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1.  Anti-tumor Efficacy of Naked siRNAs for ERBB3 or AKT2 Against Lung Adenocarcinoma Cell Xenografts 
The use of siRNAs against specific molecular targets has potential for cancer therapy, but has been thought to be limited by the need for formulation to improve cellular uptake. Lung adenocarcinoma cells are markedly suppressed in culture by siRNAs to the receptor ERBB3 or its downstream signaling partner AKT2. We now demonstrate that naked, unformulated siRNAs to ERBB3 or AKT2, administered i.v. as saline solutions, 2 μg/g 5 times per week for 3 weeks (total dose 30 μg/g), were effective suppressors of growth of A549 human lung adenocarcinoma cell xenografts in athymic mice, 12 mice per group, in 4 different experiments. ERBB3 and AKT2 siRNAs each inhibited growth by 70–90% on average, compared with saline-treated or untreated controls; a non-silencing siRNA was without significant effect. Lesser but significant effects were noted with a total dose of 12 μg/g. With the higher dose, effects persisted for several weeks after the end of treatment. Expected reductions of ERBB3 and AKT2 mRNAs and proteins occurred, and correlated with decrease in tumor volume. There were no significant changes in serum cytokines. These results show that naked siRNAs to ERBB3 or AKT2 may have potential for lung cancer therapy.
PMCID: PMC3220928  PMID: 21387307
lung cancer treatment; siRNA; ERBB3; AKT2; in vivo xenograft
2.  Nitric Oxide (NO) Releasing Poly ADP-ribose Polymerase 1 (PARP-1) Inhibitors Targeted to Glutathione S-Transferase P1-Overexpressing Cancer Cells 
Journal of Medicinal Chemistry  2014;57(6):2292-2302.
We report the antitumor effects of nitric oxide (NO) releasing derivatives of the PARP-1 inhibitor olaparib (1). Compound 5b was prepared by coupling the carboxyl group of 3b and the free amino group of arylated diazeniumdiolated piperazine 4. Analogue 5a has the same structure except that the F is replaced by H. Compound 13 is the same as 5b except that a Me2N–N(O)=NO– group was added para and ortho to the nitro groups of the dinitrophenyl ring. The resulting prodrugs are activated by glutathione in a reaction accelerated by glutathione S-transferase P1 (GSTP1), an enzyme frequently overexpressed in cancers. This metabolism generates NO plus a PARP-1 inhibitor simultaneously, consuming reducing equivalents, leading to DNA damage concomitant with inhibition of DNA repair, and in the case of 13 inducing cross-linking glutathionylation of proteins. Compounds 5b and 13 reduced the growth rates of A549 human lung adenocarcinoma xenografts with no evidence of systemic toxicity.
PMCID: PMC3983374  PMID: 24521039
3.  K-ras 4A and 4B mRNA Levels Correlate with Superoxide in Lung Adenocarcinoma cells, While at the Protein Level, Only Mutant K-ras 4A Protein Correlates with Superoxide 
The K-ras gene is frequently mutated in lung and other cancers. K-ras protein includes two splice variants, K-ras 4A and 4B. While K-ras 4B is more widely expressed, recent evidence implicates K-ras 4A in lung tumorigenesis. We found that K-ras 4A protein has a wide range of expression in a large panel of human lung adenocarcinoma cell lines. In cell lines with mutant K-ras, but not those with wildtype K-ras, the K-ras 4A protein had a strong positive correlation with levels of cellular superoxide. We investigated whether K-ras 4A protein was involved in superoxide production, or alternatively was modulated by elevated superoxide. Experiments with small interfering RNA targeting K-ras 4A did not confirm its role in superoxide generation. However, decreasing cellular superoxide with the scavenger Tiron tended to reduce levels of K-ras 4A protein. K-ras 4A and 4B mRNA were also quantified in a number of NSCLC cell lines. 4A mRNA correlated with 4A protein only in K-ras-mutant cells. K-ras 4A mRNA also correlated with superoxide, but with no difference between cell lines with mutant or wildtype K-ras. K-ras 4B mRNA correlated with 4A mRNA and with superoxide, in both K-ras mutant and wildtype cells. The results are consistent with superoxide directly or indirectly up-regulating expression of all K-ras genes, and also increasing the stability of K-ras 4A mutant protein selectively.
