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1.  Mode of Action of Diterpene and Characterization of Related Metabolites from the Soft Coral, Xenia elongata 
Marine Drugs  2014;12(2):1102-1115.
Chemical and biological investigation of the cultured marine soft coral Xenia elongata led to the isolation of two new diterpenes (2, 3). Their structures were elucidated using a combination of NMR and mass spectrometry. Biological evaluations and assessments were determined using the specific apoptosis induction assay based on genetically engineered mammalian cell line D3 deficient in Bak and Bax and derived from a mouse epithelial cell. The diterpenes induce apoptosis in low micromolar concentrations. The results indicate that the previously isolated compound (1) affects cell in a manner similar to that of HSP90 and HDAC inhibitors and in a manner opposite of PI3 kinase/mTOR inhibitors. Compound (3) inhibits selectively HDAC6 in high micromolar concentrations.
PMCID: PMC3944532  PMID: 24562393
structural and functional characterization of marine drug; marine biotechnology; bioactive compounds and bioproducts; drug discovery and development
2.  Glutamine-driven oxidative phosphorylation is a major ATP source in transformed mammalian cells in both normoxia and hypoxia 
The impact of oncogene activation and hypoxia on energy metabolism is analyzed by integrating quantitative measurements into a redox-balanced metabolic flux model. Glutamine-driven oxidative phosphorylation is found to be a major ATP source even in oncogene-expressing or hypoxic cells.
The integration of oxygen uptake measurements and LC-MS-based isotope tracer analyses in a redox-balanced metabolic flux model enabled quantitative determination of energy generation pathways in cultured cells.In transformed mammalian cells, even in hypoxia (1% oxygen), oxidative phosphorylation produces the majority of ATP.The oncogene Ras simultaneously increases glycolysis and decreases oxidative phosphorylation, thus resulting in no net increase in ATP production.Glutamine is the major source of high-energy electrons for oxidative phosphorylation, especially upon Ras activation.
Mammalian cells can generate ATP via glycolysis or mitochondrial respiration. Oncogene activation and hypoxia promote glycolysis and lactate secretion. The significance of these metabolic changes to ATP production remains however ill defined. Here, we integrate LC-MS-based isotope tracer studies with oxygen uptake measurements in a quantitative redox-balanced metabolic flux model of mammalian cellular metabolism. We then apply this approach to assess the impact of Ras and Akt activation and hypoxia on energy metabolism. Both oncogene activation and hypoxia induce roughly a twofold increase in glycolytic flux. Ras activation and hypoxia also strongly decrease glucose oxidation. Oxidative phosphorylation, powered substantially by glutamine-driven TCA turning, however, persists and accounts for the majority of ATP production. Consistent with this, in all cases, pharmacological inhibition of oxidative phosphorylation markedly reduces energy charge, and glutamine but not glucose removal markedly lowers oxygen uptake. Thus, glutamine-driven oxidative phosphorylation is a major means of ATP production even in hypoxic cancer cells.
PMCID: PMC3882799  PMID: 24301801
cancer bioenergetics; isotope tracing; metabolic flux analysis
3.  Arsenic Inhibits Autophagic Flux, Activating the Nrf2-Keap1 Pathway in a p62-Dependent Manner 
Molecular and Cellular Biology  2013;33(12):2436-2446.
The Nrf2-Keap1 signaling pathway is a protective mechanism promoting cell survival. Activation of the Nrf2 pathway by natural compounds has been proven to be an effective strategy for chemoprevention. Interestingly, a cancer-promoting function of Nrf2 has recently been observed in many types of tumors due to deregulation of the Nrf2-Keap1 axis, which leads to constitutive activation of Nrf2. Here, we report a novel mechanism of Nrf2 activation by arsenic that is distinct from that of chemopreventive compounds. Arsenic deregulates the autophagic pathway through blockage of autophagic flux, resulting in accumulation of autophagosomes and sequestration of p62, Keap1, and LC3. Thus, arsenic activates Nrf2 through a noncanonical mechanism (p62 dependent), leading to a chronic, sustained activation of Nrf2. In contrast, activation of Nrf2 by sulforaphane (SF) and tert-butylhydroquinone (tBHQ) depends upon Keap1-C151 and not p62 (the canonical mechanism). More importantly, SF and tBHQ do not have any effect on autophagy. In fact, SF and tBHQ alleviate arsenic-mediated deregulation of autophagy. Collectively, these findings provide evidence that arsenic causes prolonged activation of Nrf2 through autophagy dysfunction, possibly providing a scenario similar to that of constitutive activation of Nrf2 found in certain human cancers. This may represent a previously unrecognized mechanism underlying arsenic toxicity and carcinogenicity in humans.
