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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.  The mitotic kinase Aurora-A promotes distant metastases by inducing epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition in ERα+ breast cancer cells 
Oncogene  2013;33(5):599-610.
In this study, we demonstrate that constitutive activation of Raf-1 oncogenic signaling induces stabilization and accumulation of Aurora-A mitotic kinase that ultimately drives the transition from an epithelial to a highly invasive mesenchymal phenotype in estrogen receptor α-positive (ERα+) breast cancer cells. The transition from an epithelial- to a mesenchymal-like phenotype was characterized by reduced expression of ERα, HER-2/Neu overexpression and loss of CD24 surface receptor (CD24 –/low). Importantly, expression of key epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition (EMT) markers and upregulation of the stemness gene SOX2 was linked to acquisition of stem cell-like properties such as the ability to form mammospheres in vitro and tumor self-renewal in vivo. Moreover, aberrant Aurora-A kinase activity induced phosphorylation and nuclear translocation of SMAD5, indicating a novel interplay between Aurora-A and SMAD5 signaling pathways in the development of EMT, stemness and ultimately tumor progression. Importantly, pharmacological and molecular inhibition of Aurora-A kinase activity restored a CD24+ epithelial phenotype that was coupled to ERα expression, downregulation of HER-2/Neu, inhibition of EMT and impaired self-renewal ability, resulting in the suppression of distant metastases. Taken together, our findings show for the first time the causal role of Aurora-A kinase in the activation of EMT pathway responsible for the development of distant metastases in ERα+ breast cancer cells. Moreover, this study has important translational implications because it highlights the mitotic kinase Aurora-A as a novel promising therapeutic target to selectively eliminate highly invasive cancer cells and improve the disease-free and overall survival of ERα+ breast cancer patients resistant to conventional endocrine therapy.
PMCID: PMC4058768  PMID: 23334326
breast cancer; stemness; metastases
13.  Conserved features of cancer cells define their sensitivity of HAMLET-induced death; c-Myc and glycolysis 
Oncogene  2011;30(48):4765-4779.
HAMLET is the first member of a new family of tumoricidal protein-lipid complexes that kill cancer cells broadly, while sparing healthy, differentiated cells. Many and diverse tumor cell types are sensitive to the lethal effect, suggesting that HAMLET identifies and activates conserved death pathways in cancer cells. Here we investigated the molecular basis for the difference in sensitivity between cancer cells and healthy cells. Using a combination of small hairpin RNA inhibition, proteomic and metabolomic technology we identified the c-Myc oncogene as one essential determinant of HAMLET sensitivity. Increased c-Myc expression levels promoted the sensitivity to HAMLET and shRNA knockdown of c-Myc suppressed the lethal response, suggesting that oncogenic transformation with c-Myc creates a HAMLET-sensitive phenotype. Furthermore, the HAMLET sensitivity was modified by the glycolytic state of the tumor cells. Glucose deprivation sensitized tumor cells to HAMLET-induced cell death and in the shRNA screen Hexokinase 1, PFKFB1 and HIF1α modified HAMLET sensitivity. Hexokinase 1 was shown to bind HAMLET in a protein array containing approximately 8000 targets and Hexokinase activity decreased within 15 minutes of HAMLET treatment, prior to morphological signs of tumor cell death. In parallel, HAMLET triggered rapid metabolic paralysis in carcinoma cells. The glycolytic machinery was modified and glycolysis was shifted towards the pentose phosphate pathway. Tumor cells were also shown to contain large amounts of oleic acid and its derivatives already after 15 minutes. The results identify HAMLET as a novel anti-cancer agent that kills tumor cells by exploiting unifying features of cancer cells such as oncogene-addiction or the Warburg effect.
PMCID: PMC4041205  PMID: 21643007
HAMLET; metabolism; c-Myc; glycolysis
14.  PPM1A is a RelA phosphatase with tumor suppressor-like activity 
Lu, X | An, H | Jin, R | Zou, M | Guo, Y | Su, P-F | Liu, D | Shyr, Y | Yarbrough, WG
Oncogene  2013;33(22):2918-2927.
