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1.  CFIm25 links Alternative Polyadenylation to Glioblastoma Tumor Suppression 
Nature  2014;510(7505):412-416.
The global shortening of mRNAs through alternative polyadenylation (APA) that occurs during enhanced cellular proliferation represents an important, yet poorly understood mechanism of regulated gene expression1,2. The 3′UTR truncation of growth promoting mRNA transcripts that relieves intrinsic microRNA- and AU-rich element-mediated repression has been observed to correlate with cellular transformation3; however, the importance to tumorigenicity of RNA 3′ end processing factors that potentially govern APA is unknown. Here, we have identified CFIm25 as a broad repressor of proximal poly(A) site usage that, when depleted, increases cell proliferation. Applying a regression model on standard RNA-seq data for novel APA events, we identified at least 1,450 genes with shortened 3′UTRs after CFIm25 knockdown, representing 11% of significantly expressed mRNA in HeLa cells. Dramatic increases in expression of several known oncogenes including Cyclin D1 are observed as a consequence of CFIm25 depletion. Importantly, we identified a subset of CFIm25-regulated APA genes with shortened 3′UTRs in glioblastoma (GBM) tumors that have reduced CFIm25 expression. Downregulation of CFIm25 expression in glioblastoma cells enhances their tumorigenic properties and increases tumor size while CFIm25 overexpression reduces these properties and inhibits tumor growth. These findings identify a pivotal role of the CFIm25 in governing APA and reveal a previously unknown connection between CFIm25 and glioblastoma tumorigenicity.
PMCID: PMC4128630  PMID: 24814343
2.  Profilin-1 suppresses tumorigenicity in pancreatic cancer through regulation of the SIRT3-HIF1α axis 
Molecular Cancer  2014;13(1):187.
Tumor cells exhibit abnormal actin remodeling profiles, which involve the altered expressions of several important actin-binding proteins. Profilin1 (Pfn1), originally identified as an actin-associated protein, has been linked to several human malignancies. Our recent studies suggested that Pfn1 facilitates apoptosis in pancreatic cancer cells. Here, we investigated the exact role of Profilin1 (Pfn1) in pancreatic adenocarcinoma (PDAC) and the underlying mechanisms.
Pfn1 protein expression in PDAC specimens was analyzed by immunohistochemistry using a tissue microarray (TMA) containing PDAC tumor tissue and corresponding normal tissue samples from 72 patients. The effect of Pfn1 expression on cancer proliferation was assessed in cells by up- and down-regulation of Pfn1 in vitro and in vivo. Immunoprecipitation and mass spectrometry were used to identify the Pfn1-associated proteins and potential pathways.
Pfn1 was downregulated in clinical pancreatic adenocarcinoma specimens compared with the surrounding benign tissues. Univariate survival analysis of the PDAC cohorts showed that low expression of Pfn1 was significantly correlated with shortened patient survival (mean 14.2 months versus 20.9 months, P < 0.05). Restoration of Pfn1 in pancreatic cancer cells with low endogenous Pfn1 expression resulted in a nontumorigenic phenotype, suggesting that Pfn1 may be a negative regulator of pancreatic cancer progression. Overexpression of Pfn1 in vivo decreased the tumor volume in orthotopic xenograft nude mice models. Pfn1 upregulated the expression of SIRT3, leading to HIF1α destabilization. This data revealed that aberrant Pfn1 expression contributes to pancreatic cancer progression.
Our data suggest that Pfn1 is a tumor suppressor in pancreatic cancer that acts via a novel mechanism of regulating the SIRT3-HIF1α axis, independently of its cytoskeleton-related activity.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/1476-4598-13-187) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4249601  PMID: 25103363
Pancreatic cancer; Profilin1; SIRT3; HIF1α
3.  ZIP4 is a novel molecular marker for glioma 
Neuro-Oncology  2013;15(8):1008-1016.
Dysregulated zinc transport has been observed in many cancers. However, the status of zinc homeostasis and the expression profile of zinc transporters in brain and brain tumors have not been reported.
