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1.  SPSB1 Promotes Breast Cancer Recurrence by Potentiating c-MET Signaling 
Cancer discovery  2014;4(7):790-803.
Breast cancer mortality is principally due to tumor recurrence; however, the molecular mechanisms underlying this process are poorly understood. We now demonstrate that the suppressor of cytokine signaling protein SPSB1 is spontaneously upregulated during mammary tumor recurrence and is both necessary and sufficient to promote tumor recurrence in genetically engineered mouse models. The recurrence-promoting effects of SPSB1 result from its ability to protect cells from apoptosis induced by HER2/neu pathway inhibition or chemotherapy. This, in turn, is attributable to SPSB1 potentiation of c-MET signaling, such that preexisting SPSB1-overexpressing tumor cells are selected for following HER2/neu downregulation. Consistent with this, SPSB1 expression is positively correlated with c-MET activity in human breast cancers and with an increased risk of relapse in patients with breast cancer in a manner that is dependent upon c-MET activity. Our findings define a novel pathway that contributes to breast cancer recurrence and provide the first evidence implicating SPSB proteins in cancer.
The principal cause of death from breast cancer is recurrence. This study identifies SPSB1 as a critical mediator of breast cancer recurrence, suggests activation of the SPSB1/c-MET pathway as an important mechanism of therapeutic resistance in breast cancers, and emphasizes that pharmacological targets for recurrence may be unique to this stage of tumor progression.
PMCID: PMC4121738  PMID: 24786206
SPSB1; c-MET; breast cancer; recurrence; apoptosis
2.  Tissue phosphoproteomics with PolyMAC identifies potential therapeutic targets in a transgenic mouse model of HER2 positive breast cancer 
Electrophoresis  2014;35(24):3463-3469.
Altered protein phosphorylation is a feature of many human cancers that can be targeted therapeutically. Phosphopeptide enrichment is a critical step for maximizing the depth of phosphoproteome coverage by MS, but remains challenging for tissue specimens because of their high complexity. We describe the first analysis of a tissue phosphoproteome using polymer-based metal ion affinity capture (PolyMAC), a nanopolymer that has excellent yield and specificity for phosphopeptide enrichment, on a transgenic mouse model of HER2-driven breast cancer. By combining phosphotyrosine immunoprecipitation with PolyMAC, 411 unique peptides with 139 phosphotyrosine, 45 phosphoserine, and 29 phosphothreonine sites were identified from five LC-MS/MS runs. Combining reverse phase liquid chromatography fractionation at pH 8.0 with PolyMAC identified 1571 unique peptides with 1279 phosphoserine, 213 phosphothreonine, and 21 phosphotyrosine sites from eight LC-MS/MS runs. Linear motif analysis indicated that many of the phosphosites correspond to well-known phosphorylation motifs. Analysis of the tyrosine phosphoproteome with the Drug Gene Interaction database uncovered a network of potential therapeutic targets centered on Src family kinases with inhibitors that are either FDA-approved or in clinical development. These results demonstrate that PolyMAC is well suited for phosphoproteomic analysis of tissue specimens.
PMCID: PMC4193948  PMID: 24723360
Breast Cancer; Drug identification; HER2; Phosphoproteomics; PolyMAC
3.  Ratiometric analysis in hyperpolarized NMR (I): Test of the two-site exchange model and the quantification of reaction rate constants 
NMR in biomedicine  2013;26(10):1308-1320.
Conventional methods for analyzing the in vivo hyperpolarized 13C-NMR (HP-MR) data from the lactate dehydrogenase (LDH) reaction usually make assumptions on the stability of rate constants and/or the validity of two-site exchange model. In this study, we developed a framework to test the validity of the assumption of stable reaction rate constants and the two-site exchange model in vivo via ratiometric fitting of the time courses of signal ratio L(t)/P(t). Our analysis provided evidence that the LDH enzymatic kinetics observed by HP-MR is in near-equilibrium and satisfies the two-site exchange model for only a specific time window. Additionally we quantified both the forward and reverse exchange rate constants of the LDH reaction for the transgenic and mouse xenograft models of breast cancer using the ratio fit (RF) method we developed that includes only two modeling parameters and is less sensitive to the influence of instrument settings/protocols such as flip angels, degree of polarization, and tracer dosage. We further compared the RF method with a conventional two-site exchange modeling method, i.e., the differential equations fitting (DEF) method using both the experimental and simulated HP-MR data. The RF method appeared to fit better than the DEF method for the reverse rate constant on the mouse tumor data with less relative errors on average, whereas the DEF method also resulted in a negative reverse rate constant for one tumor. The simulation results indicated that the accuracy of both methods depends on the width of transport function (TF), noise level, and rate constant ratio; one method may be more accurate than the other one based on experimental/biological conditions aforementioned. We were able to categorize our tumor models into specific conditions of the computer simulation and estimate the errors of rate quantification. We also discussed possible approaches to developing more accurate rate-quantification methods for HP-MR.
