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1.  Genetic resistance to JAK2 enzymatic inhibitors is overcome by HSP90 inhibition 
Hsp90 inhibition in B cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia overcomes resistance to JAK2 inhibitors.
Enzymatic inhibitors of Janus kinase 2 (JAK2) are in clinical development for the treatment of myeloproliferative neoplasms (MPNs), B cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia (B-ALL) with rearrangements of the cytokine receptor subunit cytokine receptor–like factor 2 (CRLF2), and other tumors with constitutive JAK2 signaling. In this study, we identify G935R, Y931C, and E864K mutations within the JAK2 kinase domain that confer resistance across a panel of JAK inhibitors, whether present in cis with JAK2 V617F (observed in MPNs) or JAK2 R683G (observed in B-ALL). G935R, Y931C, and E864K do not reduce the sensitivity of JAK2-dependent cells to inhibitors of heat shock protein 90 (HSP90), which promote the degradation of both wild-type and mutant JAK2. HSP90 inhibitors were 100–1,000-fold more potent against CRLF2-rearranged B-ALL cells, which correlated with JAK2 degradation and more extensive blockade of JAK2/STAT5, MAP kinase, and AKT signaling. In addition, the HSP90 inhibitor AUY922 prolonged survival of mice xenografted with primary human CRLF2-rearranged B-ALL further than an enzymatic JAK2 inhibitor. Thus, HSP90 is a promising therapeutic target in JAK2-driven cancers, including those with genetic resistance to JAK enzymatic inhibitors.
PMCID: PMC3280877  PMID: 22271575
2.  Bim and Mcl-1 exert key roles in regulating JAK2V617F cell survival 
BMC Cancer  2011;11:24.
The JAK2V617F mutation plays a major role in the pathogenesis of myeloproliferative neoplasms and is found in the vast majority of patients suffering from polycythemia vera and in roughly every second patient suffering from essential thrombocythemia or from primary myelofibrosis. The V617F mutation is thought to provide hematopoietic stem cells and myeloid progenitors with a survival and proliferation advantage. It has previously been shown that activated JAK2 promotes cell survival by upregulating the anti-apoptotic STAT5 target gene Bcl-xL. In this study, we have investigated the role of additional apoptotic players, the pro-apoptotic protein Bim as well as the anti-apoptotic protein Mcl-1.
Pharmacological inhibition of JAK2/STAT5 signaling in JAK2V617F mutant SET-2 and MB-02 cells was used to study effects on signaling, cell proliferation and apoptosis by Western blot analysis, WST-1 proliferation assays and flow cytometry. Cells were transfected with siRNA oligos to deplete candidate pro- and anti-apoptotic proteins. Co-immunoprecipitation assays were performed to assess the impact of JAK2 inhibition on complexes of pro- and anti-apoptotic proteins.
Treatment of JAK2V617F mutant cell lines with a JAK2 inhibitor was found to trigger Bim activation. Furthermore, Bim depletion by RNAi suppressed JAK2 inhibitor-induced cell death. Bim activation following JAK2 inhibition led to enhanced sequestration of Mcl-1, besides Bcl-xL. Importantly, Mcl-1 depletion by RNAi was sufficient to compromise JAK2V617F mutant cell viability and sensitized the cells to JAK2 inhibition.
We conclude that Bim and Mcl-1 have key opposing roles in regulating JAK2V617F cell survival and propose that inactivation of aberrant JAK2 signaling leads to changes in Bim complexes that trigger cell death. Thus, further preclinical evaluation of combinations of JAK2 inhibitors with Bcl-2 family antagonists that also tackle Mcl-1, besides Bcl-xL, is warranted to assess the therapeutic potential for the treatment of chronic myeloproliferative neoplasms.
PMCID: PMC3037340  PMID: 21247487
3.  The Nuclear Receptor DHR3 Modulates dS6 Kinase–Dependent Growth in Drosophila 
PLoS Genetics  2010;6(5):e1000937.
S6 kinases (S6Ks) act to integrate nutrient and insulin signaling pathways and, as such, function as positive effectors in cell growth and organismal development. However, they also have been shown to play a key role in limiting insulin signaling and in mediating the autophagic response. To identify novel regulators of S6K signaling, we have used a Drosophila-based, sensitized, gain-of-function genetic screen. Unexpectedly, one of the strongest enhancers to emerge from this screen was the nuclear receptor (NR), Drosophila hormone receptor 3 (DHR3), a critical constituent in the coordination of Drosophila metamorphosis. Here we demonstrate that DHR3, through dS6K, also acts to regulate cell-autonomous growth. Moreover, we show that the ligand-binding domain (LBD) of DHR3 is essential for mediating this response. Consistent with these findings, we have identified an endogenous DHR3 isoform that lacks the DBD. These results provide the first molecular link between the dS6K pathway, critical in controlling nutrient-dependent growth, and that of DHR3, a major mediator of ecdysone signaling, which, acting together, coordinate metamorphosis.
Author Summary
In biological systems, the execution of morphogenic programs requires coordinated integration of the essential processes of growth, proliferation, and differentiation. Signaling networks embedded within these processes include the insulin and nutrient pathways required for cell growth and the steroid hormone-regulated pathways that control discrete developmental steps. Although these pathways are known to be integrated and coordinated, the molecular bridges that link them remain to be identified. Taking advantage of Drosophila, we performed a genetic screen for novel regulators of the dS6K, which previously has been identified as a key effector of cell growth downstream of insulin and nutrient signaling. Unexpectedly, we identified the nuclear receptor DHR3, a key regulator of morphogenesis, as a potent modulator of dS6K–mediated cell growth. Nuclear receptors typically comprise a DNA–binding domain and a regulatory ligand-binding domain. Here we show that a DHR3 isoform, devoid of the DNA–binding domain is sufficient to potentiate dS6K–mediated cell growth through its ligand-binding domain. We further demonstrate that, like dS6K, DHR3 regulates cell-autonomous growth. These data provide a unique molecular link between steroid-regulated development and nutrient-dependent growth.