The gene profiles of 14 zinc importers (ZIPs) and 10 zinc exporters (ZnTs) in patients with glioma were studied by investigating the association between the zinc transporters and brain tumor characteristics (tumor grade and overall survival time). Three independent cohorts were analyzed to cross-validate the findings: the Chinese Glioma Genome Atlas (CGCA) cohort (n = 186), the US National Cancer Institute Repository for Molecular Brain Neoplasia Data (REMBRANDT) cohort (n = 335), and The University of Texas (UT) cohort (n = 34).
The expression of ZIP3, 4, 8, 14, ZnT5, 6, and 7 were increased, and the expression of ZnT10 was decreased in grade IV gliomas, compared with grade II gliomas. Among all 24 zinc transporters, ZIP4 is most significantly associated with tumor grade and overall survival; this finding is consistent across 2 independent cohorts (CGCA and REMBRANDT) and is partially validated by the third cohort (UT). High ZIP4 expression was significantly associated with higher grade of gliomas and shorter overall survival (hazard ratio = 1.61, 95% confidence interval = 1.02–2.53, P = .040 in CGCA cohort; hazard ratio = 1.32, 95% confidence interval = 1.08–1.61, P = .007 in REMBRANDT cohort).
Dysregulated expression of zinc transporters is involved in the progression of gliomas. Our results suggest that ZIP4 may serve as a potential diagnostic and prognostic marker for gliomas.
PMCID: PMC3714151  PMID: 23595627
biomarker; brain tumor; prognosis; survival; zinc transporter; ZIP4
4.  Vertebrate Animal Models of Glioma: Understanding the Mechanisms and Developing New Therapies 
Biochimica et biophysica acta  2013;1836(1):158-165.
Glioblastoma Multiforme (GBM) is recognized as one of the most deadly cancers characterized by cellular atypia, severe necrosis, and high rate of angiogenesis. In this review, we discuss a diversified group of GBM xenograft models and compare them with the genetically engineered mouse (GEM) model systems. Next, we describe common genetic defects observed in GBM and numerous GEM models that recapitulate these abnormalities. Finally, we focus on the clinical value of other vertebrate animal models such as the canine model by examining their contributions to GBM research.
PMCID: PMC3729034  PMID: 23618720
brain tumor; animal model; tumorigenesis; cancer therapy
5.  CHIP is a novel tumor suppressor in pancreatic cancer and inhibits tumor growth through targeting EGFR 
Oncotarget  2014;5(7):1969-1986.
Carboxyl terminus of heat shock protein 70-interacting protein (CHIP) is an E3 ubiquitin ligase that is involved in protein quality control and mediates several tumor-related proteins in many cancers, but the function of CHIP in pancreatic cancer is not known. Here we show that CHIP interacts and ubiquitinates epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) for proteasome-mediated degradation in pancreatic cancer cells, thereby inhibiting the activation of EGFR downstream pathways. CHIP suppressed cell proliferation, anchor-independent growth, invasion and migration, as well as enhanced apoptosis induced by erlotinib in vitro and in vivo. The expression of CHIP was decreased in pancreatic cancer tissues or sera. Low CHIP expression in tumor tissues was correlated with tumor differentiation and shorter overall survival. These observations indicate that CHIP serves as a novel tumor suppressor by down-regulating EGFR pathway in pancreatic cancer cells, decreased expression of CHIP was associated with poor prognosis in pancreatic cancer.
PMCID: PMC4039121  PMID: 24722501
CHIP; EGFR; pancreatic cancer; ubiquitination
6.  Study Human Pancreatic Cancer in Mice: How Close Are They? 
Biochimica et biophysica acta  2012;1835(1):110-118.
Pancreatic cancer is the fourth leading cause of cancer deaths and is characterized by dismal prognosis. Xenograft and genetically engineered mouse (GEM) models have recapitulated critical elements of human pancreatic cancer, providing useful tools to probe the underlying cause of cancer etiology. In this review, we provide a brief description of the common genetic lesions that occur during the development of pancreatic cancer. Next, we describe the strengths and weaknesses of these two models and highlight key discoveries each has made. Although the relative merits of GEM and xenograft pancreatic cancer mouse models are subject to debate, both systems have and will continue to yield essential insights in understanding pancreatic cancer etiology. This information is critical for the development of new methods to screen, treat, and prevent pancreatic cancer.
