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- 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.
- Characterization of the Chikungunya virus entry process and the development of novel antiviral strategies (2014)
- The Chikungunya virus (CHIKV) is a mosquito-transmitted alphavirus that causes high fever, rash, and recurrent arthritis in humans. The majority of symptoms disappear after about one week. However, arthritis can last for months or even years (in about 30% of cases), which makes people unable to work during this period. The virus is endemic in Sub-Saharan Africa, the Indian Ocean islands, India, and Southeast Asia. It has additionally caused several large outbreaks in the last few years, affecting millions of people. The mortality rate is very low (0.1%), but the infection rates are high (sometimes 30%) and the number of asymptomatic cases is rare (about 15%). The first CHIKV outbreak in a country with a moderate climate was detected in Italy in 2007. Furthermore, the virus has spread to the Caribbean in late 2013. Due to climate change, globalization, and vector switching, the virus will most likely continue to cause new worldwide outbreaks. Additionally, more temperate regions of the world like Europe or the USA, which have recently reported their first cases, will likely become targets. Alarmingly, there is no specific treatment or vaccination against CHIKV available so far. The cell entry process of CHIKV is also not understood in detail, and was thusly the focus of study for this project. The E2 envelope protein is responsible for cell attachment and entry. It consists of the domain C, located close to the viral membrane, domain A, in the center of the protein, and domain B, at the distal end, prominently exposed on the viral surface. In this work, the important role of cell surface glycosaminoglycans (GAGs) for CHIKV cell attachment was uncovered. GAGs consist of long linear chains of heavily sulfated disaccharide units and can be covalently linked to membrane associated proteins. They play an important role in different cell signaling pathways. So far, solely cell culture passage has revealed an increased GAG-dependency of CHIKV due to mutations in E2 domain A, which was associated with virus attenuation in vivo. However, in this work it could be shown that cell surface GAGs promote CHIKV entry using non-cell culture adapted CHIKV envelope (Env) proteins. Transduction and infection of cell surface GAG-deficient pgsA-745 cells with CHIKV Env pseudotyped vector particles (VPs) and with wild-type CHIKV revealed decreased transduction and replication rates. Furthermore, cell entry and transduction rates of GAG-containing cells were also dose-dependently decreased in the presence of soluble GAGs. In contrast, transduction of pgsA-745 cells with CHIKV Env pseudotyped VPs was enhanced by the addition of soluble GAGs. This data suggests a mechanism by which GAGs activate CHIKV particles for subsequent binding to a cellular receptor. However, at least one GAG-independent entry pathway might exist, as CHIKV entry could not be totally inhibited by soluble GAGs and entry into pgsA-745 was, albeit at a lower rate, still possible. Further binding experiments using recombinant CHIKV E2 domains A, B, and C suggest that domain B is responsible for the GAG binding, domain A possibly for receptor binding, and domain C is not involved in cell binding. These results are in line with the geometry of CHIKV Env on the viral surface. They altogether reveal that GAG binding promotes viral cell entry and that the E2 domain B plays a central role for this mechanism. As no vaccine against CHIKV has been approved so far, another goal of this project was to test new vaccination approaches. It has been published that a single linear epitope of E2 is the target of the majority of early neutralizing antibodies against CHIKV in patients. Artificial E2-derived proteins were created, expressed in E.coli, and successfully purified. They consisted of 5 repeats of the mentioned linear epitope (L), the surface exposed regions of domain A linked by glycine-serine linkers (sA), the whole domain B plus a part of the β-ribbon connector (B+), or a combination of these 3 modules. Vaccination experiments revealed that B+ was necessary and sufficient to induce a neutralizing immune response in mice, with the protein sAB+ yielding the best results. sAB+, as a protein vaccine, efficiently and significantly reduced viral titers in mice upon CHIKV challenge, which was not the case for recombinant Modified Vaccinia virus Ankara (MVA; MVA-CHIKV-sAB+), as a vaccine platform expressing the same protein. These experiments show that a small rationally designed CHIKV Env derived protein might, after optimization of some vaccination parameters, be sufficient as a safe, easy-to-produce, and cheap CHIKV vaccine. Epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG) is a catechin found in green tea and was, in this work, found to inhibit the CHIKV life cycle at the entry state in in vitro experiments using CHIKV Env VPs and wild-type virus. EGCG was recently published to inhibit attachment of several viruses to cell surface GAGs, which is in line with the role for GAGs in CHIKV entry revealed in this work. EGCG might serve as a lead compound for the development of a small molecule treatment against CHIKV.
