Biologische Hochschulschriften (Goethe-Universität; nur lokal zugänglich)
HuR promotes tumorigenic characteristics in hepatocellular carcinoma
- 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.
Functional characterization of NOSTRIN in signal transduction and vascular development
- NOSTRIN belongs to the recently defined F-BAR protein family. F-BAR proteins are
multi-domain proteins, which serve as adaptors between plasma membrane and
cytoskeleton components in processes such as membrane protrusion formation,
endocytosis and migration. NOSTRIN encompasses a F-BAR domain at the N-terminus,
which mediates membrane association, followed by a HR1 motif and an intermediate
domain (ID) domain in the middle, and a SH3 domain at the C-terminus. The domain
architecture and ability to form oligomers enable NOSTRIN to coordinate several
interaction partners namely dynamin, caveolin, N-WASP and endothelial nitric oxide
synthase (eNOS) in the process of eNOS trafficking. In this context NOSTRIN was
originally identified and hence termed eNOS traffick inducer. NOSTRIN is expressed in
vascularized tissues (e.g. liver and lung) and in primary endothelial cells.
Aims of the present work were (1) to investigate if NOSTRIN is involved in other
processes besides eNOS trafficking, (2) to analyse the function of NOSTRIN in vivo
through knockdown of NOSTRIN in developing zebrafish and (3) to study the
consequences of the loss of NOSTRIN on signal transduction in a primary cell culture
model derived from NOSTRIN knockout mice.
To study the possible involvement of NOSTRIN in other processes besides eNOS
trafficking a yeast two-hybrid screen was performed in which fibroblast growth factor
receptor 1 (FGFR1) was identified as a putative novel interaction partner of NOSTRIN. In
a series of yeast two-hybrid, pulldown and co-immunoprecipitation experiments the
interaction between NOSTRIN and FGFR1 was confirmed to occur between
endogenously expressed proteins and determined to be direct and to depend on the ID
domain of NOSTRIN and the 130 C-terminal amino acid residues of FGFR1. FGFR1 is
activated by binding of fibroblast growth factors (FGFs) and induces several different
signal transduction pathways (e.g. MAPK and Akt pathway). Overexpression of
NOSTRIN in HeLa cells specifically enhanced FGF2-dependent MAPK activation.
Accordingly, depletion of NOSTRIN attenuated FGF2-dependent MAPK activation and
did not affect FGF2-induced Akt activation.
In summary, NOSTRIN has been identified as a novel interaction partner of FGFR1
involved in FGF2-dependent signal transduction.
The morpholino oligonucleotide-mediated knockdown of NOSTRIN in developing
zebrafish caused vascular leakage and irregular vascular patterning e.g. a loss of the
proper trajectory of intersegmental vessel and interruptions of the dorsal longitudinal
anastomotic vessel. The vascular phenotype was consistent upon use of two different
morpholinos and could be rescued in a dose dependent manner by the injection of
zebrafish NOSTRIN mRNA. Detailed analysis involving confocal and time lapse
microscopy in zebrafish with endothelial specific expression of EGFP revealed that the
knockdown of NOSTRIN impacts in vivo on the migration and morphology of endothelial
tip cells and leads to a reduction of filopodia number and length.
Additionally a NOSTRIN knockout mouse was generated. The analysis of FGFR1 signal
transduction in primary mouse lung endothelial cells (MLECs) from NOSTRIN knockout
and wild type mice revealed that FGF2-dependent MAPK activation was attenuated in
MLECs isolated from NOSTRIN knockout mice when compared to MLECs isolated from
wild type mice. The effect of NOSTRIN on FGF2-dependent signal transduction seems to
be specific, since VEGF-induced MAPK activation was not affected in NOSTRIN
knockout MLECs. The importance of NOSTRIN for FGF2 signal transduction in vivo is
demonstrated by the greatly impaired angiogenic response to FGF2 in NOSTRIN
knockout mice in matrigel plug assay. In a detailed biochemical analysis it was
discovered that NOSTRIN interacts with the activated small GTPase Rac1 and that
overexpression of NOSTRIN enhances Rac1 activation. Furthermore, the interactions of
NOSTRIN with both Rac1 and its GEF Sos1 are required for NOSTRIN-mediated
activation of Rac1. In accordance, activation of Rac1 was not detected upon FGF2
stimulation in NOSTRIN knockout MLECs.
