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1.  Cancer stem-like cells in Epstein-Barr virus-associated nasopharyngeal carcinoma 
Chinese Journal of Cancer  2014;33(11):529-538.
Although the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) has spread to all populations in the world, EBV-associated nasopharyngeal carcinoma (NPC) is prevalent only in South China and Southeast Asia. The role of EBV in the malignant transformation of nasopharyngeal epithelium is the main focus of current researches. Radiotherapy and chemoradiotherapy have been successful in treating early stage NPC, but the recurrence rates remain high. Unfortunately, local relapse and metastasis are commonly unresponsive to conventional treatments. These recurrent and metastatic lesions are believed to arise from residual or surviving cells that have the properties of cancer stem cells. These cancer stem-like cells (CSCs) have the ability to self-renew, differentiate, and sustain propagation. They are also chemo-resistant and can form spheres in anchorage-independent environments. This review summarizes recent researches on the CSCs in EBV-associated NPC, including the findings regarding cell surface markers, stem cell-related transcription factors, and various signaling pathways. In particular, the review focuses on the roles of EBV latent genes [latent membrane protein 1 (LMP1) and latent membrane protein 2A (LMP2A)], cellular microRNAs, and adenosine triphosphate (ATP)-binding cassette chemodrug transporters in contributing to the properties of CSCs, including the epithelial-mesenchymal transition, stem-like transition, and chemo-resistance. Novel therapeutics that enhance the efficacy of radiotherapy and chemoradiotherapy and inhibitors that suppress the properties of CSCs are also discussed.
PMCID: PMC4244315  PMID: 25223912
Cancer stem-like cells; Epstein-Barr virus; nasopharyngeal carcinoma; microRNA; signalling pathway
2.  Epigenetic Inactivation of Inositol polyphosphate 4-phosphatase B (INPP4B), a Regulator of PI3K/AKT Signaling Pathway in EBV-Associated Nasopharyngeal Carcinoma 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(8):e105163.
Nasopharyngeal carcinoma (NPC) is a common viral-associated neoplasm in which multiple signaling cascades are interfered with by Epstein-Bar virus (EBV) latent proteins and various genetic alterations. Aside from the previously reported PIK3CA amplification, we examined the role of INPP4B, a negative regulator of the PI3K/AKT signaling pathway in the development of NPC. By RT-PCR and Western blotting, we revealed that the expression of INPP4B was down-regulated in all five established EBV-positive tumor lines. While INPP4B was consistently expressed in normal nasopharyngeal epithelial cells, downregulation of INPP4B was found in 32/65 (49.2%) of primary tumors by immunohistochemistry. Furthermore, our study also demonstrated the hypermethylation of the 5′CpG island of INPP4B in the tumors in which INPP4B transcription was downregulated. Notably, the re-expression of INPP4B was detected in the NPC cells treated with the demethylation agent (5-aza-2′deoxycytidine). Our study showed that promoter hypermethylation was the major mechanism for transcriptional silencing of INPP4B in NPC. Furthermore, restoration of INPP4B expression significantly suppressed PI3K/AKT downstream signals in the NPC C666-1 cells. In vivo growth inhibition was clearly demonstrated in the tumor cells stably expressing INPP4B. The findings indicate that epigenetic inactivation of INPP4B is one of the key mechanisms in activating PI3K/AKT signaling cascade and playing a role in the tumorigenesis of NPC.
PMCID: PMC4134277  PMID: 25126743
3.  CD44+ Cancer Stem-Like Cells in EBV-Associated Nasopharyngeal Carcinoma 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(12):e52426.
Nasopharyngeal carcinoma (NPC) is a unique EBV-associated epithelial malignancy, showing highly invasive and metastatic phenotype. Despite increasing evidence demonstrating the critical role of cancer stem-like cells (CSCs) in the maintenance and progression of tumors in a variety of malignancies, the existence and properties of CSC in EBV-associated NPC are largely unknown. Our study aims to elucidate the presence and role of CSCs in the pathogenesis of this malignant disease. Sphere-forming cells were isolated from an EBV-positive NPC cell line C666-1 and its tumor-initiating properties were confirmed by in vitro and in vivo assays. In these spheroids, up-regulation of multiple stem cell markers were found. By flow cytometry, we demonstrated that both CD44 and SOX2 were overexpressed in a majority of sphere-forming C666-1 cells. The CD44+SOX2+ cells was detected in a minor population in EBV-positive xenografts and primary tumors and considered as potential CSC in NPC. Notably, the isolated CD44+ NPC cells were resistant to chemotherapeutic agents and with higher spheroid formation efficiency, showing CSC properties. On the other hand, microarray analysis has revealed a number of differentially expressed genes involved in transcription regulation (e.g. FOXN4, GLI1), immune response (CCR7, IL8) and transmembrane transport (e.g. ABCC3, ABCC11) in the spheroids. Among these genes, increased expression of CCR7 in CD44+ CSCs was confirmed in NPC xenografts and primary tumors. Importantly, blocking of CCR7 abolished the sphere-forming ability of C666-1 in vitro. Expression of CCR7 was associated with recurrent disease and distant metastasis. The current study defined the specific properties of a CSC subpopulation in EBV-associated NPC. Our findings provided new insights into developing effective therapies targeting on CSCs, thereby potentiating treatment efficacy for NPC patients.
