Cancer Stem Cells (CSCs) are a small subpopulation of cells within tumors with capabilities of self-renewal, differentiation, and tumorigenicity when transplanted into an animal host. A number of cell surface markers such as CD44, CD24, and CD133 are often used to identify and enrich CSCs. A regulatory network consisting of microRNAs and Wnt/β-catenin, Notch, and Hedgehog signaling pathways controls the CSC properties. The clinical relevance of CSCs has been strengthened by emerging evidence, demonstrating that CSCs are resistant to conventional chemotherapy and radiation treatment and that CSCs are very likely to be the origin of cancer metastasis. CSCs are believed to be an important target for novel anti-cancer drug discovery. Herein we summarize the current understanding of CSCs, with a focus on the role of miRNA and epithelial mesenchymal transition (EMT), and discuss the clinical application of targeting CSCs for cancer treatment.
Cancer stem cells; tumorigenesis; relapse; metastasis; miRNA
Recently, we have shown that the CCL5/CCR5 axis is active in patients affected by an aggressive basal subtype of breast cancer. Using preclinical models, we have demonstrated that CCR5 promotes breast cancer invasiveness and metastatic potential, while CCR5 inhibition abrogates them. Thus, CCR5 antagonists may constitute an alternative therapeutic approach for patients affected by metastatic basal breast cancer.
basal breast cancer; CCL5; CCR5; Maraviroc; metastasis; Vicriviroc
Hypoxia-inducible factor (HIF) 1α and 2α are transcription factors responsible for the cellular response to hypoxia. The functional roles of HIF1α and HIF2α in cancer are distinct and vary among different tumor types. The aim of this study was to evaluate the compartment-specific role(s) of HIF1α and HIF2α in breast cancer. To this end, immortalized human fibroblasts and MDA-MB-231 breast cancer cells carrying constitutively active HIF1α or HIF2α mutants were analyzed with respect to their metabolic function(s) and ability to promote tumor growth in an in vivo setting. We observed that activation of HIF1α, but not HIF2α, in stromal cells promotes a shift toward aerobic glycolysis, with increased L-lactate production and a loss of mitochondrial activity. In a xenograft model, HIF1α-activated fibroblasts promoted the tumor growth of co-injected MDA-MB-231 cells without an increase in angiogenesis. Conversely, HIF2α-activated stromal cells did not favor tumor growth and behaved as the empty vector controls. Similarly, activation of HIF1α, but not HIF2α, in MDA-MB-231 cells promoted a shift toward aerobic glycolysis, with increased glucose uptake and L-lactate production. In contrast, HIF2α activation in cancer cells increased the expression of EGFR, Ras and cyclin D1, which are known markers of tumor growth and cell cycle progression. In a xenograft model, HIF1α activation in MDA-MB-231 cells acted as a tumor suppressor, resulting in an almost 2-fold reduction in tumor mass and volume. Interestingly, HIF2α activation in MDA-MB-231 cells induced a significant ~2-fold-increase in tumor mass and volume. Analysis of mitochondrial activity in these tumor xenografts using COX (cytochrome C oxidase) staining demonstrated elevated mitochondrial oxidative metabolism (OXPHOS) in HIF2α-tumors. We conclude that the role(s) of HIF1α and HIF2α in tumorigenesis are compartment-specific. HIF1α acts as a tumor promoter in stromal cells but as a tumor suppressor in cancer cells. Conversely, HIF2α is a tumor promoter in cancer cells. Mechanistically, HIF1α-driven aerobic glycolysis in stromal cells supports cancer cell growth via the paracrine production of nutrients (such as L-lactate) that can “feed” cancer cells. However, HIF1α-driven aerobic glycolysis in cancer cells inhibits tumor growth. Finally, HIF2α activation in cancer cells induces the expression of known pro-oncogenic molecules and promotes the mitochondrial activity of cancer cells.
