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1.  NANOG promotes cancer stem cell characteristics and prostate cancer resistance to androgen deprivation 
Oncogene  2011;30(36):3833-3845.
Cancer cell molecular mimicry of stem cells (SC) imbues neoplastic cells with enhanced proliferative and renewal capacities. In support, numerous mediators of SC self-renewal have been evinced to exhibit oncogenic potential. We have recently reported that shRNA-mediated knockdown of the embryonic stem cell (ESC) self-renewal gene NANOG significantly reduced the clonogenic and tumorigenic capabilities of various cancer cells. In this study, we sought to test the potential pro-tumorigenic functions of NANOG, particularly, in prostate cancer (PCa). Using quantitative RT-PCR, we first confirmed that PCa cells expressed NANOG mRNA primarily from the NANOGP8 locus on chromosome 15q14. We then constructed a lentiviral promoter reporter in which the -3.8 kb NANOGP8 genomic fragment was used to drive the expression of green fluorescence protein (GFP). We observed that NANOGP8-GFP+ PCa cells exhibited cancer stem cell (CSC) characteristics such as enhanced clonal growth and tumor regenerative capacity. To further investigate the functions and mechanisms of NANOG in tumorigenesis, we established tetracycline-inducible NANOG overexpressing cancer cell lines, including both prostate (Du145 and LNCaP) and breast (MCF-7) cancer cells. NANOG induction promoted drug-resistance in MCF-7 cells, tumor regeneration in Du145 cells, and, most importantly, castration-resistant tumor development in LNCaP cells. These pro-tumorigenic effects of NANOG were associated with key molecular changes, including an upregulation of molecules such as CXCR4, IGFBP5, CD133 and ALDH1. The present gain-of-function studies, coupled with our recent loss-of-function work, establish the integral role for NANOG in neoplastic processes and shed light on its mechanisms of action.
PMCID: PMC3140601  PMID: 21499299
Nanog; prostate cancer; cancer stem cells; castration resistance; self-renewal
2.  Tumor development is associated with decrease of TET gene expression and 5-methylcytosine hydroxylation 
Oncogene  2012;32(5):663-669.
The TET (ten–eleven translocation) family of α-ketoglutarate (α-KG)-dependent dioxygenases catalyzes the sequential oxidation of 5-methylcytosine (5mC) to 5-hydroxymethyl-cytosine (5hmC), 5-formylcytosine and 5-carboxylcytosine, leading to eventual DNA demethylation. The TET2 gene is a bona fide tumor suppressor frequently mutated in leukemia, and TET enzyme activity is inhibited in IDH1/2-mutated tumors by the oncometabolite 2-hydroxyglutarate, an antagonist of α-KG, linking 5mC oxidation to cancer development. We report here that the levels of 5hmC are dramatically reduced in human breast, liver, lung, pancreatic and prostate cancers when compared with the matched surrounding normal tissues. Associated with the 5hmC decrease is the substantial reduction of the expression of all three TET genes, revealing a possible mechanism for the reduced 5hmC in cancer cells. The decrease of 5hmC was also observed during tumor development in different genetically engineered mouse models. Together, our results identify 5hmC as a biomarker whose decrease is broadly and tightly associated with tumor development.
PMCID: PMC3897214  PMID: 22391558
TET; 5-hydroxymethylation; DNA methylation; cancer biomarker
3.  Identification and functional analysis of 9p24 amplified genes in human breast cancer 
Oncogene  2011;31(3):10.1038/onc.2011.227.
Previously, our group identified a novel amplicon at chromosome 9p24 in human esophageal and breast cancers, and cloned the novel gene, GASC1 (gene amplified in squamous cell carcinoma 1, also known as JMJD2C/KDM4C), from this amplicon. GASC1 is a histone demethylase involved in the deregulation of histone methylation in cancer cells. In the current study, we aimed to comprehensively characterize the genes in the 9p24 amplicon in human breast cancer. We performed extensive genomic analyses on a panel of cancer cell lines and narrowed the shortest region of overlap to approximately 2 Mb. Based on statistical analysis of copy number increase and overexpression, the 9p24 amplicon contains six candidate oncogenes. Among these, four genes (GASC1 UHRF2, KIAA1432 and C9orf123) are overexpressed only in the context of gene amplification while two genes (ERMP1 and IL33) are overexpressed independent of the copy number increase. We then focused our studies on the UHRF2 gene, which has a potential involvement in both DNA methylation and histone modification. Knocking down UHRF2 expression inhibited the growth of breast cancer cells specifically with 9p24 amplification. Conversely, ectopic overexpression of UHRF2 in non-tumorigenic MCF10A cells promoted cell proliferation. Furthermore, we demonstrated that UHRF2 has the ability to suppress the expression of key cell-cycle inhibitors, such as p16INK4a, p21Waf1/Cip1 and p27Kip1. Taken together, our studies support the notion that the 9p24 amplicon contains multiple oncogenes that may integrate genetic and epigenetic codes and have important roles in human tumorigenesis.
