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1.  Self-consumption: the interplay of autophagy and apoptosis 
Autophagy and apoptosis control the turnover of organelles and proteins within cells, and of cells within organisms, respectively, and many stress pathways sequentially elicit autophagy, and apoptosis within the same cell. Generally autophagy blocks the induction of apoptosis, and apoptosis-associated caspase activation shuts off the autophagic process. However, in special cases, autophagy or autophagy-relevant proteins may help to induce apoptosis or necrosis, and autophagy has been shown to degrade the cytoplasm excessively, leading to ‘autophagic cell death’. The dialogue between autophagy and cell death pathways influences the normal clearance of dying cells, as well as immune recognition of dead cell antigens. Therefore, the disruption of the relationship between autophagy and apoptosis has important pathophysiological consequences.
doi:10.1038/nrm3735
PMCID: PMC3970201  PMID: 24401948
2.  Synergistic interaction between cisplatin and PARP inhibitors in non-small cell lung cancer 
Cell Cycle  2013;12(6):877-883.
The antineoplastic agent cis-diammineplatinum(II) dichloride (cisplatin, CDDP) is part of the poorly effective standard treatment of non-small cell lung carcinoma (NSCLC). Here, we report a novel strategy to improve the efficacy of CDDP. In conditions in which CDDP alone or either of two PARP inhibitors, PJ34 hydrochloride hydrate or CEP 8983, used as standalone treatments were inefficient in killing NSCLC cells, the combination of CDDP plus PJ34 or that of CDDP plus CEP 8983 were found to kill a substantial fraction of the cells. This cytotoxic synergy could be recapitulated by combining CDDP and the siRNA-mediated depletion of the principal PARP isoform, PARP1, indicating that it is mediated by on-target effects of PJ34 or CEP 8983. CDDP and PARP inhibitors synergized in inducing DNA damage foci, mitochondrial membrane permeabilization leading to cytochrome c release, and dissipation of the inner transmembrane potential, caspase activation, plasma membrane rupture and loss of clonogenic potential in NSCLC cells. Collectively, our results indicate that CDDP can be advantageously combined with PARP inhibitors to kill several NSCLC cell lines, independently from their p53 status. Combined treatment with CDDP and PARP inhibitors elicits the intrinsic pathway of apoptosis.
doi:10.4161/cc.24034
PMCID: PMC3637345  PMID: 23428903
apoptosis; CEP 8983; DNA damage response; A549 cells; PJ34 hydrochloride; small-interfering RNA
3.  Direct interaction between STAT3 and EIF2AK2 controls fatty acid-induced autophagy 
Autophagy  2013;9(3):415-417.
A chemical screen designed to identify novel inducers of autophagy led to the discovery that signal transducer and activator of transcription 3 (STAT3) inhibitors can potently stimulate the autophagic flux. Although STAT3 is best known as a pro-inflammatory and oncogenic transcription factor, mechanistic analyses revealed that autophagy is regulated by the cytoplasmic, not nuclear, pool of STAT3. Cytoplasmic STAT3 normally interacts with the eukaryotic translation initiation factor 2, subunit 1α, 35kDa (EIF2S1/eIF2α) kinase 2/protein kinase, RNA-activated (EIF2AK2/PKR), a sensor of double-stranded RNA. This interaction, which could be recapitulated using recombinant proteins in pull-down experiments, involves the catalytic domain of EIF2AK2 as well as the SH2 domain of STAT3, which can adopt a fold similar to that of EIF2S1. Thus, STAT3 may act as a competitive inhibitor of EIF2AK2. Indeed, pharmacological or genetic inhibition of STAT3 stimulates EIF2AK2-dependent EIF2S1 phosphorylation and autophagy. Conversely, the overexpression of wild-type STAT3 as well as of STAT3 mutants that cannot be phosphorylated by JAK2 or are excluded from the nucleus inhibits autophagy. However, STAT3 mutants that fail to interact with EIF2AK2 are unable to suppress autophagy. Both STAT3-targeting agents (i.e., Stattic, JSI-124 and WP1066) and EIF2AK2 activators (such as the double-strand RNA mimetic polyinosinic:polycytidylic acid) are capable of disrupting the inhibitory interaction between STAT3 and EIF2AK2 in cellula, yet only the latter does so in cell-free systems in vitro. A further screen designed to identify EIF2AK2-dependent autophagy inducers revealed that several fatty acids including palmitate trigger autophagy via a pathway that involves the disruption of the STAT3-EIF2AK2 complex as well as the phosphorylation of mitogen-activated protein kinase 8/c-Jun N-terminal kinase 1 (MAPK8/JNK1) and EIF2S1. These results reveal an unsuspected crosstalk between cellular metabolism (fatty acids), pro-inflammatory signaling (STAT3), innate immunity (EIF2AK2), and translational control (EIF2S1) that regulates autophagy.
doi:10.4161/auto.22910
PMCID: PMC3590262  PMID: 23221979
EIF2S1S51A; endoplasmic reticulum; IRS1; palmitate; polyI:C; STAT3Y705F
4.  Prognostic value of LIPC in non-small cell lung carcinoma 
Cell Cycle  2013;12(4):647-654.
