- English (18) (remove)
- The role of oncogenic Cbl mutants in Kit signaling and myeloid transformation (2009)
- Acute myeloid leukemia (AML) is a hematopoietic cell disorder characterized by a block in differentiation and increased proliferation and survival of malignant blasts. Expansion of the malignant cell clone effects the normal production of blood cells and – if left untreated – leads to death. Receptor tyrosine kinases (RTKs) play an important role in the pathogenesis of AML, as they are either often mutated or overexpressed. In normal hematopoiesis, RTK signal termination is tightly controlled, and involves ubiquitination, internalization, endocytosis and degradation. Cbl proteins are E3 ligases and have been shown to ubiquitinate several activated RTKs, including Flt3 and Kit, targeting them for degradation. Recently, several Cbl mutations have been identified: Cbl-R420Q was identified in an AML patient and Cbl-70Z was identified in a mouse lymphoma model. In this thesis work, the role of these Cbl mutants in Kit signaling and in a mouse transplantation model was studied. Cbl mutants (Cbl-R420Q, Cbl-70Z) have the ability to transform the myeloid 32D cell line in cooperation with Kit WT. Cbl mutants along with Kit promoted interleukin-3 (IL3)-independent proliferation and enhanced the cell survival of 32D cells. In contrast, expression of the Cbl mutants alone did not confer IL3-independent growth. Stem cell factor (SCF, the Kit ligand) dependent growth was enhanced in the presence of Cbl mutants and Cbl mutants promoted colonogenic growth in the presence of Kit. Furthermore, Cbl mutants inhibited the ubiquitination of the activated Kit receptor. In addition, Cbl mutants inhibited the endocytosis of the activated Kit receptor. Retroviral expression of Cbl mutants in transplanted bone marrow induced a generalized mastocytosis, a myeloproliferative disease and, in rare care cases, myeloid leukemia. Splenomegaly was observed in the presence of Cbl mutants. Furthermore, mast cells with variable range of infiltration were noticed in all the vital organs (spleen, liver, bone marrow, lung, kidney, heart) of Cbl (mutant) transplanted mice. Almost all recipients of bone marrow cells transduced with Cbl mutants developed a lethal hematologic disorder with a mean latency of 341 days in the Cbl-R420Q group and 395 days in the Cbl-70Z group. This is the first published report on a hematological disease with Cbl mutants in a mouse model. Co-immunoprecipitation studies indicated that Cbl-70Z binds to Kit, even in the absence of Kit ligand. Cbl-R420Q also bound to Kit in the absence of SCF, albeit to a lesser extent. Association of Cbl mutants to Kit was enhanced in the presence of SCF. Signaling studies demonstrated the constitutive activation of Akt and Erk in the presence of Cbl mutants and Kit. In addition, Cbl mutants enhanced the SCF-dependent Kit, Akt and Erk activation. Cbl-70Z, in association with kinase-dead Kit (Kit-KD) or kinase-dead Flt3 (Flt3-KD), conferred IL3-independent growth and survival to the myeloid 32D cell line. Cbl-R420Q provided only a slight growth advantage in the presence of Kit-KD. As demonstrated by pharmacological inhibition studies, Akt activation was necessary for the transformation mediated by Cbl-70Z and Kit-KD / Flt3-KD. Cbl mutants enhanced the Src family kinases (SFKs) activity. The pharmacological inhibition of SFK activity inhibited the proliferation and colonogenic growth. Interaction was found between Cbl-70Z, SFKs and Kit-KD. The SFK member Fyn was identified to bind to Cbl. In addition, kinase activity of SFKs was necessary for binding to Cbl, since SFKs inhibition by PP-2 abolished the binding between the complex-binding partners. Dasatinib and PP-2, both SFK inhibitors, inhibited the Cbl and Akt phosphorylation indicating that Fyn acts upstream of Akt. Inhibition of Kit with imatinib reduced the proliferation of cells overexpressing Kit WT and Cbl-70Z much stronger compared with cells expressing Kit-KD and Cbl-70Z, but much less than the dual KIT/SFK inhibitor dasatinib. This indicated that Kit kinase activity was required but not essential. The data presented in this thesis work implies that both RTK and SFK inhibition may have to be targeted, in order to effectively prevent transformation. In summary, the present thesis work indicates an important role of Cbl, Kit and SFKs in myeloid transformation and deregulated signal transduction.