- Hematopoietic stem cell differentiation and lineage selection control by GADD45G (2015)
- Hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs) have the unique abilities of life-long self-renewal and multi-lineage differentiation. They are routinely used in BM or stem cell transplantations to reconstitute the blood system of patients suffering from malignant or monogenic blood disorders. For an adequate production of each blood cell lineage in homeostasis and under stress conditions, the fate choice of HSCs to either self-renew or to differentiate must be strictly controlled. The incomplete understanding of the molecular mechanisms that control this balance makes it still impossible to maintain or expand undifferentiated HSCs in culture for advanced regenerative medical purposes. The aim of this thesis was the identification and molecular characterisation of mechanisms that control the decision of HSCs to self-renew or to differentiate, and how they are connected to extrinsic cytokine signaling control. Prior to this thesis, a screening for genes upregulated under self-renewal promoting thrombopoietin (TPO) signaling via the transcription factors STAT5A/B in HSCs was conducted, and Growth arrest and DNA damage inducible 45 gamma (Gadd45g) was one of the regulated genes. GADD45G was described as stress sensor, DNA-damage response and tumor suppressor gene, that is epigenetically silenced in many solid tumors and leukemia. Furthermore, Gadd45g is upregulated in aged HSCs with impaired multi-lineage reconstitution abilities, and it is induced by differentiation promoting cytokines in GM-committed cells. However, the function of GADD45G in LT-HSCs was unknown. All these points warrant further investigation to unravel the function of GADD45G on early cell fate decisions of HSCs in hematopoiesis. The expression of Gadd45g was stimulated by hematopoietic cytokines TPO, IL3 and IL6 both in HSCs and MPPs, making GADD45G an interesting target to focus on. To simulate the cytokine-induced expression GADD45G was lentivirally transduced in HSCs. Surprisingly, GADD45G did not induce cell cycle arrest or cell death in hematopoietic cells neither in vitro nor in vivo, as reported in many cell lines. Instead GADD45G revealed an enhanced and markedly accelerated differentiation of HSCs into mainly myelomonocytic cells, similar as observed for IL3 and IL6 containing cultures. Also in vivo, GADD45G rapidly initiates the differentiation program in HSCs at the expense of self-renewal and long-term engraftment, as shown by serial HSC transplantation experiments. Along the same line, HSCs from Gadd45g-knock out mice exhibited an increased self-renewal. In vitro, Gadd45g-/- progenitors showed higher and prolonged colony formation potential and slower expansion after cytokine stimulation. The loss of Gadd45g increased HSC self-renewal and improved repopulation in secondary recipients, determined by serial competitive transplantations. Taken together, GADD45G could be identified as molecular link between differentiation-promoting cytokine signaling and rapid differentiation induction in murine LT-HSCs. As presented in this thesis the differentiation induction of GADD45G was mediated by the activation of the cascade of MAP3K4 – MKK6 –p38 MAPK. Small molecule inhibition of p38, but not JNK, blocked the GADD45G-induced differentiation. GADD45G binds to MAP3K4 and releases its auto-inhibitory loop by a change in confirmation, initiating this cascade. Phosphoflow cytometry demonstrated the activation of p38 and a downstream kinase MK2 by GADD45G expression in MPPs. Furthermore, the expression of constitutive active MAP3K4 and MKK6 were able to phenocopy GADD45G-induced differentiation, which could be blocked by p38 inhibition. The other two family members GADD45A and B also induced accelerated differentiation in LT-HSCs. Interestingly, only GADD45G suppressed the differentiation into megakaryocyte and erythrocyte (Mek/E) lineage cells suggesting a role of GADD45G in lineage choice. Long-term time-lapse microscopy-based cell tracking of single LT-HSCs and their progeny revealed that, once GADD45G is expressed, the development of LT-HSCs into granulocyte-macrophage-committed progeny occurred within 36 hours, and uncovered a selective lineage choice with a severe reduction in Mek/E cells. Furthermore, no megakaryocytic-erythroid progenitors (MEPs) could develop from HSPCs in BM 2 weeks after transplantation suggesting a very early selection against Mek/E cell fates. In line with these findings, GADD45G-transduced MEPs could not expand or form colonies in vitro, demonstrating that the differentiation program induced by GADD45G is not compatible with Mek/E lineage fate. Gene expression profiling of HSCs indicated that GADD45G promotes myelomonocytic differentiation programs over programs for self-renewal or megakaryo-/ erythropoiesis. The here identified differentiation induction potential of GADD45G is so strong that the expression of GADD45G in primary acute myeloid leukemia (AML) cells inhibited their expansion accompanied by enhanced differentiation and increased apoptosis. The here presented work shows that IL3 and IL6 induce a differentiation program in HSCs via GADD45G and p38 closing the link of extrinsic cytokine signaling and differentiation induction. Since the loss of Gadd45g increased the self-renewal and slowed HSC differentiation, this may be utilized, i.e. by p38 inhibition, to ex vivo maintain and expand HSCs by preventing cytokine-induced differentiation. Furthermore, Re-expression of GADD45G may overcome the differentiation block in leukemia to eliminate these cells by driving them into terminal differentiation and apoptosis.
