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1.  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
2.  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
3.  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
4.  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
5.  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
6.  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
7.  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
8.  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
9.  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
10.  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
11.  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
12.  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
13.  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
14.  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
15.  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
16.  Mutations in Hedgehog pathway genes in fetal rhabdomyomas 
The Journal of pathology  2013;231(1):10.1002/path.4229.
Ligand-independent, constitutive activation of Hedgehog signalling in mice expressing a mutant, activated SmoM2 allele results in the development of multifocal, highly differentiated tumours that express myogenic markers (including desmin, actin, MyoD and myogenin). The histopathology of these tumours, commonly classified as rhabdomyosarcomas, more closely resembles human fetal rhabdomyoma (FRM), a benign tumour that can be difficult to distinguish from highly differentiated rhabdomyosarcomas. We evaluated the spectrum of Hedgehog (HH) pathway gene mutations in a cohort of human FRM tumours by targeted Illumina sequencing and fluorescence in situ hybridization testing for PTCH1. Our studies identified functionally relevant aberrations at the PTCH1 locus in three of five FRM tumours surveyed, including a PTCH1 frameshift mutation in one tumour and homozygous deletions of PTCH1 in two tumours. These data suggest that activated Hedgehog signalling contributes to the biology of human FRM.
PMCID: PMC3875333  PMID: 23780909
fetal rhabdomyoma; hedgehog signalling; PTCH1
17.  Brain and Testicular Tumors in Mice with Progenitor Cells Lacking BAX and BAK 
Oncogene  2012;32(35):4078-4085.
The pro-apoptotic BCL-2 family proteins BAX and BAK serve as essential gatekeepers of the intrinsic apoptotic pathway and, when activated, transform into pore forming homo-oligomers that permeabilize the mitochondrial outer membrane. Deletion of Bax and Bak causes marked resistance to death stimuli in a variety of cell types. Bax−/−Bak−/− mice are predominantly nonviable and survivors exhibit multiple developmental abnormalities characterized by cellular excess, including accumulation of neural progenitor cells in the periventricular, hippocampal, cerebellar, and olfactory bulb regions of the brain. To explore the long-term pathophysiologic consequences of BAX/BAK deficiency in a stem cell niche, we generated Bak−/− mice with conditional deletion of Bax in Nestin-positive cells. Aged NestinCreBaxfl/flBak−/− mice manifest progressive brain enlargement with a profound accumulation of NeuN- and Sox2-positive neural progenitor cells within the subventricular zone. One-third of the mice develop frank masses comprised of neural progenitors, and in 20% of these cases, more aggressive, hypercellular tumors emerged. Unexpectedly, 60% of NestinCreBaxfl/flBak−/− mice harbored high-grade tumors within the testis, a peripheral site of Nestin expression. This in vivo model of severe apoptotic blockade highlights the constitutive role of BAX/BAK in long-term regulation of Nestin-positive progenitor cell pools, with loss of function predisposing to adult-onset tumorigenesis.
PMCID: PMC3529761  PMID: 22986529
BAX; BAK; neural progenitor cell; apoptosis; tumorigenesis
18.  A novel mycobacterial Hsp70-containing fusion protein targeting mesothelin augments antitumor immunity and prolongs survival in murine models of ovarian cancer and mesothelioma 
Although dendritic cell (DC) vaccines are considered to be promising treatments for advanced cancer, their production and administration is costly and labor-intensive. We developed a novel immunotherapeutic agent that links a single-chain antibody variable fragment (scFv) targeting mesothelin (MSLN), which is overexpressed on ovarian cancer and mesothelioma cells, to Mycobacterium tuberculosis (MTB) heat shock protein 70 (Hsp70), which is a potent immune activator that stimulates monocytes and DCs, enhances DC aggregation and maturation and improves cross-priming of T cells mediated by DCs.
Binding of this fusion protein with MSLN on the surface of tumor cells was measured by flow cytometry and fluorescence microscopy. The therapeutic efficacy of this fusion protein was evaluated in syngeneic and orthotopic mouse models of papillary ovarian cancer and malignant mesothelioma. Mice received 4 intraperitoneal (i.p.) treatments with experimental or control proteins post i.p. injection of tumor cells. Ascites-free and overall survival time was measured. For the investigation of anti-tumor T-cell responses, a time-matched study was performed. Splenocytes were stimulated with peptides, and IFNγ- or Granzyme B- generating CD3+CD8+ T cells were detected by flow cytometry. To examine the role of CD8+ T cells in the antitumor effect, we performed in vivo CD8+ cell depletion. We further determined if the fusion protein increases DC maturation and improves antigen presentation as well as cross-presentation by DCs.
