High-mobility group A1 (HMGA1) overexpression and gene rearrangement are frequent events in human cancer, but the molecular basis of HMGA1 oncogenic activity remains unclear. Here we describe a mechanism through which HMGA1 inhibits p53-mediated apoptosis by counteracting the p53 proapoptotic activator homeodomain-interacting protein kinase 2 (HIPK2). We found that HMGA1 overexpression promoted HIPK2 relocalization in the cytoplasm and inhibition of p53 apoptotic function, while HIPK2 overexpression reestablished HIPK2 nuclear localization and sensitivity to apoptosis. HIPK2 depletion by RNA interference suppressed the antiapoptotic effect of HMGA1, which indicates that HIPK2 is the target required for HMGA1 to repress the apoptotic activity of p53. Consistent with this process, a strong correlation among HMGA1 overexpression, HIPK2 cytoplasmic localization, and low spontaneous apoptosis index (comparable to that observed in mutant p53–carrying tumors) was observed in WT p53–expressing human breast carcinomas. Hence, cytoplasmic relocalization of HIPK2 induced by HMGA1 overexpression is a mechanism of inactivation of p53 apoptotic function that we believe to be novel.
Giovanna Maria Pierantoni, Cinzia Rinaldo, Marcella Mottolese, Anna Di Benedetto, Francesco Esposito, Silvia Soddu, Alfredo Fusco
Melanoma is the cancer with the highest increase in incidence, and transformation of radial growth to vertical growth (i.e., noninvasive to invasive) melanoma is required for invasive disease and metastasis. We have previously shown that p42/p44 MAP kinase is activated in radial growth melanoma, suggesting that further signaling events are required for vertical growth melanoma. The molecular events that accompany this transformation are not well understood. Akt, a signaling molecule downstream of PI3K, was introduced into the radial growth WM35 melanoma in order to test whether Akt overexpression is sufficient to accomplish this transformation. Overexpression of Akt led to upregulation of VEGF, increased production of superoxide ROS, and the switch to a more pronounced glycolytic metabolism. Subcutaneous implantation of WM35 cells overexpressing Akt led to rapidly growing tumors in vivo, while vector control cells did not form tumors. We demonstrated that Akt was associated with malignant transformation of melanoma through at least 2 mechanisms. First, Akt may stabilize cells with extensive mitochondrial DNA mutation, which can generate ROS. Second, Akt can induce expression of the ROS-generating enzyme NOX4. Akt thus serves as a molecular switch that increases angiogenesis and the generation of superoxide, fostering more aggressive tumor behavior. Targeting Akt and ROS may be of therapeutic importance in treatment of advanced melanoma.
Baskaran Govindarajan, James E. Sligh, Bethaney J. Vincent, Meiling Li, Jeffrey A. Canter, Brian J. Nickoloff, Richard J. Rodenburg, Jan A. Smeitink, Larry Oberley, Yuping Zhang, Joyce Slingerland, Rebecca S. Arnold, J. David Lambeth, Cynthia Cohen, Lu Hilenski, Kathy Griendling, Marta Martínez-Diez, José M. Cuezva, Jack L. Arbiser
Autophagy is a lysosome-dependent degradative pathway frequently activated in tumor cells treated with chemotherapy or radiation. Whether autophagy observed in treated cancer cells represents a mechanism that allows tumor cells to survive therapy or a mechanism for initiating a nonapoptotic form of programmed cell death remains controversial. To address this issue, the role of autophagy in a Myc-induced model of lymphoma generated from cells derived from p53ERTAM/p53ERTAM mice (with ER denoting estrogen receptor) was examined. Such tumors are resistant to apoptosis due to a lack of nuclear p53. Systemic administration of tamoxifen led to p53 activation and tumor regression followed by tumor recurrence. Activation of p53 was associated with the rapid appearance of apoptotic cells and the induction of autophagy in surviving cells. Inhibition of autophagy with either chloroquine or ATG5 short hairpin RNA (shRNA) enhanced the ability of either p53 activation or alkylating drug therapy to induce tumor cell death. These studies provide evidence that autophagy serves as a survival pathway in tumor cells treated with apoptosis activators and a rationale for the use of autophagy inhibitors such as chloroquine in combination with therapies designed to induce apoptosis in human cancers.
Ravi K. Amaravadi, Duonan Yu, Julian J. Lum, Thi Bui, Maria A. Christophorou, Gerard I. Evan, Andrei Thomas-Tikhonenko, Craig B. Thompson
The ability to proliferate independently of signals from other cell types is a fundamental characteristic of tumor cells. Using a 3D culture model of human breast cancer progression, we have delineated a protease-dependent autocrine loop that provides an oncogenic stimulus in the absence of proto-oncogene mutation. Targeting this protease, TNF-α–converting enzyme (TACE; also referred to as a disintegrin and metalloproteinase 17 [ADAM17]), with small molecular inhibitors or siRNAs reverted the malignant phenotype in a breast cancer cell line by preventing mobilization of 2 crucial growth factors, TGF-α and amphiregulin. We show that TACE-dependent ligand shedding was prevalent in a series of additional breast cancer cell lines and, in all cases examined, was amenable to inhibition. Using existing patient outcome data, we demonstrated a strong correlation between TACE and TGFA expression in human breast cancers that was predictive of poor prognosis. Tumors resulting from inappropriate activation of the EGFR were common in multiple tissues and were, for the most part, refractory to current targeted therapies. The data presented here delineate the molecular mechanism by which constitutive EGFR activity may be achieved in tumor progression without mutation of the EGFR itself or downstream pathway components and suggest that this important oncogenic pathway might usefully be targeted upstream of the receptor.
