Hypoxia, the reduction of oxygen levels in cells or tissues, elicits a set of genes to adjust physiological and pathological demands during normal development and cancer progression. OCT4, a homeobox transcription factor, is essential for self-renewal of embryonic stem cells, but little is known about the role of OCT4 in non-germ-cell tumorigenesis. Here, we report that hypoxia stimulates a short isoform of OCT4, called OCT4B, via a HIF2 alpha-dependent pathway to induce the epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT) and facilitate cancer dissemination. OCT4B overexpression decreased epithelial barrier properties, which led to an increase in cell migration and invasion in lung cancer cells. OCT4B knockdown attenuated HIF2 alpha-induced EMT and inhibited cancer dissemination in cell-line and animal models. We observed that OCT4B bound the SLUG promoter and enhanced its expression, and SLUG silencing inhibited OCT4B-mediated EMT, accompanied with decreased cell migration and invasion. Correlation analysis revealed that OCT4B expression was significantly associated with the SLUG level in lung tumors. These results provide novel insights into OCT4B-mediated oncogenesis in cancer dissemination.
Vascular endothelial growth factor-A (VEGF-A) is highly subjected to alternative pre-mRNA splicing that generates several splice variants. The VEGF(xxx) and VEGF(xxx)b families encode splice variants of VEGF-A that differ only at the level of six amino acids in their C-terminal part. The expression level of VEGF(xxx) splice variants and their function as pro-angiogenic factors during tumor neo-angiogenesis have been well-described. The role of VEGF(xxx)b isoforms is less well known, but they have been shown to inhibit VEGF(xxx)-mediated angiogenesis, while being partial or weak activators of VEGFR receptors in endothelial cells. On the opposite, their role on tumor cells expressing VEGFRs at their surface remains largely unknown. In this study, we find elevated levels of VEGF(165)b, the main VEGF(xxx)b isoform, in 36% of non-small cell lung carcinoma (NSCLC), mainly lung adenocarcinoma (46%), and show that a high VEGF(165)b/VEGF(165) ratio correlates with the presence of lymph node metastases. At the molecular level, we demonstrate that VEGF(165)b stimulates proliferation and invasiveness of two lung tumor cell lines through a VEGFR/beta 1 integrin loop. We further provide evidence that the isoform-specific knockdown of VEGF(165)b reduces tumor growth, demonstrating a tumor-promoting autocrine role for VEGF(165)b in lung cancer cells. Importantly, we show that bevacizumab, an anti-angiogenic compound used for the treatment of lung adenocarcinoma patients, increases the expression of VEGF(165)b and activates the invasive VEGFR/beta 1 integrin loop. Overall, these data highlight an unexpected role of the VEGF(165)b splice variant in the progression of lung tumors and their response to anti-angiogenic therapies.
Antiestrogens (AEs) are widely used for treatment of estrogen receptor alpha (ER alpha)-positive breast cancer, but display variable degrees of partial agonism in estrogen target tissues and breast cancer (BC) cells. The fact that BC cells resistant to selective ER modulators (SERMs) like tamoxifen (Tam) can still be sensitive to pure AEs, also called selective ER downregulators, suggests different mechanisms of action, some of which may contribute to the more complete suppression of estrogen target genes by pure AEs. We report herein that pure AEs such as fulvestrant induce transient binding of ER alpha to DNA, followed by rapid release after 30-40 min without loss of nuclear localization. Loss of DNA binding preceded receptor degradation and was not prevented by proteasome inhibition. Chromatin was less accessible in the presence of fulvestrant than with estradiol or Tam as early as 20 min following treatment, suggesting that chromatin remodeling by pure AEs at ER alpha target regions prevents transcription in spite of receptor binding. SUMO2/3 marks were detected on chromatin at the peak of ER alpha binding in cells treated with pure AEs, but not SERMs. Furthermore, decreasing SUMOylation by overexpressing the deSUMOylase SENP1 significantly delayed receptor release from DNA and de-repressed expression of estrogen target genes in the presence of fulvestrant, both in ER alpha-expressing MCF-7 cells and in transiently transfected ER-negative SK-BR-3 cells. Finally, mutation V534E, identified in a breast metastasis resistant to hormonal therapies, prevented ER alpha modification and resulted in increased transcriptional activity of estrogen target genes in the presence of fulvestrant in SK-BR-3 cells. Together, our results establish a role for SUMOylation in achieving a more complete transcriptional shut-off of estrogen target genes by pure AEs vs. SERMs in BC cells.