We demonstrated in vitro that the scFvMTBHsp70 fusion protein bound to the tumor cells used in this study through the interaction of scFv with MSLN on the surface of these cells, and induced maturation of bone marrow-derived DCs. Use of this bifunctional fusion protein in both mouse models significantly enhanced survival and slowed tumor growth while augmenting tumor-specific CD8+ T-cell dependent immune responses. We also demonstrated in vitro and in vivo that the fusion protein enhanced antigen presentation and cross-presentation by targeting tumor antigens towards DCs.
This new cancer immunotherapy has the potential to be cost-effective and broadly applicable to tumors that overexpress mesothelin.
PMCID: PMC3943805  PMID: 24565018
Mycobacterial Hsp70; Mesothelin; Single chain variable fragment; Cancer immunotherapy; Murine tumor model
19.  Role of aberrant PI3K pathway activation in gallbladder tumorigenesis 
Oncotarget  2014;5(4):894-900.
The PI3K/AKT pathway governs a plethora of cellular processes, including cell growth, proliferation, and metabolism, in response to growth factors and cytokines. By acting as a unique lipid phosphatase converting phosphatidylinositol-3,4,5,-trisphosphate (PIP3) to phosphatidylinositol-4,5,-bisphosphate (PIP2), phosphatase and tensin homolog (PTEN) acts as the major cellular suppressor of PI3K signaling and AKT activation. Recently, PI3K mutations and loss/mutation of PTEN have been characterized in human gallbladder tumors; whether aberrant PTEN/PI3K pathway plays a causal role in gallbladder carcinogenesis, however, remains unknown. Herein we show that in mice, deregulation of PI3K/AKT signaling is sufficient to transform gallbladder epithelial cells and trigger fully penetrant, highly proliferative gallbladder tumors characterized by high levels of phospho-AKT. Histopathologically, these mouse tumors faithfully resemble human adenomatous gallbladder lesions. The identification of PI3K pathway deregulation as both an early event in the neoplastic transformation of the gallbladder epithelium and a main mechanism of tumor growth in Pten heterozygous and Pten mutant mouse models provides a new framework for studying in vivo the efficacy of target therapies directed against the PI3K pathway, as advanced metastatic tumors are often addicted to “trunkular” mutations.
PMCID: PMC4011591  PMID: 24658595
PI3K; PTEN; gallbladder tumorigenesis; mouse model
20.  Dysferlin overexpression in skeletal muscle produces a progressive myopathy 
Annals of neurology  2010;67(3):384-393.
The dose-response effects of dysferlin transgenesis were analyzed to determine if the dysferlin-deficient myopathies are good candidates for gene replacement therapy.
We have generated three lines of transgenic mice, expressing low, mid and high levels of full-length human dysferlin from a muscle-specific promoter. Transgenic skeletal muscle was analyzed and scored for morphological and functional deficits.
Overexpression of dysferlin in mice resulted in a striking phenotype of kyphosis, irregular gait and reduced muscle mass and strength. Moreover, protein dosage correlated with phenotype severity. In contrast to dysferlin-null skeletal muscle, no evidence of sarcolemmal impairment was revealed. Rather, increased levels of Ca2+-regulated, dysferlin-binding proteins and ER stress chaperone proteins were observed in muscle lysates from transgenic mice as compared to controls.
Expression levels of dysferlin are important for appropriate function without deleterious or cytotoxic effects. As a corollary, we propose that future endeavors in gene replacement for correction of dysferlinopathy should be tailored to take account of this.
PMCID: PMC3900233  PMID: 20373350
21.  Non-alloreactive T Cells Prevent Donor Lymphocyte Infusion-Induced Graft-vs.-Host Disease by Controlling Microbial Stimuli 
In mice, graft-versus-host reactions (GVHR), associated with powerful graft-versus-tumor effects, can be achieved without graft-versus-host disease (GVHD) by delayed administration of donor lymphocyte infusions (DLI) to established mixed chimeras (MCs). However, GVHD sometimes occurrs after DLI in established mixed chimeric patients. In contrast to mice, in which T cell recovery from the thymus occurs prior to DLI administration, human T cell reconstitution following T cell-depleted hematopoietic cell transplantation is slow, resulting in lymphopenia at the time of DLI. We demonstrate here that T cell lymphopenia is an independent risk factor for GVHD following DLI in the absence of known inflammatory stimuli. DLI-induced GVHD was prevented in lymphopenic recipients by prior administration of a small number of non-alloreactive polyclonal T cells, insufficient to prevent lymphopenia-associated expansion of subsequently administered T cells, through a Treg-independent mechanism, but not by T cells with irrelevant specificity. Moreover, administration of antibiotics reduced the severity of GVHD in lymphopenic hosts. Accumulation of DLI-derived effector T cells and host hematopoietic cell elimination were markedly diminished by Treg-depleted, non-alloreactive T cells. Finally, thymectomized mixed chimeras showed increased GVHD following delayed DLI. Collectively, our data demonstrate that in the absence of known conditioning-induced inflammatory stimuli, T cell lymphopenia is a risk factor for GVHD in MCs receiving delayed DLI and suggest that the predisposition to GVHD can at least in part be explained by the presence of occult inflammatory stimuli due to the absence of T cells to control microbial infections.
