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1.  Selective Histone Deacetylase-6 Inhibition Attenuates Stress Responses and Prevents Immune Organ Atrophy in a Lethal Septic Model 
Surgery  2014;156(2):235-242.
An overproduction of corticosterone during severe sepsis results in increased apoptosis of immune cells, which may result in relative immunosuppression and an impaired ability to fight infections. We have previously demonstrated that administration of Tubastatin A, a selective inhibitor of histone deacetylase-6 (HDAC6), improves survival in a lethal model of cecal ligation and puncture (CLP) in mice. The purpose of this study was to characterize the effects of this treatment on sepsis-induced stress responses and immune function.
C57BL/6J mice were subjected to CLP, and 1 hour later given an intraperitoneal injection of either Tubastatin A dissolved in dimethyl sulfoxide (DMSO), or DMSO only. Blood samples were collected to measure the levels of circulating corticosterone and adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH). Thymus, and long bones (femur and tibia) were subjected to H&E staining, and immunohistochemistry was utilized to detect cleaved-caspase 3 in the splenic follicles as a measure of cellular apoptosis.
All vehicle-treated CLP animals died within 3 days, and displayed increased corticosterone and decreased ACTH levels compared to the sham-operated group. These animals also developed atrophy of thymic cortex with a marked depletion of thymocytes. Tubastatin A treatment significantly attenuated the stress hormone abnormalities. Treated animals also had significantly lower percentages of thymic atrophy (95.0±5.0 vs. 42.5±25.3, p=0.0366), bone marrow depletion and atrophy (58.3±6.5 vs. 25.0±14.4%, p=0.0449), and cellular apoptosis in the splenic follicles (41.2±3.7 vs. 28.5±4.3 per 40× field, p=0.0354).
Selective inhibition of HDAC6 in this lethal septic model was associated with a significant blunting of the stress responses, with attenuated thymic and bone marrow atrophy, and decreased splenic apoptosis. Our findings identify a novel mechanism behind the survival advantage seen with Tubastatin A treatment.
PMCID: PMC4267495  PMID: 24947640
2.  MTDH-SND1 Interaction is Essential for the Expansion and Activity of Tumor-Initiating Cells in Diverse Oncogene- and Carcinogen-Induced Mammary Tumors 
Cancer cell  2014;26(1):92-105.
The Metadherin gene (MTDH) is prevalently amplified in breast cancer and associated with poor prognosis but its functional contribution to tumorigenesis is poorly understood. Using mouse models representing different subtypes of breast cancer, we demonstrated that MTDH plays a critical role in mammary tumorigenesis by regulating oncogene-induced expansion and activities of tumor-initiating cells (TICs), whereas it is largely dispensable for normal development. Mechanistically, MTDH supports the survival of mammary epithelial cells (MECs) under oncogenic/stress conditions by interacting with and stabilizing Staphylococcal nuclease domain-containing 1 (SND1). Silencing MTDH or SND1 individually or disrupting their interaction compromises tumorigenenic potential of TICs in vivo. Finally, this functional significance of MTDH-SND1 interaction is supported by clinical analysis of human breast cancer samples.
PMCID: PMC4101059  PMID: 24981741
3.  Rapid modeling of cooperating genetic events in cancer through somatic genome editing 
Nature  2014;516(7531):428-431.
Cancer is a multistep process that involves mutations and other alterations in oncogenes and tumor suppressor genes1. Genome sequencing studies have identified a large collection of genetic alterations that occur in human cancers2–4. However, the determination of which mutations are causally related to tumorigenesis remains a major challenge. Here we describe a novel CRISPR/Cas9-based approach for rapid functional investigation of candidate genes in well-established autochthonous mouse models of cancer. Using a KrasG12D-driven lung cancer model5, we performed functional characterization of a panel of tumor suppressor genes with known loss-of-function alterations in human lung cancer. Cre-dependent somatic activation of oncogenic KrasG12D combined with CRISPR/Cas9-mediated genome editing of tumor suppressor genes resulted in lung adenocarcinomas with distinct histopathological and molecular features. This rapid somatic genome engineering approach enables functional characterization of putative cancer genes in the lung and other tissues using autochthonous mouse models. We anticipate that this approach can be used to systematically dissect the complex catalog of mutations identified in cancer genome sequencing studies.
PMCID: PMC4292871  PMID: 25337879
4.  Colon-specific tumorigenesis in mice driven by Cre-mediated inactivation of Apc and activation of mutant Kras 
Cancer letters  2014;347(2):191-195.
