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1.  Chromatin-Bound IκBα Regulates a Subset of Polycomb Target Genes in Differentiation and Cancer 
Cancer cell  2013;24(2):151-166.
IκB proteins are the primary inhibitors of NF-κB. Here, we demonstrate that sumoylated and phosphorylated IκBα accumulates in the nucleus of keratinocytes and interacts with histones H2A and H4 at the regulatory region of HOX and IRX genes. Chromatin-bound IκBα modulates Polycomb recruitment and imparts their competence to be activated by TNFα. Mutations in the Drosophila IκBα gene cactus enhance the homeotic phenotype of Polycomb mutants, which is not counteracted by mutations in dorsal/NF-κB. Oncogenic transformation of keratinocytes results in cytoplasmic IκBα translocation associated with a massive activation of Hox. Accumulation of cytoplasmic IκBα was found in squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) associated with IKK activation and HOX upregulation.
PMCID: PMC3962677  PMID: 23850221
2.  VAV3 mediates resistance to breast cancer endocrine therapy 
Endocrine therapies targeting cell proliferation and survival mediated by estrogen receptor α (ERα) are among the most effective systemic treatments for ERα-positive breast cancer. However, most tumors initially responsive to these therapies acquire resistance through mechanisms that involve ERα transcriptional regulatory plasticity. Herein we identify VAV3 as a critical component in this process.
A cell-based chemical compound screen was carried out to identify therapeutic strategies against resistance to endocrine therapy. Binding to ERα was evaluated by molecular docking analyses, an agonist fluoligand assay and short hairpin (sh)RNA–mediated protein depletion. Microarray analyses were performed to identify altered gene expression. Western blot analysis of signaling and proliferation markers, and shRNA-mediated protein depletion in viability and clonogenic assays, were performed to delineate the role of VAV3. Genetic variation in VAV3 was assessed for association with the response to tamoxifen. Immunohistochemical analyses of VAV3 were carried out to determine its association with therapeutic response and different tumor markers. An analysis of gene expression association with drug sensitivity was carried out to identify a potential therapeutic approach based on differential VAV3 expression.
The compound YC-1 was found to comparatively reduce the viability of cell models of acquired resistance. This effect was probably not due to activation of its canonical target (soluble guanylyl cyclase), but instead was likely a result of binding to ERα. VAV3 was selectively reduced upon exposure to YC-1 or ERα depletion, and, accordingly, VAV3 depletion comparatively reduced the viability of cell models of acquired resistance. In the clinical scenario, germline variation in VAV3 was associated with the response to tamoxifen in Japanese breast cancer patients (rs10494071 combined P value = 8.4 × 10−4). The allele association combined with gene expression analyses indicated that low VAV3 expression predicts better clinical outcome. Conversely, high nuclear VAV3 expression in tumor cells was associated with poorer endocrine therapy response. Based on VAV3 expression levels and the response to erlotinib in cancer cell lines, targeting EGFR signaling may be a promising therapeutic strategy.
This study proposes VAV3 as a biomarker and a rationale for its use as a signaling target to prevent and/or overcome resistance to endocrine therapy in breast cancer.
PMCID: PMC4076632  PMID: 24886537
3.  p16INK4a in cellular senescence 
Aging (Albany NY)  2013;5(8):590-591.
PMCID: PMC3796211  PMID: 23965734
4.  MacroH2A1 Regulates the Balance between Self-Renewal and Differentiation Commitment in Embryonic and Adult Stem Cells 
Molecular and Cellular Biology  2012;32(8):1442-1452.
One of the most striking epigenetic alterations that occurs at the level of the nucleosome is the complete exchange of the canonical H2A histones for the macroH2A variant. Here, we provide insight into the poorly recognized function of macroH2A in transcriptional activation and demonstrate its relevance in embryonic and adult stem cells. Knockdown of macroH2A1 in mouse embryonic stem (mES) cells limited their capacity to differentiate but not their self-renewal. The loss of macroH2A1 interfered with the proper activation of differentiation genes, most of which are direct target genes of macroH2A. Additionally, macroH2A1-deficient mES cells displayed incomplete inactivation of pluripotency genes and formed defective embryoid bodies. In vivo, macroH2A1-deficient teratomas contained a massive expansion of malignant, undifferentiated carcinoma tissue. In the heterogeneous culture of primary human keratinocytes, macroH2A1 levels negatively correlated with the self-renewal capacity of the pluripotent compartment. Together these results establish macroH2A1 as a critical chromatin component that regulates the delicate balance between self-renewal and differentiation of embryonic and adult stem cells.