caveolin-1; hypoxia-inducible factor; HIF-1alpha; HIF-2alpha; metabolic coupling; tumor stroma; cancer-associated fibroblasts; aerobic glycolysis; mitochondrial metabolism; OXPHOS
We have previously shown that a loss of stromal Cav-1 is a biomarker of poor prognosis in breast cancers. Mechanistically, a loss of Cav-1 induces the metabolic reprogramming of stromal cells, with increased autophagy/mitophagy, mitochondrial dysfunction and aerobic glycolysis. As a consequence, Cav-1-low CAFs generate nutrients (such as L-lactate) and chemical building blocks that fuel mitochondrial metabolism and the anabolic growth of adjacent breast cancer cells. It is also known that a loss of Cav-1 is associated with hyperactive TGF-β signaling. However, it remains unknown whether hyperactivation of the TGF-β signaling pathway contributes to the metabolic reprogramming of Cav-1-low CAFs. To address these issues, we overexpressed TGF-β ligands and the TGF-β receptor I (TGFβ-RI) in stromal fibroblasts and breast cancer cells. Here, we show that the role of TGF-β in tumorigenesis is compartment-specific, and that TGF-β promotes tumorigenesis by shifting cancer-associated fibroblasts toward catabolic metabolism. Importantly, the tumor-promoting effects of TGF-β are independent of the cell type generating TGF-β. Thus, stromal-derived TGF-β activates signaling in stromal cells in an autocrine fashion, leading to fibroblast activation, as judged by increased expression of myofibroblast markers, and metabolic reprogramming, with a shift toward catabolic metabolism and oxidative stress. We also show that TGF-β-activated fibroblasts promote the mitochondrial activity of adjacent cancer cells, and in a xenograft model, enhancing the growth of breast cancer cells, independently of angiogenesis. Conversely, activation of the TGF-β pathway in cancer cells does not influence tumor growth, but cancer cell-derived-TGF-β ligands affect stromal cells in a paracrine fashion, leading to fibroblast activation and enhanced tumor growth. In conclusion, ligand-dependent or cell-autonomous activation of the TGF-β pathway in stromal cells induces their metabolic reprogramming, with increased oxidative stress, autophagy/mitophagy and glycolysis, and downregulation of Cav-1. These metabolic alterations can spread among neighboring fibroblasts and greatly sustain the growth of breast cancer cells. Our data provide novel insights into the role of the TGF-β pathway in breast tumorigenesis, and establish a clear causative link between the tumor-promoting effects of TGF-β signaling and the metabolic reprogramming of the tumor microenvironment.
TGF beta; aerobic glycolysis; autocrine signaling; autophagy; cancer associated fibroblast; cancer metabolism; mitophagy; myofibroblast; oxidative stress; paracrine signaling; the field effect; tumor stroma; “Pied-Piper of Hamelin”
Significance: Here, we review certain recent advances in oxidative stress and tumor metabolism, which are related to understanding the contributions of the microenvironment in promoting tumor growth and metastasis. In the early 1920s, Otto Warburg, a Nobel Laureate, formulated a hypothesis to explain the “fundamental basis” of cancer, based on his observations that tumors displayed a metabolic shift toward glycolysis. In 1963, Christian de Duve, another Nobel Laureate, first coined the phrase auto-phagy, derived from the Greek words “auto” and “phagy,” meaning “self” and “eating.” Recent Advances: Now, we see that these two ideas (autophagy and aerobic glycolysis) physically converge in the tumor stroma. First, cancer cells secrete hydrogen peroxide. Then, as a consequence, oxidative stress in cancer-associated fibroblasts drives autophagy, mitophagy, and aerobic glycolysis. Critical Issues: This “parasitic” metabolic coupling converts the stroma into a “factory” for the local production of recycled and high-energy nutrients (such as L-lactate)—to fuel oxidative mitochondrial metabolism in cancer cells. We believe that Warburg and de Duve would be pleased with this new two-compartment model for understanding tumor metabolism. It adds a novel stromal twist to two very well-established cancer paradigms: aerobic glycolysis and autophagy. Future Directions: Undoubtedly, these new metabolic models will foster the development of novel biomarkers, and corresponding therapies, to achieve the goal of personalized cancer medicine. Given the central role that oxidative stress plays in this process, new powerful antioxidants should be developed in the fight against cancer. Antioxid. Redox Signal. 16, 1264–1284.