Several genetically engineered mouse (GEM) models of colorectal cancer have been developed and are a mainstay in our efforts to identify means of preventing and treating this disease. Many of these models involve a germline disruption of the adenomatous polyposis coli (Apc) tumor suppressor gene and share the limitation that the great preponderance of tumors appear in the small rather than large intestine. In recent years efforts have been made to increase the similarity of these models to human sporadic colorectal cancer by disrupting Apc in a tissue-specific fashion using the Cre-Lox system so that the genetic aberrations are confined to the colonic epithelium. These models have shown great promise but reproducible and high penetrance colon-specific tumorigenesis has not yet been achieved without invasive techniques to introduce the Cre enzyme. We therefore sought to create a new model with high penetrance colon-specific tumorigenesis but without the need for exogenous Cre administration. We utilized existing mice possessing a conditional knock out for the Apc gene and a latent activated Kras allele and crossed them with mice expressing Cre recombinase solely in the large intestine. Using this approach we generated mice that developed 1–9 colonic adenomas per mouse (average 4.3) but without any tumors in the small intestine or cecum. No invasive tumors were observed. Despite the apparent lack of invasion, the geographical correctness, complete penetrance and intermediate tumor burden make this model a promising addition to our toolkit for the study of colorectal cancer treatment and prevention.
PMCID: PMC4418438  PMID: 24632531
Colorectal cancer; Apc; mouse model; tumor; adenoma; Kras
5.  Inhibition of EGFR Induces a c-MET Driven Stem Cell Population in Glioblastoma 
Stem cells (Dayton, Ohio)  2014;32(2):338-348.
Glioblastoma multiforme (GBM) is the most lethal form of primary brain tumors, characterized by highly invasive and aggressive tumors that are resistant to all current therapeutic options. GBMs are highly heterogeneous in nature and contain a small but highly tumorigenic and self-renewing population of stem or initiating cells (Glioblastoma stem cells or GSCs). GSCs have been shown to contribute to tumor propagation and resistance to current therapeutic modalities. Recent studies of human GBMs have elucidated the genetic alterations common in these tumors, but much remains unknown about specific signaling pathways that regulate GSCs. Here we identify a distinct fraction of cells in a genetically engineered mouse model of EGFR-driven GBM that respond to anti-EGFR therapy by inducing high levels of c-MET expression. The MET positive cells displayed clonogenic potential and long-term self-renewal ability in vitro and are capable of differentiating into multiple lineages. The MET positive GBM cells are resistant to radiation and highly tumorigenic in vivo. Activation of MET signaling led to an increase in expression of the stemness transcriptional regulators Oct4, Nanog and Klf4. Pharmacological inhibition of MET activity in GSCs prevented the activation of Oct4, Nanog and Klf4 and potently abrogated stemness. Finally, the MET expressing cells were preferentially localized in perivascular regions of mouse tumors consistent with their function as GSCs. Together, our findings indicate that EGFR inhibition in GBM induces MET activation in GSCs, which is a functional requisite for GSCs activity and thus represents a promising therapeutic target.
PMCID: PMC4442493  PMID: 24115218
cancer stem cells; Glioblastoma multiforme; EGFR inhibition
6.  A suppressive role of ionizing radiation-responsive miR-29c in the development of liver carcinoma via targeting WIP1 
Oncotarget  2015;6(12):9937-9950.
Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is the third most common cause of cancer-related deaths worldwide, and it has been linked to radiation exposure. As a well-defined oncogene, wild-type p53-induced phosphatase 1 (WIP1) plays an inhibitory role in several tumor suppressor pathways, including p53. WIP1 is amplified and overexpressed in many malignancies, including HCC. However, the underlying mechanisms remain largely unknown. Here, we show that low-dose ionizing radiation (IR) induces miR-29c expression in female mouse liver, while inhibiting its expression in HepG2, a human hepatocellular carcinoma cell line which is used as a model system in this study. miR-29c expression is downregulated in human hepatocellular carcinoma cells, which is inversely correlated with WIP1 expression. miR-29c attenuates luciferase activity of a reporter harboring the 3′UTR binding motif of WIP1 mRNA. Ectopic expression of miR-29c significantly represses cell proliferation and induces apoptosis and G1 arrest in HepG2. In contrast, the knockdown of miR-29c greatly enhances HepG2 cell proliferation and suppresses apoptosis. The biological effects of miR-29c may be mediated by its target WIP1 which regulates p53 activity via dephosphorylation at Ser-15. Finally, fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH) and immunohistochemical analyses indicate that miR-29c is downregulated in 50.6% of liver carcinoma tissues examined, whereas WIP1 is upregulated in 45.4% of these tissues. The expression of miR-29c inversely correlates with that of WIP1 in HCC. Our results suggest that the IR-responsive miR-29c may function as a tumor suppressor that plays a crucial role in the development of liver carcinoma via targeting WIP1, therefore possibly representing a target molecule for therapeutic intervention for this disease.