PMCID: PMC3528656  PMID: 23285037
4.  Epstein-Barr Virus Infection Alters Cellular Signal Cascades in Human Nasopharyngeal Epithelial Cells1 
Neoplasia (New York, N.Y.)  2006;8(3):173-180.
Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) latent infection is a critical event in nasopharyngeal carcinoma (NPC) tumorigenesis. EBV-encoded genes have been shown to be involved in immune evasion and in the regulation of various cellular signaling cascades. To elucidate the roles of EBV in NPC development, stable infection of EBV in nasopharyngeal epithelial cell lines was established. Similar to primary tumors of NPC, these infected cells exhibited a type II EBV latency expression pattern. In this study, multiple cellular signaling pathways in EBV-infected cells were investigated. We first demonstrated that in vitro EBV infection resulted in the activation of STAT3 and NFκB signal cascades in nasopharyngeal epithelial cells. Increased expression of their downstream targets (c-Myc, Bcl-xL, IL-6, LIF, SOCS-1, SOCS-3, VEGF, and COX-2) was also observed. Moreover, EBV latent infection induced the suppression of p38-MAPK activities, but did not activate PKR cascade. Our findings suggest that EBV latent infection is able to manipulate multiple cellular signal cascades to protect infected cells from immunologic attack and to facilitate cancer development.
PMCID: PMC1578522  PMID: 16611410
Nasopharyngeal carcinoma; Epstein-Barr virus; NFκB; STAT3; cell signaling
5.  Epigenetic Silencing of Cellular Retinol-Binding Proteins in Nasopharyngeal Carcinoma 
Neoplasia (New York, N.Y.)  2005;7(1):67-74.
Aberrant retinoid signaling in human cancers is extending from the nucleus to the cytoplasm. Recently, we have demonstrated frequent epigenetic inactivation of a retinoic acid receptor (RAR), RARβ2, in nasopharyngeal carcinoma (NPC). To further explore targets contributing to aberrant retinoid signaling in NPC, the expression of cellular retinol-binding proteins (CRBPs), cellular retinoic acid-binding proteins (CRABPs), RARs, and retinoid X receptors (RXRs) was examined. Apart from RARβ2, transcriptional silencing of two CRBPs, CRBPI and CRBPIV, was observed in NPC cell lines and xenografts. Hypermethylation of CRBPI and CRBPIV CpG islands was found to be closely correlated with the loss of expression. Treatment with the DNA methyltransferase inhibitor, 5-aza-2′-deoxycytidine, resulted in reexpression of CRBPI and CRBPIV gene expression in NPC cell lines. Both CRBPI and CRBPIV hypermethylations were also observed in 43/48 (87.8%) and 26/48 (54.2%) primary NPC tumors, respectively. Here, we reported for the first time that CRBPIV was transcriptionally inactivated by promoter hypermethylation in human cancer. Simultaneous methylation of CRBPI, CRBPIV, and RARβ2 was commonly found in NPC primary tumors. Our findings implied that epigenetic disruption of the CRBPs, CRBPI and CRBPIV, is important in NPC tumorigenesis and may contribute to the loss of retinoic acid responsiveness in cancer.
PMCID: PMC1490316  PMID: 15720818
CRBPIV; CRBPI; retinoid; hypermethylation; nasopharyngeal carcinoma
6.  Identification of a recurrent transforming UBR5–ZNF423 fusion gene in EBV-associated nasopharyngeal carcinoma 
The Journal of Pathology  2013;231(2):158-167.
Nasopharyngeal carcinoma (NPC) is a distinct type of head and neck cancer which is prevalent in southern China, south-east Asia and northern Africa. The development and stepwise progression of NPC involves accumulation of multiple gross genetic changes during the clonal expansion of Epstein–Barr virus (EBV)-infected nasopharyngeal epithelial cell population. Here, using paired-end whole-transcriptome sequencing, we discovered a number of chimeric fusion transcripts in a panel of EBV-positive tumour lines. Among these transcripts, a novel fusion of ubiquitin protein ligase E3 component n-recognin 5 (UBR5) on 8q22.3 and zinc finger protein 423 (ZNF423) on 16q12.1, identified from the NPC cell line C666-1, was recurrently detected in 12/144 (8.3%) of primary tumours. The fusion gene contains exon 1 of UBR5 and exons 7–9 of ZNF423 and produces a 94 amino acid chimeric protein including the original C-terminal EBF binding domain (ZF29-30) of ZNF423. Notably, the growth of NPC cells with UBR5–ZNF423 rearrangement is dependent on expression of this fusion protein. Knock-down of UBR5–ZNF423 by fusion-specific siRNA significantly inhibited the cell proliferation and colony-forming ability of C666-1 cells. The transforming ability of UBR5–ZNF423 fusion was also confirmed in NIH3T3 fibroblasts. Constitutive expression of UBR5–ZNF423 in NIH3T3 fibroblasts significantly enhanced its anchorage-independent growth in soft agar and induced tumour formation in a nude mouse model. These findings suggest that expression of UBR5–ZNF423 protein might contribute to the transformation of a subset of NPCs, possibly by altering the activity of EBFs (early B cell factors). Identification of the oncogenic UBR5–ZNF423 provides new potential opportunities for therapeutic intervention in NPC. © 2013 The Authors. Journal of Pathology published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd on behalf of Pathological Society of Great Britain and Ireland.