PMCID: PMC3318583  PMID: 22331466
5.  Regulating the Shuttling of Eukaryotic RNA Polymerase II ▿  
Molecular and Cellular Biology  2011;31(19):3918-3920.
PMCID: PMC3187360  PMID: 21844223
6.  Dynamics of epigenetic modifications in leukemia 
Chromatin modifications at both histones and DNA are critical for regulating gene expression. Mis-regulation of such epigenetic marks can lead to pathological states; indeed, cancer affecting the hematopoietic system is frequently linked to epigenetic abnormalities. Here, we discuss the different types of modifications and their general impact on transcription, as well as the polycomb group of proteins, which effect transcriptional repression and are often mis-regulated. Further, we discuss how chromosomal translocations leading to fusion proteins can aberrantly regulate gene transcription through chromatin modifications within the hematopoietic system. PML–RARa, AML1–ETO and MLL-fusions are examples of fusion proteins that mis-regulate epigenetic modifications (either directly or indirectly), which can lead to acute myeloblastic leukemia (AML). An in-depth understanding of the mechanisms behind the mis-regulation of epigenetic modifications that lead to the development and progression of AMLs could be critical for designing effective treatments.
PMCID: PMC3080765  PMID: 21258047
chromatin; epigenetics; transcription; leukemia; polycom
7.  DNA Methylation of the Gonadal Aromatase (cyp19a) Promoter Is Involved in Temperature-Dependent Sex Ratio Shifts in the European Sea Bass 
PLoS Genetics  2011;7(12):e1002447.
Sex ratio shifts in response to temperature are common in fish and reptiles. However, the mechanism linking temperature during early development and sex ratios has remained elusive. We show in the European sea bass (sb), a fish in which temperature effects on sex ratios are maximal before the gonads form, that juvenile males have double the DNA methylation levels of females in the promoter of gonadal aromatase (cyp19a), the enzyme that converts androgens into estrogens. Exposure to high temperature increased the cyp19a promoter methylation levels of females, indicating that induced-masculinization involves DNA methylation-mediated control of aromatase gene expression, with an observed inverse relationship between methylation levels and expression. Although different CpGs within the sb cyp19a promoter exhibited different sensitivity to temperature, we show that the increased methylation of the sb cyp19a promoter, which occurs in the gonads but not in the brain, is not a generalized effect of temperature. Importantly, these effects were also observed in sexually undifferentiated fish and were not altered by estrogen treatment. Thus, methylation of the sb cyp19a promoter is the cause of the lower expression of cyp19a in temperature-masculinized fish. In vitro, induced methylation of the sb cyp19a promoter suppressed the ability of SF-1 and Foxl2 to stimulate transcription. Finally, a CpG differentially methylated by temperature and adjacent to a Sox transcription factor binding site is conserved across species. Thus, DNA methylation of the aromatase promoter may be an essential component of the long-sought-after mechanism connecting environmental temperature and sex ratios in vertebrate species with temperature-dependent sex determination.
Author Summary
Temperature changes during early embryonic and/or larval stages are able to modify sex ratios in fish and reptiles. However, the underlying mechanism by which temperature is able to modify the molecular pathways that developing gonads follow to become ovaries or testes is still unknown. One of the most interesting questions raised from previous studies with our model species, the European sea bass, was how temperature could affect the developmental fate of the gonads at a time when they were not even formed in the most rudimentary manner. This was the telltale sign of an epigenetic mechanism. In this study, DNA methylation levels of the aromatase promoter were analyzed in European sea bass exposed to different temperatures during early developmental stages. Aromatase is the enzyme that converts androgens (male hormones) into estrogens (female hormones), which are essential for ovarian development in all non-mammalian vertebrates. We show that increased temperature during a critical period in early development is able to increase DNA methylation of the aromatase promoter, preventing aromatase gene expression. We conclude that gonadal aromatase promoter methylation is most likely part of the long-sought-after mechanism connecting temperature and environmental sex determination in vertebrates.