- Characterization of the poxviral 68k ankyrin-like protein (2009)
- Orthopoxviruses are large DNA viruses that replicate within the cytoplasm of infected cells encoding over a hundred different proteins. The orthopoxviral 68k ankyrin‐like protein (68k‐ank) is highly conserved among orthopoxviruses, and this study aimed at elucidating the function of 68k‐ank. The 68k‐ank protein is composed of four ankyrin repeats (ANK) and an F‐box‐like domain; both motifs are known proteinprotein interaction domains. The F‐box is found in cellular F‐box proteins (FBP), crucial components of cellular E3 ubiquitin (Ub) ligases. With yeast‐two‐hybrid screens and subsequent co‐immunoprecipitation analyses, it was possible to identify S‐phase kinase‐associated protein 1a (Skp1a) as a cellular counterpart of 68k‐ank via binding to the F‐box‐like domain. Additionally, Cullin‐1 was co‐precipitated, suggesting the formation of a viral‐cellular SCF E3 Ub ligase complex. Modified Vaccinia virus Ankara (MVA) ‐ being attenuated and unable to replicate in most mammalian cell lines due to a block in morphogenesis – nevertheless, expresses its complete genetic information attributing to its properties as promising vector vaccine. Conservation of 68k‐ank as the only ANK protein encoded by MVA implied a substantial role of this viral factor. Hence, its function in the viral life cycle was assessed by studying a 68k‐ank knock‐out MVA. A mutant phenotype manifested in nonpermissive mammalian cells characterized by a block succeeding viral early gene expression and by a reduced ability of the virus to shutoff host protein synthesis. Studies with MVA encoding a 68k‐ank F‐box‐like domain truncated protein revealed that viral‐cellular SCF complex formation and maintenance of viral gene expression are two distinct, unrelated functions fulfilled by 68k‐ank. Moreover, K1, a well‐described VACV host range factor of the ANK protein family, is able to complement 68k‐ank function. This suggests that gene expression of MVA putatively depends on the ANKs encoded in 68k‐ank. In addition to the important findings in vitro, first virulence studies with the mouse pox agent, ectromelia virus (ECTV) deleted of the 68k‐ank ortholog (C11) suggested that this factor contributes to ECTV virulence in vivo.
- HuR promotes tumorigenic characteristics in hepatocellular carcinoma (2013)
- In the absence of apparent mutations, alteration of gene expression patterns represents the key mechanism by which normal cells evolve to cancer cells. Gene expression is tightly regulated by posttranscriptional processes. Within this context, RNA-binding proteins (RBPs) represent fundamental factors, since they control mechanisms, such as mRNA-stabilization, -translation and -degradation. Human antigen R (HuR) was among the first RBPs that have been directly associated to carcinogenesis. HuR modulates the stability and translation of mRNAs which encode proteins facilitating various ‘hallmarks of cancer’, namely proliferation, evasion of growth suppression, angiogenesis, cell death resistance, invasion and metastasis. Furthermore, it is well established that tumor-promoting inflammation contributes to tumorigenesis. In this process, monocytes are attracted to the site of the tumor and educated towards a tumor-promoting macrophage phenotype. While HuR has been extensively studied in various tumor cell types, little is known about HuR in hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). Thus, the aim of my work was to characterize the contribution of HuR to the development of cancer characteristics in HCC. I was particularly interested to investigate if HuR facilitates tumor-promoting inflammation, since a role for HuR has not been described in this context. To this end, I depleted HuR in HepG2 cells (HuR k/d) and used a co-culture model of HepG2 tumor spheroids and infiltrating monocytes to study the impact of HuR on the tumor microenvironment. I could show that depletion of HuR resulted in the reduction of cell numbers. Additionally, the expression of proliferation marker KI-67 and proto-oncogene c-Myc was reduced, supporting a proliferative role of HuR. Furthermore, exposure to cytotoxic staurosporine elevated apoptosis in HuR k/d cells compared to control cells. Concomitantly, the expression of the anti-apoptotic mediator B-cell lymphoma protein-2 (Bcl-2) was markedly reduced in the HuR k/d cells, pointing to an involvement of