Breast cancer is a leading form of cancer in the world. The Drosophila Dac gene was cloned as an inhibitor of the hyperactive epidermal growth factor (EGFR), ellipse. Herein, endogenous DACH1 co-localized with p53 in a nuclear, extranucleolar compartment and bound to p53 in human breast cancer cell lines, p53 and DACH1 bound common genes in Chip-Seq. Full inhibition of breast cancer contact-independent growth by DACH1 required p53. The p53 breast cancer mutants R248Q and R273H, evaded DACH1 binding. DACH1 phosphorylation at serine residue (S439) inhibited p53 binding and phosphorylation at p53 amino-terminal sites (S15, S20) enhanced DACH1 binding. DACH1 binding to p53 was inhibited by NAD-dependent deacetylation via DACH1 K628. DACH1 repressed p21CIP1 and induced RAD51, an association found in basal breast cancer. DACH1 inhibits breast cancer cellular growth in an NAD and p53-dependent manner through direct protein-protein association.
p53; breast cancer; cell fate; stem cells; dach
Dietary modification such as caloric restriction (CR) has been shown to decrease tumor initiation and progression. We sought to determine if nutrient restriction could be used as a novel therapeutic intervention to enhance cytotoxic therapies such as radiation (IR) and alter the molecular profile of triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC), which displays a poor prognosis. In two murine models of TNBC, significant tumor regression is noted with IR or diet modification, and a greater regression is observed combining diet modification with IR. Two methods of diet modification were compared, and it was found that a daily 30% reduction in total calories provided more significant tumor regression than alternate day feeding. At the molecular level, tumors treated with CR and IR showed less proliferation and more apoptosis. cDNA array analysis demonstrated the IGF-1R pathway plays a key role in achieving this physiologic response, and multiple members of the IGF-1R pathway including IGF-1R, IRS, PIK3ca and mTOR were found to be downregulated. The innovative use of CR as a novel therapeutic option has the potential to change the biology of tumors and enhance the opportunity for clinical benefit in the treatment of patients with TNBC.
caloric restriction; breast cancer; radiation; IGF; tumor regression; cytotoxic therapy
Both cell-autonomous and non-cell-autonomous factors contribute to tumor growth and metastasis of melanoma. The function of Caveolin-1 (Cav1), a multifunctional scaffold protein known to modulate several biological processes in both normal tissue and cancer, has been recently investigated in melanoma cancer cells, but its role in the melanoma microenvironment remains largely unexplored. Here, we show that orthotopic implantation of B16F10 melanoma cells in the skin of Cav1KO mice increases tumor growth, and co-injection of Cav1-deficient dermal fibroblasts with melanoma cells is sufficient to recapitulate the tumor phenotype observed in Cav1KO mice. Using indirect co-culture experiments with fibroblasts and melanoma cells combined with cytokine analysis, we found that Cav1-deficient fibroblasts promoted the growth of melanoma cells via enhanced paracrine cytokine signaling. Specifically, Cav1-deficient fibroblasts displayed increased ShhN expression, which heterotypically enhanced the Shh signaling pathway in melanoma cells. In contrast to primary tumor growth, the ability of B16F10 melanoma cells to form lung metastases was significantly reduced in Cav1KO mice. This phenotype was associated mechanistically with the inability of melanoma cells to adhere to and to transmigrate through a monolayer of endothelial cells lacking Cav1. Together, our findings demonstrate that Cav1 may regulate different mechanisms during primary melanoma tumor growth and metastatic dissemination.