PMCID: PMC3248465  PMID: 22242011
8.  MBD3, a Component of the NuRD Complex, Facilitates Chromatin Alteration and Deposition of Epigenetic Marks▿  
Molecular and Cellular Biology  2008;28(19):5912-5923.
In plants, as in mammals, mutations in SNF2-like DNA helicases/ATPases were shown to affect not only chromatin structure but also global methylation patterns, suggesting a potential functional link between chromatin structure and epigenetic marks. The SNF2-like ATPase containing nucleosome remodeling and deacetylase corepressor complex (NuRD) is involved in gene transcriptional repression and chromatin remodeling. We have previously shown that the leukemogenic protein PML-RARa represses target genes through recruitment of DNA methytransferases and Polycomb complex. Here, we demonstrate a direct role of the NuRD complex in aberrant gene repression and transmission of epigenetic repressive marks in acute promyelocytic leukemia (APL). We show that PML-RARa binds and recruits NuRD to target genes, including to the tumor-suppressor gene RARβ2. In turn, the NuRD complex facilitates Polycomb binding and histone methylation at lysine 27. Retinoic acid treatment, which is often used for patients at the early phase of the disease, reduced the promoter occupancy of the NuRD complex. Knockdown of the NuRD complex in leukemic cells not only prevented histone deacetylation and chromatin compaction but also impaired DNA and histone methylation, as well as stable silencing, thus favoring cellular differentiation. These results unveil an important role for NuRD in the establishment of altered epigenetic marks in APL, demonstrating an essential link between chromatin structure and epigenetics in leukemogenesis that could be exploited for therapeutic intervention.
PMCID: PMC2546998  PMID: 18644863
9.  Polycomb Complex 2 Is Required for E-cadherin Repression by the Snail1 Transcription Factor▿ †  
Molecular and Cellular Biology  2008;28(15):4772-4781.
The transcriptional factor Snail1 is a repressor of E-cadherin (CDH1) gene expression essential for triggering epithelial-mesenchymal transition. Snail1 represses CDH1, directly binding its promoter and inducing the synthesis of the Zeb1 repressor. In this article, we show that repression of CDH1 by Snail1, but not by Zeb1, is dependent on the activity of Polycomb repressive complex 2 (PRC2). Embryonic stem (ES) cells null for Suz12, one of the components of PRC2, show higher levels of Cdh1 mRNA than control ES cells. In tumor cells, interference of PRC2 activity prevents the ability of Snail1 to downregulate CDH1 and partially derepresses CDH1. Chromatin immunoprecipitation assays demonstrated that Snail1 increases the binding of Suz12 to the CDH1 promoter and the trimethylation of lysine 27 in histone H3. Moreover, Snail1 interacts with Suz12 and Ezh2, as shown by coimmunoprecipitation experiments. In conclusion, these results demonstrate that Snail1 recruits PRC2 to the CDH1 promoter and requires the activity of this complex to repress E-cadherin expression.
PMCID: PMC2493371  PMID: 18519590
10.  Recruitment of the Histone Methyltransferase SUV39H1 and Its Role in the Oncogenic Properties of the Leukemia-Associated PML-Retinoic Acid Receptor Fusion Protein 
Molecular and Cellular Biology  2006;26(4):1288-1296.
Leukemia-associated fusion proteins establish aberrant transcriptional programs, which result in the block of hematopoietic differentiation, a prominent feature of the leukemic phenotype. The dissection of the mechanisms of deregulated transcription by leukemia fusion proteins is therefore critical for the design of tailored antileukemic strategies, aimed at reestablishing the differentiation program of leukemic cells. The acute promyelocytic leukemia (APL)-associated fusion protein PML-retinoic acid receptor (RAR) behaves as an aberrant transcriptional repressor, due to its ability to induce chromatin modifications (histone deacetylation and DNA methylation) and silencing of PML-RAR target genes. Here, we indicate that the ultimate result of PML-RAR action is to impose a heterochromatin-like structure on its target genes, thereby establishing a permanent transcriptional silencing. This effect is mediated by the previously described association of PML-RAR with chromatin-modifying enzymes (histone deacetylases and DNA methyltransferases) and by recruitment of the histone methyltransferase SUV39H1, responsible for trimethylation of lysine 9 of histone H3.
PMCID: PMC1367206  PMID: 16449642

Results 1-10 (10)