Nuclear factor-κB (NF-κB) signaling contributes to human disease processes, notably inflammatory diseases and cancer. NF-κB has a role in tumorigenesis and tumor growth, as well as promotion of metastases. Mechanisms responsible for abnormal NF-κB activation are not fully elucidated; however, RelA phosphorylation, particularly at serine residues S536 and S276, is critical for RelA function. Kinases that phosphorylate RelA promote oncogenic behaviors, suggesting that phosphatases targeting RelA could have tumor-inhibiting activities; however, few RelA phosphatases have been identified. Here, we identified tumor inhibitory and RelA phosphatase activities of the protein phosphatase 2C (PP2C) phosphatase family member, PPM1A. We show that PPM1A directly dephosphorylated RelA at residues S536 and S276 and selectively inhibited NF-κB transcriptional activity, resulting in decreased expression of monocyte chemotactic protein-1/chemokine (C–C motif) ligand 2 and interleukin-6, cytokines implicated in cancer metastasis. PPM1A depletion enhanced NF-κB-dependent cell invasion, whereas PPM1A expression inhibited invasion. Analyses of human expression data revealed that metastatic prostate cancer deposits had lower PPM1A expression compared with primary tumors without distant metastases. A hematogenous metastasis mouse model revealed that PPM1A expression inhibited bony metastases of prostate cancer cells after vascular injection. In summary, our findings suggest that PPM1A is a RelA phosphatase that regulates NF-κB activity and that PPM1A has tumor suppressor-like activity. Our analyses also suggest that PPM1A inhibits prostate cancer metastases and as neither gene deletions nor inactivating mutations of PPM1A have been described, increasing PPM1A activity in tumors represents a potential therapeutic strategy to inhibit NF-κB signaling or bony metastases in human cancer.
PMCID: PMC3897569  PMID: 23812431
NF-κB; PPM1A; phosphatase; prostate cancer; tumor suppressor
15.  Downregulation of miR-140 promotes cancer stem cell formation in basal-like early stage breast cancer 
Li, Q | Yao, Y | Eades, G | Liu, Z | Zhang, Y | Zhou, Q
Oncogene  2013;33(20):2589-2600.
The major goal of breast cancer prevention is to reduce the incidence of ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS), an early stage of breast cancer. However, the biology behind DCIS formation is not well understood. It is suspected that cancer stem cells (CSCs) are already programmed in pre-malignant DCIS lesions and that these tumor-initiating cells may determine the phenotype of DCIS. MicroRNA (miRNA) profiling of paired DCIS tumors revealed that loss of miR-140 is a hallmark of DCIS lesions. Previously, we have found that miR-140 regulates CSCs in luminal subtype invasive ductal carcinoma. Here, we find that miR-140 has a critical role in regulating stem cell signaling in normal breast epithelium and in DCIS. miRNA profiling of normal mammary stem cells and cancer stem-like cells from DCIS tumors revealed that miR-140 is significantly downregulated in cancer stem-like cells compared with normal stem cells, linking miR-140 and dysregulated stem cell circuitry. Furthermore, we found that SOX9 and ALDH1, the most significantly activated stem-cell factors in DCIS stem-like cells, are direct targets of miR-140. Currently, targeted therapies (tamoxifen) are only able to reduce DCIS risk in patients with estrogen receptor α (ERα)-positive disease. We examined a model of ERα-negative/basal-like DCIS and found that restoration of miR-140 via a genetic approach or with the dietary compound sulforaphane decreased SOX9 and ALDH1, and reduced tumor growth in vivo. These results support that a miR-140/ALDH1/SOX9 axis is critical to basal CSC self-renewal and tumor formation in vivo, suggesting that the miR-140 pathway may be a promising target for preventative strategies in patients with basal-like DCIS.
PMCID: PMC3883868  PMID: 23752191
microRNAs; ductal carcinoma in situ; cancer stem cells; basal-like breast cancer
16.  An apoptosis-independent role of SMAC in tumor suppression 
Oncogene  2012;32(19):2380-2389.
