Shwachman-Diamond syndrome (SDS) is an inherited disease caused by mutations of a gene encoding for SBDS protein. So far little is known about SBDS exact function. SDS patients present several hematological disorders, including neutropenia and myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS), with increased risk of leukemic evolution. So far, the molecular mechanisms that underlie neutropenia, MDS and AML in SDS patients have been poorly investigated. STAT3 is a key regulator of several cellular processes including survival, differentiation and malignant transformation. Moreover, STAT3 has been reported to regulate neutrophil granulogenesis and to induce several kinds of leukemia and lymphoma. STAT3 activation is known to be regulated by mTOR, which in turn plays an important role in cellular growth and tumorigenesis. Here we show for the first time, to the best of our knowledge, that both EBV-immortalized B cells and primary leukocytes obtained from SDS patients present a constitutive hyper-activation of mTOR and STAT3 pathways. Interestingly, loss of SBDS expression is associated with this process. Importantly, rapamycin, a well-known mTOR inhibitor, is able to reduce STAT3 phosphorylation to basal levels in our experimental model. A novel therapeutic hypothesis targeting mTOR/STAT3 should represent a significant step forward into the SDS clinical practice.
Cellular biobanking is a key resource for collaborative networks planning to use same cells in studies aimed at solving a variety of biological and biomedical issues. This approach is of great importance in studies on β-thalassemia, since the recruitment of patients and collection of specimens can represent a crucial and often limiting factor in the experimental planning.
Erythroid precursor cells were obtained from 72 patients, mostly β-thalassemic, expanded and cryopreserved. Expression of globin genes was analyzed by real time RT-qPCR. Hemoglobin production was studied by HPLC.
In this paper we describe the production and validation of a Thal-Biobank constituted by expanded erythroid precursor cells from β-thalassemia patients. The biobanked samples were validated for maintenance of their phenotype after (a) cell isolation from same patients during independent phlebotomies, (b) freezing step in different biobanked cryovials, (c) thawing step and analysis at different time points. Reproducibility was confirmed by shipping the frozen biobanked cells to different laboratories, where the cells were thawed, cultured and analyzed using the same standardized procedures. The biobanked cells were stratified on the basis of their baseline level of fetal hemoglobin production and exposed to fetal hemoglobin inducers.
The use of biobanked cells allows stratification of the patients with respect to fetal hemoglobin production and can be used for determining the response to the fetal hemoglobin inducer hydroxyurea and to gene therapy protocols with reproducible results.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s12967-016-1016-4) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
Thalassemia; Biobanking; HbF induction; Gene therapy
The levels of expression of O6-methylguanine-DNA methyltransferase (MGMT) are relevant in predicting the response to the alkylating chemotherapy in patients affected by glioblastoma. MGMT promoter methylation and the published MGMT regulating microRNAs (miRNAs) do not completely explain the expression pattern of MGMT in clinical glioblastoma specimens. Here we used a genome-wide microarray-based approach to identify MGMT regulating miRNAs. Our screen unveiled three novel MGMT regulating miRNAs, miR-127-3p, miR-409-3p, and miR-124-3p, in addition to the previously identified miR-181d-5p. Transfection of these three novel miRNAs into the T98G glioblastoma cell line suppressed MGMT mRNA and protein expression. However, their MGMT- suppressive effects are 30–50% relative that seen with miR-181d-5p transfection. In silico analyses of The Cancer Genome Atlas (TCGA) and Chinese Glioma Genome Atlas (CGGA) revealed that miR-181d-5p is the only miRNA that consistently exhibited inverse correlation with MGMT mRNA expression. However, statistical models incorporating both miR-181d-5p and miR-409-3p expression better predict MGMT expression relative to models involving either miRNA alone. Our results confirmed miR-181d-5p as the key MGMT-regulating miRNA. Other MGMT regulating miRNAs, including the miR-409-3p identified in this report, modify the effect of miR-181d-5p on MGMT expression. MGMT expression is, thus, regulated by cooperative interaction between key MGMT-regulating miRNAs.
glioblastoma; MGMT; miR-409-3p; miR-181d-5p
Nonsense mutations generate in-frame stop codons in mRNA leading to a premature arrest of translation. Functional consequences of premature termination codons (PTCs) include the synthesis of truncated proteins with loss of protein function causing severe inherited or acquired diseases. A therapeutic approach has been recently developed that is based on the use of chemical agents with the ability to suppress PTCs (read-through) restoring the synthesis of a functional full-length protein. Research interest for compounds able to induce read-through requires an efficient high throughput large scale screening system. We present a rapid, sensitive and quantitative method based on a dual-fluorescence reporter expressed in the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae to monitor and quantitate read-through at PTCs. We have shown that our novel system works equally well in detecting read-through at all three PTCs UGA, UAG and UAA.