Cell cycle regulation, especially faithful DNA replication and mitosis, are crucial to maintain genome stability. Cyclin-dependent kinase (CDK)/cyclin complexes drive most processes in cellular proliferation. In response to DNA damage, cell cycle surveillance mechanisms enable normal cells to arrest and undergo repair processes. Perturbations in genomic stability can lead to tumor development and suggest that cell cycle regulators could be effective targets in anticancer therapy. However, many clinical trials ended in failure due to off-target effects of the inhibitors used. Here, we investigate in vivo the importance of WEE1- and MYT1-dependent inhibitory phosphorylation of mammalian CDK1. We generated Cdk1(AF) knockin mice, in which two inhibitory phosphorylation sites are replaced by the non-phosphorylatable amino acids T14A/Y15F. We uncovered that monoallelic expression of CDK1(AF) is early embryonic lethal in mice and induces S phase arrest accompanied by gamma H2AX and DNA damage checkpoint activation in mouse embryonic fibroblasts (MEFs). The chromosomal fragmentation in Cdk1(AF) MEFs does not rely on CDK2 and is partly caused by premature activation of MUS81-SLX4 structure-specific endonuclease complexes, as well as untimely onset of chromosome condensation followed by nuclear lamina disassembly. We provide evidence that tumor development in liver expressing CDK1(AF) is inhibited. Interestingly, the regulatory mechanisms that impede cell proliferation in CDK1(AF) expressing cells differ partially from the actions of the WEE1 inhibitor, MK-1775, with p53 expression determining the sensitivity of cells to the drug response. Thus, our work highlights the importance of improved therapeutic strategies for patients with various cancer types and may explain why some patients respond better to WEE1 inhibitors.
Bone is the most common metastatic site for breast cancer. Estrogen-related-receptor alpha (ERR alpha) has been implicated in cancer cell invasiveness. Here, we established that ERR alpha promotes spontaneous metastatic dissemination of breast cancer cells from primary mammary tumors to the skeleton. We carried out cohort studies, pharmacological inhibition, gain-of-function analyses in vivo and cellular and molecular studies in vitro to identify new biomarkers in breast cancer metastases. Meta-analysis of human primary breast tumors revealed that high ERR alpha expression levels were associated with bone but not lung metastases. ERR alpha expression was also detected in circulating tumor cells from metastatic breast cancer patients. ERR alpha overexpression in murine 4T1 breast cancer cells promoted spontaneous bone micro-metastases formation when tumor cells were inoculated orthotopically, whereas lung metastases occurred irrespective of ERR alpha expression level. In vivo, Rank was identified as a target for ERR alpha. That was confirmed in vitro in Rankl stimulated tumor cell invasion, in mTOR/pS6K phosphorylation, by transactivation assay, ChIP and bioinformatics analyses. Moreover, pharmacological inhibition of ERR alpha reduced primary tumor growth, bone micro-metastases formation and Rank expression in vitro and in vivo. Transcriptomic studies and meta-analysis confirmed a positive association between metastases and ERR alpha/RANK in breast cancer patients and also revealed a positive correlation between ERR alpha and BRCA1(mut) carriers. Taken together, our results reveal a novel ERR alpha/RANK axis by which ERR alpha in primary breast cancer promotes early dissemination of cancer cells to bone. These findings suggest that ERR alpha may be a useful therapeutic target to prevent bone metastases.