HuR in cell survival processes. Accordingly, a pro-survival function of HuR was also observed in tumor spheroids, since HuR k/d spheroids exhibited a larger necrotic core region at earlier time points and showed elevated numbers of dead cells compared to control (Ctr.) spheroids. Interestingly, HuR k/d spheroids isplayed reduced numbers of infiltrated macrophages, suggesting that HuR contributes to a tumor-promoting, inflammatory microenvironment by recruiting monocytes/macrophages to the tumor site. Aiming at identifying HuR-regulated factors responsible for the recruitment of monocytes, I found reduced levels of the chemokine interleukin 8 (IL-8) in supernatants of HuR k/d spheroids, supporting a critical involvement of HuR in the chemoattraction of monocytes. Analyzing supernatants of co-cultures of macrophages and HuR k/d or Ctr. spheroids revealed additional differences in chemokine secretion patterns. Interestingly, protein levels of many chemokines were elevated in co-cultures of HuR k/d spheroids compared to control co-cultures. Albeit enhanced chemokine secretion was observed, less monocytes are recruited into HuR k/d spheroids, further underlining the necessity of HuR in cancer related monocyte/macrophage attraction and infiltration. Differences between chemokine profiles of mono- and co-cultured spheroids could be attributable to changes in spheroid-derived chemokines as a result of the crosstalk with the immune cells. Provided the chemokines originate from monocytes/macrophages, the different secretion patterns suggest that HuR contributes to the modulation of the functional phenotype of infiltrated macrophages, since the tumorenvironment is critically involved in the shaping of macrophage phenotypes. Regions of low-oxygen (hypoxia) represent another critical feature of tumors. Therefore, I next analyzed the impact of HuR on the hypoxic response. Loss of HuR attenuated hypoxia-inducible factor (HIF) 2α expression after exposure to hypoxia, while HIF-1α protein levels remained unaltered. Considering previous results of our group, showing that HIF-2α depletion (HIF-2α k/d) resulted in the enhanced expression of HIF-1α protein, I aimed to determine the involvement of HuR in the compensatory upregulation of HIF-1α protein in HIF-2α k/d cells. I could demonstrate that not only total HuR protein levels, but specifically cytoplasmic HuR was elevated in HIF-2α depleted cells pointing to enhanced HuR activity. Silencing HuR in HIF-2α deficient cells attenuated enhanced HIF-1α protein expression, thus confirming a direct role of HuR in the compensatory upregulation of HIF-1α. This as also reflected on HIF-1α target gene expression. I further investigated the mechanism underlying the compensatory HIF-1α expression in HIF-2α deficient cells. Analyzing HIF-1α mRNA expression, I excluded enhanced HIF1-α transcription and stability to account for elevated HIF-1α expression in HIF-2α k/d cells. HIF-1α promoter activity assays confirmed the mRNA data. Furthermore, HIF-1α protein half-life was not elevated in HIF-2α k/d cells compared to control cells, indicating that HIF-1α protein stability is not altered in HIF-2α k/d cells. Analysis of the association of HIF-1α with the translational machinery using polysomal fractionation finally revealed an increased istribution of HIF-1α mRNA in the heavier polysomal fractions in HIF-2α k/d cells compared to control cells. Since augmented ribosome occupancy is an indicator for more efficient translation, I propose enhanced HIF-1α translation as underlying principle of the compensatory increase in HIF-1α protein levels in HIF-2α k/d cells. In summary, my results demonstrate that HuR is critical for the development of cancer characteristics in HCC. Future work analyzing the impact of HuR on tumor-promoting inflammation, specifically macrophage attraction and activation could provide new trategies to inhibit macrophage-driven tumor progression. Furthermore, I provide evidence that HuR contributes to the hypoxic response by regulating the expression of HIF-1α and HIF-2α. Targeting single HIF-isoforms for tumor therapy should be carefully considered, because of their compensatory regulation when one α-subunit is depleted. Thus, therapeutic strategies targeting factors such as HuR that control both α-subunits and at the same time prevent compensation might be more promising.
- 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.