Induction of fetal hemoglobin (HbF) is considered a promising strategy in the treatment of β-thalassemia, in which production of adult hemoglobin (HbA) is impaired by mutations affecting the β-globin gene. Recent results indicate that B-cell lymphoma/leukemia 11A (BCL11A) is a major repressor of γ-globin gene expression. Therefore, disrupting the binding of the BCL11A transcriptional repressor complex to the γ-globin gene promoter provides a novel approach for inducing expression of the γ-globin genes. To develop a cellular screening system for the identification of BCL11A inhibitors, we produced K562 cell clones with integrated copies of a BCL11A-XL expressing vector. We characterized 12 K562 clones expressing different levels of BCL11A-XL and found that a clear inverse relationship does exist between the levels of BCL11A-XL and the extent of hemoglobinization induced by a panel of HbF inducers. Using mithramycin as an inducer, we found that this molecule was the only HbF inducer efficient in rescuing the ability to differentiate along the erythroid program, even in K562 cell clones expressing high levels of BCL11A-XL, suggesting that BCL11A-XL activity is counteracted by mithramycin.
•K562 clones were described with integrated copies of a BCL11A-XL expressing vector.•B-Cell lymphoma/leukemia 11A-XL (BCL11A-XL) levels inversely correlate with the extent of hemoglobin induction.•Mithramycin induces γ-globin genes even in K562 clones expressing high levels of BCL11A-XL.•K562(BCL11A-XL) clones might be useful in identifying fetal hemoglobin inducers acting on BCL11A.
Different strategies have been proposed to target neoangiogenesis in gliomas, besides those targeting Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor (VEGF). The chemokine Interleukin-8 (IL-8) has been shown to possess both tumorigenic and proangiogenic properties. Although different pathways of induction of IL-8 gene expression have been already elucidated, few data are available on its post-transcriptional regulation in gliomas.
Here we investigated the role of the microRNA miR-93 on the expression levels of IL-8 and other pro-inflammatory genes by RT-qPCR and Bio-Plex analysis. We used different disease model systems, including clinical samples from glioma patients and two glioma cell lines, U251 and T98G.
IL-8 and VEGF transcripts are highly expressed in low and high grade gliomas in respect to reference healthy brain; miR-93 expression is also increased and inversely correlated with transcription of IL-8 and VEGF genes. Computational analysis showed the presence of miR-93 consensus sequences in the 3′UTR region of both VEGF and IL-8 mRNAs, predicting possible interaction with miR-93 and suggesting a potential regulatory role of this microRNA. In vitro transfection with pre-miR-93 and antagomiR-93 inversely modulated VEGF and IL-8 gene expression and protein release when the glioma cell line U251 was considered. Similar data were obtained on IL-8 gene regulation in the other glioma cell line analyzed, T98G. The effect of pre-miR-93 and antagomiR-93 in U251 cells has been extended to the secretion of a panel of cytokines, chemokines and growth factors, which consolidated the concept of a role of miR-93 in IL-8 and VEGF gene expression and evidenced a potential regulatory role also for MCP-1 and PDGF (also involved in angiogenesis).
In conclusion, our results suggest an increasing role of miR-93 in regulating the level of expression of several genes involved in the angiogenesis of gliomas.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s12885-015-1659-1) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
microRNA; IL-8 mRNA; Glioma
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.
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.
The β-thalassemias are a group of hereditary hematological diseases caused by over 300 mutations of the adult β-globin gene. Together with sickle cell anemia, thalassemia syndromes are among the most impactful diseases in developing countries, in which the lack of genetic counseling and prenatal diagnosis have contributed to the maintenance of a very high frequency of these genetic diseases in the population. Gene therapy for β-thalassemia has recently seen steadily accelerating progress and has reached a crossroads in its development. Presently, data from past and ongoing clinical trials guide the design of further clinical and preclinical studies based on gene augmentation, while fundamental insights into globin switching and new technology developments have inspired the investigation of novel gene-therapy approaches. Moreover, human erythropoietic stem cells from β-thalassemia patients have been the cellular targets of choice to date whereas future gene-therapy studies might increasingly draw on induced pluripotent stem cells. Herein, we summarize the most significant developments in β-thalassemia gene therapy over the last decade, with a strong emphasis on the most recent findings, for β-thalassemia model systems; for β-, γ-, and anti-sickling β-globin gene addition and combinatorial approaches including the latest results of clinical trials; and for novel approaches, such as transgene-mediated activation of γ-globin and genome editing using designer nucleases.