PMCID: PMC3886828  PMID: 21666724
chromosome 9p24; GASC1; UHRF2; gene amplification
4.  Inflammatory signaling compromises cell responses to interferon alpha 
Oncogene  2011;31(2):161-172.
Interferon alpha (IFNα) is widely used for treatment of melanoma and certain other malignancies. This cytokine as well as the related IFNβ exerts potent anti-tumorigenic effects; however, their efficacy in patients is often suboptimal. Here we report that inflammatory signaling impedes the effects of IFNα/β. Melanoma cells can secrete pro-inflammatory cytokines that inhibit cellular responses to IFNα/β via activating the ligand-independent pathway for the phosphorylation and subsequent ubiquitination and accelerated degradation of the IFNAR1 chain of Type I IFN receptor. Catalytic activity of the p38 protein kinase was required for IFNAR1 downregulation and inhibition of IFNα/β signaling induced by proinflammatory cytokines such as Interleukin 1 (IL-1). Activation of p38 kinase inversely correlated with protein levels of IFNAR1 in clinical melanoma specimens. Inhibition of p38 kinase augmented the inhibitory effects of IFNα/β on cell viability and growth in vitro and in vivo. The role of inflammation and p38 protein kinase in regulating cellular responses to IFNα/β in normal and tumor cells are discussed.
PMCID: PMC3175348  PMID: 21666722
inflammation; cancer; interferon; receptor; ubiquitin; melanoma
5.  Role of eIF3a in regulating cisplatin sensitivity and nucleotide excision repair of nasopharyngeal carcinomas 
Oncogene  2011;30(48):4814-4823.
Translational control at the initiation step has been recognized as a major and important regulatory mechanism of gene expression. eIF3a, a putative subunit of eIF3 complex, has recently been shown to play an important role in regulating translation of a subset of mRNAs and found to correlate with prognosis of cancers. In this study, using nasopharyngeal carcinoma (NPC) cells as a model system we tested the hypothesis that eIF3a negatively regulates synthesis of nucleotide excision repair (NER) proteins and, thus, NER activities and cellular response to treatments with DNA damaging agents such as cisplatin. We found that a cisplatin-sensitive subclone S16 isolated from a NPC cell line CNE2 via limited dilution has increased eIF3a expression. Knocking down its expression in S16 cells increased cellular resistance to cisplatin, NER activity, and synthesis of NER proteins XPA, XPC, RAD23B, and RPA32. Altering eIF3a expression also changed cellular response to cisplatin and UV treatment in other NPC cell lines. Taken together, we conclude that eIF3a plays an important role in cisplatin response and NER activity of nasopharyngeal carcinomas by suppressing synthesis of NER proteins.
PMCID: PMC3165083  PMID: 21625209
cisplatin sensitivity; eIF3a; nasopharyngeal carcinoma; nucleotide excision repair; translational control
6.  IRX1 influences peritoneal spreading and metastasis via inhibiting BDKRB2-dependent neovascularization on gastric cancer 
Jiang, J | Liu, W | Guo, X | Zhang, R | Zhi, Q | Ji, J | Zhang, J | Chen, X | Li, J | Zhang, J | Gu, Q | Liu, B | Zhu, Z | Yu, Y
Oncogene  2011;30(44):4498-4508.
The overexpression of IRX1 gene correlates with the growth arrest in gastric cancer. Furthermore, overexpression of IRX1 gene suppresses peritoneal spreading and long distance metastasis. To explore the precise mechanisms, we investigated whether restoring IRX1 expression affects the angiogenesis or vasculogenic mimicry (VM). Human umbilical vein endothelial cells (HUVECs) and chick embryo and SGC-7901 gastric cancer cells were used for angiogenesis and VM analysis. Small interfering RNA was used for analyzing the function of BDKRB2, a downstream target gene of IRX1. As results, the remarkable suppression on peritoneal spreading and pulmonary metastasis of SGC-7901 cells by IRX1 transfectant correlates to reduced angiogenesis as well as VM formation. Using the supernatant from SGC-7901/IRX1 cells, we found a strong inhibiting effect on angiogenesis both in vitro and in chick embryo. SGC-7901/IRX1 cells revealed strong inhibiting effect on VM formation too. By gene-specific RNA interference for BDKRB2, or its effector PAK1, we got an effective inhibition on tube formation, cell proliferation, cell migration and invasion in vitro. In conclusion, enforcing IRX1 expression effectively suppresses peritoneal spreading and pulmonary metastasis via anti-angiogenesis and anti-VM mechanisms, in addition to previously found cell growth and invasion. BDKRB2 and its downstream effector might be potential targets for anti-cancer strategy.
PMCID: PMC3208739  PMID: 21602894
gastric carcinoma; IRX1; angiogenesis; vasculogenic mimicry; BDKRB2
7.  Phosphorylated P68 RNA Helicase Activates Snail1 Transcription by Promoting HDAC1 Dissociation from the Snail1 Promoter 
Oncogene  2010;29(39):5427-5436.
