Characterizing conditional knockout mouse models to unravel the physiolgical function and oncogenic potential of apoptosis regulators AVEN and FUBP1

  • The multistep-processes leading to the formation of tumors have been extensively studied in the past decades, leading to the identification of “hallmarks of cancer”. They are characteristic changes in biological processes that discriminate tumor cells from healthy cells. Increasing knowledge on the molecular structures associated with tumorigenesis allowed their specific inhibition in targeted anti-cancer therapy. However, successful targeted anti-cancer therapy is only available for a limited subset of diseases, so the continuous investigation of tumorigenic mechanisms is required to tackle the immense diversity of neoplastic entities. AVEN and FUSE binding protein 1 (FUBP1) display the ability to regulate apoptosis and cell cycle progression. Thus, the proteins are associated with hallmarks of cancer (resisting cell death and uncontrolled proliferation). Indeed, aberrant expression of AVEN and FUBP1 could be demonstrated in multiple cancers. In contrast, there is only little knowledge on the physiological function of AVEN and FUBP1. The lack of knowledge results in part from the embryonic lethality of the homozygous knockout of Aven and Fubp1 in mouse models, limiting the gain of information by analyzing these animals. In this study, I generated conditional Aven and Fubp1 knockout mice to investigate their physiological function. By analyzing reporter mice expressing β-galactosidase under the control of the endogenous Aven promoter, I identified Aven promoter activity to be both tissue- and cell type-specific and dependent on the developmental stage. Detecting apoptotic cell death by immunohistochemistry did not reveal increased apoptosis in Aven knockout mice, suggesting a functional role of AVEN besides apoptosis inhibition during embryogenesis. Basing on the significant Aven promoter activity detected in the adult brain and in the mammary gland, I generated and characterized conditional Aven knockout mice with Aven deletion restricted to cells within the brain or the mammary gland. AVEN depletion in these tissues was not embryonic lethal and the affected tissues displayed a normal histology. Since aberrant Aven expression had been associated with hematologic malignancies, I also analyzed mice with an Aven knockout in the hematopoietic system. Depletion of AVEN in the blood cells had no effect on hematopoietic stem and progenitor cell frequencies. Consequently, AVEN seems to be dispensable for the maintenance and differentiation of stem, progenitor and mature blood cells, at least as far as the expression of particular differentiation markers was concerned. As loss of AVEN in the analyzed tissues did not affect the viability of mice and did not produce any other obvious phenotype, the exact role of AVEN that is essential for embryo survival remains to be identified. To study the oncogenic potential of AVEN, I investigated the role of AVEN in a mouse model for breast carcinogenesis. While AVEN expression seemed to be increased in breast tumors, tumor onset and progression were not altered in mice with depleted AVEN expression in the mammary gland. Consistently, Aven knockout tumor cells were neither less proliferative nor more prone to undergo apoptosis than Aven wildtype tumor cells. Cell culture experiments demonstrated that AVEN expression is upregulated by estrogen. Knockdown of AVEN in the breast cancer cell line MCF-7 slightly increased UV irradiation-induced apoptosis and accelerated metabolism. So while AVEN does not promote development or progression of breast tumors, enhanced AVEN expression in ER+ breast cancers might contribute to chemotherapy resistance. To study the physiological role of FUBP1, I generated a conditional Fubp1 knockout mouse model. While the insertion of loxP sites into the Fubp1 locus was occasionally embryonic lethal, some mice with a cell type-specific deletion of Fubp1 in hematopoietic cells or EPO receptor expressing cells were born alive. In these mice, frequencies of hematopoietic stem and progenitor cells as well as erythrocytes were unaltered. These results conflict with previous publications. However, compensating mechanisms might be responsible for the discrepancies between the observed phenotypes and reported FUBP1 function. In cell culture studies, I could demonstrate that the previously reported upstream regulation of FUBP1 by TAL1 depended on an intact GATA motif in the FUBP1 promoter and that binding of GATA1 to the FUBP1 promoter increased during erythropoiesis. To identify new FUBP1 target genes with relevance for erythropoiesis, I performed differential gene expression analysis in cells with wildtype and depleted FUBP1 expression. RNA-sequencing and PCR-arrays revealed only moderate differences in the expression of genes that are components of the EPO receptor signaling pathway as well as genes associated with apoptosis and proliferation of hematopoietic cells. By regulating the transcription of these genes, FUBP1 could contribute to efficient erythropoiesis.

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Author:Marlene Steiner
Place of publication:Frankfurt am Main
Referee:Martin Zörnig, Volker DötschORCiDGND
Document Type:Doctoral Thesis
Date of Publication (online):2019/04/14
Year of first Publication:2018
Publishing Institution:Universitätsbibliothek Johann Christian Senckenberg
Granting Institution:Johann Wolfgang Goethe-Universität
Date of final exam:2019/03/18
Release Date:2019/04/18
Page Number:183
Institutes:Biochemie, Chemie und Pharmazie
Dewey Decimal Classification:5 Naturwissenschaften und Mathematik / 54 Chemie / 540 Chemie und zugeordnete Wissenschaften
Licence (German):License LogoCreative Commons - Namensnennung 4.0