In conclusion, the present work describes a novel function of the F-BAR protein
NOSTRIN in FGFR1 signal transduction. Data presented in this work demonstrate that
NOSTRIN is required for the assembly of a complex consisting of FGFR1, Sos1 and
Rac1 and subsequently for the FGF2-dependent activation of Rac1 in endothelial cells.
Diversity, biogeography and conservation status of the Bromeliaceae in Panama and Costa Rica
Daniel Cáceres González
Ecotoxicological assessment of small surface waters with emphasis on sediments : a case study in Hesse, Germany
- Chemical contamination of the environment and thus of aquatic ecosystems is steadily increasing.
Whenever environmental pollutants enter a water body, they affect not only the
water, but also the sediment. Substances that bind to sediment particles can be stored for
a long time, whereby sediments act as sinks for some contaminants. Therefore, sediment
assessments often more accurately describe the contamination of a water body than investigations
of the water itself. Among environmental chemicals, endocrine disrupting compounds
(EDCs) have gained more and more attention in recent years. Since they interfere
with endocrine systems and may disturb reproduction, they endanger the survival of populations
or even species. Hazardous substances enter the aquatic environment by different
pathways, with sewage treatment plants (STPs) belonging to the most important contamination
The main objective of this work is a comprehensive sediment assessment of predominantly
small surface waters in the German federal state of Hesse. The 50 study sites, located in 44
different creeks and small rivers, are situated in the densely populated and economically
important Frankfurt/Rhine-Main area, as well as in rural and less urbanized regions.
Chemical analytical data, provided by the Hessian Agency for the Environment and Geology
(HLUG), indicated different contamination levels of the study sites. In order to investigate
the general toxicity of the sediment samples, the oligochaete Lumbriculus variegatus
and the midge Chironomus riparius were exposed to whole sediments and apical endpoints
regarding biomass, survival, and reproduction were determined. In further experiments,
special attention was paid to the contamination with endocrine active compounds. For this
purpose, the reproductive success of the New Zealand mudsnail Potamopyrgus antipodarum
was analyzed after exposure to whole sediments. Additionally, a yeast-based reporter gene
assay was applied with sediment eluates to assess the estrogenic and androgenic activity of
the samples. Biotest results were compared with chemical analysis data to investigate
whether the test organisms reflect the measured pollution of the study sites and if the observed
effects can be explained by chemical contamination.
Five study sites, all located less than 1 km downstream of a STP discharger, were selected
for further investigations based on the results of the sediment monitoring. The sediments
from these sites were conspicuous due to their general toxic and/or estrogenic activity. In
order to investigate whether the observed effects can be ascribed to the effluents, an active
biomonitoring study was conducted with the mudsnail P. antipodarum and the zebra mussel
Dreissena polymorpha, exposed at study sites located up- and downstream of the discharger.
In addition to endocrine activity, genotoxic effects were investigated using the
comet assay and the micronucleus assay. Endocrine activity was examined based on the
reproductive output of P. antipodarum and the content of vitellogenin-like proteins in
D. polymorpha. Yeast-based reporter gene assays were used to estimate the endocrine potential
(estrogen, anti-estrogen, anti-androgen, dioxin-like) of sediment and water samples.
22% of the 50 sediments showed ecologically relevant effects in the biotests with L. variegatus
and C. riparius. Only one sediment caused a relevant effect on both test organisms,
while the other ten positively tested sediments affected either L. variegatus or C. riparius,
probably due to differences in inter-species sensitivities. This suggests that a combination
of different biotests is necessary for a comprehensive evaluation of sediment toxicity.
78% of the sediments caused a significantly increased number of embryos in P. antipodarum,
which could be ascribed to estrogenic contamination of the sediment samples. An
increase in the number of embryos by 60%, as observed in this study, and an associated
increase in population size may result in the displacement of other, less competitive species.