PMCID: PMC3930471  PMID: 23625472
rate constant; two-site exchange; net flux model; ratio fit; ratiometric analysis; pyruvate; lactate; lactate dehydrogenase
4.  Genes Involved in Post-Transcriptional Regulation Are Overrepresented in Stem/Progenitor Spermatogonia of Cryptorchid Mouse Testes 
Stem cells (Dayton, Ohio)  2008;26(4):927-938.
Gene expression and consequent biological activity of adult tissue stem cells are regulated by signals emanating from the local microenvironment (niche). To gain insights into the molecular regulation of spermatogonial stem cells (SSCs), gene expression was characterized from SSCs isolated from their cognate niches of cryptorchid (stem cell-enriched), wild-type, and busulfan-treated (stem cell-depleted) mouse testes. Quantitative assessment of stem cell activity in each testis model was determined using an in vivo functional assay and correlated with gene expression using Affymetrix MGU74Av2 microarrays and the ChipStat algorithm optimized to detect gene expression from rare cells in complex tissues. We identified 389 stem/progenitor spermatogonia candidate genes, which exhibited significant overlap with genes expressed by embryonic, hematopoietic, and neural stem cells; enriched spermatogonia; and cultured SSCs identified in previous studies. Candidate cell surface markers identified by the microarray may facilitate the isolation and enrichment of stem and/or progenitor spermatogonia. Flow cytometric analyses confirmed the expression of chemokine receptor 2 (Ccr2) and Cd14 on a subpopulation cryptorchid testis cells (α6-integrin+, side scatterlo) enriched for SSCs. These cell surface molecules may mark progenitor spermatogonia but not SSCs because Ccr2+ and Cd14+ fractions failed to produce spermatogenesis upon transplantation to recipient testes. Functional annotation of candidate genes and subsequent immunohistochemistry revealed that proteins involved in post-transcriptional regulation are overrepresented in cryptorchid testes that are enriched for SSCs. Comparative analyses indicated that this is a recurrent biological theme among stem cells.
PMCID: PMC4091824  PMID: 18203673
Spermatogonial stem cell; Progenitor; Spermatogonia; Microarray; RNA-binding proteins; Post-transcriptional regulation
5.  Par-4 Down-regulation Promotes Breast Cancer Recurrence by Preventing Multinucleation following Targeted Therapy 
Cancer cell  2013;24(1):10.1016/j.ccr.2013.05.007.
Most deaths from breast cancer result from tumor recurrence, but the mechanisms underlying tumor relapse are largely unknown. We now report that Par-4 is down-regulated during tumor recurrence and that Par-4 down-regulation is necessary and sufficient to promote recurrence. Tumor cells with low Par-4 expression survive therapy by evading a program of Par-4-dependent multinucleation and apoptosis that is otherwise engaged following treatment. Low Par-4 expression is associated with poor response to neoadjuvant chemotherapy and an increased risk of relapse in breast cancer patients, and Par-4 is down-regulated in residual tumor cells that survive neoadjuvant chemotherapy. Our findings identify Par-4-induced multinucleation as a mechanism of cell death in oncogene-addicted cells and establish Par-4 as a negative regulator of breast cancer recurrence.
PMCID: PMC3808871  PMID: 23770012
Par-4; oncogene dependence; tumor recurrence; multinucleation
Cancer causes & control : CCC  2013;24(4):695-704.
Recognition of the complex, multidimensional relationship between excess adiposity and cancer control outcomes has motivated the scientific community to seek new research models and paradigms.
The National Cancer Institute developed an innovative concept to establish a centers grant mechanism in nutrition, energetics, and physical activity; referred to as the Transdisciplinary Research on Energetics and Cancer (TREC) Initiative. This paper gives an overview of the 2011-2016 TREC Collaborative Network and the 15 research projects being conducted at the Centers.
Four academic institutions were awarded TREC center grants in 2011: Harvard University, University of California San Diego, University of Pennsylvania, and Washington University in St. Louis. The Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center is the Coordination Center. The TREC research portfolio includes 3 animal studies, 3 cohort studies, 4 randomized clinical trials, 1 cross-sectional study, and 2 modeling studies. Disciplines represented by TREC investigators include basic science, endocrinology, epidemiology, biostatistics, behavior, medicine, nutrition, physical activity, genetics, engineering, health economics, and computer science. Approximately 41,000 participants will be involved in these studies, including children, healthy adults, and breast and prostate cancer survivors. Outcomes include biomarkers of cancer risk, changes in weight and physical activity, persistent adverse treatment effects (e.g., lymphedema, urinary and sexual function), and breast and prostate cancer mortality.
The NIH Science of Team Science group will evaluate the value-added by this collaborative science. However, the most important outcome will be whether this transdisciplinary initiative improves the health of Americans at risk for cancer as well as cancer survivors.
