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1.  NOTCH1 and NOTCH3 coordinate esophageal squamous differentiation through a CSL-dependent transcriptional network 
Gastroenterology  2010;139(6):2113-2123.
Background & Aims
The Notch receptor family regulates cell fate through cell-cell communication. CSL (CBF-1/RBP-jκ, Su(H), Lag-1) drives canonical Notch-mediated gene transcription during cell lineage specification, differentiation and proliferation in the hematopoietic system, the intestine, the pancreas and the skin. However, the functional roles of Notch in esophageal squamous epithelial biology remain unknown.
Normal esophageal keratinocytes were stimulated with calcium chloride to induce terminal differentiation. The squamous epithelia were reconstituted in organotypic three-dimensional culture, a form of human tissue engineering. Notch was inhibited in culture with a γ-secretase inhibitor or dominant negative mastermind-like1 (DNMAML1). The roles of Notch receptors were evaluated by in vitro gain-of-function and loss-of-function experiments. Additionally, DNMAML1 was targeted to the mouse esophagus by cytokeratin K14 promoter-driven Cre (K14Cre) recombination of Lox-STOP-Lox-DNMAML1. Notch-regulated gene expression was determined by reporter transfection, chromatin immunoprecipitation (ChIP) assays, quantitative reverse-transcription polymerase chain reactions (RT-PCR), Western blotting, immunofluorescence and immunohistochemistry.
NOTCH1 (N1) was activated at the onset of squamous differentiation in the esophagus. Intracellular domain of N1 (ICN1) directly activated NOTCH3 (N3) transcription, inducing HES5 and early differentiation markers such as involucrin (IVL) and cytokeratin CK13 in a CSL-dependent fashion. N3 enhanced ICN1 activity and was required for squamous differentiation. Loss of Notch signaling in K14Cre;DNMAML1 mice perturbed esophageal squamous differentiation and resulted in N3 loss and basal cell hyperplasia.
Notch signaling is important for esophageal epithelial homeostasis. In particular, the crosstalk of N3 with N1 during differentiation provides novel, mechanistic insights into Notch signaling and squamous epithelial biology.
PMCID: PMC2997138  PMID: 20801121
NOTCH1; NOTCH3; esophageal epithelium; squamous differentiation
2.  p53 mutation alters the effect of the esophageal tumor suppressor KLF5 on keratinocyte proliferation 
Cell Cycle  2012;11(21):4033-4039.
Krüppel-like factor 5 (KLF5) is a key transcriptional regulator that is typically pro-proliferative in non-transformed epithelial cells but inhibits proliferation in transformed epithelial cells. However, the underlying mechanisms for this context-dependent function are not known. KLF5 is epigenetically silenced and exhibits a tumor suppressive function in esophageal squamous cell cancer (ESCC). Since p53 mutation is the most common genetic alteration in ESCC, as in other human epithelial cancers, we hypothesized that the context-dependent functions of KLF5 in cell proliferation were dependent on p53 status. In fact, in non-transformed human primary esophageal keratinocytes, when p53 was wild-type, KLF5 was pro-proliferative; however, KLF5 became anti-proliferative when p53 was mutated. KLF5 loss in human primary keratinocytes harboring p53 mutation accelerated the cell cycle and decreased expression of p21Waf1/Cip1; similar effects were also seen in ESCC cells with established p53 mutations. Further, p21Waf1/Cip1 was directly and differentially bound and regulated by KLF5 in the presence or absence of mutant p53, and suppression of p21Waf1/Cip1 reversed the antiproliferative effects of KLF5 in the presence of p53 mutation. Thus, KLF5 is a critical brake on an aberrant cell cycle, with important tumor suppressive functions in esophageal squamous cell and potentially other epithelial cancers.
PMCID: PMC3507498  PMID: 22990386
KLF5; p53; p21; proliferation; squamous cell cancer
3.  Loss of transcription factor KLF5 in the context of p53 ablation drives invasive progression of human squamous cell cancer 
Cancer research  2011;71(20):6475-6484.