In the in vitro tests, 66% of the sediments showed estrogenic activity and 68% showed androgenic
activity. Maximum observed values were 40.9 ng EEQ/kg sediment (EEQ = estradiol
equivalent) for estrogenic and 93.4 ng TEQ/kg sediment (TEQ = testosterone
equivalent) for androgenic activity. Natural and synthetic hormones as well as alkylphenols
were the major contributors to the total estrogenicity of environmental samples in several
other studies, and are likely responsible for a large part of the estrogenic activity in this
case as well. Similarly, androgenic activity is mainly due to natural steroids and their metabolites.
Bioassay results reflect the analytically measured contamination levels at the study sites
only very infrequently. This can be ascribed to the occurrence of integrated effects of chemical
mixtures present in the sediments. Additionally, effects of substances not included in
the analytical program or of substances present in concentrations below the detection limit
of the chemical analytical investigations as well as varying bioavailabilities might be relevant.
The fact that a large part of the observed effects cannot be explained by the chemical
contamination demonstrates the need for effect studies in ecotoxicological sediment assessments.
In order to identify possible causes for the effects observed in the sediment monitoring, e.g.
contamination sources, the area types (urban fabrics, arable lands, pasturages, etc.) of the
catchment areas belonging to the study sites were analyzed. No significant differences were
found between the area profiles of the sampling sites with and without effects in the biotests.
The results indicate that the contamination responsible for the observed effects can
be ascribed to different sources. Furthermore, study sites whose sediments exerted significant
effects in biotests were located in anthropogenic as well as in predominantly natural
The active biomonitoring study at STPs revealed genotoxic and endocrine effects only sporadically.
However, in the in vitro tests considerable endocrine activities of sediment and
water samples were determined. No conclusive picture emerges as to whether the observed
effects occur more frequently downstream of the dischargers, and thus could be attributed
to a contamination by sewage. This indicates that contamination sources other than STP
dischargers, for example agricultural runoff, may contribute to the observed effects. Weaker
effects and biological activities downstream of a discharger compared to an upstream site
might be ascribed to a dilution effect by the effluents. A comparison of the measured in
vitro estrogenicity with exposure studies described in the literature shows that adverse effects
in aquatic organisms can be expected at the EEQ concentrations determined in the
The results of the sediment monitoring and the STP study revealed a widespread endocrine
pollution of small surface waters in Hesse. The fact that the bioassay results only rarely
reflect study site contamination as determined by chemical analysis demonstrates the need
for effect studies in comprehensive sediment assessments. In some cases STP dischargers
increased, in other cases they decreased the observed in vivo effects and in vitro activity of
environmental samples. Transferring the results obtained in laboratory studies to the field,
adverse effects on aquatic ecosystems can be expected. The study illustrates the need for
restrictive measures that contribute to the removal or reduction of environmental pollutants.
For the identification of substances that have so far not been linked to adverse effects
on the environment, methods such as effect-directed analyses (EDA) or toxicity identification
evaluation (TIE) should be increasingly applied in future studies. Furthermore,
bioassays for the assessment of endocrine activity should be implemented in standardized
The sponges of the Chinese Yellow Sea
- Sponges are one of the major components of benthic communities and are considered to be a
key role organism in marine ecosystems. In addition to their importance in terms of
biodiversity, sponges are becoming increasingly attractive to the industry, as they themselves
or associated symbionts, produce various kinds of secondary metabolites of pharmaceutical
properties. Some of them have already been clinically applied.
The taxonomic characters of Porifera are limited to only a few morphological and
histological characters. In addition, sponges of the same species often show a wide
morphological variability, whereas the latter depends on different ecological parameters such
as water depth and current conditions. Thus, the taxonomic classification of sponges often
becomes a scientific challenge.
The fauna of the Yellow Sea rates among the least studied worldwide. At the same time,
according to the UN Atlas of the Ocean, the Yellow Sea is one of the most intensively
exploited marine areas in the world. This is not least due to the dense human population living
in the entire catchment area of the Yellow Sea region. In order to compile medium- and longterm
conclusions about the anthropogenic impact on biota of the Yellow Sea, the knowledge
of species and their distribution is of crucial importance, as these data form the baseline for all
future conservation efforts.
Until now the sponge fauna of the Chinese Yellow Sea is insufficiently investigated.
Thus, there is only one publication on sponges from this region that has been released
hitherto. This paper is dealing with only a view species. However, there is no reference
concerning the present location of the voucher material, on which this publication is based on.