PMCID: PMC4496408  PMID: 25888625
ionizing radiation; miR-29c; hepatocellular carcinoma; WIP1
7.  Cancer-associated PTEN mutants act in a dominant negative manner to suppress PTEN protein function 
Cell  2014;157(3):595-610.
PTEN dysfunction plays a crucial role in the pathogenesis of hereditary and sporadic cancers. Here we show that PTEN homo-dimerizes, and in this active conformation exerts lipid phosphatase activity on PtdIns(3,4,5)P3. We demonstrate that catalytically inactive cancer-associated PTEN mutants hetero-dimerize with wild-type PTEN and constrain its phosphatase activity in a dominant-negative manner. To study the consequences of homo- and hetero-dimerization of wild-type and mutant PTEN in vivo, we generated Pten knock-in mice harboring two cancer-associated PTEN mutations (PtenC124S and PtenG129E). Heterozygous PtenC124S/+ and PtenG129E/+ cells and tissues exhibit increased sensitivity to PI3-K/Akt activation compared to wild-type and Pten+/- counterparts, while this difference is no longer apparent between PtenC124S/- and Pten-/- cells. Notably, PtenKI mice are more tumor-prone and display features reminiscent of complete Pten loss. Our findings reveal that PTEN loss and PTEN mutations are not synonymous, and define a new working model for the function and regulation of PTEN.
PMCID: PMC4098792  PMID: 24766807
8.  CRISPR-mediated direct mutation of cancer genes in the mouse liver 
Nature  2014;514(7522):380-384.
The study of cancer genes in mouse models has traditionally relied on genetically-engineered strains made via transgenesis or gene targeting in embryonic stem (ES) cells1. Here we describe a new method of cancer model generation using the CRISPR/Cas system in vivo in wild-type mice. We have used hydrodynamic injection to deliver a CRISPR plasmid DNA expressing Cas9 and single guide RNAs (sgRNAs)2–4 to the liver and directly target the tumor suppressor genes Pten5 and p536, alone and in combination. CRISPR-mediated Pten mutation led to elevated Akt phosphorylation and lipid accumulation in hepatocytes, phenocopying the effects of deletion of the gene using Cre-LoxP technology7, 8. Simultaneous targeting of Pten and p53 induced liver tumors that mimicked those caused by Cre-loxP-mediated deletion of Pten and p53. DNA sequencing of liver and tumor tissue revealed insertion or deletion (indel) mutations of the tumor suppressor genes, including bi-allelic mutations of both Pten and p53 in tumors. Furthermore, co-injection of Cas9 plasmids harboring sgRNAs targeting the β-Catenin gene (Ctnnb1) and a single-stranded DNA (ssDNA) oligonucleotide donor carrying activating point mutations led to the generation of hepatocytes with nuclear localization of β-Catenin. This study demonstrates the feasibility of direct mutation of tumor suppressor genes and oncogenes in the liver using the CRISPR/Cas system, which presents a new avenue for rapid development of liver cancer models and functional genomics.
PMCID: PMC4199937  PMID: 25119044
9.  Genetic Interaction between Tmprss2-ERG Gene Fusion and Nkx3.1-Loss Does Not Enhance Prostate Tumorigenesis in Mouse Models 
PLoS ONE  2015;10(3):e0120628.
Gene fusions involving ETS family transcription factors (mainly TMPRSS2-ERG and TMPRSS2-ETV1 fusions) have been found in ~50% of human prostate cancer cases. Although expression of TMPRSS2-ERG or TMPRSS2-ETV1 fusion alone is insufficient to initiate prostate tumorigenesis, they appear to sensitize prostate epithelial cells for cooperation with additional oncogenic mutations to drive frank prostate adenocarcinoma. To search for such ETS-cooperating oncogenic events, we focused on a well-studied prostate tumor suppressor NKX3.1, as loss of NKX3.1 is another common genetic alteration in human prostate cancer. Previous studies have shown that deletions at 8p21 (harboring NKX3.1) and 21q22 (resulting in TMPRSS2-ERG fusion) were both present in a subtype of prostate cancer cases, and that ERG can lead to epigenetic silencing of NKX3.1 in prostate cancer cells, whereas NKX3.1 can in turn negatively regulate TMPRSS2-ERG fusion expression via suppression of the TMPRSS2 promoter activity. We recently generated knockin mouse models for TMPRSS2-ERG and TMPRSS2-ETV1 fusions, utilizing the endogenous Tmprss2 promoter. We crossed these knockin models to an Nkx3.1 knockout mouse model. In Tmprss2-ERG;Nkx3.1+/- (or -/-) male mice, although we observed a slight but significant upregulation of Tmprss2-ERG fusion expression upon Nkx3.1 loss, we did not detect any significant cooperation between these two genetic events to enhance prostate tumorigenesis in vivo. Furthermore, retrospective analysis of a previously published human prostate cancer dataset revealed that within ERG-overexpressing prostate cancer cases, NKX3.1 loss or deletion did not predict biochemical relapse after radical prostatectomy. Collectively, these data suggest that although TMPRSS2-ERG fusion and loss of NKX3.1 are among the most common mutational events found in prostate cancer, and although each of them can sensitize prostate epithelial cells for cooperating with other oncogenic events, these two events themselves do not appear to cooperate at a significant level in vivo to enhance prostate tumorigenesis.