PMCID: PMC3602225  PMID: 23378138
energetics; obesity; diet; physical activity; cancer; transdisciplinary
7.  Inducible and coupled expression of the polyomavirus middle T antigen and Cre recombinase in transgenic mice: an in vivo model for synthetic viability in mammary tumour progression 
Effective in vivo models of breast cancer are crucial for studying the development and progression of the disease in humans. We sought to engineer a novel mouse model of polyomavirus middle T antigen (PyV mT)-mediated mammary tumourigenesis in which inducible expression of this well-characterized viral oncoprotein is coupled to Cre recombinase (TetO-PyV mT-IRES-Cre recombinase or MIC).
MIC mice were crossed to the mouse mammary tumour virus (MMTV)-reverse tetracycline transactivator (rtTA) strain to generate cohorts of virgin females carrying one or both transgenes. Experimental (rtTA/MIC) and control (rtTA or MIC) animals were administered 2 mg/mL doxycycline beginning as early as eight weeks of age and monitored for mammary tumour formation, in parallel with un-induced controls of the same genotypes.
Of the rtTA/MIC virgin females studied, 90% developed mammary tumour with complete penetrance to all glands in response to doxycycline and a T50 of seven days post-induction, while induced or un-induced controls remained tumour-free after one year of induction. Histological analyses of rtTA/MIC mammary glands and tumour revealed that lesions followed the canonical stepwise progression of PyV mT tumourigenesis, from hyperplasia to mammary intraepithelial neoplasia/adenoma, carcinoma, and invasive carcinoma that metastasizes to the lung; at each of these stages expression of PyV mT and Cre recombinase transgenes was confirmed. Withdrawal of doxycycline from rtTA/MIC mice with end-stage mammary tumours led to rapid regression, yet animals eventually developed PyV mT-expressing and -non-expressing recurrent masses with varied tumour histopathologies.
We have successfully created a temporally regulated mouse model of PyV mT-mediated mammary tumourigenesis that can be used to study Cre recombinase-mediated genetic changes simultaneously. While maintaining all of the hallmark features of the well-established constitutive MMTV-PyV mT model, the utility of this strain derives from the linking of PyV mT and Cre recombinase transgenes; mammary epithelial cells are thereby forced to couple PyV mT expression with conditional ablation of a given gene. This transgenic mouse model will be an important research tool for identifying synthetic viable genetic events that enable PyV mT tumours to evolve in the absence of a key signaling pathway.
PMCID: PMC3978996  PMID: 24457046
8.  miR-211 is a pro-survival micro-RNA that regulates chop expression in a PERK-dependent manner 
Molecular cell  2012;48(3):353-364.
Micro-RNAs typically function at the level of post-transcriptional gene silencing within the cytoplasm; however increasing evidence suggests that they may also function in nuclear, Argonaut containing complexes, to directly repress target gene transcription. We have investigated the role of micro-RNAs in mediating endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stress responses. ER stress triggers the activation of three signaling molecules: Ire-1α/β, PERK and ATF6 whose function is to facilitate adaption to the ensuing stress. We demonstrate that PERK induces miR-211, which in turn attenuates stress-dependent expression of the pro-apoptotic transcription factor chop/gadd153. MiR-211 directly targets the proximal chop/gadd153 promoter where it increases histone methylation and represses chop expression. Maximal chop accumulation ultimately correlates with miR-211 down regulation. Our data suggests a model where PERK-dependent miR-211 induction prevents premature chop accumulation and thereby provides a window of opportunity for the cell to re-establish homeostasis prior to apoptotic commitment.
PMCID: PMC3496065  PMID: 23022383
miR-211; histone methylation; PERK; CHOP
9.  PUMA and BIM Are Required for Oncogene Inactivation–Induced Apoptosis 
Science signaling  2013;6(268):ra20.
The clinical efficacy of tyrosine kinase inhibitors supports the dependence of distinct subsets of cancers on specific driver mutations for survival, a phenomenon called “oncogene addiction.” We demonstrate that PUMA and BIM are the key apoptotic effectors of tyrosine kinase inhibitors in breast cancers with amplification of the gene encoding human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (HER2) and lung cancers with epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) mutants. The BH3 domain containing proteins BIM and PUMA can directly activate the proapoptotic proteins BAX and BAK to permeabilize mitochondria, leading to caspase activation and apoptosis. We delineated the signal transduction pathways leading to the induction of BIM and PUMA by tyrosine kinase inhibitors. Inhibition of the mitogen-activated or extracellular signal–regulated protein kinase kinase (MEK)–extracellular signal–regulated kinase (ERK) pathway caused increased abundance of BIM, whereas antagonizing the phosphoinositide 3-kinase (PI3K)–AKT pathway triggered nuclear translocation of the FOXO transcription factors, which directly activated the PUMA promoter. In a mouse breast tumor model, the abundance of PUMA and BIM was increased after inactivation of HER2. Moreover, deficiency of Bim or Puma impaired caspase activation and reduced tumor regression caused by inactivation of HER2. Similarly, deficiency of Puma impeded the regression of EGFRL858R-driven mouse lung tumors upon inactivation of the EGFR-activating mutant. Overall, our study identified PUMA and BIM as the sentinels that interconnect kinase signaling networks and the mitochondrion-dependent apoptotic program, which offers therapeutic insights for designing novel cell death mechanism–based anticancer strategies.