PMCID: PMC3700105  PMID: 23589329
The Prostate  2012;72(12):10.1002/pros.22487.
Targeting multiple anti-apoptotic proteins is now possible with the small molecule BH3 domain mimetics such as ABT-737. Given recent studies demonstrating that autophagy is a resistance mechanism to multiple therapeutic agents in the setting of apoptotic inhibition, we hypothesized that hydroxychloroquine (HCQ), an anti-malarial drug that inhibits autophagy, will increase cytotoxicity of ABT-737.
Experimental Design
Cytotoxicity of ABT-737 and HCQ was assessed in vitro in PC-3 and LNCaP cells, and in vivo in a xenograft mouse model. The role of autophagy as a resistance mechanism was assessed by siRNA knockdown of the essential autophagy gene beclin1. ROS was measured by flow cytometry, and mitophagy assessed by the mCherry-Parkin reporter.
Induction of autophagy by ABT-737 was a mechanism of resistance in prostate cancer cell lines. Therapeutic inhibition of autophagy with HCQ increased cytotoxicity of ABT-737 both in vitro and in vivo. ABT-737 induced LC-3 and decreased p62 expression by immunoblot in cell lines and by immunohistochemistry in tumors in vivo. Assessment of ROS and mitochondria demonstrated that ROS production by ABT-737 and HCQ was a mechanism of cytotoxicity.
We demonstrated that autophagy inhibition with HCQ enhances ABT-737 cytotoxicity in vitro and in vivo, that LC-3 and p62 represent assessable markers in human tissue for future clinical trials, and that ROS induction is a mechanism of cytotoxicity. These results support a new paradigm of dual targeting of apoptosis and autophagy in future clinical studies.
PMCID: PMC3840901  PMID: 22241682
Prostate Cancer; Autophagy; Metabolism; Bcl-2; BH3; ABT-737; ABT-263
5.  Immunohistochemical detection of cytoplasmic LC3 puncta in human cancer specimens 
Autophagy  2012;8(8):1175-1184.
Autophagy is an evolutionarily conserved catabolic process that involves the entrapment of cytoplasmic components within characteristic vesicles for their delivery to and degradation within lysosomes. Alterations in autophagic signaling are found in several human diseases including cancer. Here, we describe a validated immunohistochemical protocol for the detection of LC3 puncta in human formalin-fixed, paraffin-embedded cancer specimens that can also be applied to mouse tissues. In response to systemic chemotherapy, autophagy-competent mouse tumors exhibited LC3 puncta, which did not appear in mouse cancers that had been rendered autophagy-deficient by the knockdown of Atg5 or Atg7. As compared with normal tissues, LC3 staining was moderately to highly elevated in the large majority of human cancers studied, albeit tumors of the same histological type tended to be highly heterogeneous in the number and intensity of LC3 puncta per cell. Moreover, tumor-infiltrating immune cells often were highly positive for LC3. Altogether, this protocol for LC3 staining appears suitable for the specific detection of LC3 puncta in human specimens, including tissue microarrays. We surmise that this technique can be employed for retrospective or prospective studies involving large series of human tumor samples.
PMCID: PMC3973657  PMID: 22647537
autophagosomes; CT26; immunohistochemistry; lysosomes; macroautophagy; MCA205
6.  Deconvoluting the context-dependent role for autophagy in cancer 
Nature reviews. Cancer  2012;12(6):401-410.
