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Human pluripotent stem cells (hPSCs) maintain a highly fragmented mitochondrial network, but the mechanisms regulating this phenotype remain unknown. Here, we describe a non-cell death function of the anti-apoptotic protein, MCL-1, in regulating mitochondrial dynamics and promoting pluripotency of stem cells. MCL-1 is induced upon reprogramming, and its inhibition or knockdown induces dramatic changes to the mitochondrial network as well as loss of the key pluripotency transcription factors, NANOG and OCT4. Aside from localizing at the outer mitochondrial membrane like other BCL-2 family members, MCL-1 is unique in that it also resides at the mitochondrial matrix in pluripotent stem cells. Mechanistically, we find MCL-1 to interact with DRP-1 and OPA1, two GTPases responsible for remodeling the mitochondrial network. Depletion of MCL-1 compromised the levels and activity of these key regulators of mitochondrial dynamics. Our findings uncover an unexpected, non-apoptotic function for MCL-1 in the maintenance of mitochondrial structure and stemness.
Copyright © 2018 The Author(s). Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Estrogen receptor-α positive (ERα+) breast cancer accounts for approximately 70-80% of the nearly 25,0000 new cases of breast cancer diagnosed in the US each year. Endocrine-targeted therapies (those that block ERα activity) serve as the first line of treatment in most cases. Despite the proven benefit of endocrine therapies, however, ERα+ breast tumors can develop resistance to endocrine therapy, causing disease progression or relapse, particularly in the metastatic setting. Anti-apoptotic Bcl-2 family proteins enhance breast tumor cell survival, often promoting resistance to targeted therapies, including endocrine therapies. Herein, we investigated whether blockade of anti-apoptotic Bcl-2 family proteins could sensitize luminal breast cancers to anti-estrogen treatment. We used long-term estrogen deprivation (LTED) of human ERα+ breast cancer cell lines, an established model of sustained treatment with and acquired resistance to aromatase inhibitors (AIs), in combination with Bcl-2/Bcl-xL inhibition (ABT-263), finding that ABT-263 induced only limited tumor cell killing in LTED-selected cells in culture and in vivo. Interestingly, expression and activity of the Bcl-2-related factor Mcl-1 was increased in LTED cells. Genetic Mcl-1 ablation induced apoptosis in LTED-selected cells, and potently increased their sensitivity to ABT-263. Increased expression and activity of Mcl-1 was similarly seen in clinical breast tumor specimens treated with AI + the selective estrogen receptor downregulator fulvestrant. Delivery of Mcl-1 siRNA loaded into polymeric nanoparticles (MCL1 si-NPs) decreased Mcl-1 expression in LTED-selected and fulvestrant-treated cells, increasing tumor cell death and blocking tumor cell growth. These findings suggest that Mcl-1 upregulation in response to anti-estrogen treatment enhances tumor cell survival, decreasing response to therapeutic treatments. Therefore, strategies blocking Mcl-1 expression or activity used in combination with endocrine therapies would enhance tumor cell death.
Most patients with advanced triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC) develop drug resistance. MYC and MCL1 are frequently co-amplified in drug-resistant TNBC after neoadjuvant chemotherapy. Herein, we demonstrate that MYC and MCL1 cooperate in the maintenance of chemotherapy-resistant cancer stem cells (CSCs) in TNBC. MYC and MCL1 increased mitochondrial oxidative phosphorylation (mtOXPHOS) and the generation of reactive oxygen species (ROS), processes involved in maintenance of CSCs. A mutant of MCL1 that cannot localize in mitochondria reduced mtOXPHOS, ROS levels, and drug-resistant CSCs without affecting the anti-apoptotic function of MCL1. Increased levels of ROS, a by-product of activated mtOXPHOS, led to the accumulation of HIF-1α. Pharmacological inhibition of HIF-1α attenuated CSC enrichment and tumor initiation in vivo. These data suggest that (1) MYC and MCL1 confer resistance to chemotherapy by expanding CSCs via mtOXPHOS and (2) targeting mitochondrial respiration and HIF-1α may reverse chemotherapy resistance in TNBC.
Copyright © 2017. Published by Elsevier Inc.
An estimated 40,000 deaths will be attributed to breast cancer in 2016, underscoring the need for improved therapies. Evading cell death is a major hallmark of cancer, driving tumor progression and therapeutic resistance. To evade apoptosis, cancers use antiapoptotic Bcl-2 proteins to bind to and neutralize apoptotic activators, such as Bim. Investigation of antiapoptotic Bcl-2 family members in clinical breast cancer datasets revealed greater expression and more frequent gene amplification of as compared with or (Bcl-xL) across three major molecular breast cancer subtypes, Luminal (A and B), HER2-enriched, and Basal-like. While Mcl-1 protein expression was elevated in estrogen receptor α (ERα)-positive and ERα-negative tumors as compared with normal breast, Mcl-1 staining was higher in ERα tumors. Targeted Mcl-1 blockade using RNAi increased caspase-mediated cell death in ERα breast cancer cells, resulting in sustained growth inhibition. In contrast, combined blockade of Bcl-2 and Bcl-xL only transiently induced apoptosis, as cells rapidly acclimated through Mcl-1 upregulation and enhanced Mcl-1 activity, as measured using Mcl-1/Bim proximity ligation assays. Importantly, gene expression levels correlated inversely with sensitivity to pharmacologic Bcl-2/Bcl-xL inhibition in luminal breast cancer cells, whereas no relationship was seen between the gene expression of or and sensitivity to Bcl-2/Bcl-xL inhibition. These results demonstrate that breast cancers rapidly deploy Mcl-1 to promote cell survival, particularly when challenged with blockade of other Bcl-2 family members, warranting the continued development of Mcl-1-selective inhibitors for targeted tumor cell killing. Mcl-1 levels predict breast cancer response to inhibitors targeting other Bcl-2 family members, and demonstrate the key role played by Mcl-1 in resistance to this drug class. .
