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1.  A common genetic variant of fucosyltransferase 2 correlates with serum carcinoembryonic antigen levels and affects cancer screening in patients with primary sclerosing cholangitis 
Primary sclerosing cholangitis (PSC) patients are at increased risk of biliary tract cancer, and carcinoembryonic antigen (CEA) serum levels might be used for screening.
To examine cancer screening with CEA in PSC patients and analyse how serum CEA levels are affected by genetic variants of fucosyltransferase (FUT) 2 and 3.
In a retrospective cohort analysis we evaluated CEA levels in 226 PSC patients, including 19 with biliary malignancy, and investigated how FUT2 and FUT3 SNPs affected CEA levels. Receiver-operating-characteristic (ROC) analysis was performed and cut-off values were determined based on Youden’s index. A control cohort contained 240 patients, including 28 with biliary malignancy.
Median CEA concentration was lower in cancer-free patients (1.4 ng/mL) than in cancer patients (2.0 ng/mL, P = 0.014). ROC analysis revealed an area under the curve (AUC) of 0.671, the optimal cut-off was 3.2 ng/mL. The FUT2 variant rs601338 (G428A) correlated with CEA levels, and the effect was most prominent in a subgroup of patients genetically incapable of expressing CA19-9. The AUC improved if ROC analysis was performed separately for wild-type (AUC: 0.731) and homozygous mutant (AUC: 0.816) G428A. The influence of FUT2 on CEA was confirmed in the control cohort.
CEA is interesting for biliary-malignancy screening in PSC patients, especially in patients who do not express CA19-9. This is the first study to show that the combined use of CEA measurement and FUT genotyping is clinically beneficial and that it might enhance the early detection of biliary malignancy in clinical practice. This approach could also be effective when screening for other common gastrointestinal malignancies.
PMCID: PMC4766541  PMID: 26966527
Primary sclerosing cholangitis; cholangiocarcinoma; gallbladder carcinoma; fucosyltransferase; carcinoembryonic antigen
2.  Loss of BAP1 Expression Occurs Frequently in Intrahepatic Cholangiocarcinoma 
Medicine  2016;95(2):e2491.
BRCA1-associated protein 1 (BAP1) is a deubiquitinating enzyme that functions as a tumor suppressor gene. Double hit BAP1 inactivation has been reported in a range of tumor types, including intrahepatic cholangiocarcinoma (ICC), sometimes in association with germline mutation.
We performed immunohistochemistry for BAP1 on a well-characterized cohort of 211 ICC patients undergoing surgical resection with curative intent at 3 institutions based in 3 different countries. The median age at diagnosis was 65 years (range, 36.5–86) and 108 (51%) were men. Negative staining for BAP1 (defined as completely absent nuclear staining in the presence of positive internal controls in nonneoplastic cells) occurred in 55 ICCs (26%). BAP1 loss predicted a strong trend toward improved median survival of 40.80 months (95% CI, 28.14–53.46) versus 24.87 months (95% CI, 18.73–31.01), P = 0.059). In a multivariate model including age, sex, BAP1 status, tumor stage, tumor grade, lymphovascular invasion, and tumor size, female sex was associated with improved survival (hazard ratio [HR] 0.54; 95% CI, 0.34–0.85), while advanced tumor stage and lymphovascular invasion (HR 1.89; 95% CI, 1.09–3.28) correlated with decreased survival. In a multivariate analysis, high grade tumors were associated with BAP1 loss (odds ratio [OR] 3.32; 95% CI, 1.29–8.55), while lymphatic invasion was inversely associated with BAP1 loss (OR 0.36; 95% CI, 0.13–0.99).
In conclusion, we observed a trend toward improved prognosis in ICC associated with absent expression of BAP1 and an association of BAP1 loss with higher histological grade and absent lymphatic invasion. Female sex was associated with improved survival while advanced tumor stage and lymphatic invasion were associated with decreased survival.
PMCID: PMC4718285  PMID: 26765459
3.  Detection of carcinogenic etheno-DNA adducts in children and adolescents with non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) 
Carcinogenic exocyclic-DNA adducts like 1,N6-etheno-2'-deoxyadenosine (εdA) are formed through reactive intermediates of 4-hydroxynonenal (4-HNE) or other lipid peroxidation (LPO) products with the DNA bases A, C, methyl-C and G. High levels of hepatic etheno-DNA adducts have been detected in cancer prone liver diseases including alcoholic liver disease (ALD). In ALD εdA levels correlated significantly with cytochrome P-450 2E1 (CYP2E1) expression which is also induced in non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH). We investigated the occurrence of εdA adducts in children with NASH as a DNA damage marker.
Liver biopsies from 21 children/adolescents with histologically proven NASH were analysed for hepatic fat content, inflammation, and fibrosis. εdA levels in DNA, CYP2E1-expression and protein bound 4-hydroxynonenal (HNE) were semi-quantitatively evaluated by immunohistochemistry.