PMCID: PMC4364018  PMID: 25780911
10.  UHRF1 overexpression drives DNA hypomethylation and hepatocellular carcinoma 
Cancer cell  2014;25(2):196-209.
UHRF1 is an essential regulator of DNA methylation that is highly expressed in many cancers. Here, we use transgenic zebrafish, cultured cells and human tumors to demonstrate that UHRF1 is an oncogene. UHRF1 overexpression in zebrafish hepatocytes destabilizes and delocalizes DNMT1, causes DNA hypomethylation and Tp53-mediated senescence. Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) emerges when senescence is bypassed. tp53 mutation both alleviates senescence and accelerates tumor onset. Human HCCs recapitulate this paradigm, as UHRF1 overexpression defines a subclass of aggressive HCCs characterized by genomic instability, TP53 mutation and abrogation of the TP53-mediated senescence program. We propose that UHRF1 overexpression is a mechanism underlying DNA hypomethylation in cancer cells and that senescence is a primary means of restricting tumorigenesis due to epigenetic disruption.
PMCID: PMC3951208  PMID: 24486181
11.  Myocardial Infarction Triggers Chronic Cardiac Autoimmunity in Type 1 Diabetes 
Science translational medicine  2012;4(138):138ra80.
Patients with type 1 diabetes (T1D) suffer excessive morbidity and mortality following myocardial infarction (MI) that is not fully explained by the metabolic effects of diabetes. Acute MI is known to trigger a profound innate inflammatory response with influx of mononuclear cells and production of proinflammatory cytokines that are crucial for cardiac repair. We hypothesized that these same pathways might exert ‘adjuvant effects’ and induce pathological responses in autoimmune-prone T1D hosts. Here we show that experimental MI in nonobese diabetic (NOD) mice - but not in control C57BL/6 mice - results in a severe post-infarction autoimmune (PIA) syndrome characterized by destructive lymphocytic infiltrates in the myocardium, infarct expansion, sustained cardiac IgG autoantibody production and Th1 effector cell responses against cardiac (α-)myosin. PIA was prevented by inducing tolerance to α-myosin, demonstrating that immune responses to cardiac myosin are required for this disease process. Extending these findings to humans, we developed a panel of immunoassays for cardiac autoantibody detection and found autoantibody positivity in 83% post-MI T1D patients. We further identified shared cardiac myosin autoantibody signatures between post-MI T1D patients and non-diabetic patients with myocarditis – that were absent in post-MI type 2 diabetic patients - and confirmed the presence of myocarditis in T1D by cardiac magnetic resonance imaging techniques. These data provide experimental and clinical evidence for a distinct post-MI autoimmune syndrome in T1D. Our findings suggest that PIA may contribute to worsened post-MI outcomes in T1D, and highlight a role for antigen-specific immunointervention to selectively block this pathway.
PMCID: PMC4303259  PMID: 22700956
12.  A genetic mouse model of invasive endometrial cancer driven by concurrent loss of Pten and Lkb1 is highly responsive to mTOR inhibition 
Cancer research  2013;74(1):15-23.
Signals from the tumor suppressors PTEN and LKB1 converge on mTOR to negatively regulate its function in cancer cells. Notably, both of these suppressors are attenuated in a significant fraction of human endometrial tumors. In this study, we generated a genetic mouse model of endometrial cancer driven by concomitant loss of these suppressors to gain pathophysiological insight into this disease. Dual loss of Pten and Lkb1 in the endometrial epithelium led to rapid development of advanced endometrioid endometrial tumors with 100% penetrance and short host survival. The tumors displayed dysregulated PI3K/Akt and Lkb1/Ampk signaling with hyperactivation of mTOR signaling. Treatment with a dual PI3K/mTOR inhibitor, BEZ235, extended the time before tumor onset and prolonged overall survival. The PI3K inhibitor GDC-0941 used as a single agent reduced the growth rate of primary tumor implants in Pten/Lkb1-deficient mice, and the mTOR inhibitor RAD001 was unexpectedly as effective as BEZ235 in triggering tumor regression. In parallel, we also found that ectopic expression of LKB1 in PTEN/LKB1-deficient human endometrial cancer cells increased their sensitivity to PI3K inhibition. Together, our results demonstrated that Pten/Lkb1-deficient endometrial tumors rely strongly on deregulated mTOR signaling, and they provided evidence that LKB1 status may modulate the response of PTEN-deficient tumors to PI3K or mTOR inhibitors.