Autophagy (also known as macroautophagy) captures intracellular components in autophagosomes and delivers them to lysosomes, where they are degraded and recycled. Autophagy can have two functions in cancer. It can be tumour suppressive through the elimination of oncogenic protein substrates, toxic unfolded proteins and damaged organelles. Alternatively, it can be tumour promoting in established cancers through autophagy-mediated intracellular recycling that provides substrates for metabolism and that maintains the functional pool of mitochondria. Therefore, defining the context-specific role for autophagy in cancer and the mechanisms involved will be important to guide autophagy-based therapeutic intervention.
PMCID: PMC3664381  PMID: 22534666
7.  Coordinate Autophagy and mTOR Pathway Inhibition Enhances Cell Death in Melanoma 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(1):e55096.
The phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase/AKT/mammalian target of rapamycin (PI3K/AKT/mTOR) pathway promotes melanoma tumor growth and survival while suppressing autophagy, a catabolic process through which cells collect and recycle cellular components to sustain energy homeostasis in starvation. Conversely, inhibitors of the PI3K/AKT/mTOR pathway, in particular the mTOR inhibitor temsirolimus (CCI-779), induce autophagy, which can promote tumor survival and thus, these agents potentially limit their own efficacy. We hypothesized that inhibition of autophagy in combination with mTOR inhibition would block this tumor survival mechanism and hence improve the cytotoxicity of mTOR inhibitors in melanoma. Here we found that melanoma cell lines of multiple genotypes exhibit high basal levels of autophagy. Knockdown of expression of the essential autophagy gene product ATG7 resulted in cell death, indicating that survival of melanoma cells is autophagy-dependent. We also found that the lysosomotropic agent and autophagy inhibitor hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) synergizes with CCI-779 and led to melanoma cell death via apoptosis. Combination treatment with CCI-779 and HCQ suppressed melanoma growth and induced cell death both in 3-dimensional (3D) spheroid cultures and in tumor xenografts. These data suggest that coordinate inhibition of the mTOR and autophagy pathways promotes apoptosis and could be a new therapeutic paradigm for the treatment of melanoma.
PMCID: PMC3559441  PMID: 23383069
8.  PEA-15 potentiates H-Ras mediated epithelial cell transformation through Phospholipase D 
Oncogene  2011;31(30):3547-3560.
The small GTPase H-Ras is a proto-oncogene that activates a variety of different pathways including the extracellular-signal-regulated kinase mitogen-activated protein kinase (ERK/MAPK) pathway. H-Ras is mutated in many human malignancies and these mutations cause the protein to be constitutively active. PEA-15 blocks ERK-dependent gene transcription and inhibits proliferation by sequestering ERK in the cytoplasm. We therefore investigated whether PEA-15 influences H-Ras mediated transformation. We found that PEA-15 does not block H-Ras activated proliferation when H-Ras is constitutively active. We show instead that in H-Ras transformed mouse kidney epithelial cells, co-expression of PEA-15 resulted in enhanced soft agar colony growth and increased tumor growth in vivo. Overexpression of both H-Ras and PEA-15 resulted in accelerated G1/S cell cycle transition and increased activation of the ERK signaling pathway. PEA-15 mediated these effects through activation of its binding partner phospholipase D1 (PLD1). Inhibition of PLD1 or interference with PEA-15/PLD1 binding blocked PEA-15’s ability to increase ERK activation. Our findings reveal a novel mechanism by which PEA-15 positively regulates Ras/ERK signaling and increases the proliferation of H-Ras transformed epithelial cells through enhanced PLD1 expression and activation. Thus, our work provides a surprising mechanism by which PEA-15 augments H-Ras driven transformation. These data reveal that PEA-15 not only suppresses ERK signaling and tumorigenesis but can alternatively enhance tumorigenesis in the context of active Ras.
PMCID: PMC3295902  PMID: 22105357
PEA-15; PLD; cell cycle; H-Ras; cell transformation
9.  Liquid chromatography – high resolution mass spectrometry analysis of fatty acid metabolism 
Analytical chemistry  2011;83(23):9114-9122.
