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1.  PARP1 inhibitors attenuate AKT phosphorylation via the upregulation of PHLPP1 
Poly (ADP-ribose) polymerase-1 (PARP1) inhibitors are emerging as an important class of drugs for treating BRCA-deficient cancers. Recent discoveries have shown that PARP1 inhibitors may treat other cancer patients in addition to the relatively small proportion of patients carrying BRCA mutations. However, the additional targets by which PARP1 inhibitor-mediated tumor suppression remain poorly understood. In this study, we show that two PARP1 inhibitors, PJ-34 and 3-AB, attenuate AKT phosphorylation at serine 473 (S473) independent of DNA repair impairment. These inhibitors decrease the AKT-associated phosphorylation of FOXO3A, enhance the nuclear retention of FOXO3A, and activate its transcriptional activity. We further demonstrate that treatment with PJ-34 or 3-AB dramatically increases the level of PHLPP1. Overexpression of PHLPP1 enhances the PARP1 inhibitor-induced downregulation of AKT phosphorylation and increases tumor cell death. In contrast, knockdown of PHLPP1 abrogates the PARP1 inhibitor-mediated AKT inhibition and desensitizes cells to its treatment. Therefore, our findings not only show the robust role of PARP1 inhibitors in AKT inhibition but also develop a novel strategy to increase the effectiveness of cancer treatment via PARP1 inhibitor-induced PHLPP1 upregulation.
PMCID: PMC3163691  PMID: 21821012
PARP1 inhibitor; AKT; FOXO3A; PHLPP1
2.  FTY720 Induces Apoptosis of M2 Subtype Acute Myeloid Leukemia Cells by Targeting Sphingolipid Metabolism and Increasing Endogenous Ceramide Levels 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(7):e103033.
The M2 subtype Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML-M2) with t(8;21) represents an unmet challenge because of poor clinical outcomes in a sizable portion of patients. In this study,we report that FTY720 (Fingolimod), a sphingosine analogue and an FDA approved drug for treating of multiple sclerosis, shows antitumorigenic activity against the Kasumi-1 cell line, xenograft mouse models and leukemic blasts isolated from AML-M2 patients with t(8;21) translocation. Primary investigation indicated that FTY720 caused cell apoptosis through caspases and protein phosphatase 2A (PP2A) activation. Transcriptomic profiling further revealed that FTY720 treatment could upregulate AML1 target genes and interfere with genes involved in ceramide synthesis. Treatment with FTY720 led to the elimination of AML1-ETO oncoprotein and caused cell cycle arrest. More importantly, FTY720 treatment resulted in rapid and significant increase of pro-apoptotic ceramide levels, determined by high-performance liquid chromatography-electrospray ionization tandem mass spectrometry based lipidomic approaches. Structural simulation model had also indicated that the direct binding of ceramide to inhibitor 2 of PP2A (I2PP2A) could reactivate PP2A and cause cell death. This study demonstrates, for the first time, that accumulation of ceramide plays a central role in FTY720 induced cell death of AML-M2 with t(8;21). Targeting sphingolipid metabolism by using FTY720 may provide novel insight for the drug development of treatment for AML-M2 leukemia.
PMCID: PMC4106898  PMID: 25050888
3.  Iqcg Is Essential for Sperm Flagellum Formation in Mice 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(5):e98053.
Mammalian spermatogenesis comprises three successive phases: mitosis phase, meiosis phase, and spermiogenesis. During spermiogenesis, round spermatid undergoes dramatic morphogenesis to give rise to mature spermatozoon, including the condensation and elongation of nucleus, development of acrosome, formation of flagellum, and removal of excessive cytoplasm. Although these transformations are well defined at the morphological level, the mechanisms underlying these intricate processes are largely unknown. Here, we report that Iqcg, which was previously characterized to be involved in a chromosome translocation of human leukemia, is highly expressed in the spermatogenesis of mice and localized to the manchette in developing spermatids. Iqcg knockout causes male infertility, due to severe defects of spermiogenesis and resultant total immobility of spermatozoa. The axoneme in the Iqcg knockout sperm flagellum is disorganized and hardly any typical (“9+2”) pattern of microtubule arrangement could be found in Iqcg knockout spermatids. Iqcg interacts with calmodulin in a calcium dependent manner in the testis, suggesting that Iqcg may play a role through calcium signaling. Furthermore, cilia structures in the trachea and oviduct, as well as histological appearances of other major tissues, remain unchanged in the Iqcg knockout mice, suggesting that Iqcg is specifically required for spermiogenesis in mammals. These results might also provide new insights into the genetic causes of human infertility.
