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1.  Regulation of expression of O6-methylguanine-DNA methyltransferase and the treatment of glioblastoma (Review) 
International Journal of Oncology  2015;47(2):417-428.
O-6-methylguanine-DNA methyltransferase (MGMT) is an abundantly expressed nuclear protein dealkylating O6-methylguanine (O6-MG) DNA residue, thus correcting the mismatches of O6-MG with a thymine residue during DNA replication. The dealkylating effect of MGMT is relevant not only in repairing DNA mismatches produced by environmental alkylating agents promoting tumor pathogenesis, but also when alkylating molecules are applied in the chemotherapy of different cancers, including glioma, the most common primary tumor of the central nervous system. Elevated MGMT gene expression is known to confer resistance to the treatment with the alkylating drug temozolomide in patients affected by gliomas and, on the contrary, methylation of MGMT gene promoter, which causes reduction of MGMT protein expression, is known to predict a favourable response to temozolomide. Thus, detecting expression levels of MGMT gene is crucial to indicate the option of alkylating agents or to select patients directly for a second line targeted therapy. Further study is required to gain insights into MGMT expression regulation, that has attracted growing interest recently in MGMT promoter methylation, histone acetylation and microRNAs expression. The review will focus on the epigenetic regulation of MGMT gene, with translational applications to the identification of biomarkers predicting response to therapy and prognosis.
doi:10.3892/ijo.2015.3026
PMCID: PMC4501657  PMID: 26035292
MGMT; glioblastoma; glioma; temozolomide; microRNA; peptide nucleic acids; locked nucleic acids; methylation; pyrosequencing
2.  Generation and Characterization of a Transgenic Mouse Carrying a Functional Human β-Globin Gene with the IVSI-6 Thalassemia Mutation 
BioMed Research International  2015;2015:687635.
Mouse models that carry mutations causing thalassemia represent a suitable tool to test in vivo new mutation-specific therapeutic approaches. Transgenic mice carrying the β-globin IVSI-6 mutation (the most frequent in Middle-Eastern regions and recurrent in Italy and Greece) are, at present, not available. We report the production and characterization of a transgenic mouse line (TG-β-IVSI-6) carrying the IVSI-6 thalassemia point mutation within the human β-globin gene. In the TG-β-IVSI-6 mouse (a) the transgenic integration region is located in mouse chromosome 7; (b) the expression of the transgene is tissue specific; (c) as expected, normally spliced human β-globin mRNA is produced, giving rise to β-globin production and formation of a human-mouse tetrameric chimeric hemoglobin muα-globin2/huβ-globin2 and, more importantly, (d) the aberrant β-globin-IVSI-6 RNAs are present in blood cells. The TG-β-IVSI-6 mouse reproduces the molecular features of IVSI-6 β-thalassemia and might be used as an in vivo model to characterize the effects of antisense oligodeoxynucleotides targeting the cryptic sites responsible for the generation of aberrantly spliced β-globin RNA sequences, caused by the IVSI-6 mutation. These experiments are expected to be crucial for the development of a personalized therapy for β-thalassemia.
doi:10.1155/2015/687635
PMCID: PMC4434229  PMID: 26097845
3.  Increase of microRNA-210, Decrease of Raptor Gene Expression and Alteration of Mammalian Target of Rapamycin Regulated Proteins following Mithramycin Treatment of Human Erythroid Cells 
PLoS ONE  2015;10(4):e0121567.