Murine inflammatory caspase-11 has an important role in intestinal epithelial inflammation and barrier function. Activation of the non-canonical inflammasome, mediated by caspase-11, serves as a regulatory pathway for the production of the proinflammatory cytokines IL-1 beta and IL-18, and has a key role in pyroptotic cell death. We have previously demonstrated a protective role for caspase-11 during dextran sulphate sodium (DSS)-induced colitis, however the importance of caspase-11 during colorectal tumour development remains unclear. Here, we show that Casp11(-1-) mice are highly susceptible to the azoxymethane (AOM)-DSS model of colitis-associated cancer (CAC), compared to their wild type (WT) littermates. We show that deficient IL-18 production occurs at initial inflammation stages of disease, and that IL-1 beta production is more significantly impaired in Casp11(-1-) colons during established CAC. We identify defective STAT1 activation in Casp11(-)(1-) colons during disease progression, and show that IL-1 beta signalling induces caspase-11 expression and STAT1 activation in primary murine macrophages and intestinal epithelial cells. These findings uncover an anti-tumour role for the caspase-11 and the non-canonical inflammasome during CAC, and suggest a critical role for caspase-11, linking IL-1 beta and STAT1 signalling pathways.
Hepatitis B virus X protein (HBx) contributes to Hepatitis B virus (HBV)-related liver cancer. However, its impact on hepatocyte proliferation and genomic stability remains elusive. We studied the role of HBx expression on the progression of cell cycle and liver polyploidization during proliferation and liver carcinogenesis. Full-length HBx transgenic mice (FL-HBx) were developed to investigate liver ploidy as well as hepatocyte proliferation, along normal liver maturation and during cancer initiation (chemical carcinogen treatment). Investigation of postnatal liver development in FL-HBx showed an aberrant G1/S and G2/M transitions, triggered (1) a delay of the formation of hepatocytes binucleation, (2) the early synthesis of polyploidy nuclei (>= 4n) and (3) DNA damage appearance. Moreover, HBV infection during hepatocytes proliferation in a humanized liver mouse model led, to modifications in polyploidy of hepatocytes. In initiation of hepatocellular carcinoma, FL-HBx protein decreased ChK1 phosphorylation, Mre11 and Rad51 expression, upregulated IL-6 expression and impaired apoptosis. This was related to DNA damage accumulation in FL-HBx mice. At day 75 after initiation of hepatocellular carcinoma, FL-HBx mice revealed significant cell cycle changes related to the increased amount of 4n nuclei and of markers of cancer progenitor cells. Finally, PLK1 upregulation and p38/ERK activation in FL-HBx mice were implicated in aberrant polyploidization favoring DNA damage propagation and hepatocyte transformation. In conclusion, our data indicate that FL-HBx protein increases DNA damage through the hijack of hepatocyte polyploidization. That leads to enhancement of hepatocellular carcinoma initiation in an inflammatory context.
All trans-retinoic acid (ATRA) is used in the treatment of acute promyelocytic leukemia (APL) and it is a promising agent also in solid tumors. The pharmacological activity of ATRA is mediated by the ligand-activated RAR and RXR transcription factors. In the present study, we define the basal and ATRA dependent RAR alpha interactome in a RAR alpha-overexpressing breast cancer cellular model, identifying 28 nuclear proteins. We focus our attention on the S100A3 calcium-binding protein, which interacts with RAR alpha constitutively. In ATRA-sensitive breast cancer cells, S100A3 binds to RAR alpha in basal conditions and binding is reduced by the retinoid. The interaction of S100A3 with RAR alpha is direct and in lung cancer, APL and acute-myeloid-leukemia (AML) cells. In APL, S100A3 interacts not only with RAR alpha, but also with PML-RAR alpha. The interaction surface maps to the RAR alpha ligand-binding domain, where the I396 residue plays a crucial role. Binding of S100A3 to RARWPML-RAR alpha controls the constitutive and ATRA-dependent degradation of these receptors. S100A3 knockdown decreases the amounts of RAR alpha in breast- and lung cancer cells, inducing resistance to ATRA-dependent antiproliferative/differentiating effects. Conversely, S100A3 knockdown in PML-RAR alpha(+) APL and PML-RAR alpha(-) AML cells reduces the amounts of RAR alpha/PML-RAR alpha and increases basal and ATRA-induced differentiation. In this cellular context, opposite effects on RAR alpha/PML-RAR alpha levels and ATRA-induced differentiation are observed upon S100A3 overexpression. Our results provide new insights into the molecular mechanisms controlling RARa activity and have practical implications, as S100A3 represents a novel target for rational drug combinations aimed at potentiating the activity of ATRA.