We present a liquid chromatography – mass spectrometry (LC-MS) method for long-chain and very-long-chain fatty acid analysis, and its application to 13C-tracer studies of fatty acid metabolism. Fatty acids containing 14 to 36 carbon atoms are separated by C8 reversed-phase chromatography using a water-methanol gradient with tributylamine as ion pairing agent, ionized by electrospray, and analyzed by a stand-alone orbitrap mass spectrometer. The median limit of detection is 5 ng/ml with a linear dynamic range of 100-fold. Ratios of unlabeled to 13C-labeled species are quantitated precisely and accurately (average relative standard deviation 3.2% and deviation from expectation 2.3%). In samples consisting of fatty acids saponified from cultured mammalian cells, 45 species are quantified, with average intraday relative standard deviations for independent biological replicates of 11%. The method enables quantitation of molecular ion peaks for all labeled forms of each fatty acid. Different degrees of 13C-labeling from glucose and glutamine correspond to fatty acid uptake from media, de novo synthesis, and elongation. To exemplify the utility of the method, we examined isogenic cell lines with and without activated Ras oncogene expression. Ras increases the abundance and alters the labeling patterns of saturated and monounsaturated very-long-chain fatty acids, with the observed pattern consistent with Ras leading to enhanced activity of ELOVL4 or an enzyme with similar catalytic activity. This LC-MS method and associated isotope tracer techniques should be broadly applicable to investigating fatty acid metabolism.
PMCID: PMC3230881  PMID: 22004349
elongase; exactive; fatty acids; high resolution mass spectrometry; lipids; liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry; mass isotopomer distribution analysis; tracer studies; very-long-chain fatty acids
10.  Ammonificins C and D, Hydroxyethylamine Chromene Derivatives from a Cultured Marine Hydrothermal Vent Bacterium, Thermovibrio ammonificans 
Marine Drugs  2012;10(10):2300-2311.
Chemical and biological investigation of the cultured marine hydrothermal vent bacterium, Thermovibrio ammonifican led to the isolation of two hydroxyethylamine chromene derivatives, ammonificins C and D. Their structures were elucidated using combination of NMR and mass spectrometry. Absolute stereochemistry was ascertained by comparison of experimental and calculated CD spectra. Biological evaluation and assessment were determined using the patented ApopScreen cell-based screen for apoptosis-induction. Ammonificins C and D induce apoptosis in micromolar concentrations. To our knowledge, this finding is the first report of chemical compounds that induce apoptosis from the cultured deep-sea marine organism, hydrothermal vent bacterium, Thermovibrio ammonificans.
PMCID: PMC3497024  PMID: 23170085
marine natural product; deep-sea hydrothermal vent; drug discovery; induction of apoptosis; bacteria; computational methods
11.  Rationally designed treatment for solid tumors with MAPK pathway activation: a Phase I study of paclitaxel and bortezomib using an adaptive dose-finding approach 
Molecular cancer therapeutics  2011;10(8):1509-1519.
In the preclinical setting, phosphorylation and subsequent proteosomal degradation of the proapoptotic protein BIM confers resistance to paclitaxel in solid tumors with RAS/RAF/MAPK pathway activation. Concurrent administration of the proteasome inhibitor bortezomib enables paclitaxel-induced BIM accumulation, restoring cancer cell apoptosis in vitro and producing tumor regression in mice in vivo. A Phase I study was conducted to determine the MTD of paclitaxel and bortezomib combinatorial treatment. Sixteen patients with refractory solid tumors commonly exhibiting MAPK pathway activation were treated with weekly paclitaxel and bortezomib. Starting doses were 40 mg/m2 for paclitaxel and 0.7 mg/m2 for bortezomib. A modified continual reassessment method (MCRM) adapted for 2-drug escalation was used for MTD determination with 3-patient cohorts treated at each dose level. MTD was reached at 60 mg/m2 paclitaxel and 1.0 mg/m2 bortezomib, the recommended phase II dose. Therapy was overall well tolerated. Most frequently observed toxicities included anemia (in 43.75% of patients, one Grade 3 event), fatigue (in 43.75% of patients, one Grade 3 event beyond cycle 1) and neuropathy (in 31.25% of patients, one Grade 3 event after cycle 1). Of 15 evaluable patients, one NSCLC patient with paclitaxel exposure at the adjuvant setting had a PR and five patients had SD; median disease stabilization was 143.5 days; three NSCLC patients had SD lasting 165 days or longer. Thus, rationally designed weekly treatment with paclitaxel and bortezomib in solid tumors with MAPK pathway activation, including previously taxane-treated malignancies, is a tolerable regimen with preliminary signals of antitumor activity worthy of further investigation.