Acetylation is an essential post-translational modification featuring an acetyl group that is covalently conjugated to a protein substrate. Histone acetylation was first proposed nearly half a century ago by Dr. Vincent Allfrey. Subsequent studies have shown that the acetylated core histones are often associated with transcriptionally active chromatin. Acetylation at lysine residues of histone tails neutralizes the positive charge, which decreases their binding ability to DNA and increases the accessibility of transcription factors and coactivators to the chromatin template. In addition to histones, a number of non-histone substrates are acetylated. Acetylation of non-histone proteins governs biological processes, such as cellular proliferation and survival, transcriptional activity, and intracellular trafficking. We demonstrated that acetylation of transcription factors can regulate cellular growth. Furthermore, we showed that nuclear receptors (NRs) are acetylated at a phylogenetically conserved motif. Since our initial observations with the estrogen and androgen receptors, more than a dozen NRs have been shown to function as substrates for acetyltransferases with diverse functional consequences. This review focuses on the acetylation of NRs and the effect of acetylation on NR function. We discuss the potential role of acetylation in disease initiation and progression with an emphasis on tumorigenesis.
Using a newly developed near-infrared (NIR) dye that fluoresces at two different wavelengths (dichromic fluorescence, DCF), we discovered a new fluorescent substrate for Akt, also known as protein kinase B, and a method to quantitatively report this enzyme's activity in real time. Upon insulin activation of cellular Akt, the enzyme multi-phosphorylated a single serine residue of a diserine DCF substrate in a time-dependent manner, culminating in monophospho- to triphospho-serine products. The NIR DCF probe was highly selective for the Akt1 isoform, which was demonstrated using Akt1 knockout cells derived from MMTV-ErbB2 transgenic mice. The DCF mechanism provides unparalleled potential to assess the stimulation, sustainability, and reversibility of Akt activation longitudinally. Importantly, NIR fluorescence provides a pathway to translate findings from cells to living organisms, a condition that could eventually facilitate the use of these probes in humans.
Caveolin-1 (Cav-1) is a critical regulator of tumor progression in a variety of cancers where it has been shown to act as either a tumor suppressor or tumor promoter. In glioblastoma multiforme, it has been previously demonstrated to function as a putative tumor suppressor. Our studies here, using the human glioblastoma-derived cell line U-87MG, further support the role of Cav-1 as a negative regulator of tumor growth. Using a lentiviral transduction approach, we were able to stably overexpress Cav-1 in U-87MG cells. Gene expression microarray analyses demonstrated significant enrichment in gene signatures corresponding to downregulation of MAPK, PI3K/AKT and mTOR signaling, as well as activation of apoptotic pathways in Cav-1-overexpressing U-87MG cells. These same gene signatures were later confirmed at the protein level in vitro. To explore the ability of Cav-1 to regulate tumor growth in vivo, we further show that Cav-1-overexpressing U-87MG cells display reduced tumorigenicity in an ectopic xenograft mouse model, with marked hypoactivation of MAPK and PI3K/mTOR pathways. Finally, we demonstrate that Cav-1 overexpression confers sensitivity to the most commonly used chemotherapy for glioblastoma, temozolomide. In conclusion, Cav-1 negatively regulates key cell growth and survival pathways and may be an effective biomarker for predicting response to chemotherapy in glioblastoma.
Caveolin-1; glioma; brain cancer; tumor progression; tumor suppressor; microarray; mouse model; chemotherapy; temozolomide
Breast cancer stem cells (BCSCs) constitute a subpopulation of tumor cells that express stem cell-associated markers and have a high capacity for tumor generation in vivo. Identification of BCSCs from tumor samples or breast cancer cell lines has been based mainly on CD44+/CD24−/low or ALDH+ phenotypes. BCSCs isolation has allowed the analysis of the molecular mechanisms involved in their origin, self-renewal, differentiation into tumor cells, resistance to radiation therapy and chemotherapy, and invasiveness and metastatic ability. Molecular genetic analysis using knockout animals and inducible transgenics have identified NF-κB, c-Jun, p21CIP1, and Forkhead-like-protein Dach1 in BCSC expansion and fate. Clinical analyses of BCSCs in breast tumors have found a correlation between the proportion of BCSCs and poor prognosis. Therefore, new therapies that specifically target BCSCs are an urgent need. We summarize recent evidence that partially explain the biological characteristics of BCSCs.
