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1.  Verticillin A Overcomes Apoptosis Resistance in Human Colon Carcinoma through DNA methylation-dependent Upregulation of BNIP3 
Cancer research  2011;71(21):6807-6816.
Drug resistance is a major cause of failure in cancer chemotherapy. Therefore, identification and combined use of adjuvant compounds that can overcome drug resistance may improve the efficacy of cancer therapy. We screened extracts of Verticillium sp-infected mushrooms for anti-tumor compounds and identified the compound Verticillin A as an inducer of hepatoma cell apoptosis in vitro and an inhibitor of tumor xenograft growth in vivo. Verticillin A exhibited a potent apoptosis sensitizing activity in human colon carcinoma cells exposed to TRAIL or Fas in vitro. Furthermore, Verticillin A effectively sensitized metastatic human colon carcinoma xenograft to TRAIL-mediated growth inhibition in vivo. At the molecular level, we observed that Verticillin A induces cell cycle arrest in the G2 phase of the cell cycle in human colon carcinoma cells, markedly upregulating BNIP3 in both hepatoma and colon carcinoma cells. Notably, silencing BNIP3 decreased the sensitivity of tumor cells to Verticillin A-induced apoptosis in the absence or presence of TRAIL. We found that the BNIP3 promoter are methylated in both human hepatoma and colon carcinoma cells and tumor specimens. Verticillin A upregulated the expression of a panel of genes known to be regulated at the level of DNA methylation, in support of the concept that Verticillin A may act by demethylating the BNIP3 promoter to upregulate BNIP3 expression. Taken together, our findings identify Verticillin A as a potent apoptosis sensitizer with great promise for further development as an adjuvant agent to overcome drug resistance in human cancer therapy.
PMCID: PMC3206150  PMID: 21911457
Verticillin A; Drug Resistance; TRAIL; Fas; BNIP3
2.  Overcoming Trastuzumab Resistance in Breast Cancer by Targeting Dysregulated Glucose Metabolism 
Cancer research  2011;71(13):4585-4597.
Trastuzumab shows remarkable efficacy in treatment of ErbB2-positive breast cancers when used alone or in combination with other chemotherapeutics. However, acquired resistance develops in most treated patients, necessitating alternate treatment strategies. Increased aerobic glycolysis is a hallmark of cancer and inhibition of glycolysis may offer a promising strategy to preferentially kill cancer cells. In this study, we investigated the antitumor effects of trastuzumab in combination with glycolysis inhibitors in ErbB2-positive breast cancer. We found that trastuzumab inhibits glycolysis via downregulation of heat shock factor 1 (HSF1) and lactate dehydrogenase A (LDH-A) in ErbB2-positive cancer cells, resulting in tumor growth inhibition. Moreover, increased glycolysis via HSF1 and LDH-A contributes to trastuzumab resistance. Importantly, we found that combining trastuzumab with glycolysis inhibition synergistically inhibited trastuzumab-sensitive and -resistant breast cancers in vitro and in vivo, due to more efficient inhibition of glycolysis. Taken together, our findings show how glycolysis inhibition can dramatically enhance the therapeutic efficacy of trastuzumab in ErbB2-positive breast cancers, potentially useful as a strategy to overcome trastuzumab resistance.
PMCID: PMC3129363  PMID: 21498634
Warburg effect; glycolysis; HSF1; LDH-A; trastuzumab; ErbB2; resistance
3.  TGFBR1 haplotypes and risk of non-small cell lung cancer 
Cancer research  2009;69(17):7046-7052.
Transforming growth factor beta (TGF-β) receptors are centrally involved in TGF-β-mediated cell growth and differentiation and are frequently inactivated in non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). Constitutively decreased type I TGF-β receptor (TGFBR1) expression is emerging as a novel tumor-predisposing phenotype. The association of TGFBR1 haplotypes with risk for NSCLC has not yet been studied. We tested the hypothesis that single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) and/or TGFBR1 haplotypes are associated with risk of NSCLC. We genotyped six TGFBR1 haplotype tagging SNPs (htSNPs) by PCR-restriction fragment length polymorphism (PCR-RFLP) assays and one htSNP by PCR-single strand conformation polymorphism (PCR-SSCP) assay in two case-control studies. Case-control study 1 included 102 NSCLC patients and 104 healthy controls from Suzhou. Case-control study 2 included 131 patients with NSCLC and 133 healthy controls from Wuxi. Individuals included in both case-control studies were Han Chinese. Haplotypes were reconstructed according to the genotyping data and linkage disequilibrium (LD) status of these seven htSNPs. None of the htSNP was associated with NSCLC risk in either study. However, a four-marker haplotype CTGC was significantly more common among controls than among cases in both studies (P=0.014 and P=0.010, respectively) indicating that this haplotype is associated with decreased NSCLC risk (adjusted OR, 0.09; 95% CI, 0.01-0.61 and adjusted OR, 0.11; 95% CI, 0.02-0.59, respectively). Combined analysis of both studies shows a strong association of this four-marker haplotype with decreased NSCLC risk (adjusted OR, 0.11; 95% CI, 0.03-0.39). This is the first evidence of an association between a TGFBR1 haplotype and risk for NSCLC.
