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1.  Significant overlap between human genome-wide association-study nominated breast cancer risk alleles and rat mammary cancer susceptibility loci 
Human population-based genome-wide association (GWA) studies identify low penetrance breast cancer risk alleles; however, GWA studies alone do not definitively determine causative genes or mechanisms. Stringent genome- wide statistical significance level requirements, set to avoid false-positive associations, yield many false-negative associations. Laboratory rats (Rattus norvegicus) are useful to study many aspects of breast cancer, including genetic susceptibility. Several rat mammary cancer associated loci have been identified using genetic linkage and congenic strain based-approaches. Here, we sought to determine the amount of overlap between GWA study nominated human breast and rat mammary cancer susceptibility loci.
We queried published GWA studies to identify two groups of SNPs, one that reached genome-wide significance and one comprised of SNPs failing a validation step and not reaching genome- wide significance. Human genome locations of these SNPs were compared to known rat mammary carcinoma susceptibility loci to determine if risk alleles existed in both species. Rat genome regions not known to associate with mammary cancer risk were randomly selected as control regions.
Significantly more human breast cancer risk GWA study nominated SNPs mapped at orthologs of rat mammary cancer loci than to regions not known to contain rat mammary cancer loci. The rat genome was useful to predict associations that had met human genome-wide significance criteria and weaker associations that had not.
Integration of human and rat comparative genomics may be useful to parse out false-negative associations in GWA studies of breast cancer risk.
PMCID: PMC4054882  PMID: 24467842
3.  Genetically determined inflammatory-response related cytokine and chemokine transcript profiles between mammary carcinoma resistant and susceptible rat strains 
Cytokine  2012;59(2):223-227.
Multiple human breast and rat mammary carcinoma susceptibility (Mcs) alleles have been identified. Wistar Kyoto (WKY) rats are resistant to developing mammary carcinomas, while Wistar Furth (WF) females are susceptible. Gene transcripts at Mcs5a1, Mcs5a2, and Mcs5c are differentially expressed between resistant WKY and susceptible WF alleles in immune-system tissues. We hypothesized that immune-related gene transcript profiles are genetically determined in mammary carcinoma resistant and susceptible mammary glands. Low-density QPCR arrays were used to compare inflammation related genes between mammary carcinoma resistant WKY and susceptible WF females. Mammary gland gene transcript levels predicted to be different based on arrays were tested in independent samples. In total, twenty females per strain were exposed to 7,12-dimethylbenz(a)anthracene (DMBA) to induce mammary carcinogenesis. Twelve age-matched controls per strain without DMBA were included to determine main effects of DMBA-exposure. Significant (ANOVA P ≤ 0.01) effects of strain on mammary gland transcript level were observed for Cx3cl1, Il11ra, Il4, C3, Ccl20, Ccl11, Itgb2, Cxcl12, and Cxcr7. Significant effects of DMBA-exposure were observed for Cx3cl1, Il11ra, Cxcr4, Il4ra, and Il4. Strain and DMBA-exposure interaction effects were significant for Cx3cl1. Transcript levels of Cxcr7 relative to Cxcr4 were modified differently by DMBA in mammary carcinoma resistant and susceptible strains. In conclusion, several genetically-determined differences in cytokine, chemokine, and receptor gene transcript levels were identified between mammary carcinoma susceptible and resistant mammary glands, which may be indicative of cell populations and activities that suppress mammary carcinogenesis in resistant genotypes.
PMCID: PMC3377790  PMID: 22609213
breast cancer susceptibility; rat mammary carcinogenesis; inflammation; Ccl20; Cxcr7
4.  The inhibitory effect of rapamycin on the oval cell response and development of preneoplastic foci in the rat 
Oval cell activation occurs under conditions of severe liver injury when normal hepatocyte proliferation is blocked. Recent studies have shown that a subset of hepatocellular carcinomas expresses oval cell markers, suggesting that these cells are targets of hepatocarcinogens. However, the signaling pathways that control oval cell activation and proliferation are not well characterized. Based on the role of the nutrient signaling kinase complex, mTORC1, in liver development, we investigated the role of this pathway in oval cell activation. Oval cell proliferation was induced in male Fisher rats by a modification of the traditional choline deficient plus ethionine model (CDE) or by 2-acetylaminoflourene treatment followed by 2/3 partial hepatectomy with or without initiation by diethylnitrosamine. To assess the role of mTOR in the oval cell response and development of preneoplastic foci, the effect of the mTORC1 inhibitor, rapamycin, was studied in all models. Rapamycin induced a significant suppression of the oval cell response in both models, an effect that coincided with a decrease in oval cell proliferation. Rapamycin administration did not affect the abundance of neutrophils or natural killer cells in CDE-treated liver or the expression of key cytokines. Gene expression studies revealed the fetal hepatocyte marker MKP-4 to be expressed in oval cells. In an experimental model of hepatic carcinogenesis, rapamycin decreased the size of preneoplastic foci and the rate of cell proliferation within the foci. mTORC1 signaling plays a key role in the oval cell response and in the development of preneoplastic foci. This pathway may be a target for the chemoprevention of hepatocellular carcinoma.