PMCID: PMC3538146  PMID: 23147198
pancreatic cancer; animal model; gene function; tumor microenvironment Zhang and Chen contributed equally
7.  Circulating Tumor Cells in the Diagnosis and Management of Pancreatic Cancer 
Biochimica et biophysica acta  2012;1826(12):350-356.
Pancreatic cancers are typically resistant to chemo and radiation therapy and are predisposed to distant metastases. Circulating tumor cells (CTCs) are tumor cells disseminated from primary and metastatic sites and can be isolated from peripheral blood. CTC may overcome the limitation of the current available tumor markers, CA19-9. As a surrogate for ‘real-time biopsy’, CTCs allow recurrent assessment of a tumor’s biological activity. We review the current methodologies for CTCs extraction and characterization including antibody-based immunological assays, PCR-based assays, and novel technologies based on the physical or biological characteristics of CTCs. CTCs also provide an accessible link to the existence of epithelial to mesenchymal transition, tumor stem cell markers, and ongoing clonal mutations and epigenetic changes in the tumor. We also explore the potential of using CTC profiling in diagnosis, selection of neoadjuvant and adjuvant therapy, detection of recurrent disease, examination of pharmacodynamic biomarkers, as well as in gene therapy and immunotherapy for pancreatic cancer. Ongoing CTC characterization not only has the potential to represent all cells shed from primary pancreatic tumor and each metastatic site, but also allows dynamic sampling at multiple time points during the clinical course to identify the subpopulations of CTCs and the specific molecules driving metastasis and chemo resistance. We predict that CTC genotyping and phenotyping will play an increasing role in personalized therapy and in identification of novel therapeutic targets as well as monitoring the course and status of the disease.
PMCID: PMC3443701  PMID: 22683404
circulating tumor cells; pancreatic cancer
8.  Imaging-Guided Curative Surgical Resection of Pancreatic Cancer in a Xenograft Mouse Model 
Cancer letters  2012;324(2):179-185.
Pancreatic cancer is the fourth leading cause of cancer related deaths in North America. The poor survival statistics are due to the fact that there are no reliable tests for early diagnosis and no effective therapies once metastasis has occurred. Surgical resection is the only curative treatment for pancreatic cancer; however, only less than 15% of the patients are eligible for surgery at diagnosis. New therapies are urgently needed for this malignant disease. And combinational therapy including surgery, chemotherapy and molecular targeted therapy may further improve the efficacy of individual therapies. However, a reliable mouse model which mimics the human disease and can be used for testing the surgical treatment and surgery-based combinational therapy is not available. In this study, we have established a mouse model for curative surgical resection of pancreatic cancer. Human pancreatic cancer cells were used to create orthotopic xenografts in nude mice, distal pancreatectomy was performed using imaging-guided technology to remove the pancreatic tumors, and sham surgery was performed in the control group. All mice survived the operation and no complication was observed. Surgical resection at early stage improved the survival rate and quality of life of the mice compared with the sham surgery and surgical resection at the late stage. If combined with other therapies such as chemotherapy and molecular targeted therapy, it could further improve the outcome of pancreatic cancer. This mouse model is a useful tool to study the surgical therapy and the tumor recurrence of pancreatic cancer, and could potentially impact the therapeutic choices for this deadly disease.
PMCID: PMC3411904  PMID: 22617626
surgical resection; imaging; pancreatic cancer; mouse model; distal pancreatectomy; combinational therapy
9.  Deregulated Signaling Pathways in Glioblastoma Multiforme: Molecular Mechanisms and Therapeutic Targets 
Cancer investigation  2012;30(1):48-56.
Glioblastoma multiforme (GBM) is the most malignant and aggressive type of brain tumor with an average life expectancy of less than 15 months. This is mostly due to the highly mutated genome of GBM, which is characterized by the deregulation of many key signaling pathways involving growth, proliferation, survival, and apoptosis. It is critical to explore novel diagnostic and therapeutic strategies that target these pathways to improve the treatment of malignant glioma in the future. This review summarizes the most common and important pathways that are highly mutated or deregulated in GBM and discusses potential therapeutic strategies targeting these pathways.