Non-small cell lung carcinoma (NSCLC) is the most common form of lung cancer and is associated with a high mortality rate worldwide. The majority of individuals bearing NSCLC are treated with surgery plus adjuvant cisplatin, an initially effective therapeutic regimen that, however, is unable to prevent relapse within 5 years after tumor resection in an elevated proportion of patients. The factors that predict the clinical course of NSCLC and its sensitivity to therapy remain largely obscure. One notable exception is provided by pyridoxal kinase (PDXK), the enzyme that generates the bioactive form of vitamin B6. PDXK has recently been shown to be required for optimal cisplatin responses in vitro and in vivo and to constitute a bona fide prognostic marker in the NSCLC setting. Together with PDXK, 84 additional factors were identified that influence the response of NSCLC cells to cisplatin, in vitro including the hepatic lipase LIPC. Here, we report that the intratumoral levels of LIPC, as assessed by immunohistochemistry in two independent cohorts of NSCLC patients, positively correlate with disease outcome. In one out of two cohorts studied, the overall survival of NSCLC patients bearing LIPChigh lesions was unaffected, if not slightly worsened, by cisplatin-based adjuvant therapy. Conversely, the overall survival of patients with LIPClow lesions was prolonged by post-operative cisplatin. Pending validation in appropriate clinical series, these results suggest that LIPClow NSCLC patients would be those who mainly benefit from adjuvant cisplatin therapy. Thus, the expression levels of LIPC appear to have an independent prognostic value (and perhaps a predictive potential) in the setting of NSCLC. If these findings were confirmed by additional studies, LIPC expression levels might allow not only for NSCLC patient stratification, but also for the implementation of personalized therapeutic approaches.
doi:10.4161/cc.23517
PMCID: PMC3594265  PMID: 23343765
anaplastic lymphoma kinase; apoptosis; BCL-XL; PDXP; personalized medicine; pyridoxine
5.  Role of the c subunit of the FO ATP synthase in mitochondrial permeability transition 
Cell Cycle  2013;12(4):674-683.
The term “mitochondrial permeability transition” (MPT) refers to an abrupt increase in the permeability of the inner mitochondrial membrane to low molecular weight solutes. Due to osmotic forces, MPT is paralleled by a massive influx of water into the mitochondrial matrix, eventually leading to the structural collapse of the organelle. Thus, MPT can initiate mitochondrial outer membrane permeabilization (MOMP), promoting the activation of the apoptotic caspase cascade as well as of caspase-independent cell death mechanisms. MPT appears to be mediated by the opening of the so-called “permeability transition pore complex” (PTPC), a poorly characterized and versatile supramolecular entity assembled at the junctions between the inner and outer mitochondrial membranes. In spite of considerable experimental efforts, the precise molecular composition of the PTPC remains obscure and only one of its constituents, cyclophilin D (CYPD), has been ascribed with a crucial role in the regulation of cell death. Conversely, the results of genetic experiments indicate that other major components of the PTPC, such as voltage-dependent anion channel (VDAC) and adenine nucleotide translocase (ANT), are dispensable for MPT-driven MOMP. Here, we demonstrate that the c subunit of the FO ATP synthase is required for MPT, mitochondrial fragmentation and cell death as induced by cytosolic calcium overload and oxidative stress in both glycolytic and respiratory cell models. Our results strongly suggest that, similar to CYPD, the c subunit of the FO ATP synthase constitutes a critical component of the PTPC.
doi:10.4161/cc.23599
PMCID: PMC3594268  PMID: 23343770
ATP5G1; apoptosis; caspases; cytochrome c; mitochondrial respiratory chain; p53; permeability transition pore (PTP)
6.  Vitamin B6 metabolism influences the intracellular accumulation of cisplatin 
Cell Cycle  2013;12(3):417-421.