- Development of lentiviral vectors for the gene therapy of HIV infection (2010)
- Drug toxicity and viral resistance limit long-term efficacy of antiviral drug treatment for HIV infection. Thus, alternative therapies need to be explored. Previously, group of “Prof. von Laer” tested the infusion of T lymphocytes transduced with a retroviral vector (M87o) that expresses an HIV entry inhibitory peptide (maC46). Gene-modified autologous T cells were infused into 10 HIV-infected patients with advanced disease and multidrug resistant virus during antiretroviral combination therapy. T cell infusions were tolerated well with no severe side effects. A significant increase of CD4 counts was observed post infusion. At the end of the one-year follow-up, the CD4 counts of all patients were still around or above baseline. Gene-modified cells could be detected in peripheral blood, lymph nodes and bone marrow throughout the oneyear follow-up, whereby marking levels correlated with the cell dose. No significant changes of viral load were observed during the first four months. Four of the seven patients that changed their antiviral drug regimen thereafter responded with a significant decline in plasma viral load. In conclusion, the transfer of gene-modified cells was safe, led to sustained levels of gene marking and may improve immune competence in HIV-infected patients with advanced disease and multidrug resistant virus. However, the low level of gene marking and the lack of substantial long-term in vivo accumulation of gene-protected cells observed in this trial clearly demonstrate the requirement for new vectors with new strategy. In this thesis self‐inactivating lentiviral vectors harboring internal promoters and RNA elements were therefore evaluated for their potential use in a clinical gene‐therapy trial. The results from this work provide the basis for the selection of a suitable candidate vector for extensive preclinical testing. Apart from being capable of transducing non‐dividing cells, lentiviral vectors incorporate a number of additional features that are of potential value for gene therapeutic applications. These include a larger packaging capacity, higher titers than γ‐retroviral vectors and, most importantly, a reduced risk of deregulating cellular genes due to its natural integration profile. The use of internal promoters to drive expression of the therapeutic transgene maC46 should further improve the safety profile of these new‐generation vectors, while an additional artificial splice acceptor (SA) into the 5‟UTR of the transgene over all elevate transgene expression. The rationale for this is that hematopoietic stem and progenitor cells will be Summary 98 protected from enhancer‐mediated transactivation effects and also from potential side effects due to the aberrant expression of maC46 while at the same time the full clinical benefit for the patients is maintained. In order to find a suitable candidate for preclinical studies, two candidate therapeutic vectors harboring different regulatory elements were selected based on results from pilot experiments. The internal promoters used to drive expression of codon optimized maC46 were the PGK promoter and MPSV promoter. This work focuses on the transgene expression levels in lymphoid cells and antiviral activity. The issues of long term expression, propensity to methylation mediated silencing of the promoters, and genotoxicity were also touched. In a first step the performance of different vectors was evaluated in the human T cell lines. Based on promising data from ex vivo human peripheral blood mononuclear cells, the vector carrying the MPSV promoter along with intron were selected for in vivo transplantation experiments. In summary, the ex vivo data suggested the long term survival of lentiviral gene modified cells, along with maintained expression of introduced genes. It was observed that the expression of these constructs depends strongly on the activation and differentiation status of the targeted T cells. This regulation was not linked to any specific promotor. In vivo study shows that maC46 can be introduced into murine multiple hematopoietic lineages via lentiviral vector and expressed at high levels in their mulilineage progeny, without altering the hematopoiesis. There was no sign of any kind of hematopoietic or lymphoid malignancies. Although gene-modified lymphocytes persisted in-vivo, the downregulation of transgene expression was consistent with the ex-vivo observation. In contrast to that the T cells transplanted group showed delayed engraftment of donor cells and there was no expression of C46 in blood and lymphatic organs. . In conclusion, when considering HIV gene therapy focusing CD4+ T cells, potential problems of T cell activation status as related to the desired clinical effect must be addressed. These results might open the way for a gene therapy targeting mainly or exclusively activated T cells and could be exploited for immunostimulatory as well as suppressive approaches.
- Method developments in coupling gel electrophoresis with mass spectrometry (2011)
- Proteomic analysis is the large-scale identification and characterization of proteins including post translational modifications. Proteomics encompasses a number of approaches including bottom-up and top-down workflows which are widely used independently and complementary as tools for the successful study of protein species. However, up to the present day these techniques have not been able to overcome every analytical limitation. Mass spectrometry has played a vital role alongside proteomics in providing the required analytical means of detecting protein amounts down to the atomole range. Soft ionization methods such as matrix assisted laser desorption/ionization (MALDI) and electrospray ionization (ESI) have permitted the transfer of peptides and intact proteins into the gas phase without extensive degradation. The introduction of recent developments in MALDI technology such as the highly sensitive 4-chloro-alpha-cyanocinnamic acid matrix (Cl-CCA) as well as the commercial availability of a MALDI-LTQ-Orbitrap which boosts peptide mass accuracy below 3 parts per million (ppm), have offered new prospective in protein analysis. The aim of the current study is to incorporate these new aspects and provide further advancements in gel-based as well as gel-free proteomic workflows. Peptides of proteolytically digested proteins are routinely analyzed by means of peptide mass fingerprinting (PMF) often combined with MS/MS analyses to complement and substantiate PMF results by peptide sequence information. The most widely used protease for enzymatic digestion is trypsin, since it exhibits a very specific cleavage behavior limited to C-terminal hydrolyses after basic amino acids. However, less specific enzymes such as chymotrypsin, elastase and pepsin have emerged as useful tools in the analysis of particular protein classes e.g. membrane, cereal, and phosphorylated proteins. In this work a comprehensive bottom-up proteomic investigation including in-solution and in-gel protein digestions of analytes covering small to large, acidic to basic, and hydrophobic to hydrophilic proteins in combination with a series of less specific enzymes are presented in order to show the superiority of the novel MALDI matrix Cl-CCA. The Cl-CCA matrix proved to be highly superior compared to standard α-cyano-4-hydroxycinnamic acid (CHCA) since an average detection of more than 2- to 3-fold peptide amount was possible depending on the used protease and, therefore, resulting in strongly increased sequence coverage. Additionally, protein identification of chymotrypsin and elastase in-gel digested protein standards was evaluated. The MALDI-LTQ-Orbitrap providing peptide mass accuracy below and up to 3 ppm in combination with Cl-CCA as matrix and newly optimized digestion conditions led to unambiguous protein identifications of all chymotryptic digests outperforming its tryptic counterparts in the case of hydrophobic bacteriorhodopsin and α-globin from hemoglobin A (α-HgbA). In addition, significantly higher sequence coverage and increased number of detected peptides was acquired. Moreover, a proposed workaround for elastase digestions was capable of providing a solution for successful identification results. Apart from digestions of singly separated proteins, solution isoelectic focusing (sIEF) was evaluated. OFFGEL fractionation is an efficient means of fractionating peptides and proteins according to their isoelectric point (pI) values through immobilized pH gel (IPG) strips after which samples are recovered in solution. Consequently, an issue of peptide recovery arises as a category of peptides relatively insoluble to the recovery solution should be present. A method was developed including the scraping of gel matrix from the IPG strips and peptide extraction using acetonitrile as organic solvent in combination with analytical techniques such as nLC-MALDI-MS/MS for peptide identification. The nature of the peptide species remaining in-gel was analysed and attributed to peptide solubility. A general trend in which a high percentage of neutral and hydrophobic peptides remaining entrapped in the IPG gel strip was observed. The present work also examines a new top-down proteomic workflow involving protein elution from cleavable gels containing the labile crosslinker ethylene-glycol-diacrylate (EDA). Protein amounts of as low as 100 ng loaded onto EDA gels were detected using MALDI-TOF MS in the linear acquisition mode. Proteins from 8.5 up to 78 kDa were successfully measured including a hydrophobic 15 kDa core protein attaining a GRAVY score of +0.079. Additionally, the method was compatible with one dimensional protein separation as well as for 2-D IEF/SDS-PAGE. Lastly, two methods for protein identification were tested and found to be compatible to the proposed technique.