PMCID: PMC3982380  PMID: 24322983
13.  Distinct Malignant Behaviors of Mouse Myogenic Tumors Induced by Different Oncogenetic Lesions 
Rhabdomyosarcomas (RMS) are heterogeneous cancers with myogenic differentiation features. The cytogenetic and mutational aberrations in RMS are diverse. This study examined differences in the malignant behavior of two genetically distinct and disease-relevant mouse myogenic tumor models. Kras; p1619null myogenic tumors, initiated by expression of oncogenic Kras in p16p19null mouse satellite cells, were metastatic to the lungs of the majority of tumor-bearing animals and repopulated tumors in seven of nine secondary recipients. In contrast, SmoM2 tumors, initiated by ubiquitous expression of a mutant Smoothened allele, did not metastasize and repopulated tumors in 2 of 18 recipients only. In summary, genetically distinct myogenic tumors in mice exhibit marked differences in malignant behavior.
PMCID: PMC4338657  PMID: 25759794
rhabdomyosarcoma; myogenic differentiation; metastasis; transplantation
14.  A mouse collagen4α4 mutation causing Alport glomerulosclerosis with abnormal collagen α3α4α5(IV) trimers 
Kidney international  2014;85(6):1461-1468.
A spontaneous mutation termed bilateral wasting kidneys (bwk) was identified in a colony of NONcNZO recombinant inbred mice. These mice exhibit a rapid increase of urinary albumin at an early age associated with glomerulosclerosis, interstitial nephritis, and tubular atrophy. The mutation was mapped to a location on Chromosome 1 containing the Col4a3 and Col4a4 genes, for which mutations in the human orthologs cause the hereditary nephritis Alport syndrome. DNA sequencing identified a G to A mutation in the conserved GT splice donor of Col4a4 intron 30, resulting in skipping of exon 30 but maintaining the mRNA reading frame. Protein analyses showed that mutant collagen α3α4α5(IV) trimers were secreted and incorporated into the glomerular basement membrane (GBM), but levels were low, and GBM lesions typical of Alport syndrome were observed. Moving the mutation into the more renal damage-prone DBA/2J and 129S1/SvImJ backgrounds revealed differences in albuminuria and its rate of increase, suggesting an interaction between the Col4a4 mutation and modifier genes. This novel mouse model of Alport syndrome is the only one shown to accumulate abnormal collagen α3α4α5(IV) in the GBM, as also found in a subset of Alport patients. These mice will be valuable for testing potential therapies, for understanding abnormal collagen IV structure and assembly, for gaining better insights into the mechanisms leading to Alport syndrome and to the variability in the age of onset and associated phenotypes.
PMCID: PMC4040157  PMID: 24522496
15.  Dietary vitamin B6 intake modulates colonic inflammation in the IL10−/− model of inflammatory bowel disease☆,☆☆ 
Pyridoxal-5-phosphate, the biologically active form of vitamin B6, is a cofactor for over 140 biochemical reactions. Although severe vitamin B6 deficiency is rare, mild inadequacy [plasma pyridoxal 5’-phosphate (PLP) <20 nmol/L] is observed in 19–27% of the US population. Plasma PLP concentrations are inversely related to markers of inflammation such as C-reactive protein. Furthermore, plasma PLP is diminished in those with inflammatory conditions and, in the case of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), more so in those with active versus quiescent disease. Restricting B6 intake attenuates IBD pathology in mice; however, the effects of supplementation are unclear. We therefore sought to determine the effects of mild inadequacy and moderate supplementation of B6 on the severity of colonic inflammation. Weanling IL-10−/− (positive for Helicobacter hepaticus) mice were fed diets containing 0.5 (deficient), 6.0 (replete) or 24 (supplemented) mg/kg pyridoxine HCl for 12 weeks and then assessed for histological and molecular markers of colonic inflammation. Both low and high plasma PLP were associated with a significant suppression of molecular (TNFα, IL-6, IFN-γ, COX-2 and iNOS expression) and histological markers of inflammation in the colon. PLP is required for the breakdown of sphingosine 1-phosphate (S1P), a chemotactic lipid, by S1P lyase. Colonic concentrations of S1P and PLP were significantly and inversely correlated. If confirmed, vitamin B6 supplementation may offer an additional tool for the management of IBD. Although B6 is required in dozens of reactions, its role in the breakdown of S1P may explain the biphasic relationship observed between PLP and inflammation.
PMCID: PMC4199223  PMID: 24183308
Pyridoxal 5’ phosphate; Shingosine 1 phosphate; Inflammation; Colitis; Colon
16.  Maternal B vitamin supplementation from preconception through weaning suppresses intestinal tumorigenesis in Apc1638N mouse offspring 
Gut  2011;60(12):1695-1702.