Vitamin B6 metabolism influences the adaptive response of non-small lung carcinoma (NSCLC) cells to distinct, potentially lethal perturbations in homeostasis, encompassing nutrient deprivation, hyperthermia, hypoxia, irradiation as well as the exposure to cytotoxic chemicals, including the DNA-damaging agent cisplatin (CDDP). Thus, the siRNA-mediated downregulation of pyridoxal kinase (PDXK), the enzyme that generates the bioactive form of vitamin B6, protects NSCLC cells (as well as a large collection of human and murine malignant cells of distinct histological derivation) from the cytotoxic effects of CDDP. Accordingly, the administration of pyridoxine, one of the inactive precursors of vitamin B6, exacerbates cisplatin-induced cell death, in vitro and in vivo, but only when PDXK is expressed. Conversely, antioxidants such as non-oxidized glutathione (GSH) are known to protect cancer cells from CDDP toxicity. Pyridoxine increases the amount of CDDP-DNA adducts formed upon the exposure of NSCLC cells to CDDP and aggravates the consequent DNA damage response. On the contrary, in the presence of GSH, NSCLC cells exhibit near-to-undetectable levels of CDDP-DNA adducts and a small fraction of the cell population activates the DNA damage response. We therefore wondered whether vitamin B6 metabolism and GSH might interact with CDDP in a pharmacokinetic fashion. In this short communication, we demonstrate that GSH inhibits the intracellular accumulation of CDDP, while pyridoxine potentiates it in a PDXK-dependent fashion. Importantly, such pharmacokinetic effects do not involve plasma membrane transporters that mediate a prominent fraction of CDDP influx, i.e., solute carrier family 31, member 1 (SLC31A1, best known as copper transporter 1, CTR1) and efflux, i.e., ATPase, Cu2+ transporting, β polypeptide (ATP7B).
doi:10.4161/cc.23275
PMCID: PMC3587442  PMID: 23287530
A549; apoptosis; N-acetyl-cysteine; PDXP; reactive oxygen species; Wilson disease
7.  Immunosurveillance against tetraploidization-induced colon tumorigenesis 
Cell Cycle  2013;12(3):473-479.
Circumstantial evidence suggests that colon carcinogenesis can ensue the transient tetraploidization of (pre-)malignant cells. In line with this notion, the tumor suppressors APC and TP53, both of which are frequently inactivated in colon cancer, inhibit tetraploidization in vitro and in vivo. Here, we show that—contrarily to their wild-type counterparts—Tp53−/− colonocytes are susceptible to drug-induced or spontaneous tetraploidization in vitro. Colon organoids generated from tetraploid Tp53−/− cells exhibit a close-to-normal morphology as compared to their diploid Tp53−/− counterparts, yet the colonocytes constituting these organoids are characterized by an increased cell size and an elevated expression of the immunostimulatory protein calreticulin on the cell surface. The subcutaneous injection of tetraploid Tp53−/− colon organoids led to the generation of proliferating tumors in immunodeficient, but not immunocompetent, mice. Thus, tetraploid Tp53−/− colonocytes fail to survive in immunocompetent mice and develop neoplastic lesions in immunocompromised settings only. These results suggest that tetraploidy is particularly oncogenic in the context of deficient immunosurveillance.
doi:10.4161/cc.23369
PMCID: PMC3587448  PMID: 23324343
apoptosis; cell cycle; cytochalasin D; mitotic catastrophe; nocodazole; p53
8.  Trial Watch 
Oncoimmunology  2014;3(1):e27297.
Immunostimulatory monoclonal antibodies (mAbs) exert antineoplastic effects by eliciting a novel or reinstating a pre-existing antitumor immune response. Most often, immunostimulatory mAbs activate T lymphocytes or natural killer (NK) cells by inhibiting immunosuppressive receptors, such as cytotoxic T lymphocyte-associated protein 4 (CTLA4) or programmed cell death 1 (PDCD1, best known as PD-1), or by engaging co-stimulatory receptors, like CD40, tumor necrosis factor receptor superfamily, member 4 (TNFRSF4, best known as OX40) or TNFRSF18 (best known as GITR). The CTLA4-targeting mAb ipilimumab has been approved by the US Food and Drug Administration for use in patients with unresectable or metastatic melanoma in 2011. The therapeutic profile of ipilimumab other CTLA4-blocking mAbs, such as tremelimumab, is currently being assessed in subjects affected by a large panel of solid neoplasms. In the last few years, promising clinical results have also been obtained with nivolumab, a PD-1-targeting mAb formerly known as BMS-936558. Accordingly, the safety and efficacy of nivolumab and other PD-1-blocking molecules are being actively investigated. Finally, various clinical trials are underway to test the therapeutic potential of OX40- and GITR-activating mAbs. Here, we summarize recent findings on the therapeutic profile of immunostimulatory mAbs and discuss clinical trials that have been launched in the last 14 months to assess the therapeutic profile of these immunotherapeutic agents.
doi:10.4161/onci.27297
PMCID: PMC3961485
CD137; checkpoint blockade; immunogenic chemotherapy; immunosuppression; lirilumab; IPH2101; PD-L1
9.  Trial Watch 
Oncoimmunology  2014;3(1):e27048.