PMCID: PMC3992873  PMID: 23474128
K-ras 4A; lung; adenocarcinoma; superoxide; mutant K-ras; cell lines; siRNA
4.  Structural modifications modulate stability of glutathione-activated arylated diazeniumdiolate prodrugs 
Bioorganic & medicinal chemistry  2012;20(9):3094-3099.
JS-K, a diazeniumdiolate-based nitric oxide (NO)-releasing prodrug, is currently in late pre-clinical development as an anti-cancer drug candidate. This prodrug was designed to be activated by glutathione (GSH) to release NO. To increase the potency of JS-K, we are investigating the effect of slowing the reaction of the prodrugs with GSH. Herein, we report the effect of replacement of nitro group(s) by other electron-withdrawing group(s) in JS-K and its homo-piperazine analogues on GSH activation and the drugs’ biological activity. We show that nitro-to-cyano substitution increases the half-life of the prodrug in the presence of GSH without compromising the compound’s in vivo anti-tumor activity.
PMCID: PMC3590845  PMID: 22480849
Nitric oxide; Diazeniumdiolate prodrugs; JS-K; Glutathione; Anti-cancer agents
5.  Nitric oxide-releasing prodrug triggers cancer cell death through deregulation of cellular redox balance☆ 
Redox Biology  2013;1(1):115-124.
JS-K is a nitric oxide (NO)-releasing prodrug of the O2-arylated diazeniumdiolate family that has demonstrated pronounced cytotoxicity and antitumor properties in a variety of cancer models both in vitro and in vivo. The current study of the metabolic actions of JS-K was undertaken to investigate mechanisms of its cytotoxicity. Consistent with model chemical reactions, the activating step in the metabolism of JS-K in the cell is the dearylation of the diazeniumdiolate by glutathione (GSH) via a nucleophilic aromatic substitution reaction. The resulting product (CEP/NO anion) spontaneously hydrolyzes, releasing two equivalents of NO. The GSH/GSSG redox couple is considered to be the major redox buffer of the cell, helping maintain a reducing environment under basal conditions. We have quantified the effects of JS-K on cellular GSH content, and show that JS-K markedly depletes GSH, due to JS-K's rapid uptake and cascading release of NO and reactive nitrogen species. The depletion of GSH results in alterations in the redox potential of the cellular environment, initiating MAPK stress signaling pathways, and inducing apoptosis. Microarray analysis confirmed signaling gene changes at the transcriptional level and revealed alteration in the expression of several genes crucial for maintenance of cellular redox homeostasis, as well as cell proliferation and survival, including MYC. Pre-treating cells with the known GSH precursor and nucleophilic reducing agent N-acetylcysteine prevented the signaling events that lead to apoptosis. These data indicate that multiplicative depletion of the reduced glutathione pool and deregulation of intracellular redox balance are important initial steps in the mechanism of JS-K's cytotoxic action.
Graphical abstract
► JS-K is a NO-releasing prodrug, with anticancer activity in vitro and in vivo. ► JS-K metabolism results in the arylation of cellular glutathione (GSH). ► Micromolar levels of JS-K in media significantly deplete the cellular GSH reserve. ► Deregulation of cells' redox balance is a key contributor to JS-K toxicity.
