The pathogenesis of sporadic colorectal cancer involves distinct pathways, with characteristic genomic alterations. The first pathway, chromosome instability (CIN), is driven by APC mutations and is typified by Kras mutations, p53 mutation/loss of heterozygosity, and deletions at chromosome 18q. The second pathway is referred to as microsatellite instability (MSI), a genetic hallmark of the accumulated mutations that occur as a consequence of derangements in the mismatch repair genes. Finally, proximal colon cancers may involve methylation of a number of genes, which is frequently referred to as the CpG island methylator phenotype (CIMP), and are associated with B-raf mutations. The ability to stratify colorectal cancers by risk would be facilitated by the identification of polymorphisms that might be utilized as biomarkers. LIN28B is an RNA binding protein that is overexpressed in colon cancers. We find that LIN28B rs314277 is associated with significant recurrence of colorectal cancer in Stage II disease, which may have translational therapeutic implications.
Colon cancer; LIN28B; SNP; prognosis; molecular pathogenesis; genetics; genomics
Lin28b is an RNA-binding protein that inhibits biogenesis of let-7 microRNAs. LIN28B is overexpressed in diverse cancers, yet a specific role in the molecular pathogenesis of colon cancer has yet to be elucidated. We have determined that human colon tumors exhibit decreased levels of mature let-7 isoforms and increased expression of LIN28B. In order to determine LIN28B's mechanistic role in colon cancer, we expressed LIN28B in immortalized colonic epithelial cells and human colon cancer cell lines. We found that LIN28B promotes cell migration, invasion, and transforms immortalized colonic epithelial cells. In addition, constitutive LIN28B expression increases expression of intestinal stem cell markers LGR5 and PROM1 in the presence of let-7 restoration. This may occur as a result of Lin28b protein binding LGR5 and PROM1 mRNA, suggesting that a subset of LIN28B functions are independent of its ability to repress let-7. Our findings establish a new role for LIN28B in human colon cancer pathogenesis, and suggest LIN28B post-transcriptionally regulates LGR5 and PROM1 through a let-7 independent mechanism.
LIN28B; LIN28; Let-7; colon cancer; LGR5; PROM1
The pancreas is a complex organ comprised of three critical cell lineages: islet (endocrine), acinar, and ductal. This review will focus upon recent insights and advances in the biology of pancreatic ductal cells. In particular, emphasis will be placed upon the regulation of ductal cells by specific transcriptional factors during development as well as the underpinnings of acinar-ductal metaplasia as an important adaptive response during injury and regeneration. We also address the potential contributions of ductal cells to neoplastic transformation, specifically in pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma.
MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are single-stranded, non-coding RNA molecules that regulate gene expression at the post-transcriptional level. Genes encoding miRNAs are located in regions of the genome that are commonly amplified, deleted or rearranged. They are commonly dysregulated in human cancers and known to act as oncogenes or tumor suppressors. Members of the miR-200 miRNA family are downregulated in human cancer cells and tumors due to aberrant epigenetic gene silencing and play a critical role in the suppression of epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition (EMT), tumor cell adhesion, migration, invasion and metastasis, by targeting and repressing the expression of key mRNAs that are involved in EMT (ZEB1 and ZEB2), β-catenin/Wnt signaling (β-catenin), EGFR inhibitor resistance (ERRFI-1) and chemoresistance to therapeutic agents (TUBB3). Since the miR-200 family functions as putative tumor suppressors and represent biomarkers for poorly differentiated and aggressive cancers, restoration of miR-200 expression may have therapeutic implications for the treatment of metastatic and drug-resistant tumors.