Among 21 NASH children, εdA levels in the liver were high in 3, moderate in 5, weak in 9 and not elevated in 4 patients. There was a positive correlation between CYP2E1 and protein-bound 4-HNE (r=0.60; P=0.008) and a trend for a positive relationship for CYP2E1 vs. staining intensity of εdA (r=0.45; P=0.06). Inflammatory activity and fibrosis correlated significantly (r=0.49, P=0.023).
Our results demonstrate for the first time the presence of elevated carcinogenic etheno-DNA lesions (εdA) in the majority (17/21) of liver biopsies from young NASH patients. Our data suggest that LPO-derived etheno-adducts are implicated in NASH. Whether these adducts may serve as predictive risk markers in NASH children to develop hepatocellular cancer later in life remains to be investigated.
PMCID: PMC4689692  PMID: 26734629
Cytochrome P-450 2E; etheno-DNA adducts; hepatocellular cancer; lipidperoxidation-induced DNA damage; non-alcoholic steatohepatitis in children (NASH in children)
4.  In vivo RNAi screening identifies a mechanism of sorafenib resistance in liver cancer 
Nature medicine  2014;20(10):1138-1146.
In solid tumors, resistance to therapy inevitably develops upon treatment with cytotoxic drugs or molecularly targeted therapies. Here, we describe a system that enables pooled shRNA screening directly in mouse hepatocellular carcinomas (HCC) in vivo to identify genes likely to be involved in therapy resistance. Using a focused shRNA library targeting genes located within focal genomic amplifications of human HCC, we screened for genes whose inhibition increased the therapeutic efficacy of the multikinase inhibitor sorafenib. Both shRNA-mediated and pharmacological silencing of Mapk14 (p38α) were found to sensitize mouse HCC to sorafenib therapy and prolong survival by abrogating Mapk14-dependent activation of Mek-Erk and Atf2 signaling. Elevated Mapk14-Atf2 signaling predicted poor response to sorafenib therapy in human HCC, and sorafenib resistance of p-Mapk14-expressing HCC cells could be reverted by silencing Mapk14. Our results suggest that a combination of sorafenib and Mapk14 blockade is a promising approach to overcoming therapy resistance of human HCC.
PMCID: PMC4587571  PMID: 25216638
5.  EEF1A2 inactivates p53 via PI3K/AKT/mTOR-dependent stabilization of MDM4 in hepatocellular carcinoma 
Hepatology (Baltimore, Md.)  2014;59(5):1886-1899.
Mouse Double Minute homolog 4 (MDM4) gene upregulation often occurs in human hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), but the molecular mechanisms responsible for its induction remain poorly understood. Here, we investigated the role of the phosphoinositide-3-kinase/v-akt murine thymoma viral oncogene homolog/mammalian target of Rapamycin (PI3K/AKT/mTOR) axis in the regulation of MDM4 levels in HCC.
The activity of MDM4 and the PI3K/AKT/mTOR pathway was modulated in human HCC cell lines via silencing and overexpression experiments. Expression of main pathway components was analyzed in an AKT mouse model and human HCCs.
MDM4 inhibition resulted in growth restraint of HCC cell lines both in vitro and in vivo. Inhibition of the PI3K-AKT and/or mTOR pathways lowered MDM4 protein levels in HCC cells and reactivated p53-dependent transcription. De-ubiquitination by ubiquitin-specific protease 2a and AKT-mediated phosphorylation protected MDM4 from proteasomal degradation and increased AKT protein stability. The eukaryotic elongation factor 1A2 (EEF1A2) was identified as an upstream inducer of PI3K supporting MDM4 stabilization. Also, we detected MDM4 protein upregulation in an AKT mouse model and a strong correlation between the expression of EEF1A2, activated/phosphorylated AKT, and MDM4 in human HCC (each rho>.8, P<.001). Noticeably, a strong activation of this cascade was associated with shorter patients' survival.
The EEF1A2/PI3K/AKT/mTOR axis promotes the protumorigenic stabilization of the MDM4 protooncogene in human HCC via a post-transcriptional mechanism. The activation level of the EEF1A2/PI3K/AKT/mTOR/MDM4 axis significantly influences the survival probability of HCC patients in vivo and may thus represent a promising molecular target.
PMCID: PMC4115286  PMID: 24285179
Liver cancer; oncogene; tumor suppressor gene; functional inactivation
7.  Dysregulated serum response factor triggers formation of hepatocellular carcinoma 
Hepatology (Baltimore, Md.)  2015;61(3):979-989.