PMCID: PMC3757670  PMID: 24024144
ATF, activating transcription factor; DAF-FM, 4-amino-5-methylamino-2′,7′-difluorofluorescein diacetate; DCF-DA, 5-(and 6)-chloromethyl-2′,7′-dichlorodihydrofluorescein diacetate; DMSO, dimethyl sulfoxide; FBS, fetal bovine serum; GSH, glutathione; GSSG, glutathione disulfide (oxidized GSH); HBSS, Hank's balanced salt solution; IPA, Ingenuity Pathway Analysis; JS-K, O2-(2,4-dinitrophenyl) 1-[(4-ethoxycarbonyl)piperazin-1-yl]diazen-1-ium-1,2-diolate; LC/MS, liquid chromatography/mass spectrometry; MAPK, mitogen-activated protein kinase; NAC, N-acetylcysteine; NO, nitric oxide; NSCLC, non-small cell lung cancer; PARP, poly (ADP-ribose) polymerase; RNS, reactive nitrogen species; ROS, reactive oxygen species; SAPK/JNK, stress activated protein kinase/c-jun N-terminal kinase.; Glutathione; Nitric oxide; Arylated diazeniumdiolate; Leukemia
6.  Activation of the c-Jun N-terminal Kinase /Activating Transcription Factor 3 (ATF3) Pathway Characterizes Effective Arylated Diazeniumdiolate-Based Nitric Oxide-Releasing Anticancer Prodrugs 
Journal of medicinal chemistry  2011;54(22):7751-7758.
Improved therapies are needed for non-small cell lung cancer. Diazeniumdiolate-based nitric oxide (NO)–releasing prodrugs are a growing class of promising NO-based therapeutics. Recently, we have shown that O2-(2,4-dinitrophenyl) 1-[(4-ethoxycarbonyl)piperazin-1-yl]diazen-1-ium-1,2-diolate (JS-K, 1) is effective against non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) cells in culture and in vivo. Here we report mechanistic studies with compound 1 and its homopiperazine analogue, and structural modification of these into more stable prodrugs. Compound 1 and its homopiperazine analogue were potent cytotoxic agents against NSCLC cells in vitro and in vivo, concomitant with activation of the SAPK/JNK stress pathway and upregulation of its downstream effector ATF3. Apoptosis followed these events. An aryl-substituted analogue, despite extended half-life in the presence of glutathione, did not activate JNK or have anti-tumor activity. The data suggest that rate of reactivity with glutathione and activation of JNK/ATF3 are determinants of cancer cell killing by these prodrugs.
PMCID: PMC3422893  PMID: 22003962
7.  The Biology of Tobacco and Nicotine: Bench to Bedside 
Strong epidemiologic evidence links smoking and cancer. An increased understanding of the molecular biology of tobacco-related cancers could advance progress toward improving smoking cessation and patient management. Knowledge gaps between tobacco addiction, tumorigenesis, and cancer brought an interdisciplinary group of investigators together to discuss “The Biology of Nicotine and Tobacco: Bench to Bedside.” Presentations on the signaling pathways and pathogenesis in tobacco-related cancers, mouse models of addiction, imaging and regulation of nicotinic receptors, the genetic basis for tobacco carcinogenesis and development of lung cancer, and molecular mechanisms of carcinogenesis were heard. Importantly, new opportunities to use molecular biology to identify and abrogate tobacco-mediated carcinogenesis and to identify high-risk individuals were recognized.
PMCID: PMC3459058  PMID: 15824140
8.  Ontogeny-Driven rDNA Rearrangement, Methylation, and Transcription, and Paternal Influence 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(7):e22266.