PMCID: PMC3155243  PMID: 21680752
MAPK; paclitaxel; bortezomib; BIM; apoptosis
12.  Autophagy Suppresses RIP Kinase-Dependent Necrosis Enabling Survival to mTOR Inhibition 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(7):e41831.
mTOR inhibitors are used clinically to treat renal cancer but are not curative. Here we show that autophagy is a resistance mechanism of human renal cell carcinoma (RCC) cell lines to mTOR inhibitors. RCC cell lines have high basal autophagy that is required for survival to mTOR inhibition. In RCC4 cells, inhibition of mTOR with CCI-779 stimulates autophagy and eliminates RIP kinases (RIPKs) and this is blocked by autophagy inhibition, which induces RIPK- and ROS-dependent necroptosis in vitro and suppresses xenograft growth. Autophagy of mitochondria is required for cell survival since mTOR inhibition turns off Nrf2 antioxidant defense. Thus, coordinate mTOR and autophagy inhibition leads to an imbalance between ROS production and defense, causing necroptosis that may enhance cancer treatment efficacy.
PMCID: PMC3406086  PMID: 22848625
13.  Role of autophagy in cancer prevention 
Macroautophagy (autophagy hereafter) is a catabolic process by which cells degrade intracellular components in lysosomes. This cellular garbage disposal and intracellular recycling provided by autophagy serves to maintain cellular homeostasis by eliminating superfluous or damaged proteins and organelles, and invading microbes, or to provide substrates for energy generation and biosynthesis in stress. Thus, autophagy promotes the health of cells and animals and is critical for development, differentiation and maintenance of cell function and for the host defense against pathogens. Deregulation of autophagy is linked to susceptibility to various disorders including degenerative diseases, metabolic syndrome, aging, infectious diseases and cancer. Autophagic activity emerges as a critical factor in development and progression of diseases that are associated with increased cancer risk as well as in different stages of cancer. Given that cancer is a complex process and autophagy exerts its effect in multiple ways, role of autophagy in tumorigenesis is context-dependent. As a cytoprotective survival pathway, autophagy prevents chronic tissue damage and cell death that can lead to cancer initiation and progression. As such, stimulation or restoration of autophagy may prevent cancer. By contrast, once cancer occurs, cancer cells may utilize autophagy to enhance fitness to survive with altered metabolism and in the hostile tumor microenvironment. In this setting autophagy inhibition would instead become a strategy for therapy of established cancers.
PMCID: PMC3136921  PMID: 21733821
autophagy; metabolism; homeostasis; inflammation; cancer prevention
15.  Bathymodiolamides A and B, Ceramide Derivatives from a Deep-Sea Hydrothermal Vent Invertebrate Mussel, Bathymodiolus thermophilus 
Journal of natural products  2011;74(4):842-846.
Two ceramide derivatives, bathymodiolamides A (1) and B (2), were isolated from the deep-sea hydrothermal vent invertebrate mussel Bathymodiolus thermophilus. The molecular structures of these compounds were determined using a combination of NMR spectroscopy, mass spectrometry, and chemical degradation. Biological activities were assessed in a ApopScreen cell-based screen for apoptosis induction and potential anticancer activity. To our knowledge, this is the first report of secondary metabolites from the marine hydrothermal vent mussel B. thermophilus.
PMCID: PMC3081957  PMID: 21222464
16.  Principles and Current Strategies for Targeting Autophagy for Cancer Treatment 
Autophagy is an evolutionarily conserved, intracellular self-defense mechanism where organelles and proteins are sequestered into autophagic vesicles (AVs) that are subsequently degraded through fusion with lysosomes. Cells thereby prevent the toxic accumulation of damaged or unnecessary components, but also recycle these components to sustain metabolic homoeostasis. Heightened autophagy is a mechanism of resistance for cancer cells faced with metabolic and therapeutic stress, revealing opportunities for exploitation as a therapeutic target in cancer. We summarize recent developments in the field of autophagy and cancer, and build upon the results presented at the Cancer Therapeutics and Evaluation Program (CTEP) Early Drug Development meeting in March, 2010. Herein, we describe our current understanding of the core components of the autophagy machinery, the functional relevance of autophagy within the tumor microenvironment and outline how this knowledge has informed preclinical investigations combining the autophagy inhibitor hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) with chemotherapy, targeted therapy and immunotherapy. Finally, we describe ongoing clinical trials involving HCQ as a first generation autophagy inhibitor, as well as strategies for the development of novel, more potent and specific inhibitors of autophagy.