The ubiquitously expressed transcriptional regulator serum response factor (SRF) is controlled by both Ras/MAPK (mitogen-activated protein kinase) and Rho/actin signaling pathways, which are frequently activated in hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). We generated SRF-VP16iHep mice, which conditionally express constitutively active SRF-VP16 in hepatocytes, thereby controlling subsets of both Ras/MAPK- and Rho/actin-stimulated target genes. All SRF-VP16iHep mice develop hyperproliferative liver nodules that progresses to lethal HCC. Some murine (m)HCCs acquire Ctnnb1 mutations equivalent to those in human (h)HCC. The resulting transcript signatures mirror those of a distinct subgroup of hHCCs, with shared activation of oncofetal genes including Igf2, correlating with CpG hypomethylation at the imprinted Igf2/H19 locus. Conclusion: SRF-VP16iHep mHCC reveal convergent Ras/MAPK and Rho/actin signaling as a highly oncogenic driver mechanism for hepatocarcinogenesis. This suggests simultaneous inhibition of Ras/MAPK and Rho/actin signaling as a treatment strategy in hHCC therapy. (Hepatology 2015;61:979–989)
PMCID: PMC4365683  PMID: 25266280
8.  Hepatic stellate cell-expressed endosialin balances fibrogenesis and hepatocyte proliferation during liver damage 
EMBO Molecular Medicine  2015;7(3):332-338.
Liver fibrosis is a reversible wound-healing response to injury reflecting the critical balance between liver repair and scar formation. Chronic damage leads to progressive substitution of liver parenchyma by scar tissue and ultimately results in liver cirrhosis. Stromal cells (hepatic stellate cells [HSC] and endothelial cells) have been proposed to control the balance between liver fibrosis and regeneration. Here, we show that endosialin, a C-type lectin, expressed in the liver exclusively by HSC and portal fibroblasts, is upregulated in liver fibrosis in mouse and man. Chronic chemically induced liver damage resulted in reduced fibrosis and enhanced hepatocyte proliferation in endosialin-deficient (ENKO) mice. Correspondingly, acute-liver-damage-induced hepatocyte proliferation (partial hepatectomy) was increased in ENKO mice. A candidate-based screen of known regulators of hepatocyte proliferation identified insulin-like growth factor 2 (IGF2) as selectively endosialin-dependent hepatocyte mitogen. Collectively, the study establishes a critical role of HSC in the reciprocal regulation of fibrogenesis vs. hepatocyte proliferation and identifies endosialin as a therapeutic target in non-neoplastic settings.
PMCID: PMC4364949  PMID: 25680861
angiocrine signaling; endosialin; liver fibrosis; liver regeneration
9.  GHSR DNA hypermethylation is a common epigenetic alteration of high diagnostic value in a broad spectrum of cancers 
Oncotarget  2015;6(6):4418-4427.
Identification of a single molecular trait that is determinant of common malignancies may serve as a powerful diagnostic supplement to cancer type-specific markers. Here, we report a DNA methylation mark that is characteristic of seven studied malignancies, namely cancers of lung, breast, prostate, pancreas, colorectum, glioblastoma and B cell chronic lymphocytic leukaemia (CLL) (n = 137). This mark was defined by substantial hypermethylation at the promoter and first exon of growth hormone secretagouge receptor (GHSR) through bisulfite pyrosequencing. The degree of aberrant methylation was capable of accurate discrimination between cancer and control samples. The highest sensitivity and specificity of cancer detection was achieved for cancers of pancreas, lung, breast and CLL yielding the area under the curve (AUC) values of 1.0000, 0.9952, 0.9800 and 0.9400, respectively. Narrowing to a single CpG site within the gene's promoter or four consecutive CpG units of the highest methylation levels within the first exon improved the detection power. GHSR hypermethylation was detected already at the early stage tumors. The accurate performance of this marker was further replicated in an independent set of pancreatic cancer and control samples (n = 78). These findings support the candidature of GHSR methylation as a highly accurate pan-cancer marker.
PMCID: PMC4414200  PMID: 25557172
DNA methylation; Cancer; Diagnosis; GHSR; Epigenetics
10.  KRAS, EGFR, PDGFR-α, KIT and COX-2 status in carcinoma showing thymus-like elements (CASTLE) 
Diagnostic Pathology  2014;9:116.
CASTLE (Carcinoma showing thymus-like elements) is a rare malignant neoplasm of the thyroid resembling lymphoepithelioma-like and squamous cell carcinoma of the thymus with different biological behaviour and a better prognosis than anaplastic carcinoma of the thyroid.
We retrospectively investigated 6 cases of this very rare neoplasm in order to investigate the mutational status of KRAS, EGFR, PDGFR-α and KIT, as well as the immunohistochemical expression pattern of CD117, EGFR and COX-2, and possibly find new therapeutic targets.