miRNAs; mir-200; epithelial-mesenchymal transition; β-catenin/Wnt signaling; microenvironment; metastasis; RNA
A number of studies show that mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) depletion and attendant activation of retrograde signaling induces tumor progression. We have reported previously that activation of a novel nuclear factor-Kappa B pathway is critical for the propagation of mitochondrial retrograde signaling, which induces both phenotypic and morphological changes in C2C12 myoblasts and A549 lung carcinoma cells. In this study, we investigated the role of stress-induced nuclear factor-Kappa B in tumor progression in xenotransplanted mice. We used a retroviral system for the inducible expression of small interfering RNA against IkBα and IkBβ mRNAs. Expression of small interfering RNA against IkBβ markedly impaired tumor growth and invasive ability of mtDNA-depleted C2C12 myoblasts and also thwarted anchorage-independent growth of the cells. Knockdown of IkBα mRNA, however, did not have any modulatory effect in this cell system. Moreover, expression of small interfering RNA against IkBβ reduced the expression of marker genes for retrograde signaling and tumor growth in xenografts of mtDNA-depleted cells. Our findings demonstrate that IkBβ is a master regulator of mitochondrial retrograde signaling pathway and that the retrograde signaling plays a role in tumor growth in vivo. In this regard, IkBβ supports the tumorigenic potential of mtDNA-depleted C2C12 cells.
Understanding the molecular and cellular processes underlying the development, maintenance, and progression of Barrett’s esophagus (BE) presents an empirical challenge because there are no simple animal models and standard 2D cell culture can distort cellular processes. Here we describe a three-dimensional (3D) cell culture system to study Barrett’s esophagus. BE cell lines (CP-A, CP-B, CP-C, and CP-D) and esophageal squamous keratinocytes (EPC2) were cultured on a matrix consisting of esophageal fibroblasts and collagen. Comparison of growth and cytokeratin expression in the presence of all-trans retinoic acid or hydrochloric acid was made by immunohistochemistry and Alcian Blue staining to determine which treatments produced a BE phenotype of columnar cytokeratin expression in 3D culture. All-trans retinoic acid differentially affected the growth of BE cell lines in 3D culture. Notably, the non-dyplastic metaplasia-derived cell line (CP-A) expressed reduced squamous cytokeratins and enhanced columnar cytokeratins upon ATRA treatment. ATRA altered the EPC2 squamous cytokeratin profile towards a more columnar expression pattern. Cell lines derived from patients with high grade dysplasia already expressed columnar cytokeratins and therefore did not show a systematic shift toward a more columnar phenotype with ATRA treatment. ATRA treatment however did reduce the squamoid-like multilayer stratification observed in all cell lines. As the first study to demonstrate long term 3D growth of BE cell lines, we have determined that BE cells can be cultured for at least three weeks on a fibroblast/collagen matrix and that the use of ATRA causes a general reduction in squamous-like multilayered growth and an increase in columnar phenotype with the specific effects cell-line dependent.
ATRA; 3D culture; Acid pulse; Cytokeratins; Organotypic reconstruct
Pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC) commonly contains a mutation in K-RasG12D and is characterized by a desmoplastic reaction composed of deregulated, proliferating cells embedded in an abnormal extracellular matrix (ECM). Our previous observations imply that inhibiting the mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK)-extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK2) kinase signal pathway reverses a matrix metalloproteinase 1-specific invasive phenotype. Here, we investigated the specific genes downstream of MAPK-ERK2 responsible for the hyperproliferative abilities of human and murine primary ductal epithelial cells (PDCs) within an ECM. Compared with control, DNA synthesis and total cell proliferation was significantly increased in human PDCs harboring the PDAC common p53, Rb/p16INK4a, and K-RasG12D mutations. Both of these effects were readily reversed following small-molecule inhibition or lentiviral silencing of ERK2. Microarray analysis of PDCs in three-dimensional (3D) culture revealed a unique, MAPK-influenced gene signature downstream of K-RasG12D. Unbiased hierarchical analysis permitted filtration of tissue inhibitor of matrix metalloproteinase 1 (TIMP1). Pancreatic cells isolated from Pdx1-Cre; LSL-K-rasG12D/+-mutated mice exhibit increased TIMP1 RNA transcription compared to wild-type littermate controls. Analyses of both 3D, in vitro human K-RasG12D PDCs and data mining of publicly annotated human pancreatic data sets correlatively indicate increased levels of TIMP1 RNA. While silencing TIMP1 did not significantly effect PDC proliferation, exogenous addition of human recombinant TIMP1 significantly increased proliferation but only in transformed K-RasG12D PDCs in 3D. Overall, TIMP1 is an upregulated gene product and a proliferative inducer of K-RasG12D-mutated PDCs through the ERK2 signaling pathway.