PMCID: PMC3753585  PMID: 23532334
10.  Deletion of cyclooxygenase 2 in mouse mammary epithelial cells delays breast cancer onset through augmentation of type 1 immune responses in tumors 
Carcinogenesis  2011;32(10):1441-1449.
Inhibition of cyclooxygenase (COX) 2, which is associated with >40% of breast cancers, decreases the risk of tumorigenesis and breast cancer recurrence. To study the role of COX-2 in breast cancer, we engineered mice that lack selectively mammary epithelial cell (MEC) COX-2 (COX-2 KOMEC). Compared with wild type (WT), MEC from COX-2 KOMEC mice expressed >90% less COX-2 messenger RNA (mRNA) and protein and produced 90% less of the dominant pro-oncogenic COX-2 product, prostaglandin (PG) E2. We confirmed COX-2 as the principle source of PGE2 in MEC treated with selective COX-2 and COX-1 inhibitors. Tumors were induced in mice using medroxyprogesterone acetate and 7,12-dimethylbenz[a]anthracene. Breast cancer onset was significantly delayed in COX-2 KOMEC compared with WT (P = 0.03), equivalent to the delay following systemic COX-2 inhibition with rofecoxib. Compared with WT, COX-2 KOMEC tumors showed increased mRNA for Caspase-3, Ki-67 and common markers for leukocytes (CD45) and macrophages (F4/80). Analysis of multiple markers/cytokines, namely CD86, inducible nitric oxide synthase (iNOS), interleukin-6, tumor necrosis factor α (TNFα) and Tim-3 indicated a shift toward antitumorigenic type 1 immune responses in COX-2 KOMEC tumors. Immunohistochemical analysis confirmed elevated expression of CD45, F4/80 and CD86 in COX-2 KOMEC tumors. Concordant with a role for COX-2 in restraining M1 macrophage polarization, CD86 and TNFα expression were offset by exogenous PGE2 in bone marrow-derived macrophages polarized in vitro to the M1 phenotype. Our data reveal the importance of epithelial COX-2 in tumor promotion and indicate that deletion of epithelial COX-2 may skew tumor immunity toward type 1 responses, coincident with delayed tumor development.
PMCID: PMC3975167  PMID: 21771729
11.  Tumor Microenvironment-Derived Proteins Dominate the Plasma Proteome Response During Breast Cancer Induction and Progression 
Cancer research  2011;71(15):5090-5100.
Tumor development relies upon essential contributions from the tumor microenvironment and host immune alterations. These contributions may inform the plasma proteome in a manner that could be exploited for cancer diagnosis and prognosis. In this study, we employed a systems biology approach to characterize the plasma proteome response in the inducible HER2/neu mouse model of breast cancer during tumor induction, progression and regression. Mass spectrometry data derived from ∼ 1.6 million spectra identified protein networks involved in wound healing, microenvironment and metabolism that coordinately changed during tumor development. The observed alterations developed prior to cancer detection, increased progressively with tumor growth, and reverted toward baseline with tumor regression. Gene expression and immunohistochemical analyses suggested that the cancer-associated plasma proteome was derived from transcriptional responses in the non-cancerous host tissues as well as the developing tumor. The proteomic signature was distinct from a non-specific response to inflammation. Overall, the developing tumor simultaneously engaged a number of innate physiological processes, including wound repair, immune response, coagulation and complement cascades, tissue remodeling and metabolic homeostasis that were all detectable in plasma. Our findings offer an integrated view of tumor development with relevance to plasma-based strategies to detect and diagnose cancer.
PMCID: PMC3148311  PMID: 21653680
12.  Inhibition of the Single Downstream Target BAG1 Activates the Latent Apoptotic Potential of MYC ▿  
Molecular and Cellular Biology  2011;31(24):5037-5045.
Aberrant MYC expression is a common oncogenic event in human cancer. Paradoxically, MYC can either drive cell cycle progression or induce apoptosis. The latent ability of MYC to induce apoptosis has been termed “intrinsic tumor suppressor activity,” and reactivating this apoptotic function in tumors is widely considered a valuable therapeutic goal. As a transcription factor, MYC controls the expression of many downstream targets, and for the majority of these, it remains unclear whether or not they play direct roles in MYC function. To identify the subset of genes specifically required for biological activity, we conducted a screen for functionally important MYC targets and identified BAG1, which encodes a prosurvival chaperone protein. Expression of BAG1 is regulated by MYC in both a mouse model of breast cancer and transformed human cells. Remarkably, BAG1 induction is essential for protecting cells from MYC-induced apoptosis. Ultimately, the synthetic lethality we have identified between MYC overexpression and BAG1 inhibition establishes a new pathway that might be exploited to reactivate the latent apoptotic potential of MYC as a cancer therapy.