Diagnosis was confirmed by a moderate to strong expression of CD5, CD117 and CK5/6, whereas thyroglobulin, calcitonin and TTF-1 were negative in all cases. Tumors were also positive for COX-2 and in nearly all cases for EGFR. In four cases single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) could be detected in exon 12 of the PDGFR-α gene (rs1873778), in three cases SNPs were found in exon 20 of the EGFR gene (rs1050171). No mutations were found in the KIT and KRAS gene.
All tumors showed a COX-2 expression as well as an EGFR expression except for one case and a wild-type KRAS status. No activating mutations in the EGFR, KIT and PDGFR-α gene could be detected. Our data may indicate a potential for targeted therapies, but if these therapeutic strategies are of benefit in CASTLE remains to be determined.
Virtual Slides
The virtual slide(s) for this article can be found here:
PMCID: PMC4078982  PMID: 24934485
CASTLE; Thymic carcinoma; Mutational analysis; Immunohistochemistry; Thyroid gland
11.  Yes-Associated Protein Upregulates Jagged-1 and Activates the NOTCH Pathway in Human Hepatocellular Carcinoma 
Gastroenterology  2013;144(7):1530-1542.e12.
Background & Aims
Cancer cells often lose contact inhibition to undergo anchorage-independent proliferation and become resistant to apoptosis by inactivating the Hippo signaling pathway, resulting in activation of the transcriptional co-activator yes-associated protein (YAP). However, the oncogenic mechanisms of YAP are unclear.
Using cross-species analysis of expression data, the Notch ligand Jagged-1 (Jag-1) was identified as downstream target of YAP in hepatocytes and hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) cells. We analyzed the functions of YAP in HCC cells via overexpression and RNA silencing experiments. We used transgenic mice that overexpressed a constitutively activated form of YAP (YAPS127A), and measured protein levels in HCC and colorectal and pancreatic tumor samples from patients.
Human HCC cell lines and mouse hepatocytes that overexpress YAPS127A upregulated Jag-1, leading to activation of the Notch pathway and increased proliferation. Induction of Jag-1, activation of Notch, and cell proliferation required binding of YAP to its transcriptional partner TEAD4; TEAD4 binding required Mst1/2, but not WNT-β-catenin signaling. Levels of YAP correlated with Jag-1 expression and Notch signaling in human tumor samples and shorter survival times of patients with HCC or colorectal cancer.
The transcriptional regulator YAP upregulates Jag-1 to activate Notch signaling in HCC cells and mouse hepatocytes. YAP-dependent activity of Jag-1 and Notch correlate in human HCC and colorectal tumor samples with patient survival times, suggesting the use of YAP and Notch inhibitors as therapeutics for gastrointestinal cancer.
PMCID: PMC3665638  PMID: 23419361
transcriptional regulators; liver cancer; colorectal cancer; pancreatic cancer
12.  Molecular analysis of pancreatic acinar cell cystadenomas: Evidence of a non-neoplastic nature 
Oncology Letters  2014;8(2):852-858.
The biology of pancreatic acinar cell cystadenomas has not been clearly defined. However, a non-neoplastic process, caused by a cell differentiation failure leading to a cystic transformation, has been discussed, as well as a benign neoplastic lesion. Pancreatic acinar cell cystadenomas usually consist of thin-walled unilocular or multilocular cysts, and mural nodules have been described in two cases of a recent series. In one of these nodules, chromosomal imbalances were detected, which provided preliminary evidence for a neoplastic process. The aim of the current study was to further characterize the lesions by molecular analyses. In four cases without mural nodules, the clonality was assessed by performing mutational analyses within the highly variable displacement-loop region of the mitochondrial DNA. As a result, no closer correlation was identified between different foci within the tumors than between the tumors and adjacent normal pancreatic acinar tissue, indicating polyclonality of these lesions. Further molecular analyses revealed no mutations of the β-catenin and K-ras genes. In addition, no immunohistochemical evidence was identified for mutations of Smad4 or p53. In conclusion, the results of the current study demonstrated that pancreatic acinar cell cystadenomas are non-neoplastic lesions, with the potential exception of those rare cases with mural nodules.
PMCID: PMC4081433  PMID: 25009661
pancreatic tumor; cystic lesion; clonality; molecular
13.  Early aberrant DNA methylation events in a mouse model of acute myeloid leukemia 
Genome Medicine  2014;6(4):34.
Aberrant DNA methylation is frequently found in human malignancies including acute myeloid leukemia (AML). While most studies focus on later disease stages, the onset of aberrant DNA methylation events and their dynamics during leukemic progression are largely unknown.
We screened genome-wide for aberrant CpG island methylation in three disease stages of a murine AML model that is driven by hypomorphic expression of the hematopoietic transcription factor PU.1. DNA methylation levels of selected genes were correlated with methylation levels of CD34+ cells and lineage negative, CD127-, c-Kit+, Sca-1+ cells; common myeloid progenitors; granulocyte-macrophage progenitors; and megakaryocyte-erythroid progenitors.