Consequently, no scientific collection on Porifera from the Chinese part of the Yellow Sea
exists to date.
In order to compile a documentation of the recent sponge community of the Chinese
Yellow Sea, 12 study sites along the coast of the Liaoning Peninsula, China, Northeast
Yellow Sea, were investigated with focus on sponge distribution. The corresponding habitats
were characterized in regard to their topographical features, abiotic parameters, and common
composition of benthic megafaunal and macroalgal assemblages.
Due to the lack of comparable studies, a comprehensive literature research on sponges of the
shallow Northwest Pacific Ocean was required. As a result the first compilation of
publications is presented, dealing with sponges from shallow depths of the northwestern
In the course of this study, 31 sponge species in total were recorded, which are scientifically
processed. With the exception of four all specimens were determined to species- level.
Twelve out of the total number of species are new to science and are described and classified
according to the recent taxonomic system of the phylum Porifera.
The results of this study indicate considerable differences in species composition between
investigated sites. It is shown that physical factors (particularly current regime, sedimentation,
seasonally related variations in temperatures), as well the availability of suitable substrates are
directly related to the diversity and abundance of investigated sponge communities. In this
context possible adaptation strategies of the corresponding sponges were discussed in detail.
Two sponge species, Clathria (Clathria) asodes and Antho (Acarnia) lithophoenix, formerly
known exclusively from the northeastern Pacific Ocean, are now recorded from the Northwest
Pacific Ocean for the first time. Furthermore, Penares hongdoensis, Clathria (Clathria)
hongdoensis and Celtodoryx girardae were synonymized with Penares cortius, Clathria
(Clathria) acanthostyli, and Celtodoryx ciocalyptoides respectively. Moreover, the occurrence
of eight sponge species, which were known from previous records from the Yellow Sea, could
As a result of this study the Asian origin of a sponge species that is invasive to the French and
Dutch coasts of the Northeast Atlantic Ocean since the 1990s could be established. Moreover,
it is demonstrated that Celtodoryx girardae from the northeastern Atlantic is in fact
conspecific with Cornulum ciocalyptoides described by Burton (1935) from the Posiet Bay,
Sea of Japan. Apart from taxonomic remarks, variations between populations from both
oceans are examined and discussed thoroughly in regard to possible ecological implications.
The community of documented sponges shows overlapping with the one from the Sea of
Japan. According to the results it is assumed that the endemic degree of the sponges from the
Chinese Yellow Sea is rather low to moderate.
The material obtained in the course of this study was integrated in the collection of the
Senckenbergischen Naturforschenden Sammlungen. Therefore, it is the first scientific
collection of sponges from the Chinese Yellow Sea that can be consulted as a basis for all
further studies on sponges of this region.
The present study is the only investigation of sponges from Dalian and adjacent waters before
the spill occurred in the Dalian harbour in July 2010. Therefore, it provides an essential
baseline needed to assess the impact of the oil spill on benthic communities.
Controlling gene expression with engineered catalytic riboswitches
- The importance of RNA in molecular and cell biology has long been underestimated. Besides transmitting genetic information, studies of recent years have revealed crucial tasks of RNA especially in gene regulation. Riboswitches are natural RNA-based genetic switches and known only for ten years. They directly sense small-molecule metabolites and regulate in response the expression of the corresponding metabolic genes. Within recent years, artificial riboswitches have been developed that operate according to user-defined demands. Hence, they represent powerful tools for synthetic biology.
This study focused on the development of engineered catalytic riboswitches for conditional gene expression in eukaryotes. A self-cleaving hammerhead ribozyme was linked to a tetracycline binding aptamer in order to regulate ribozyme cleavage allosterically with tetracycline. By integrating such a hybrid molecule into a gene of interest, mRNA cleavage and thereby gene expression is controllable in a ligand dependent manner. The linking domain between ribozyme and aptamer was randomised. Tetracycline inducible ribozymes were isolated after eleven cycles of in vitro selection (SELEX). 80% of the analysed ribozymes show cleavage that strongly depends on tetracycline. In the presence of 1 μM tetracycline, their cleavage rates are comparable to that of the parental hammerhead ribozyme. In the absence of tetracycline, cleavage rates are inhibited up to 333-fold. The allosteric ribozymes bind tetracycline with similar affinity and specificity as the parental aptamer. Ribozyme cleavage is fully induced within minutes after addition of tetracycline. Interestingly, the isolated linker domains exhibit structural consensus motives rather than consensus sequences.