The nuclear p68 RNA helicase is a prototypical member of the DEAD box family of RNA helicases. P68 RNA helicase has been implicated in cell proliferation and early organ development and maturation. However, the functional role of p68 RNA helicase in these biological processes at the molecular level is not well understood. We previously reported that tyrosine phosphorylation of p68 RNA helicase mediates the effects of PDGF in induction of EMT by promoting β-catenin nuclear translocation (Yang Cell 127:139-155 2006). Here we report that phosphorylation of p68 RNA helicase at Y593 up-regulates transcription of the Snail1 gene. The phosphorylated p68 activates transcription of the Snail1 gene by promoting HDAC1 dissociation from the Snail1 promoter. Our results showed that p68 interacted with the nuclear remodeling and deacetylation complex MBD3:Mi-2/NuRD. Thus, our data suggested that a DEAD box RNA unwindase can potentially regulate gene expression by functioning as a protein ‘displacer’ to modulate protein-protein interactions at the chromatin remodeling complex.
PMCID: PMC2948064  PMID: 20676135
P68 RNA helicase; E-cadherin; Snail1; transcription activation; DEAD-box; HDAC1; Mi-2/NuRD
8.  A Novel Interaction Between HER2/neu and Cyclin E in Breast Cancer 
Oncogene  2010;29(27):3896-3907.
HER2/neu (HER2) and cyclin E are important prognostic indicators in breast cancer. Since both are involved in cell cycle regulation we investigated whether there was a direct interaction between the two. HER2 and cyclin E expression levels were determined in 395 breast cancer patients. Patients with HER2-overexpression and high levels of cyclin E had decreased 5-year disease-specific survival compared with low levels of cyclin E (14% versus 89%, P < .0001) In vitro studies were performed in which HER2-mediated activity in HER2-overexpressing breast cancer cell lines was downregulated by transfection with HER2 siRNA or treatment with trastuzumab. Cyclin E expression levels were determined, and functional effects investigated using kinase assays, MTT assays to assess cell viability as a marker of proliferation, and FACS analysis to determine cell cycle profiles. Decreased HER2-mediated signaling resulted in decreased expression of cyclin E, particularly the low molecular weight (LMW) isoforms. Decreased HER2 and LMW cyclin E expression had functional effects, including decreased cyclin E-associated kinase activity and decreased proliferation, due to increased apoptosis and an increased accumulation of cells in the G1 phase. In vivo studies performed in a HER2-overexpressing breast cancer xenograft model confirmed the effects of trastuzumab on cyclin E expression. Given the relationship between HER2 and cyclin E, in vitro clonogenic assays were performed to assess combination therapy targeting both proteins. Isobologram analysis showed a synergistic interaction between the two agents (trastuzumab targeting HER2 and roscovitine targeting cyclin E). Taken together, these studies demonstrate that HER2-mediated signaling effects LMW cyclin E expression, which in turn effects cell cycle regulation. LMW cyclin E has prognostic and predictive roles in HER2-overexpressing breast cancer, warranting further study of its potential as a therapeutic target.
PMCID: PMC2900397  PMID: 20453888
Breast cancer; HER2/neu; cell cycle regulation; cyclin E
Oncogene  2009;28(8):1089-1098.
Transforming growth factor-β (TGF-β) regulates epithelial tissue homeostasis by activating processes that control cell cycle arrest, differentiation and apoptosis. Disruption of TGF-β signaling pathway often occurs in colorectal cancers. Previously, we have shown that TGF-β induces apoptosis through the transcription factor Smad3. Affymetrix oligonucleotide microarrays were used to identify TGF-β/Smad3 target genes that regulate apoptosis in rat intestinal epithelial cells (RIE-1). We found that TGF-β repressed the expression of the inhibitor of differentiation (Id) gene family. Knockdown of Id1 and Id2 gene expression induced apoptosis in RIE cells, whereas over-expression of Id2 attenuated TGF-β-induced apoptosis. TranSignal™ Protein/DNA arrays were used to identify hypoxia-inducing factor-1 (HIF-1) as a downstream target of TGF-β. HIF-1 is a bHLH protein, and over-expression of Id2 blocked HIF-1 activation by TGF-β. Furthermore, knockdown of HIF-1 blocked TGF-β-induced apoptosis. Thus, we have identified HIF-1 as a novel mediator downstream of Id2 in the pathway of TGF-β-induced apoptosis.
PMCID: PMC2943843  PMID: 19137015
Apoptosis; Affymetrix oligonucleotide microarrays; Inhibitor of differentiation; TranSignal™; Protein/DNA arrays; Hypoxia-inducing factor
10.  Ebp1 Sumoylation, Regulated by TLS/FUS E3 Ligase, Is Required for its Anti-proliferative Activity 
Oncogene  2009;29(7):1017-1030.