PMCID: PMC3612884  PMID: 22525806
Hepatic progenitor cells; Liver regeneration; Liver injury; mTOR; Hepatocellular carcinoma
5.  Managing diversity: Domestication and gene flow in Stenocereus stellatus Riccob. (Cactaceae) in Mexico 
Ecology and Evolution  2013;3(5):1340-1355.
Microsatellite markers (N = 5) were developed for analysis of genetic variation in 15 populations of the columnar cactus Stenocereus stellatus, managed under traditional agriculture practices in central Mexico. Microsatellite diversity was analyzed within and among populations, between geographic regions, and among population management types to provide detailed insight into historical gene flow rates and population dynamics associated with domestication. Our results corroborate a greater diversity in populations managed by farmers compared with wild ones (HE = 0.64 vs. 0.55), but with regional variation between populations among regions. Although farmers propagated S. stellatus vegetatively in home gardens to diversify their stock, asexual recruitment also occurred naturally in populations where more marginal conditions have limited sexual recruitment, resulting in lower genetic diversity. Therefore, a clear-cut relationship between the occurrence of asexual recruitment and genetic diversity was not evident. Two managed populations adjacent to towns were identified as major sources of gene movement in each sampled region, with significant migration to distant as well as nearby populations. Coupled with the absence of significant bottlenecks, this suggests a mechanism for promoting genetic diversity in managed populations through long distance gene exchange. Cultivation of S. stellatus in close proximity to wild populations has led to complex patterns of genetic variation across the landscape that reflects the interaction of natural and cultural processes. As molecular markers become available for nontraditional crops and novel analysis techniques allow us to detect and evaluate patterns of genetic diversity, genetic studies provide valuable insights into managing crop genetic resources into the future against a backdrop of global change. Traditional agriculture systems play an important role in maintaining genetic diversity for plant species.
PMCID: PMC3678488  PMID: 23762520
Cactus; domestication; gene flow; microsatellite; population bottleneck; Stenocereus
6.  The physiology and pathophysiology of rapamycin resistance 
Cell Cycle  2011;10(7):1050-1058.
Rapamycin is an inhibitor of the mammalian Target of Rapamycin, mTOR, a nutrient-sensing signaling kinase and a key regulator of cell growth and proliferation. While rapamycin and related compounds have anti-tumor activity, a prevalent characteristic of cancer cells is resistance to their anti-proliferative effects. Our studies on nutrient regulation of fetal development showed that hepatocyte proliferation in the late gestation fetal rat is resistant to rapamycin. Extension of these studies to other tissues in the fetal and neonatal rat indicated that rapamycin resistance is a characteristic of normal cell proliferation in the growing organism. In hepatic cells, ribosomal biogenesis and cap-dependent protein translation were found to be relatively insensitive to the drug even though mTOR signaling was highly sensitive. Cell cycle progression was also resistant at the level of cyclin E-dependent kinase activity. Studies on the effect of rapamycin on gene expression in vitro and in vivo demonstrated that mTOR-mediated regulation of gene expression is independent of effects on cell proliferation and cannot be accounted for by functional regulation of identifiable transcription factors. Genes involved in cell metabolism were overrepresented among rapamycin-sensitive genes. We conclude that normal cellular proliferation in the context of a developing organism can be independent of mTOR signaling, that cyclin E-containing complexes are a critical locus for rapamycin sensitivity, and that mTOR functions as a modulator of metabolic gene expression in cells that are resistant to the anti-proliferative effects of the drug.
PMCID: PMC3100882  PMID: 21389767
mTOR; mammalian target of rapamycin; cell cycle; translation control; gene expression; cell signaling; protein phosphorylation
7.  Postnatal liver growth and regeneration are independent of c-myc in a mouse model of conditional hepatic c-myc deletion 
BMC Physiology  2012;12:1.