Thalassemia; gene therapy; HbF induction; transcription factors; induced pluripotent stem cells; genome editing; TALEN; CRISPR; ZFN
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.
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
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.
peptide nucleic acids; sickle-cell anemia; β-globin; hemoglobin; erythroid differentiation
Nonsense mutations, giving rise to UAA, UGA and UAG stop codons within the coding region of mRNAs, promote premature translational termination and are the leading cause of approx. 30 % of inherited diseases, including cystic fibrosis, Duchenne muscular dystrophy and thalassaemia. For instance, in β039-thalassaemia the CAG (glutamine) codon is mutated to the UAG stop codon, leading to premature translation termination and to mRNA destabilization through the well-described NMD (nonsense-mediated mRNA decay). In order to develop an approach facilitating translation and, therefore, protection from NMD, aminoglycoside antibiotics have been tested on mRNAs carrying premature stop codons. These drugs decrease the accuracy in the codon–anticodon base-pairing, inducing a ribosomal read-through of the premature termination codons. Interestingly, recent papers have described drugs designed and produced for suppressing premature translational termination, inducing a ribosomal read-through of premature but not normal termination codons. These findings have introduced new hopes for the development of a pharmacological approach to the therapy of β039-thalassaemia. In this context, we started the development of a cellular model of the β039-thalassaemia mutation that could be used for the screening of a high number of aminoglycosides and analogous molecules. To this aim, we produced a lentiviral construct containing the β039-thalassaemia globin gene under a minimal LCR (locus control region) control and used this construct for the transduction of K562 cells, subsequently subcloned, with the purpose to obtain several K562 clones with different integration copies of the construct. These clones were then treated with Geneticin (also known as G418) and other aminoglycosides and the production of β-globin was analysed by FACS analysis. The results obtained suggest that this experimental system is suitable for the characterization of correction of the β039-globin mutation causing β-thalassaemia.
aminoglycoside antibiotics; K562 cell; locus control region; nonsense mutation; thalassaemia
In several types of thalassemia (including β039-thalassemia), stop codon mutations lead to premature translation termination and to mRNA destabilization through nonsense-mediated decay. Drugs (for instance aminoglycosides) can be designed to suppress premature termination, inducing a ribosomal readthrough. These findings have introduced new hopes for the development of a pharmacologic approach to the cure of this disease. However, the effects of aminoglycosides on globin mRNA carrying β-thalassemia stop mutations have not yet been investigated. In this study, we have used a lentiviral construct containing the β039- thalassemia globin gene under control of the β-globin promoter and a LCR cassette. We demonstrated by fluorescence-activated cell sorting (FACS) analysis the production of β-globin by K562 cell clones expressing the β039-thalassemia globin gene and treated with G418. More importantly, after FACS and high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) analyses, erythroid precursor cells from β039-thalassemia patients were demonstrated to be able to produce β-globin and adult hemoglobin after treatment with G418. This study strongly suggests that ribosomal readthrough should be considered a strategy for developing experimental strategies for the treatment of β0-thalassemia caused by stop codon mutations.
One of the clinical features of cystic fibrosis (CF) is a deep inflammatory process, which is characterized by production and release of cytokines and chemokines, among which interleukin 8 (IL-8) represents one of the most important. Accordingly, there is a growing interest in developing therapies against CF to reduce the excessive inflammatory response in the airways of CF patients. Since transcription factor NF-kappaB plays a critical role in IL-8 expression, the transcription factor decoy (TFD) strategy might be of interest. In order to demonstrate that TFD against NF-kappaB interferes with the NF-kappaB pathway we proved, by chromatin immunoprecipitation (ChIP) that treatment with TFD oligodeoxyribonucleotides of cystic fibrosis IB3–1 cells infected with Pseudomonas aeruginosa leads to a decrease occupancy of the Il-8 gene promoter by NF-kappaB factors. In order to develop more stable therapeutic molecules, peptide nucleic acids (PNAs) based agents were considered. In this respect PNA-DNA-PNA (PDP) chimeras are molecules of great interest from several points of view: (1) they can be complexed with liposomes and microspheres; (2) they are resistant to DNases, serum and cytoplasmic extracts; (3) they are potent decoy molecules. By using electrophoretic mobility shift assay and RT-PCR analysis we have demonstrated that (1) the effects of PDP/PDP NF-kappaB decoy chimera on accumulation of pro-inflammatory mRNAs in P.aeruginosa infected IB3–1 cells reproduce that of decoy oligonucleotides; in particular (2) the PDP/PDP chimera is a strong inhibitor of IL-8 gene expression; (3) the effect of PDP/PDP chimeras, unlike those of ODN-based decoys, are observed even in the absence of protection with lipofectamine. These informations are of great impact, in our opinion, for the development of stable molecules to be used in non-viral gene therapy of cystic fibrosis.