In 1997, for the first time in history, a monoclonal antibody (mAb), i.e., the chimeric anti-CD20 molecule rituximab, was approved by the US Food and Drug Administration for use in cancer patients. Since then, the panel of mAbs that are approved by international regulatory agencies for the treatment of hematopoietic and solid malignancies has not stopped to expand, nowadays encompassing a stunning amount of 15 distinct molecules. This therapeutic armamentarium includes mAbs that target tumor-associated antigens, as well as molecules that interfere with tumor-stroma interactions or exert direct immunostimulatory effects. These three classes of mAbs exert antineoplastic activity via distinct mechanisms, which may or may not involve immune effectors other than the mAbs themselves. In previous issues of OncoImmunology, we provided a brief scientific background to the use of mAbs, all types confounded, in cancer therapy, and discussed the results of recent clinical trials investigating the safety and efficacy of this approach. Here, we focus on mAbs that primarily target malignant cells or their interactions with stromal components, as opposed to mAbs that mediate antineoplastic effects by activating the immune system. In particular, we discuss relevant clinical findings that have been published during the last 13 months as well as clinical trials that have been launched in the same period to investigate the therapeutic profile of hitherto investigational tumor-targeting mAbs.
doi:10.4161/onci.27048
PMCID: PMC3937194  PMID: 24605265
bevacizumab; brentuximab vedotin; cetuximab; nimotuzumab; trastuzumab; tumor-associated antigen
10.  The Hallmarks of Aging 
Cell  2013;153(6):10.1016/j.cell.2013.05.039.
Aging is characterized by a progressive loss of physiological integrity, leading to impaired function and increased vulnerability to death. This deterioration is the primary risk factor for major human pathologies including cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular disorders, and neurodegenerative diseases. Aging research has experienced an unprecedented advance over recent years, particularly with the discovery that the rate of aging is controlled, at least to some extent, by genetic pathways and biochemical processes conserved in evolution. This review enumerates nine tentative hallmarks that represent common denominators of aging in different organisms, with special emphasis on mammalian aging. These hallmarks are: genomic instability, telomere attrition, epigenetic alterations, loss of proteostasis, deregulated nutrient-sensing, mitochondrial dysfunction, cellular senescence, stem cell exhaustion, and altered intercellular communication. A major challenge is to dissect the interconnectedness between the candidate hallmarks and their relative contribution to aging, with the final goal of identifying pharmaceutical targets to improve human health during aging with minimal side-effects.
doi:10.1016/j.cell.2013.05.039
PMCID: PMC3836174  PMID: 23746838
aging; cancer; DNA damage; epigenetic; healthspan; lifespan; longevity; metabolism; mitochondria; nutrient-signaling pathways; senescence; stem cells; telomeres
11.  Immunological effects of chemotherapy in spontaneous breast cancers 
Oncoimmunology  2013;2(12):e27158.
doi:10.4161/onci.27158
PMCID: PMC3912056  PMID: 24498568
HER2; CD8+ T lymphocytes; MMTV-NeuT mice; oncogene addiction; p53; trastuzumab
12.  Immune effectors required for the therapeutic activity of vorinostat 
Oncoimmunology  2013;2(11):e27157.
doi:10.4161/onci.27157
PMCID: PMC3891759  PMID: 24475375
B lymphocytes; SAHA; histone deacetylase inhibitors; immunogenic cell death; interferon γ; natural killer cells
13.  Trial Watch 
Oncoimmunology  2013;2(12):e26621.
Throughout the past 3 decades, along with the recognition that the immune system not only influences oncogenesis and tumor progression, but also determines how established neoplastic lesions respond therapy, renovated enthusiasm has gathered around the possibility of using vaccines as anticancer agents. Such an enthusiasm quickly tempered when it became clear that anticancer vaccines would have to be devised as therapeutic, rather than prophylactic, measures, and that malignant cells often fail to elicit (or actively suppress) innate and adaptive immune responses. Nonetheless, accumulating evidence indicates that a variety of anticancer vaccines, including cell-based, DNA-based, and purified component-based preparations, are capable of circumventing the poorly immunogenic and highly immunosuppressive nature of most tumors and elicit (at least under some circumstances) therapeutically relevant immune responses. Great efforts are currently being devoted to the identification of strategies that may provide anticancer vaccines with the capacity of breaking immunological tolerance and eliciting tumor-associated antigen-specific immunity in a majority of patients. In this sense, promising results have been obtained by combining anticancer vaccines with a relatively varied panels of adjuvants, including multiple immunostimulatory cytokines, Toll-like receptor agonists as well as inhibitors of immune checkpoints. One year ago, in the December issue of OncoImmunology, we discussed the biological mechanisms that underlie the antineoplastic effects of peptide-based vaccines and presented an abundant literature demonstrating the prominent clinical potential of such an approach. Here, we review the latest developments in this exciting area of research, focusing on high-profile studies that have been published during the last 13 mo and clinical trials launched in the same period to evaluate purified peptides or full-length proteins as therapeutic anticancer agents.