The transcription factor c-myc regulates genes involved in hepatocyte growth, proliferation, metabolism, and differentiation. It has also been assigned roles in liver development and regeneration. In previous studies, we made the unexpected observation that c-Myc protein levels were similar in proliferating fetal liver and quiescent adult liver with c-Myc displaying nucleolar localization in the latter. In order to investigate the functional role of c-Myc in adult liver, we have developed a hepatocyte-specific c-myc knockout mouse, c-mycfl/fl;Alb-Cre.
Liver weight to body weight ratios were similar in control and c-myc deficient mice. Liver architecture was unaffected. Conditional c-myc deletion did not result in compensatory induction of other myc family members or in c-Myc's binding partner Max. Floxed c-myc did have a negative effect on Alb-Cre expression at 4 weeks of age. To explore this relationship further, we used the Rosa26 reporter line to assay Cre activity in the c-myc floxed mice. No significant difference in Alb-Cre activity was found between control and c-mycfl/fl mice. c-myc deficient mice were studied in a nonproliferative model of liver growth, fasting for 48 hr followed by a 24 hr refeeding period. Fasting resulted in a decrease in liver mass and liver protein, both of which recovered upon 24 h of refeeding in the c-mycfl/fl;Alb-Cre animals. There was also no effect of reducing c-myc on recovery of liver mass following 2/3 partial hepatectomy.
c-Myc appears to be dispensable for normal liver growth during the postnatal period, restoration of liver mass following partial hepatectomy and recovery from fasting.
PMCID: PMC3353165  PMID: 22397685
8.  Development and characterization of microsatellite markers in Sarracenia L. (pitcher plant) species 
Sarracenia species (pitcher plants) are carnivorous plants which obtain a portion of their nutrients from insects captured in the pitchers. Sarracenia species naturally hybridize with each other, and hybrid swarms have been identified. A number of the taxa within the genus are considered endangered. In order to facilitate evolutionary, ecological and conservation genetic analyses within the genus, we developed 25 microsatellite loci which show variability either within species or between species. Three S. purpurea populations were examined with 10 primer sets which showed within population variability.
PMCID: PMC3002254  PMID: 21170168
Sarracenia; Carnivorous plants; Microsatellite loci; Hybridization; Genetic diversity
9.  Physical Confirmation and Mapping of Overlapping Rat Mammary Carcinoma Susceptibility QTLs, Mcs2 and Mcs6 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(5):e19891.
Only a portion of the estimated heritability of breast cancer susceptibility has been explained by individual loci. Comparative genetic approaches that first use an experimental organism to map susceptibility QTLs are unbiased methods to identify human orthologs to target in human population-based genetic association studies. Here, overlapping rat mammary carcinoma susceptibility (Mcs) predicted QTLs, Mcs6 and Mcs2, were physically confirmed and mapped to identify the human orthologous region. To physically confirm Mcs6 and Mcs2, congenic lines were established using the Wistar-Furth (WF) rat strain, which is susceptible to developing mammary carcinomas, as the recipient (genetic background) and either Wistar-Kyoto (WKy, Mcs6) or Copenhagen (COP, Mcs2), which are resistant, as donor strains. By comparing Mcs phenotypes of WF.WKy congenic lines with distinct segments of WKy chromosome 7 we physically confirmed and mapped Mcs6 to ∼33 Mb between markers D7Rat171 and gUwm64-3. The predicted Mcs2 QTL was also physically confirmed using segments of COP chromosome 7 introgressed into a susceptible WF background. The Mcs6 and Mcs2 overlapping genomic regions contain multiple annotated genes, but none have a clear or well established link to breast cancer susceptibility. Igf1 and Socs2 are two of multiple potential candidate genes in Mcs6. The human genomic region orthologous to rat Mcs6 is on chromosome 12 from base positions 71,270,266 to 105,502,699. This region has not shown a genome-wide significant association to breast cancer risk in pun studies of breast cancer susceptibility.
PMCID: PMC3097214  PMID: 21625632
10.  Regulation of Gene Expression in Hepatic Cells by the Mammalian Target of Rapamycin (mTOR) 
PLoS ONE  2010;5(2):e9084.
We investigated mTOR regulation of gene expression by studying rapamycin effect in two hepatic cell lines, the non-tumorigenic WB-F344 cells and the tumorigenic WB311 cells. The latter are resistant to the growth inhibitory effects of rapamycin, thus providing us with an opportunity to study the gene expression effects of rapamycin without confounding effects on cell proliferation.