PMCID: PMC3233020  PMID: 21986497
13.  Breast cancer: current state and future promise 
PMCID: PMC3326550  PMID: 22071145
14.  Proteome and Transcriptome Profiles of a Her2/Neu-driven Mouse Model of Breast Cancer 
Proteomics. Clinical applications  2011;5(3-4):179-188.
We generated extensive transcriptional and proteomic profiles from a Her2-driven mouse model of breast cancer that closely recapitulates human breast cancer. This report makes these data publicly available in raw and processed forms, as a resource to the community. Importantly, we previously made biospecimens from this same mouse model freely available through a sample repository, so researchers can obtain samples to test biological hypotheses without the need of breeding animals and collecting biospecimens.
Experimental design
Twelve datasets are available, encompassing 841 LC-MS/MS experiments (plasma and tissues) and 255 microarray analyses of multiple tissues (thymus, spleen, liver, blood cells, and breast). Cases and controls were rigorously paired to avoid bias.
In total, 18,880 unique peptides were identified (PeptideProphet peptide error rate ≤1%), with 3884 and 1659 non-redundant protein groups identified in plasma and tissue datasets, respectively. Sixty-one of these protein groups overlapped between cancer plasma and cancer tissue.
Conclusions and clinical relevance
These data are of use for advancing our understanding of cancer biology, for software and quality control tool development, investigations of analytical variation in MS/MS data, and selection of proteotypic peptides for MRM-MS. The availability of these datasets will contribute positively to clinical proteomics.
PMCID: PMC3069718  PMID: 21448875
Breast cancer; Her2; mouse; proteome; transcriptome
15.  A targeted proteomics–based pipeline for verification of biomarkers in plasma 
Nature biotechnology  2011;29(7):625-634.
High-throughput technologies can now identify hundreds of candidate protein biomarkers for any disease with relative ease. However, because there are no assays for the majority of proteins and de novo immunoassay development is prohibitively expensive, few candidate biomarkers are tested in clinical studies. We tested whether the analytical performance of a biomarker identification pipeline based on targeted mass spectrometry would be sufficient for data-dependent prioritization of candidate biomarkers, de novo development of assays and multiplexed biomarker verification. We used a data-dependent triage process to prioritize a subset of putative plasma biomarkers from >1,000 candidates previously identified using a mouse model of breast cancer. Eighty-eight novel quantitative assays based on selected reaction monitoring mass spectrometry were developed, multiplexed and evaluated in 80 plasma samples. Thirty-six proteins were verified as being elevated in the plasma of tumor-bearing animals. The analytical performance of this pipeline suggests that it should support the use of an analogous approach with human samples.
PMCID: PMC3232032  PMID: 21685906
16.  Inhibition of NF-kappaB activity in mammary epithelium increases tumor latency and decreases tumor burden 
Oncogene  2010;30(12):1402-1412.
The transcription factor nuclear factor kappa B (NF-κB) is activated in human breast cancer tissues and cell lines. However, it is unclear whether NF-κB activation is a consequence of tumor formation or a contributor to tumor development.
We developed a doxycycline-inducible mouse model, termed DNMP, to inhibit NF-κB activity specifically within the mammary epithelium during tumor development in the polyoma middle T oncogene (PyVT) mouse mammary tumor model. DNMP females and PyVT littermate controls were treated with doxycycline from 4 to 12 weeks of age. We observed an increase in tumor latency and a decrease in final tumor burden in DNMP mice compared to PyVT controls. A similar effect with treatment from 8 to 12 weeks indicates that outcome is independent of effects on postnatal virgin ductal development. In both cases, DNMP mice were less likely to develop lung metastases than controls. Treatment from 8 to 9 weeks was sufficient to impact primary tumor formation. Inhibition of NF-κB increases apoptosis in hyperplastic stages of tumor development and decreases proliferation at least in part by reducing CyclinD1 expression. To test the therapeutic potential of NF-κB inhibition, we generated palpable tumors by orthotopic injection of PyVT cells and then treated systemically with the NF-κB inhibitor thymoquinone (TQ). TQ treatment resulted in a reduction in tumor volume and weight as compared to vehicle-treated control. This data indicates that epithelial NF-κB is an active contributor to tumor progression and demonstrates that inhibition of NF-κB could have a significant therapeutic impact even at later stages of mammary tumor progression.
PMCID: PMC3063854  PMID: 21076466
NF-κB; mammary; tumorigenesis; apoptosis; proliferation
17.  Krüppel-like Factor 4 Inhibits Tumorigenic Progression and Metastasis in a Mouse Model of Breast Cancer12 
Neoplasia (New York, N.Y.)  2011;13(7):601-610.