Variations in the intake of folate are capable of modulating colorectal tumorigenesis; however, the outcome appears to be dependent on timing. This study sought to determine the effect of altering folate (and related B vitamin) availability during in-utero development and the suckling period on intestinal tumorigenesis.
Female wildtype mice were fed diets either mildly deficient, replete or supplemented with vitamins B2, B6, B12 and folate for 4 weeks before mating to Apc1638N males. Females remained on their diet throughout pregnancy and until weaning. After weaning, all Apc1638N offspring were maintained on replete diets for 29 weeks.
At 8 months of age tumour incidence was markedly lower among offspring of supplemented mothers (21%) compared with those of replete (59%) and deficient (55%) mothers (p=0.03). Furthermore, tumours in pups born to deficient dams were most likely to be invasive (p=0.03). The expression of Apc, Sfrp1, Wif1 and Wnt5a—all of which are negative regulatory elements of the Wnt signalling cascade—in the normal small intestinal mucosa of pups decreased with decreasing maternal B vitamin intake, and for Sfrp1 this was inversely related to promoter methylation. β-Catenin protein was elevated in offspring of deficient dams.
These changes indicate a de-repression of the Wnt pathway in pups of deficient dams and form a plausible mechanism by which maternal B vitamin intake modulates tumorigenesis in offspring. These data indicate that maternal B vitamin supplementation suppresses, while deficiency promotes, intestinal tumorigenesis in Apc1638N offspring.
PMCID: PMC4193343  PMID: 21659408
17.  The RasGAP Gene, RASAL2, is a Tumor and Metastasis Suppressor 
Cancer cell  2013;24(3):10.1016/j.ccr.2013.08.004.
RAS genes are commonly mutated in cancer; however, RAS mutations are rare in breast cancer, despite the fact that Ras and ERK are frequently hyperactivated. Here we report that the RasGAP gene, RASAL2, functions as a tumor and metastasis suppressor. RASAL2 is mutated or suppressed in human breast cancer and RASAL2 ablation promotes tumor growth, progression, and metastasis in mouse models. In human breast cancer RASAL2-loss is associated with metastatic disease, low RASAL2 levels correlate with recurrence of luminal B tumors, and RASAL2 ablation promotes metastasis of luminal mouse tumors. Additional data reveal a broader role for RASAL2 inactivation in other tumor-types. These studies highlight the expanding role of RasGAPs and reveal an alternative mechanism of activating Ras in cancer.
PMCID: PMC3822334  PMID: 24029233
18.  Establishing a model spinal cord injury in the African green monkey for the preclinical evaluation of biodegradable polymer scaffolds seeded with human neural stem cells 
Journal of neuroscience methods  2010;188(2):258-269.
Given the involvement of post-mitotic neurons, long axonal tracts and incompletely elucidated injury and repair pathways, spinal cord injury (SCI) presents a particular challenge for the creation of preclinical models to robustly evaluate longitudinal changes in neuromotor function in the setting in the presence and absence of intervention. While rodent models exhibit high degrees of spontaneous recovery from SCI injury, animal care concerns preclude complete cord transections in non-human primates and other larger vertebrate models. To overcome such limitations a segmental thoracic (T9–T10) spinal cord hemisection was created and characterized in the African green monkey. Physiological tolerance of the model permitted behavioral analyses for a prolonged period post-injury, extending to predefined study termination points at which histological and immunohistochemical analyses were performed. Four monkeys were evaluated (one receiving no implant at the lesion site, one receiving a poly(lactide-co-glycolide) (PLGA) scaffold, and two receiving PLGA scaffolds seeded with human neural stem cells (hNSC)). All subjects exhibited Brown-Séquard syndrome 2 days post-injury consisting of ipsilateral hindlimb paralysis and contralateral hindlimb hypesthesia with preservation of bowel and bladder function. A 20-point observational behavioral scoring system allowed quantitative characterization of the levels of functional recovery. Histological endpoints including silver degenerative staining and Iba1 immunohistochemistry, for microglial and macrophage activation, were determined to reliably define lesion extent and correlate with neurobehavioral data, and justify invasive telemetered electromyographic and kinematic studies to more definitively address efficacy and mechanism.
PMCID: PMC4157751  PMID: 20219534
Spinal cord injury; African green monkey; Non-human primate; Stem cells; Biomaterials; Injury model; Behavioral scoring
19.  Rapid dendritic cell activation and resistance to allotolerance induction in anti-CD154-treated mice receiving CD47-deficient donor-specific transfusion 
Cell transplantation  2013;23(3):355-363.