When transferred to yeast, three switches reduced reporter gene expression by 30 - 60% in the presence of tetracycline; none of them controlled gene expression in mammalian cells. In vitro selected molecules do not necessarily retain their characteristics when applied in a cellular context. Therefore, high throughput screening and selection systems have been developed in mammalian cells. The screening system is based on two fluorescent reporter proteins (GFP and mCherry). 1152 individual constructs of the selected ribozyme pool were tested, but none of them reduced reporter gene expression significantly in the presence of tetracycline. The selection system employs a fusion peptide encoding two selection markers (Hygromycin B phosphotransferase and HSV thymidine kinase) facilitating both negative and positive selection. 6.5 x 104 individual constructs of the selected ribozyme pool are currently under investigation.
Development of lentiviral vectors for the gene therapy of HIV infection
- 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
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.
In vivo selection of retroviral display libraries for tumor homing
Lydia Jasmin Dürner
- The display of foreign polypeptides and proteins on the surface of viruses or cells provides an important tool for the engineering of biomolecules and the analysis of their interactions with binding partners. The most extensively used display platform is the coat protein of the filamentous bacteriophage (Smith, 1985). Phage display libraries have often been selected for polypeptides, e.g. single chain (sc) antibodies that bind to a protein of interest, but in vivo selection could only be demonstrated for peptides so far. An alternative display platform is the retrovirus murine leukemia virus (MLV). Here, polypeptides are displayed at the N-terminus of the viral envelope glycoprotein. Proof of principle for this platform was demonstrated for protease substrate libraries, which can be selected through coupling proteolytic activation with viral infectivity (Buchholz et al., 1998). Selection of the library CX4A on living cells resulted in viruses with more than three orders of magnitude improved spreading efficiency through tumor cells (Hartl et al., 2005). Also scAb libraries have recently been displayed and selected using retroviruses (Urban et al., 2005). The library scFvlibxMo displays the repertoire of phage display preselected sc antibodies for laminin-1 binding. The retrovirus based selection process resulted in laminin-specific sc antibodies with improved expression levels in mammalian cells.
This thesis describes the in vivo (i.e. in mouse tumor models) selection of the C-X4-A and scFvlibxMo for tumor homing upon systemic delivery.
For selection of the protease substrate library C-X4-A a subcutaneous tumor was induced in SCID mice followed by three systemic injections of the library. The selection process was monitored over a period of 34 days. After the incubation period mice were sacrificed and virus load in organs and tumor determined. PCR analysis after 34 days showed that virus from the library had preferentially infected the tumor. Sequence analysis showed the selection of protease substrates with the most prominent one with a frequency of over 65%. The four most prominent protease substrate variants where reconstituted into the original viral backbone for further investigation (C-SK-A, C-HI-A, C-HM-A and C-HS-A). Interestingly, these viruses exhibited a reduced spreading capacity in vitro on HT1080 cells as compared to the C-AK-A virus, which had previously been selected on HT1080
cells. When assayed for tumor homing, however, viruses C-HI-A and C-HS-A had clearly improved in comparison to C-AK-A. Tumor tissue had been infected at rates of over 55% while virus load of extratumoral organs was very low (infection rates <0.7 for C-HS-A and <0.02 for C-HI-A). Tumor targeting capacity had thus been improved over 10-fold by the in vivo selection of the C-X4-A library.
The experimental set up for the in vivo selection of the scFvlibxMo library was performed according to that of the C-X4-A library. Fingerprint analysis of the selected viruses that infected tumor tissue resulted in the identification of seven antibody variants showing unique CDR3 sequences. Two prominent clones (M49T-A and M49T-B) were cloned back into the MoMLV genome for further analysis of the reconstituted viruses. While variant B bound laminin-1 efficiently, variant A was unable to do so, although it was selected at highest frequency (76%). Both reconstituted viruses were equally well infectious and spread through HT1080rec1 cells at a similar efficiency as MoMLV. In an in vivo competition experiment the selected viruses clearly out-competed a laminin-1 binding reference virus L36xMo for tumor homing. To understand the molecular driving forces behind the in vivo selection process the epitope of the selected scFv M49T-A was identified using a phage peptide library approach. In silico analysis led to the identification of a small group of possible antigens, including tenascin, fibronectin and collagen.