PMCID: PMC2737098  PMID: 19690145
NSCLC; TGFBR1; Polymorphisms; Haplotypes; Risk
4.  A Re-evaluation of CD22 Expression by Human Lung Cancer 
Cancer research  2014;74(1):263-271.
CD22 is a transmembrane glycoprotein expressed by mature B cells. It inhibits signal transduction by the B cell receptor and its co-receptor CD19. Recently it was reported that most human lung cancer cells and cell lines express CD22 making it an important new lung cancer therapeutic target (Can Res 72:5556, 2012). The objective of our studies was to independently validate these results with the goal of testing the efficacy of our CD22 immunotoxins on lung cancer cell lines. As determined by qRT-PCR analysis, we found that levels of CD22 mRNA in a panel of human lung cancer cell lines were 200–60,000- fold lower than those observed in the human CD22+ Burkitt’s lymphoma cells, Daudi. Using flow cytometry with a panel of CD22 monoclonal antibodies and Western blot analyses, we could not detect surface or intracellular expression of CD22 protein in a panel of lung cancer cell lines. In addition, the in vitro proliferation of the lung tumor cell lines was not affected by CD22 antibodies or our highly potent anti-CD22 immunotoxin. By contrast, CD22+ Daudi cells expressed high levels of CD22 mRNA and protein and were sensitive to our CD22 immunotoxin. Importantly, primary non-small cell lung cancers from over 250 patient specimens did not express detectable levels of CD22 protein as assessed by immunohistochemistry. We conclude that CD22 is not expressed at measurable levels on the surface of lung cancer cells and that these cells can not be killed by anti-CD22 immunotoxins.
PMCID: PMC3903042  PMID: 24395821
lung cancer; CD22 expression
5.  Telomere length in peripheral blood lymphocytes contributes to the development of HPV-associated oropharyngeal carcinoma 
Cancer research  2013;73(19):5996-6003.
Sexual transmission of human papillomavirus, particularly HPV16, has been associated with an increasing incidence of oropharyngeal squamous cell carcinoma (OPC). Telomere shortening results in chromosomal instability, subsequently leading to cancer development. Given that HPV16 can affect telomerase activity and telomere length (TL), we conjectured that TL in peripheral blood lymphocytes (PBLs) may affect the risk of HPV16-associated OPC and tumor HPV16 status in patients. TL in PBLs and HPV16 serological status were measured in peripheral blood samples in 188 patients with OPC, 137 patients with oral cavity cancer (OCC) and 335 controls of non-Hispanic whites. Tumor HPV status was determined in 349 OPC cases. Odds ratios and 95% confidence intervals were calculated in univariate and multivariable logistic regression models. Overall, compared with long TL, short TL was associated significantly with a moderately increased risk of OPC but no increased risk of OCC. When we stratified the data by HPV16 serological status, using long TL and HPV16 seronegativity as the reference group, we found that the risk associated with HPV16 seropositivity was higher among OPC patients with short TL. Notably, such risk was particularly pronounced in never smokers, never drinkers and those >50 years of age. Furthermore, short TL was also associated significantly with tumor HPV-positive OPC. Together, our findings suggest that TL in PBLs may be associated with higher risk of HPV16-associated OPC and tumor HPV16 status, particularly in certain patient subgroups. Larger studies are needed to validate these findings.
PMCID: PMC3790860  PMID: 23928994
telomere length; HPV; molecular epidemiology; oropharyngeal cancer
6.  Cell surface receptor FPR2 promotes anti-tumor host defense by limiting M2 polarization of macrophages 
Cancer research  2012;73(2):550-560.
FPR2 (Fpr2 in mouse) is a G protein-coupled receptor interacting with bacterial and host-derived chemotactic agonists. Fpr2 supports innate and adaptive immune responses as illustrated by the reduction in severity of allergic airway inflammation in Fpr2-KO mice, due to impaired trafficking of antigen presenting dendritic cells (DCs). The aim of this study is to examine the role of Fpr2 in host anti-tumor responses. We found that Fpr2-KO mice bearing subcutaneously implanted Lewis lung carcinoma (LLC) cells exhibited significantly shortened survival than normal mice due to more rapidly growing tumors. In contrast, in Fpr2-transgenic mice over-expressing Fpr2, subcutaneously implanted LLC tumors grew more slowly than those in wild type (WT) littermates. Investigation of tumor tissues revealed an increased number of macrophages associated with tumors grown in Fpr2-KO mice. Macrophages derived from Fpr2-KO mice showed a more potent chemotactic response to LLC-derived supernatant (LLC Sup), which could be neutralized by an anti-CCL2 antibody. The increased chemotaxis of Fpr2-KO mouse macrophages in response to LLC Sup was due to their higher level expression of CCR4, a chemokine receptor that also recognizes the ligand CCL2. Furthermore, macrophages from Fpr2-KO mice acquired an M2 phenotype after stimulation with LLC Sup. These results suggest that Fpr2 plays an important role in host defense against implanted LLC by sustaining macrophages in an M1 phenotype with more potent anti-tumor activities.