PMCID: PMC4029791  PMID: 24849454
4.  GSTT1 Deletion Is Related to Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons-Induced DNA Damage and Lymphoma Progression 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(2):e89302.
The interrelationship between genetic susceptibility and carcinogenic exposure is important in cancer development. Polymorphisms in detoxification enzymes of the glutathione-S-transferases (GST) family are associated with an increased incidence of lymphoma. Here we investigated the molecular connection of the genetic polymorphism of GSTT1 to the response of lymphocytes to polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH). In neoplastic situation, GSTT1 deletions were more frequently observed in lymphoma patients (54.9%) than in normal controls (42.0%, P = 0.009), resulting in an increased risk for lymphoma in individuals with GSTT1-null genotype (Odds ratio = 1.698, 95% confidence interval = 1.145–2.518). GSTT1 gene and protein expression were accordingly decreased in GSTT1-deleting patients, consistent with activated profile of cell cycle regulation genes. Mimicking environmental exposure using long-term repeat culture with low-dose PAH metabolite Hydroquinone, malignant B- and T-lymphocytes presented increased DNA damage, pCHK1/MYC expression and cell proliferation, which were counteracted by ectopic expression of GSTT1. Moreover, GSTT1 expression retarded xenograft tumor formation of Hydroquinone-treated lymphoma cells in nude mice. In non-neoplastic situation, when zebrafish was exposed to PAH Benzo(a)pyrene, molecular silencing of gstt1 enhanced the proliferation of normal lymphocytes and upregulated myca expression. Collectively, these findings suggested that GSTT1 deletion is related to genetic predisposition to lymphoma, particularly interacting with environmental pollutants containing PAH.
PMCID: PMC3930712  PMID: 24586676
5.  Histone deacetylase inhibitor potentiated the ability of MTOR inhibitor to induce autophagic cell death in Burkitt leukemia/lymphoma 
Burkitt leukemia/lymphoma is a major subtype of aggressive B-cell lymphoma. Biological targeted therapies on this disease need to be further investigated and may help to improve the clinical outcome of the patients.
This study examined the anti-tumor activity of the histone deacetylases (HDAC) inhibitor valproic acid (VPA) combined with the mammalian target of rapamycin (MTOR) inhibitor temsirolimus in Burkitt leukemia/lymphoma cell lines, as well as in primary tumor cells and a murine xenograft model.
Co-treatment of VPA and temsirolimus synergistically inhibited the tumor cell growth and triggered the autophagic cell death, with a significant inhibition of MTOR signaling and MYC oncoprotein. Functioned as a class I HDAC inhibitor, VPA potentiated the effect of temsirolimus on autophagy through inhibiting HDAC1. Molecular silencing of HDAC1 using small interfering RNA (siRNA) attenuated VPA-mediated regulation of CDKN1A, CDKN1B and LC3-I/II, regression of tumor cell growth and induction of autophagy. Meanwhile, VPA counteracted temsirolimus-induced AKT activation via HDAC3 inhibition. HDAC3 siRNA abrogated the ability of VPA to modulate AKT phosphorylation, to suppress tumor cell growth and to induce autophagy. Strong antitumor effect was also observed on primary tumor cells while sparing normal hematopoiesis ex vivo. In a murine xenograft model established with subcutaneous injection of Namalwa cells, dual treatment efficiently blocked tumor growth, inhibited MYC and induced in situ autophagy.
These findings confirmed the synergistic effect of the HDAC and MTOR inhibitors on Burkitt leukemia/lymphoma, and provided an insight into clinical application of targeting autophagy in treating MYC-associated lymphoid malignancies.