NF-kappaB; transcription factor decoy; inflammation; Peptide Nucleic Acids; PNA-DNA chimeras
Alternative splicing of the locus AβH-J-J generates functionally distinct proteins: the enzyme aspartyl (asparaginyl) β-hydroxylase (AAH), truncated homologs of AAH with a role in calcium homeostasis humbug and junctate and a structural protein of the sarcoplasmic reticulum membranes junctin. AAH and humbug are over expressed in a broad range of malignant neoplasms. We have previously reported that this locus contains two promoters, P1 and P2. While AAH and humbug are expressed in most tissues under the regulation of the P1 promoter, AAH, junctin and junctate are predominantly expressed in excitable tissues under the control of the P2 promoter. We previously demonstrated that Sp transcription factors positively regulate the P1 promoter.
In the present study, we extended the functional characterization of the P1 promoter of the AβH-J-J locus. We demonstrated by quantitative Real-time RT-PCR that mRNAs from the P1 promoter are actively transcribed in all the human cell lines analysed. To investigate the transcription mechanism we transiently transfected HeLa cells with sequentially deleted reporter constructs containing different regions of the -661/+81 P1 nucleotide sequence. Our results showed that (i) this promoter fragment is a powerful activator of the reporter gene in HeLa cell line, (ii) the region spanning 512 bp upstream of the transcription start site exhibits maximal level of transcriptional activity, (iii) progressive deletions from -512 gradually reduce reporter expression.
The region responsible for maximal transcription contains an E-box site; we characterized the molecular interactions between USF1/2 with this E-box element by electrophoretic mobility shift assay and supershift analysis. In addition, our USF1 and USF2 chromatin immunoprecipitation results demonstrate that these transcription factors bind the P1 promoter in vivo.
A functional role of USF1/USF2 in upregulating P1-directed transcription was demonstrated by analysis of the effects of (i) in vitro mutagenesis of the P1/E-box binding site, (ii) RNA interference targeting USF1 transcripts.
Our results suggest that USF factors positively regulate the core of P1 promoter, and, together with our previously data, we can conclude that both Sp and USF DNA interaction and transcription activity are involved in the P1 promoter dependent expression of AAH and humbug.
Alternative splicing of the locus AβH-J-J generates three functionally distinct proteins: an enzyme, AβH (aspartyl-β-hydroxylase), a structural protein of the sarcoplasmic reticulum membrane (junctin), and an integral membrane calcium binding protein (junctate). Junctin and junctate are two important proteins involved in calcium regulation in eukaryotic cells. To understand the regulation of these two proteins, we identified and functionally characterized one of the two promoter sequences of the AβH-J-J locus. We demonstrate that the P2 promoter of the AβH-J-J locus contains (i) a minimal sequence localized within a region −159 bp from the transcription initiation site, which is sufficient to activate transcription of both mRNAs; (ii) sequences which bind known transcriptional factors such as those belonging to the myocyte enhancer factor 2 (MEF-2), MEF-3, and NF-κB protein families; and (iii) sequences bound by unknown proteins. The functional characterization of the minimal promoter in C2C12 cells and in the rat soleus muscle in vivo model indicates the existence of cis elements having positive and negative effects on transcription. In addition, our data demonstrate that in striated muscle cells the calcium-dependent transcription factor MEF-2 is crucial for the transcription activity directed by the P2 promoter. The transcription directed by the AβH-J-J P2 promoter is induced by high expression of MEF-2, further stimulated by calcineurin and Ca2+/calmodulin-dependent protein kinase I, and inhibited by histone deacetylase 4.