Ebp1, an ErbB3 receptor-binding protein, inhibits cell proliferation and acts as a putative tumor suppressor. Ebp1 translocates into the nucleus and functions as a transcription corepressor for E2F-1. Here, we show that Ebp1 p42 isoform can be sumoylated on both K93 and K298 residues, which mediate its nuclear translocation and is required for its anti-proliferative activity. We find that TLS/FUS, an RNA-binding nuclear protein that is involved in pre- mRNA processing and nucleocytoplasmic shuttling, has Sumo1 E3 ligase activity for Ebp1 p42. Ebp1 directly binds TLS/FUS, which is regulated by genotoxic stress-triggered phosphorylation on Ebp1. Ebp1 sumoylation facilitates its nucleolar distribution and protein stability. Overexpression of TLS enhances Ebp1 sumoylation, while depletion of TLS abolishes Ebp1 sumoylation. Moreover, Unsumoylated Ebp1 mutants fail to suppress E2F-1- regulated transcription, resulting in loss of its anti-proliferation activity. Hence, TLS-mediated sumoylation is required for Ebp1 transcription repressive activity.
PMCID: PMC2824779  PMID: 19946338
Ebp1; TLS/FUS; Sumoylation; Cell proliferation
11.  Snm1B/Apollo Mediates Replication Fork Collapse and S Phase Checkpoint Activation in Response to DNA Interstrand Cross-Links 
Oncogene  2008;27(37):5045-5056.
The removal of DNA interstrand cross-links (ICLs) has proven to be notoriously complicated due to the involvement of multiple pathways of DNA repair, which include the Fanconi anemia/BRCA pathway, homologous recombination, and components of the nucleotide excision and mismatch repair pathways. Members of the SNM1 gene family have also been shown to have a role in mediating cellular resistance to ICLs, although their precise function has remained elusive. Here we show that knockdown of Snm1B/Apollo in human cells results in hypersensitivity to mitomycin C (MMC), but not to IR. We also show that Snm1B-deficient cells exhibit a defective S phase checkpoint in response to MMC, but not to IR, and this finding may account for the specific sensitivity to the cross-linking drug. Interestingly, although previous studies have largely implicated ATR as the major kinase activated in response to ICLs, we show that it is activation of the ATM-mediated checkpoint that is defective in Snm1B-deficient cells. The requirement for Snm1B in ATM checkpoint activation specifically after ICL damage is correlated with its role in promoting double-strand break formation, and thus replication fork collapse. Consistent with this result Snm1B was found to interact directly with Mus81-Eme1 an endonuclease previously implicated in fork collapse. In addition, we also show that Snm1B interacts with the Mre11-Rad50-Nbs1 (MRN) complex and with FancD2 further substantiating its role as a checkpoint/DNA repair protein.
PMCID: PMC2805112  PMID: 18469862
Snm1B/Apollo; interstrand cross-links; cell cycle checkpoint; ATM
12.  Human skin neural crest progenitor cells are susceptible to BRAFV600E-induced transformation 
Kumar, SM | Dai, J | Li, S | Yang, R | Yu, H | Nathanson, KL | Liu, S | Zhou, H | Guo, J | Xu, X
Oncogene  2013;33(7):832-841.
Adult stem cells are multipotent and persist in small numbers in adult tissues throughout the lifespan of an organism. Unlike differentiated cells, adult stem cells are intrinsically resistant to senescence. It is unclear how adult stem cells in solid organs respond to oncogenic stimulation and whether these cells have a role in tumor initiation. We report here that expression of BRAFV600E in human neural crest progenitor cells (hNCPCs) did not induce growth arrest as seen in human melanocytes, but instead, increased their cell proliferation capacity. These cells (hNCPCsV600E) acquired anchorage-independent growth ability and were weakly tumorigenic in vivo. Unlike in human melanocytes, BRAFV600E expression in hNCPCs did not induce p16INK4a expression. BRAFV600E induced elevated expression of CDK2, CDK4, MITF and EST1/2 protein in hNCPCs, and also induced melanocytic differentiation of these cells. Furthermore, overexpression of MITF in hNCPCsV600E dramatically increased their tumorigenicity and resulted in fully transformed tumor cells. These findings indicate that hNCPCs are susceptible to BRAFV600E-induced transformation, and MITF potentiates the oncogenic effect of BRAFV600E in these progenitor cells. These results suggest that the hNCPCs are potential targets for BRAFV600E-induced melanocytic tumor formation.
PMCID: PMC3695032  PMID: 23334329
melanoma; neural crest; transformation; melanocytes; BRAFV600E
13.  EIF3i Promotes Colon Oncogenesis by Regulating COX-2 Protein Synthesis and β-Catenin Activation 
Oncogene  2013;33(32):4156-4163.