Expression and regulation of microRNAs is an emerging issue in erythroid differentiation and globin gene expression in hemoglobin disorders. In the first part of this study microarray analysis was performed both in mithramycin-induced K562 cells and erythroid precursors from healthy subjects or β-thalassemia patients producing low or high levels of fetal hemoglobin. We demonstrated that: (a) microRNA-210 expression is higher in erythroid precursors from β-thalassemia patients with high production of fetal hemoglobin; (b) microRNA-210 increases as a consequence of mithramycin treatment of K562 cells and human erythroid progenitors both from healthy and β-thalassemia subjects; (c) this increase is associated with erythroid induction and elevated expression of γ-globin genes; (d) an anti-microRNA against microRNA-210 interferes with the mithramycin-induced changes of gene expression. In the second part of the study we have obtained convergent evidences suggesting raptor mRNA as a putative target of microRNA-210. Indeed, microRNA-210 binding sites of its 3’-UTR region were involved in expression and are targets of microRNA-210-mediated modulation in a luciferase reporter assays. Furthermore, (i) raptor mRNA and protein are down-regulated upon mithramycin-induction both in K562 cells and erythroid progenitors from healthy and β-thalassemia subjects. In addition, (ii) administration of anti-microRNA-210 to K562 cells decreased endogenous microRNA-210 and increased raptor mRNA and protein expression. Finally, (iii) treatment of K562 cells with premicroRNA-210 led to a decrease of raptor mRNA and protein. In conclusion, microRNA-210 and raptor are involved in mithramycin-mediated erythroid differentiation of K562 cells and participate to the fine-tuning and control of γ-globin gene expression in erythroid precursor cells.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0121567
PMCID: PMC4388523  PMID: 25849663
4.  Erythroid induction of K562 cells treated with mithramycin is associated with inhibition of raptor gene transcription and mammalian target of rapamycin complex 1 (mTORC1) functions 
Pharmacological Research  2015;91:57-68.
Graphical abstract
Rapamycin, an inhibitor of mTOR activity, is a potent inducer of erythroid differentiation and fetal hemoglobin production in β-thalassemic patients. Mithramycin (MTH) was studied to see if this inducer of K562 differentiation also operates through inhibition of mTOR. We can conclude from the study that the mTOR pathway is among the major transcript classes affected by mithramycin-treatment in K562 cells and a sharp decrease of raptor protein production and p70S6 kinase is detectable in mithramycin treated K562 cells. The promoter sequence of the raptor gene contains several Sp1 binding sites which may explain its mechanism of action. We hypothesize that the G + C-selective DNA-binding drug mithramycin is able to interact with these sequences and to inhibit the binding of Sp1 to the raptor promoter due to the following results: (a) MTH strongly inhibits the interactions between Sp1 and Sp1-binding sites of the raptor promoter (studied by electrophoretic mobility shift assays, EMSA); (b) MTH strongly reduces the recruitment of Sp1 transcription factor to the raptor promoter in intact K562 cells (studied by chromatin immunoprecipitation experiments, ChIP); (c) Sp1 decoy oligonucleotides are able to specifically inhibit raptor mRNA accumulation in K562 cells. In conclusion, raptor gene expression is involved in mithramycin-mediated induction of erythroid differentiation of K562 cells and one of its mechanism of action is the inhibition of Sp1 binding to the raptor promoter.
doi:10.1016/j.phrs.2014.11.005
PMCID: PMC4309890  PMID: 25478892
Raptor, regulatory associated protein of mTOR; Rictor, rapamycin-insensitive companion of mTOR; mTOR, mammalian target of rapamycin; mTORC1, mTOR complex 1; m-TORC2, mTOR complex 2; Sp1, specific protein 1; MTH, mithramycin; RAPA, rapamycin; ChIP, chromatin immunoprecipitation; EMSA, electrophoretic mobility shift assay; FBS, fetal bovine serum; PBS, phosphate-buffered saline; TBS, tris-buffered saline; HbF, fetal hemoglobin; ODN, oligonucleotide; Raptor; mTOR; Sp1; Mithramycin; Erythroid induction; Fetal hemoglobin
5.  Peptide nucleic acids targeting β-globin mRNAs selectively inhibit hemoglobin production in murine erythroleukemia cells 
In the treatment of hemoglobinopathies, amending altered hemoglobins and/or globins produced in excess is an important part of therapeutic strategies and the selective inhibition of globin production may be clinically beneficial. Therefore the development of drug-based methods for the selective inhibition of globin accumulation is required. In this study, we employed peptide nucleic acids (PNAs) to alter globin gene expression. The main conclusion of the present study was that PNAs designed to target adult murine β-globin mRNA inhibit hemoglobin accumulation and erythroid differentiation of murine erythroleukemia (MEL) cells with high efficiency and fair selectivity. No major effects were observed on cell proliferation. Our study supports the concept that PNAs may be used to target mRNAs that, similar to globin mRNAs, are expressed at very high levels in differentiating erythroid cells. Our data suggest that PNAs inhibit the excess production of globins involved in the pathophysiology of hemoglobinopathies.