PMCID: PMC4166696  PMID: 23878065
UBR5–ZNF423 fusion; transcriptome sequencing; nasopharyngeal carcinoma; oncogene; gene rearrangement; Epstein–Barr virus
7.  Are special read alignment strategies necessary and cost-effective when handling sequencing reads from patient-derived tumor xenografts? 
BMC Genomics  2014;15(1):1172.
Patient-derived tumor xenografts in mice are widely used in cancer research and have become important in developing personalized therapies. When these xenografts are subject to DNA sequencing, the samples could contain various amounts of mouse DNA. It has been unclear how the mouse reads would affect data analyses. We conducted comprehensive simulations to compare three alignment strategies at different mutation rates, read lengths, sequencing error rates, human-mouse mixing ratios and sequenced regions. We also sequenced a nasopharyngeal carcinoma xenograft and a cell line to test how the strategies work on real data.
We found the "filtering" and "combined reference" strategies performed better than aligning reads directly to human reference in terms of alignment and variant calling accuracies. The combined reference strategy was particularly good at reducing false negative variants calls without significantly increasing the false positive rate. In some scenarios the performance gain of these two special handling strategies was too small for special handling to be cost-effective, but it was found crucial when false non-synonymous SNVs should be minimized, especially in exome sequencing.
Our study systematically analyzes the effects of mouse contamination in the sequencing data of human-in-mouse xenografts. Our findings provide information for designing data analysis pipelines for these data.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/1471-2164-15-1172) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4326289  PMID: 25539684
Xenografts; Nasopharyngeal carcinoma; Contamination; High-throughput sequencing
8.  Epstein-Barr virus infection and persistence in nasopharyngeal epithelial cells 
Chinese Journal of Cancer  2014;33(11):549-555.
Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) infection is closely associated with undifferentiated nasopharyngeal carcinoma (NPC), strongly implicating a role for EBV in NPC pathogenesis; conversely, EBV infection is rarely detected in normal nasopharyngeal epithelial tissues. In general, EBV does not show a strong tropism for infecting human epithelial cells, and EBV infection in oropharyngeal epithelial cells is believed to be lytic in nature. To establish life-long infection in humans, EBV has evolved efficient strategies to infect B cells and hijack their cellular machinery for latent infection. Lytic EBV infection in oropharyngeal epithelial cells, though an infrequent event, is believed to be a major source of infectious EBV particles for salivary transmission. The biological events associated with nasopharyngeal epithelial cells are only beginning to be understood with the advancement of EBV infection methods and the availability of nasopharyngeal epithelial cell models for EBV infection studies. EBV infection in human epithelial cells is a highly inefficient process compared to that in B cells, which express the complement receptor type 2 (CR2) to mediate EBV infection. Although receptor(s) on the epithelial cell surface for EBV infection remain(s) to be identified, EBV infection in epithelial cells could be achieved via the interaction of glycoproteins on the viral envelope with surface integrins on epithelial cells, which might trigger membrane fusion to internalize EBV in cells. Normal nasopharyngeal epithelial cells are not permissive for latent EBV infection, and EBV infection in normal nasopharyngeal epithelial cells usually results in growth arrest. However, genetic alterations in premalignant nasopharyngeal epithelial cells, including p16 deletion and cyclin D1 overexpression, could override the growth inhibitory effect of EBV infection to support stable and latent EBV infection in nasopharyngeal epithelial cells. The EBV episome in NPC is clonal in nature, suggesting that NPC develops from a single EBV-infected nasopharyngeal epithelial cell, and the establishment of persistent and latent EBV infection in premalignant nasopharyngeal epithelium may represent an early and critical event for NPC development.
PMCID: PMC4244318  PMID: 25223910
Epstein-Barr virus; nasopharyngeal carcinoma; integrins; epithelial cells; latency
9.  Establishment and characterization of a novel primary hepatocellular carcinoma cell line with metastatic ability in vivo 
Cancer Cell International  2014;14(1):103.
Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is a highly aggressive and heterogeneous disease. HCC cell lines established from different patients would be useful in elucidating the molecular pathogenesis. However, success of HCC primary culture establishment remains at low rate. We aim to establish and characterize HCC primary culture and the derived cell line.
Fresh tumor tissues were collected from 30 HCC patients. Culture conditions were optimized for the attachment and growth of the isolated hepatocytes. Granulin-epithelin precursor (GEP), a growth factor reported to associate with cancer stem cell properties, was examined by flow cytometry to elucidate its role on primary culture establishment. The primary cell line was characterized in detail.
Cells isolated from 16 out of 30 HCC cases (53%) had viability more than 70% and were subject to subsequent in vitro culture. 7 out of 16 cases (44%) could give rise to cells that were able to attach and grow in culture. GEP expression levels significantly correlated with the viability of isolated hepatocytes and success rate of subsequent primary culture establishment. Cells from HCC patient 21 grew and expanded rapidly in vitro and was selected to be further characterized. The line, designated HCC21, derived from a Hong Kong Chinese female patient with HCC at Stage II. The cells exhibited typical epithelial morphology and expressed albumin, AFP and HBV antigens. The cell line was authenticated by short tandem repeat analysis. Comparative genome hybridization analysis revealed chromosomal loss at 1p35-p36, 1q44, 2q11.2-q24.3, 2q37, 4q12-q13.3, 4q21.21-q35.2, 8p12-p23, 15q11.2-q14, 15q24-q26, 16p12.1-p13.3, 16q, 17p, 22q and gain at 1q21-q43 in both HCC21 cells and the original clinical tumor specimen. Sequence analysis revealed p53 gene mutation. Subcutaneous injection of HCC21 cells into immunodeficient mice showed that the cells were able to form tumors at the primary injection sites and metastatic tumors in the peritoneal cavity.