Translational control of gene expression has recently been recognized as an important mechanism controlling cell proliferation and oncogenesis and it mainly occurs in the initiation step of protein synthesis that involves multiple eukaryotic initiation factors (eIFs). Many eIFs have been found to have aberrant expression in human tumors and the aberrant expression may contribute to oncogenesis. However, how these previously considered house-keeping proteins are potentially oncogenic remains elusive. In this study, we investigated the expression of eIF3i in human colon cancers, tested its contribution to colon oncogenesis, and determined the mechanism of eIF3i action in colon oncogenesis. We found that eIF3i expression was up-regulated in both human colon adenocarcinoma and adenoma polyps as well as in model inducible colon tumorigenic cell lines. Over-expression of ectopic eIF3i in intestinal epithelial cells causes oncogenesis by directly up-regulating synthesis of COX-2 protein and activates the β-catenin/TCF4 signaling pathway that mediates the oncogenic function of eIF3i. Together, we conclude that eIF3i is a proto-oncogene that drives colon oncogenesis by translationally up-regulating COX-2 and activating β-catenin signaling pathway. These findings imply that protooncogenic eIFs likely exert their tumorigenic function by regulating/altering the synthesis level of down-stream tumor suppressor or oncogenes.
PMCID: PMC3962800  PMID: 24056964
eIF3i; COX-2; β-catenin; translational control; colon cancer; RNA-binding
14.  Generation of Cancer Stem-like Cells through Formation of Polyploid Giant Cancer Cells 
Oncogene  2013;33(1):10.1038/onc.2013.96.
Polyploid giant cancer cells (PGCCs) have been observed by pathologists for over a century. PGCCs contribute to solid tumor heterogeneity, but their functions are largely undefined. Little attention has been given to these cells, largely because PGCCs have been generally thought to originate from repeated mitosis/cytokinesis failure and have no capacity for long-term survival and cell proliferation. Here we report that we successfully purified and cultured PGCCs from human ovarian cancer cell lines and primary ovarian cancer. These cells are highly resistant to oxygen deprivation and could form through endoreduplication or cell fusion, generating regular-sized cancer cells quickly through budding or burst. They are positive for normal and cancer stem cell markers, divided asymmetrically and cycled slowly. They can differentiate into adipose, cartilage, and bone. A single PGCC formed cancer spheroids in vitro and generated tumors in immunodeficient mice. PGCC-derived tumor gained a mesenchymal phenotype with increased expression of cancer stem cell markers CD44 and CD133 and become more resistant to the treatment of cisplatin. Together, our results reveal that the PGCCs present a resistant form of human cancer generated in response to hypoxia stress and can contribute to generation of cancer stem-like cells and play a fundamental role in regulating tumor heterogeneity, stemness, and chemoresistance in human cancer.
PMCID: PMC3844126  PMID: 23524583
Polyploid giant cancer cells; Cancer stem cells; Cell fusion; Asymmetric cell division; Epithelial-mesenchymal transition
15.  A JNK-mediated autophagy pathway that triggers c-IAP degradation and necroptosis for anticancer chemotherapy 
Oncogene  2013;33(23):3004-3013.
Killing cancer cells through the induction of apoptosis is one of the main mechanisms of chemotherapy. However, numerous cancer cells have primary or acquired apoptosis resistance, resulting in chemoresistance. In this study, using a novel chalcone derivative chalcone-24 (Chal-24), we identified a novel anticancer mechanism through autophagy-mediated necroptosis (RIP1- and RIP3-dependent necrosis). Chal-24 potently killed different cancer cells with induction of necrotic cellular morphology while causing no detectable caspase activation. Blocking the necroptosis pathway with either necrostatin-1 or by knockdown of RIP1 and RIP3 effectively blocked the cytotoxicity of Chal-24, suggesting that Chal-24-induced cell death is associated with necroptosis. Chal-24 robustly activated JNK and ERK and blockage of which effectively suppressed Chal-24-induced cytotoxicity. In addition, Chal-24 strongly induced autophagy that is dependent on JNK-mediated phosphorylation of Bcl-2 and Bcl-xL and dissociation of Bcl-2 or Bcl-xL from Beclin1. Importantly, suppression of autophagy, with either pharmacological inhibitors or siRNAs targeting the essential autophagy components ATG7 and Beclin1, effectively attenuated Chal-24-induced cell death. Furthermore, we found that autophagy activation resulted in c-IAP1 and c-IAP2 degradation and formation of the Ripoptosome that contributes to necroptosis. These results thus establish a novel mechanism for killing cancer cells that involves autophagy-mediated necroptosis, which may be employed for overcoming chemoresistance.
PMCID: PMC3912228  PMID: 23831571
autophagy; necroptosis; RIP1; RIP3; c-IAP; apoptosis
16.  KLF8 and FAK cooperatively enrich the active MMP14 on the cell surface required for the metastatic progression of breast cancer 
Oncogene  2013;33(22):2909-2917.