PMCID: PMC3799884  PMID: 22236189
Signal transduction; Therapy; GBM
10.  A novel epigenetic CREB-miR-373 axis mediates ZIP4-induced pancreatic cancer growth 
EMBO Molecular Medicine  2013;5(9):1322-1334.
Changes in the intracellular levels of the essential micronutrient zinc have been implicated in multiple diseases including pancreatic cancer; however, the molecular mechanism is poorly understood. Here, we report a novel mechanism where increased zinc mediated by the zinc importer ZIP4 transcriptionally induces miR-373 in pancreatic cancer to promote tumour growth. Reporter, expression and chromatin immunoprecipitation assays demonstrate that ZIP4 activates the zinc-dependent transcription factor CREB and requires this transcription factor to increase miR-373 expression through the regulation of its promoter. miR-373 induction is necessary for efficient ZIP4-dependent enhancement of cell proliferation, invasion, and tumour growth. Further analysis of miR-373 in vivo oncogenic function reveals that it is mediated through its negative regulation of TP53INP1, LATS2 and CD44. These results define a novel ZIP4-CREB-miR-373 signalling axis promoting pancreatic cancer growth, providing mechanistic insights explaining in part how a zinc transporter functions in cancer cells and may have broader implications as inappropriate regulation of intracellular zinc levels plays an important role in many other diseases.
PMCID: PMC3799489  PMID: 23857777
microRNA-373; pancreatic cancer; zinc; ZIP4
11.  Pancreatic Cancer Tumor Initiating Cells: the Molecular Regulation and Therapeutic Values 
Pancreatic cancer is an aggressive solid tumor characterized by its local invasion, early metastasis, and resistance to standard chemotherapy or radiation therapy. Tumor initiating cells (TICs) are not only capable of self-renewal and differentiation, but also play an important role in multidrug resistance, and thus become a popular topic in cancer research especially in pancreatic cancer. In this review, we summarize the current progress of TICs in tumorigenesis, various newly identified surface markers of pancreatic TICs, and the signaling pathways such as EMT, SHH and Notch that regulate TICs. We also discuss the role which microRNA plays in TICs as well as its application in TICs-targeted therapy along with other approaches.
PMCID: PMC3298733  PMID: 22050663
tumor initiating cells; microRNA; pancreatic cancer
12.  Overcoming Drug Resistance in Pancreatic Cancer 
Pancreatic cancer has the worst survival rate of all cancers. The current standard care for metastatic pancreatic cancer is gemcitabine, however, the success of this treatment is poor and overall survival has not improved for decades. Drug resistance (both intrinsic and acquired) is thought to be a major reason for the limited benefit of most pancreatic cancer therapies.
Areas covered
Previous studies have indicated various mechanisms of drug resistance in pancreatic cancer, including changes in individual genes or signaling pathways, the influence of the tumor microenvironment, and the presence of highly resistant stem cells. This review summarizes recent advances in the mechanisms of drug resistance in pancreatic cancer, and potential strategies to overcome this.
Expert Opinion
Increasing drug delivery efficiency and decreasing drug resistance is the current aim in pancreatic cancer treatment, and will also benefit the treatment of other cancers. Understanding the molecular and cellular basis of drug resistance in pancreatic cancer will lead to the development of novel therapeutic strategies with the potential to sensitize pancreatic cancer to chemotherapy, and to increase the efficacy of current treatments in a wide variety of human cancers.