Methodology/Principal Findings
The hepatic cells were exposed to rapamycin for 24 hr. Microarray analysis on total RNA preparations identified genes that were affected by rapamycin in both cell lines and, therefore, modulated independent of growth arrest. Further studies showed that the promoter regions of these genes included E-box-containing transcription factor binding sites at higher than expected rates. Based on this, we tested the hypothesis that c-Myc is involved in regulation of gene expression by mTOR by comparing genes altered by rapamycin in the hepatic cells and by c-Myc induction in fibroblasts engineered to express c-myc in an inducible manner. Results showed enrichment for c-Myc targets among rapamycin sensitive genes in both hepatic cell lines. However, microarray analyses on wild type and c-myc null fibroblasts showed similar rapamycin effect, with the set of rapamycin-sensitive genes being enriched for c-Myc targets in both cases.
There is considerable overlap in the regulation of gene expression by mTOR and c-Myc. However, regulation of gene expression through mTOR is c-Myc-independent and cannot be attributed to the involvement of specific transcription factors regulated by the rapamycin-sensitive mTOR Complex 1.
PMCID: PMC2816708  PMID: 20140209
11.  Rapamycin Response in Tumorigenic and Non-Tumorigenic Hepatic Cell Lines 
PLoS ONE  2009;4(10):e7373.
The mTOR inhibitor rapamycin has anti-tumor activity across a variety of human cancers, including hepatocellular carcinoma. However, resistance to its growth inhibitory effects is common. We hypothesized that hepatic cell lines with varying rapamycin responsiveness would show common characteristics accounting for resistance to the drug.
Methodology/Principal Findings
We profiled a total of 13 cell lines for rapamycin-induced growth inhibition. The non-tumorigenic rat liver epithelial cell line WB-F344 was highly sensitive while the tumorigenic WB311 cell line, originally derived from the WB-F344 line, was highly resistant. The other 11 cell lines showed a wide range of sensitivities. Rapamycin induced inhibition of cyclin E–dependent kinase activity in some cell lines, but the ability to do so did not correlate with sensitivity. Inhibition of cyclin E–dependent kinase activity was related to incorporation of p27Kip1 into cyclin E–containing complexes in some but not all cell lines. Similarly, sensitivity of global protein synthesis to rapamycin did not correlate with its anti-proliferative effect. However, rapamycin potently inhibited phosphorylation of two key substrates, ribosomal protein S6 and 4E-BP1, in all cases, indicating that the locus of rapamycin resistance was downstream from inhibition of mTOR Complex 1. Microarray analysis did not disclose a unifying mechanism for rapamycin resistance, although the glycolytic pathway was downregulated in all four cell lines studied.
We conclude that the mechanisms of rapamycin resistance in hepatic cells involve alterations of signaling downstream from mTOR and that the mechanisms are highly heterogeneous, thus predicting that maintaining or promoting sensitivity will be highly challenging.
PMCID: PMC2756589  PMID: 19816606
12.  The α4-Containing Form of Protein Phosphatase 2A in Liver and Hepatic Cells 
Journal of cellular biochemistry  2008;105(1):290-300.
The Ser/Thr phosphatase PP2A is a set of multisubunit enzymes that regulate many cellular processes. In yeast, the PP2A regulatory subunit Tap42 forms part of the Target of Rapamycin (TOR) signaling pathway that links nutrient and energy availability to cell growth. The physiological intersection between the mammalian orthologs of Tap42 and TOR, α4 and mTOR, has not been fully characterized. We used two in vivo models of liver growth in the rat, late gestation fetal development and regeneration after partial hepatectomy, to explore the regulation of the α4-containing form of PP2A. The α4/PP2A catalytic subunit (α4/PP2A-C) complex was present in both fetal and adult liver extracts. There was a trend towards higher levels of α4 protein in fetal liver, but the complex was more abundant in adult liver. Fractionation of extracts by ion exchange chromatography and transient transfection of the AML12 mouse hepatic cell line indicated that α4 associates with PP2A-C but that these complexes have low catalytic activity with both peptide and protein substrates. α4 was able to associate with forms of PP2A-C that were both methylated and non-methylated at the carboxy-terminus. The mTOR inhibitor rapamycin did not block the formation of α4/PP2A-C in liver or hepatic cells, nor did it appear to modulate PP2A activity. Furthermore, sensitivity to the growth inhibitory effects of rapamycin among a panel of hepatic cell lines did not correlate with levels of α4 or α4/PP2A-C. Our results indicate that the yeast Tap42/TOR paradigm is not conserved in hepatic cells.
PMCID: PMC2597445  PMID: 18543252
Protein phosphorylation; mTOR; rapamycin; regeneration; cell growth

Results 1-12 (12)