CD47-SIRPα signaling plays an important role in regulating macrophage and dendritic cell (DC) activation. Here, we investigated the role of CD47 expression on donor cells in tolerance induction by combined treatment with donor-specific transfusion (DST) plus anti-CD154 mAb in a mouse model of fully MHC-mismatched heart allotransplantation. The majority of BALB/c recipient mice that received anti-CD154 and CD47+/+ B6 splenocytes (DST) showed indefinite donor heart survival (median survival time, MST>150d). Although donor heart survival was improved compared to non-treated (MST=7d) and anti-CD154 alone (MST=15d) controls, the graft survival time was significantly reduced in anti-CD154-treated BALB/c mice that received CD47+/− (MST=90d) or CD47−/− B6 DST (MST=42d) compared to those receiving CD47+/+ B6 DST. Recipient mice treated with anti-CD154 plus CD47−/− or CD47+/− DST also showed significantly increased anti-donor, but not anti-3rd-party, MLR responses compared to those receiving anti-CD154 and CD47+/+ DST. Furthermore, CD47−/− DST induced rapid activation of CD11chiSIRPαhiCD8α− DCs via a mechanism independent of donor alloantigens. These results demonstrate that CD47 expression on donor cells is essential to the success of tolerance induction by combined therapy with DST and CD40/CD154 blockade.
PMCID: PMC3732805  PMID: 23295133
CD47; costimulatory blockade; dendritic cells; DST; SIRPα; transplantation
20.  Combination PI3K/MEK inhibition promotes tumor apoptosis and regression in PIK3CA wild-type, KRAS mutant colorectal cancer 
Cancer letters  2014;347(2):204-211.
PI3K inhibition in combination with other agents has not been studied in the context of PIK3CA wild-type, KRAS mutant cancer. In a screen of phospho-kinases, PI3K inhibition of KRAS mutant colorectal cancer cells activated the MAPK pathway. Combination PI3K/MEK inhibition with NVP-BKM120 and PD-0325901 induced tumor regression in a mouse model of PIK3CA wild-type, KRAS mutant colorectal cancer, which was mediated by inhibition of mTORC1, inhibition of MCL-1, and activation of BIM. These findings implicate mitochondrial-dependent apoptotic mechanisms as determinants for the efficacy of PI3K/MEK inhibition in the treatment of PIK3CA wild-type, KRAS mutant cancer.
PMCID: PMC4118771  PMID: 24576621
PI3K; MEK; KRAS; colorectal cancer; mouse model of cancer
21.  Development of a Colon Cancer GEMM-Derived Orthotopic Transplant Model for Drug Discovery and Validation 
Effective therapies for KRAS mutant colorectal cancer (CRC) are a critical unmet clinical need. Previously, we described GEMMs for sporadic Kras mutant and non-mutant CRC suitable for preclinical evaluation of experimental therapeutics. To accelerate drug discovery and validation, we sought to derive low-passage cell lines from GEMM Kras mutant and wild-type tumors for in vitro screening and transplantation into the native colonic environment of immunocompetent mice for in vivo validation.
Experimental Design
Cell lines were derived from Kras mutant and non-mutant GEMM tumors under defined media conditions. Growth kinetics, phosphoproteomes, transcriptomes, drug sensitivity, and metabolism were examined. Cell lines were implanted in mice and monitored for in vivo tumor analysis.
Kras mutant cell lines displayed increased proliferation, MAPK signaling, and PI3K signaling. Microarray analysis identified significant overlap with human CRC-related gene signatures, including KRAS mutant and metastatic CRC. Further analyses revealed enrichment for numerous disease-relevant biological pathways, including glucose metabolism. Functional assessment in vitro and in vivo validated this finding and highlighted the dependence of Kras mutant CRC on oncogenic signaling and on aerobic glycolysis.
We have successfully characterized a novel GEMM-derived orthotopic transplant model of human KRAS mutant CRC. This approach combines in vitro screening capability using low-passage cell lines that recapitulate human CRC and potential for rapid in vivo validation using cell line-derived tumors that develop in the colonic microenvironment of immunocompetent animals. Taken together, this platform is a clear advancement in preclinical CRC models for comprehensive drug discovery and validation efforts.
PMCID: PMC3951107  PMID: 23403635
Kras; MAPK; PI3K; colorectal cancer; GEMM; orthotopic model
22.  Concomitant BRAF and PI3K/mTOR Blockade is Required for Effective Treatment of BRAFV600E Colorectal Cancer 
BRAFV600E mutations are associated with poor clinical prognosis in colorectal cancer (CRC). Whereas selective BRAF inhibitors are effective for treatment of melanoma, comparable efforts in CRC have been disappointing. Here, we investigated potential mechanisms underlying this resistance to BRAF inhibitors in BRAFV600E CRC.