Squamous cell cancers account for more than half of all human cancers, and esophageal cancer is the sixth leading cause of cancer death worldwide. The majority of esophageal squamous cell carcinomas have identifiable p53 mutations, yet the same p53 mutations are found at comparable frequencies in pre-cancerous dysplasia, indicating that transformation requires additional somatic changes yet to be defined. Here we show that the zinc finger transcription factor KLF5 transactivates NOTCH1 in the context of p53 mutation or loss. KLF5 loss limited NOTCH1 activity and was sufficient on its own to transform primary human keratinocytes harboring mutant p53, leading to formation of invasive tumors. Restoration of NOTCH1 blocked transformation of KLF5-deficient and p53 mutant keratinocytes. While human dysplastic epithelia accumulated KLF5, KLF5 expression was lost concurrently with NOTCH1 in squamous cell cancers. Taken together, these results define KLF5 loss as a critical event in squamous cell transformation and invasion. Our findings suggest that KLF5 may be a useful diagnostic and therapeutic target in esophageal squamous carcinomas and possibly more generally in other cancers associated with p53 loss-of-function.
PMCID: PMC3193554  PMID: 21868761
KLF5; p53; NOTCH1; squamous cell cancer; esophageal cancer
4.  Klf4 Overexpression Activates Epithelial Cytokines and Inflammation-Mediated Esophageal Squamous Cell Cancer in Mice 
Gastroenterology  2010;139(6):2124-2134.e9.
Esophageal squamous cell cancer accounts for more than 90% of cases of esophageal cancers. Its pathogenesis involves chronic epithelial irritation, although the factors involved in the inflammatory process and the mechanisms of carcinogenesis are unknown. We sought to develop a mouse model of this cancer.
We used the ED-L2 promoter of Epstein-Barr virus to overexpress the transcriptional regulator Krüppel-like factor 4 (Klf4) in esophageal epithelia of mice; we used mouse primary esophageal keratinocytes to examine the mechanisms by which KLF4 induces cytokine production.
KLF4 was an epithelial-specific mediator of inflammation; we developed a new mouse model of esophageal squamous dysplasia and inflammation-mediated squamous cell cancer. KLF4 activated a number of proinflammatory cytokines, including TNF-α, CXCL5, G-CSF and IL-1α, within keratinocytes in an NF-κB– dependent manner. KLF4 was not detected in proliferating or cancer cells, indicating a non-cell autonomous effect of KLF4 on proliferation and carcinogenesis.
KLF4 has distinct functions in carcinogenesis; upregulation of Klf4 specifically in esophageal epithelial cells induces inflammation. This mouse model might be used to determine the molecular mechanisms of esophageal squamous cell cancer and inflammation-mediated carcinogenesis.
PMCID: PMC3457785  PMID: 20816834
Keratinocyte; Esophagus; Tumor Formation; Transformation
5.  Esophageal squamous cell dysplasia and delayed differentiation with deletion of Klf4 in murine esophagus 
Gastroenterology  2010;139(1):171-81.e9.
Background & Aims
Klf4 (Krüppel-like factor 4; GKLF) is a DNA-binding transcriptional regulator highly expressed in skin and gastrointestinal epithelia, specifically in regions of cellular differentiation. Homozygous null mice for Klf4 die shortly after birth from skin defects, precluding their analysis at later stages. The aim of this study was to analyze the function of Klf4 in keratinocyte biology and epithelial homeostasis in the adult by focusing on the squamous lined esophagus.
Using the ED-L2 promoter of Epstein-Barr virus to drive Cre, we obtained tissue specific ablation of Klf4 in the squamous epithelia of the tongue, esophagus, and forestomach.
Mice with loss of Klf4 in esophageal epithelia survived to adulthood, bypassing the early lethality. Tissue-specific Klf4 knockout mice had increased basal cell proliferation and a delay in cellular maturation; these mice developed epithelial hypertrophy and subsequent dysplasia by 6 months of age. Moreover, loss of Klf4 in vivo was associated with increased expression of the pro-proliferative Klf5, and Klf4 downregulated Klf5 both transcriptionally and post-transcriptionally. Using gene expression profiling, we also showed decreased expression of critical late-stage differentiation factors and identified alterations of several genes important in cellular differentiation.
Klf4 is essential for squamous epithelial differentiation in vivo and interacts with Klf5 to maintain normal epithelial homeostasis.