The newly established cell line could serve as useful in vitro and in vivo models for studying primary HCC that possess metastasis ability.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s12935-014-0103-y) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4209051  PMID: 25349534
Hepatocellular carcinoma; Cell line establishment; Granulin-epithelin precursor
10.  miR-31 is consistently inactivated in EBV-associated nasopharyngeal carcinoma and contributes to its tumorigenesis 
Molecular Cancer  2014;13:184.
As a distinctive type of head and neck cancers, nasopharyngeal carcinoma (NPC) is genesis from the clonal Epstein-Barr virus (EBV)-infected nasopharyngeal epithelial cells accumulated with multiple genetic lesions. Among the recurrent genetic alterations defined, loss of 9p21.3 is the most frequent early event in the tumorigenesis of EBV-associated NPC. In addition to the reported CDKN2A/p16, herein, we elucidated the role of a miRNA, miR-31 within this 9p21.3 region as NPC-associated tumor suppressor.
The expression and promoter methylation of miR-31 were assessed in a panel of NPC tumor lines and primary tumors. Its in vitro and in vivo tumor suppression function was investigated through the ectopic expression of miR-31 in NPC cells. We also determined the miR-31 targeted genes and its involvement in the growth in NPC.
Downregulation of miR-31 expression was detected in almost all NPC cell line, patient-derived xenografts (PDXs) and primary tumors. Both homozygous deletion and promoter hypermethylation were shown to be major mechanisms for miR-31 silencing in this cancer. Strikingly, loss of miR-31 was also obviously observed in the dysplastic lesions of nasopharynx. Restoration of miR-31 in C666-1 cells inhibited the cell proliferation, colony-forming and migratory capacities. Dramatic reduction of in vitro anchorage-independent growth and in vivo tumorigenic potential were demonstrated in the stable clones expressing miR-31. Furthermore, we proved that miR-31 suppressed the NPC cell growth via targeting FIH1 and MCM2.
The findings provide strong evidence to support miR-31 as a new NPC-associated tumor suppressor on 9p21.3 region. The inactivation of miR-31 may contribute to the early development of NPC.
PMCID: PMC4127521  PMID: 25098679
Nasopharyngeal carcinoma; MicroRNA; miR-31; FIH1; MCM2
11.  Treatment of Nasopharyngeal Carcinoma Cells with the Histone-Deacetylase Inhibitor Abexinostat: Cooperative Effects with Cis-platin and Radiotherapy on Patient-Derived Xenografts 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(3):e91325.
EBV-related nasopharyngeal carcinomas (NPCs) still raise serious therapeutic problems. The therapeutic potential of the histone-deacetylase (HDAC) inhibitor Abexinostat was investigated using 5 preclinical NPC models including 2 patient-derived xenografts (C15 and C17). The cytotoxicity of Abexinostat used either alone or in combination with cis-platin or irradiation was assessed in vitro by MTT and clonogenic assays using 2 EBV-negative (CNE1 and HONE1) and 3 EBV-positive NPC models (C15, C17 and C666-1). Subsequently, the 3 EBV-positive models were used under the form of xenografts to assess the impact of systemic treatments by Abexinostat or combinations of Abexinostat with cis-platin or irradiation. Several cell proteins known to be affected by HDAC inhibitors and the small viral non-coding RNA EBER1 were investigated in the treated tumors. Synergistic cytotoxic effects of Abexinostat combined with cis-platin or irradiation were demonstrated in vitro for each NPC model. When using xenografts, Abexinostat by itself (12.5 mg/kg, BID, 4 days a week for 3 weeks) had significant anti-tumor effects against C17. Cooperative effects with cis-platin (2 mg/kg, IP, at days 3, 10 and 17) and irradiation (1Gy) were observed for the C15 and C17 xenografts. Simultaneously two types of biological alterations were induced in the tumor tissue, especially in the C17 model: a depletion of the DNA-repair protein RAD51 and a stronger in situ detection of the small viral RNA EBER1. Overall, these results support implementation of phase I/II clinical trials of Abexinostat for the treatment of NPC. A depletion of RAD51 is likely to contribute to the cooperation of Abexinostat with DNA damaging agents. Reduction of RAD51 combined to enhanced detection of EBER 1 might be helpful for early assessment of tumor response.
PMCID: PMC3949989  PMID: 24618637
12.  A novel Hsp90 inhibitor AT13387 induces senescence in EBV-positive nasopharyngeal carcinoma cells and suppresses tumor formation 
Molecular Cancer  2013;12:128.
Nasopharyngeal carcinoma (NPC) is an epithelial malignancy strongly associated with Epstein-Barr virus (EBV). AT13387 is a novel heat shock protein 90 (Hsp90) inhibitor, which inhibits the chaperone function of Hsp90 and reduces expression of Hsp90-dependent client oncoproteins. This study aimed to evaluate both the in vitro and in vivo antitumor effects of AT13387 in the EBV-positive NPC cell line C666-1.
