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1.  An Extracellular Signal–Regulated Kinase 2 Survival Pathway Mediates Resistance of Human Mesothelioma Cells to Asbestos-Induced Injury 
We hypothesized that normal human mesothelial cells acquire resistance to asbestos-induced toxicity via induction of one or more epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR)–linked survival pathways (phosphoinositol-3-kinase/AKT/mammalian target of rapamycin and extracellular signal–regulated kinase [ERK] 1/2) during simian virus 40 (SV40) transformation and carcinogenesis. Both isolated HKNM-2 mesothelial cells and a telomerase-immortalized mesothelial line (LP9/TERT-1) were more sensitive to crocidolite asbestos toxicity than an SV40 Tag-immortalized mesothelial line (MET5A) and malignant mesothelioma cell lines (HMESO and PPM Mill). Whereas increases in phosphorylation of AKT (pAKT) were observed in MET5A cells in response to asbestos, LP9/TERT-1 cells exhibited dose-related decreases in pAKT levels. Pretreatment with an EGFR phosphorylation or mitogen-activated protein kinase kinase 1/2 inhibitor abrogated asbestos-induced phosphorylated ERK (pERK) 1/2 levels in both LP9/TERT-1 and MET5A cells as well as increases in pAKT levels in MET5A cells. Transient transfection of small interfering RNAs targeting ERK1, ERK2, or AKT revealed that ERK1/2 pathways were involved in cell death by asbestos in both cell lines. Asbestos-resistant HMESO or PPM Mill cells with high endogenous levels of ERKs or AKT did not show dose-responsive increases in pERK1/ERK1, pERK2/ERK2, or pAKT/AKT levels by asbestos. However, small hairpin ERK2 stable cell lines created from both malignant mesothelioma lines were more sensitive to asbestos toxicity than shERK1 and shControl lines, and exhibited unique, tumor-specific changes in endogenous cell death–related gene expression. Our results suggest that EGFR phosphorylation is causally linked to pERK and pAKT activation by asbestos in normal and SV40 Tag–immortalized human mesothelial cells. They also indicate that ERK2 plays a role in modulating asbestos toxicity by regulating genes critical to cell injury and survival that are differentially expressed in human mesotheliomas.
PMCID: PMC3262687  PMID: 21454801
mesothelioma; asbestos; toxicity; epidermal growth factor receptor; protein kinase B/AKT
2.  Asbestos, Lung Cancers, and Mesotheliomas 
Fifteen years have passed since we published findings in the AJRCMB demonstrating that induction of early response fos/jun proto-oncogenes in rodent tracheal and mesothelial cells correlates with fibrous geometry and pathogenicity of asbestos. Our study was the first to suggest that the aberrant induction of signaling responses by crocidolite asbestos and erionite, a fibrous zeolite mineral associated with the development of malignant mesotheliomas (MMs) in areas of Turkey, led to altered gene expression. New data questioned the widely held belief at that time that the carcinogenic effects of asbestos in the development of lung cancer and MM were due to genotoxic or mutagenic effects. Later studies by our group revealed that proto-oncogene expression and several of the signaling pathways activated by asbestos were redox dependent, explaining why antioxidants and antioxidant enzymes were elevated in lung and pleura after exposure to asbestos and how they alleviated many of the phenotypic and functional effects of asbestos in vitro or after inhalation. Since these original studies, our efforts have expanded to understand the interface between asbestos-induced redox-dependent signal transduction cascades, the relationship between these pathways and cell fate, and the role of asbestos and cell interactions in development of asbestos-associated diseases. Of considerable significance is the fact that the signal transduction pathways activated by asbestos are also important in survival and chemoresistance of MMs and lung cancers. An understanding of the pathogenic features of asbestos fibers and dysregulation of signaling pathways allows strategies for the prevention and therapy of asbestos-related diseases.