Tumor recurrence is attributable to cancer stem-like cells (CSCs), the metabolic mechanisms of which currently remain obscure. Here, we uncovered the critical role of folate-mediated one-carbon (1C) metabolism involving mitochondrial methylenetetrahydrofolate dehydrogenase 2 (MTHFD2) and its downstream purine synthesis pathway. MTHFD2 knockdown greatly reduced tumorigenesis and stem-like properties, which were associated with purine nucleotide deficiency, and caused marked accumulation of 5-aminoimidazole carboxamide ribonucleotide (AICAR)-the final intermediate of the purine synthesis pathway. Lung cancer cells with acquired resistance to the targeted drug gefitinib, caused by elevated expression of components of the beta-catenin pathway, exhibited increased stem-like properties and enhanced expression of MTHFD2. MTHFD2 knockdown or treatment with AICAR reduced the stem-like properties and restored gefitinib sensitivity in these gefitinib-resistant cancer cells. Moreover, overexpression of MTHFD2 in gefitinib-sensitive lung cancer cells conferred resistance to gefitinib. Thus, MTHFD2-mediated mitochondrial 1C metabolism appears critical for cancer stem-like properties and resistance to drugs including gefitinib through consumption of AICAR, leading to depletion of the intracellular pool of AICAR. Because CSCs are dependent on MTHFD2, therapies targeting MTHFD2 may eradicate tumors and prevent recurrence.
Genomic alterations in cancer cells result in vulnerabilities that clinicians can exploit using molecularly targeted drugs, guided by knowledge of the tumour genotype. However, the selective activity of these drugs exerts an evolutionary pressure on cancers that can result in the outgrowth of resistant clones. Use of rational drug combinations can overcome resistance to targeted drugs, but resistance may eventually develop to combinatorial therapies. We selected MAPK- and PI3K-pathway inhibition in colorectal cancer as a model system to dissect out mechanisms of resistance. We focused on these signalling pathways because they are frequently activated in colorectal tumours, have well-characterised mutations and are clinically relevant. By treating a panel of 47 human colorectal cancer cell lines with a combination of MEK- and PI3K-inhibitors, we observe a synergistic inhibition of growth in almost all cell lines. Cells with KRAS mutations are less sensitive to PI3K inhibition, but are particularly sensitive to the combined treatment. Colorectal cancer cell lines with inherent or acquired resistance to monotherapy do not show a synergistic response to the combination treatment. Cells that acquire resistance to an MEK-PI3K inhibitor combination treatment still respond to an ERK-PI3K inhibitor regimen, but subsequently also acquire resistance to this combination treatment. Importantly, the mechanisms of resistance to MEK and PI3K inhibitors observed, MEK1/2 mutation or loss of PTEN, are similar to those detected in the clinic. ERK inhibitors may have clinical utility in overcoming resistance to MEK inhibitor regimes; however, we find a recurrent active site mutation of ERK2 that drives resistance to ERK inhibitors in mono- or combined regimens, suggesting that resistance will remain a hurdle. Importantly, we find that the addition of low concentrations of the BCL2-family inhibitor navitoclax to the MEK-PI3K inhibitor regimen improves the synergistic interaction and blocks the acquisition of resistance.