We identified 1,184 hypermethylated array probes covering 762 associated genes in the preleukemic stage. During disease progression, the number of hypermethylated genes increased to 5,465 in the late leukemic disease stage. Using publicly available data, we found a significant enrichment of PU.1 binding sites in the preleukemic hypermethylated genes, suggesting that shortage of PU.1 makes PU.1 binding sites in the DNA accessible for aberrant methylation. Many known AML associated genes such as RUNX1 and HIC1 were found among the preleukemic hypermethylated genes. Nine novel hypermethylated genes, FZD5, FZD8, PRDM16, ROBO3, CXCL14, BCOR, ITPKA, HES6 and TAL1, the latter four being potential PU.1 targets, were confirmed to be hypermethylated in human normal karyotype AML patients, underscoring the relevance of the mouse model for human AML.
Our study identified early aberrantly methylated genes as potential contributors to onset and progression of AML.
PMCID: PMC4062060  PMID: 24944583
14.  TERT promoter hotspot mutations are recurrent in myxoid liposarcomas but rare in other soft tissue sarcoma entities 
Recently, recurrent point mutations in the telomerase reverse transcriptase (TERT) promoter region have been found in many human cancers, leading to a new transcription factor binding site, increased induction of TERT and subsequently to telomere maintenance. We determined the prevalence of TERT promoter mutations in soft tissue sarcomas of 341 patients comprising 16 entities and in 16 sarcoma cell lines covering 7 different soft tissue sarcoma types.
The sarcoma tissue samples were collected from the archives of the Institute of Pathology, University of Heidelberg and were composed of 39 myxoid liposarcomas (MLS), 61 dedifferentiated liposarcomas, 15 pleomorphic liposarcomas, 27 leiomyosarcomas, 25 synovial sarcomas (SS), 35 malignant peripheral nerve sheath tumors (MPNST), 40 undifferentiated pleomorphic sarcomas, 17 myxofibrosarcomas, 9 low grade fibromyxoid sarcomas, 10 cases of dermatofibrosarcoma protuberans, 31 solitary fibrous tumors (SFT), 8 extraskeletal myxoid chondrosarcomas, 9 angiosarcomas, 6 alveolar soft part sarcomas, 5 clear cell sarcomas and 4 epithelioid sarcomas. Sarcoma cell lines were obtained from the raising laboratories. A 193 bp fragment of the TERT promoter region covering the hot-spot mutations C228T and C250T was amplified, and direct sequencing of the PCR products was performed.
TERT promoter mutations were detected in 36/341 sarcomas. They were highly recurrent in MLS (29/39; 74%) and were in the present MLS series not associated with the phenotype (myxoid vs. round cell variant), tumor grade, tumor site and patients’ median age or gender. In the remaining cases, TERT promoter mutations were found only in 7/302 sarcoma samples and confined to SFTs (4/31; 13%), MPNSTs (2/35; 6%), and SSs (1/25; 4%). Within the collection of sarcoma cell lines examined, TERT promoter mutations were detected in two MLS and in one of three MPNST cell lines.
TERT promoter mutations are frequent in MLSs including their round cell variants, representing the most prevalent mutation identified in this sarcoma entity to date, and in a minor fraction of SFTs, MPNSTs and SSs. The majority of sarcomas are devoid of TERT promoter hotspot mutations. These data suggest that telomere maintenance through increased expression of telomerase plays an important role in the pathogenesis especially of MLS.
PMCID: PMC4022359  PMID: 24726063
TERT; Promoter; Mutation; Soft tissue; Sarcoma; Myxoid liposarcoma; Solitary fibrous tumor
15.  Integrative DNA methylation and gene expression analysis in high-grade soft tissue sarcomas 
Genome Biology  2013;14(12):r137.
High-grade soft tissue sarcomas are a heterogeneous, complex group of aggressive malignant tumors showing mesenchymal differentiation. Recently, soft tissue sarcomas have increasingly been classified on the basis of underlying genetic alterations; however, the role of aberrant DNA methylation in these tumors is not well understood and, consequently, the usefulness of methylation-based classification is unclear.
We used the Infinium HumanMethylation27 platform to profile DNA methylation in 80 primary, untreated high-grade soft tissue sarcomas, representing eight relevant subtypes, two non-neoplastic fat samples and 14 representative sarcoma cell lines. The primary samples were partitioned into seven stable clusters. A classification algorithm identified 216 CpG sites, mapping to 246 genes, showing different degrees of DNA methylation between these seven groups. The differences between the clusters were best represented by a set of eight CpG sites located in the genes SPEG, NNAT, FBLN2, PYROXD2, ZNF217, COL14A1, DMRT2 and CDKN2A. By integrating DNA methylation and mRNA expression data, we identified 27 genes showing negative and three genes showing positive correlation. Compared with non-neoplastic fat, NNAT showed DNA hypomethylation and inverse gene expression in myxoid liposarcomas, and DNA hypermethylation and inverse gene expression in dedifferentiated and pleomorphic liposarcomas. Recovery of NNAT in a hypermethylated myxoid liposarcoma cell line decreased cell migration and viability.