Krüppel-like factor 8 (KLF8) regulates critical gene transcription associated with cancer. The underlying mechanisms, however, remain largely unidentified. We have recently demonstrated that KLF8 expression enhances the activity but not expression of matrix metalloproteinase-2 (MMP2), the target substrate of MMP14. Here, we report a novel KLF8 to MMP14 signaling that promotes human breast cancer invasion and metastasis. Using cell lines for inducible expression and knockdown of KLF8, we demonstrate that KLF8 promotes MMP14 expression at the transcriptional level. Knocking down KLF8 expression inhibited the breast cancer cell invasion both in vitro and in vivo as well as the lung metastasis in mice, which could be rescued by ectopic expression of MMP14. Promoter reporter assays and oligonucleotide and chromatin immunoprecipitations determined that KLF8 activates the human MMP14 gene promoter by both directly acting on the promoter and indirectly via promoting the nuclear translocation of β-catenin, the expression of T cell factor-1 (TCF1) and subsequent activation of the promoter by the β-catenin/TCF1 complex. Inhibition of focal adhesion kinase (FAK) using pharmacological inhibitor, RNA interference or knockout showed that the cell surface presentation of active MMP14 downstream of KLF8 depends upon FAK expression and activity. Taken together, this work identified novel signaling mechanisms by which KLF8 and FAK work together to promote the extracellular activity of MMP14 critical for breast cancer metastasis.
PMCID: PMC3929536  PMID: 23812425
KLF8; FAK; MMP14; β-catenin/TCF1; metastasis; breast cancer
17.  MiR-221 promotes the development of androgen independence in prostate cancer cells via downregulation of HECTD2 and RAB1A 
Oncogene  2013;33(21):2790-2800.
Hormone-sensitive prostate cancer typically progresses to castration resistant prostate cancer (CRPC) after the androgen deprivation therapy. We investigated the impact of microRNAs (miRs) in the transition of prostate cancer to CRPC. MiR-221/-222 was highly expressed in bone metastatic CRPC tumor specimens. We previously demonstrated that transient overexpression of miR-221/-222 in LNCaP promoted the development of the CRPC phenotype. In current study, we show that stably overexpressing miR-221 confers androgen independent (AI) cell growth in LNCaP by rescuing LNCaP cells from growth arrest at G1 phase due to the lack of androgen. Overexpressing of miR-221 in LNCaP reduced the transcription of a subgroup of androgen-responsive genes without affecting the androgen receptor (AR) or AR-androgen integrity. By performing systematic biochemical and bioinformatical analyses, we identified two miR-221 targets, HECTD2 and RAB1A, which could mediate the development of CRPC phenotype in multiple prostate cancer cell lines. Downregulation of HECTD2 significantly affected the androgen-induced and AR-mediated transcription, and downregulation of HECTD2 or RAB1A enhances AI cell growth. As a result of the elevated expression of miR-221, expression of many cell cycle genes was altered and pathways promoting epithelial to mesenchymal transition/tumor metastasis were activated. We hypothesize that a major biological consequence of upregulation of miR-221 is reprogramming of AR signaling, which in turn may mediate the transition to the CRPC phenotype.
PMCID: PMC3883998  PMID: 23770851
microRNA; miR-221; castration resistant prostate cancer; androgen receptor signaling
18.  CD44 promotes Kras-dependent lung adenocarcinoma 
Oncogene  2012;32(43):5186-5190.
Kras-induced non-small-cell lung adenocarcinoma is the major subtype of lung cancers and is associated with poor prognosis. Using a lung cancer mouse model that expresses a cre-mediated KrasG12D mutant, we identified a critical role for the cell surface molecule CD44 in mediating cell proliferation downstream of oncogenic Kras signaling. The deletion of CD44 attenuates lung adenocarcinoma formation and prolongs the survival of these mice. Mechanistically, CD44 is required for the activation of Krasmediated signaling through the mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) pathway and thus promotes tumor cell proliferation. Together, these results reveal an unrecognized role for CD44 in oncogenic Kras-induced lung adenocarcinoma and suggest that targeting CD44 could be an effective strategy for halting Kras-dependent carcinomas.
PMCID: PMC4227610  PMID: 23208496
CD44; Kras; lung adenocarcinoma
19.  RSK promotes G2/M transition through activating phosphorylation of Cdc25A and Cdc25B 
Oncogene  2013;33(18):2385-2394.
Activation of the MAPK cascade in mammalian cell lines positively regulates the G2/M transition. The molecular mechanism underlying this biological phenomenon remains poorly understood. RSK is a key downstream element of the MAPK cascade. Our previous studies established roles of RSK2 in Cdc25C activation during progesterone-induced meiotic maturation of Xenopus oocytes. In this study, we demonstrate that both recombinant RSK and endogenous RSK in Xenopus egg extracts phosphorylate all three isoforms of human Cdc25 at a conserved motif near the catalytic domain. In human HEK293 and PC-3mm2 cell lines, RSK preferentially phosphorylates Cdc25A and Cdc25B in mitotic cells. Phosphorylation of the RSK sites in these Cdc25 isoforms increases their M phase-inducing activities. Inhibition of RSK-mediated phosphorylation of Cdc25 inhibits G2/M transition. Moreover, RSK is likely to be more active in mitotic cells than in interphase cells, as evidenced by the phosphorylation status of T359/S363 in RSK. Together, these findings indicate that RSK promotes G2/M transition in mammalian cells through activating phosphorylation of Cdc25A and Cdc25B.