Our results showed that AT13387 inhibited C666-1 cell growth and induced cellular senescence with the downregulation of multiple Hsp90 client oncoproteins EGFR, AKT, CDK4, and restored the protein expression of negative cell cycle regulator p27. We also studied the ability of AT13387 to restore p27 expression by downregulation of AKT and the p27 ubiquitin mediator, Skp2, using AKT inhibitor and Skp2 siRNA. In the functional study, AT13387 inhibited cell migration with downregulation of a cell migration regulator, HDAC6, and increased the acetylation and stabilization of α-tubulin. We also examined the effect of AT13387 on putative cancer stem cells (CSC) by 3-D tumor sphere formation assay. AT13387 effectively reduced both the number and size of C666-1 tumor spheres with decreased expression of NPC CSC-like markers CD44 and SOX2. In the in vivo study, AT13387 significantly suppressed tumor formation in C666-1 NPC xenografts.
AT13387 suppressed cell growth, cell migration, tumor sphere formation and induced cellular senescence on EBV-positive NPC cell line C666-1. Also, the antitumor effect of AT13387 was demonstrated in an in vivo model. This study provided experimental evidence for the preclinical value of using AT13387 as an effective antitumor agent in treatment of NPC.
PMCID: PMC3834878  PMID: 24156782
AT13387; Hsp90 inhibitor; Senescence; Antitumor; Nasopharyngeal carcinoma
13.  Complete genomic sequence of Epstein-Barr virus in nasopharyngeal carcinoma cell line C666-1 
Nasopharyngeal carcinoma is a distinct type of head and neck cancer which is consistently associated with Epstein-Barr virus (EBV). The C666-1 cell line is the only in vitro native EBV-infected NPC cell model commonly used for study of the viral-host interaction. Nevertheless, the complete EBV genome sequence in this in vitro EBV-infected NPC model has not been characterized.
To determine the complete EBV genome sequence in C666-1 cells.
The C666-1 genome was sequenced by 100-bases pair-end massive parallel sequencing. Bioinformatics analysis was performed to extract the EBV sequences and construct an EBV consensus sequence map. PCR amplification and Sanger DNA sequencing were used for sequence validation and gap filling. A phylogenetic analysis of EBV strain in C666-1 cells and other reported EBV strains was performed.
A 171,317 bp complete EBV genome of C666-1 was successfully constructed (GenBank accession number: KC617875). Phylogenetic analysis of EBV genome in C666-1 revealed that the C666-1 EBV strain is closely related to the reported strains in NPC primary tumors.
C666-1 contains a representative NPC-associated EBV genome and might serve as an important model for studying the roles or function of viral proteins in NPC tumorigenesis.
PMCID: PMC3734220  PMID: 23915735
Epstein-Barr virus; Nasopharyngeal carcinoma; Whole-genome deep sequencing; Single-nucleotide variations; Indels; Phylogenetic analysis; BNRF
14.  Toll-like receptor 3 in Epstein-Barr virus-associated nasopharyngeal carcinomas: consistent expression and cytotoxic effects of its synthetic ligand poly(A:U) combined to a Smac-mimetic 
Nasopharyngeal carcinomas (NPC) are consistently associated with the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV). Though NPCs are more radiosensitive and chemosensitive than other tumors of the upper aero-digestive tract, many therapeutic challenges remain. In a previous report, we have presented data supporting a possible therapeutic strategy based on artificial TLR3 stimulation combined to the inhibition of the IAP protein family (Inhibitor of Apoptosis Proteins). The present study was designed to progress towards practical applications of this strategy pursuing 2 main objectives: 1) to formally demonstrate expression of the TLR3 protein by malignant NPC cells; 2) to investigate the effect of poly(A:U) as a novel TLR3-agonist more specific than poly(I:C) which was used in our previous study.
TLR3 expression was investigated in a series of NPC cell lines and clinical specimens by Western blot analysis and immunohistochemistry, respectively. The effects on NPC cells growth of the TLR3 ligand poly(A:U) used either alone or in combination with RMT5265, an IAP inhibitor based on Smac-mimicry, were assessed using MTT assays and clonogenic assays.
TLR3 was detected at a high level in all NPC cell lines and clinical specimens. Low concentrations of poly(A:U) were applied to several types of NPC cells including cells from the C17 xenograft which for the first time have been adapted to permanent propagation in vitro. As a single agent, poly(A:U) had no significant effects on cell growth and cell survival. In contrast, dramatic effects were obtained when it was combined with the IAP inhibitor RMT5265. These effects were obtained using concentrations as low as 0.5 μg/ml (poly(A:U)) and 50 nM (RMT5265).
These data confirm that TLR3 expression is a factor of vulnerability for NPC cells. They suggest that in some specific pathological and pharmacological contexts, it might be worth to use Smac-mimetics at very low doses, allowing a better management of secondary effects. In light of our observations, combined use of both types of compounds should be considered for treatment of nasopharyngeal carcinomas.
