed the anti-proliferative effects of shYY1, and shYY2 particularly altered UV damage response, platelet-specific and mitochondrial function genes. We found that decreases in YY1 or YY2 caused inverse changes in UV sensitivity, and that their combined loss reversed their respective individual effects. Our studies show that human YY2 is not redundant to YY1, and YY2 is a significant regulator of genes previously identified as uniquely responding to YY1.
PMCID: PMC2896514  PMID: 20215434
24.  Elevated CRAF as a potential mechanism of acquired resistance to BRAF inhibition in melanoma 
Cancer research  2008;68(12):4853-4861.
Activating BRAF kinase mutations arise in about 7% of all human tumors, and pre-clinical studies have validated the RAF-MEK-ERK signaling cascade as a potentially important therapeutic target in this setting. Selective RAF kinase inhibitors are currently undergoing clinical development, and based on the experience with other kinase-targeted therapeutics, it is expected that clinical responses to these agents, if observed, will lead to the eventual emergence of drug resistance in most cases. Thus, it is important to establish molecular mechanisms underlying such resistance in order to develop effective therapeutic strategies to overcome or prevent drug resistance. To anticipate potential mechanisms of acquired resistance to RAF inhibitors during the course of treatment, we established drug-resistant clones from a human melanoma-derived cell line harboring the recurrent V600E activating BRAF mutation, which exhibits exquisite sensitivity to AZ628, a selective RAF kinase inhibitor. We determined that elevated CRAF protein levels account for the acquisition of resistance to AZ628 in these cells, associated with a switch from BRAF to CRAF dependency in tumor cells. We also found that elevated CRAF protein levels may similarly contribute to primary insensitivity to RAF inhibition in a subset of BRAF mutant tumor cells. Interestingly, AZ628-resistant cells demonstrating either primary drug insensitivity or acquired drug resistance exhibit exquisite sensitivity to the HSP90 inhibitor geldanamycin. Geldanamycin effectively promotes the degradation of CRAF, thereby revealing a potential therapeutic strategy to overcome resistance to RAF inhibition in a subset of BRAF-mutant tumors.
PMCID: PMC2692356  PMID: 18559533
25.  Differential Gene Expression of Primary Cultured Lymphatic and Blood Vascular Endothelial Cells12 
Neoplasia (New York, N.Y.)  2007;9(12):1038-1045.
Blood vascular endothelial cells (BECs) and the developmentally related lymphatic endothelial cells (LECs) create complementary, yet distinct vascular networks. Each endothelial cell type interacts with flowing fluid and circulating cells, yet each vascular system has evolved specialized gene expression programs and thus both cell types display different phenotypes. BECs and LECs express distinct genes that are unique to their specific vascular microenvironment. Tumors also take advantage of the molecules that are expressed in these vascular systems to enhance their metastatic potential. We completed transcriptome analyses on primary cultured LECs and BECs, where each comparative set was isolated from the same individual. Differences were resolved in the expression of several major categories, such as cell adhesion molecules (CAMs), cytokines, and cytokine receptors. We have identified new molecules that are associated with BECs (e.g., claudin-9, CXCL11, neurexin-1, neurexin-2, and the neuronal growth factor regulator-1) and LECs (e.g., claudin-7, CD58, hyaluronan and proteoglycan link protein 1 (HAPLN1), and the poliovirus receptor-related 3 molecule) that may lead to novel therapeutic treatments for diseases of lymphatic or blood vessels, including metastasis of cancer to lymph nodes or distant organs.
PMCID: PMC2137938  PMID: 18084611
Lymphangiogenesis; microarray; LEC; BEC; endothelial

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