Reduced expression of the pro-apoptotic protein SMAC (second mitochondria-derived activator of caspase) has been reported to correlate with cancer progression, while its significance and underlying mechanisms are poorly understood. In this study, we investigated the role of SMAC in intestinal tumorigenesis using both human samples and animal models. Decreased SMAC expression was found to correlate with increased cIAP2 expression and higher grades of human colon cancer. In mice, SMAC deficiency significantly increased the incidence and size of colon tumors induced by azoxymethane (AOM)/dextran sulfate sodium salt (DSS), and highly enriched β-catenin hot spot mutations. SMAC deficiency also significantly increased the incidence of spontaneous intestinal polyps in APCMin/+ mice. Loss of SMAC in mice led to elevated levels of cIAP1 and cIAP2, increased proliferation and activation of the NF-κB p65 subunit in normal and tumor tissues. Unexpectedly, SMAC deficiency had little effect on the incidence of precursor lesions, or apoptosis induced by AOM or DSS, or in established tumors in mice. Furthermore, SMAC knockout enhanced TNFα-mediated NF-κB activation via cIAP2 in HCT 116 colon cancer cells. These results demonstrate an essential and apoptosis-independent function of SMAC in tumor suppression and provide new insights into the biology and targeting of colon cancer.
PMCID: PMC3751796  PMID: 22751125
SMAC; cIAP; NF-κB; proliferation; colon cancer
17.  Human osteosarcoma CD49f−CD133+ cells: impaired in osteogenic fate while gain of tumorigenicity 
Oncogene  2012;32(36):4252-4263.
The biological relationships among self-renewal, tumorigenicity, and lineage differentiation of human osteosarcoma-initiating cells (OSIC) remain elusive, making it difficult to identify and distinguish OSIC from osteosarcoma-forming cells (OSFC) for developing OSIC-targeted therapies. Using a new inverse lineage tracking strategy coupled with serial human-to-mouse xenotransplantation, we identified a subpopulation of osteosarcoma cells with OSIC-like properties and sought to distinguish them from their progeny, OSFC. We found that serial transplantation of cells from different osteosarcoma cell lines and primary osteosarcoma tissues progressively increased the CD49f+ subpopulation composing the bulk of the osteosarcoma mass. These CD49f+ cells displayed characteristics of OSFC: limited in vivo tumorigenicity, weak lineage differentiation, more differentiated osteogenic feature, and greater chemo-sensitivity. By contrast, their parental CD49f−CD133+ cells had an inhibited osteogenic fate, together with OSIC-like properties of self-renewal, strong tumorigenicity, and differentiation to CD49f+ progeny. Hence, the CD49f−CD133+ phenotype appears to identify OSIC-like cells that possess strong tumorigenicity correlated with an impaired osteogenic fate and the ability to initiate tumor growth through generation of CD49f+ progeny. These findings advance our understanding of OSIC-like properties and, for the first time, provide a much-needed distinction between OSIC and OSFC in this cancer.
PMCID: PMC3947577  PMID: 23045288
Osteosarcoma-initiating cells; self-renewal; tumorigenicity; lineage differentiation; osteosarcoma-forming cells; osteogenic differentiation
18.  Role for Prdx1 as a specific sensor in redox-regulated senescence in breast cancer 
Oncogene  2013;32(45):5302-5314.
Recent studies suggest that Peroxiredoxin 1 (Prdx1), in addition to its known H2O2-scavenging function, mediates cell signaling through redox-specific protein-protein interactions. Our data illustrate how Prdx1 specifically coordinates p38MAPK-induced signaling through regulating p38MAPKα phosphatases in a H2O2-dose dependent manner. MAPK phosphatases (MKP-1 and/or MKP-5), which are known to dephosphorylate and deactivate the senescence-inducing MAPK p38α, belong to a group of redox-sensitive phosphatases (protein tyrosine phosphatases: PTPs) characterized by a low pKa cysteine in their active sites. We found that Prdx1 bound to both MKP-1 and MKP-5, but dissociated from MKP-1 when the Prdx1 peroxidatic cysteine Cys52 was over-oxidized to sulfonic acid, which in turn resulted in MKP-1 oxidation-induced oligomerization and inactivity towards p38MAPKα. Conversely, over-oxidation of Prdx1-Cys-52 was enhancing in the Prdx1:MKP-5 complex with increasing amounts of H2O2 concentrations and correlated with a protection from oxidation-induced oligomerization and inactivation of MKP-5 so that activation towards p38MAPK was maintained. Further examination of this Prdx1-specific mechanism in a model of ROS-induced senescence of human breast epithelial cells revealed the specific activation of MKP-5, resulting in decreased p38MAPKα activity. Taken together, our data suggest that Prdx1 orchestrates redox-signaling in a H2O2-dose dependent manner through the oxidation-status of its peroxidatic cysteine Cys52.