The goal of achieving measurable response with cancer immunotherapy requires counteracting the immunosuppressive characteristics of tumors. One of the mechanisms that tumors utilize to escape immunosurveillance is the activation of myeloid derived suppressor cells (MDSCs). Upon activation by tumor-derived signals, MDSCs inhibit the ability of the host to mount an anti-tumor immune response via their capacity to suppress both the innate and adaptive immune systems. Despite their relatively recent discovery and characterization, anti-MDSC agents have been identified, which may improve immunotherapy efficacy.
Myeloid derived suppressor cells; docetaxol; RNA aptamer; CpG oligodeoxynucleotides (ODN); cyclophosphamide; gemcitabine; curcumin
Pancreatic ductal adenocarcinomas (PDAC) are highly invasive and metastatic neoplasms commonly unresponsive to current drug therapy. Overwhelmingly, PDAC harbors early constitutive, oncogenic mutations in K-RasG12D that exist prior to invasion. Histologic and genetic analyses of human PDAC biopsies also exhibit increased expression of ERK1/2 and pro-invasive matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs); indicators of poor prognosis. However, the distinct molecular mechanisms necessary for K-Ras – ERK1/2 signaling and its influence on MMP-directed stromal invasion in primary human pancreatic ductal epithelial cells (PDECs) has yet to be elucidated in 3D. Expression of oncogenic K-RasG12D alone in genetically-defined PDECs reveals increased invadopodia and epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition markers, but only when cultured in a 3D model incorporating a basement membrane analog. Activation of extracellular signal-related kinase 2 (ERK2), but not ERK1, also occurs only in K-RasG12D mutated PDECs cultured in 3D and is a necessary intracellular signaling event for invasion based upon pharmacologic and shRNA inhibition. Increased active invasion of K-RasG12D PDECs through the basement membrane model is associated with a specific microarray gene expression signature and induction of MMP endopeptidases. Specifically, MMP-1 RNA, its secreted protein, and its proteolytic cleavage activity are amplified in K-RasG12D PDECs when assayed by RT q-PCR, ELISA, and fluorescence resonance energy transfer (FRET). Importantly, shRNA silencing of MMP-1 mimics ERK2 inhibition and disrupts active, vertical PDEC invasion. ERK2-isoform and MMP-1 targeting are shown to be viable strategies to attenuate invasion of K-RasG12D mutated human pancreatic cancer cells in a 3D tumor microenvironment.
K-Ras; ERK2; Pancreatic Cancer; 3D Invasion; MMP-1
This protocol describes the isolation and characterization of mouse and human esophageal epithelial cells and the application of 3D organotypic culture (OTC), a form of tissue engineering. This model system permits the interrogation of mechanisms underlying epithelial-stromal interactions. We provide guidelines for isolating and cultivating several sources of epithelial cells and fibroblasts, as well as genetic manipulation of these cell types, as a prelude to their integration into OTC. The protocol includes a number of important applications, including histology, immunohistochemistry/immunofluorescence, genetic modification of epithelial cells and fibroblasts with retroviral and lentiviral vectors for overexpression of genes or RNA interference strategies, confocal imaging, laser capture microdissection, RNA microarrays of individual cellular compartments and protein-based assays. The OTC (3D) culture protocol takes 15 d to perform.
Metastasis is the leading cause of cancer-associated death but has been difficult to study because it involves a series of rare, stochastic events. To capture these events, we developed a sensitive method to tag and track pancreatic epithelial cells in a mouse model of pancreatic cancer. Tagged cells invaded and entered the bloodstream unexpectedly early, before frank malignancy could be detected by rigorous histologic analysis; this behavior was widely associated with epithelial-tomesenchymal transition (EMT). Circulating pancreatic cells maintained a mesenchymal phenotype, exhibited stem cell properties, and seeded the liver. EMT and invasiveness were most abundant at inflammatory foci, and induction of pancreatitis increased the number of circulating pancreatic cells. Conversely, treatment with the immunosuppressive agent dexamethasone abolished dissemination. These results provide new insight into the earliest events of cellular invasion in situ and suggest that inflammation enhances cancer progression in part by facilitating EMT and entry into the circulation.