The data described in this thesis demonstrate that the retrovirus display platform is capable of allowing the in vivo selection of protease substrates and scFvs. Notably, the replication competence of the system introduced an additional level of complexity to the library. The performed in vivo selections significantly enhanced tumor tropism. Selective infection of tumor cells combined with transfer of anti-tumoral genes is an attractive strategy for cancer therapy being in focus of current research. The viruses selected in this thesis build prime candidates for targeted retrovirus based tumor therapy.
An ambiguous interface – on the transport mechanism of the ABC transport complex TAP
- The adaptive immune system protects against daily infections and malignant transformation. In this, the translocation of antigenic peptides by the transporter associated with antigen processing (TAP) into the ER lumen is an essential step in the antigen presentation by MHC I molecules. The heterodimeric ATP-binding cassette transporter (ABC) TAP consist of the two halftransporters TAP1 and TAP2. Each monomer contains an N-terminal transmembrane domain (TMD) and a conserved C-terminal nucleotide-binding domain (NBD). Together, the TMDs build the translocation core and the NBDs bind and hydrolyze ATP, energizing the peptide transport. TAP features an asymmetry in the two ATP-binding sites that are built of several conserved motifs. One motif is the D-loop with the consensus sequence SALD. The highly conserved aspartate of the D-loop of TAP1 reaches into the canonic ATP-binding site and contacts the Walker A motif and the H-loop of the opposite NBD, while the Asp of D-loop of TAP2 is part of the non-canonic ATP-binding site.
To examine this ABC transport complex in mechanistic detail, a purification and reconstitution procedure was established with the function of TAP being preserved. The heterodimeric TAP complex was purified via a His10-tag at TAP1 in a 1:1 ratio of the subunits. Nucleotide binding to the purified transporter was elucidated by tryptophan quenching assays and the affinity constants for MgADP and MgATP were determined to be 1.0 μM and 0.7 μM, respectevely. In addition, the TAP complex shows strict coupling between peptide binding and ATP hydrolysis, revealing no basal ATPase activity in the absence of peptides. Furthermore, TAP was reconstituted into proteoliposomes and the activity was tested by peptide transport and ATP hydrolysis. Interestingly, the kinetic parameters of the transporter in the reconstituted state are comparable to the data gained for TAP in microsomes.
To characterize the functional importance of the D-loop, D-loop mutants of either TAP1 or TAP2 were analyzed. Strikingly, TAP containing a mutated D-loop in TAP1 (D674A) shows an ATP-hydrolysis independent peptide translocation. Accordingly, the MHC I surface expression is similar to the wildtype situation. However, the same mutation in TAP2 (D638A) results in an ATPase dependent peptide transport similar to wildtype, whereas TAP containing mutations in both subunits leads to an inactive transporter. Although all D-loop mutants showed no altered peptide binding activity, the TAP1 mutant is inactive in peptide-stimulated ATPase activity. Strikingly, ATP or ADP binding is strictly required for the peptide translocation. Experiments carried out in proteoliposomes demonstrate that wildtype TAP can export peptides against their gradient when low peptide concentrations are offered. In contrast, the D674A mutant can facilitate peptide translocation along their concentration gradient in the two directions. At high peptide concentrations, TAP is trapped in a transport incompetent state induced by trans-inhibition. In conclusion, a TAP mutant that uncouples solute translocation from ATP hydrolysis was created. Since this passive substrate movement is strictly dependent on binding of ATP or ADP, an active transporter was turned into a “nucleotide-gated facilitator”.
In a cysteine cross-linking approach the conformational changes of TAP during peptide transport and the flexibility of the nucleotide binding domains were examined. Single cysteines were introduced in the D-loops of TAP1 and TAP2. Cross-linking by copper-phenantroline (CuPhe) was possible for all combinations. However, by adding ATP, ADP or peptide to the TAP complex no differences in the cross-linking efficiency were detected. By CuPhe cross-linking TAP was trapped in a conformation, in which the peptide binding site was not accessible. To complete a transport cycle, a flexibility of at least 17.8 Å of the NBDs is needed, since TAP cross-linked by CuPhe (2.0 Å) or bismaleimidoethane (BMOE, 8.0 Å) was transport inactive but when TAP was cross-linked by 1,11-bismaleimido-triethyleneglycol (BM[PEG]3, 17.8 Å) transport activity was preserved.