- Retargeted natural killer cells for adoptive cancer immunotherapy (2011)
- NK cells are part of the innate immune system, and are important players in the body’s first defence line against virus-infected and malignantly transformed cells. While T cells recognize neoplastic cells in an MHC-restricted fashion, NK cells do not require prior sensitization and education about the target. In leukemia and lymphoma patients undergoing allogeneic hematopoietic stem cell transplantation not only T cells but also NK cells have been found to mediate potent graft-versus-tumor effects. Hence, autologous or donor-derived NK cells hold great promise for cancer immunotherapy. Since the generation of highly purified NK cell products for clinical applications is labor-intensive and time consuming, established human NK cell lines such as NK-92 are also being considered for clinical protocols. NK-92 cells display phenotypic and functional characteristics similar to activated primary NK cells. While NK-92 cells are highly cytotoxic towards malignant cells of hematologic origin, they do not affect healthy human tissues. NK-92 cells can be expanded under GMP-compliant conditions, and can therefore be provided in sufficient numbers with defined phenotypic characteristics for clinical applications. Safety of NK-92 cells for adoptive immunotherapy was already shown in two phase I/II clinical trials. In contrast to malignant cells of hematologic origin, most solid tumor cells are not sensitive to unmodified NK-92 cells. Hence, to overcome resistance mechanisms of tumor cells and to broaden the target spectrum of NK-92 cells, gene-modified variants have been generated which express chimeric antigen receptors (CARs) that specifically target tumor surface antigens. The expression of these CARs is sufficient to redirect their cytotoxic activity towards otherwise NK cell-resistant target cells. Extending these earlier approaches, in the framework of this work optimized CAR constructs that target the pancarcinoma antigen epithelial cell adhesion molecule (EpCAM) were derived and functionally characterized. In collaboration with Heike Daldrup-Link’s laboratory (University of California San Francisco, USA) non-invasive imaging modalities to analyze biodistribution and tumor homing properties of retargeted NK-92 cells were evaluated. To enhance the persistence of adoptively transferred NK-92 cells in vivo, means to overcome NK-92 cells’ dependence on exogenous IL-2 for survival and cytolytic activity were investigated. EpCAM is expressed on a variety of tumors of epithelial origin including ovarian, gastric, colorectal, pancreatic, breast, lung and endometrial cancers. In epithelial cells EpCAM is mainly expressed at basolateral membranes, and EpCAM is involved in calcium-independent homotypic cell-cell adhesions. In tumor cells high and de novo EpCAM expression is not only restricted to basolateral membranes but can also be found on apical membranes. Tumor cells retain EpCAM expression throughout tumorigenesis and metastasis formation. Due to its surface expression and immunogenicity EpCAM has been exploited as target for immunotherapy. In earlier work in our group a prototypic, first generation EpCAM-specific CAR construct (31.z) harboring a murine flexible hinge region and murine CD3 ζ as signaling domain was derived and functionally characterized in NK-92 cells. To reduce the immunogenicity for their potential clinical application, this CAR construct was humanized by exchanging the hinge region and the intracellular signaling domain with corresponding sequences of human origin. In T cells incorporation of additional co-stimulatory domains derived from CD28 and 4-1BB significantly enhanced persistence and anti-tumor effects of adoptively transferred cells. Based on these findings a modified, second generation CAR construct encompassing transmembrane and intracellular regions of CD28 in addition to CD3 ζ intracellular signaling domains was derived (31.28.z). Both CAR constructs were stably expressed in NK-92 cells, and furthermore, expression of both CAR variants promoted antigen-specific lysis of antigen-expressing prostate and breast cancer cell lines. In competition experiments the cytotoxic activity of NK-92/31.z and NK-92/31.28.z cells towards antigen-expressing tumor cells was significantly reduced in the presence of parental MOC31 monoclonal antibody, indicating that binding of the EpCAM-specific CAR to its antigen on tumor cells is necessary to trigger antigen-specific cytotoxicity. At high effector to target ratios NK-92/31.28.z cells displayed slightly higher cytotoxic activity towards EpCAM-expressing target cell lines than NK-92/31.z cells, suggesting that incorporation of co-stimulatory domains had beneficial effects on the cytotoxic activity. For clinical applications the development of non-invasive imaging methods is necessary to follow the biodistribution of adoptively transferred cells and guide the identification of responders and non-responders at an early time point. In collaboration with Heike Daldrup-Link’s laboratory the homing properties of EpCAM-specific NK-92 cells to prostate tumor xenografts in rodent models was analyzed (University of California San Francisco, USA). At that time NK-92 cells expressing the second generation EpCAM-specific CAR 31.28.z were not yet available, and thus homing experiments were performed with NK-92 cells expressing the first generation CAR 31.z. For magnetic resonance imaging studies parental and EpCAM-specific NK-92 cells were labeled with clinical applicable ferumoxide particles. Labeled, gene-modified NK-92 cells displayed reduced CAR expression and reduced cytotoxic activity towards