PMCID: PMC3265336  PMID: 20347813
Klf4; esophageal epithelium; differentiation; dysplasia
6.  Krüppel-Like Factor 5 Protects against Murine Colitis and Activates JAK-STAT Signaling In Vivo 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(5):e38338.
Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), which is characterized by chronic or recurring inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract, affects 1.4 million persons in the United States alone. KLF5, a Krüppel-like factor (KLF) family member, is expressed within the epithelia of the gastrointestinal tract and has been implicated in rapid cell proliferation, migration, and remodeling in a number of tissues. Given these functions, we hypothesized that constitutive Klf5 expression would protect against the development of colitis in vivo. To examine the role of KLF5 in vivo, we used the Villin promoter to target Klf5 to the entire horizontal axis of the small intestine and colon. Villin-Klf5 transgenic mice were born at normal Mendelian ratios and appeared grossly normal to at least 1 year of age. Surprisingly, there were no significant changes in cell proliferation or in the differentiation of any of the intestinal lineages within the duodenum, jejunum, ileum, and colon of Villin-Klf5 mice, compared to littermate controls. However, when Villin-Klf5 mice were treated with dextran sodium sulfate (DSS) to induce colitis, they developed less colonic injury and significantly reduced disease activity scores than littermate controls. The mechanism for this decreased injury may come via JAK-STAT signaling, the activation of which was increased in colonic mucosa of DSS treated Villin-Klf5 mice compared to controls. Thus, KLF5 and its downstream mediators may provide therapeutic targets and disease markers for IBD or other diseases characterized by injury and disruption of intestinal epithelia.
PMCID: PMC3364979  PMID: 22675454
7.  Deletion of p120-catenin results in a tumor microenvironment with inflammation and cancer that establishes it as a tumor suppressor gene 
Cancer cell  2011;19(4):470-483.
P120ctn interacts with E-cadherin, but no formal proof that p120ctn functions as a bone fide tumor suppressor gene has emerged. We report herein that p120ctn loss leads to tumor development in mice. We have generated a conditional knockout model of p120ctn whereby mice develop pre-neoplastic and neoplastic lesions in the oral cavity, esophagus and squamous forestomach. Tumor derived cells secrete granulocyte macrophage colony stimulating factor (GM-CSF), macrophage colony stimulating factor (M-CSF), monocyte chemotactic protein-1 (MCP-1) and tumor necrosis factor-α (TNFα). The tumors contain significant desmoplasia and immune cell infiltration. Immature myeloid cells comprise a significant percentage of the immune cells present, and likely participate in fostering a favorable tumor microenvironment, including the activation of fibroblasts.
PMCID: PMC3077713  PMID: 21481789
8.  Krüppel-like Factor 4, a “Pluripotency Transcription Factor” Highly Expressed in Male Postmeiotic Germ Cells, Is Dispensable for Spermatogenesis in the Mouse 
Mechanisms of development  2009;126(8-9):650-664.
Krüppel-like factor 4 (Klf4, GKLF) was originally characterized as a zinc finger transcription factor essential for terminal differentiation and cell lineage allocation of several cell types in the mouse. Mice lacking Klf4 die postnatally within hours due to impaired skin barrier function and subsequent dehydration. Recently, KLF4 was also used in cooperation with other transcription factors to reprogram differentiated cells to pluripotent embryonic stem cell-like cells. Moreover, involvement in oncogenesis was also ascribed to KLF4, which is aberrantly expressed in some types of tumors such as breast, gastric and colon cancer. We previously have shown that Klf4 is strongly expressed in postmeiotic germ cells of mouse and human testes suggesting a role for Klf4 also during spermiogenesis. In order to analyze its function we deleted Klf4 in germ cells using the Cre-loxP system. Homologous recombination of the Klf4 locus has been confirmed by genomic southern blotting and the absence of the protein in germ cells was demonstrated by western blotting and immunofluorescence. Despite its important roles in several significant biological settings, deletion of Klf4 in germ cells did not impair spermiogenesis. Histologically, the mutant testes appeared normal and the mice were fertile. In order to identify genes that were regulated by KLF4 in male germ cells we performed microarray analyses using a whole genome array. We identified many genes exhibiting changed expression in mutants even including the telomerase reverse transcriptase mRNA, which is a stem cell marker. However, in summary, the lack of KLF4 alone does not prevent complete spermatogenesis.