PMCID: PMC3936261  PMID: 23334324
19.  mTORC1 enhancement of STIM1-mediated store-operated Ca2+ entry constrains tuberous sclerosis complex-related tumor development 
Peng, H | Liu, J | Sun, Q | Chen, R | Wang, Y | Duan, J | Li, C | Li, B | Jing, Y | Chen, X | Mao, Q | Xu, K-F | Walker, CL | Li, J | Wang, J | Zhang, H
Oncogene  2012;32(39):4702-4711.
The protein complex of tuberous sclerosis complex (TSC)1 and TSC2 tumor suppressors is a key negative regulator of mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR). Hyperactive mTOR signaling due to the loss-of-function of mutations in either TSC1 or TSC2 gene causes TSC, an autosomal dominant disorder featured with benign tumors in multiple organs. As the ubiquitous second messenger calcium (Ca2+) regulates various cellular processes involved in tumorigenesis, we explored the potential role of mTOR in modulation of cellular Ca2+ homeostasis, and in turn the effect of Ca2+ signaling in TSC-related tumor development. We found that loss of Tsc2 potentiated store-operated Ca2+ entry (SOCE) in an mTOR complex 1 (mTORC1)-dependent way. The endoplasmic reticulum Ca2+ sensor, stromal interaction molecule 1 (STIM1), was upregulated in Tsc2-deficient cells, and was suppressed by mTORC1 inhibitor rapamycin. In addition, SOCE repressed AKT1 phosphorylation. Blocking SOCE either by depleting STIM1 or ectopically expressing dominant-negative Orai1 accelerated TSC-related tumor development, likely because of restored AKT1 activity and enhanced tumor angiogenesis. Our data, therefore, suggest that mTORC1 enhancement of store-operated Ca2+ signaling hinders TSC-related tumor growth through suppression of AKT1 signaling. The augmented SOCE by hyperactive mTORC1-STIM1 cascade may contribute to the benign nature of TSC-related tumors. Application of SOCE agonists could thus be a contraindication for TSC patients. In contrast, SOCE agonists should attenuate mTOR inhibitors-mediated AKT reactivation and consequently potentiate their efficacy in the treatment of the patients with TSC.
PMCID: PMC3931471  PMID: 23108404
TSC; mTORC1; STIM1; calcium; tumorigenesis
20.  Oncogenic K-Ras requires activation for enhanced activity 
Oncogene  2013;33(4):532-535.
Oncogenic Ras mutations are widely considered to be locked in a permanent ‘On’ state and ‘constitutively active’. Yet, many healthy people have cells possessing mutant Ras without apparent harm, and in animal models mutant Ras causes transformation only after upregulation of Ras activity. Here, we demonstrate that oncogenic K-Ras is not constitutively active but can be readily activated by upstream stimulants to lead to prolonged strong Ras activity. These data indicate that in addition to targeting K-Ras downstream effectors, interventions to reduce K-Ras activation may have important cancer-preventive value, especially in patients with oncogenic Ras mutations. As other small G proteins are regulated in a similar manner, this concept is likely to apply broadly to the entire Ras family of molecules.
PMCID: PMC3923400  PMID: 23334325
cancer; Ras-GTP
21.  Potential Tumor Suppressive Role of Monoglyceride Lipase in Human Colorectal Cancer 
Oncogene  2012;32(2):234-241.