PMCID: PMC4026278  PMID: 23708659
RSK; Cdc25; activating phosphorylation; mitosis; G2/M transition; cell cycle
20.  Human DF3/MUC1 carcinoma-associated protein functions as an oncogene 
Oncogene  2003;22(38):6107-6110.
The human DF3/MUC1 mucin-like glycoprotein is aberrantly overexpressed by most carcinomas of the breast and other epithelia. The contribution of MUC1 overexpression to the malignant phenotype is, however, not known. In the present studies, we have stably expressed MUC1 in rat 3Y1 fibroblasts. MUC1-positive cells were selected from independent transfections. The results demonstrate that, as found in human carcinomas, MUC1 is expressed on the cell surface and as a complex with α-catenin in the nucleus of the transfectants. Colony formation in soft agar demonstrates that cells expressing MUC1, but not the empty vector, exhibit anchorageindependent growth. The results also show that MUC1 expression confers tumor formation in nude mice. These findings provide the first evidence that MUC1 induces cellular transformation.
PMCID: PMC4209839  PMID: 12955090
DF3/MUC1; 3Y1 cells; anchorage-independent growth; cellular transformation
21.  Prolactin suppresses a progestin-induced CK5-positive cell population in luminal breast cancer through inhibition of progestin-driven BCL6 expression 
Oncogene  2013;33(17):2215-2224.
Prolactin controls the development and function of milk-producing breast epithelia but also supports growth and differentiation of breast cancer, especially luminal subtypes. A principal signaling mediator of prolactin, Stat5, promotes cellular differentiation of breast cancer cells in vitro, and loss of active Stat5 in tumors is associated with anti-estrogen therapy failure in patients. In luminal breast cancer progesterone induces a cytokeratin-5 (CK5)-positive basal cell-like population. This population possesses characteristics of tumor stem cells including quiescence, therapy-resistance, and tumor-initiating capacity. Here we report that prolactin counteracts induction of the CK5-positive population by the synthetic progestin R5020 in luminal breast cancer cells both in vitro and in vivo. CK5-positive cells were chemoresistant as determined by four-fold reduced rate of apoptosis following docetaxel exposure. Progestin-induction of CK5 was preceded by marked up-regulation of BCL6, an oncogene and transcriptional repressor critical for the maintenance of leukemia-initiating cells. Knockdown of BCL6 prevented induction of CK5-positive cell population by progestin. Prolactin suppressed progestin-induced BCL6 through Jak2-Stat5 but not Erk- or Akt-dependent pathways. In premenopausal but not postmenopausal patients with hormone receptor-positive breast cancer, tumor protein levels of CK5 correlated positively with BCL6, and high BCL6 or CK5 protein levels were associated with unfavorable clinical outcome. Suppression of progestin-induction of CK5-positive cells represents a novel pro-differentiation effect of prolactin in breast cancer. The present progress may have direct implications for breast cancer progression and therapy since loss of prolactin receptor-Stat5 signaling occurs frequently and BCL6 inhibitors currently being evaluated for lymphomas may have value for breast cancer.
PMCID: PMC3913798  PMID: 23708665
breast cancer; CK5; BCL6; prolactin; progesterone; Stat5
22.  Pro-neural miR-128 is a glioma tumor suppressor that targets mitogenic kinases 
Oncogene  2011;31(15):1884-1895.
MicroRNAs (miRNAs) carry out post-transcriptional control of a multitude of cellular processes. Aberrant expression of miRNA can lead to diseases, including cancer. Gliomas are aggressive brain tumors that are thought to arise from transformed glioma-initiating neural stem cells (giNSCs). With the use of giNSCs and human glioblastoma cells, we investigated the function of miRNAs in gliomas. We identified pro-neuronal miR-128 as a candidate glioma tumor suppressor miRNA. Decreased expression of miR-128 correlates with aggressive human glioma subtypes. With a combination of molecular, cellular and in vivo approaches, we characterize miR-128’s tumor suppressive role. miR-128 represses giNSC growth by enhancing neuronal differentiation. miR-128 represses growth and mediates differentiation by targeting oncogenic receptor tyrosine kinases (RTKs) epithelial growth factor receptor and platelet-derived growth factor receptor-α. Using an autochthonous glioma mouse model, we demonstrated that miR-128 repressed gliomagenesis. We identified miR-128 as a glioma tumor suppressor that targets RTK signaling to repress giNSC self-renewal and enhance differentiation.
PMCID: PMC4160048  PMID: 21874051
microRNA; glioma stem cells; miR-128; EGFR; PDGFRα
23.  Downregulation of miR-486-5p contributes to tumor progression and metastasis by targeting protumorigenic ARHGAP5 in lung cancer 
Oncogene  2013;33(9):1181-1189.