PMCID: PMC3599303  PMID: 23198710
Toll-Like Receptor 3; Nasopharyngeal cancer; Epstein-Barr virus; Poly(A:U); Smac-mimetic; Inhibitor of Apoptosis Protein
15.  Inhibition of c-Met Downregulates TIGAR Expression and Reduces NADPH Production Leading to Cell Death 
Oncogene  2010;30(9):1127-1134.
c-Met represents an important emerging therapeutic target in cancer. Here, we demonstrate the mechanism by which c-Met tyrosine kinase inhibition inhibits tumor growth in a highly invasive Asian-prevalent head and neck cancer, nasopharyngeal cancer (NPC). c-Met tyrosine kinase inhibitors (TKIs; AM7 and c-Met TKI tool compound SU11274) downregulated c-Met phosphorylation resulting in markedly inhibited growth and invasion of NPC cells. Strikingly, inhibition of c-Met resulted in marked downregulation of TIGAR (TP53-induced Glycolysis and Apoptosis Regulator) and subsequent depletion of intracellular NADPH. Importantly, overexpression of TIGAR ameliorated the effects of c-Met kinase inhibition, confirming the importance of TIGAR downregulation in growth inhibition induced by c-Met TKI. The effects of c-Met inhibition on TIGAR and NADPH levels were observed with two different c-Met TKIs (AM7 and SU11274) and with multiple cell lines. As NADPH provides a crucial reducing power required for cell survival and proliferation, our findings represent a novel mechanistic action of c-Met TKI, which may represent a key effect of c-Met kinase inhibition. Our data provides the first evidence linking c-Met, TIGAR and NADPH regulation in human cancer cells suggesting that inhibition of a tyrosine kinase/TIGAR/NADPH cascade may have therapeutic applicability in human cancers.
PMCID: PMC3428712  PMID: 21057531
c-Met tyrosine kinase inhibitor; TIGAR; NADPH
16.  Glucocorticoids activate Epstein Barr Virus lytic replication through the upregulation of immediate early BZLF1 gene expression 
Brain, behavior, and immunity  2010;24(7):1089-1096.
Psychological stress-associated immune dysregulation has been shown to disrupt the steady state expression and reactivate latent herpes viruses. One such virus is the Epstein Barr virus (EBV), which is associated with several human malignancies. EBV infects >90% of people living in North America and persists for life in latently infected cells. Although several studies have shown that glucocorticoids (GCs) can directly induce reactivation of the latent virus, the mechanism of stress hormone involvement in the control of EBV gene expression is not well understood. In this study, we tested the hypothesis that GCs can induce the latent EBV genome to lytically replicate through the induction of the EBV immediate early gene BZLF1 which encodes the lytic transactivator protein ZEBRA. We show a dose-dependent upregulation of BZLF1 mRNA expression by hydrocortisone (HC) and dexamethasone (Dex) in Daudi cells, an EBV genome positive Burkitt’s lymphoma cell line, and Dex-induction of the early gene products BLLF3 (encoding for the EBV dUTPase) and BALF5 (encoding for the EBV DNA polymerase). We show that Daudi cells express glucocorticoid receptors (GR) that mediate Dex-dependent upregulation of BZLF1 mRNA levels. This effect was inhibited by both the glucocorticoid receptor antagonist RU486 and by cycloheximide. The results suggest that GCs, in addition to inducing stress-related immune dysregulation, can mediate latent EBV reactivation through the induction of the BZLF1 gene.
PMCID: PMC2939213  PMID: 20466055
Epstein Barr virus; glucocorticoids; glucocorticoid receptor; herpesvirus reactivation; psychological stress
17.  Photodynamic therapy-mediated modulation of inflammatory cytokine production by Epstein–Barr virus-infected nasopharyngeal carcinoma cells 
Nasopharyngeal carcinoma (NPC) is a malignant disease associated with Epstein–Barr virus (EBV) infection. This study aims to examine the effects of EBV infection on the production of proinflammatory cytokines in NPC cells after the Zn-BC-AM photodynamic therapy (PDT) treatment. Cells were treated with the photosensitiser Zn-BC-AM for 24 h before light irradiation. Quantitative ELISA was used to evaluate the production of cytokines. Under the same experimental condition, HK-1-EBV cells produced a higher basal level of IL-1α (1561 pg/ml), IL-1β (16.6 pg/ml) and IL-8 (422.9 pg/ml) than the HK-1 cells. At the light dose of 0.25–0.5 J/cm2, Zn-BC-AM PDT-treated HK-1-EBV cells were found to produce a higher level of IL-1α and IL-1β than the HK-1 cells. The production of IL-1β appeared to be mediated via the IL-1β-converting enzyme (ICE)-independent pathway. In contrast, the production of angiogenic IL-8 was downregulated in both HK-1 and HK-1-EBV cells after Zn-BC-AM PDT. Our results suggest that Zn-BC-AM PDT might indirectly reduce tumour growth through the modulation of cytokine production.
PMCID: PMC4003233  PMID: 20228836
Photodynamic therapy; nasopharyngeal carcinoma; cytokines; Epstein-Barr virus
19.  Modulation of LMP2A Expression by a Newly Identified Epstein-Barr Virus-Encoded MicroRNA miR-BART2212 
Neoplasia (New York, N.Y.)  2009;11(11):1174-1184.