Esophageal adenocarcinoma (EAC) arises from Barrett esophagus (BE), intestinal-like columnar metaplasia linked to reflux esophagitis. In a transgenic mouse model of BE, esophageal overexpression of interleukin-1β phenocopies human pathology with evolution of esophagitis, Barrett’s-like metaplasia and EAC. Histopathology and gene signatures resembled closely human BE, with upregulation of TFF2, Bmp4, Cdx2, Notch1 and IL-6. The development of BE and EAC was accelerated by exposure to bile acids and/or nitrosamines, and inhibited by IL-6 deficiency. Lgr5+ gastric cardia stem cells present in BE were able to lineage trace the early BE lesion. Our data suggest that BE and EAC arise from gastric progenitors due to a tumor-promoting IL-1β-IL-6 signaling cascade and Dll1-dependent Notch signaling.
LIN28B is a homolog of LIN28 which induces pluripotency when expressed in conjunction with OCT4, SOX2, and KLF4 in somatic fibroblasts. LIN28B represses biogenesis of let-7 microRNAs and is implicated in both development and tumorigenesis. Recently, we have determined that LIN28B overexpression occurs in colon tumors. We conducted a comprehensive analysis of Lin28b protein expression in human colon adenocarcinomas. We found that LIN28B overexpression correlates with reduced patient survival and increased probability of tumor recurrence. In order to elucidate tumorigenic functions of LIN28B, we constitutively expressed LIN28B in colon cancer cells and evaluated tumor formation in vivo. Tumors with constitutive Lin28b expression exhibit increased expression of colonic stem cell markers LGR5 and PROM1, mucinous differentiation, and metastasis. Together, our findings point to a function for LIN28B in promoting colon tumor pathogenesis, especially metastasis.
LIN28B; LIN28; let-7; colon cancer; differentiation; metastasis
Curative eradication of all cells within carcinomas is seldom achievable with chemotherapy alone. This limitation may be partially attributable to tumor cell subpopulations with intrinsic resistance to current drugs. Within squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) cell lines, we previously characterized a subpopulation of mesenchymal-like cells displaying phenotypic plasticity and increased resistance to both cytotoxic and targeted agents. These mesenchymal-like (Ecad-lo) cells are separable from epithelial-like (Ecad-hi) cells based on loss of surface E-cadherin and expression of vimentin. Despite their long-term plasticity, both Ecad-lo and Ecad-hi subsets in short-term culture maintained nearly uniform phenotypes after purification. This stability allowed testing of segregated subpopulations for relative sensitivity to the cytotoxic agent cisplatin in comparison to salinomycin, a compound with reported activity against CD44+CD24− stem-like cells in breast carcinomas. Salinomycin showed comparable efficacy against both Ecad-hi and Ecad-lo cells in contrast to cisplatin, which selectively depleted Ecad-hi cells. An in vivo correlate of these mesenchymal-like Ecad-lo cells was identified by immunohistochemical detection of vimentin-positive malignant subsets across a part of direct tumor xenografts (DTXs) of advanced stage SCC patient samples. Cisplatin treatment of mice with established DTXs caused enrichment of vimentin-positive malignant cells in residual tumors, but salinomycin depleted the same subpopulation. These results demonstrate that mesenchymal-like SCC cells, which resist current chemotherapies, respond to a treatment strategy developed against a stem-like subset in breast carcinoma. Further, they provide evidence of mesenchymal-like subsets being well-represented across advanced stage SCCs, suggesting that intrinsic drug resistance in this subpopulation has high clinical relevance.
EMT; squamous cell carcinoma; head and neck cancer; esophageal cancer; chemotherapy resistance; salinomycin; tumor heterogeneity
Skp1-Cul1-F-box (SCF) E3 ubiquitin ligase complexes modulate the accumulation of key cell cycle regulatory proteins. Following the G1/S transition, SCFFbx4 targets cyclin D1 for proteasomal degradation, a critical event necessary for DNA replication fidelity. Deregulated cyclin D1 drives tumorigenesis, and inactivating mutations in Fbx4 have been identified in human cancer, suggesting that Fbx4 may function as a tumor suppressor. Fbx4+/− and Fbx4−/− mice succumb to multiple tumor phenotypes, including lymphomas, histiocytic sarcomas and, less frequently, mammary and hepatocellular carcinomas. Tumors and premalignant tissue from Fbx4+/− and Fbx4−/− mice exhibit elevated cyclin D1, an observation consistent with cyclin D1 as a target of Fbx4. Molecular dissection of the Fbx4 regulatory network in murine embryonic fibroblasts (MEFs) revealed that loss of Fbx4 results in cyclin D1 stabilization and nuclear accumulation throughout cell division. Increased proliferation in early passage primary MEFs is antagonized by DNA damage checkpoint activation, consistent with nuclear cyclin D1-driven genomic instability. Furthermore, Fbx4−/− MEFs exhibited increased susceptibility to Ras-dependent transformation in vitro, analogous to tumorigenesis observed in mice. Collectively, these data reveal a requisite role for the SCFFbx4 E3 ubiquitin ligase in regulating cyclin D1 accumulation, consistent with tumor suppressive function in vivo.