doi:10.3892/ijmm.2014.2005
PMCID: PMC4249754  PMID: 25405921
peptide nucleic acids; sickle-cell anemia; β-globin; hemoglobin; erythroid differentiation
6.  Targeting pre-miRNA by Peptide Nucleic Acids 
Artificial DNA, PNA & XNA  2012;3(2):88-96.
PNAs conjugated to carrier peptides have been employed for the targeting of miRNA precursor, with the aim to develop molecules able to interfere in the pre-miRNA processing. The capability of the molecules to bind pre-miRNA has been tested in vitro by fluorescence assayes on Thiazole Orange labeled molecules and in vivo, in K562 cells, evaluating the amount of miRNA produced after treatment of cells with two amounts of PNAs.
doi:10.4161/adna.20911
PMCID: PMC3429535  PMID: 22699795
FACS; fluorescence; miR-210; PNA; pre-miR; thiazole orange
7.  Synthesis and Evaluation of Haloacetyl, α-Bromoacryloyl and Nitrooxyacetyl Benzo[b]furan and Benzo[b]thiophene Derivatives as Potent Antiproliferative Agents Against Leukemia L1210 and K562 Cells 
Identification of novel and selective anticancer agents remains an important and challenging goal in pharmacological research. In search of new compounds with strong antiproliferative activity and simple molecular structure, we have synthesized three different series of compounds in which different substituents were linked to the 3-amino position of the 2-(3′, 4′, 5′-trimethoxybenzoyl)-benzo[b]furan or benzo[b]thiophene ring system. These substituents, corresponding to acetyl/haloacetyl, α-bromoacryloyl and nitrooxyacetyl moieties had different electrophilic properties. The benzoheterocycle parent structures were selected because of their reported bioactivities. Compounds bearing a methoxy group at the 6-position of the benzo[b]furan skeleton, were identified as potent antiproliferative agents against the human chronic myelogenous K562 and murine L1210 leukemia cell lines. Comparison of positional isomers indicated that moving the methoxy group from the 6- to the 5- or 7-position yielded inactive compounds. The effects of a selected series of compounds on cell cycle progression correlated well with their strong antiproliferative activity and inhibition of tubulin polymerization. The analysis of structure-activity relationships observed in the series of compounds described here may represent a platform for the design of more active molecules.
PMCID: PMC2911241  PMID: 20676361
Benzo[b]thiophene; Benzo[b]furan; Tumor cell growth; Antiproliferative agents
8.  Discovery of 8-methoxypyrazino[1,2-a]indole as a New Potent Antiproliferative Agent Against Human Leukemia K562 Cells. A Structure-Activity Relationship Study 
Identification of novel and selective anticancer agents remains an important and challenging goal in pharmacological research. The indole nucleus, frequently encountered as a molecular fragment in natural products and pharmaceutically active compounds, was employed as the initial building block for the synthesis of a series of pyrazino[1,2-a]indoles 1a–k, variably substituted at the 6, 7, 8 and 9-positions. Compound 1e, bearing the methoxy group at the 8-position of the pyrazino[1,2-a]indole nucleus was identified as a novel potent antiproliferative agent against the human chronic myelogenous leukemia K562 cell line, but it was much less active against several other cancer cell lines. Comparison of positional isomers indicated that moving the methoxy group from the 8- to the 7- or 6-position, to furnish compounds 1f and 1g, respectively, yielded inactive compounds. The analysis of structure-activity relationships observed in the series of investigated compounds may represent the basis for the design of more active molecules.
