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- Untersuchungen zur Bedeutung des Kern-Zytoplasma Transports für die biologische Funktion zellulärer Proteine (2005)
- The thesis entitled „Investigations on the significance of nucleo-cytoplasmic transport for the biological function of cellular proteins" aimed to unreveal molecular mechanisms in order to improve our understanding of the impact of nucleo-cytoplasmic transport on cellular functions. Within the scope of this work, it could be shown that regulated nucleo-cytoplasmic transport of a subfamily of homeobox transcription factors controlled their intra- and intercellular transport, and thereby influencing also their transcriptional activity. This study describes a novel regulatory mechanism, which could in general play an important role for the ordered differentiation of complex organisms. Besides cis-active transport Signals, also post-translational modifications can influence the localization and biological activity of proteins in trans. In addition to the known impact of phosphorylation on the transport and activity of STAT1, experimental evidence was provided demonstrating that acetylation affected the interaction of STAT1 with NF-kB p65, and subsequently modulated the expression of apoptosis-inducing NF-kB target genes. The impact of nucleo-cytoplasmic transport on the regulation of apoptosis was underlined by showing that the evolutionary conservation of a NES within the anti-apoptotic protein survivin plays an essential role for its dual function in the inhibition of apoptosis and ordered cell division. Since survivin is considered a bona fide cancer therapy target, these results strongly encourage future work to identify molecular decoys that specifically inhibit the nuclear export of survivin as novel therapeutics. In order to further dissect the regulation of nuclear transport and to efficiently identify transport inhibitors, cell-based assays are urgently required. Therefore, the cellular assay Systems developed in this work may not only serve to identify synthetic nuclear export and Import inhibitors but may also be applied in systematic RNAi-screening approaches to identify novel components of the transport machinery. In addition, the translocation based protease- and protein-interaction biosensors can be applied in various biological Systems, in particular to identify protein-protein interaction inhibitors of cancer relevant proteins. In summary, this work does not only underline the general significance of nucleo-cytoplasmic transport for cell biology, but also demonstrates its potential for the development of novel therapies against diseases like cancer and viral infections.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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)
- Humanized mice as preclinical model for HIV infections (2014)
- HIV vaccine preclinical testing is difficult because HIV’s only relevant hosts are humans and no correlates of protection are known. To this end, we are working on the humanization of different mouse strains with human peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) as well as human hematopoietic stem cells (HSC) to generate a useful small animal model. We generated immune deficient mice (NOD Scid IL2gc -/- /NOD Rag1-/- IL2gc -/-) expressing human MHC class II (HLA-DQ8) on a mouse class II deficient background (Ab-/-). Here, the human HLA-DQ8 should interact with the matching T cell receptors of transferred matching human PBMCs and therefore could support the functionality of the transferred human CD4+ cells in the mice. Mice that were adoptively transferred with human HLA-DQ8 PBMCs only showed engraftment of CD3+ T cells. Surprisingly, the presence of HLA class II did not significantly change the repopulation rates in the mice. Also, the presence of HLA class II did not advance B cell engraftment, such that humoral immune responses were undetectable. However, the overall survival of DQ8-expressing mice was significantly prolonged, compared to mice expressing mouse MHC class II molecules, and correlated with an increased time span until onset of GvHD. To avoid GVHD and to increase and maintain the level of human cell reconstitution over a long period of time, the same mouse strains were reconstituted with human HSC. Compared to PBMC-repopulated mice, HSC-reconstituted mice develop almost all subpopulations of the human immune system detectable at week 12 after HSC transfer. These mice developed adaptive immune responses after Tetanus Toxoide (TT) immunizations. In addition, we are testing the susceptibility of these humanized mice to different HIV strains with a detailed look at immune responses.
- 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.
- T cell receptor diversity prevents T cell leukemia, lymphoma development / von Nabil Saleh Ahmed Al-Ghaili (2010)
- Gene therapy is a promising therapeutic strategy that emerged from the attractive idea of targeting therapy at the molecular level. For many patients who suffer from genetic and acquired diseases that cannot be effectively treated by conventional treatment approaches gene therapy remains a huge hope of cure in spite of the hurdles regarding efficacy and safety that need to be overcome. The development of efficient gene transfer vehicles, mainly retroviral vectors, led to the first successful gene therapy trial, to treat patients suffering from X-linked severe combined immunodeficiency syndrome (X-SCID) using gene modified stem cells (Hacein-Bey-Abina, Le Deist et al. 2002). Despite the success of this trial, it revealed the danger of retroviral insertional mutagenesis as a major adverse event of gene therapy using gene-modified stem cells (Hacein-Bey-Abina, von Kalle et al. 2003). In contrast to stem cells, T cells are relatively resistant to insertional mutagenesis and transformation even after transduction with potent oncogenes using retroviral vectors (Newrzela, Cornils et al. 2008). However, mature T cells can self-renew, proliferate and survive for long periods. These criteria are supposed to render T cells prone to transformation. Therefore, the questions of mature T cells transformability and the control mechanism limiting their transformation are still elusive.