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.
Insulin-like growth factor 2 mRNA-binding protein-1 (IMP-1) is an oncofetal protein that binds directly to and stabilizes oncogenic c-Myc and regulates in turn its post-transcriptional expression and translation. In contrast to normal adult tissue, IMP-1 is re-expressed and/or overexpressed in human cancers. We demonstrate that knock-down of c-Myc in human colon cancer cell lines increases the expression of mature let-7 miRNA family members and downregulates several of its mRNA targets: IMP-1, Cdc34, and K-Ras. We further demonstrate that loss of IMP-1 inhibits Cdc34, Lin-28B, and K-Ras, and suppresses SW-480 cell proliferation and anchorage-independent growth, and promotes caspase and lamin-mediated cell death. We also found that IMP-1 binds to the coding region and 3′UTR of K-Ras mRNA. RNA microarray profiling and validation by reverse transcription PCR reveals that the p53-inducible pro-apoptotic protein, CYFIP2, is upregulated in IMP-1 knock-down SW480 cells, a novel finding. We also show that overexpression of IMP-1 increases c-Myc and K-Ras expression, and LIM2405 cell proliferation. Furthermore, we show that loss of IMP-1 induces Caspase-3 and Parp–mediated apoptosis, and inhibits K-Ras expression in SW480 cells, which is rescued by CYFIP2 knock-down. Importantly, analysis of 228 patients with colon cancers reveals that IMP-1 is significantly upregulated in differentiated colon tumors (p ≤ 0.0001) and correlates with K-Ras expression (r=0.35, p ≤ 0.0001) relative to adjacent normal mucosa. These findings indicate that IMP-1, interrelated with c-myc, acts upstream of K-Ras to promote survival through a novel mechanism that may be important in colon cancer pathogenesis.
IMP-1; c-Myc; Cdc34; CYFIP2; K-Ras
Human squamous cell cancers are the most common epithelially derived malignancies. One example is esophageal squamous cell carcinoma (ESCC), which is associated with a high mortality rate (1) that is related to a propensity for invasion and metastasis (2). Here we report that periostin, a highly expressed cell adhesion molecule, is a key component of a novel tumor invasive signature obtained from an organotypic culture model of engineered ESCC. This tumor invasive signature classifies with human ESCC microarrays, underscoring its utility in human cancer. Genetic modulation of periostin promotes tumor cell migration and invasion as revealed in gain of and loss of function experiments. Inhibition of EGFR signaling and restoration of wild-type p53 function were each found to attenuate periostin, suggesting interdependence of two common genetic alterations with periostin function. Collectively, our studies reveal periostin as an important mediator of ESCC tumor invasion and they indicate that organotypic (3D) culture can offer an important tool to discover novel biologic effectors in cancer.
tumor microenvironment; periostin; EGFR; p53
Exposure to tobacco carcinogens is causally associated with head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC), but the underlying molecular mechanisms remain unclear. Here, we reported that AKT is activated at a higher frequency in both HNSCC tumors and the adjacent mucosa from HNSCC patients who are smokers than those from HNSCC patients who are non-smokers. Adding physiologically relevant concentrations of 4-(methylnitrosamino)-1-(3-pyridyl)-1-1butanone (NNK), a major tobacco carcinogen, to normal head and neck epithelial cells and HNSCC cell lines, rapidly and constitutively activated AKT through phosphorylation in a dose- and time-dependent manner. AKT phosphorylation was associated with activation of downstream signaling mediators BAD, MDM2, GSK-3β, mTOR. These alterations correlated with increased proliferation and decreased etoposide-induced apoptosis in NNK-exposed cells. Finally, NNK exposure to mouse head and neck epithelia resulted in epithelial hyperproliferation and reduced apoptosis, which is correlated with AKT activation. Our results suggest that AKT activation is an early event and plays a pivotal role in mediating tobacco-induced HNSCC carcinogenesis.