doi:10.2174/157018009788452519
PMCID: PMC2744412  PMID: 20161090
Pyrazino[1,2-a]indole; Human leukemia K562 cell line; Anticancer agents
9.  Hybrid α-bromoacryloylamido chalcones. Design, synthesis and biological evaluation 
Research into the anti-tumor properties of chalcones has received significant attention over the last few years Two novel large series of α-bromoacryloylamido chalcones 1a–m and 2a–k containing a pair of Michael acceptors in their structures, corresponding to the α-bromoacryloyl moiety and the α,β-unsaturated ketone system of the chalcone framework, were synthesized and evaluated for antiproliferative activity against five cancer cell lines. Such hybrid derivatives demonstrated significantly increased anti-tumor activity compared with the corresponding amino chalcones. The most promising lead molecules were 1k, 1m and 2j, which had the highest activity toward the five cell lines. Flow cytometry with K562 cells showed that the most active compounds resulted in a large proportion of the cells entering in the apoptotic sub-G0–G1 peak. Moreover, compound 1k induced apoptosis through the mitochondrial pathway and activated caspase-3.
doi:10.1016/j.bmcl.2009.02.038
PMCID: PMC2714055  PMID: 19250822
10.  Identification of candidate epigenetic biomarkers for ovarian cancer detection 
Oncology reports  2009;22(4):853-861.
Ovarian cancer ranks the most lethal among gynecologic neoplasms in women. To develop potential bio-markers for diagnosis, we have identified five novel genes (CYP39A1, GTF2A1, FOXD4L4, EBP, and HAAO) that are hypermethylated in ovarian tumors, compared with the non-malignant normal ovarian surface epithelia, using the quantitative methylation-specific polymerase chain reactions. Interestingly enough, multivariate Cox regression analysis has identified hypermethylation of CYP39A1 correlated with an increase rate of relapsing (P=0.032, hazard ratio >1). Concordant hypermethylation in at least three loci was observed in 50 out of 55 (91%) of ovarian tumors examined. The test sensitivity and specificity were assessed to be 96 and 67% for CYP39A1; 95 and 88% for GTF2A1; 93 and 67% for FOXD4L4; 81 and 67% for EBP; 89 and 82% for HAAO, respectively. Our data have identified, for the first time, GTF2A1 alone, or GTF2A1 plus HAAO are excellent candidate biomarkers for detecting this disease. Moreover, the known functions of these gene products further implicate dys-regulated transcriptional control, cholesterol metabolism, or synthesis of quinolinic acids, may play important roles in attributing to ovarian neoplasm. Molecular therapies, by reversing the aberrant epigenomes using inhibitory agents or by abrogating the upstream signaling pathways that convey the epigenomic perturbations, may be developed into promising treatment regimens.
PMCID: PMC2829240  PMID: 19724865
ovarian cancer; epigenetics; DNA methylation; biomarkers; quantitative methylation-specific polymerase chain reaction
11.  UCbase & miRfunc: a database of ultraconserved sequences and microRNA function 
Nucleic Acids Research  2008;37(Database issue):D41-D48.