Breast cancer; cancer stem cell; metastasis; resistance; breast cancer therapy
The c-jun gene regulates cellular proliferation and apoptosis via direct regulation of cellular gene expression. Alternative splicing of pre-mRNA increases the diversity of protein functions and alternate splicing events occur in tumors. Here, by targeting the excision of the endogenous c-jun gene within the mouse mammary epithelium, we have identified its selective role as an inhibitor of RNA splicing. Microarray-based assessment of gene expression, on laser capture micro-dissected c-jun−/− mammary epithelium, demonstrated that endogenous c-jun regulates the expression of approximately 50 genes governing RNA splicing. In addition, genome-wide splicing arrays demonstrated that endogenous c-jun regulated the alternate exon of approximately 147 genes, and 18% of these were either alternatively spliced in human tumors or involved in apoptosis. Endogenous c-jun also was shown to reduce splicing activity, which required the c-jun dimerization domain. Together, our findings suggest that c-jun directly attenuates RNA splicing efficiency, which may be of broad biological importance as alternative splicing plays an important role in both cancer development and therapy resistance.
Transgenic mice; floxed c-jun; Cre; alternative splicing
Aging drives large systemic reductions in oxidative mitochondrial function, shifting the entire body metabolically toward aerobic glycolysis, a.k.a, the Warburg effect. Aging is also one of the most significant risk factors for the development of human cancers, including breast tumors. How are these two findings connected? One simplistic idea is that cancer cells rebel against the aging process by increasing their capacity for oxidative mitochondrial metabolism (OXPHOS). Then, local and systemic aerobic glycolysis in the aging host would provide energy-rich mitochondrial fuels (such as L-lactate and ketones) to directly “fuel” tumor cell growth and metastasis. This would establish a type of parasite-host relationship or “two-compartment tumor metabolism,” with glycolytic/oxidative metabolic coupling. The cancer cells (“the seeds”) would flourish in this nutrient-rich microenvironment (“the soil”), which has been fertilized by host aging. In this scenario, cancer cells are only trying to save themselves from the consequences of aging by engineering a metabolic mutiny, through the amplification of mitochondrial metabolism. We discuss the recent findings of Drs. Ron DePinho (MD Anderson) and Craig Thomspson (Sloan-Kettering) that are also consistent with this new hypothesis, linking cancer progression with metabolic aging. Using data mining and bioinformatics approaches, we also provide key evidence of a role for PGC1a/NRF1 signaling in the pathogenesis of (1) two-compartment tumor metabolism and (2) mitochondrial biogenesis in human breast cancer cells.
aging; mitochondria; cancer metabolism; autophagy; mitophagy; aerobic glycolysis; oxidative phosphorylation; Metformin; drug resistance; chemoresistance; Warburg effect; metabolic compartments; parasite; PGC1a; PGC1b; NRF1; two-compartment tumor metabolism
The dachshund (dac) gene was initially described as a mutant phenotype in flies featuring extremely short legs relative to their body length. Functioning as a dominant suppressor of the ellipse mutation, a hypermorphic allele of the Epidermal Growth Factor Receptor (EGFR), the dac gene plays a key role in metazoan development, regulating ocular, limb, brain, and gonadal development. In the Drosophila eye, dac is a key component of the Retinal Determination Gene Network (RDGN) governing the normal initiation of the morphogenetic furrow and thereby eye development. Recent studies have demonstrated an important role for human DACHSHUND in tumorigenesis, in particular, breast, prostate and ovarian cancer. The molecular mechanisms by which DACH1 regulates differentiation and tumorigenesis are discussed herein.