doi:10.4161/onci.26621
PMCID: PMC3902120  PMID: 24498550
adjuvants; dendritic cells; ipilimumab; NY-ESO-1; survivin; TLR agonists
14.  Targeting autophagy as a novel strategy for facilitating the therapeutic action of potentiators on ΔF508 cystic fibrosis transmembrane conductance regulator 
Autophagy  2012;8(11):1657-1672.
Channel activators (potentiators) of cystic fibrosis (CF) transmembrane conductance regulator (CFTR), can be used for the treatment of the small subset of CF patients that carry plasma membrane-resident CFTR mutants. However, approximately 90% of CF patients carry the misfolded ΔF508-CFTR and are poorly responsive to potentiators, because ΔF508-CFTR is intrinsically unstable at the plasma membrane (PM) even if rescued by pharmacological correctors. We have demonstrated that human and mouse CF airways are autophagy deficient due to functional sequestration of BECN1 and that the tissue transglutaminase-2 inhibitor, cystamine, or antioxidants restore BECN1-dependent autophagy and reduce SQSTM1/p62 levels, thus favoring ΔF508-CFTR trafficking to the epithelial surface. Here, we investigated whether these treatments could facilitate the beneficial action of potentiators on ΔF508-CFTR homozygous airways. Cystamine or the superoxide dismutase (SOD)/catalase-mimetic EUK-134 stabilized ΔF508-CFTR at the plasma membrane of airway epithelial cells and sustained the expression of CFTR at the epithelial surface well beyond drug withdrawal, overexpressing BECN1 and depleting SQSTM1. This facilitates the beneficial action of potentiators in controlling inflammation in ex vivo ΔF508-CFTR homozygous human nasal biopsies and in vivo in mouse ΔF508-CFTR lungs. Direct depletion of Sqstm1 by shRNAs in vivo in ΔF508-CFTR mice synergized with potentiators in sustaining surface CFTR expression and suppressing inflammation. Cystamine pre-treatment restored ΔF508-CFTR response to the CFTR potentiators genistein, Vrx-532 or Vrx-770 in freshly isolated brushed nasal epithelial cells from ΔF508-CFTR homozygous patients. These findings delineate a novel therapeutic strategy for the treatment of CF patients with the ΔF508-CFTR mutation in which patients are first treated with cystamine and subsequently pulsed with CFTR potentiators.
doi:10.4161/auto.21483
PMCID: PMC3494594  PMID: 22874563
cystic fibrosis; autophagy; therapy; cystamine; CFTR potentiators
15.  Trial Watch 
Oncoimmunology  2013;2(11):e26494.
Lenalidomide is a synthetic derivative of thalidomide currently approved by the US Food and Drug Administration for use in patients affected by multiple myeloma (in combination with dexamethasone) and low or intermediate-1 risk myelodysplastic syndromes that harbor 5q cytogenetic abnormalities. For illustrative purposes, the mechanism of action of lenalidomide can be subdivided into a cancer cell-intrinsic, a stromal, and an immunological component. Indeed, lenalidomide not only exerts direct cell cycle-arresting and pro-apoptotic effects on malignant cells, but also interferes with their physical and functional interaction with the tumor microenvironment and mediates a robust, pleiotropic immunostimulatory activity. In particular, lenalidomide has been shown to stimulate the cytotoxic functions of T lymphocytes and natural killer cells, to limit the immunosuppressive impact of regulatory T cells, and to modulate the secretion of a wide range of cytokines, including tumor necrosis factor α, interferon γ as well as interleukin (IL)-6, IL-10, and IL-12. Throughout the last decade, the antineoplastic and immunostimulatory potential of lenalidomide has been investigated in patients affected by a wide variety of hematological and solid malignancies. Here, we discuss the results of these studies and review the status of clinical trials currently assessing the safety and efficacy of this potent immunomodulatory drug in oncological indications.
doi:10.4161/onci.26494
PMCID: PMC3897503  PMID: 24482747
CC-5013; IMiDs; TNFα; chronic lymphocytic leukemia; pomalidomide; regulatory T cells
16.  Pro-autophagic polyphenols reduce the acetylation of cytoplasmic proteins 
Cell Cycle  2012;11(20):3851-3860.