Our analysis represents the first comprehensive integration of DNA methylation and transcriptional data in primary high-grade soft tissue sarcomas. We propose novel biomarkers and genes relevant for pathogenesis, including NNAT as a potential tumor suppressor in myxoid liposarcomas.
PMCID: PMC4054884  PMID: 24345474
16.  Nuclear pore component Nup98 is a potential tumor suppressor and regulates post-transcriptional expression of select p53 target genes 
Molecular cell  2012;48(5):799-810.
The p53 tumor suppressor utilizes multiple mechanisms to selectively regulate its myriad target genes, which in turn mediate diverse cellular processes. Here, using conventional and single molecule mRNA analyses, we demonstrate that the nucleoporin Nup98 is required for full expression of p21, a key effector of the p53 pathway, but not several other p53 target genes. Nup98 regulates p21 mRNA levels by a post-transcriptional mechanism in which a complex containing Nup98 and the p21 mRNA 3′-UTR protects p21 mRNA from degradation by the exosome. An in silico approach revealed another p53 target (14-3-3σ) to be similarly regulated by Nup98. The expression of Nup98 is reduced in murine and human hepatocellular carcinomas (HCC) and correlates with p21 expression in HCC patients. Our study elucidates a previously unrecognized function of wild-type Nup98 in regulating select p53 target genes that is distinct from the well-characterized oncogenic properties of Nup98 fusion proteins.
PMCID: PMC3525737  PMID: 23102701
18.  Cytosolic and nuclear caspase-8 have opposite impact on survival after liver resection for hepatocellular carcinoma 
BMC Cancer  2013;13:532.
An imbalance between proliferation and apoptosis is one of the main features of carcinogenesis. TRAIL (TNF-related apoptosis-inducing ligand) induces apoptosis upon binding to the TRAIL death receptors, TRAIL receptor 1 (TRAIL-R1) and TRAIL-R2, whereas binding to TRAIL-R3 and TRAIL-R4 might promote cell survival and proliferation. The anti-tumor activity of TRAIL-R1 and TRAIL-R2 agonists is currently investigated in clinical trials. To gain further insight into the regulation of apoptosis in hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), we investigated the TRAIL pathway and the regulators of apoptosis caspase-8, Bcl-xL and Mcl-1 in patients with HCC regarding patient survival.
We analyzed 157 hepatocellular carcinoma patients who underwent partial liver resection or orthotopic liver transplantation and healthy control liver tissue using immunohistochemistry on tissue microarrays for the expression of TRAIL-R1 to TRAIL-R4, caspase-8, Bcl-xL and Mcl-1. Immunohistochemical data were evaluated for potential associations with clinico-pathological parameters and survival.
Whereas TRAIL-R1 was downregulated in HCC in comparison to normal liver tissue, TRAIL-R2 and –R4 were upregulated in HCC, especially in G2 and G3 tumors. TRAIL-R1 downregulation and upregulation of TRAIL-R2 and TRAIL-R4 correlated with tumor dedifferentiation (G2/G3). TRAIL-R3, Bcl-xL and Mcl-1 showed no differential expression in tumor tissue compared to normal tissue. The expression levels of TRAIL receptors did not correlate with patient survival after partial hepatectomy. Interestingly, in tumor tissue, but not in normal hepatocytes, caspase-8 showed a strong nuclear staining. Low cytosolic and high nuclear staining intensity of caspase-8 significantly correlated with impaired survival after partial hepatectomy, which, for cytosolic caspase-8, was independent from tumor grade.
Assessment of TRAIL-receptor expression patterns may have therapeutic implications for the use of TRAIL receptor agonists in HCC therapy. Tumor-specific nuclear localisation of caspase-8 in HCC suggests an apoptosis-independent function of caspase-8 and correlates with patient survival.
PMCID: PMC3834100  PMID: 24209510
HCC; Apoptosis; TRAIL receptors; Nuclear caspase-8
19.  Stathmin Regulates Keratinocyte Proliferation and Migration during Cutaneous Regeneration 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(9):e75075.