Here, we show that tamoxifen resistance is induced by cancer-associated fibroblasts (CAFs). Coculture of estrogen receptor positive (ER+) MCF7 cells with fibroblasts induces tamoxifen and fulvestrant resistance with 4.4 and 2.5-fold reductions, respectively, in apoptosis compared with homotypic MCF7 cell cultures. Treatment of MCF7 cells cultured alone with high-energy mitochondrial “fuels” (L-lactate or ketone bodies) is sufficient to confer tamoxifen resistance, mimicking the effects of coculture with fibroblasts. To further demonstrate that epithelial cancer cell mitochondrial activity is the origin of tamoxifen resistance, we employed complementary pharmacological and genetic approaches. First, we studied the effects of two mitochondrial “poisons,” namely metformin and arsenic trioxide (ATO), on fibroblast-induced tamoxifen resistance. We show here that treatment with metformin or ATO overcomes fibroblast-induced tamoxifen resistance in MCF7 cells. Treatment with the combination of tamoxifen plus metformin or ATO leads to increases in glucose uptake in MCF7 cells, reflecting metabolic uncoupling between epithelial cancer cells and fibroblasts. In coculture, tamoxifen induces the upregulation of TIGAR (TP53-induced glycolysis and apoptosis regulator), a p53 regulated gene that simultaneously inhibits glycolysis, autophagy and apoptosis and reduces ROS generation, thereby promoting oxidative mitochondrial metabolism. To genetically mimic the effects of coculture, we next recombinantly overexpressed TIGAR in MCF7 cells. Remarkably, TIGAR overexpression protects epithelial cancer cells from tamoxifen-induced apoptosis, providing genetic evidence that increased mitochondrial function confers tamoxifen resistance. Finally, CAFs also protect MCF7 cells against apoptosis induced by other anticancer agents, such as the topoisomerase inhibitor doxorubicin (adriamycin) and the PARP-1 inhibitor ABT-888. These results suggest that the tumor microenvironment may be a general mechanism for conferring drug resistance. In summary, we have discovered that mitochondrial activity in epithelial cancer cells drives tamoxifen resistance in breast cancer and that mitochondrial “poisons” are able to re-sensitize these cancer cells to tamoxifen. In this context, TIGAR may be a key “druggable” target for preventing drug resistance in cancer cells, as it protects cancer cells against the onset of stress-induced mitochondrial dys-function and aerobic glycolysis.
drug resistance; tamoxifen; metformin; tumor stroma; microenvironment; Warburg Effect; aerobic glycolysis; mitochondrial oxidative phosphorylation; TIGAR; glucose uptake; oxidative stress; reactive oxygen species (ROS); cancer associated fibroblasts
Pancreatic cancer is one of the deadliest cancers due to early rapid metastasis and chemoresistance. Recently, epithelial to mesenchymal transition (EMT) was shown to play a key role in the pathogenesis of pancreatic cancer. To understand the role of caveolin-1 (Cav-1) in EMT, we overexpressed Cav-1 in a pancreatic cancer cell line, Panc 10.05, that does not normally express Cav-1. Here, we show that Cav-1 expression in pancreatic cancer cells induces an epithelial phenotype and promotes cell-cell contact, with increased expression of plasma membrane bound E-cadherin and β-catenin. Mechanistically, Cav-1 induces Snail downregulation and decreased activation of AKT, MAPK and TGFβ-Smad signaling pathways. In vitro, Cav-1 expression reduces cell migration and invasion, and attenuates doxorubicin-chemoresistance of pancreatic cancer cells. Importantly, in vivo studies revealed that Cav-1 expression greatly suppresses tumor formation in a xenograft model. Most interestingly, Panc/Cav-1 tumors displayed organized nests of differentiated cells that were totally absent in control tumors. Confirming our in vitro results, these nests of differentiated cells showed reexpression of E-cadherin and β-catenin at the cell membrane. Thus, we provide evidence that Cav-1 functions as a crucial modulator of EMT and cell differentiation in pancreatic cancer.