PMCID: PMC3722002  PMID: 23866964
Histone deacetylase inhibitor; MTOR inhibitor; Autophagy; Burkitt leukemia/lymphoma; MYC
6.  Synergy between Proteasome Inhibitors and Imatinib Mesylate in Chronic Myeloid Leukemia 
PLoS ONE  2009;4(7):e6257.
Resistance developed by leukemic cells, unsatisfactory efficacy on patients with chronic myeloid leukemia (CML) at accelerated and blastic phases, and potential cardiotoxity, have been limitations for imatinib mesylate (IM) in treating CML. Whether low dose IM in combination with agents of distinct but related mechanisms could be one of the strategies to overcome these concerns warrants careful investigation.
Methods and Findings
We tested the therapeutic efficacies as well as adverse effects of low dose IM in combination with proteasome inhibitor, Bortezomib (BOR) or proteasome inhibitor I (PSI), in two CML murine models, and investigated possible mechanisms of action on CML cells. Our results demonstrated that low dose IM in combination with BOR exerted satisfactory efficacy in prolongation of life span and inhibition of tumor growth in mice, and did not cause cardiotoxicity or body weight loss. Consistently, BOR and PSI enhanced IM-induced inhibition of long-term clonogenic activity and short-term cell growth of CML stem/progenitor cells, and potentiated IM-caused inhibition of proliferation and induction of apoptosis of BCR-ABL+ cells. IM/BOR and IM/PSI inhibited Bcl-2, increased cytoplasmic cytochrome C, and activated caspases. While exerting suppressive effects on BCR-ABL, E2F1, and β-catenin, IM/BOR and IM/PSI inhibited proteasomal degradation of protein phosphatase 2A (PP2A), leading to a re-activation of this important negative regulator of BCR-ABL. In addition, both combination therapties inhibited Bruton's tyrosine kinase via suppression of NFκB.
These data suggest that combined use of tyrosine kinase inhibitor and proteasome inhibitor might be helpful for optimizing CML treatment.
PMCID: PMC2705802  PMID: 19606213
7.  Treatment of acute promyelocytic leukaemia with all-trans retinoic acid and arsenic trioxide: a paradigm of synergistic molecular targeting therapy 
To turn a disease from highly fatal to highly curable is extremely difficult, especially when the disease is a type of cancer. However, we can gain some insight into how this can be done by looking back over the 50-year history of taming acute promyelocytic leukaemia (APL). APL is the M3 type of acute myeloid leukaemia characterized by an accumulation of abnormal promyelocytes in bone marrow, a severe bleeding tendency and the presence of the chromosomal translocation t(15;17) or variants. APL was considered the most fatal type of acute leukaemia five decades ago and the treatment of APL was a nightmare for physicians. Great efforts have been made by scientists worldwide to conquer this disease. The first use of chemotherapy (CT) was unsuccessful due to lack of supportive care and cytotoxic-agent-related exacerbated coagulopathy. The first breakthrough came from the use of anthracyclines which improved the complete remission (CR) rate, though the 5-year overall survival could only be attained in a small proportion of patients. A rational and intriguing hypothesis, to induce differentiation of APL cells rather than killing them, was raised in the 1970s. Laudably, the use of all-trans retinoic acid (ATRA) in treating APL resulted in terminal differentiation of APL cells and a 90–95% CR rate of patients, turning differentiation therapy in cancer treatment from hypothesis to practice. The combination of ATRA with CT further improved the 5-year overall survival. When arsenic trioxide (ATO) was used to treat relapsed APL not only the patients but also the ancient drug were revived. ATO exerts dose-dependent dual effects on APL cells: at low concentration, ATO induces partial differentiation, while at relatively high concentration, it triggers apoptosis. Of note, both ATRA and ATO trigger catabolism of the PML–RARα fusion protein which is the key player in APL leukaemogenesis generated from t(15;17), targeting the RARα (retinoic acid receptor α) or promyelocytic leukaemia (PML) moieties, respectively. Hence, in treating APL both ATRA and ATO represent paradigms for molecularly targeted therapy. At molecular level, ATRA and ATO synergistically modulate multiple downstream pathways/cascades. Strikingly, a clearance of PML–RARα transcript in an earlier and more thorough manner, and a higher quality remission and survival in newly diagnosed APL are achieved when ATRA is combined with ATO, as compared to either monotherapy, making APL a curable disease. Thus, the story of APL can serve as a model for the development of curative approaches for disease; it suggests that molecularly synergistic targeted therapies are powerful tools in cancer, and dissection of disease pathogenesis or anatomy of the cancer genome is critical in developing molecular target-based therapies.