Infection with the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) is a strong predisposing factor in the development of nasopharyngeal carcinoma (NPC). Many viral gene products including EBNA1, LMP1, and LMP2 have been implicated in NPC tumorigenesis, although the de novo control of these viral oncoproteins remains largely unclear. The recent discovery of EBV-encoded viral microRNA (miRNA) in lymphoid malignancies has prompted us to examine the NPC-associated EBV miRNA. Using large-scale cloning analysis on EBV-positive NPC cells, two novel EBV miRNA, now named miR-BART21 and miR-BART22, were identified. These two EBV-encoded miRNA are abundantly expressed in most NPC samples. We found two nucleotide variations in the primary transcript of miR-BART22, which we experimentally confirmed to augment its biogenesis in vitro and thus may underline the high and consistent expression of miR-BART22 in NPC tumors. More importantly, we determined that the EBV latent membrane protein 2A (LMP2A) is the putative target of miR-BART22. LMP2A is a potent immunogenic viral antigen that is recognized by the cytotoxic T cells; down-modulation of LMP2A expression by miR-BART22 may permit escape of EBV-infected cells from host immune surveillance. Taken together, we demonstrated that two newly identified EBV-encoded miRNA are highly expressed in NPC. Specific sequence variations on the prevalent EBV strain in our locality might contribute to the higher miR-BART22 expression level in our NPC samples. Our findings emphasize the role of miR-BART22 in modulating LMP2A expression, which may facilitate NPC carcinogenesis by evading the host immune response.
PMCID: PMC2767219  PMID: 19881953
20.  Preclinical activity of gefitinib in non-keratinizing nasopharyngeal carcinoma cell lines and biomarkers of response 
Investigational New Drugs  2009;28(3):326-333.
This study evaluated the preclinical activity and molecular predictors of response to gefitinib (Iressa®, Astra Zeneca Inc, UK) in nasopharyngeal carcinoma (NPC). The activity of gefitinib was evaluated in four human NPC cell lines—HK1, HONE-1, CNE2, C666-1. A representative gefitinib-sensitive (HK1, IC50 = 250 nM) and gefitinib-resistant cell line (HONE-1, IC50 > 15 μM) were selected and compared for expression of epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) and related ligands, and activation of downstream proteins. Gefitinib induced G1 cycle arrest, apoptosis and inhibited cell invasion more significantly in HK1 than HONE-1 cells. HK1 expressed higher levels of p-EGFR, lower p-AKT and phospho-signal transducer and activator of transcription 3 (p-STAT3) than other cell lines. EGFR gene was found to be amplified in HK1. Gefitinib at IC50 concentrations significantly suppressed EGF-induced activation of p-EGFR, phospho-mitogen-activated protein kinase (p-MAPK) and p-STAT3, but p-AKT showed persistent activation in HK1 and HONE-1 cells. There was no difference in EGFR-ligand expression between the 4 NPC cell lines. In NPC samples derived from non-responders to gefitinib, 50% and 60% showed cytoplasmic and nuclear pi-EGFR expression, respectively, and 33% showed p-AKT expression. EGFR or KRAS mutations were not detected. This study suggests that most NPC cell lines are intrinsically resistant to gefitinib (except HK1 cells), and further studies are needed to confirm whether EGFR gene amplification and persistent AKT activation may influence response to gefitinib in NPC.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1007/s10637-009-9316-7) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC2953619  PMID: 19756373
Head and neck cancer; Gefitinib; Epidermal growth factor receptor
21.  Critical Role of p53 in Histone Deacetylase Inhibitor-Induced Epstein-Barr Virus Zta Expression▿  
Journal of Virology  2008;82(15):7745-7751.
The tumor suppressor gene p53 plays a central role in the maintenance of normal cell growth and genetic integrity, while its impact on the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) life cycle remains elusive. We found that p53 is important for histone deacetylase inhibitor-induced EBV lytic gene expression in nasopharyngeal carcinoma cells. Restoration of p53 in p53-null, EBV-infected H1299 cells augments the potential for viral lytic cycle initiation. Evidence from reporter assays demonstrated that p53 contributes to the expression of the immediate-early viral Zta gene. Further analysis indicated that the DNA-binding ability of p53 and phosphorylation of Ser392 may be critical. This study provides the first evidence that p53 is involved in the regulation of EBV lytic cycle initiation.
PMCID: PMC2493335  PMID: 18495777
22.  BS69, a Specific Adaptor in the Latent Membrane Protein 1-Mediated c-Jun N-Terminal Kinase Pathway 
Molecular and Cellular Biology  2006;26(2):448-456.
We previously demonstrated that the Epstein-Barr virus-encoded latent membrane protein 1 (LMP1) potently activates the cellular c-Jun N-terminal kinase (JNK) pathway by sequentially engaging an unknown adaptor, TRAF6, TAB1/TAK1, and JNKKs. We now show that BS69, a MYND domain-containing cellular protein, is the missing adaptor that bridges LMP1 and TRAF6, as the MYND domain and a separate region of BS69 bind to the carboxyl termini of LMP1 and TRAF6, respectively. While LMP1 promotes the interaction between BS69 and TRAF6, the complex formation between LMP1 and TRAF6 is BS69 dependent. A fraction of LMP1 and BS69 is constitutively colocalized in the membrane lipid rafts. Importantly, knockdown of BS69 by small interfering RNAs specifically inhibits JNK activation by LMP1 but not tumor necrosis factor alpha. Although overexpression of either BS69 or a mutant LMP1 without the cytoplasmic carboxyl tail is not sufficient to activate JNK, interestingly, when BS69 is covalently linked to the mutant LMP1, the chimeric protein restores the ability to activate JNK. This indicates that the recruitment and aggregation of BS69 is a prerequisite for JNK activation by LMP1.
PMCID: PMC1346911  PMID: 16382137
23.  Candidate Tumor-Suppressor Gene DLEC1 Is Frequently Downregulated by Promoter Hypermethylation and Histone Hypoacetylation in Human Epithelial Ovarian Cancer1 
Neoplasia (New York, N.Y.)  2006;8(4):268-278.