PMCID: PMC3075808  PMID: 21325294
17.  Autophagy in Tumorigenesis and Energy Metabolism: Friend by Day, Foe by Night 
Autophagy is the mechanism by which cells consume parts of themselves to survive starvation and stress. This self-cannibalization limits cell death and tissue inflammation, recycles energy and biosynthetic substrates and removes damaged proteins and organelles, accumulation of which is toxic. In normal tissues, autophagy-mediated damage mitigation may suppress tumorigenesis, while in advanced tumors macromolecular recycling may support survival by buffering metabolic demand under stress. As a result, autophagy-activation in normal cells may suppress tumorigenesis, while autophagy inhibition may be beneficial for therapy of established tumors. The mechanisms by which autophagy supports cancer cell metabolism are slowly emerging. As cancer is being increasingly recognized as a metabolic disease, how autophagy-mediated catabolism impacts cellular and mammalian metabolism and tumor growth is of great interest. Most cancer therapeutics induce autophagy, either directly by modulating signaling pathways that control autophagy in the case of many targeted therapies, or indirectly in the case of cytotoxic therapy. However, the functional consequence of autophagy induction in the context of cancer therapy is not yet clear. A better understanding of how autophagy modulates cell metabolism under various cellular stresses and the consequences of this on tumorigenesis will help develop better therapeutic strategies against cancer prevention and treatment.
PMCID: PMC3039840  PMID: 21255998
autophagy; p62; inflammation; cancer; energy; metabolism; mitochondria
18.  Autophagy and Metabolism 
Science (New York, N.Y.)  2010;330(6009):1344-1348.
Autophagy is a process of self-cannibalization. Cells capture their own cytoplasm and organelles and consume them in lysosomes. The resulting breakdown products are inputs to cellular metabolism, through which they are used to generate energy and to build new proteins and membranes. Autophagy preserves the health of cells and tissues by replacing outdated and damaged cellular components with fresh ones. In starvation, it provides an internal source of nutrients for energy generation and, thus, survival. A powerful promoter of metabolic homeostasis at both the cellular and whole-animal level, autophagy prevents degenerative diseases. It does have a downside, however—cancer cells exploit it to survive in nutrient-poor tumors.
PMCID: PMC3010857  PMID: 21127245
19.  Essential Roles of BCCIP in Mouse Embryonic Development and Structural Stability of Chromosomes 
PLoS Genetics  2011;7(9):e1002291.
BCCIP is a BRCA2- and CDKN1A(p21)-interacting protein that has been implicated in the maintenance of genomic integrity. To understand the in vivo functions of BCCIP, we generated a conditional BCCIP knockdown transgenic mouse model using Cre-LoxP mediated RNA interference. The BCCIP knockdown embryos displayed impaired cellular proliferation and apoptosis at day E7.5. Consistent with these results, the in vitro proliferation of blastocysts and mouse embryonic fibroblasts (MEFs) of BCCIP knockdown mice were impaired considerably. The BCCIP deficient mouse embryos die before E11.5 day. Deletion of the p53 gene could not rescue the embryonic lethality due to BCCIP deficiency, but partially rescues the growth delay of mouse embryonic fibroblasts in vitro. To further understand the cause of development and proliferation defects in BCCIP-deficient mice, MEFs were subjected to chromosome stability analysis. The BCCIP-deficient MEFs displayed significant spontaneous chromosome structural alterations associated with replication stress, including a 3.5-fold induction of chromatid breaks. Remarkably, the BCCIP-deficient MEFs had a ∼20-fold increase in sister chromatid union (SCU), yet the induction of sister chromatid exchanges (SCE) was modestly at 1.5 fold. SCU is a unique type of chromatid aberration that may give rise to chromatin bridges between daughter nuclei in anaphase. In addition, the BCCIP-deficient MEFs have reduced repair of irradiation-induced DNA damage and reductions of Rad51 protein and nuclear foci. Our data suggest a unique function of BCCIP, not only in repair of DNA damage, but also in resolving stalled replication forks and prevention of replication stress. In addition, BCCIP deficiency causes excessive spontaneous chromatin bridges via the formation of SCU, which can subsequently impair chromosome segregations in mitosis and cell division.