Paraic A. Kenny, Mina J. Bissell
Although ras is a potent mitogenic oncogene, its tumorigenicity depends on cellular context and cooperative events. Here we show that low-level expression of a constitutively active Ha-ras in mouse urothelium induces simple urothelial hyperplasia that is resistant to progression to full-fledged bladder tumors even in the absence of Ink4a/Arf. In stark contrast, doubling of the gene dosage of the activated Ha-ras triggered early-onset, rapidly growing, and 100% penetrant tumors throughout the urinary tract. Tumor initiation required superseding a rate-limiting step between simple and nodular hyperplasia, the latter of which is marked by the emergence of mesenchymal components and the coactivation of AKT and STAT pathways as well as PTEN inactivation. These results indicate that overactivation of Ha-ras is both necessary and sufficient to induce bladder tumors along a low-grade, noninvasive papillary pathway, and they shed light on the recent findings that ras activation, via point mutation, overexpression, or intensified signaling from FGF receptor 3, occurs in 70%–90% of these tumors in humans. Our results highlight the critical importance of the dosage/strength of Ha-ras activation in dictating its tumorigenicity — a mechanism of oncogene activation not fully appreciated to date. Finally, our results have clinical implications, as inhibiting ras and/or its downstream effectors, such as AKT and STAT3/5, could provide alternative means to treat low-grade, superficial papillary bladder tumors, the most common tumor in the urinary system.
Lan Mo, Xiaoyong Zheng, Hong-Ying Huang, Ellen Shapiro, Herbert Lepor, Carlos Cordon-Cardo, Tung-Tien Sun, Xue-Ru Wu
Activating EGFR mutations occur in human non–small cell lung cancer (NSCLC), with 5% of human lung squamous cell carcinomas having EGFRvIII mutations and approximately 10%–30% of lung adenocarcinomas having EGFR kinase domain mutations. An EGFR-targeting monoclonal antibody, mAb806, recognizes a conformational epitope of WT EGFR as well as the truncated EGFRvIII mutant. To explore the anticancer spectrum of this antibody for EGFR targeted cancer therapy, mAb806 was used to treat genetically engineered mice with lung tumors that were driven by either EGFRvIII or EGFR kinase domain mutations. Our results demonstrate that mAb806 is remarkably effective in blocking EGFRvIII signaling and inducing tumor cell apoptosis, resulting in dramatic tumor regression in the EGFRvIII-driven murine lung cancers. Another EGFR-targeting antibody, cetuximab, failed to show activity in these lung tumors. Furthermore, treatment of murine lung tumors driven by the EGFR kinase domain mutation with mAb806 also induced significant tumor regression, albeit to a less degree than that observed in EGFRvIII-driven tumors. Taken together, these data support the hypothesis that mAb806 may lead to significant advancements in the treatment of the population of NSCLC patients with these 2 classes of EGFR mutations.
Danan Li, Hongbin Ji, Sara Zaghlul, Kate McNamara, Mei-Chih Liang, Takeshi Shimamura, Shigeto Kubo, Masaya Takahashi, Lucian R. Chirieac, Robert F. Padera, Andrew M. Scott, Achim A. Jungbluth, Webster K. Cavenee, Lloyd J. Old, George D. Demetri, Kwok-Kin Wong
Antiapoptotic B cell leukemia/lymphoma 2 (BCL2) family proteins are expressed in many cancers, but the circumstances under which these proteins are necessary for tumor maintenance are poorly understood. We exploited a novel functional assay that uses BCL2 homology domain 3 (BH3) peptides to predict dependence on antiapoptotic proteins, a strategy we call BH3 profiling. BH3 profiling accurately predicts sensitivity to BCL2 antagonist ABT-737 in primary chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) cells. BH3 profiling also accurately distinguishes myeloid cell leukemia sequence 1 (MCL1) from BCL2 dependence in myeloma cell lines. We show that the special sensitivity of CLL cells to BCL2 antagonism arises from the requirement that BCL2 tonically sequester proapoptotic BIM in CLL. ABT-737 displaced BIM from BCL2’s BH3-binding pocket, allowing BIM to activate BAX, induce mitochondrial permeabilization, and rapidly commit the CLL cell to death. Our experiments demonstrate that BCL2 expression alone does not dictate sensitivity to ABT-737. Instead, BCL2 complexed to BIM is the critical target for ABT-737 in CLL. An important implication is that in cancer, BCL2 may not effectively buffer chemotherapy death signals if it is already sequestering proapoptotic BH3-only proteins. Indeed, activator BH3-only occupation of BCL2 may prime cancer cells for death, offering a potential explanation for the marked chemosensitivity of certain cancers that express abundant BCL2, such as CLL and follicular lymphoma.
