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1.  High Levels of Zinc-Protoporphyrin Identify Iron Metabolic Abnormalities in Pulmonary Arterial Hypertension 
Iron homeostasis influences the development of pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH) associated with hypoxia or hematologic disorders. To investigate whether severity of idiopathic PAH (IPAH) is impacted by alterations in iron metabolism, we assessed iron metabolic markers, including levels of Zinc-protoporphyrin (Zn-pp), transferrin receptor, and red blood cell numbers and morphology in IPAH, associated PAH (APAH) and sleep apnea induced pulmonary hypertension (PH) patients in comparison to healthy controls and asthmatics. Despite similarly normal measures of iron metabolism, Zn-pp levels in IPAH and sleep apnea patients were elevated ~2-fold, indicating deficient iron incorporation to form heme and levels were closely related to measures of disease severity. Consistent with high Zn-PP, PAH patients had increased red cell distribution width (RDW). In an expanded cohort including patients with IPAH and familial disease (FPAH) the RDW was validated and related to clinical parameters of severity, including pulmonary artery pressures and 6 minute walk distances. These results reveal an increased prevalence of subclinical functional iron deficiency in primary forms of PAH that is quantitatively related to disease severity. This suggests that altered iron homeostasis influences disease progression and demonstrates the importance of closely monitoring iron status in PAH patients.
PMCID: PMC3575639  PMID: 21884511
2.  Sorafenib enhances pemetrexed cytotoxicity through an autophagy -dependent mechanism in cancer cells 
Cancer research  2011;71(14):4955-4967.
Pemetrexed (ALIMTA) is a folate anti-metabolite that has been approved for the treatment of non-small cell lung cancer, and has been shown to stimulate autophagy. In the present study, we sought to further understand the role of autophagy in the response to pemetrexed and to test if combination therapy could enhance the level of toxicity through altered autophagy in tumor cells. The multi-kinase inhibitor sorafenib (NEXAVAR), used in the treatment of renal and hepatocellular carcinoma, suppresses tumor angiogenesis and promotes autophagy in tumor cells. We found that sorafenib interacted in a greater than additive fashion with pemetrexed to increase autophagy and to kill a diverse array of tumor cell types. Tumor cell types that displayed high levels of cell killing after combination treatment showed elevated levels of AKT, p70 S6K and/or phosphorylated mTOR, in addition to Class III RTKs such as PDGFRβ and VEGFR1, known in vivo targets of sorafenib. In xenograft and in syngeneic animal models of mammary carcinoma and glioblastoma, the combination of sorafenib and pemetrexed suppressed tumor growth without deleterious effects on normal tissues or animal body mass. Taken together, the data suggest that premexetred and sorafenib act synergistically to enhance tumor killing via the promotion of a toxic form of autophagy that leads to activation of the intrinsic apoptosis pathway, and predict that combination treatment represents a future therapeutic option in the treatment of solid tumors.
PMCID: PMC3139015  PMID: 21622715
3.  SRSF1 (SRp30a) regulates the alternative splicing of caspase 9 via a novel intronic splicing enhancer affecting the chemotherapeutic sensitivity of non-small cell lung cancer cells 
Molecular cancer research : MCR  2011;9(7):889-900.
Increasing evidence points to the functional importance of alternative splice variations in cancer pathophysiology with the alternative pre-mRNA processing of caspase 9 as one example. In this study, we delve into the underlying molecular mechanisms that regulate the alternative splicing of caspase 9. Specifically, the pre-mRNA sequence of caspase 9 was analyzed for RNA cis-elements known to interact with SRSF1, a required enhancer for caspase 9 RNA splicing. This analysis revealed thirteen possible RNA cis-elements for interaction with SRSF1 with mutagenesis of these RNA cis-elements identifying a strong intronic splicing enhancer located in intron 6 (C9-I6/ISE). SRSF1 specifically interacted with this sequence, which was required for SRSF1 to act as a splicing enhancer of the inclusion of the four exon cassette. To further determine the biological importance of this mechanism, we employed RNA oligonucleotides to redirect caspase 9 pre-mRNA splicing in favor of caspase 9b expression, which resulted in an increase in the IC50 of non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) cells to daunorubicin, cisplatinum, and paclitaxel. In contrast, downregulation of caspase 9b induced a decrease in the the IC50 of these chemotherapeutic drugs. Lastly, these studies demonstrated that caspase 9 RNA splicing was a major mechanism for the synergistic effects of combination therapy with daunorubicin and erlotinib. Overall, we have identified a novel intronic splicing enhancer that regulates caspase 9 RNA splicing and specifically interacts with SRSF1. Furthermore, we demonstrate that the alternative splicing of caspase 9 is an important molecular mechanism with therapeutic relevance to NSCLCs.
PMCID: PMC3140550  PMID: 21622622
ceramide; non-small cell lung cancer; RNA trans-factor; tumor repressor; oncogene; ASF/SF2; SRp30a; SRSF1; chemotherapy; erlotinib; daunorubicin; cisplatinum; paclitaxel

Results 1-3 (3)