Resveratrol is a polyphenol contained in red wine that has been amply investigated for its beneficial effects on organismal metabolism, in particular in the context of the so-called “French paradox,” i.e., the relatively low incidence of coronary heart disease exhibited by a population with a high dietary intake of cholesterol and saturated fats. At least part of the beneficial effect of resveratrol on human health stems from its capacity to promote autophagy by activating the NAD-dependent deacetylase sirtuin 1. However, the concentration of resveratrol found in red wine is excessively low to account alone for the French paradox. Here, we investigated the possibility that other mono- and polyphenols contained in red wine might induce autophagy while affecting the acetylation levels of cellular proteins. Phenolic compounds found in red wine, including anthocyanins (oenin), stilbenoids (piceatannol), monophenols (caffeic acid, gallic acid) glucosides (delphinidin, kuronamin, peonidin) and flavonoids (catechin, epicatechin, quercetin, myricetin), were all capable of stimulating autophagy, although with dissimilar potencies. Importantly, a robust negative correlation could be established between autophagy induction and the acetylation levels of cytoplasmic proteins, as determined by a novel immunofluorescence staining protocol that allows for the exclusion of nuclear components from the analysis. Inhibition of sirtuin 1 by both pharmacological and genetic means abolished protein deacetylation and autophagy as stimulated by resveratrol, but not by piceatannol, indicating that these compounds act through distinct molecular pathways. In support of this notion, resveratrol and piceatannol synergized in inducing autophagy as well as in promoting cytoplasmic protein deacetylation. Our results highlight a cause-effect relationship between the deacetylation of cytoplasmic proteins and autophagy induction by red wine components.
doi:10.4161/cc.22027
PMCID: PMC3495827  PMID: 23070521
Beclin 1; LC3; longevity; p62/SQSTM1; trichostatin A; U2OS
17.  Endonuclease G mediates α-synuclein cytotoxicity during Parkinson's disease 
The EMBO Journal  2013;32(23):3041-3054.
Malfunctioning of the protein α-synuclein is critically involved in the demise of dopaminergic neurons relevant to Parkinson's disease. Nonetheless, the precise mechanisms explaining this pathogenic neuronal cell death remain elusive. Endonuclease G (EndoG) is a mitochondrially localized nuclease that triggers DNA degradation and cell death upon translocation from mitochondria to the nucleus. Here, we show that EndoG displays cytotoxic nuclear localization in dopaminergic neurons of human Parkinson-diseased patients, while EndoG depletion largely reduces α-synuclein-induced cell death in human neuroblastoma cells. Xenogenic expression of human α-synuclein in yeast cells triggers mitochondria-nuclear translocation of EndoG and EndoG-mediated DNA degradation through a mechanism that requires a functional kynurenine pathway and the permeability transition pore. In nematodes and flies, EndoG is essential for the α-synuclein-driven degeneration of dopaminergic neurons. Moreover, the locomotion and survival of α-synuclein-expressing flies is compromised, but reinstalled by parallel depletion of EndoG. In sum, we unravel a phylogenetically conserved pathway that involves EndoG as a critical downstream executor of α-synuclein cytotoxicity.
The mitochondrial pro-apoptotic nuclease Endonuclease G is a key downstream executor of α-synuclein neurotoxicity in different Parkinson's disease models.
doi:10.1038/emboj.2013.228
PMCID: PMC3844953  PMID: 24129513
α-synuclein; cell death; endonuclease G; mitochondria; Parkinson's disease
18.  Immunogenic cell death in radiation therapy 
Oncoimmunology  2013;2(10):e26536.
doi:10.4161/onci.26536
PMCID: PMC3881599  PMID: 24404424
ATP; caspases; chemotherapy; immunogenic cell death; radiotherapy; tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes
19.  Immunohistochemical detection of cytoplasmic LC3 puncta in human cancer specimens 
Autophagy  2012;8(8):1175-1184.
Autophagy is an evolutionarily conserved catabolic process that involves the entrapment of cytoplasmic components within characteristic vesicles for their delivery to and degradation within lysosomes. Alterations in autophagic signaling are found in several human diseases including cancer. Here, we describe a validated immunohistochemical protocol for the detection of LC3 puncta in human formalin-fixed, paraffin-embedded cancer specimens that can also be applied to mouse tissues. In response to systemic chemotherapy, autophagy-competent mouse tumors exhibited LC3 puncta, which did not appear in mouse cancers that had been rendered autophagy-deficient by the knockdown of Atg5 or Atg7. As compared with normal tissues, LC3 staining was moderately to highly elevated in the large majority of human cancers studied, albeit tumors of the same histological type tended to be highly heterogeneous in the number and intensity of LC3 puncta per cell. Moreover, tumor-infiltrating immune cells often were highly positive for LC3. Altogether, this protocol for LC3 staining appears suitable for the specific detection of LC3 puncta in human specimens, including tissue microarrays. We surmise that this technique can be employed for retrospective or prospective studies involving large series of human tumor samples.
doi:10.4161/auto.20353
PMCID: PMC3973657  PMID: 22647537
autophagosomes; CT26; immunohistochemistry; lysosomes; macroautophagy; MCA205
20.  Trial watch 
Oncoimmunology  2013;2(10):e25771.