PMCID: PMC2865512  PMID: 20463884
4.  Catalytic inhibition of topoisomerase II by a novel rationally designed ATP-competitive purine analogue 
Topoisomerase II poisons are in clinical use as anti-cancer therapy for decades and work by stabilizing the enzyme-induced DNA breaks. In contrast, catalytic inhibitors block the enzyme before DNA scission. Although several catalytic inhibitors of topoisomerase II have been described, preclinical concepts for exploiting their anti-proliferative activity based on molecular characteristics of the tumor cell have only recently started to emerge. Topoisomerase II is an ATPase and uses the energy derived from ATP hydrolysis to orchestrate the movement of the DNA double strands along the enzyme. Thus, interfering with ATPase function with low molecular weight inhibitors that target the nucleotide binding pocket should profoundly affect cells that are committed to undergo mitosis.
Here we describe the discovery and characterization of a novel purine diamine analogue as a potent ATP-competitive catalytic inhibitor of topoisomerase II. Quinoline aminopurine compound 1 (QAP 1) inhibited topoisomerase II ATPase activity and decatenation reaction at sub-micromolar concentrations, targeted both topoisomerase II alpha and beta in cell free assays and, using a quantitative cell-based assay and a chromosome segregation assay, displayed catalytic enzyme inhibition in cells. In agreement with recent hypothesis, we show that BRCA1 mutant breast cancer cells have increased sensitivity to QAP 1.
The results obtained with QAP 1 demonstrate that potent and selective catalytic inhibition of human topoisomerase II function with an ATP-competitive inhibitor is feasible. Our data suggest that further drug discovery efforts on ATP-competitive catalytic inhibitors are warranted and that such drugs could potentially be developed as anti-cancer therapy for tumors that bear the appropriate combination of molecular alterations.
PMCID: PMC2628638  PMID: 19128485
5.  NVP-AUY922: a small molecule HSP90 inhibitor with potent antitumor activity in preclinical breast cancer models 
Heat shock protein 90 (HSP90) is a key component of a multichaperone complex involved in the post-translational folding of a large number of client proteins, many of which play essential roles in tumorigenesis. HSP90 has emerged in recent years as a promising new target for anticancer therapies.
The concentrations of the HSP90 inhibitor NVP-AUY922 required to reduce cell numbers by 50% (GI50 values) were established in a panel of breast cancer cell lines and patient-derived human breast tumors. To investigate the properties of the compound in vivo, the pharmacokinetic profile, antitumor effect, and dose regimen were established in a BT-474 breast cancer xenograft model. The effect on HSP90-p23 complexes, client protein degradation, and heat shock response was investigated in cell culture and breast cancer xenografts by immunohistochemistry, Western blot analysis, and immunoprecipitation.
We show that the novel small molecule HSP90 inhibitor NVP-AUY922 potently inhibits the proliferation of human breast cancer cell lines with GI50 values in the range of 3 to 126 nM. NVP-AUY922 induced proliferative inhibition concurrent with HSP70 upregulation and client protein depletion – hallmarks of HSP90 inhibition. Intravenous acute administration of NVP-AUY922 to athymic mice (30 mg/kg) bearing subcutaneous BT-474 breast tumors resulted in drug levels in excess of 1,000 times the cellular GI50 value for about 2 days. Significant growth inhibition and good tolerability were observed when the compound was administered once per week. Therapeutic effects were concordant with changes in pharmacodynamic markers, including HSP90-p23 dissociation, decreases in ERBB2 and P-AKT, and increased HSP70 protein levels.
NVP-AUY922 is a potent small molecule HSP90 inhibitor showing significant activity against breast cancer cells in cellular and in vivo settings. On the basis of its mechanism of action, preclinical activity profile, tolerability, and pharmaceutical properties, the compound recently has entered clinical phase I breast cancer trials.
PMCID: PMC2397535  PMID: 18430202
6.  The Drosophila Forkhead transcription factor FOXO mediates the reduction in cell number associated with reduced insulin signaling 
Journal of Biology  2003;2(3):20.
Forkhead transcription factors belonging to the FOXO subfamily are negatively regulated by protein kinase B (PKB) in response to signaling by insulin and insulin-like growth factor in Caenorhabditis elegans and mammals. In Drosophila, the insulin-signaling pathway regulates the size of cells, organs, and the entire body in response to nutrient availability, by controlling both cell size and cell number. In this study, we present a genetic characterization of dFOXO, the only Drosophila FOXO ortholog.
Ectopic expression of dFOXO and human FOXO3a induced organ-size reduction and cell death in a manner dependent on phosphoinositide (PI) 3-kinase and nutrient levels. Surprisingly, flies homozygous for dFOXO null alleles are viable and of normal size. They are, however, more sensitive to oxidative stress. Furthermore, dFOXO function is required for growth inhibition associated with reduced insulin signaling. Loss of dFOXO suppresses the reduction in cell number but not the cell-size reduction elicited by mutations in the insulin-signaling pathway. By microarray analysis and subsequent genetic validation, we have identified d4E-BP, which encodes a translation inhibitor, as a relevant dFOXO target gene.
Our results show that dFOXO is a crucial mediator of insulin signaling in Drosophila, mediating the reduction in cell number in insulin-signaling mutants. We propose that in response to cellular stresses, such as nutrient deprivation or increased levels of reactive oxygen species, dFOXO is activated and inhibits growth through the action of target genes such as d4E-BP.
PMCID: PMC333403  PMID: 12908874

Results 1-6 (6)