PMCID: PMC3549056  PMID: 23139214
Fpr2; macrophages; chemotaxis; LLC; supernatant
7.  Targeting Truncated Retinoid X Receptor-α by CF31 induces TNFα-dependent apoptosis 
Cancer research  2012;73(1):307-318.
A truncated version of retinoid X receptor-α, tRXRα, promotes cancer cell survival by activating the PI3K/AKT pathway. However, targeting the tRXRα-mediated survival pathway for cancer treatment remains to be explored. We report here our identification of a new natural product molecule, CF31, a xanthone isolated from Cratoxylum formosum ssp. Pruniflorum, and the biological evaluation of its regulation of the tRXRα-mediated PI3K/AKT pathway. CF31 binds RXRα and its binding results in inhibition of RXRα transactivation. Through RXRα mutational analysis and computational studies, we show that Arg316 of RXRα, known to form salt bridges with certain RXRα ligands such as 9-cis-retinoic acid (9-cis-RA), is not required for the antagonist effect of CF31, demonstrating a distinct binding mode. Evaluation of several CF31 analogs suggests that the antagonist effect is mainly attributed to an interference with Leu451 of helix H12 in RXRα. CF31 is a potent inhibitor of AKT activation in various cancer cell lines. When combined with TNFα, it suppresses TNFα activation of AKT by inhibiting TNFα-induced tRXRα interaction with the p85α regulatory subunit of PI3K. CF31 inhibition of TNFα activation of AKT also results in TNFα-dependent activation of caspase-8 and apoptosis. Together, our results demonstrate that CF31 is an effective converter of TNFα signaling from survival to death by targeting tRXRα in a unique mode and suggest that identification of a natural product that targets an RXR-mediated cell survival pathway that regulates PI3K/Akt may offer a new therapeutic strategy to kill cancer cells.
PMCID: PMC3537848  PMID: 23151904
retinoid X receptor; CF31; AKT; TNFα; cancer; apoptosis
8.  AMPKα Modulation in Cancer Progression: Multilayer Integrative Analysis of the Whole Transcriptome in Asian Gastric Cancer 
Cancer research  2012;72(10):10.1158/0008-5472.CAN-11-3870.
Gastric cancer is the most common cancer in Asia and most developing countries. Despite the use of multimodality therapeutics, it remains the second leading cause of cancer death in the world. To identify the molecular underpinnings of gastric cancer in the Asian population, we applied an RNA-sequencing approach to gastric tumor and noncancerous specimens, generating 680 million informative short reads to quantitatively characterize the entire transcriptome of gastric cancer (including mRNAs and microRNAs). A multi-layer analysis was then developed to identify multiple types of transcriptional aberrations associated with different stages of gastric cancer, including differentially expressed mRNAs, recurrent somatic mutations and key differentially expressed microRNAs. Through this approach, we identified the central metabolic regulator AMPK-α as a potential functional target in Asian gastric cancer. Further, we experimentally demonstrated the translational relevance of this gene as a potential therapeutic target for early-stage gastric cancer in Asian patients. Together, our findings not only provide a valuable information resource for identifying and elucidating the molecular mechanisms of Asian gastric cancer, but also represent a general integrative framework to develop more effective therapeutic targets.
PMCID: PMC3872998  PMID: 22434430
RNA-sequencing; integrative analysis; microRNA; AMPK; gastric cancer
9.  Characterization of Torin2, an ATP-competitive inhibitor of mTOR, ATM and ATR 
Cancer research  2013;73(8):2574-2586.
mTOR is a highly conserved serine/threonine protein kinase that serves as a central regulator of cell growth, survival and autophagy. Deregulation of the PI3K/Akt/mTOR signaling pathway occurs commonly in cancer and numerous inhibitors targeting the ATP-binding site of these kinases are currently undergoing clinical evaluation. Here we report the characterization of Torin2, a second generation ATP-competitive inhibitor that is potent and selective for mTOR with a superior pharmacokinetic profile to previous inhibitors. Torin2 inhibited mTORC1-dependent T389 phosphorylation on S6K (RPS6KB1) with an EC50 of 250 pM with approximately 800-fold selectivity for cellular mTOR versus PI3K. Torin2 also exhibited potent biochemical and cellular activity against PIKK family kinases including ATM (EC50 28 nM), ATR (EC50 35 nM) and DNA-PK (EC50 118 nM) (PRKDC), the inhibition of which sensitized cells to Irradiation. Similar to the earlier generation compound Torin1 and in contrast to other reported mTOR inhibitors, Torin2 inhibited mTOR kinase and mTORC1 signaling activities in a sustained manner suggestive of a slow dissociation from the kinase. Cancer cell treatment with Torin2 for 24 hours resulted in a prolonged block in negative feedback and consequent T308 phosphorylation on Akt. These effects were associated with strong growth inhibition in vitro. Single agent treatment with Torin2 in vivo did not yield significant efficacy against KRAS-driven lung tumors, but the combination of Torin2 with MEK inhibitor AZD6244 yielded a significant growth inhibition. Taken together, our findings establish Torin2 as a strong candidate for clinical evaluation in a broad number of oncological settings where mTOR signaling has a pathogenic role.