caveolae; caveolin-1; epithelial-mesenchymal transition; E-cadherin; pancreatic cancer; cell differentiation; chemoresistance
Here, we investigated the compartment-specific role of cell cycle arrest and senescence in breast cancer tumor growth. For this purpose, we generated a number of hTERT-immortalized senescent fibroblast cell lines overexpressing CDK inhibitors, such as p16(INK4A), p19(ARF) or p21(WAF1/CIP1). Interestingly, all these senescent fibroblast cell lines showed evidence of increased susceptibility toward the induction of autophagy (either at baseline or after starvation), as well as significant mitochondrial dysfunction. Most importantly, these senescent fibroblasts also dramatically promoted tumor growth (up to ~2-fold), without any comparable increases in tumor angiogenesis. Conversely, we generated human breast cancer cells (MDA-MB-231 cells) overexpressing CDK inhibitors, namely p16(INK4A) or p21(WAF1/CIP1). Senescent MDA-MB-231 cells also showed increased expression of markers of cell cycle arrest and autophagy, including β-galactosidase, as predicted. Senescent MDA-MB-231 cells had retarded tumor growth, with up to a near 2-fold reduction in tumor volume. Thus, the effects of CDK inhibitors are compartment-specific and are related to their metabolic effects, which results in the induction of autophagy and mitochondrial dysfunction. Finally, induction of cell cycle arrest with specific inhibitors (PD0332991) or cellular stressors [hydrogen peroxide (H₂O₂) or starvation] indicated that the onset of autophagy and senescence are inextricably linked biological processes. The compartment-specific induction of senescence (and hence autophagy) may be a new therapeutic target that could be exploited for the successful treatment of human breast cancer patients.
CDK inhibitors; PD0332991; aging; autophagy; cancer metabolism; cancer-associated fibroblast; cell cycle arrest; glycolysis; mitophagy; senescence; tumor initiation; tumor stroma
Stem cells undergo symmetric and asymmetric divisions to generate differentiated cells and more stem cells. The balance between self-renewal and differentiation of stem cells is controlled by transcription factors, epigenetic regulatory networks, and microRNAs (miRNAs). Herein the miRNA involvement in the regulation of stem cell self-renewal and differentiation is summarized. miRNA contribution to malignancy through regulating cancer stem cells is described. In addition, the reciprocal associations between miRNAs and epigenetic modifications in control of stem cell fate are discussed.
stem cell; microRNA; epigenetic modification; self-renewal
Migration stimulating factor (MSF) is a genetically truncated N-terminal isoform of fibronectin that is highly expressed during mammalian development in fetal fibroblasts, and during tumor formation in human cancer-associated myofibroblasts. However, its potential functional role in regulating tumor metabolism remains unexplored. Here, we generated an immortalized fibroblast cell line that recombinantly overexpresses MSF and studied their properties relative to vector-alone control fibroblasts. Our results indicate that overexpression of MSF is sufficient to confer myofibroblastic differentiation, likely via increased TGF-b signaling. In addition, MSF activates the inflammation-associated transcription factor NFκB, resulting in the onset of autophagy/mitophagy, thereby driving glycolytic metabolism (L-lactate production) in the tumor microenvironment. Consistent with the idea that glycolytic fibroblasts fuel tumor growth (via L-lactate, a high-energy mitochondrial fuel), MSF fibroblasts significantly increased tumor growth, by up to 4-fold. Mechanistic dissection of the MSF signaling pathway indicated that Cdc42 lies downstream of MSF and fibroblast activation. In accordance with this notion, Cdc42 overexpression in immortalized fibroblasts was sufficient to drive myofibroblast differentiation, to provoke a shift towards glycolytic metabolism and to promote tumor growth by up to 2-fold. In conclusion, the MSF/Cdc42/NFκB signaling cascade may be a critical druggable target in preventing “Warburg-like” cancer metabolism in tumor-associated fibroblasts. Thus, MSF functions in the metabolic remodeling of the tumor microenvironment by metabolically reprogramming cancer-associated fibroblasts toward glycolytic metabolism.