Gene rearrangement occurs during development in some cell types and this genome dynamics is modulated by intrinsic and extrinsic factors, including growth stimulants and nutrients. This raises a possibility that such structural change in the genome and its subsequent epigenetic modifications may also take place during mammalian ontogeny, a process undergoing finely orchestrated cell division and differentiation. We tested this hypothesis by comparing single nucleotide polymorphism-defined haplotype frequencies and DNA methylation of the rDNA multicopy gene between two mouse ontogenic stages and among three adult tissues of individual mice. Possible influences to the genetic and epigenetic dynamics by paternal exposures were also examined for Cr(III) and acid saline extrinsic factors. Variables derived from litters, individuals, and duplicate assays in large mouse populations were examined using linear mixed-effects model. We report here that active rDNA rearrangement, represented by changes of haplotype frequencies, arises during ontogenic progression from day 8 embryos to 6-week adult mice as well as in different tissue lineages and is modifiable by paternal exposures. The rDNA methylation levels were also altered in concordance with this ontogenic progression and were associated with rDNA haplotypes. Sperm showed highest level of methylation, followed by lungs and livers, and preferentially selected haplotypes that are positively associated with methylation. Livers, maintaining lower levels of rDNA methylation compared with lungs, expressed more rRNA transcript. In vitro transcription demonstrated haplotype-dependent rRNA expression. Thus, the genome is also dynamic during mammalian ontogeny and its rearrangement may trigger epigenetic changes and subsequent transcriptional controls, that are further influenced by paternal exposures.
PMCID: PMC3134480  PMID: 21765958
9.  The hypervariable region of K-Ras4B is responsible for its specific interactions with Calmodulin 
Biochemistry  2009;48(32):7575-7583.
K-Ras4B belongs to the family of p21 Ras GTPases, which play an important role in cell proliferation, survival and motility. The p21 Ras proteins such as K-Ras4B, K-Ras4A, H-Ras, and N-Ras, share 85% sequence homology and activate very similar signaling pathways. Only the C-terminal hypervariable regions differ significantly. A growing body of literature demonstrates that each Ras isoform possesses unique functions in normal physiological processes as well as in pathogenesis. One of the central questions in the field of Ras biology is how these very similar proteins achieve such remarkable specificity in protein-protein interactions that regulate signal transduction pathways. Here we explore specific binding of K-Ras4B to calmodulin. Using NMR techniques and isothermal titration calorimetry we demonstrate that the hypervariable region of K-Ras contributes in a major way to the interaction with calmodulin while the catalytic domain of K-Ras4B provides a way to control the interaction by nucleotide binding. The hypervariable region of K-Ras4B binds specifically to the C-terminal domain of Ca2+-loaded calmodulin with micromolar affinity, while the GTP-γ-S loaded catalytic domain of K-Ras4B may interact with the N-terminal domain of calmodulin.
PMCID: PMC2729490  PMID: 19583261
K-Ras4B; calmodulin; hypervariable region; catalytic domain
10.  An Intergenic Non-Coding rRNA Correlated with Expression of the rRNA and Frequency of an rRNA Single Nucleotide Polymorphism in Lung Cancer Cells 
PLoS ONE  2009;4(10):e7505.
Ribosomal RNA (rRNA) is a central regulator of cell growth and may control cancer development. A cis noncoding rRNA (nc-rRNA) upstream from the 45S rRNA transcription start site has recently been implicated in control of rRNA transcription in mouse fibroblasts. We investigated whether a similar nc-rRNA might be expressed in human cancer epithelial cells, and related to any genomic characteristics.
Methodology/Principal Findings
Using quantitative rRNA measurement, we demonstrated that a nc-rRNA is transcribed in human lung epithelial and lung cancer cells, starting from approximately −1000 nucleotides upstream of the rRNA transcription start site (+1) and extending at least to +203. This nc-rRNA was significantly more abundant in the majority of lung cancer cell lines, relative to a nontransformed lung epithelial cell line. Its abundance correlated negatively with total 45S rRNA in 12 of 13 cell lines (P = 0.014). During sequence analysis from −388 to +306, we observed diverse, frequent intercopy single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in rRNA, with a frequency greater than predicted by chance at 12 sites. A SNP at +139 (U/C) in the 5′ leader sequence varied among the cell lines and correlated negatively with level of the nc-rRNA (P = 0.014). Modelling of the secondary structure of the rRNA 5′-leader sequence indicated a small increase in structural stability due to the +139 U/C SNP and a minor shift in local configuration occurrences.
The results demonstrate occurrence of a sense nc-rRNA in human lung epithelial and cancer cells, and imply a role in regulation of the rRNA gene, which may be affected by a +139 SNP in the 5′ leader sequence of the primary rRNA transcript.