PMCID: PMC3760004  PMID: 23436801
mTOR; ATM; ATR; lung cancer; kinase inhibitors
10.  The CRTC1-NEDD9 Signaling Axis Mediates Lung Cancer Progression Caused by LKB1 Loss 
Cancer research  2012;72(24):6502-6511.
Somatic mutation of the tumor suppressor gene LKB1 occurs frequently in lung cancer where it causes tumor progression and metastasis, but the underlying mechanisms remain mainly unknown. Here, we show that the oncogene NEDD9 is an important downstream mediator of lung cancer progression evoked by LKB1 loss. In de novo mouse models, RNAi-mediated silencing of Nedd9 inhibited lung tumor progression, whereas ectopic NEDD9 expression accelerated this process. Mechanistically, LKB1 negatively regulated NEDD9 transcription by promoting cytosolic translocation of CRTC1 from the nucleus. Notably, ectopic expression of either NEDD9 or CRTC1 partially reversed the inhibitory function of LKB1 on metastasis of lung cancer cells. In clinical specimens, elevated expression of NEDD9 was associated with malignant progression and metastasis. Collectively, our results decipher the mechanism through which LKB1 deficiency promotes lung cancer progression and metastasis, and provide a mechanistic rationale for therapeutic attack of these processes.
PMCID: PMC3755891  PMID: 23074285
11.  Frequent Truncating Mutation of TFAM Induces Mitochondrial DNA Depletion and Apoptotic Resistance in Microsatellite-Unstable Colorectal Cancer 
Cancer research  2011;71(8):2978-2987.
The mitochondrial transcription factor A (TFAM) is required for mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) replication and transcription. Disruption of TFAM results in heart failure and premature aging in mice. But very little is known about the role of TFAM in cancer development. Here, we report the identification of frequent frameshift mutations in the coding mononucleotide repeat of TFAM in sporadic colorectal cancer (CRC) cell lines and in primary tumors with microsatellite instability (MSI), but not in microsatellite stable (MSS) CRC cell lines and tumors. The presence of the TFAM truncating mutation, in CRC cells with MSI, reduced the TFAM protein level in vivo and in vitro and correlated with mtDNA depletion. Furthermore, forced overexpression of wild-type TFAM in RKO cells carrying a TFAM truncating mutation suppressed cell proliferation and inhibited RKO cell-induced xenograft tumor growth. Moreover, these cells showed more susceptibility to cisplatin-induced apoptosis due to an increase of cytochrome b (Cyt b) expression and its release from mitochondria. An interaction assay between TFAM and the heavy-strand promoter (HSP) of mitochondria revealed that mutant TFAM exhibited reduced binding to HSP, leading to reduction in Cyt b transcription. Collectively, these data provide evidence that a high incidence of TFAM truncating mutations leads to mitochondrial copy number reduction and mitochondrial instability, distinguishing most CRC with MSI from MSS CRC. These mutations may play an important role in tumorigenesis and cisplatin-induced apoptotic resistance of most microsatellite-unstable CRCs.
PMCID: PMC3710668  PMID: 21467167
12.  Overcoming hypoxia-induced apoptotic resistance through combinatorial inhibition of GSK-3β and CDK1 
Cancer research  2011;71(15):5265-5275.
Tumor hypoxia is an inherent impediment to cancer treatment that is both clinically significant and problematic. In this study, we performed a cell-based screen to identify small molecules that could reverse the apoptotic resistance of hypoxic cancer cells. Among the compounds we identified were a structurally-related group that sensitized hypoxic cancer cells to apoptosis by inhibiting the kinases GSK-3β and CDK1. Combinatorial inhibition of these proteins in hypoxic cancer cells and tumors increased levels of c-Myc and decreased expression of c-IAP2 and the central hypoxia response regulator Hif-1α. In mice, these compounds augmented the hypoxic tumor cell death induced by cytotoxic chemotherapy, blocking angiogenesis and tumor growth. Taken together, our findings suggest that combinatorial inhibition of GSK-3β and CDK1 augment the apoptotic sensitivity of hypoxic tumors, and they offer preclinical validation of a novel and readily translatable strategy to improve cancer therapy.
PMCID: PMC3667402  PMID: 21646472
GSK-3β; CDK1; c-Myc; Hif-1α; c-IAP2; hypoxia; apoptosis; drug screen; drug resistance
13.  A Comprehensive View of Nuclear Receptor Cancer Cistromes 
Cancer research  2011;71(22):6940-6947.