Human Monoglyceride Lipase (MGL) is a recently identified lipase and very little is known about its regulation and function in cellular regulatory processes, particularly in context to human malignancy. In this study, we investigated the regulation and function of Monoglyceride Lipase in human cancer(s) and report that MGL expression was either absent or reduced in the majority of primary colorectal cancers. Immunohistochemical studies showed that reduction of MGL expression in the colorectal tumor tissues predominantly occurred in the cancerous epithelial cells. MGL was found to reside in the core surface of a cellular organelle named “lipid body”. Furthermore, it was found to selectively interact with a number of phospholipids including phosphotidic acid and phosphoinositol(3,4,5)P3, phosphoinositol(3,5)P2, phosphoinositol(3,4)P2 and several other phosphoinositides, and among all phosphoinositides analyzed, its interaction with PI(3,4,5)P3 was found to be the strongest. In addition, overexpression of MGL suppressed colony formation in tumor cell lines and knockdown of MGL resulted in increased Akt phosphorylation. Together, our results suggest that MGL plays a negative regulatory role in PI3-K/Akt signaling and tumor cell growth.
PMCID: PMC3901401  PMID: 22349814
Monoglyceride Lipase; gene expression; Akt; phosphatidylinositides; colorectal cancer
22.  Mutations in Isocitrate Dehydrogenase 1 and 2 Occur Frequently in Intrahepatic Cholangiocarcinomas and Share Hypermethylation Targets with Glioblastomas 
Oncogene  2012;32(25):3091-3100.
Mutations in the genes encoding isocitrate dehydrogenase, IDH1 and IDH2, have been reported in gliomas, myeloid leukemias, chondrosarcomas, and thyroid cancer. We discovered IDH1 and IDH2 mutations in 34 of 326 (10%) intrahepatic cholangiocarcinomas. Tumor with mutations in IDH1 or IDH2 had lower 5-hydroxymethylcytosine (5hmC) and higher 5-methylcytosine (5mC) levels, as well as increased dimethylation of histone H3K79. Mutations in IDH1 or IDH2 were associated with longer overall survival (p = 0.028) and were independently associated with a longer time to tumor recurrence after intrahepatic cholangiocarcinoma resection in multivariate analysis (p = 0.021). IDH1 and IDH2 mutations are significantly associated with increased levels of p53 in intrahepatic cholangiocarcinomas, but no mutations in the p53 gene were found, suggesting that mutations in IDH1 and IDH2 may cause a stress that leads to p53 activation. We identified 2,309 genes that were significantly hypermethylated in 19 cholangiocarcinomas with mutations in IDH1 or IDH2, compared with cholangiocarcinomas without these mutations. Hypermethylated CpG sites were significantly enriched in CpG shores and upstream of transcription start sites, suggesting a global regulation of transcriptional potential. Half of the hypermethylated genes overlapped with DNA hypermethylation in IDH1-mutant gliobastomas, suggesting the existence of a common set of genes whose expression may be affected by mutations in IDH1 or IDH2 in different types of tumors.
PMCID: PMC3500578  PMID: 22824796
DNA methylation; Epigenetics; Tumor metabolism
23.  The Ubiquitin Specific Protease USP2a Prevents Endocytosis-Mediated EGFR Degradation 
Oncogene  2012;32(13):10.1038/onc.2012.188.
Ubiquitination of EGFR is required for down-regulation of the receptor by endocytosis. Impairment of this pathway results in constitutively active EGFR, which is associated with carcinogenesis, particularly in lung cancer. We previously demonstrated that the deubiquitinating enzyme USP2a has oncogenic properties. Here we show a new role for USP2a as a regulator of EGFR endocytosis. USP2a localizes to early endosomes and associates with EGFR, stabilizing the receptor, which retains active downstream signaling. HeLa cells transiently expressing catalytically active but not mutant USP2a show increased plasma membrane-localized EGFR, as well as decreased internalized and ubiquitinated EGFR. Conversely, USP2a silencing reverses this phenotype. Importantly, USP2a prevents the degradation of mutant in addition to wild type EGFR. Finally, we observed that USP2a and EGFR proteins are coordinately over-expressed in non-small cell lung cancers. Taken together, our data indicate that USP2a antagonizes EGFR endocytosis and thus amplifies signaling activity from the receptor. Our findings suggest that regulation of deubiquitination could be exploited therapeutically in cancers over-expressing EGFR.