Identification of erioflorin as a stabilizer of Pdcd4 by a HTS of natural products and discovery of its mechanism of action
- The tumor suppressor programmed cell death 4 (Pdcd4) exerts its function by inhibiting protein translation initiation. Specifically, it displaces the scaffold protein eukaryotic initiation factor 4G (eIF4G) from its binding to the eukaryotic initiation factor 4A (eIF4A). Thereby, Pdcd4 inhibits the helicase activity of eIF4A, which is necessary for the unwinding of highly structured 5’ untranslated regions (UTRs) of messenger RNAs (mRNAs) often found in oncogenes like c-myc to make them accessible for the translation machinery and subsequent protein production. Overexpression of Pdcd4 inhibits tumorigenesis in vitro and in vivo and inversely, Pdcd4 knockout mice show enhanced tumor formation. In line, Pdcd4 is lost in various tumor types and proposed as prognostic factor in colon carcinomas. Unlike most other tumor suppressors that are rendered nonfunctional by mutations (e.g., p53), Pdcd4 loss is not attributable to mutational inactivation. It is regulated via translational repression by microRNAs and increased degradation of the protein under tumor promoting, inflammatory conditions and mitogens. Specifically, proteasomal degradation of Pdcd4 is controlled by p70 S6 Kinase (p70S6K)-mediated phosphorylation in its degron sequence (serines 67, 71 and 76). Stimulation of the PI3K-AKT-mTOR pathway by growth factors, hormones and cytokines initiates p70S6K activity. Phosphorylated Pdcd4 is subsequently recognized by the E3 ubiquitin ligase beta-transducin repeats-containing protein (β-TrCP) and marked with a polyubiquitin tail to be detected by the 26S proteasome for degradation. β-TrCP represents the substrate specific recognition subunit of the ubiquitin ligase complex responsible for protein-protein interaction with Pdcd4 as substrate for ubiquitin transfer and subsequent proteasomal disassembly.
The first part of the present work aimed at identifying novel stabilizers of the tumor suppressor Pdcd4 in a high throughput screen (HTS). As assay design, a fragment of Pdcd4 from amino acid 39 to 91, containing the phosphorylation sensitive degron sequence, was fused to a luciferase reporter gene construct. Stable expression of this Pdcd4(39-91)luciferase (Pdcd4(39-91)luc) fusion protein in HEK 293 cells served as read-out for the Pdcd4 protein amount to be detected in a high throughput compatible cell-based assay. Loss of Pdcd4(39-91)luc was induced by treatment with 12-O-
tetradecanoylphorbol-13-acetate (TPA), a phorbolester, which activates the PI3K signaling cascade leading to degradation of Pdcd4. The cut-off for hit definition was set at >50% activity in rescuing the Pdcd4(39-91)luc signal from TPA-induced degradation. Activity was calculated relative to the difference of DMSO- and TPA-treated cells (ΔDMSO-TPA = RLUDMSO-RLUTPA). Initial screening of a protein kinase inhibitor library (PKI) revealed hit substances expected to show Pdcd4 stabilizing activity by inhibition of kinases involved in Pdcd4 downregulation, e.g., the mTOR inhibitor rapamycin, the PI3K inhibitors wortmannin and LY294002 and the PKC inhibitors GF 109203X and Ro 31-8220.