Cancer cells frequently exhibit higher levels of reactive oxygen species (ROS) than normal cells and when ROS levels increase beyond a cellular tolerability threshold, cancer cell death is enhanced. The mitochondrial dihydrolipoamide dehydrogenase (DLDH) is an enzyme which produces ROS in association with its oxidoreductive activity and may be thus utilized as an exogenous anticancer agent. As cancer cells often overexpress integrins that recognize RGD-containing proteins, we have bioengineered the human DLDH with RGD motifs (DLDHRGD) for integrin-mediated drug delivery. The modified protein fully retained its enzyme activity and ROS-production capability. DLDHRGD uptake by cells was shown to depend on the presence of cell-associated integrin alpha v beta 3, as comparatively demonstrated with normal kidney cells (HEK293) transfected with either beta 1 (alpha v beta 1 positive) or beta 3 integrins (alpha v beta 3 positive). The interaction with beta 3 integrins was shown to be competitively inhibited by an RGD peptide. In mice melanoma cells (B16F10), which highly express an endogenous alpha v beta 3 integrin, fast cellular uptake of DLDHRGD which resulted in cell number reduction, apoptosis induction, and a parallel intracellular ROS production was shown. Similar results were obtained with additional human melanoma cell models (A375, WM3314, and WM3682). In contrast, HEK293 beta 3 cells remained intact following DLDHRGD uptake. The high pharmacological safety profile of DLDHRGD has been observed by several modes of administrations in BALB/C or C57B1/6 mouse strains. Treatments with DLDHRGD in a subcutaneous melanoma mice model resulted in significant tumor inhibition. Our study demonstrated, in vitro and in vivo, the development of a unique platform, which targets cancer cells via integrin-mediated drug delivery of an exogenous ROS-generating drug.
Increasing lines of evidence show that the malignant behavior of cancer is not exclusively attributable to cancer cells but also radically influenced by cancerous stroma activity and controlled through various mechanisms by the microenvironment. In addition to structural components, such as the extracellular matrix, stromal cells, such as macrophages, endothelial cells, and specifically cancer-associated fibroblasts (CAFs), have attracted substantial attention over recent decades. CAFs provide routes for aggressive carcinomas and contribute to invasion and metastasis through the biochemical alteration and regulation of cancer-related pathways. However, another facet of CAFs that has been neglected by numerous studies is that CAFs might serve as a negative regulator of cancer progression under certain circumstances. The various origins of CAFs, the diverse tissues in which they reside and their interactions with different cancer cells appear to be responsible for this inconsistency. This review summarizes the latest knowledge regarding CAF heterogeneity and offers a novel perspective and a beneficial approach for obtaining an improved understanding of CAFs.
Elucidation of mechanisms underlying the increased androgen receptor (AR) activity and subsequent development of aggressive prostate cancer (PrCa) is pivotal in developing new therapies. Using a systems biology approach, we interrogated the AR-regulated proteome and identified PDZ binding kinase (PBK) as a novel AR-regulated protein that regulates full-length AR and AR variants (ARVs) activity in PrCa. PBK overexpression in aggressive PrCa is associated with early biochemical relapse and poor clinical outcome. In addition to its carboxy terminus ligand-binding domain, PBK directly interacts with the amino terminus transactivation domain of the AR to stabilise it thereby leading to increased AR protein expression observed in PrCa. Transcriptome sequencing revealed that PBK is a mediator of global AR signalling with key roles in regulating tumour invasion and metastasis. PBK inhibition decreased growth of PrCa cell lines and clinical specimen cultured ex vivo. We uncovered a novel interplay between AR and PBK that results in increased AR and ARVs expression that executes AR-mediated growth and progression of PrCa, with implications for the development of PBK inhibitors for the treatment of aggressive PrCa.
Activation and transcriptional reprogramming of AR in advanced prostate cancer frequently coincides with the loss of two tumor suppressors, INPP4B and PTEN, which are highly expressed in human and mouse prostate epithelium. While regulation of AR signaling by PTEN has been described by multiple groups, it is not known whether the loss of INPP4B affects AR activity. Using prostate cancer cell lines, we showed that INPP4B regulates AR transcriptional activity and the oncogenic signaling pathways Akt and PKC. Analysis of gene expression in prostate cancer patient cohorts showed a positive correlation between INPP4B expression and both AR mRNA levels and AR transcriptional output. Using an Inpp4b(-/-) mouse model, we demonstrated that INPP4B suppresses Akt and PKC signaling pathways and modulates AR transcriptional activity in normal mouse prostate. Remarkably, PTEN protein levels and phosphorylation of S380 were the same in Inpp4b(-/-) and WT males, suggesting that the observed changes were due exclusively to the loss of INPP4B. Our data show that INPP4B modulates AR activity in normal prostate and its loss contributes to the AR-dependent transcriptional profile in prostate cancer.