Dendritic cells (DCs) occupy a privileged position at the interface between innate and adaptive immunity, orchestrating a large panel of responses to both physiological and pathological cues. In particular, whereas the presentation of antigens by immature DCs generally results in the development of immunological tolerance, mature DCs are capable of priming robust, and hence therapeutically relevant, adaptive immune responses. In line with this notion, functional defects in the DC compartment have been shown to etiologically contribute to pathological conditions including (but perhaps not limited to) infectious diseases, allergic and autoimmune disorders, graft rejection and cancer. Thus, the possibility of harnessing the elevated immunological potential of DCs for anticancer therapy has attracted considerable interest from both researchers and clinicians over the last decade. Alongside, several methods have been developed not only to isolate DCs from cancer patients, expand them, load them with tumor-associated antigens and hence generate highly immunogenic clinical grade infusion products, but also to directly target DCs in vivo. This intense experimental effort has culminated in 2010 with the approval by the US FDA of a DC-based preparation (sipuleucel-T, Provenge®) for the treatment of asymptomatic or minimally symptomatic metastatic castration-refractory prostate cancer. As an update to the latest Trial Watch dealing with this exciting field of research (October 2012), here we summarize recent advances in DC-based anticancer regimens, covering both high-impact studies that have been published during the last 13 mo and clinical trials that have been launched in the same period to assess the antineoplastic potential of this variant of cellular immunotherapy.
doi:10.4161/onci.25771
PMCID: PMC3841205  PMID: 24286020
antigen-presenting cells; immunogenic cell death; monoclonal antibodies; plasmacytoid dendritic cells; regulatory T cells; Toll-like receptors
21.  Antiapoptotic activity of argon and xenon 
Cell Cycle  2013;12(16):2636-2642.
Although chemically non-reactive, inert noble gases may influence multiple physiological and pathological processes via hitherto uncharacterized physical effects. Here we report a cell-based detection system for assessing the effects of pre-defined gas mixtures on the induction of apoptotic cell death. In this setting, the conventional atmosphere for cell culture was substituted with gas combinations, including the same amount of oxygen (20%) and carbon dioxide (5%) but 75% helium, neon, argon, krypton, or xenon instead of nitrogen. The replacement of nitrogen with noble gases per se had no effects on the viability of cultured human osteosarcoma cells in vitro. Conversely, argon and xenon (but not helium, neon, and krypton) significantly limited cell loss induced by the broad-spectrum tyrosine kinase inhibitor staurosporine, the DNA-damaging agent mitoxantrone and several mitochondrial toxins. Such cytoprotective effects were coupled to the maintenance of mitochondrial integrity, as demonstrated by means of a mitochondrial transmembrane potential-sensitive dye and by assessing the release of cytochrome c into the cytosol. In line with this notion, argon and xenon inhibited the apoptotic activation of caspase-3, as determined by immunofluorescence microscopy coupled to automated image analysis. The antiapoptotic activity of argon and xenon may explain their clinically relevant cytoprotective effects.
doi:10.4161/cc.25650
PMCID: PMC3865053  PMID: 23907115
antimycin A, menadione, mitochondrial membrane permeabilization, rotenone; U2OS cells, Z-VAD-fmk
22.  Trial Watch 
Oncoimmunology  2013;2(9):e25595.