Nuclear receptors (NRs) comprise a superfamily of ligand-activated transcription factors that play important roles in both physiology and diseases including cancer. The technologies of Chromatin ImmunoPrecipitation followed by array hybridization (ChIP-chip) or massively parallel sequencing (ChIP-seq) has been used to map, at an unprecedented rate, the in vivo genome-wide binding (cistrome) of NRs in both normal and cancer cells. We developed a curated database of 88 NR cistrome datasets and other associated high-throughput datasets, including 121 collaborating factor cistromes, 94 epigenomes and 319 transcriptomes. Through integrative analysis of the curated NR ChIP-chip/seq datasets, we discovered novel factor-specific noncanonical motifs that may have important regulatory roles. We also revealed a common feature of NR pioneering factors to recognize relatively short and AT-rich motifs. Most NRs bind predominantly to introns and distal intergenetic regions, and binding sites closer to transcription start sites (TSSs) were found to be neither stronger nor more evolutionarily conserved. Interestingly, while most NRs appear to be predominantly transcriptional activators, our analysis suggests that the binding of ESR1, RARA and RARG has both activating and repressive effects. Through meta-analysis of different omic data of the same cancer cell line model from multiple studies, we generated consensus cistrome and expression profiles. We further made probabilistic predictions of the NR target genes by integrating cistrome and transcriptome data, and validated the predictions using expression data from tumor samples. The final database, with comprehensive cistrome, epigenome, transcriptome datasets, and downstream analysis results, constitutes a valuable resource for the nuclear receptor and cancer community.
PMCID: PMC3610570  PMID: 21940749
14.  IRF8 Regulates Acid Ceramidase Expression to Mediate Apoptosis and Suppresses Myelogeneous Leukemia 
Cancer research  2011;71(8):2882-2891.
IFN regulatory factor 8 (IRF8) is a key transcription factor for myeloid cell differentiation and its expression is frequently lost in hematopoietic cells of human myeloid leukemia patients. IRF8-deficient mice exhibit uncontrolled clonal expansion of undifferentiated myeloid cells that can progress to a fatal blast crisis, thereby resembling human chronic myelogeneous leukemia (CML). Therefore, IRF8 is a myeloid leukemia suppressor. While the understanding of IRF8 function in CML has recently improved, the molecular mechanisms underlying IRF8 function in CML is still largely unknown. In this study, we identified acid ceramidase (A-CDase) as a general transcription target of IRF8. We demonstrated that IRF8 expression is regulated by IRF8 promoter DNA methylation in myeloid leukemia cells. Restoration of IRF8 expression repressed A-CDase expression, resulting in C16 ceramide accumulation and increased sensitivity of CML cells to FasL-induced apoptosis. In myeloid cells derived from IRF8-deficient mice, A-CDase protein level was dramatically increased. Furthermore, we demonstrated that IRF8 directly bind to the A-CDase promoter. At the functional level, inhibition of A-CDase activity, silencing A-CDase expression or application of exogenous C16 ceramide sensitized CML cells to FasL-induced apoptosis, whereas, overexpression of A-CDase decreased CML cells sensitivity to FasL-induced apoptosis. Consequently, restoration of IRF8 expression suppressed CML development in vivo at least partially through a Fas-dependent mechanism. In summary, our findings determine the mechanism of IRF8 downregulation in CML cells and they determine a primary pathway of resistance to Fas-mediated apoptosis and disease progression.
PMCID: PMC3078194  PMID: 21487040
15.  Identification of a Tumor Suppressor Relay between the FOXP3 and the Hippo Pathways in Breast and Prostate Cancers 
Cancer research  2011;71(6):2162-2171.
Defective expression of LATS2, a negative regulator of YAP onco-protein, has been reported in cancer of prostate, breast, liver, brain and blood origins. However, no transcriptional regulators for the LATS2 gene have been identified. Defective expression of LATS2, a negative regulator of YAP oncoprotein, has been reported in prostate, breast, liver, brain and blood cancers. However, the basis for LATS2 dysregulation in cancer is undefined. Here we report that spontaneous mutation of the transcription factor FOXP3 reduces expression of the LATS2 gene in mammary epithelial cells. shRNA-mediated silencing of FOXP3 in normal or malignant mammary epithelial cells of mouse and human origin repressed LATS2 expression and increased YAP protein levels. LATS2 induction required binding of FOXP3 to a specific sequence in the LATS2 promoter, and this interaction contributed to FOXP3-mediated growth inhibition of tumor cells. In support of these results, reduced expression and somatic mutations of FOXP3 correlated strongly with defective LATS2 expression in microdissected prostate cancer tissues. Thus, defective expression of LATS2 is attributable to FOXP3 defects and may be a major independent determinant of YAP protein elevation in cancer. Our findings identify a novel mechanism of LATS2 downregulation in cancer and reveal an important tumor suppressor relay between the FOXP3 and HIPPO pathways which are widely implicated in human cancer.
PMCID: PMC3070402  PMID: 21278236
prostate cancer; breast cancer; Hippo pathway; FoxP3; tumor suppressor genes
16.  Melanoma cells express ICOS ligand to promote the activation and expansion of T-regulatory cells 
Cancer research  2010;70(23):9581-9590.