Krüppel-like factor 4 (KLF4) is a zinc finger transcription factor that functions as an oncogene or tumor suppressor in a highly tissue-specific cell-dependent manner. However, its precise role in breast cancer and metastasis remains unclear. Here, we show that transient adenoviral expression of KLF4 in the 4T1 orthotopic mammary cancer model significantly attenuated primary tumor growth as well as micrometastases to the lungs and liver. These results can be attributed, in part, to decreased proliferation and increased apoptosis. Further supporting a tumor-suppressive role for KLF4 in the breast, we found that KLF4 expression is lost in a mouse model of HER2/NEU/ERBB2-positive breast cancer. To determine whether enforced KLF4 expression could alter tumor latency in these mice, we used a doxycycline-inducible expression model in the context of the MMTV-Neu transgene. Surprisingly, tumors that developed in this model also lost KLF4 expression, suggesting negative selection for sustained expression. We have previously reported that KLF4 inhibits epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition (EMT), a preliminary step in metastatic progression. Overexpression of KLF4 in 4T1 cells led to a significant reduction in the expression of Snail, a key mediator of EMT and metastasis. Conversely, KLF4 silencing increased Snail expression in the nontransformed MCF-10A cell line. Collectively, these data demonstrate the first functional, in vivo evidence for KLF4 as a tumor suppressor in breast cancer cells. Furthermore, our findings suggest an inhibitory role for KLF4 during breast cancer metastases that functions, in part, through repression of Snail.
PMCID: PMC3132846  PMID: 21750654
18.  Hunk is required for HER2/neu-induced mammary tumorigenesis 
Understanding the molecular pathways that contribute to the aggressive behavior of human cancers is a critical research priority. The SNF1/AMPK-related protein kinase Hunk is overexpressed in aggressive subsets of human breast, ovarian, and colon cancers. Analysis of Hunk–/– mice revealed that this kinase is required for metastasis of c-myc–induced mammary tumors but not c-myc–induced primary tumor formation. Similar to c-myc, amplification of the proto-oncogene HER2/neu occurs in 10%–30% of breast cancers and is associated with aggressive tumor behavior. By crossing Hunk–/– mice with transgenic mouse models for HER2/neu-induced mammary tumorigenesis, we report that Hunk is required for primary tumor formation induced by HER2/neu. Knockdown and reconstitution experiments in mouse and human breast cancer cell lines demonstrated that Hunk is required for maintenance of the tumorigenic phenotype in HER2/neu-transformed cells. This requirement is kinase dependent and resulted from the ability of Hunk to suppress apoptosis in association with downregulation of the tumor suppressor p27kip1. Additionally, we find that Hunk is rapidly upregulated following HER2/neu activation in vivo and in vitro. These findings provide what we believe is the first evidence for a role for Hunk in primary tumorigenesis and cell survival and identify this kinase as an essential effector of the HER2/neu oncogenic pathway.
PMCID: PMC3049391  PMID: 21393859
19.  CD44 splice isoform switching in human and mouse epithelium is essential for epithelial-mesenchymal transition and breast cancer progression 
The Journal of Clinical Investigation  2011;121(3):1064-1074.
Epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT) is a tightly regulated process that is critical for embryogenesis but is abnormally activated during cancer metastasis and recurrence. Here we show that a switch in CD44 alternative splicing is required for EMT. Using both in vitro and in vivo systems, we have demonstrated a shift in CD44 expression from variant isoforms (CD44v) to the standard isoform (CD44s) during EMT. This isoform switch to CD44s was essential for cells to undergo EMT and was required for the formation of breast tumors that display EMT characteristics in mice. Mechanistically, the splicing factor epithelial splicing regulatory protein 1 (ESRP1) controlled the CD44 isoform switch and was critical for regulating the EMT phenotype. Additionally, the CD44s isoform activated Akt signaling, providing a mechanistic link to a key pathway that drives EMT. Finally, CD44s expression was upregulated in high-grade human breast tumors and was correlated with the level of the mesenchymal marker N-cadherin in these tumors. Together, our data suggest that regulation of CD44 alternative splicing causally contributes to EMT and breast cancer progression.
PMCID: PMC3049398  PMID: 21393860
20.  Activation of nuclear factor-kappa B in mammary epithelium promotes milk loss during mammary development and infection 
Journal of cellular physiology  2010;222(1):73-81.