Radiotherapy has extensively been employed as a curative or palliative intervention against cancer throughout the last century, with a varying degree of success. For a long time, the antineoplastic activity of X- and γ-rays was entirely ascribed to their capacity of damaging macromolecules, in particular DNA, and hence triggering the (apoptotic) demise of malignant cells. However, accumulating evidence indicates that (at least part of) the clinical potential of radiotherapy stems from cancer cell-extrinsic mechanisms, including the normalization of tumor vasculature as well as short- and long-range bystander effects. Local bystander effects involve either the direct transmission of lethal signals between cells connected by gap junctions or the production of diffusible cytotoxic mediators, including reactive oxygen species, nitric oxide and cytokines. Conversely, long-range bystander effects, also known as out-of-field or abscopal effects, presumably reflect the elicitation of tumor-specific adaptive immune responses. Ionizing rays have indeed been shown to promote the immunogenic demise of malignant cells, a process that relies on the spatiotemporally defined emanation of specific damage-associated molecular patterns (DAMPs). Thus, irradiation reportedly improves the clinical efficacy of other treatment modalities such as surgery (both in neo-adjuvant and adjuvant settings) or chemotherapy. Moreover, at least under some circumstances, radiotherapy may potentiate anticancer immune responses as elicited by various immunotherapeutic agents, including (but presumably not limited to) immunomodulatory monoclonal antibodies, cancer-specific vaccines, dendritic cell-based interventions and Toll-like receptor agonists. Here, we review the rationale of using radiotherapy, alone or combined with immunomodulatory agents, as a means to elicit or boost anticancer immune responses, and present recent clinical trials investigating the therapeutic potential of this approach in cancer patients.
doi:10.4161/onci.25595
PMCID: PMC3850274  PMID: 24319634
brachytherapy; immunogenic cell death; intensity-modulated radiation therapy; radionuclide; stereotactic body radiation therapy; stereotactic radiosurgery
23.  Trial Watch 
Oncoimmunology  2013;2(8):e25238.
Toll-like receptors (TLRs) have long been known for their ability to initiate innate immune responses upon exposure to conserved microbial components such as lipopolysaccharide (LPS) and double-stranded RNA. More recently, this family of pattern recognition receptors has been attributed a critical role in the elicitation of anticancer immune responses, raising interest in the development of immunochemotherapeutic regimens based on natural or synthetic TLR agonists. In spite of such an intense wave of preclinical and clinical investigation, only three TLR agonists are currently licensed by FDA for use in cancer patients: bacillus Calmette–Guérin (BCG), an attenuated strain of Mycobacterium bovis that operates as a mixed TLR2/TLR4 agonist; monophosphoryl lipid A (MPL), a derivative of Salmonella minnesota that functions as a potent agonist of TLR4; and imiquimod, a synthetic imidazoquinoline that activates TLR7. One year ago, in the August and September issues of OncoImmunology, we described the main biological features of TLRs and discussed the progress of clinical studies evaluating the safety and therapeutic potential of TLR agonists in cancer patients. Here, we summarize the latest developments in this exciting area of research, focusing on preclinical studies that have been published during the last 13 mo and clinical trials launched in the same period to investigate the antineoplastic activity of TLR agonists.
doi:10.4161/onci.25238
PMCID: PMC3782517  PMID: 24083080
CpG oligodeoxynucleotides; Hiltonol™; damage-associated molecular patterns; lipopolysaccharide; picibanil; resiquimod
24.  A comprehensive glossary of autophagy-related molecules and processes 
Autophagy  2010;6(4):438-448.
Autophagy is a rapidly expanding field in the sense that our knowledge about the molecular mechanism and its connections to a wide range of physiological processes has increased substantially in the past decade. Similarly, the vocabulary associated with autophagy has grown concomitantly. This fact makes it difficult for readers, even those who work in the field, to keep up with the ever-expanding terminology associated with the various autophagy-related processes. Accordingly, we have developed a comprehensive glossary of autophagy-related terms that is meant to provide a quick reference for researchers who need a brief reminder of the regulatory effects of transcription factors or chemical agents that induce or inhibit autophagy, the function of the autophagy-related proteins, or the role of accessory machinery or structures that are associated with autophagy.
doi:10.4161/auto.6.4.12244
PMCID: PMC3652604  PMID: 20484971
autophagy; definitions; glossary; lexicon; terms
25.  Trial Watch 
Oncoimmunology  2013;2(7):e24850.
During the past two decades, the notion that cancer would merely constitute a cell-intrinsic disease has gradually been complemented by a model postulating that the immune system plays a relevant role during all stages of oncogenesis and tumor progression. Along with this conceptual shift, several strategies have been devised to stimulate tumor-specific immune responses, including relatively unselective approaches such as the systemic administration of adjuvants or immunomodulatory cytokines. One year ago, in the July issue of OncoImmunology, we described the main biological features of this large group of proteins and discussed the progress of ongoing clinical studies evaluating their safety and therapeutic potential in cancer patients. Here, we summarize the latest developments in this area of clinical research, focusing on high impact studies that have been published during the last 13 mo and clinical trials launched in the same period to investigate which cytokines can be employed as safe and efficient immunostimulatory interventions against cancer.
doi:10.4161/onci.24850
PMCID: PMC3782010  PMID: 24073369
GM-CSF; IFN; IL-2; TGFβ; TNFα; chemokines

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