CD4+CD25+Foxp3+ T-regulatory cells (Tregs) accumulate in tumors, however little is known about how the tumor environment influences this process. Here we show that human melanomas express ICOS-ligand (ICOS-L/B7H) that can provide costimulation through ICOS for the expansion of activated Tregs maintaining high Foxp3 and CD25 expression as well as suppressive function. Thus, ICOS-L expression by melanoma tumor cells may directly drive Treg activation and expansion in the tumor microenvironment as another mechanism of immune evasion.
PMCID: PMC3058814  PMID: 21098714
Melanoma; ICOSL; Treg; Foxp3; ICOS
17.  Distinct Structural Domains within C19ORF5 Support Association with Stabilized Microtubules and Mitochondrial Aggregation and Genome Destruction 
Cancer research  2005;65(10):4191-4201.
C19ORF5 is a sequence homologue of microtubule-associated proteins MAP1A/MAP1B of unknown function, except for its association with mitochondria-associated proteins and the paclitaxel-like microtubule stabilizer and candidate tumor suppressor RASSF1A. Here, we show that when overexpressed in mammalian cells the recombinant 393-amino acid residue COOH terminus of C19ORF5 (C19ORF5C) exhibited four types of distribution patterns proportional to expression level. Although normally distributed throughout the cytosol without microtubular association, C19ORF5C specifically accumulated on stabilized microtubules in paclitaxel-treated cells and interacted directly with paclitaxel-stabilized microtubules in vitro. The native 113-kDa full-length C19ORF5 and a shorter 56-kDa form similarly associated with stabilized microtubules in liver cells and stabilized microtubules from their lysates. As C19ORF5 accumulated, it appeared on mitochondria and progressively induced distinct perinuclear aggregates of mitochondria. C19ORF5 overlapped with cytochrome c-deficient mitochondria with reduced membrane potential. Mitochondrial aggregation resulted in gross degradation of DNA, a cell death–related process we refer to as mitochondrial aggregation and genome destruction (MAGD). Deletion muta-genesis revealed that the C19ORF5 hyperstabilized microtubule-binding domain resides in a highly basic sequence of <100 residues, whereas the MAGD activity resides further downstream in a distinct 25-residue sequence (F967–A991). Our results suggest that C19ORF5 mediates communication between the microtubular cytoskeleton and mitochondria in control of cell death and defective genome destruction through distinct bifunctional structural domains. The accumulation of C19ORF5 and resultant MAGD signaled by hyperstabilized microtubules may be involved in the tumor suppression activity of RASSF1A, a natural microtubule stabilizer and interaction partner with C19ORF5, and the taxoid drug family.
PMCID: PMC3225222  PMID: 15899810
18.  Galectin-3 Mediates Nuclear β-Catenin Accumulation and Wnt Signaling in Human Colon Cancer Cells by Regulation of GSK-3β Activity 
Cancer research  2009;69(4):1343-1349.
Wnt/β-catenin signaling plays an essential role in colon carcinogenesis. Galectin-3, a β-galactoside-binding protein, has been implicated in Wnt signaling, but the precise mechanisms by which galectin-3 modulates the Wnt pathway are unknown. In the present study, we determined the effects of galectin-3 on the Wnt/β-catenin pathway in colon cancer cells, and the mechanisms involved. Galectin-3 levels were manipulated in human colon cancer cells by stable transfection of galectin-3 antisense, shRNA or full length galectin-3 cDNA, and effects on β-catenin levels, subcellular distribution, and Wnt signaling determined. Galectin-3 levels correlated with β-catenin levels in a variety of colon cancer cell lines. Down-regulation of galectin-3 resulted in decreased β-catenin protein levels but no change in β-catenin mRNA levels, suggesting that galectin-3 modulates β-catenin by another mechanism. Reduction of galectin-3 led to reduced nuclear β-catenin with a concomitant decrease in TCF4 transcriptional activity and expression of its target genes. Conversely, transfection of galectin-3 cDNA into colon cancer cells increased β-catenin expression and TCF4 transcriptional activity. Down-regulation of galectin-3 resulted in AKT and glycogen synthase kinase (GSK)-3β dephosphorylation and increased GSK activity, increasing β-catenin phosphorylation and degradation. Ly294002, an inhibitor of phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase, and dominant-negative AKT suppressed TCF4 transcriptional activity induced by galectin-3, while LiCl, a GSK-3β inhibitor, increased TCF4 activity, mimicking the effects of galectin-3. These results suggest that galectin-3 mediates Wnt signaling, at least in part, by regulating GSK-3β phosphorylation and activity via the PI3K/AKT pathway, and thus the degradation of β-catenin in colon cancer cells.
PMCID: PMC2990400  PMID: 19190323
Galectin-3; β-catenin; TCF4; GSK-3β activity; PI3K/AKT pathway
19.  Haplotype and Cell Proliferation Analyses of Candidate Lung Cancer Susceptibility Genes on Chromosome 15q24-25.1 
Cancer research  2009;69(19):7844-7850.