Cutaneous regeneration utilizes paracrine feedback mechanisms to fine-tune the regulation of epidermal keratinocyte proliferation and migration. However, it is unknown how fibroblast-derived hepatocyte growth factor (HGF) affects these mutually exclusive processes in distinct cell populations. We here show that HGF stimulates the expression and phosphorylation of the microtubule-destabilizing factor stathmin in primary human keratinocytes. Quantitative single cell- and cell population-based analyses revealed that basal stathmin levels are important for the migratory ability of keratinocytes in vitro; however, its expression is moderately induced in the migration tongue of mouse skin or organotypic multi-layered keratinocyte 3D cultures after full-thickness wounding. In contrast, clearly elevated stathmin expression is detectable in hyperproliferative epidermal areas. In vitro, stathmin silencing significantly reduced keratinocyte proliferation. Automated quantitative and time-resolved analyses in organotypic cocultures demonstrated a high correlation between Stathmin/phospho-Stathmin and Ki67 positivity in epidermal regions with proliferative activity. Thus, activation of stathmin may stimulate keratinocyte proliferation, while basal stathmin levels are sufficient for keratinocyte migration during cutaneous regeneration.
PMCID: PMC3774809  PMID: 24066165
20.  High salt intake causes adverse fetal programming—vascular effects beyond blood pressure 
Nephrology Dialysis Transplantation  2012;27(9):3464-3476.
Do detrimental effects on the vasculature of a high dietary sodium intake precede the development of hypertension?
High salt intake causes hypertension, adverse cardiovascular outcomes and potentially also blood pressure (BP)-independent target organ damage. Excess salt intake in pregnancy is known to affect BP in the offspring. The present study was designed to assess whether high salt intake in pregnancy affects BP and vascular morphology in the offspring.
Sprague–Dawley rats were fed a standard rodent diet with low–normal (0.15%) or high (8.0%) salt content during pregnancy and lactation. After weaning at 4 weeks of age, offspring were maintained on the same diet or switched to a high- or low-salt diet, respectively. Vascular geometry was assessed in male offspring at 7 and 12 weeks postnatally.
Up to 12 weeks of age, there was no significant difference in telemetrically measured BP between the groups of offspring. At 12 weeks of age, wall thickness of central (aorta, carotid), muscular (mesenteric) and intrapulmonary arteries was significantly higher in offspring of mothers on a high-salt diet irrespective of the post-weaning diet. This correlated with increased fibrosis of the aortic wall, more intense nitrotyrosine staining as well as elevated levels of marinobufagenin (MBG) and asymmetric dimethyl arginine (ADMA).
High salt intake in pregnant rats has long-lasting effects on the modeling of central and muscular arteries in the offspring independent of postnatal salt intake and BP. Circulating MBG and ADMA and local oxidative stress correlate with the adverse vascular modeling.
PMCID: PMC3433771  PMID: 22431707
blood pressure; fetal programming; nitric oxide; salt; vessel development
21.  Correction: Automated Universal BRAF State Detection within the Activation Segment in Skin Metastases by Pyrosequencing-Based Assay U-BRAFV600 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(6):10.1371/annotation/b31c5248-91ad-4668-930a-24543b19d6e7.
PMCID: PMC3692735
22.  Focal Nodular Hyperplasia and Hepatocellular Adenoma around the World Viewed through the Scope of the Immunopathological Classification 
Focal nodular hyperplasia (FNH) and hepatocellular adenoma (HCA) are benign hepatocellular tumors. The risk of bleeding and malignant transformation of HCA are strong arguments to differentiate HCA from FNH. Despite great progress that has been made in the differential radiological diagnosis of the 2 types of nodules, liver biopsy is sometimes necessary to separate the 2 entities. Identification of HCA subtypes using immunohistochemical techniques, namely, HNF1A-inactivated HCA (35–40%), inflammatory HCA (IHCA), and beta-catenin-mutated inflammatory HCA (b-IHCA) (50–55%), beta-catenin-activated HCA (5–10%), and unclassified HCA (10%) has greatly improved the diagnostic accuracy of benign hepatocellular nodules. If HCA malignant transformation occurs in all HCA subgroups, the risk is by far the highest in the β-catenin-mutated subgroups (b-HCA, b-IHCA). In the coming decade the management of HCA will be more dependent on the identification of HCA subtypes, particularly for smaller nodules (<5 cm) in terms of imaging, follow-up, and resection.
PMCID: PMC3654480  PMID: 23691331
23.  Automated Universal BRAF State Detection within the Activation Segment in Skin Metastases by Pyrosequencing-Based Assay U-BRAFV600 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(3):e59221.