PMCID: PMC2744153  PMID: 19539755
Krüppel-like factor 4; testis; spermiogenesis; spermatogenesis; germ cell; Cre-loxP; mouse
9.  Krüppel-like factor 4 is involved in functional differentiation of testicular Sertoli cells 
Developmental biology  2008;315(2):552-566.
Krüppel-like factor 4 (KLF4) is a pleiotropic zinc finger transcription factor that regulates genes being involved in differentiation and cell-cycle control. Knock out studies revealed a critical function for KLF4 in the terminal differentiation of many epithelial cells. In testicular Sertoli cells, Klf4 is strongly inducible by the glycoprotein Follicle stimulating hormone (FSH). Since KLF4 is essential for postnatal survival in mice, we deleted Klf4 specifically in Sertoli cells using the Cre/loxP system. Importantly, around postnatal day 18, a critical period of terminal Sertoli cell differentiation, mutant seminiferous tubules exhibited a disorganized germinal epithelium and delayed lumen formation. The ultrastructural finding of highly vacuolized Sertoli cell cytoplasm and the identification of differentially expressed genes, which are known to play roles during vesicle transport and fusion or for maintenance of the differentiated cell state, suggest impaired apical secretion of the Sertoli cell. Interestingly, a high proportion of all identified genes was localized in a small subregion of chromosome 7 suggesting coordinated regulation. Intriguingly, adult mutant mice are fertile and show normal testicular morphology, although the testosterone levels are decreased. In summary, KLF4 plays a significant role for proper and timely Sertoli cell differentiation in pubertal mice.
PMCID: PMC2292099  PMID: 18243172
Krüppel-like factor 4; Sertoli cell; testis; spermatogenesis; epithelial cell polarity; exocytosis; vesicle; gene cluster; differentiation
10.  Haploinsufficiency of Krüppel-Like Factor 4 Promotes Adenomatous Polyposis Coli–Dependent Intestinal Tumorigenesis 
Cancer research  2007;67(15):7147-7154.
The zinc finger transcription factor Krüppel-like factor 4 (KLF4) is frequently down-regulated in colorectal cancer. Previous studies showed that the expression of KLF4 was activated by the colorectal cancer tumor suppressor adeno-matous polyposis coli (APC) and that KLF4 repressed the Wnt/β-catenin pathway. Here, we examined whether KLF4 plays a role in modulating intestinal tumorigenesis by comparing the tumor burdens in mice heterozygous for the ApcMin allele (ApcMin/+) and those heterozygous for both the ApcMin and Klf4 alleles (Klf4+/−/ApcMin/+). Between 10 and 20 weeks of age, Klf4+/−/ApcMin/+ mice developed, on average, 59% more intestinal adenomas than ApcMin/+ mice (P < 0.0001). Immunohistochemical staining showed that Klf4 protein levels were lower in the normal-appearing intestinal tissues of Klf4+/−/ApcMin/+ mice compared with wild-type, Klf4+/−, or ApcMin/+ mice. In contrast, the levels of β-catenin and cyclin D1 were higher in the normal-appearing intestinal tissues of Klf4+/−/ApcMin/+ mice compared with the other three genotypes. Klf4 levels were further decreased in adenomas from both ApcMin/+ and Klf4+/−/ApcMin/+ mice compared with their corresponding normal-appearing tissues. Reverse transcription-PCR showed an inverse correlation between adenoma size and Klf4 mRNA levels in both Klf4+/−/ApcMin/+ and ApcMin/+ mice. There was also a progressive loss of heterozygosity of the wild-type Apc allele in adenomas with increasing size from Klf4+/−/ApcMin/+ and ApcMin/+ mice. Results from this study show that KLF4 plays an important role in promoting the development of intestinal adenomas in the presence of ApcMin mutation.
PMCID: PMC2373271  PMID: 17671182
11.  Lysophosphatidic Acid Facilitates Proliferation of Colon Cancer Cells via Induction of Krüppel-like Factor 5* 
The Journal of biological chemistry  2007;282(21):15541-15549.