PMCID: PMC2822975  PMID: 20068227
proto-oncogenes; mitogen-activated protein kinases; epidermal growth factor receptor; activator protein-1; nuclear factor-κB
3.  Alterations in Gene Expression in Human Mesothelial Cells Correlate with Mineral Pathogenicity 
Human mesothelial cells (LP9/TERT-1) were exposed to low and high (15 and 75 μm2/cm2 dish) equal surface area concentrations of crocidolite asbestos, nonfibrous talc, fine titanium dioxide (TiO2), or glass beads for 8 or 24 hours. RNA was then isolated for Affymetrix microarrays, GeneSifter analysis and QRT-PCR. Gene changes by asbestos were concentration- and time-dependent. At low nontoxic concentrations, asbestos caused significant changes in mRNA expression of 29 genes at 8 hours and of 205 genes at 24 hours, whereas changes in mRNA levels of 236 genes occurred in cells exposed to high concentrations of asbestos for 8 hours. Human primary pleural mesothelial cells also showed the same patterns of increased gene expression by asbestos. Nonfibrous talc at low concentrations in LP9/TERT-1 mesothelial cells caused increased expression of 1 gene Activating Transcription Factor 3 (ATF3) at 8 hours and no changes at 24 hours, whereas expression levels of 30 genes were elevated at 8 hours at high talc concentrations. Fine TiO2 or glass beads caused no changes in gene expression. In human ovarian epithelial (IOSE) cells, asbestos at high concentrations elevated expression of two genes (NR4A2, MIP2) at 8 hours and 16 genes at 24 hours that were distinct from those elevated in mesothelial cells. Since ATF3 was the most highly expressed gene by asbestos, its functional importance in cytokine production by LP9/TERT-1 cells was assessed using siRNA approaches. Results reveal that ATF3 modulates production of inflammatory cytokines (IL-1β, IL-13, G-CSF) and growth factors (VEGF and PDGF-BB) in human mesothelial cells.
PMCID: PMC2701958  PMID: 19097984
mesothelioma; crocidolite asbestos; talc; titanium dioxide; gene profiling
4.  Targeting the MEK1 Cascade in Lung Epithelium Inhibits Proliferation and Fibrogenesis by Asbestos 
The extracellular signal–regulated kinases 1 and 2 (ERK1/2) are phosphorylated after inhalation of asbestos. The effect of blocking this signaling pathway in lung epithelium is unclear. Asbestos-exposed transgenic mice expressing a dominant-negative mitogen-activated protein kinase kinase-1 (dnMEK1) (i.e., the upstream kinase necessary for phosphorylation of ERK1/2) targeted to lung epithelium exhibited morphologic and molecular changes in lung. Transgene-positive (Tg+) (i.e., dnMEK1) and transgene-negative (Tg−) littermates were exposed to crocidolite asbestos for 2, 4, 9, and 32 days or maintained in clean air (sham controls). Distal bronchiolar epithelium was isolated using laser capture microdissection and mRNA analyzed for molecular markers of proliferation and Clara cell secretory protein (CCSP). Lungs and bronchoalveolar lavage fluids were analyzed for inflammatory and proliferative changes and molecular markers of fibrogenesis. Distal bronchiolar epithelium of asbestos-exposed wild-type mice showed increased expression of c-fos at 2 days. Elevated mRNA levels of histone H3 and numbers of Ki-67–labeled proliferating bronchiolar epithelial cells were decreased at 4 days in asbestos-exposed Tg+ mice. At 32 days, distal bronchioles normally composed of Clara cells in asbestos-exposed Tg+ mouse lungs exhibited nonreplicating ciliated and mucin-secreting cells as well as decreased mRNA levels of CCSP. Gene expression (procollagen 3-a-1, procollagen 1-a-1, and IL-6) linked to fibrogenesis was also increased in lung homogenates of asbestos-exposed Tg− mice, but reduced in asbestos-exposed Tg+ mice. These results suggest a critical role of MEK1 signaling in epithelial cell proliferation and lung remodeling after toxic injury.