PMCID: PMC2759515  PMID: 19838300
11.  Marked Liver Tumorigenesis by Helicobacter hepaticus Requires Perinatal Exposure 
Environmental Health Perspectives  2008;116(10):1352-1356.
Although severe hepatitis and liver tumors occur in a high percentage of A/J male mice naturally infected with Helicobacter hepaticus, these effects have not been observed after injection of adult mice with the bacteria.
We tested the hypothesis that perinatal exposure to the bacteria is required for liver tumorigenesis.
A/J female mice were infected by intragastric (ig) or intraperitoneal (ip) treatment with 1.5 × 108 H. hepaticus before pregnancy. We examined offspring at progressive time intervals, including some kept until natural death in old age. A/J, BALB/c, and C57BL/6 weanling male mice were similarly treated ig with the bacteria and observed for up to 2 years.
After ip bacterial infection of A/J females, 41% of their male offspring developed hepatitis and 33% had hepatocellular tumors, including 18% with hepatocellular carcinoma. Treatment by the ig route resulted in a similar incidence of hepatitis in offspring (35%) but fewer total liver tumors (8%) and carcinomas (4%). By contrast, ig instillation of H. hepaticus in weanling A/J, C57BL/6, or BALB/c mice resulted in low incidence of hepatitis (0–20%) and few liver tumors, despite presence of bacteria confirmed in feces.
Results indicate that a high incidence of liver tumors in mice infected with H. hepaticus requires perinatal exposure. Contributing perinatal factors could include known high sensitivity of neonatal liver to tumor initiation, and/or modulation of immune response to the bacterium or its toxins. Mechanisms of human perinatal sensitivity to such phenomena can be studied with this model.
PMCID: PMC2569094  PMID: 18941577
adult exposure; Helicobacter hepaticus; hepatocellular tumors; infection and cancer; perinatal exposure
12.  Elevated K-ras activity with cholestyramine and lovastatin, but not konjac mannan or niacin in lung—importance of mouse strain 
Biochemical pharmacology  2006;72(12):1749-1755.
Our previous work established that hypocholesterolemic agents altered K-ras intracellular localization in lung. Here, we examined K-ras activity to define further its potential importance in lung carcinogenesis. K-ras activity in lungs from male A/J, Swiss and C57BL/6 mice was examined. For three weeks, mice consumed either 2 or 4% cholestyramine (CS), 1% niacin, 5% konjac mannan (KM), or were injected with lovastatin 25 mg/kg three or five times weekly (Lov-3X and Lov-5X). A pair-fed (PF) group was fed the same quantity of diet consumed by the Lov-5X mice to control for lower body weights in Lov-5X mice. After three weeks, serum cholesterol was assayed with a commercial kit. Activated K-ras protein from lung was affinity precipitated with a Raf-1 ras binding domain-glutathione-S-transferase fusion protein bound to glutathione-agarose beads, followed by Western blotting, K-ras antibody treatment, and chemiluminescent detection. Only KM reduced serum cholesterol (in 2 of 3 mouse strains). In C56BL/6 mice treated with Lov-3X, lung K-ras activity increased 1.8-fold versus control (p = 0.009). In normal lung with wild-type K-ras, this would be expected to be associated with maintenance of differentiation. In A/J mice fed 4% CS, K-ras activity increased 2.1-fold (p = 0.02), which might be responsible for the reported enhancement of carcinogenesis in carcinogen-treated rats fed CS. KM feeding and PF treatment had no significant effects on K-ras activity. These data are consistent with the concept that K-ras in lung has an oncogenic function when mutated, but may act as a tumor suppressor when wild-type.