Victoria Del Gaizo Moore, Jennifer R. Brown, Michael Certo, Tara M. Love, Carl D. Novina, Anthony Letai
The retinoblastoma tumor suppressor (RB) protein is functionally inactivated in the majority of human cancers and is aberrant in one-third of all breast cancers. RB regulates G1/S-phase cell-cycle progression and is a critical mediator of antiproliferative signaling. Here the specific impact of RB deficiency on E2F-regulated gene expression, tumorigenic proliferation, and the response to 2 distinct lines of therapy was investigated in breast cancer cells. RB knockdown resulted in RB/E2F target gene deregulation and accelerated tumorigenic proliferation, thereby demonstrating that even in the context of a complex tumor cell genome, RB status exerts significant control over proliferation. Furthermore, the RB deficiency compromised the short-term cell-cycle inhibition following cisplatin, ionizing radiation, and antiestrogen therapy. In the context of DNA-damaging agents, this bypass resulted in increased sensitivity to these agents in cell culture and xenograft models. In contrast, the bypass of antiestrogen signaling resulted in continued proliferation and xenograft tumor growth in the presence of tamoxifen. These effects of aberrations in RB function were recapitulated by ectopic E2F expression, indicating that control of downstream target genes was an important determinant of the observed responses. Specific analyses of an RB gene expression signature in 60 human patients indicated that deregulation of this pathway was associated with early recurrence following tamoxifen monotherapy. Thus, because the RB pathway is a critical determinant of tumorigenic proliferation and differential therapeutic response, it may represent a critical basis for directing therapy in the treatment of breast cancer.
Emily E. Bosco, Ying Wang, Huan Xu, Jack T. Zilfou, Karen E. Knudsen, Bruce J. Aronow, Scott W. Lowe, Erik S. Knudsen
The TGF-β signaling pathway has a complex role in regulating mammary carcinogenesis. Here we demonstrate that the type III TGF-β receptor (TβRIII, or betaglycan), a ubiquitously expressed TGF-β coreceptor, regulated breast cancer progression and metastasis. Most human breast cancers lost TβRIII expression, with loss of heterozygosity of the TGFBR3 gene locus correlating with decreased TβRIII expression. TβRIII expression decreased during breast cancer progression, and low TβRIII levels predicted decreased recurrence-free survival in breast cancer patients. Restoring TβRIII expression in breast cancer cells dramatically inhibited tumor invasiveness in vitro and tumor invasion, angiogenesis, and metastasis in vivo. TβRIII appeared to inhibit tumor invasion by undergoing ectodomain shedding and producing soluble TβRIII, which binds and sequesters TGF-β to decrease TGF-β signaling and reduce breast cancer cell invasion and tumor-induced angiogenesis. Our results indicate that loss of TβRIII through allelic imbalance is a frequent genetic event during human breast cancer development that increases metastatic potential.
Mei Dong, Tam How, Kellye C. Kirkbride, Kelly J. Gordon, Jason D. Lee, Nadine Hempel, Patrick Kelly, Benjamin J. Moeller, Jeffrey R. Marks, Gerard C. Blobe
Anaplastic large cell lymphomas (ALCLs) represent a subset of lymphomas in which the anaplastic lymphoma kinase (ALK) gene is frequently fused to the nucleophosmin (NPM) gene. We previously demonstrated that the constitutive phosphorylation of ALK chimeric proteins is sufficient to induce cellular transformation in vitro and in vivo and that ALK activity is strictly required for the survival of ALK-positive ALCL cells. To elucidate the signaling pathways required for ALK-mediated transformation and tumor maintenance, we analyzed the transcriptomes of multiple ALK-positive ALCL cell lines, abrogating their ALK-mediated signaling by inducible ALK RNA interference (RNAi) or with potent and cell-permeable ALK inhibitors. Transcripts derived from the gene expression profiling (GEP) analysis uncovered a reproducible signature, which included a novel group of ALK-regulated genes. Functional RNAi screening on a set of these ALK transcriptional targets revealed that the transcription factor C/EBPβ and the antiapoptotic protein BCL2A1 are absolutely necessary to induce cell transformation and/or to sustain the growth and survival of ALK-positive ALCL cells. Thus, we proved that an experimentally controlled and functionally validated GEP analysis represents a powerful tool to identify novel pathogenetic networks and validate biologically suitable target genes for therapeutic interventions.
Roberto Piva, Elisa Pellegrino, Michela Mattioli, Luca Agnelli, Luigia Lombardi, Francesco Boccalatte, Giulia Costa, Bruce A. Ruggeri, Mangeng Cheng, Roberto Chiarle, Giorgio Palestro, Antonino Neri, Giorgio Inghirami