- BAG3 induction ist required to mitigate proteotoxicity via selective autophagy following inhibition of constitutive protein degradation pathways (2013)
- Protein quality control systems (PQC), i.e. UPS and aggresome-autophagy pathway, have been suggested to be a promising target in cancer therapy. Simultaneous pharmacological inhibition of both pathways have shown increase efficacy in various tumors, such as ovarian and colon carcinoma. Here, we investigate the effect of concomitant inhibition of 26S proteasome by FDA-approved inhibitor Bortezomib, and HDAC6, as key mediator of the aggresome-autophagy system, by the highly specific inhibitor ST80 in rhabdomyosarcoma (RMS) cell lines. We demonstrated that simultaneous inhibition of 26S proteasome and selective aggresome-autophagy pathway significantly increases apoptosis in all tested RMS cell lines. Interestingly, we observed that a subpopulation of RMS cells was able to survive the co-treatment and, upon drug removal, to recover similarly to untreated cells. In this study, we identified co-chaperone BAG3 as the key mediator of this recovery: BAG3 is transcriptionally up-regulated specifically in the ST80/Bortezomib surviving cells and mediates clearance of cytotoxic protein aggregates by selective autophagy. Impairment of the autophagic pathway during the recovery phase, both by conditional knock-down of ATG7 or by inhibition of lysosomal degradation by BafylomicinA1, triggers accumulation of insoluble protein aggregates, loss of cell recovery and cell death similarly to stable short harpin RNA (shRNA) BAG3 knock-down. Our results are the first demonstration that BAG3 mediated selective autophagy is engaged to cope with proteotoxicity induced by simultaneous inhibition of constitutive PQC systems in cancer cell lines during cell recovery. Moreover, our data give new insights in the regulation of constitutive and on demand PQC mechanisms pointing to BAG3 as a promising target in RMS therapy.
- The role of ABL/BCR in the leukemogenic potential of BCR/ABL in Philadelphia chromosome positive leukemia (2014)
- 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.
- Regulation of the catalytic subunits of NADPH oxidase Nox1 and NOX4 in rat mesangial cells (2005)
- The generation of O2- by NADPH oxidaes was mainly attributed to immune cells that kill invading bacteria or cancer cells. But importantly, in the past several years, several homologs of the catalytic subunit gp91phox (Nox2) of the phagocytic NADPH oxidase have been identified in non-immune cells and tissues. Superoxide production derived from NADPH oxidaes has been shown to play a role not only in host defense but also in defined signaling cascades mediating growth and apoptosis. The aim of this work was to study the expression and the regulation of the”new” Nox isoforms in rat renal mesangial cells (MC). In particular the following results were achieved. 1) mRNA’s for both Nox1 and Nox4 were detected by RT-PCR. 2) Nox1 mRNA levels were increased upon exposure to basic fibroblast growth factor (bFGF), platelet-derived growth factor (PDGF) and fetal calf serum (FCS) in a time- and dose-dependent manner. Exposure of MC to bFGF and FCS increased also basal production of reactive oxygen species (ROS) by MC. By contrast, Nox4 mRNA levels were not significantly affected by bFGF treatment, but were markedly down-regulated by PDGF and FCS. 3) To study the regulation of Nox1 on the protein level, an anti-Nox1 antibody was generated and characterized using affinity chromatography. Up-regulation of Nox1 expression by growth factors was confirmed also on the protein level. 4) Based on the already known cDNA sequence for Nox1, the transcriptional start site was determined by the “gene RACE” technique. 2547 bp of the genomic sequence of the 5´-flanking region of the Nox1 gene were cloned and sequenced using the „Genome-Walking“ method. To study the regulation of Nox1 transcription functional Nox1 promoter/luciferase fusions were be established. MC were transiently transfected with different promoter/luciferase constructs and stimulated with growth factors. By measuring luciferase activity it was determined that growth factors induced the Nox1 transcription and that the Nox1 core promoter is sufficient for the activation. 5) By measurement of superoxide radicals and analysis of Nox1 mRNA expression by quantitative RT-PCR (TaqMan) as well as protein level by Western blotting it could be shown that treatment of MC with NO donors inhibited the expression of Nox1 in a time- and dose-dependent manner. Moreover, using activators and inhibitors of the soluble guanylyl cyclase (sGC) it could be shown, that the activation of sGC mediates the effect of NO on Nox1 expression. However, NO had no inhibitory effect on Nox1 promoter activity. Experiments with the inhibitor of transcription, actinomycin D, suggest that NO-mediated regulation of Nox1 is triggered probably via post-transcriptional mechanisms. Nox4 is regulated on the mRNA levels in a similar manner as Nox1. 6) To analyze the sub-cellular localization of the Nox isoforms, coding sequences for Nox1 and Nox4 were fused together with green fluorescent protein into the pEGFP-N1 demonstrated that both isoforms are localized predominantly in the plasma membrane, but also in the perinuclear region and cytoplasm. However, the localization of Nox1 in the plasma membrane was more pronounced. 7) In addition to Nox1 and Nox4, mRNA of the newly identified NOXA1 that is a homolog of the p67phox subunit of NADPH oxidase was detected in MC by RT-PCR.