Author Summary
BCCIP is a BRCA2- and p21-interacting protein. Studies with cell culture systems have suggested an essential role of BCCIP gene in homologous recombination and suppression of replication stress and have suggested that BCCIP defects causes mitotic errors. However, the in vivo function(s) of BCCIP and the mechanistic links between BCCIP's role in suppression of replication stress and mitotic errors are largely unknown. We generated transgenic mouse lines that conditionally express shRNA against the BCCIP, and we found an essential role of BCCIP in embryo development. We demonstrate that BCCIP deficiency causes the formation of a unique type of structural abnormality of chromosomes called sister chromatid union (SCU). It has been noted in the past that impaired homologous recombination and resolution of stalled replication forks can have detrimental consequences in mitosis. However, the physical evidence for this link has not been fully identified. SCU is the product of ligation between sister chromatids, likely formed as a result of unsuccessful attempt(s) to resolve stalled replication forks. Because the SCU will progress into chromatin bridges at anaphase, resulting in mitosis errors, it likely constitutes one of the physical links between S-phase replication stress and mitotic errors.
PMCID: PMC3178617  PMID: 21966279
20.  Autophagy regulates keratin 8 homeostasis in mammary epithelial cells and in breast tumors 
Molecular cancer research : MCR  2010;8(6):873-884.
Autophagy is activated in response to cellular stressors and mediates lysosomal degradation and recycling of cytoplasmic material and organelles as a temporary cell survival mechanism. Defective autophagy is implicated in human pathology, as disruption of protein and organelle homeostasis enables disease-promoting mechanisms such as toxic protein aggregation, oxidative stress, genomic damage and inflammation. We previously showed that autophagy-defective immortalized mouse mammary epithelial cells (iMMECs) are susceptible to metabolic stress, DNA damage and genomic instability. We now report that autophagy deficiency was associated with ER and oxidative stress, and deregulation of p62-mediated keratin homeostasis in mammary cells and allograft tumors and in mammary tissues from genetically engineered mice. In human breast tumors, high phospho(Ser73)-K8 levels inversely correlated with Beclin 1 expression. Thus, autophagy preserves cellular fitness by limiting ER and oxidative stress, a function potentially important in autophagy-mediated suppression of mammary tumorigenesis. Furthermore, autophagy regulates keratin homeostasis in the mammary gland via a p62-dependent mechanism. High phospho(Ser73)-K8 expression may be a marker of autophagy functional status in breast tumors and, as such, could have therapeutic implications for breast cancer patients.
PMCID: PMC2891319  PMID: 20530580
autophagy; keratin homeostasis; breast cancer; ER stress; p62
21.  Human IRGM Regulates Autophagy and Its Cell-Autonomous Immunity Functions Through Mitochondria 
Nature cell biology  2010;12(12):1154-1165.
IRGM, a human immunity related GTPase, confers autophagic defense against intracellular pathogens by an unknown mechanism. Here we report the unexpected mode of IRGM action. IRGM showed differential affinity for mitochondrial lipid cardiolipin, translocated to mitochondria, affected mitochondrial fission and induced autophagy. Mitochondrial fission was necessary for autophagic control of intracellular mycobacteria by IRGM. IRGM influenced mitochondrial membrane polarization and cell death. Overexpression of IRGMd but not IRGMb splice isoforms caused mitochondrial depolarization and autophagy-independent but Bax/Bak-dependent cell death. By acting on mitochondria IRGM confers autophagic protection or cell death, explaining IRGM action both in defense against tuberculosis and in damaging inflammation in Crohn's disease.
PMCID: PMC2996476  PMID: 21102437
23.  A Noncanonical Mechanism of Nrf2 Activation by Autophagy Deficiency: Direct Interaction between Keap1 and p62▿  
Molecular and Cellular Biology  2010;30(13):3275-3285.