tobacco; NNK; AKT; head and neck epithelia; head and neck squamous cell carcinoma
Chronic infectious diseases, such as Helicobacter pylori, can promote cancer in a large part through induction of chronic inflammation. Oncogenic K-Ras mutation in epithelial cells activates inflammatory pathways, which could compensate for a lack of infectious stimulus. Gastric histopathology and putative progenitor markers (Dcamkl1, Keratin 19) in Keratin 19-K-Ras-V12 (K19-kras) transgenic mice were assessed at 3, 6, 12 and 18 months of age, in comparison with Helicobacter felis (H. felis)-infected wild-type littermates. Inflammation was evaluated by RT-PCR of pro-inflammatory cytokines, and K19-kras mice were transplanted with GFP-labeled bone marrow. Both H. felis infection and kras mutation induced upregulation of pro-inflammatory cytokines, expansion of Dcamkl1+ cells, and progression to oxyntic atrophy, metaplasia, hyperplasia and high-grade dysplasia. K19-kras transgenic mice uniquely displayed mucous metaplasia as early as 3 months, and progressed to high-grade dysplasia and invasive intramucosal carcinoma by 20 months. In bone marrow transplanted K19-kras mice that progressed to dysplasia, a large proportion of stromal cells were GFP+ and bone marrow-derived, but only rare GFP+ epithelial cells were observed. GFP+ BMDCs included leukocytes and CD45− stromal cells that expressed vimentin or αSMA and were often found surrounding clusters of Dcamkl1+ cells at the base of gastric glands. In conclusions, the expression of mutant Kras in K19+ gastric epithelial cells can induce chronic inflammation and promote the development of dysplasia.
Bone marrow derived cells; Gastric epithelial stem cells; Gastric cancer; Kras mutation
Cyclin D1 elicits transcriptional effects through inactivation of the retinoblastoma protein and direct association with transcriptional regulators. The current work reveals a molecular relationship between cyclin D1/CDK4 kinase and protein arginine methyltransferase 5 (PRMT5), an enzyme associated with histone methylation and transcriptional repression. Primary tumors of a mouse lymphoma model exhibit increased PRMT5 methyltransferase activity and histone arginine methylation. Analyses demonstrate that MEP50, a PRMT5 co-regulatory factor, is a CDK4 substrate, and phosphorylation increases PRMT5/MEP50 activity. Increased PRMT5 activity mediates key events associated with cyclin D1-dependent neoplastic growth including CUL4 repression, CDT1 overexpression, and DNA re-replication. Importantly, human cancers harboring mutations in Fbx4, the cyclin D1 E3 ligase, exhibit nuclear cyclin D1 accumulation and increased PRMT5 activity.
Cyclin D1; CDK4; CUL4; CDT1; PRMT5; MEP50; Arginine Methylation
Mouse models with conditional activation of K-ras (K-rasG12D) are used widely to investigate the role of oncogenic K-ras in a tissue-specific manner. However, the effect of ubiquitous activation of K-ras in adult mice has not been well studied. Herein, we report that systemic activation of K-ras in mice leads to rapid changes in gastric cellular homeostasis. Conditional activation of K-ras results in activation of the MAPK pathway and hyperproliferation of squamous epithelium in the forestomach and metaplasia in the glandular stomach. Parietal cells almost completely disappear from the upper part of the stomach adjacent to forestomach of K-ras activated mice. CDX2, a caudal-related homeobox transcription factor normally expressed in the intestine, is upregulated in parts of the stomach, following activation of K-ras in mice. Cyclooxygenase 2 (COX-2), a mediator of inflammation, is also upregulated in parts of the stomach of the K-ras activated mice with concomitant infiltration of hematopoietic cells in the hyperplastic tissue. Moreover, in K-ras activated mice, the expression of putative progenitor cell marker Dcamkl1 is upregulated in the glandular stomach. Expression of CD44, a candidate stomach cancer stem cell marker, is also increased in forestomach and the glandular stomach. These results suggest that cells of the stomach, potentially stem or progenitor cells, are highly susceptible to K-ras activation-induced initiation of gastric precancerous lesions. The histological changes in the K-ras activated mice resemble the pre-neoplastic changes that take place during gastric carcinogenesis in humans. Thus, a mouse model with systemic K-rasG12D activation could be useful for studying the early molecular events leading to gastric carcinogenesis.