EpCAM-expressing DU145 prostate cancer cells in vitro. Nevertheless, MRI revealed specific accumulation of ferumoxide labeled EpCAM-specific NK-92 cells in DU145 tumor xenografts in athymic rats. In tumor sections of treated animals the presence of EpCAM-specific NK-92 cells was verified by Prussian blue and CD57 staining of tumor sections. In another study homing of DiD-labeled EpCAM-specific NK-92 cells to DU145 tumor xenografts was shown by optical imaging. These findings imply that specific targeting of NK-92 cells is retained in vivo, and that non-invasive imaging strategies can be employed to analyze biodistribution of NK-92 cells. Enhanced persistence of adoptively transferred cytotoxic effector cells has a major impact on the effectiveness of immunotherapy. Primary cytotoxic effector cells as well as NK-92 cells require IL-2 for their proliferation and to gain full activity of their effector functions. To bypass the need of exogenously supplied cytokines, the expression of chimeric cytokine receptors (CCR) harboring IL-2R β and IL-2R γ chains instead of CD3 ζ as signaling domains might initiate cytokine-like signals upon contact with the respective antigen. These interactions might support growth and survival of NK-92 cells in the absence of exogenous IL-2. As a starting point, a codon-optimized ErbB2-specific CAR consisting of the scFv(FRP5) single chain antibody fragment, a human CD8 α hinge region and human CD3 ζ transmembrane and intracellular domains was used. Transmembrane and intracellular domains of IL-2R β and IL-2R γ chains were amplified from NK-92 cell-derived cDNA, and were used to exchange the CD3 ζ domain in the ErbB2-specific construct. In human primary tumors EpCAM and ErbB2 overexpression are frequently found, and often correlate with poor prognosis. Hence, co-expression of ErbB2-specific CCRs with an EpCAM-specific CAR may provide NK cells with antigen-specific killing via EpCAM recognition and with antigen-dependent growth via binding to ErbB2. However, attempts to activate CCRs in NK-92 cells via co-incubation with antigen-expressing cells or cross-linking of the CCRs with recombinant antigen did not result in cytokine-independent but antigen-dependent growth. Likewise, no triggering of signal transducer and activator of transcription 5 (STAT5) was observed, which is a hallmark of IL-2 mediated signal transduction. The interactions between CCRs and their antigen might not be strong enough to trigger cytokine-like signals supporting the growth of cells in the absence of exogenous cytokines, and furthermore, might not lead to a significant up-regulation of STAT5-mediated signal transduction. An alternative approach to circumvent the need of exogenous cytokines is ectopic expression of homeostatic cytokines IL-2 and IL-15 in lymphocytes. In T cells expression of these cytokines is sufficient to render cells independent from exogenously supplied cytokines. In this work a lentiviral expression vector encoding IL-15 (SIEW-IL15) was generated, and used for transduction of NK-92 cells. This resulted in ectopic expression of IL-15 and cellular proliferation in the absence of exogenously supplied cytokines. Even after prolonged culture without exogenous IL-2, NK-92/IL15 cells retained their cytotoxic activity towards NK-sensitive target cells. Although expression of IL-15 in HC11 and COS-7 cells using the same vector led to secretion of bioactive IL-15 into culture supernatants, neither secreted nor surface-bound IL-15 was detected in NK-92/IL15 cells, implying that IL-15 promotes survival of gene-modified cells in a strictly autocrine fashion. In addition, NK-92 cells that were freshly transduced with SIEW-IL15 could be efficiently enriched by cytokine withdrawal. NK-92/IL15 cells that were co-transduced with an EpCAM-specific CAR retained their ability to grow in the absence of exogenously supplied cytokines and their antigen-specific cytotoxic activity. Based on these results, a bicistronic vector construct was generated allowing the simultaneous expression of a CAR construct and IL-15 as selection marker. EpCAM-specific CAR constructs (31.28.z and 31.TM) were inserted into the bicistronic expression cassette. NK-92 cells were transduced with these bicistronic expression constructs and selected by cytokine withdrawal. After 14 to 21 days of culture in the absence of IL-2 transduced cells grew out from which CAR-expressing NK-92 cells with high and homogenous surface expression were further enriched by FACS sorting. NK-92/31.28.z.IL15 cells displayed high cytotoxic activity towards EpCAM-expressing breast cancer cell lines, while EpCAM-negative melanoma cells were not lysed. The results of this work demonstrate that the expression of first (31.z) and second (31.28.z) generation CARs in NK-92 cells is sufficient to induce antigen-specific cytotoxicity. Furthermore, a specific accumulation of NK-92/31.z cells but not unmodified NK-92 cells was detected in EpCAM-expressing prostate carcinoma xenografts in athymic rats, indicating that specific targeting of these cells is retained in vivo. Ectopic expression of IL-15 renders the cells independent from exogenous cytokines, while they retain their cytotoxic activity even after prolonged culture without IL-2. Furthermore, ectopic expression of IL-15 in NK-92 cells can be used for selective enrichment of gene-modified cells by cytokine withdrawal. Subsequently, bicistronic expression constructs that allow simultaneous expression of a CAR construct and IL-15 as selection marker were generated. Expression of these bicistronic expression vectors in NK-92 cells is feasible, and might facilitate enrichment of gene-modified cells for clinical applications.