PMCID: PMC3866888  PMID: 22710717
USP2a; DUB; EGFR; endocytosis
24.  Plk1 is upregulated in androgen-insensitive prostate cancer cells and its inhibition leads to necroptosis 
Oncogene  2012;32(24):2973-2983.
Castration-resistant prostate cancer (PCa) is refractory to hormone therapy and new strategies for treatment are urgently needed. We found that androgen-insensitive (AI) PCa cells, LNCaP-AI, are reprogrammed to upregulate the mitotic kinase Plk1 and other M phase cell cycle proteins, which may underlie AI PCa growth. In androgen-depleted media, LNCaP-AI cells showed exquisite sensitivity to growth inhibition by subnanomolar concentrations of a small molecule inhibitor of Plk1, BI2536, suggesting that these cells are dependent on Plk1 for growth. In contrast, the androgen-responsive parental LNCaP cells showed negligible responses to BI2536 treatment under the same condition. BI2536 treatment of LNCaP-AI cells resulted in an increase in cell death marker PARP-1 but did not activate caspase-3, an apoptosis marker, suggesting that the observed cell death was caspase-independent. BI2536-treated LNCaP-AI cells formed multinucleated giant cells that contain clusters of nuclear vesicles indicative of mitotic catastrophe. Live-cell time-lapse imaging revealed that BI2536-treated giant LNCaP-AI cells underwent necroptosis, as evidenced by “explosive” cell death and partial reversal of cell death by a necroptosis inhibitor. Our studies suggest that LNCaP-AI cells underwent reprogramming in both their cell growth and cell death pathways, rendering them highly sensitive to Plk1 inhibition that induces necroptosis. Harnessing necroptosis through Plk1 inhibition may be explored for therapeutic intervention of castration-resistant PCa.
PMCID: PMC3499666  PMID: 22890325
Plk1; BI2536; mitotic catastrophe; necroptosis; autophagy; prostate cancer
25.  The Gain-of-Function of p53 Cancer Mutant in Promoting Mammary Tumorigenesis 
Oncogene  2012;32(23):2900-2906.
Tumor suppressor p53 is critical to suppress all types of human cancers, including breast cancers. The p53 gene is somatically mutated in over half of all human cancers. The majority of the p53 mutations are missense mutations, leading to the expression of the full-length p53 mutants. Several hotspot mutations, including R175H, are frequently detected in human breast cancers. P53 cancer mutants not only lose tumor suppression activity, but more problematically, gain new oncogenic activities. Despite correlation of the expression of p53 cancer mutants and the poor prognosis of human breast cancer patients, the roles of p53 cancer mutants in promoting breast cancer remain unclear. We employed the humanized p53 cancer mutant knock-in (R175H) mice and MMTV-Wnt-1 transgenic (mWnt-1) mice to specifically address the gain of function of R175H in promoting breast cancer. While both R175H/R175HmWnt-1(R175HmWnt-1) and p53−/−mWnt-1 mice died from mammary cancers at the same kinetics, which was much earlier than mWnt-1 mice, most of the R175HmWnt-1 mice developed multiple mammary tumors per mouse, whereas p53−/−mWnt-1 and mWnt-1 mice mostly developed one tumor per mouse. The multiple mammary tumors arose in the same R175HmWnt-1 mouse exhibited different histological characters. Moreover, R175H gain-of-function mutant expands the mammary epithelial stem cells (MESCs) that give rise to the mammary tumors. Since ATM suppresses the expansion of MESCs, the inactivation of ATM by R175H in mammary epithelial cells could contribute to the expansion of MESCs in R175HmWnt-1 mice. These findings provide the basis for R175H to promote the initiation of breast cancer by expanding MESCs.
PMCID: PMC3586389  PMID: 22824795

Results 1-25 (103)