We have previously shown that miR-486-5p is one of the most downregulated micro RNAs in lung cancer. The objective of the study was to investigate the role of miR-486-5p in the progression and metastasis of non-small-cell lung cancer (NSCLC). We evaluated miR-486-5p expression status on 76 frozen and 33 formalin-fixed paraffin-embedded tissues of NSCLC by quantitative reverse transcriptase PCR to determine its clinicopathologic significance. We then performed function analysis of miR-486-5p to determine its potential roles on cancer cell migration and invasion in vitro and metastasis in vivo. We also investigated the target genes of miR-486-5p in lung tumorigenesis. miR-486-5p expression level was significantly lower in lung tumors compared with their corresponding normal tissues (P<0.0001), and associated with stage (P =0.0001) and lymph node metastasis of NSCLC (P = 0.0019). Forced expression of miR-486-5p inhibited NSCLC cell migration and invasion in vitro and metastasis in mice by inhibiting cell proliferation. Furthermore, ectopic expression of miR-486-5p in cancer cells reduced ARHGAP5 expression level, whereas miR-486-5p silencing increased its expression. Luciferase assay demonstrated that miR-486-5p could directly bind to the 3′-untranslated region of ARHGAP5. The expression level of miR-486-5p was inversely correlated with that of ARHGAP5 in lung tumor tissues (P =0.0156). Reduced expression of ARHGAP5 considerably inhibited lung cancer cell migration and invasion, resembling that of miR-486-5p overexpression. miR-486-5p may act as a tumor-suppressor contributing to the progression and metastasis of NSCLC by targeting ARHGAP5. miR-486-5p would provide potential diagnostic and therapeutic targets for the disease.
PMCID: PMC3883922  PMID: 23474761
miR-486-5p; tumor-suppressor gene; lung cancer; ARHGAP5; therapy
24.  Macrophage contact induces RhoA GTPase signaling to trigger tumor cell intravasation 
Oncogene  2013;33(33):4203-4212.
Most cancer patients die as a result of metastasis, thus it is important to understand the molecular mechanisms of dissemination, including intra- and extravasation. Although the mechanisms of extravasation have been vastly studied in vitro and in vivo, the process of intravasation is still unclear. Furthermore, how cells in the tumor microenvironment facilitate tumor cell intravasation is still unknown. Using high-resolution imaging, we found that macrophages enhance tumor cell intravasation upon physical contact. Macrophage and tumor cell contact induce RhoA activity in tumor cells, triggering the formation of actin-rich degradative protrusions called invadopodia, enabling tumor cells to degrade and break through matrix barriers during tumor cell transendothelial migration. Interestingly, we show that macrophage-induced invadopodium formation and tumor cell intravasation also occur in patient-derived tumor cells and in vivo models, revealing a conserved mechanism of tumor cell intravasation. Our results illustrate a novel heterotypic cell contact mediated signaling role for RhoA, as well as yield mechanistic insight into the ability of cells within the tumor microenvironment to facilitate steps of the metastatic cascade.
PMCID: PMC3962803  PMID: 24056963
cancer; tumor cell intravasation; macrophages; RhoA biosensor; invadopodia; heterotypic cell contact
25.  Control of Glutamine Metabolism By the Tumor Suppressor Rb 
Oncogene  2013;33(5):556-566.
Retinoblastoma (Rb) protein is a tumor suppressor that is dysregulated in a majority of human cancers. Rb functions to inhibit cell cycle progression in part by directly disabling the E2F family of cell cycle-promoting transcription factors. Because the de novo synthesis of multiple glutamine-derived anabolic precursors is required for cell cycle progression, we hypothesized that Rb also may directly regulate proteins involved in glutamine metabolism. We examined glutamine metabolism in mouse embryonic fibroblasts (MEFs) isolated from mice that have triple knock-outs (TKO) of all three Rb family members (Rb-1, Rbl1, and Rbl2) and found that loss of global Rb function caused a marked increase in 13C-glutamine uptake and incorporation into glutamate and TCA cycle intermediates in part via upregulated expression of the glutamine transporter ASCT2 and the activity of glutaminase 1 (GLS1). The Rb-controlled transcription factor E2F-3 altered glutamine uptake by direct regulation of ASCT2 mRNA and protein expression, and E2F-3 was observed to associate with the ASCT2 promoter. We next examined the functional consequences of the observed increase in glutamine uptake and utilization and found that glutamine exposure potently increased oxygen consumption whereas glutamine deprivation selectively decreased ATP concentration in the Rb TKO MEFs but not the WT MEFs. In addition, TKO MEFs exhibited elevated production of glutathione from exogenous glutamine, and had increased expression of gamma-glutamylcysteine ligase relative to WT MEFs. Importantly, this metabolic shift towards glutamine utilization was required for the proliferation of Rb TKO MEFs but not for the proliferation of the WT MEFs. Last, addition of the TCA cycle intermediate α-ketoglutarate to the Rb TKO MEFs reversed the inhibitory effects of glutamine deprivation on ATP, GSH levels, and viability. Taken together, these studies demonstrate that the Rb/E2F cascade directly regulates a major energetic and anabolic pathway that is required for neoplastic growth.
PMCID: PMC3918885  PMID: 23353822
Retinoblastoma Protein; Metabolism; Glutamine; Cancer; Tumor Suppressor

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