Suppression of ovarian tumor growth by chromosome 3p was demonstrated in a previous study. Deleted in Lung and Esophageal Cancer 1 (DLEC1) on 3p22.3 is a candidate tumor suppressor in lung, esophageal, and renal cancers. The potential involvement of DLEC1 in epithelial ovarian cancer remains unknown. In the present study, DLEC1 downregulation was found in ovarian cancer cell lines and primary ovarian tumors. Focus-expressed DLEC1 in two ovarian cancer cell lines resulted in 41% to 52% inhibition of colony formation. No chromosomal loss of chromosome 3p22.3 in any ovarian cancer cell line or tissue was found. Promoter hypermethylation of DLEC1 was detected in ovarian cancer cell lines with reduced DLEC1 transcripts, whereas methylation was not detected in normal ovarian epithelium and DLEC1-expressing ovarian cancer cell lines. Treatment with demethylating agent enhanced DLEC1 expression in 90% (9 of 10) of ovarian cancer cell lines. DLEC1 promoter methylation was examined in 13 high-grade ovarian tumor tissues with DLEC1 downregulation, in which 54% of the tumors showed DLEC1 methylation. In addition, 80% of ovarian cancer cell lines significantly upregulated DLEC1 transcripts after histone deacetylase inhibitor treatment. Therefore, our results suggested that DLEC1 suppressed the growth of ovarian cancer cells and that its downregulation was closely associated with promoter hypermethylation and histone hypoacetylation.
PMCID: PMC1600675  PMID: 16756719
DLEC1; chromosome 3p22.3; promoter hypermethylation; histone hypoacetylation; epithelial ovarian cancer; DLEC1, Deleted in Lung and Esophageal Cancer 1; HOSE, human ovarian surface epithelium; LOH, loss of heterozygosity; CNA, copy number abnormality; MSP, methylation-specific PCR; ChIP, chromatin immunoprecipitation; AZA, 5-aza-2′-deoxycytidine; TSA, Trichostatin A
24.  Clinical Implications of Promoter Hypermethylation in RASSF1A and MGMT in Retinoblastoma1 
Neoplasia (New York, N.Y.)  2005;7(3):200-206.
We investigated the epigenetic silencing and genetic changes of the RAS-associated domain family 1A (RASSF1A) gene and the O6-methylguanine-DNA methyltransferase (MGMT) gene in retinoblastoma. We extracted DNA from microdissected tumor and normal retina tissues of the same patient in 68 retinoblastoma cases. Promoter methylation in RASSF1A and MGMT was analyzed by methylation-specific PCR, RASSF1A sequence alterations in all coding exons by direct DNA sequencing, and RASSF1A expression by RT-PCR. Cell cycle staging was analyzed by flow cytometry. We detected RASSF1A promoter hypermethylation in 82% of retinoblastoma, in tumor tissues only but not in adjacent normal retinal tissue cells. There was no expression of RASSF1A transcripts in all hypermethylated samples, but RASSF1A transcripts were restored after 5-aza-2′-deoxycytidine treatment with no changes in cell cycle or apoptosis. No mutation in the RASSF1A sequence was found. MGMT hypermethylation was present in 15% of theretinoblastoma samples, and the absence of MGMT hypermethylation was associated (P = .002) with retinoblastoma at advanced Reese-Ellsworth tumor stage. Our results revealed a high RASSF1A hypermethylation frequency in retinoblastoma. The correlation of MGMT inactivation by promoter hypermethylation with lower-stage diseases indicated that MGMT hypermethylation provides useful prognostic information. Epigenetic mechanism plays an important role in the progression of retinoblastoma.
PMCID: PMC1501141  PMID: 15799820
Retinoblastoma; methylation; RASSF1A; MGMT; RB
25.  The role of Epstein–Barr virus in epithelial malignancies 
The Journal of Pathology  2014;235(2):323-333.
The close association of Epstein–Barr virus (EBV) infection with non-keratinizing nasopharyngeal carcinomas and a subset of gastric carcinomas suggests that EBV infection is a crucial event in these cancers. The difficulties encountered in infecting and transforming primary epithelial cells in experimental systems suggest that the role of EBV in epithelial malignancies is complex and multifactorial in nature. Genetic alterations in the premalignant epithelium may support the establishment of latent EBV infection, which is believed to be an initiation event. Oncogenic properties have been reported in multiple EBV latent genes. The BamH1 A rightwards transcripts (BARTs) and the BART-encoded microRNAs (miR-BARTs) are highly expressed in EBV-associated epithelial malignancies and may induce malignant transformation. However, enhanced proliferation may not be the crucial function of EBV infection in epithelial malignancies, at least in the early stages of cancer development. EBV-encoded gene products may confer anti-apoptotic properties and promote the survival of infected premalignant epithelial cells harbouring genetic alterations. Multiple EBV-encoded microRNAs have been reported to have immune evasion functions. Genetic alterations in host cells, as well as inflammatory stroma, could modulate the expression of EBV genes and alter the growth properties of infected premalignant epithelial cells, encouraging their selection during carcinogenesis.
PMCID: PMC4280676  PMID: 25251730
Epstein–Barr virus; nasopharyngeal carcinoma; gastric carcinoma; lymphoeptithelioma-like carcinomas; BARTs; LMP1

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