- Novel approaches of molecular targeting in Philadelphia chromosome positive leukemia (2009)
- In Philadelphia Chromosome (Ph) positive ALL and CML the fusion between BCR and ABL leads to the BCR/ABL fusion proteins, which induces the leukemic phenotype because of the constitutive activation of multiple signaling pathways down-stream to the aberrant BCR/ABL fusion tyrosine kinase. Targeted inhibition of BCR/ABL by ABL-kinase inhibitors induces apoptosis in BCR/ABL transformed cells and leads to complete remission in Ph positive leukemia patients. However, a large portion of patients with advanced Ph+ leukemia relapse and acquire resistance. Kinase domain (KD) mutations interfering with inhibitor binding represent the major mechanism of acquired resistance in patients with Ph+ leukemia. Tetramerization of BCR/ABL through the N-terminal coiled-coil region (CC) of BCR is essential for the ABL-kinase activation. Targeting the CC-domain forces BCR/ABL into a monomeric conformation, reduces its kinase activity and increases the sensitivity for Imatinib. Here we show that i.) targeting the tetramerization by a peptide representing the Helix-2 of the CC efficiently reduced the autophosphorylation of both WT BCR/ABL and its mutants; ii.) Helix-2 inhibited the transformation potential of BCR/ABL independently of the presence of mutations; iii.) Helix-2 efficiently cooperated with Imatinib as revealed by their effects on the transformation potential and the factor-independence related to BCR/ABL with the exception of mutant T315I. These findings suggest that BCR/ABL harboring the T315I mutation have a transformation potential which is at least partially independent from its kinase activity. Targeted inhibition of BCR/ABL by small molecule inhibitors reverses the transformation potential of BCR/ABL. We definitively proved that targeting the tetramerization of BCR/ABL mediated by the N-terminal coiled-coil domain (CC) using competitive peptides, representing the Helix-2 of the CC, represents a valid therapeutic approach for treating Ph+ leukemia. To further develop competitive peptides for targeting BCR/ABL, we created a membrane permeable Helix-2 peptide (MPH-2) by fusing the Helix-2 peptide with a peptide transduction tag. In this study, we report that the MPH-2: (i) interacted with BCR/ABL in vivo; (ii) efficiently inhibited the autophosphorylation of BCR/ABL; (iii) suppressed the growth and viability of Ph+ leukemic cells; and (iv) was efficiently transduced into mononuclear cells (MNC) in an in vivo mouse model. The T315I mutation confers resistance against all actually approved ABL-kinase inhibitors and competitive peptides. It seems not only to decrease affinity for kinase inhibitors but to confer additional features to the leukemogenic potential of BCR/ABL. To determine the role of T315I in resistance to the inhibition of oligomerization and in the leukemogenic potential of BCR/ABL, we investigated its influence on loss-of-function mutants with regard to the capacity to mediate factor-independence. Thus we studied the effects of T315I on BCR/ABL mutants lacking functional domains in the BCR portion indispensable for the oncogenic activity of BCR/ABL such as the N-terminal coiled coil (CC), the tyrosine phosphorylation site Y177 and the serine/threonine kinase domain (ST), as well as on the ABL portion of BCR/ABL (#ABL-T315I) with or without the inhibitory SH3 (delta SH3-ABL) domain. Here we report that i.) T315I restored the capacity to mediate factor independence of oligomerization_deficient p185BCR/ABL; ii.) resistance of p185-T315I against inhibition of the oligomerization depends on the phosphorylation at Y177; iii.) autophosphorylation at Y177 is not affected by the oligomerization inhibition, but phosphorylation at Y177 of endogenous BCR parallels the effects of T315I; iv.) the effects of T315I are associated with an intact ABL_kinase activity; v.) the presence of T315I is associated with an increased ABL_kinase activity also in mutants unable to induce Y177 phosphorylation of endogenous BCR; vi.) there is no direct relationship between the ABL-kinase activity and the capacity to mediate factor_independence induced by T315I as revealed by the #ABL-T315I mutant, which was unable to induce Y177 phosphorylation of BCR only in the presence of the SH3 domain. In contrast to its physiological counterpart c-ABL, the BCR/ABL kinase is constitutively activated, inducing the leukemic phenotype. The N-terminus of c-ABL (Cap region) contributes to the regulation of its kinase function. It is myristoylated, and the myristate residue binds to a hydrophobic pocket in the kinase domain known as the myristoyl binding pocket in a process called “capping”, which results in an auto-inhibited conformation. Because the cap region is replaced by the N-terminus of BCR, BCR/ABL “escapes” this auto-inhibition. Allosteric inhibition by myristate “mimics”, such as GNF-2, is able to inhibit unmutated BCR/ABL, but not the BCR/ABL that harbors the “gatekeeper” mutation T315I. Here we investigated the possibility of increasing the efficacy of allosteric inhibition by blocking BCR/ABL oligomerization. We demonstrate that inhibition of oligomerization was able not only to increase the efficacy of GNF-2 on unmutated BCR/ABL, but also to overcome the resistance of BCR/ABL-T315I to allosteric inhibition. These results strongly suggest that the response to allosteric inhibition by GNF-2 is inversely related to the degree of oligomerization of BCR/ABL. Taken together these data suggest that the inhibition of tetramerization inhibits BCR/ABL-mediated transformation and can contribute to overcome Imatinib-resistance. The study provides the first evidence that an efficient peptide transduction system facilitates the employ-ment of competitive peptides to target the oligomerization interface of BCR/ABL in vivo. Further the data show that T315I confers additional leukemogenic activity to BCR/ABL, which might explain the clinical behavior of patients with BCR/ABL -T315I-positive blasts. In summary, our observations establish a new approach for the molecular targeting of BCR/ABL and its resistant mutants represented by the combination of oligomerization and allosteric inhibitors.