We investigated whether Nuclear Factor-kappa B (NF-κB), which exhibits a regulated pattern of activity during murine mammary gland development, plays an important role during lactation and involution, when milk production ceases and the gland undergoes apoptosis and remodeling. We generated a doxycycline inducible transgenic mouse model to activate NF-κB specifically in the mammary epithelium through expression of a constitutively active form of IKK2, the upstream kinase in the classical NF-κB signaling cascade. We found that activation of NF-κB during involution resulted in a more rapid reduction in milk levels and increased cleavage of caspase-3, an indicator of apoptosis. We also found that activation of NF-κB during lactation with no additional involution signals had a similar effect. The observation that NF-κB is a key regulator of milk production led us to investigate the role of NF-κB during mastitis, an infection of the mammary gland in which milk loss is observed. Mammary gland injection of E. coli LPS resulted in activation of NF-κB and milk loss during lactation. This milk loss was decreased by selective inhibition of NF-κB in mammary epithelium. Together, our data reveal that activation of NF-κB leads to milk clearance in the lactating mammary gland. Therefore, targeting of NF-κB signaling may prove therapeutic during mastitis in humans and could be beneficial for the dairy industry, where such infections have a major economic impact.
PMCID: PMC2783968  PMID: 19746431
NF-κB; mammary; involution; transgenic; mastitis; milk
21.  Analysis of Gene Expression in PTHrP−/− Mammary Buds Supports a Role for BMP Signaling and MMP2 in the Initiation of Ductal Morphogenesis 
Parathyroid hormone-related protein (PTHrP) acts on the mammary mesenchyme and is required for proper embryonic mammary development. In order to understand PTHrP’s effects on mesenchymal cells, we profiled gene expression in WT and PTHrP−/− mammary buds, and in WT and K14-PTHrP ventral skin at E15.5. By cross-referencing the differences in gene expression between these groups, we identified 35 genes potentially regulated by PTHrP in the mammary mesenchyme, including 6 genes known to be involved in BMP signaling. One of these genes was MMP2. We demonstrated that PTHrP and BMP4 regulate MMP2 gene expression and MMP2 activity in mesenchymal cells. Using mammary bud cultures, we demonstrated that MMP2 acts downstream of PTHrP to stimulate ductal outgrowth. Future studies on the functional role of other genes on this list should expand our knowledge of how PTHrP signaling triggers the onset of ductal outgrowth from the embryonic mammary buds.
PMCID: PMC2862621  PMID: 19795511
parathyroid hormone-related protein; mammary development; ductal morphogenesis; oligonucleotide gene arrays; matrix metalloproteinase; epidermal appendage
22.  P190B RhoGAP has pro-tumorigenic functions during MMTV-Neu mammary tumorigenesis and metastasis 
Rho GTPases are overexpressed and hyperactivated in human breast cancers. Deficiency of p190B RhoGAP, a major inhibitor of the Rho GTPases, inhibits mouse mammary tumor virus long terminal repeat (MMTV)-Neu/ErbB2 mammary tumor formation and progression in part through effects within the stromal environment, suggesting that p190B function is pro-tumorigenic. To further investigate the potential pro-tumorigenic actions of p190B, we examined the effects of exogenous p190B expression within the mammary epithelium on MMTV-Neu tumor formation and progression.
Tetracycline (tet)-regulatable p190B transgenic mice were bred to MMTV-Neu mice, and the effects of exogenous p190B expression on tumor latency, multiplicity, growth rates, angiogenesis, and metastasis were examined. The effects of exogenous p190B expression on cell-matrix adhesion and invasion were tested using non-transformed primary mammary epithelial cells (MECs). Rho GTPase activity, oxidative stress as an indicator of reactive oxygen species (ROS) production, and downstream signaling pathways were analyzed.
Altered p190B expression resulted in a two-fold increase in tumor multiplicity and a three-fold increase in metastases compared to control mice indicating that exogenous p190B expression in the mammary epithelium promotes MMTV-Neu mammary tumor formation and progression. Interestingly, non-transformed primary MECs expressing exogenous p190B displayed increased adhesion to laminin and type IV collagen and formed invasive structures in a three-dimensional culture assay. Ras related C3 botulinum toxin 1 (Rac1)-GTP levels were elevated in p190B transgenic tumors whereas Ras homologous A (RhoA) and cell division cycle 42 (Cdc42)-GTP levels were not significantly altered. Rac1 activity affects production of ROS, which regulate transformation, metastasis, and oxidative stress. Protein carbonylation, which is indicative of oxidative stress, was elevated 1.75-fold in p190B transgenic tumors as compared to control tumors suggesting that exogenous p190B expression may affect Rac1-dependent ROS production.
These studies indicate that paradoxically, p190B RhoGAP, a major inhibitor of the Rho GTPases in vitro, has pro-tumorigenic functions that enhance MMTV-Neu induced mammary tumor formation and metastasis. Furthermore, exogenous p190B expression enhances cell adhesion and invasion, which may facilitate metastasis. Rac1 activity and oxidative stress are elevated in tumors expressing exogenous p190B suggesting that p190B may promote tumorigenesis through a Rac1/ROS dependent mechanism.