In response to stress, cells can utilize several cellular processes, such as autophagy, which is a bulk-lysosomal degradation pathway, to mitigate damages and increase the chances of cell survival. Deregulation of autophagy causes upregulation of p62 and the formation of p62-containing aggregates, which are associated with neurodegenerative diseases and cancer. The Nrf2-Keap1 pathway functions as a critical regulator of the cell's defense mechanism against oxidative stress by controlling the expression of many cellular protective proteins. Under basal conditions, Nrf2 is ubiquitinated by the Keap1-Cul3-E3 ubiquitin ligase complex and targeted to the 26S proteasome for degradation. Upon induction, the activity of the E3 ubiquitin ligase is inhibited through the modification of cysteine residues in Keap1, resulting in the stabilization and activation of Nrf2. In this current study, we identified the direct interaction between p62 and Keap1 and the residues required for the interaction have been mapped to 349-DPSTGE-354 in p62 and three arginines in the Kelch domain of Keap1. Accumulation of endogenous p62 or ectopic expression of p62 sequesters Keap1 into aggregates, resulting in the inhibition of Keap1-mediated Nrf2 ubiquitination and its subsequent degradation by the proteasome. In contrast, overexpression of mutated p62, which loses its ability to interact with Keap1, had no effect on Nrf2 stability, demonstrating that p62-mediated Nrf2 upregulation is Keap1 dependent. These findings demonstrate that autophagy deficiency activates the Nrf2 pathway in a noncanonical cysteine-independent mechanism.
PMCID: PMC2897585  PMID: 20421418
24.  Bcl-2 Modulation to Activate Apoptosis in Prostate Cancer 
Molecular cancer research : MCR  2009;7(9):1487-1496.
Apoptosis resistance is a hallmark of cancer linked to disease progression and treatment resistance, which has led to the development of anticancer therapeutics that restore apoptotic function. Antiapoptotic Bcl-2 is frequently overexpressed in refractory prostate cancer and increased following standard hormonal therapy and chemotherapy; however, the rationally designed Bcl-2 antagonist, ABT-737, has not shown single agent apoptosis-promoting activity against human prostate cancer cell lines. This is likely due to the coordinate expression of antiapoptotic, Bcl-2–related Mcl-1 that is not targeted by ABT-737. We developed a mouse model for prostate cancer in which apoptosis resistance and tumorigenesis were conferred by Bcl-2 expression. Combining ABT-737 with agents that target Mcl-1 sensitized prostate cancer cell lines with an apoptotic block to cell death in vitro. In mice in vivo, ABT-737 showed single agent efficacy in prostate tumor allografts in which tumor cells are under hypoxic stress. In human prostate cancer tissue, examined using a novel tumor explant system designated Tumor Tissue Assessment for Response to Chemotherapy, combination chemotherapy promoted efficient apoptosis. Thus, rational targeting of both the Bcl-2 and Mcl-1 mechanisms of apoptosis resistance may be therapeutically advantageous for advanced prostate cancer.
PMCID: PMC2855683  PMID: 19737977
25.  The Double-edged Sword of Autophagy Modulation in Cancer 
Macroautophagy (autophagy) is a lysosomal degradation pathway for the breakdown of intracellular proteins and organelles. Although, constitutive autophagy is a homeostatic mechanism for intracellular recycling and metabolic regulation, autophagy is also stress responsive where it is important for the removal of damaged proteins and organelles. Autophagy thereby confers stress tolerance, limits damage and sustains viability under adverse conditions. Autophagy is a tumor suppression mechanism yet it enables tumor cell survival in stress. Reconciling how loss of a prosurvival function can promote tumorigenesis, emerging evidence suggests that preservation of cellular fitness by autophagy may be key to tumor suppression. As autophagy is such a fundamental process, establishing how the functional status of autophagy influences tumorigenesis and treatment response is important. This is especially critical as many current cancer therapeutics activate autophagy. Therefore, efforts to understand and modulate the autophagy pathway will provide new approaches to cancer therapy and prevention.
PMCID: PMC2737083  PMID: 19706824

Results 1-25 (54)