PMCID: PMC2335340  PMID: 18192500
mitogen-activated protein kinases; asbestosis; fibrosis; Clara cell; cell signaling
5.  HGF Mediates Cell Proliferation of Human Mesothelioma Cells through a PI3K/MEK5/Fra-1 Pathway 
The ligand hepatocyte growth factor/scatter factor (HGF) and its receptor tyrosine kinase, c-Met, are highly expressed in most human malignant mesotheliomas (MMs) and may contribute to their increased growth and viability. Based upon our observation that RNA silencing of fos-related antigen 1 (Fra-1) inhibited c-met expression in rat mesotheliomas (1), we hypothesized that Fra-1 was a key player in HGF-induced proliferation in human MMs. In three of seven human MM lines evaluated, HGF increased Fra-1 levels and phosphorylation of both extracellular signal–regulated kinase 5 (ERK5) and AKT that were inhibited by the phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase (PI3K) inhibitor, LY290042. HGF-dependent phosphorylation and Fra-1 expression were decreased after knockdown of Fra-1, whereas overexpression of Fra-1 blocked the expression of mitogen/extracellular signal–regulated kinase kinases (MEK)5 at the mRNA and protein levels. Stable MM cell lines using a dnMEK5 showed that basal Fra-1 levels were increased in comparison to empty vector control lines. HGF also caused increased MM cell viability and proliferating cell nuclear antigen (PCNA) expression that were abolished by knockdown of MEK5 or Fra-1. Data suggest that HGF-induced effects in some MM cells are mediated via activation of a novel PI3K/ERK5/Fra-1 feedback pathway that might explain tumor-specific effects of c-Met inhibitors on MM and other tumors.
PMCID: PMC2214675  PMID: 17872495
hepatocyte growth factor/scatter factor; fos-related antigen 1; phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase; MEK5; mesothelioma
6.  Decreased Asbestos-Induced Lung Inflammation and Fibrosis after Radiation and Bone Marrow Transplant 
The effect of lung irradiation on subsequent inflammatory or fibrotic lung injuries remains poorly understood. We postulated that irradiation and bone marrow transplantation might impact the development and progression of lung remodeling resulting from asbestos inhalation. Our objective was to determine whether irradiation and bone marrow transplantation affected inflammation and fibrosis associated with inhaled asbestos exposure. Inflammation, cytokine production, and fibrosis were assessed in lungs of naïve and sex-mismatched chimeric mice exposed to asbestos for 3, 9, or 40 days. Potential engraftment of donor-derived cells in recipient lungs was examined by fluorescence in situ hybridization and immunohistochemistry. Compared with asbestos-exposed naïve (nonchimeric) mice, chimeric mice exposed to asbestos for 3, 9, or 40 days demonstrated significant abrogation of acute increases in asbestos-associated inflammatory mediators and fibrosis. Donor-derived cells trafficked to lung but did not significantly engraft as phenotypic lung cells. Irradiation and bone marrow transplantation alters inflammatory and fibrotic responses to asbestos, likely through modulation of soluble inflammatory mediators.
PMCID: PMC2176130  PMID: 17673685
irradiation; asbestosis; stem cell; inflammation; fibrosis
7.  Unique Uptake of Acid-Prepared Mesoporous Spheres by Lung Epithelial and Mesothelioma Cells 
Lung cancers, malignant mesotheliomas (MM), and fibrosis are devastating diseases with limited treatment strategies, in part due to poorly-effective drug delivery to affected areas of lung. We hypothesized that acid-prepared mesoporous spheres (APMS) (1–2 μm diameter, 40 Å pore size) might be effective vehicles for pulmonary chemotherapeutic drug delivery. To assess this, APMS, chemically modified with different surface molecules (lipid, a linker having a terminal amine group, a thiol group, or tetraethylene glycol [TEG]), were evaluated for uptake and possible cytotoxic effects after in vitro administration to murine alveolar epithelial Type II (C10) and human mesothelioma (MM) cells and after intrapleural or intranasal administration to C57Bl/6 mice. APMS coated with TEG (APMS-TEG) were most efficiently taken up by C10 and MM cells. The mechanism of cell uptake was rapid, actin-dependent, and did not involve clathrin- or caveolae-mediated mechanisms nor fusion of membrane-bound APMS with lysosomes. When injected intrapleurally in mice, APMS-TEG were taken up by both CD45-positive and -negative cells of the diaphragm, lung, and spleen, whereas APMS administered by the intranasal route were predominantly in lung epithelial cells and alveolar macrophages. After intrapleural or intranasal administration, APMS were nonimmunogenic and nontoxic as evaluated by differential cell counts and lactate dehydrogenase levels in bronchoalveolar and pleural lavage fluids. In the treatment of lung and pleural diseases, APMS-TEG may be useful tools to deliver chemotherapeutic drugs or molecular constructs.