PMCID: PMC3096962  PMID: 20860838
23.  Akt is required for Stat5 activation and mammary differentiation 
The Akt pathway plays a central role in regulating cell survival, proliferation and metabolism, and is one of the most commonly activated pathways in human cancer. A role for Akt in epithelial differentiation, however, has not been established. We previously reported that mice lacking Akt1, but not Akt2, exhibit a pronounced metabolic defect during late pregnancy and lactation that results from a failure to upregulate Glut1 as well as several lipid synthetic enzymes. Despite this metabolic defect, however, both Akt1-deficient and Akt2-deficient mice exhibit normal mammary epithelial differentiation and Stat5 activation.
In light of the overlapping functions of Akt family members, we considered the possibility that Akt may play an essential role in regulating mammary epithelial development that is not evident in Akt1-deficient mice due to compensation by other Akt isoforms. To address this possibility, we interbred mice bearing targeted deletions in Akt1 and Akt2 and determined the effect on mammary differentiation during pregnancy and lactation.
Deletion of one allele of Akt2 in Akt1-deficient mice resulted in a severe defect in Stat5 activation during late pregnancy that was accompanied by a global failure of terminal mammary epithelial cell differentiation, as manifested by the near-complete loss in production of the three principal components of milk: lactose, lipid, and milk proteins. This defect was due, in part, to a failure of pregnant Akt1-/-;Akt2+/- mice to upregulate the positive regulator of Prlr-Jak-Stat5 signaling, Id2, or to downregulate the negative regulators of Prlr-Jak-Stat5 signaling, caveolin-1 and Socs2.
Our findings demonstrate an unexpected requirement for Akt in Prlr-Jak-Stat5 signaling and establish Akt as an essential central regulator of mammary epithelial differentiation and lactation.
PMCID: PMC3096959  PMID: 20849614
24.  ErbB4 Splice Variants Cyt1 and Cyt2 Differ by 16 Amino Acids and Exert Opposing Effects on the Mammary Epithelium In Vivo▿  
Molecular and Cellular Biology  2009;29(18):4935-4948.
Data concerning the prognostic value of ErbB4 in breast cancer and effects on cell growth have varied in published reports, perhaps due to the unknown signaling consequences of expression of the intracellular proteolytic ErbB4 s80HER4 fragment or due to differing signaling capabilities of alternatively spliced ErbB4 isoforms. One isoform (Cyt1) contains a 16-residue intracellular sequence that is absent from the other (Cyt2). We expressed s80Cyt1 and s80Cyt2 in HC11 mammary epithelial cells, finding diametrically opposed effects on the growth and organization of colonies in three-dimensional matrices. Whereas expression of s80Cyt1 decreased growth and increased the rate of three-dimensional lumen formation, that of s80Cyt2 increased proliferation without promoting lumen formation. These results were recapitulated in vivo, using doxycycline-inducible, mouse breast-transgenic expression of s80Cyt1 amd s80Cyt2. Expression of s80Cyt1 decreased growth of the mammary ductal epithelium, caused precocious STAT5a activation and lactogenic differentiation, and increased cell surface E-cadherin levels. Remarkably, ductal growth inhibition by s80Cyt1 occurred simultaneously with lobuloalveolar growth that was unimpeded by s80Cyt1, suggesting that the response to ErbB4 may be influenced by the epithelial subtype. In contrast, expression of s80Cyt2 caused epithelial hyperplasia, increased Wnt and nuclear β-catenin expression, and elevated expression of c-myc and cyclin D1 in the mammary epithelium. These results demonstrate that the Cyt1 and Cyt2 ErbB4 isoforms, differing by only 16 amino acids, exhibit markedly opposing effects on mammary epithelium growth and differentiation.
PMCID: PMC2738276  PMID: 19596786
25.  Six1 expands the mouse mammary epithelial stem/progenitor cell pool and induces mammary tumors that undergo epithelial-mesenchymal transition 
The Journal of Clinical Investigation  2009;119(9):2663-2677.
Six1 is a developmentally regulated homeoprotein with limited expression in most normal adult tissues and frequent misexpression in a variety of malignancies. Here we demonstrate, using a bitransgenic mouse model, that misexpression of human Six1 in adult mouse mammary gland epithelium induces tumors of multiple histological subtypes in a dose-dependent manner. The neoplastic lesions induced by Six1 had an in situ origin, showed diverse differentiation, and exhibited progression to aggressive malignant neoplasms, as is often observed in human carcinoma of the breast. Strikingly, the vast majority of Six1-induced tumors underwent an epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT) and expressed multiple targets of activated Wnt signaling, including cyclin D1. Interestingly, Six1 and cyclin D1 coexpression was found to frequently occur in human breast cancers and was strongly predictive of poor prognosis. We further show that Six1 promoted a stem/progenitor cell phenotype in the mouse mammary gland and in Six1-driven mammary tumors. Our data thus provide genetic evidence for a potent oncogenic role for Six1 in mammary epithelial neoplasia, including promotion of EMT and stem cell–like features.
PMCID: PMC2735909  PMID: 19726883

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