Recent genome-wide association studies have linked the chromosome 15q24-25.1 locus to nicotine addiction and lung cancer susceptibility. To refine the 15q24-25.1 locus, we performed a haplotype-based association analysis of 194 familial lung cases and 219 cancer-free controls from the Genetic Epidemiology of Lung Cancer Consortium (GELCC) collection, and used proliferation and apoptosis analyses to determine which gene(s) in the 15q24-25.1 locus mediates effects on lung cancer cell growth in vitro. We identified two distinct subregions, hapL (P = 3.20 × 10−6) and hapN (P = 1.51 × 10−6), which were significantly associated with familial lung cancer. hapL encompasses IREB2, LOC123688,and PSMA4, and hapN encompasses the three nicotinic acetylcholine receptor subunit genes CHRNA5, CHRNA3,and CHRNB4. Examination of the genes around hapL revealed that PSMA4 plays a role in promoting cancer cell proliferation. PSMA4 mRNA levels were increased in lung tumors compared with normal lung tissues. Down-regulation of PSMA4 expression decreased proteasome activity and induced apoptosis. Proteasome dysfunction leads to many diseases including cancer, and drugs that inhibit proteasome activity show promise as a form of cancer treatment. Genes around hapN were also investigated, but did not show any direct effect on lung cancer cell proliferation. We concluded that PSMA4 is a strong candidate mediator of lung cancer cell growth,and may directly affect lung cancer susceptibility through its modulation of cell proliferation and apoptosis.
PMCID: PMC2846106  PMID: 19789337
20.  Genetic Alterations in the PI3K/Akt Signaling Pathway Confer Sensitivity of Thyroid Cancer Cells to Therapeutic Targeting of Akt and mTOR 
Cancer research  2009;69(18):7311-7319.
We investigated the genotype-dependent therapeutic potential of targeting the PI3K/Akt pathway for thyroid cancer. Proliferation of TPC1, Hth7, FTC133, OCUT1, K1, and BCPAP cells that harbored PI3K/Akt-activating genetic alterations was potently inhibited by the Akt inhibitor perifosine whereas SW1736, Hth74, WRO, KAT18, and TAD2 cells that harbored no genetic alterations had no or only modest responses. Inhibition of Akt phosphorylation by perifosine was seen in these cells. Genetic-dependent apoptosis was induced by perifosine in cells selectively tested. Similarly, potent inhibition of cell proliferation by the mTOR inhibitor temsirolimus occurred in virtually all the cells harboring genetic alterations whereas modest inhibition was seen in some of the cells not harboring genetic alterations. Temsirolimus inhibited the phosphorylation of p70S6K, a substrate of mTOR. Knockdown of Akt1/2 or mTOR by shRNA approach inhibited the proliferation and colony formation of FTC133 and OCUT1 cells that harbored genetic alterations in the PI3K/Akt pathway but had no effect on SW1736 and KAT18 cells that did not. Transfection with PIK3CA mutants greatly sensitized SW1736 cells to perifosine and temsirolimus. Growth of xenograft tumors derived from FTC133 cells but not SW1736 cells in nude mice was dramatically inhibited by perifosine. Thus, this work for the first time demonstrates that genetic alterations in the PI3K/Akt pathway confer thyroid cancer cells addiction to this pathway and their sensitivity to inhibition by targeting Akt and mTOR. This genotype-based targeting of the PI3K/Akt pathway using Akt and mTOR inhibitors may offer an effective therapeutic strategy for thyroid cancer and warrants further studies.
PMCID: PMC2756336  PMID: 19706758
Thyroid cancer; PI3K/Akt pathway; genetic alteration; perifosine; temsirolimus
21.  ATF2 and c-Jun-Mediated Induction of FoxP3 for Experimental Therapy of Mammary Tumor in the Mouse 
Cancer research  2009;69(14):5954-5960.
FOXP3 is inactivated in breast cancer cells by a number of mechanisms, including somatic mutations, deletion and epigenetic silencing. Since the mutation and deletion are usually heterozygous in the cancer samples, it is of interest to determine whether the gene can be induced for the purpose of cancer therapy. Here we report that anisomycin, a potent activator of ATF2, and JNK, induces expression of FoxP3 in both normal and malignant mammary epithelial cells. The induction is mediated by ATF2 and c-Jun. Targeted mutation of ATF2 abrogates both constitutive and inducible expression of FoxP3 in normal epithelial cells. Both ATF2 and c-Jun interact with a novel enhancer in the intron 1 of the FoxP3 locus. Moreover, shRNA silencing of ATF2 and FoxP3 reveals an important role of ATF2-FoxP3 pathway in the anisomycin-induced apoptosis of breast cancer cells. A low dose of anisomycin was also remarkably effective in treating established mammary tumor in the mice. Our data demonstrated that FoxP3 can be reactivated for cancer therapy.