PMCID: PMC3524834  PMID: 23136200
22.  Near-Infrared Laser Adjuvant for Influenza Vaccine 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(12):e82899.
Safe and effective immunologic adjuvants are often essential for vaccines. However, the choice of adjuvant for licensed vaccines is limited, especially for those that are administered intradermally. We show that non-tissue damaging, near-infrared (NIR) laser light given in short exposures to small areas of skin, without the use of additional chemical or biological agents, significantly increases immune responses to intradermal influenza vaccination without augmenting IgE. The NIR laser-adjuvanted vaccine confers increased protection in a murine influenza lethal challenge model as compared to unadjuvanted vaccine. We show that NIR laser treatment induces the expression of specific chemokines in the skin resulting in recruitment and activation of dendritic cells and is safe to use in both mice and humans. The NIR laser adjuvant technology provides a novel, safe, low-cost, simple-to-use, potentially broadly applicable and clinically feasible approach to enhancing vaccine efficacy as an alternative to chemical and biological adjuvants.
PMCID: PMC3859633  PMID: 24349390
23.  DOK2 Inhibits EGFR-Mutated Lung Adenocarcinoma 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(11):e79526.
Somatic mutations in the EGFR proto-oncogene occur in ~15% of human lung adenocarcinomas and the importance of EGFR mutations for the initiation and maintenance of lung cancer is well established from mouse models and cancer therapy trials in human lung cancer patients. Recently, we identified DOK2 as a lung adenocarcinoma tumor suppressor gene. Here we show that genomic loss of DOK2 is associated with EGFR mutations in human lung adenocarcinoma, and we hypothesized that loss of DOK2 might therefore cooperate with EGFR mutations to promote lung tumorigenesis. We tested this hypothesis using genetically engineered mouse models and find that loss of Dok2 in the mouse accelerates lung tumorigenesis initiated by oncogenic EGFR, but not that initiated by mutated Kras. Moreover, we find that DOK2 participates in a negative feedback loop that opposes mutated EGFR; EGFR mutation leads to recruitment of DOK2 to EGFR and DOK2-mediated inhibition of downstream activation of RAS. These data identify DOK2 as a tumor suppressor in EGFR-mutant lung adenocarcinoma.
PMCID: PMC3821857  PMID: 24255704
24.  Correction: Stochastic Model of Tsc1 Lesions in Mouse Brain 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(11):10.1371/annotation/6a5b0a50-27e4-49bc-b82a-9267dd63af53.
PMCID: PMC3821742  PMID: 24244248
25.  A Novel Somatic Mouse Model to Survey Tumorigenic Potential Applied to the Hedgehog Pathway 
Cancer research  2006;66(20):10171-10178.
We report a novel mouse model for the generation of sporadic tumors and show the efficiency of this approach by surveying Hedgehog (Hh)–related tumors. Up-regulation of the Hh pathway is achieved by conditionally regulated expression of an activated allele of Smoothened (R26-SmoM2) using either sporadic leakage or global postnatal induction of a ubiquitously expressed inducible Cre transgene (CAGGS-CreER). Following postnatal tamoxifen induction, CAGGS-CreER; R26-SmoM2 mice developed tumors with short latency and high penetrance. All mice exhibited rhabdomyosarcoma and basal cell carcinoma; 40% also developed medulloblastoma. In addition, mice showed a novel pancreatic lesion resembling low-grade mucinous cystic neoplasms in humans. In contrast, widespread activation of SmoM2 in the postnatal prostate epithelium results in no detectable morphologic outcome in 12-month-old mice. Comparison of gene expression profiles among diverse tumors identified several signature genes, including components of platelet-derived growth factor and insulin-like growth factor pathways, which may provide a common mechanistic link to the Hh-related malignancies. This experimental model provides a robust tool for exploring the process of Hh-dependent tumorigenesis and the treatment of such tumors. More generally, this approach provides a genetic platform for identifying tumorigenic potential in putative oncogenes and tumor suppressors and for more effective modeling of sporadic cancers in mice.
PMCID: PMC3806052  PMID: 17047082

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