Among the multiple cellular effects mediated by lysophosphatidic acid (LPA), the effect on cell proliferation has extensively been investigated. A recent study showed that LPA-mediated proliferation of colon cancer cells requires activation of β-catenin. However, the majority of colon cancer cells have deregulation of the Wnt/β-catenin pathway. This prompted us to hypothesize the presence of additional pathway(s) activated by LPA resulting in an increase in the proliferation of colon cancer cells. Krüppel-like factor 5 (KLF5) is a transcriptional factor highly expressed in the crypt compartment of the intestinal epithelium. In this work, we investigated a role of KLF5 in LPA-mediated proliferation. We show that LPA stimulated the expression levels of KLF5 mRNA and protein in colon cancer cells and this stimulation was mediated by LPA2 and LPA3. Silencing of KLF5 expression by small interfering RNA significantly attenuated LPA-mediated proliferation of SW480 and HCT116 cells. LPA-mediated KLF5 induction was partially blocked by inhibition of the mitogen-activated protein kinase kinase and protein kinase C-δ. Moreover, we observed that LPA regulates KLF5 expression via eukaryotic elongation factor 2 kinase (eEF2k). Inhibition of calmodulin or silencing of eEF2k blocked the stimulation in KLF5 expression. Knockdown of eEF2k specifically inhibited KLF5 induction by LPA but not by fetal bovine serum or phorbol 12-myristate 13-acetate. These results identify KLF5 as a target of LPA-mediated signaling and suggest a role of KLF5 in promoting proliferation of intestinal epithelia in response to LPA.
PMCID: PMC2000347  PMID: 17430902
12.  The zinc-finger transcription factor Klf4 is required for terminal differentiation of goblet cells in the colon 
Development (Cambridge, England)  2002;129(11):2619-2628.
Klf4 (formerly GKLF) is a zinc-finger transcription factor expressed in the epithelia of the skin, lungs, gastrointestinal tract and several other organs. In vitro studies have suggested that Klf4 plays an important role in cell proliferation and/or differentiation. Mice homozygous for a null mutation in Klf4 die within 15 hours of birth and show selective perturbation of late-stage differentiation structures in the epidermis, but the function of Klf4 in the gastrointestinal tract has not been investigated. To address this issue, we have generated Klf4−/− mice by homologous recombination in embryonic stem cells. In this study, we provide the first in vivo evidence that Klf4 is a goblet cell-specific differentiation factor in the colon. Klf4−/− mice exhibit normal cell proliferation and cell death rates in the colon on postnatal day 1. However, Klf4−/− mice demonstrate a 90% decrease in the number of goblet cells in the colon, show abnormal expression of the goblet cell-specific marker Muc2 by in situ hybridization, have abnormal staining of the colonic epithelium with Alcian Blue for acidic mucins, and lack normal goblet cell morphology by ultrastructural analysis. All other epithelial cell types are present in the colon of Klf4−/− mice. In summary, Klf4 plays a crucial role in colonic epithelial cell differentiation in vivo.
PMCID: PMC2225535  PMID: 12015290
Klf4; Goblet cell; Cell differentiation; Colon; Mouse
13.  The Homeodomain Transcription Factor Cdx1 Does Not Behave as an Oncogene in Normal Mouse Intestine1 
Neoplasia (New York, N.Y.)  2008;10(1):8-19.
The Caudal-related homeobox genes Cdx1 and Cdx2 are intestine-specific transcription factors that regulate differentiation of intestinal cell types. Previously, we have shown Cdx1 to be antiproliferative and to promote cell differentiation. However, other studies have suggested that Cdx1 may be an oncogene. To test for oncogenic behavior, we used the murine villin promoter to ectopically express Cdx1 in the small intestinal villi and colonic surface epithelium. No changes in intestinal architecture, cell differentiation, or lineage selection were observed with expression of the transgene. Classic oncogenes enhance proliferation and induce tumors when ectopically expressed. However, the Cdx1 transgene neither altered intestinal proliferation nor induced spontaneous intestinal tumors. In a murine model for colitis-associated cancer, the Cdx1 transgene decreased, rather than increased, the number of adenomas that developed. In the polyps, the expression of the endogenous and the transgenic Cdx1 proteins was largely absent, whereas endogenous Villin expression was retained. This suggests that transgene silencing was specific and not due to a general Villin inactivation. In conclusion, neither the ectopic expression of Cdx1 was associated with changes in intestinal cell proliferation or differentiation nor was there increased intestinal cancer susceptibility. Our results therefore suggest that Cdx1 is not an oncogene in normal intestinal epithelium.