PMCID: PMC3111812  PMID: 21391891
Drug resistance; pancreatic cancer
13.  Secretory Leukocyte Protease Inhibitor Plays an Important Role in the Regulation of Allergic Asthma in Mice 
Secretory leukocyte protease inhibitor (SLPI) is an anti-inflammatory protein that is observed at high levels in asthma patients. Resiquimod, a TLR7/8 ligand, is protective against acute and chronic asthma, and it increases SLPI expression of macrophages in vitro. However, the protective role played by SLPI and the interactions between the SLPI and resiquimod pathways in the immune response occurring in allergic asthma have not been fully elucidated. To evaluate the role of SLPI in the development of asthma phenotypes and the effect of resiquimod treatment on SLPI, we assessed airway resistance and inflammatory parameters in the lungs of OVA-induced asthmatic SLPI transgenic and knockout mice and in mice treated with resiquimod. Compared with wild-type mice, allergic SLPI transgenic mice showed a decrease in lung resistance (p < 0.001), airway eosinophilia (p < 0.001), goblet cell hyperplasia (p < 0.001), and plasma IgE levels (p < 0.001). Allergic SLPI knockout mice displayed phenotype changes significantly more severe compared with wild-type mice. These phenotypes included lung resistance (p < 0.001), airway eosinophilia (p < 0.001), goblet cell hyperplasia (p < 0.001), cytokine levels in the lungs (p < 0.05), and plasma IgE levels (p < 0.001). Treatment of asthmatic transgenic mice with resiquimod increased the expression of SLPI and decreased inflammation in the lungs; resiquimod treatment was still effective in asthmatic SLPI knockout mice. Taken together, our study showed that the expression of SLPI protects against allergic asthma phenotypes, and treatment by resiquimod is independent of SLPI expression, displayed through the use of transgenic and knockout SLPI mice.
PMCID: PMC3104396  PMID: 21335488
14.  Beneficial effects of secretory leukocyte protease inhibitor after spinal cord injury 
Brain  2009;133(1):126-138.
Secretory leukocyte protease inhibitor is a serine protease inhibitor produced by various cell types, including neutrophils and activated macrophages, and has anti-inflammatory properties. It has been shown to promote wound healing in the skin and other non-neural tissues, however, its role in central nervous system injury was not known. We now report a beneficial role for secretory leukocyte protease inhibitor after spinal cord injury. After spinal cord contusion injury in mice, secretory leukocyte protease inhibitor is expressed primarily by astrocytes and neutrophils but not macrophages. We show, using transgenic mice over-expressing secretory leukocyte protease inhibitor, that this molecule has an early protective effect after spinal cord contusion injury. Furthermore, wild-type mice treated for the first week after spinal cord contusion injury with recombinant secretory leukocyte protease inhibitor exhibit sustained improvement in locomotor control and reduced secondary tissue damage. Recombinant secretory leukocyte protease inhibitor injected intraperitoneally localizes to the nucleus of circulating leukocytes, is detected in the injured spinal cord, reduces activation of nuclear factor-κB and expression of tumour necrosis factor-α. Administration of recombinant secretory leukocyte protease inhibitor might therefore be useful for the treatment of acute spinal cord injury.
PMCID: PMC2801328  PMID: 20047904
spinal cord injury; neuroinflammation; wound healing; neutrophil; astrocytes; macrophage
16.  Fibroblast growth factor receptors 1 and 2 in keratinocytes control the epidermal barrier and cutaneous homeostasis 
The Journal of Cell Biology  2010;188(6):935-952.
Loss of FGFRs results in skin abnormalities due to activation of keratinocytes and epidermal T cells.
Fibroblast growth factors (FGFs) are master regulators of organogenesis and tissue homeostasis. In this study, we used different combinations of FGF receptor (FGFR)-deficient mice to unravel their functions in the skin. Loss of the IIIb splice variants of FGFR1 and FGFR2 in keratinocytes caused progressive loss of skin appendages, cutaneous inflammation, keratinocyte hyperproliferation, and acanthosis. We identified loss of FGF-induced expression of tight junction components with subsequent deficits in epidermal barrier function as the mechanism underlying the progressive inflammatory skin disease. The defective barrier causes activation of keratinocytes and epidermal γδ T cells, which produce interleukin-1 family member 8 and S100A8/A9 proteins. These cytokines initiate an inflammatory response and induce a double paracrine loop through production of keratinocyte mitogens by dermal cells. Our results identify essential roles for FGFs in the regulation of the epidermal barrier and in the prevention of cutaneous inflammation, and highlight the importance of stromal–epithelial interactions in skin homeostasis and disease.
PMCID: PMC2845079  PMID: 20308431

Results 1-16 (16)