Experimental Design
We examined phosphatidyl inositol 3-kinase (PI3K)/mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) signaling in BRAFV600E CRC cell lines after BRAF inhibition and cell viability and apoptosis after combined BRAF and PI3K/mTOR inhibition. We assessed the efficacy of in vivo combination treatment using a novel genetically engineered mouse model (GEMM) for BRAFV600E CRC.
Western blot revealed sustained PI3K/mTOR signaling upon BRAF inhibition. Our BRAFV600E GEMM presented with sessile serrated adenomas/polyps, as seen in humans. Combination treatment in vivo resulted in induction of apoptosis and tumor regression.
We have established a novel GEMM to interrogate BRAFV600E CRC biology and identify more efficacious treatment strategies. Combination BRAF and PI3K/mTOR inhibitor treatment should be explored in clinical trials.
PMCID: PMC3815598  PMID: 23549875
colon cancer; mouse models; targeted therapy
23.  Contrasting roles of dietary selenium and selenoproteins in chemically induced hepatocarcinogenesis 
Carcinogenesis  2013;34(5):1089-1095.
Selenium (Se) has long been known for its cancer prevention properties, but the molecular basis remains unclear. The principal questions in assessing the effect of dietary Se in cancer are whether selenoproteins, small molecule selenocompounds, or both, are involved, and under which conditions and genotypes Se may be protective. In this study, we examined diethylnitrosamine-induced hepatocarcinogenesis in mice lacking a subset of selenoproteins due to expression of a mutant selenocysteine tRNA gene (Trsp A37G mice). To uncouple the effects of selenocompounds and selenoproteins, these animals were examined at several levels of dietary Se. Our analysis revealed that tumorigenesis in Trsp A37G mice maintained on the adequate Se diet was increased. However, in the control, wild-type mice, both Se deficiency and high Se levels protected against tumorigenesis. We further found that the Se-deficient diet induced severe neurological phenotypes in TrspA37G mice. Surprisingly, a similar phenotype could be induced in these mice at high dietary Se intake. Overall, our results show a complex role of Se in chemically induced hepatocarcinogenesis, which involves interaction among selenoproteins, selenocompounds and toxins, and depends on genotype and background of the animals.
PMCID: PMC3643414  PMID: 23389288
24.  Altered social behavior and neuronal development in mice lacking the Uba6-Use1 ubiquitin transfer system 
Molecular cell  2013;50(2):172-184.
The Uba6 (E1)-Use1 (E2) ubiquitin transfer cascade is a poorly understood alternative arm of the ubiquitin proteasome system (UPS) required for mouse embryonic development, independent of the canonical Uba1-E2-E3 pathway. Loss of neuronal Uba6 during embryonic development results in altered patterning of neurons in the hippocampus and the amygdala, decreased dendritic spine density, and numerous behavioral disorders. The levels of the E3 ubiquitin ligase Ube3a (E6-AP) and Shank3, both linked with dendritic spine function, are elevated in the amygdala of Uba6-deficient mice, while levels of the Ube3a substrate Arc are reduced. Uba6 and Use1 promote proteasomal turnover of Ube3a in mouse embryo fibroblasts (MEFs) and catalyze Ube3a ubiquitylation in vitro. These activities occur in parallel with an independent pathway involving Uba1-UbcH7, but in a spatially distinct manner in MEFs. These data reveal an unanticipated role for Uba6 in neuronal development, spine architecture, mouse behavior, and turnover of Ube3a.
PMCID: PMC3640669  PMID: 23499007
25.  Elucidating distinct roles for NF1 in melanomagenesis 
Cancer discovery  2012;3(3):338-349.
BRAF mutations play a well-established role in melanomagenesis; however, without additional genetic alterations tumor development is restricted by oncogene-induced senescence (OIS). Here we show that mutations in the NF1 tumor suppressor gene cooperate with BRAF mutations in melanomagenesis by preventing OIS. In a genetically engineered mouse model, Nf1 mutations suppress Braf-induced senescence, promote melanocyte hyperproliferation, and enhance melanoma development. Nf1 mutations function by deregulating both PI3K and ERK pathways. As such, Nf1/Braf mutant tumors are resistant to BRAF inhibitors but are sensitive to combined MEK/mTOR inhibition. Importantly, NF1 is mutated or suppressed in human melanomas that harbor concurrent BRAF mutations, NF1 ablation decreases the sensitivity of melanoma cell lines to BRAF inhibitors, and NF1 is lost in tumors from patients following treatment with these agents. Collectively, these studies provide mechanistic insight into how NF1 cooperates with BRAF mutations in melanoma and demonstrate that NF1-inactivation may impact responses to targeted therapies.
PMCID: PMC3595355  PMID: 23171796
RAS; RAF; senescence; NF1; neurofibromin; melanoma; PI3K; mTOR

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