TGF-beta signaling; aerobic glycolysis; cancer-associated fibroblasts; metabolic coupling; migration stimulating factor (MSF); myofibroblast; tumor stroma
In 1889, Dr. Stephen Paget proposed the “seed and soil” hypothesis, which states that cancer cells (the seeds) need the proper microenvironment (the soil) for them to grow, spread and metastasize systemically. In this hypothesis, Dr. Paget rightfully recognized that the tumor microenvironment has an important role to play in cancer progression and metastasis. In this regard, a series of recent studies have elegantly shown that the production of hydrogen peroxide, by both cancer cells and cancer-associated fibroblasts, may provide the necessary “fertilizer,” by driving accelerated aging, DNA damage, inflammation and cancer metabolism, in the tumor microenvironment. By secreting hydrogen peroxide, cancer cells and fibroblasts are mimicking the behavior of immune cells (macrophages/neutrophils), driving local and systemic inflammation, via the innate immune response (NFκB). Thus, we should consider using various therapeutic strategies (such as catalase and/or other antioxidants) to neutralize the production of cancer-associated hydrogen peroxide, thereby preventing tumor-stroma co-evolution and metastasis. The implications of these findings for overcoming chemo-resistance in cancer cells are also discussed in the context of hydrogen peroxide production and cancer metabolism.
hydrogen peroxide; tumor stroma; microenvironment; aging; DNA damage; inflammation; NFκB; cancer metabolism; HIF1; autophagy; hypoxia; oxidative stress; seed and soil hypothesis
Previously, we proposed that cancer cells behave as metabolic parasites, as they use targeted oxidative stress as a “weapon” to extract recycled nutrients from adjacent stromal cells. Oxidative stress in cancer-associated fibroblasts triggers autophagy and mitophagy, resulting in compartmentalized cellular catabolism, loss of mitochondrial function, and the onset of aerobic glycolysis, in the tumor stroma. As such, cancer-associated fibroblasts produce high-energy nutrients (such as lactate and ketones) that fuel mitochondrial biogenesis and oxidative metabolism in cancer cells. We have termed this new energy-transfer mechanism the “reverse Warburg effect.” To further test the validity of this hypothesis, here we used an in vitro MCF7-fibroblast co-culture system and quantitatively measured a variety of metabolic parameters by FACS analysis (analogous to laser-capture micro-dissection). Mitochondrial activity, glucose uptake and ROS production were measured with highly-sensitive fluorescent probes (MitoTracker, NBD-2-deoxy-glucose and DCF-DA). Interestingly, using this approach, we directly show that cancer cells initially secrete hydrogen peroxide that then triggers oxidative stress in neighboring fibroblasts. Thus, oxidative stress is contagious (spreads like a virus) and is propagated laterally and vectorially from cancer cells to adjacent fibroblasts. Experimentally, we show that oxidative stress in cancer-associated fibroblasts quantitatively reduces mitochondrial activity and increases glucose uptake, as the fibroblasts become more dependent on aerobic glycolysis. Conversely, co-cultured cancer cells show significant increases in mitochondrial activity and corresponding reductions in both glucose uptake and GLUT1 expression. Pre-treatment of co-cultures with extracellular catalase (an anti-oxidant enzyme that detoxifies hydrogen peroxide) blocks the onset of oxidative stress and potently induces the death of cancer cells, likely via starvation. Given that cancer-associated fibroblasts show the largest increases in glucose uptake, we suggest that PET imaging of human tumors, with Fluoro-2-deoxy-D-glucose (F-2-DG), may be specifically detecting the tumor stroma, rather than epithelial cancer cells.
tumor stroma; microenvironment; hydrogen peroxide; aerobic glycolysis; mitochondrial oxidative phosphorylation; glucose uptake; oxidative stress; reactive oxygen species (ROS); cancer associated fibroblasts; PET imaging; the field effect; caveolin-1