- TK.007: a novel, optimized HSVtk-variant for suicide gene therapy (2010)
- Suicide genes have been broadly used in gene therapy. They can serve as safety tools for conditional elimination of infused cells or for directed tumor therapy. To date, the Herpes simplex virus thymidine kinase/ ganciclovir (HSVtk/GCV) system is the most prominent and the most widely used suicidegene/prodrug combination. Despite its promising performance, the system displays limitations, which include relatively slow killing kinetics and toxicity of the prodrug GCV. Consequently, several groups have either developed new suicide-gene/prodrug combinations or attempted to improve the established HSVtk/GCV suicide system. The present study also aimed towards optimization of the HSVtk/GCV system. To do so, a novel, codon-optimized point mutant (A168H) of HSVtk was developed. The novel mutant was named TK.007. It was extensively tested for its efficiency in two relevant settings: (1) control of severe graft-versus-host disease (GvHD) after adoptive immunotherapy with Tlymphocytes, and (2) direct elimination of targeted tumor cells. TK.007 was compared to the broadly used wild-type, splice-corrected scHSVtk and to a codon-optimized HSVtk (coHSVtk) not bearing the above point mutation. (1) For experiments related to the adoptive immunotherapy approach, HSVtkvariants were expressed from a γ-retroviral MP71 vector as a fusion construct with the selection and marker gene tCD34. Expression levels for TK.007 in transduced lymphoid and myeloid cell lines were significantly higher at initial transduction and over a 12 week period compared to the commonly used scHSVtk and coHSVtk indicating reduced toxicity of TK.007. Killing kinetics of transduced cell lines (PM1 and K562) and primary human T cells were significantly faster for TK.007 in comparison to scHSVtk and coHSVtk in vitro. In vivo-functionality of TK.007 was assessed in an allogeneic transplantation model. T cells derived from C57BL/6J.Ly5.1 donor mice were transduced with MP71 vectors expressing scHSVtk or TK.007. Transduced cells were selected and transplanted into Balb/c Rag2-/- γ-/- immune-deficient recipient mice. Acute, severe GvHD occurred and was effectively abrogated in all mice transplanted with TK.007- transduced T cells, and in five out of six mice transplanted with scHSVtk-transduced cells. In a slightly modified quantitative allogeneic transplantation mouse model, significantly faster and more efficient in vivo killing was demonstrated for TK.007 as compared to scHSVtk, especially at low doses of GCV. (2) In order to assess TK.007 functionality in cells derived from solid tumors, HSVtk-variants were expressed from lentiviral gene ontology (LeGO) vectors in combination with an eGFP/neo-opt selection cassette. Transduced and selected tumor cell lines that derived from several tissues were eliminated at significantly lower GCV doses and to higher extents when transduced with TK.007 compared to scHSVtk. Moreover, a significantly stronger bystander effect of TK.007 was demonstrated. The superior in vitro efficiency of TK.007 was confirmed in an in vivo subcutaneous xenograft mouse model for glioblastoma in NOD/SCID mice. Mice transplanted with TK.007 transduced cells stayed tumor-free after treatment with different GCV-doses. On the contrary, mice of the scHSVtk group either demonstrated only transiently reduced tumor growth in the low-dose GCV group (10 mg/kg) compared to the control groups or suffered from relatively fast relapses after initial tumor shrinking in the standarddose (50 mg/kg) GCV group. As a result, all mice in the scHSVtk group died from vigorous tumor growth. In summary, in two different applications for suicide gene therapy the present study has demonstrated superior functional performance of the novel suicide gene TK.007 as compared to the broadly used wild-type scHSVtk. Differences became particularly pronounced at low doses of GCV. It can be concluded that the new TK.007-gene represents a promising alternative to the commonly used scHSVtk for gene therapeutic applications.
- Role of SOCS proteins in FLT3-ITD and BCR/ABL mediated leukemogenesis (2010)
- Acute myeloid/lymphoid leukemia is a fatal hematological malignancy characterized by accumulation of nonfunctional, immature blasts, which interferes with the production of normal blood cells. Activating mutations of receptor tyrosine kinases are common genetic lesions in leukemia. FLT3-ITD is a frequent activating mutation found in AML patients, leading to uncontrolled proliferation of leukemic blasts. FLT3-ITD directly activates STAT5, leading to the induction of STAT5 target gene expression like PIM kinases and SOCS genes. STAT5 and PIM kinases have been shown to play a crucial role in the FLT3-ITD mediated transformation. On the other hand, the role of SOCS proteins in FLT3-ITD mediated transformation has not been studied to date. SOCS proteins are part of a negative feedback mechanism that controls Jak kinases downstream of cytokine receptors. One of the SOCS family members, SOCS1 has been reported to suppress oncogenecity of several activating kinases implicated in hematologic malignancies. In this thesis the role of these SOCS proteins in FLT3-ITD mediated transformation (in vitro) and leukemogenesis (in vivo) is systematically explored. Expression of FLT3-ITD in cell lines of myeloid (32D) and lymphoid (Ba/F3) origin, led to CIS, SOCS1 and SOCS2 expression. FLT3-ITD expression in primary murine bone marrow stem/progenitor cells led to a 59 fold induction of SOCS1 expression. Furthermore, FLT3-ITD positive AML cell lines (MV4-11, MOLM-13) show kinase dependent CIS, SOCS1, and SOCS3 expression. Importantly SOCS1 is highly expressed in AML patients with FLT3-ITD compared to healthy individuals. SOCS1 protein was expressed in FLT3-ITD transduced murine bone marrow stem cells and SOCS1 expression was abolished with kinase inhibition in MOLM-13 cell line. In conclusion, SOCS1 was highly regulated by FLT3-ITD in myeloid, lymphoid cell lines, in bone marrow stem/progenitors and in AML patient samples. SOCS1 co-expression did not affect FLT3-ITD mediated signaling and proliferation, but abolished IL-3 mediated proliferation and protected 32D cells from interferon-α and interferon-γ mediated growth inhibition. FLT3-ITD expressing 32D cells showed diminished STAT1 activation in response to interferons (α and γ). Alone, SOCS1 strongly inhibited cytokine induced colony formation of bone marrow stem and progenitors, but not FLT3-ITD induced colony formation. Most importantly, in the presence of growth inhibitory interferon-γ, SOCS1 co-expression with FLT3-ITD led to increased colony formation compared to FLT3-ITD alone. Taken together, FLT3-ITD induced and exogenously expressed SOCS1, shielded cells from external cytokines, signals, while not affecting FLT3-ITD induced proliferation/signaling. In further experiments the in vivo effects of SOCS1 were