PMCID: PMC2435563  PMID: 17317642
acute promyelocytic leukaemia; all-trans retinoic acid; differentiation; arsenic trioxide; apoptosis; synergy
8.  Genome-Wide Survey and Developmental Expression Mapping of Zebrafish SET Domain-Containing Genes 
PLoS ONE  2008;3(1):e1499.
SET domain-containing proteins represent an evolutionarily conserved family of epigenetic regulators, which are responsible for most histone lysine methylation. Since some of these genes have been revealed to be essential for embryonic development, we propose that the zebrafish, a vertebrate model organism possessing many advantages for developmental studies, can be utilized to study the biological functions of these genes and the related epigenetic mechanisms during early development. To this end, we have performed a genome-wide survey of zebrafish SET domain genes. 58 genes total have been identified. Although gene duplication events give rise to several lineage-specific paralogs, clear reciprocal orthologous relationship reveals high conservation between zebrafish and human SET domain genes. These data were further subject to an evolutionary analysis ranging from yeast to human, leading to the identification of putative clusters of orthologous groups (COGs) of this gene family. By means of whole-mount mRNA in situ hybridization strategy, we have also carried out a developmental expression mapping of these genes. A group of maternal SET domain genes, which are implicated in the programming of histone modification states in early development, have been identified and predicted to be responsible for all known sites of SET domain-mediated histone methylation. Furthermore, some genes show specific expression patterns in certain tissues at certain stages, suggesting the involvement of epigenetic mechanisms in the development of these systems. These results provide a global view of zebrafish SET domain histone methyltransferases in evolutionary and developmental dimensions and pave the way for using zebrafish to systematically study the roles of these genes during development.
PMCID: PMC2200798  PMID: 18231586
9.  Retinoic Acid and Arsenic for Treating Acute Promyelocytic Leukemia 
PLoS Medicine  2005;2(1):e12.
What were the critical steps in the development of ATRA and arsenic as treatments for APL? Researchers in Shanghai tell the story and look to the future
PMCID: PMC545204  PMID: 15696202
10.  An X chromosome-wide association analysis identifies variants in GPR174 as a risk factor for Graves’ disease 
Journal of Medical Genetics  2013;50(7):479-485.
Graves’ disease is a female preponderant autoimmune illness and the contribution of the X chromosome to its risk has long been appreciated. However, no X-linked susceptibility loci have been indentified from recent genome-wide association studies (GWAS).
We re-examined the X chromosome data from our recent GWAS for Graves’ disease by including males that were previously excluded from the X chromosome analyses. The data were analysed using logistic regression analysis including sex as a covariate, and an additive method assuming X chromosome inactivation, implemented in snpMatrix.
A cluster of single nucleotide polymorphism (SNPs) at Xq21.1 was found showing association with genome-wide significance, among which rs3827440 was a non-synonymous SNP of GPR174 (Plogistic regression= 9.52×10−8; PsnpMatrix=4.60×10−9; OR=1.76, 95% CI 1.45 to 2.13). The association was reproduced in an independent sample collection set including 4564 Graves’ disease cases and 3968 sex matched controls (combined Plogistic regression=5.53×10−21; combined PsnpMatrix=4.26×10−22; OR=1.69, 95% CI 1.53 to 1.86). Notably, GPR174 was widely expressed in immune related tissues and rs3827440 genotypes were associated with distinct mRNA levels (p=0.002). GPR174 did not show sex biased gene expression in our expression analysis. Resequencing study suggested the contribution of some rare variants in the GPR174 gene region to disease risk with a collapsing p value of 1.16×10−3.
The finding of an X-linked risk locus for Graves’ disease expands our understanding of the role of the X chromosome in disease susceptibility.
PMCID: PMC3686253  PMID: 23667180
Genetics; Genome-wide; Complex traits; Thyroid disease; Endocrinology

Results 1-10 (10)