The Molecular Targets Laboratory (MTL) of the National Cancer Institute (NCI) in Frederick, USA, hosts one of the largest collections of crude natural product extracts as well as a big substance libraries from pure synthetic sources. Screening of over 15 000 pure compounds and over 135 000 natural product extracts identified 46 pure and 42 extract hits as Pdcd4 stabilizers. For nine synthetic and six natural product derived compounds (after bioassay-guided fractionation), dose-dependent activities for recovering the TPA-induced Pdcd4(39-91)luc loss defined IC50s in the low micromolar range. Most importantly, these compounds were confirmed to stabilize endogenous Pdcd4 protein levels from forced degradation as well. This result proved the assay design to be highly representative for endogenous cellular mechanisms regulating Pdcd4 protein stability. The next step was to stratify the hit substances according to their likely mechanism of action to be located either up- or downstream of the p70S6K-mediated phosphorylation of Pdcd4. Therefore, phosphorylation of S6, as proto-typical p70S6K target, was analyzed and uncovered two natural derived compounds to influence p70S6K activity. Four substances did not affect p70S6K phosphorylation activity and were therefore considered to stabilize Pdcd4 by acting downstream, i.e. on the β-TrCP-mediated proteasomal degradation.
In the second part of this work, one of these compounds, namely the sesquiterpene lactone erioflorin, isolated by bioassay-guided fraction from the active extract of Eriophyllum lanatum, Asteraceae, was further characterized in detail with respect to its molecular mechanism of action. Erioflorin dose-dependently protected both Pdcd4(39-91)luc and endogenous Pdcd4 protein from TPA-induced degradation with IC50s of 1.28
and 2.64 μM, respectively. Pdcd4 stabilizing activity was maximal at 5 μM erioflorin. Up to this concentration, erioflorin was verified not to inhibit p70S6K activity. In addition, it was observed that erioflorin rescued Pdcd4(39-91)luc from both, wild type and constitutively active p70S6K-mediated downregulation. Only wild type p70S6K was inhibitable by the mTOR inhibitor rapamycin which served as an upstream acting control. To study the next section of Pdcd4 regulation, i.e. recognition by the E3 ubiquitin ligase β-TrCP, Pdcd4(39-91)luc and endogenous Pdcd4 were immunoprecipitated from whole cell extracts with the corresponding antibodies. In this key experiment, treatment with TPA increased overexpressed β-TrCP binding to both and this coimmunoprecipitation could be strongly reduced by erioflorin treatment. This result strongly pointed to an inhibitory mechanism of the β-TrCP specific binding to Pdcd4 by erioflorin. In addition, erioflorin disrupted the binding of in vitro transcribed/translated β-TrCP to Pdcd4 in an in vitro interaction assay to exclude nonspecific intracellular signals. Furthermore, polyubiquitination of Pdcd4 was decreased by erioflorin treatment as well. To clarify questions regarding specificity of erioflorin for the E3 ubiquitin ligase β-TrCP, stability of another important β-TrCP target was explored, i.e. the tumor suppressor inhibitor of kappa B alpha (IκBα). Indeed, the tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNFα)-mediated loss of IκBα could be prevented by erioflorin cotreatment. On the other hand, the E3 ubiquitin ligase von Hippel Lindau protein (pVHL) was left unaffected as its target hypoxia inducible factor 1 alpha (HIF-1α) could not be stabilized from oxygen-dependent degradation by erioflorin treatment. These results argued strongly for erioflorin being a specific inhibitor of β-TrCP-mediated protein degradation. Functional consequences of erioflorin treatment were investigated by observing its influence on the transcriptional activities of the transformation marker activator protein 1 (AP-1, an indirect downstream target of Pdcd4) and nuclear factor κB (NF-κB which is directly inhibited by IκBα). Indeed, erioflorin showed significant inhibition of AP-1 and NF-κB reporter constructs at 5 μM, a concentration for which an impact on cell viability was excluded. Finally to characterize the significance of erioflorin in a cell-based tumorigenesis assay, the highly invasive colon carcinoma cell line RKO was tested in a two dimensional migration assay. Erioflorin was discovered to significantly lower cell migration in a wound closure assay.
In conclusion, development of a high throughput compatible cell-based reporter assay successfully identified novel substances from pure synthetic and natural product derived background as potent stabilizers of the tumor suppressor Pdcd4. In addition, this work aimed at elucidating the detailed mechanism of action of the sesquiterpene lactone erioflorin from Eriophyllum lanatum, Asteraceae. Erioflorin was discovered to inhibit the E3 ubiquitin ligase β-TrCP, thereby preventing protein degradation of tumor suppressors like Pdcd4 and IκBα. This may offer the possibility to more specifically target protein degradation and generate less adverse side effects by blocking a particular E3 ubiquitin ligase compared to general proteasome inhibition.