K-ras; intestinal metaplasia; gastric stem cells; Dcamkl1; CD44
K-ras is the most commonly mutated oncogene in pancreatic cancer and its activation in murine models is sufficient to recapitulate the spectrum of lesions seen in human pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC). Recent studies suggest that Notch receptor signaling becomes reactivated in a subset of PDACs, leading to the hypothesis that Notch1 functions as an oncogene in this setting. To determine whether Notch1 is required for K-ras-induced tumorigenesis, we employed a mouse model in which an oncogenic allele of K-ras is activated and Notch1 is deleted simultaneously in the pancreas. Unexpectedly, the loss of Notch1 in this model resulted in increased tumor incidence and progression implying that Notch1 can function as a tumor suppressor gene in PDAC.
Ras; Notch1; Pancreatic Adenocarcinoma; tumor suppressor
Transforming growth factor (TGF)-β is a potent inducer of epithelial to mesenchymal transition (EMT). However, it remains elusive as to which molecular mechanisms determine the cellular capacity to undergo EMT in response to TGF-β. We have found that both epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) overexpression and mutant p53 tumor suppressor genes contribute to enrichment of an EMT-competent cellular subpopulation amongst telomerase-immortalized human esophageal epithelial cells during malignant transformation. EGFR overexpression triggers oncogene-induced senescence, accompanied by induction of cyclin dependent kinase inhibitors p15INK4B, p16INK4A and p21. Interestingly, a subpopulation of cells emerges by negating senescence without loss of EGFR overexpression. Such cell populations express increased levels of zinc finger E-box binding (ZEB) transcription factors ZEB1 and ZEB2, and undergo EMT upon TGF-β stimulation. Enrichment of EMT-competent cells was more evident in the presence of p53 mutation, which diminished EGFR-induced senescence. RNA interference directed against ZEB resulted in induction of p15INK4B and p16INK4A, reactivating the EGFR-dependent senescence program. Importantly, TGF-β-mediated EMT did not take place when cellular senescence programs were activated by either ZEB knockdown or activation of wild-type p53 function. Thus, senescence checkpoint functions activated by EGFR and p53 may be evaded through the induction of ZEB, thereby allowing expansion of an EMT-competent unique cellular subpopulation, providing novel mechanistic insights into the role of ZEB in esophageal carcinogenesis.
EGFR; EMT; senescence; ZEB1; ZEB2
Variable drug responses among malignant cells within individual tumors may represent a barrier to their eradication using chemotherapy. Carcinoma cells expressing mesenchymal markers resist conventional and epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR)-targeted chemotherapy. Here we evaluated whether mesenchymal-like subpopulations within human squamous cell carcinomas (SCCs) with predominantly epithelial features contribute to overall therapy resistance. We identified a mesenchymal-like subset expressing low E-cadherin (Ecad-lo) and high vimentin (Vim-hi) within upper aerodigestive tract SCCs. This subset was both isolated from cell lines and identified in xenografts and primary clinical specimens. The Ecad-lo subset contained more low-turnover cells, correlating with resistance to the conventional chemotherapeutic paclitaxel in vitro. Epidermal growth factor (EGF) induced less stimulation of the MAP kinase and PI3-kinase pathways in Ecad-lo cells, which was likely due to lower EGFR expression in this subset and correlated with in vivo resistance to the EGFR-targeted antibody cetuximab. The Ecad-lo and high E-cadherin (Ecad-hi) subsets were dynamic in phenotype, showing the capacity to repopulate each other from single cell clones. Taken together, these results provide evidence for a low-turnover, mesenchymal-like subpopulation in SCCs with diminished EGFR pathway function and intrinsic resistance to conventional and EGFR-targeted chemotherapies.
EMT; squamous cell carcinoma; head and neck; chemotherapy resistance; tumor heterogeneity