Four hundred and eighty-one ultraconserved sequences (UCRs) longer than 200 bases were discovered in the genomes of human, mouse and rat. These are DNA sequences showing 100% identity among the three species. UCRs are frequently located at genomic regions involved in cancer, differentially expressed in human leukemias and carcinomas and in some instances regulated by microRNAs (miRNAs). Here we present UCbase & miRfunc, the first database which provides ultraconserved sequences data and shows miRNA function. Also, it links UCRs and miRNAs with the related human disorders and genomic properties. The current release contains over 2000 sequences from three species (human, mouse and rat). As a web application, UCbase & miRfunc is platform independent and it is accessible at http://microrna.osu.edu/.UCbase4.
doi:10.1093/nar/gkn702
PMCID: PMC2686429  PMID: 18945703
12.  Docking of molecules identified in bioactive medicinal plants extracts into the p50 NF-kappaB transcription factor: correlation with inhibition of NF-kappaB/DNA interactions and inhibitory effects on IL-8 gene expression 
Background
The transcription factor NF-kappaB is a very interesting target molecule for the design on anti-tumor, anti-inflammatory and pro-apoptotic drugs. However, the application of the widely-used molecular docking computational method for the virtual screening of chemical libraries on NF-kappaB is not yet reported in literature. Docking studies on a dataset of 27 molecules from extracts of two different medicinal plants to NF-kappaB-p50 were performed with the purpose of developing a docking protocol fit for the target under study.
Results
We enhanced the simple docking procedure by means of a sort of combined target- and ligand-based drug design approach. Advantages of this combination strategy, based on a similarity parameter for the identification of weak binding chemical entities, are illustrated in this work with the discovery of a new lead compound for NF-kappaB. Further biochemical analyses based on EMSA were performed and biological effects were tested on the compound exhibiting the best docking score. All experimental analysis were in fairly good agreement with molecular modeling findings.
Conclusion
The results obtained sustain the concept that the docking performance is predictive of a biochemical activity. In this respect, this paper represents the first example of successfully individuation through molecular docking simulations of a promising lead compound for the inhibition of NF-kappaB-p50 biological activity and modulation of the expression of the NF-kB regulated IL8 gene.
doi:10.1186/1472-6807-8-38
PMCID: PMC2543017  PMID: 18768082
13.  Cellular Uptakes, Biostabilities and Anti-miR-210 Activities of Chiral Arginine-PNAs in Leukaemic K562 Cells 
Chembiochem  2012;13(9):1327-1337.
A series of 18-mer peptide nucleic acids (PNAs) targeted against micro-RNA miR-210 was synthesised and tested in a cellular system. Unmodified PNAs, R8-conjugated PNAs and modified PNAs containing eight arginine residues on the backbone, either as C2-modified (R) or C5-modified (S) monomers, all with the same sequence, were compared. Two different models were used for the modified PNAs: one with alternated chiral and achiral monomers and one with a stretch of chiral monomers at the N terminus. The melting temperatures of these derivatives were found to be extremely high and 5 m urea was used to assess differences between the different structures. FACS analysis and qRT-PCR on K562 chronic myelogenous leukaemic cells indicated that arginine-conjugated and backbone-modified PNAs display good cellular uptake, with best performances for the C2-modified series. Resistance to enzymatic degradation was found to be higher for the backbone-modified PNAs, thus enhancing the advantage of using these derivatives rather than conjugated PNAs in the cells in serum, and this effect is magnified in the presence of peptidases such as trypsin. Inhibition of miR-210 activity led to changes in the erythroid differentiation pathway, which were more evident in mithramycin-treated cells. Interestingly, the anti-miR activities differed with use of different PNAs, thus suggesting a role of the substituents not only in the cellular uptake, but also in the mechanism of miR recognition and inactivation. This is the first report relating to the use of backbone-modified PNAs as anti-miR agents. The results clearly indicate that backbone-modified PNAs are good candidates for the development of very efficient drugs based on anti-miR activity, due to their enhanced bioavailabilities, and that overall anti-miR performance is a combination of cellular uptake and RNA binding.
doi:10.1002/cbic.201100745
PMCID: PMC3401907  PMID: 22639449
cell permeation; cellular differentiation; chiral PNA; microRNA; peptide nucleic acids; RNA

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