PMCID: PMC1899319  PMID: 17038662
uptake; particles; nanoparticles; lung cancer; mesothelioma
8.  Oxidants and Signaling by Mitogen-Activated Protein Kinases in Lung Epithelium 
Oxidants in cigarette smoke and generated from asbestos fibers activate mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) signaling cascades in lung epithelial cells in vitro and in vivo. These signaling pathways lead to the enhanced ability of Jun and Fos family members (i.e., components of the activator protein [AP]-1 transcription factor) to activate transcription of a number of AP-1–dependent target genes involved in cell proliferation or death, differentiation, and inflammation. Research by the Basbaum laboratory has been critical in showing that mucin transcription in response to cigarette smoke and gram-positive bacteria is mediated through activation of the epidermal growth factor receptor and MAPK cascades. Work from our laboratories supports the concept that MAPK signaling and AP-1 transactivation by cigarette smoke and asbestos may synergize in lung epithelial cell injury, compensatory proliferation of lung epithelial cells, and carcinogenesis, supporting a mechanistic framework for the striking increases in lung cancer incidence in asbestos workers who smoke. Targeting of MAPKs and inter-related signaling cascades may be critical to the prevention of lung cancers and control of mucin overproduction in a number of lung diseases including asthma, cystic fibrosis, chronic bronchitis, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
PMCID: PMC2644227  PMID: 16484683
activator protein-1; asbestos; cigarette smoke; epidermal growth factor receptor; extracellular signal regulated kinases
9.  Oxidant-Mediated cAMP Response Element Binding Protein Activation 
Oxidant stress–mediated regulation of extracellular signal-regulated kinases (ERK1/2) is linked to pathologic outcomes in lung epithelium, yet a role for Ca2+ and Ca2+/cAMP-response element binding protein (CREB) in ERK1/2 signaling has not been defined. In this study, we tested the hypotheses that oxidants induce Ca2+-mediated phosphorylation of ERK and CREB, and that CREB is required for oxidant-induced proliferation and apoptosis. H2O2 initiated an influx of extracellular Ca2+Ca2+Ca2+Ca2+ that was required for phosphorylation of both ERK and CREB in C10 lung epithelial cells. H2O2-mediated CREB phosphorylation was sensitive to MEK inhibition, suggesting that crosstalk between Ca2+, ERK, and CREB signaling pathways contributes to the oxidant-induced response. Reduction of CREB activity, using a dominant-negative CREB construct, inhibited c-fos steady-state mRNA levels, but unexpectedly enhanced bcl-2 steady-state mRNA levels after H2O2 exposure. Whereas inhibition of CREB activity had no detectable effect on H2O2 stimulation of cell cycle, loss of CREB activity significantly reduced the number of cells undergoing apoptosis. These data support a novel communication between Ca2+-ERK1/2 and CREB elicited by H2O2, and further provide evidence that CREB is an important regulator of apoptosis in oxidant-mediated responses of lung epithelial cells.
PMCID: PMC2644191  PMID: 16151051
calcium signaling; lung pathology; mitogen-activated protein kinase; reactive oxygen species

Results 1-9 (9)