studied in a bone marrow transplantation model. SOCS1 bone marrow transplants were unable to engraft/proliferate in mice. FLT3-ITD was shown to induce a myeloproliferative disease. Both control (empty vector), SOCS1 transplanted mice were normal and did not show any disease phenotype. FLT3-ITD alone and SOCS1 co-expressing FLT3-ITD developed either myeloproliferative disease or acute lymphoblastic leukemia with equal distribution. SOCS1 co-expression with FLT3-ITD led to a decreased latency. Mice transplanted with FLT3-ITD alone and SOCS1 co-expressing FLT3-ITD displayed enlarged spleens, liver and hypercellular bone marrow indicating infiltration of leukemic cells. Mice were also anemic and showed decreased platelet counts. Importantly SOCS1 co-expression particularly shortened the latency of myeloproliferative disease but not of acute lymphoblastic leukemia. In summary, in the context of FLT3-ITD, SOCS1 acts as a ‘conditional oncogene’ and cooperates with FLT3-ITD in the development of myeloproliferative disease. With these data we propose the following model: FLT3-ITD induces SOCS gene expression, which shields cells against proliferation and differentiation signals from cytokines, while not affecting FLT3-ITD mediated proliferative signals. This leaves cells under the dictate of FLT3-ITD thereby contributing to leukemogenesis. Similar to FLT3-ITD, BCR/ABL (P190) (an oncogenic fusion kinase often found in acute lymphoblastic leukemia) induces SOCS gene expression in K562 and long-term cultured cells from patients with acute lymphoblastic leukemia. SOCS1 co-expression does not affect BCR/ABL mediated proliferation while abrogating IL-3 mediated proliferation. These findings suggest that SOCS proteins may play a general co-operative role in the context of oncogenes which aberrantly activate STAT3/5 independently of JAK kinases. This study reveals a novel molecular mechanism of FLT3-ITD mediated leukemogenesis and suggests SOCS genes as potential therapeutic targets.
- Role of enhanced stem cell capacities in leukemogenesis (2006)
- Unlimited self-renewal is an absolute prerequisite for any malignancy, and is the ultimate arbiter of the continuous growth and metastasis of tumors. It has been suggested that the self-renewal properties of a tumor are exclusively contained within a small population, i.e., the so-called cancer stem cells. Enhanced self-renewal potential plays a pivotal role in the development of leukemia. My data have shown that APL associated translocation products PML/RARalpha and PLZF/RARalpha increased the replating efficiency of mouse lin-/Sca1+ hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs). This effect is partly mediated by induction of gamma–catenin which is an important mediator of the Wnt signaling pathway and has been shown to be up regulated by the AML associated translocation products(AATPs). Suppression of gamma–catenin by siRNA can abrogate the increased replating efficiency induced by AATPs. Transduction of gamma–catenin in lin-/Sca1+ HSCs led to increased replating efficiency and the expression of stem cell markers Sca1 and c-kit. Additionally it induced accelerated cell cycle progression of mouse bone marrow HSCs. Transduction/transplantation mouse models have shown that ectopic expression of gamma–catenin in HSCs led to acute myeloid leukemia without maturation. These data suggest important roles of Wnt signaling pathway in the leukemogenesis induced by PML/RARalpha, PLZF/RARalpha and AML1/ETO. In contrast to AATPs, CML and Ph+-ALL associated translocation products p185(BCR-ABL) and p210(BCR-ABL) did not affect the self-renewal potential of hematopoietic stem/progenitor cells. However my studies indicated that their reciprocal translocation products p40(ABL/BCR) and p96(ABL/BCR) actually increased the replating efficiency of hematopoietic stem/progenitor cells. The effect is stronger when induced by p96(ABL/BCR) than by p40(ABL/BCR). It is very intriguing that p96(ABL/BCR) can activate Wnt signaling and up regulate the expression of HoxB4. Transduction/transplantation mouse model has shown that p40(ABL/BCR) and p96(ABL/BCR) both have their own leukemogenic potential. Given the fact that leukemic stem cells maintain the growth of tumor and are the origin of relapse, the cure of leukemia is dependent on the eradication of the leukemic stem cell and abrogation of aberrantly regulated self-renewal capability. Both t-RA and As2O3 have been shown to induce complete remission in APL patients with PML/RARalpha translocation product. However, t-RA as a single agent achieves completeremission (CR) but not complete molecular remissions (CMR). Therefore, virtually all patients will experience a relapse within a few months. In contrast to t-RA, As2O3 as a single agent is able to induce CR as well as CMR followed by long-term relapse-free survival in about 50% of APL patients even if relapsed after treatment with t-RA-containing chemotherapy regimens. Nothing is known about the mechanisms leading to the complete different clinical outcomes by the two compounds although both have been shown to induce differentiation of blast cells, proliferation arrest, induction of apoptosis and degradation of PML/RARalpha. We investigated the effect of t-RA and arsenic on PML/RARalpha-expressing cell population with stem cell capacity derived from the APL cell line NB4 as well as Sca1+/lin- murine bone marrow cells. We found that t-RA did not reduce the replating efficiency in PML/RARalpha- and PLZF/RARalpha-infected Sca1+/lincells whereas it selected small compact colonies representing very early progenitor cells. T-RA was unable to reduce the capacity to form colony forming units-spleen (CFU-S) of Sca1+/lin-cells expressing PML/RARalpha, additionally t-RA did not impair the capability of engraftment of NB4 cells in NOD/SCID mouse. On the contrary to t-RA, As2O3 abolished the aberrant self-renewal potential of Sca1+/lin- cells expressing PML/RARalpha. As2O3 not only abolished the replating efficiency of PML/RARalpha positive cells but also completely abrogated the ability of PML/RARalpha-positive HSC to produce CFU-S in vivo. On the contrary to As2O3, t-RA increased the absolute cell number and the percentage of cells in the side population with respect to the whole cell population in NB4 cells. Taken together these data suggest that arsenic but not all-trans retinoic acid overcomes the aberrant stem cell capacity of PML/RARalpha positive leukemic stem cells. My data prove for the first time that there is a direct relationship between the capacity of compounds to effectively target the LSC and their capacity to eradicate the leukemia, and, thereby, to induce complete molecular remission and long-term relapse-free survival. Thus, in order to increase the curative potential of leukemia therapies, future studies need to include the effect of given compounds on the stem cell compartment to determine their ability to eradicate the LSC.