PMCID: PMC2742913  PMID: 19584270
FoxP3; breast cancer; tumor suppressor gene
22.  FOXP3 Up-regulates p21 Expression by Site-specific Inhibition of Histone Deacetylase 2/4 Association to the Locus 
Cancer research  2009;69(6):2252-2259.
p21-loss has been implicated in conferring oncogenic activity to known tumor suppressor gene KLF4 and cancer drug tamoxifen. Regulators of p21 therefore play critical roles in tumorigenesis. Here we report that X-linked tumor suppressor FOXP3 is essential for p21 expression in normal epithelia and that lack of FOXP3 associated with p21 down-regulation in breast cancer samples. A specific FOXP3 binding site in the intron 1 is essential for p21 induction by FOXP3. FOXP3 specifically inhibited binding of histone deacetylase (HDAC) 2 and 4 to the site and increased local histone H3 acetylation. ShRNA silencing of either HDAC2 or HDAC4 is sufficient to induce p21 expression. Our data provides a novel mechanism for transcriptional activation by FOXP3 and a genetic mechanism for lack of p21 in a large proportion of breast cancer.
PMCID: PMC2715174  PMID: 19276356
23.  Laforin confers cancer resistance to energy deprivation-induced apoptosis 
Cancer research  2008;68(11):4039-4044.
A long-standing but poorly understood observation in experimental cancer therapy is the heterogeneity in cancer susceptibility to energy deprivation. Here we show that the hexose kinase inhibitor, 2-deoxyl glucose (2-dG), preferentially kills cancer cells with defective Laforin expression and significantly increases the survival of mice with aggressive lymphoma due to a genetic defect of the Laforin-encoding Epm2a gene. Normal cells from Epm2a−/− mice also had greatly increased susceptibility to 2-dG. Thus, Laforin is a novel regulator for cellular response to energy-deprivation and its defects in cancer cells may be targeted for cancer therapy.
PMCID: PMC2440919  PMID: 18519661
24.  Targeted deletion of Rad9 in mouse skin keratinocytes enhances genotoxin-induced tumor development 
Cancer research  2008;68(14):5552-5561.
The Rad9 gene is evolutionarily conserved from yeast to human, and plays crucial roles in genomic maintenance, DNA repair and cell cycle checkpoint controls. However, the function of this gene with respect to tumorigenesis is not well understood. A Rad9-null mutation in mice causes embryonic lethality. In this study, we created mice in which mouse Rad9, Mrad9, was deleted only in keratinocytes to permit examination of the potential function of the gene in tumor development. Mice with Mrad9+/− or Mrad9−/− keratinocytes demonstrated no overt, spontaneous morphological defects and appeared similar to wild-type controls. Painting the carcinogen 7,12-dimethylbenzanthracene (DMBA) onto the skin of the animals caused earlier onset and more frequent formation of tumors and senile skin plaques in Mrad9−/− mice, compared to Mrad9+/− and Mrad9+/+ littermates. DNA damage response genes p21, p53 and Mrad9B were expressed at higher levels in Mrad9−/− relative to Mrad9+/+ skin. Keratinocytes isolated from Mrad9−/− skin had more spontaneous and DMBA-induced DNA double strand breaks than Mrad9+/+ keratinocytes, and the levels were reduced by incubation with the antioxidant EGCG. These data suggest that Mrad9 plays an important role in maintaining genomic stability and preventing tumor development in keratinocytes.
PMCID: PMC4331354  PMID: 18632607
Rad9; conditional gene knockout; genomic stability; skin tumorigenesis; skin ageing
25.  Activation of the NOTCH pathway in Head and Neck Cancer 
Cancer research  2013;74(4):1091-1104.
NOTCH1 mutations have been reported to occur in 10 to 15% of head and neck squamous cell carcinomas (HNSCC). To determine the significance of these mutations, we embarked upon a comprehensive study of NOTCH signaling in a cohort of 44 HNSCC tumors and 25 normal mucosal samples through a set of expression, copy number, methylation and mutation analyses. Copy number increases were identified in NOTCH pathway genes including the NOTCH ligand JAG1. Gene set analysis defined a differential expression of the NOTCH signaling pathway in HNSCC relative to normal tissues. Analysis of individual pathway-related genes revealed overexpression of ligands JAG1 and JAG2 and receptor NOTCH3. In 32% of the HNSCC examined, activation of the downstream NOTCH effectors HES1/HEY1 was documented. Notably, exomic sequencing identified 5 novel inactivating NOTCH1 mutations in 4/37 of the tumors analyzed, with none of these tumors exhibiting HES1/HEY1 overexpression. Our results revealed a bimodal pattern of NOTCH pathway alterations in HNSCC, with a smaller subset exhibiting inactivating NOTCH1 receptors mutations but a larger subset exhibiting other NOTCH1 pathway alterations, including increases in expression or gene copy number of the receptor or ligands as well as downstream pathway activation. Our results imply that therapies that target the NOTCH pathway may be more widely suitable for HNSCC treatment than appreciated currently.
PMCID: PMC3944644  PMID: 24351288

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