Malignant melanoma is a highly-aggressive type of malignancy with considerable metastatic potential and frequent resistance to cytotoxic agents. BRAF mutant protein was recently recognized as therapeutic target in metastatic melanoma. We present a newly-developed U-BRAFV600 approach – a universal pyrosequencing-based assay for mutation detection within activation segment in exon 15 of human braf. We identified 5 different BRAF mutations in a single assay analyzing 75 different formalin-fixed paraffin-embedded (FFPE) samples of cutaneous melanoma metastases from 29 patients. We found BRAF mutations in 21 of 29 metastases. All mutant variants were quantitatively detectable by the newly-developed U-BRAFV600 assay. These results were confirmed by ultra-deep-sequencing validation (∼60,000-fold coverage). In contrast to all other BRAF state detection methods, the U-BRAFV600 assay is capable of automated quantitative identification of at least 36 previously-published BRAF mutations. Under the precaution of a minimum of 3% mutated cells in front of a background of wild type cells, U-BRAFV600 assay design completely excludes false wild-type results. The corresponding algorithm for classification of BRAF-mutated variants is provided. The single-reaction assay and data analysis automation makes our approach suitable for the assessment of large clinical sample sizes. Therefore, we suggest U-BRAFV600 assay as a most powerful sequencing-based diagnostic tool to automatically identify BRAF state as a prerequisite to targeted therapy.
PMCID: PMC3608589  PMID: 23555633
24.  A Frequent PNPLA3 Variant Is a Sex Specific Disease Modifier in PSC Patients with Bile Duct Stenosis 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(3):e58734.
Background & Aims
Primary sclerosing cholangitis predominantly affects males and is an important indication for liver transplantation. The rs738409 variant (I148M) of the PNPLA3 gene is associated with alcoholic and non-alcoholic liver disease and we evaluated its impact on the disease course of PSC.
The I148M polymorphism was genotyped in 121 German PSC patients of a long-term prospective cohort and 347 Norwegian PSC patients.
In the prospective German cohort, actuarial survival free of liver transplantation was significantly reduced for I148M carriers (p = 0.011) compared to wildtype patients. This effect was restricted to patients with severe disease, as defined by development of dominant stenosis (DS) requiring endoscopic intervention. DS patients showed markedly decreased survival (p = 0.004) when carrying the I148M variant (I148M: mean 13.8 years; 95% confidence interval: 11.6–16.0 vs. wildtype: mean 18.6 years; 95% confidence interval: 16.3–20.9) while there was no impact on survival in patients without a DS (p = 0.87). In line with previous observations of sex specific effects of the I148M polymorphism, the effect on survival was further restricted to male patients (mean survival 11.9 years; 95% confidence interval: 10.0–14.0 in I148M carriers vs. 18.8 years; 95% confidence interval: 16.2–21.5 in wildtype; p<0.001) while female patients were unaffected by the polymorphism (p = 0.65). These sex specific findings were validated in the Norwegian cohort (p = 0.013).
In male PSC patients with severe disease with bile duct stenosis requiring intervention, the common I148M variant of the PNPLA3 gene is a risk factor for reduced survival.
PMCID: PMC3591368  PMID: 23505555
25.  Chemoradiation in patients with isolated recurrent pancreatic cancer - therapeutical efficacy and probability of re-resection 
In the present retrospective analysis we analysed the therapeutic outcome of a set of patients, who were treated with chemoradiation (CRT) for recurrent pancreatic cancer (RPC) in a single institution.
Patients and Methods
Forty-one patients had a history of primary resection for pancreatic cancer. In case of an unresectable recurrency patients were treated with CRT at our institution between 2002 and 2010 with a median dose of 48.4 Gy (range 39.6–54 Gy). Concurrent chemotherapy regimes included Gemcitabine (GEM) in 37/41 patients (90%) and Fluorouracil (FU) or Capecitabine (CAP) in 4/41 patients (10%). Patients were re-evaluated after CRT with computed tomography and/or explorative laparotomy. During re-resection or laparotomy 15 patients received an additional intraoperative radiotherapy (IORT) with a median dose of 15 Gy (range 12–15 Gy). Median age was 65 years (range 39–76 years) and there were 26 male and 15 female patients.
The median overall survival (mOS), local control (LC) and progression-free survival (PFS) were 16.1, 13.8 and 6.9 months respectively for all patients after the first day of CRT. Re-resection was possible in five patients (12%) and a complete remission (CR) as defined by tumor-free biopsy was seen in 6 patients (15%). When re-resection could be achieved after CRT mOS was improved to 28.3 months (n = 5 patients, 95%-CI 10.2 – 46.3 months). Patients receiving IORT had a significantly improved mOS compared to no IORT (p = 0.034). Fifteen patients (37%) experienced a local tumour progression and main site of distant metastasis was the liver (11 patients, 27%).Overall treatment-related toxicity was mild, grade III hematologic toxicity was observed in 11 patients (27%).
In summary we observed a good therapeutic response with mild to moderate toxicity levels for CRT in RPC. Overall survival and PFS were clearly improved in case of induction of a complete remission (tumor-free biopsies) or after achieving a re-resection, thus providing a curative intended therapy even in case of disease recurrence.
PMCID: PMC3570445  PMID: 23369246

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