- Effect of chromatin modeling by histone deacetylase inhibitors (HDIs) on hematopoietic stem cell (HSC) fate (2005)
- Acute myeloid leukemia (AML) is characterized by the accumulation of a large number of abnormal, immature blast cells. Recently, histone deacetylase inhibitors (HDIs) received considerable interest on the ground of their ability to overcome the differentiation block in these leukemic blasts regardless of the primary genetic alteration, an effect achieved either alone or in combination with differentiating agents, such as all-trans retinoic acid (t-RA). Valproic acid (VPA), a potent HDI, is now under clinical evaluation owing to its potent differentiation effect on transformed hematopoietic progenitor cells and leukemic blasts from AML patients. Conversely, in a clinical study by Bug et al., the favorable effects of the combination treatment with t-RA/VPA in advanced acute myeloid leukemia patients were reported to be most likely due to an enhancement of nonleukemic myelopoiesis and the suppression of malignant hematopoiesis rather than enforced differentiation of the leukemic cells. Based on the hypothesis that VPA influences normal hematopoiesis, the effect of chromatin modeling through VPA on HSCs was investigated with respect to differentiation, proliferation as well as self-renewal in the present study. It has been shown that valproic acid increases both proliferation and self-renewal of HSC. It accelerates cell cycle progression of HSC accompanied by a down-regulation of p21cip-1/waf-1. Furthermore, valproic acid inhibits GSK3B by phosphorylation on Ser9 accompanied by an activation of the Wnt signaling pathway as well as by an up-regulation of HoxB4, a target gene of Wnt signaling. Both are known to directly stimulate the proliferation of HSC and to expand the HSC pool. To sum up, valproic acid, a potent histone deacetylase inhibitor known to induce differentiation and/or apoptosis in leukemic blasts, stimulates the proliferation and self-renewal of hematopoietic stem cells. Therefore, the data reported in this study suggest to reconsider the role of histone deacetylase inhibitors from a differentiation inducer to a coadjuvant factor for increasing the response to conventional therapy in acute myeloid leukemia.
- Role of rho GTPases in migration of stem and progenitor cells (2005)
- Stem cells capable of self-renewal and differentiation into multiple tissues are important in medicine to reconstitute the hematopoietic system after myelo-ablative chemo- or radiotherapy. In the present situation, adult stem cells such as Mesenchymal stem cells (MSC) and Hematopoietic stem cells (HSC) are used for therapeutic purposes. For tissue regeneration and tissue constitution, engraftment of transplanted stem cells is a necessary feature. However, in many instances, the transplanted stem cells reach the tissues with low efficiency. Considering the three-step model of leukocyte extravasation by Springer et al, the rolling, adhesion and transmigration form the three major steps for the transplanted stem cells to enter the desired tissues. One of the molecular switches reported to be involved in these mechanisms are the Rho family GTPases. The present study investigates the role of Rho GTPases in adhesion and migration of stem and progenitor cells. Chemotactic and chemokinetic migration assays, transendothelial migration assays, migration of cells under shear stress, microinjection, retroviral and lentiviral gene transfer methods, oligonucleotide microarray analysis and pull down assays were employed in this study for the elucidation of Rho GTPase involvement in migration and adhesion of stem and progenitor cells. The transmigration assay used for the migration determination of the adherent cell type, MSC, was optimized for the efficient and effective assessment of the migrating cells. The involvement of Rho was found to be critical for stem and progenitor cell migration where inactivation of Rho by C2I-C3 transferase toxin and/or overexpression of C3 transferase cDNA increased the migration rate of Hematopoietic progenitor cells (HPC) and MSC. Moreover, modulation of Rho caused predictable cytoskeletal and morphological changes in MSC. Assessment of Rho GTPase involvement in the interacting partner, the endothelial cells during stem cell migration, revealed that active Rho expression induced E-selectin expression. The increased levels of E-selectin were functionally confirmed by the increased adhesion of progenitor cells (HPC) to the Human umbilical vein endothelial cell (HUVEC) layer. Moreover, inhibition of Rac in the migrating endothelial progenitor cells (eEPC) increased their adhesion to HUVEC correlating with the increased percentage expression of cell surface receptor, CD44 in Rac inactivated eEPC. In conclusion, this study shows that Rho GTPases control the adhesion and migration of stem and progenitor cells, HPC and MSC. Rho inhibition drives the cells to migrate in the blood vessels. The substantial increase in the level of active Rho in endothelial layer, manifested by the E-selectin surface expression assists the better adhesion of stem and progenitor cells to the endothelial layer. Serum factors and growth factors in the physiological system influence the Rho GTPase expression in both migrating stem cells and the barrier endothelial cells. Thus, specific modulation of Rho GTPases in the transplanted stem and progenitor cells could be an interesting tool to improve the migration and homing processes of stem cells for cellular therapy in future.