PMCID: PMC2213897  PMID: 18231635
14.  Conditional Deletion of the Mouse Klf4 Gene Results in Corneal Epithelial Fragility, Stromal Edema, and Loss of Conjunctival Goblet Cells▿ †  
Molecular and Cellular Biology  2006;27(1):182-194.
The Krüppel-like transcription factor KLF4 is among the most highly expressed transcription factors in the mouse cornea (B. Norman, J. Davis, and J. Piatigorsky, Investig. Ophthalmol. Vis. Sci. 45:429-440, 2004). Here, we deleted the Klf4 gene selectively in the surface ectoderm-derived structures of the eye (cornea, conjunctiva, eyelids, and lens) by mating Klf4-LoxP mice (J. P. Katz, N. Perreault, B. G. Goldstein, C. S. Lee, P. A. Labosky, V. W. Yang, and K. H. Kaestner, Development 129:2619-2628, 2002) with Le-Cre mice (R. Ashery-Padan, T. Marquardt, X. Zhou, and P. Gruss, Genes Dev. 14:2701-2711, 2000). Klf4 conditional null (Klf4CN) embryos developed normally, and the adult mice were viable and fertile. Unlike the wild type, the Klf4CN cornea consisted of three to four epithelial cell layers; swollen, vacuolated basal epithelial and endothelial cells; and edematous stroma. The conjunctiva lacked goblet cells, and the anterior cortical lens was vacuolated in Klf4CN mice. Excessive cell sloughing resulted in fewer epithelial cell layers in spite of increased cell proliferation at the Klf4CN ocular surface. Expression of the keratin-12 and aquaporin-5 genes was downregulated, consistent with the Klf4CN corneal epithelial fragility and stromal edema, respectively. These observations provide new insights into the role of KLF4 in postnatal maturation and maintenance of the ocular surface and suggest that the Klf4CN mouse is a useful model for investigating ocular surface pathologies such as dry eye, Meesmann's dystrophy, and Steven's-Johnson syndrome.
PMCID: PMC1800665  PMID: 17060454
15.  Krüppel-like factor 5 is an important mediator for lipopolysaccharide-induced proinflammatory response in intestinal epithelial cells 
Nucleic Acids Research  2006;34(4):1216-1223.
Lipopolysaccharide (LPS) is a bacterially-derived endotoxin that elicits a strong proinflammatory response in intestinal epithelial cells. It is well established that LPS activates this response through NF-κB. In addition, LPS signals through the mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) pathway. We previously demonstrated that the Krüppel-like factor 5 [KLF5; also known as intestine-enriched Krüppel-like factor (IKLF)] is activated by the MAPK. In the current study, we examined whether KLF5 mediates the signaling cascade elicited by LPS. Treatment of the intestinal epithelial cell line, IEC6, with LPS resulted in a dose- and time-dependent increase in KLF5 messenger RNA (mRNA) and protein levels. Concurrently, mRNA levels of the p50 and p65 subunits of NF-κB were increased by LPS treatment. Pretreatment with the MAPK inhibitor, U0126, or the LPS antagonist, polymyxin B, resulted in an attenuation of KLF5, p50 and p65 NF-κB subunit mRNA levels from LPS treatment. Importantly, suppression of KLF5 by small interfering RNA (siRNA) resulted in a reduction in p50 and p65 subunit mRNA levels and NF-κB DNA binding activity in response to LPS. LPS treatment also led to an increase in secretion of TNF-α and IL-6 from IEC6, both of which were reduced by siRNA inhibition of KLF5. In addition, intercellular adhesion molecule-1 (ICAM-1) levels were increased in LPS-treated IEC6 cells and this increase was associated with increased adhesion of Jurkat lymphocytes to IEC6. The induction of ICAM-1 expression and T cell adhesion to IEC6 by LPS were both abrogated by siRNA inhibition of KLF5. These results indicate that KLF5 is an important mediator for the proinflammatory response elicited by LPS in intestinal epithelial cells.
PMCID: PMC1383625  PMID: 16500892

Results 1-15 (15)