PMCID: PMC1849957  PMID: 17005160
Lung; mice; cholestyramine; lovastatin; konjac mannan; niacin; K-ras activity; cholesterol
13.  Alternate Paths from Epidermal Growth Factor Receptor to Akt in Malignant Versus Nontransformed Lung Epithelial Cells 
In many human lung adenocarcinoma cell lines, a pathway involving epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR), ErbB2 and ErbB3 receptors, phosphatidyl inositol 3-kinase (PI3K), Akt, glycogen synthase kinase 3-β (GSK3-β), and cyclin D1 controls cell growth, survival, and invasiveness. We have investigated this pathway in paired transformed/nontransformed cell lines from murine peripheral lung epithelium, E9/E10 and A5/C10. The E9 and A5 carcinoma lines expressed ErbB3 and transforming growth factor-α (TGF-α) and responded to TGF-α stimulation with protein complex formation including the p85 regulatory subunit of PI3K, activation of Akt, phosphorylation of GSK3-β, and increased cyclin D1 protein and the cell cycle. ErbB3 and TGF-α were not detected in the nontransformed E10 and C10 cell lines. Nevertheless, exposure of E10 or C10 cells to TGF-α activated PI3K and Akt and increased cyclin D1 and cell growth. The effector pathway from the EGFR to PI3K in these nontransformed cells included the adaptor Grb2, the docking protein Gab1, and the phosphatase Shp2. Gab1 was highly expressed in E10 and C10 cells but not in the malignant E9 and A5 sister lines. Complexes of EGFR/Grb2/Gab1/Shp2 after TGF-α stimulation were prominent only in E10 and C10 cells. Thus, alternate pathways downstream of EGFR regulate mitosis in these paired malignant versus nontransformed lung cell lines.
PMCID: PMC2715357  PMID: 16055672
EGFR; ErbB3; Gab1; Akt; lung epithelial cells
14.  Increased serum corticosterone and glucose in offspring of chromium(III)-treated male mice. 
Environmental Health Perspectives  2002;110(8):801-804.
Preconceptional carcinogenesis occurs in animals and is suspected for humans--for example, after occupational metals exposure. Several characteristics in animal models, including high frequency and non-Mendelian inheritance patterns, have suggested an epigenetic mechanism, possibly involving hormone changes in offspring. To test this hypothesis, we treated male mice with chromium(III) chloride, a preconceptional carcinogen, 2 weeks before mating, in two separate experiments. Their 10-week-old offspring showed highly significant increases in average serum corticosterone and glucose, compared with control offspring. Average serum levels of insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF1) showed more modest possible increases. A previous microarray experiment identified hepatic insulin-like growth factor binding protein 1 (IGF BP1) gene expression as consistently changed in correlation with serum corticosterone levels. In the present study, hepatic IGF BP1 mRNA correlated with serum IGF1 in male offspring of chromium-treated fathers, but not in controls; serum glucose correlated positively with hepatic IGF BP1 in chromium-group offspring but negatively in controls. These results support the hypothesis that preconceptional exposure effects may alter hormones, metabolism, and control of tissue gene expression, probably through epigenetic mechanisms. Risk of neoplasia may be influenced by these changes.
PMCID: PMC1240952  PMID: 12153762
The Journal of Cell Biology  1971;48(2):303-313.
The capacity of cecropia vitellogenic follicles to form yolk during short-term in vitro incubation in female blood was analyzed by labeling with fluorescein-conjugated serum globulin, tritiated cecropia blood proteins, or tritiated amino acid. As judged by fluorescence microscopy or autoradiography, yolk formation during 3–8 hr in vitro was similar in rate and in protein uptake specificity to that observed in vivo. When follicles were incubated in cecropia male blood, 6% gamma globulin, or cecropia saline, the yolk produced was markedly inferior in quality and quantity to that generated in female blood. Purified preparations of vitellogenin, the primary female blood protein deposited in the yolk, were equivalent to whole female blood in supporting yolk formation; this protein seems, therefore, to have a specific stimulatory role. An enhancement of the rate of pinocytosis at the oocyte surface by vitellogenin is postulated.
PMCID: PMC2108172  PMID: 4101520

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