©2016 American Association for Cancer Research.
Bromodomain and extra-terminal domain (BET) family inhibitors offer an approach to treating hematological malignancies. We used precision nuclear run-on transcription sequencing (PRO-seq) to create high-resolution maps of active RNA polymerases across the genome in t(8;21) acute myeloid leukemia (AML), as these polymerases are exceptionally sensitive to BET inhibitors. PRO-seq identified over 1,400 genes showing impaired release of promoter-proximal paused RNA polymerases, including the stem cell factor receptor tyrosine kinase KIT that is mutated in t(8;21) AML. PRO-seq also identified an enhancer 3' to KIT. Chromosome conformation capture confirmed contacts between this enhancer and the KIT promoter, while CRISPRi-mediated repression of this enhancer impaired cell growth. PRO-seq also identified microRNAs, including MIR29C and MIR29B2, that target the anti-apoptotic factor MCL1 and were repressed by BET inhibitors. MCL1 protein was upregulated, and inhibition of BET proteins sensitized t(8:21)-containing cells to MCL1 inhibition, suggesting a potential mechanism of resistance to BET-inhibitor-induced cell death.
Copyright © 2016 The Author(s). Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Myeloid cell leukemia-1 (Mcl-1) is an antiapoptotic member of the Bcl-2 family of proteins that is overexpressed and amplified in many cancers. Overexpression of Mcl-1 allows cancer cells to evade apoptosis and contributes to the resistance of cancer cells to be effectively treated with various chemotherapies. From an NMR-based screen of a large fragment library, several distinct chemical scaffolds that bind to Mcl-1 were discovered. Here, we describe the discovery of potent tricyclic 2-indole carboxylic acid inhibitors that exhibit single digit nanomolar binding affinity to Mcl-1 and greater than 1700-fold selectivity over Bcl-xL and greater than 100-fold selectivity over Bcl-2. X-ray structures of these compounds when complexed to Mcl-1 provide detailed information on how these small-molecules bind to the target, which was used to guide compound optimization.
Apoptosis, cell death executed by caspases, is essential to normal breast development and homeostasis. Pro-apoptotic and anti-apoptotic signals are tightly regulated in normal breast epithelial cells. Dysregulation of this balance is required for breast tumorigenesis and increases acquired resistance to treatments, including molecularly targeted therapies, radiation and chemotherapies. The pro-apoptotic or anti-apoptotic Bcl-2 family members interact with each other to maintain mitochondrial integrity and regulate cellular commitment to apoptosis. Among the anti-apoptotic Bcl-2 family members, Mcl-1 is uniquely regulated by numerous oncogenic signaling pathways. This review will focus on the role of Bcl-2 family proteins in normal breast development, breast tumorigenesis and acquired resistance to breast cancer treatment strategies, while highlighting Mcl-1 as a promising target to improve breast cancer tumor cell killing.
The Bcl-2 family of proteins serves as primary regulators of apoptosis. Myeloid cell leukemia 1 (Mcl-1), a pro-survival member of the Bcl-2 family of proteins, is overexpressed and the Mcl-1 gene is amplified in many tumor types. Moreover, the overexpression of Mcl-1 is the cause of resistance to several chemotherapeutic agents. Thus, Mcl-1 is a promising cancer target. This review highlights the current progress on the discovery of small molecule Mcl-1 inhibitors.
Copyright © 2014 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
UNLABELLED - Neoadjuvant chemotherapy (NAC) induces a pathologic complete response (pCR) in approximately 30% of patients with triple-negative breast cancers (TNBC). In patients lacking a pCR, NAC selects a subpopulation of chemotherapy-resistant tumor cells. To understand the molecular underpinnings driving treatment-resistant TNBCs, we performed comprehensive molecular analyses on the residual disease of 74 clinically defined TNBCs after NAC, including next-generation sequencing (NGS) on 20 matched pretreatment biopsies. Combined NGS and digital RNA expression analysis identified diverse molecular lesions and pathway activation in drug-resistant tumor cells. Ninety percent of the tumors contained a genetic alteration potentially treatable with a currently available targeted therapy. Thus, profiling residual TNBCs after NAC identifies targetable molecular lesions in the chemotherapy-resistant component of the tumor, which may mirror micrometastases destined to recur clinically. These data can guide biomarker-driven adjuvant studies targeting these micrometastases to improve the outcome of patients with TNBC who do not respond completely to NAC.
SIGNIFICANCE - This study demonstrates the spectrum of genomic alterations present in residual TNBC after NAC. Because TNBCs that do not achieve a CR after NAC are likely to recur as metastatic disease at variable times after surgery, these alterations may guide the selection of targeted therapies immediately after mastectomy before these metastases become evident.
Helicobacter pylori is the strongest risk factor for gastric cancer, and strains harboring the cag pathogenicity island, which translocates the oncoprotein CagA into host cells, further augment cancer risk. We previously reported that in vivo adaptation of a noncarcinogenic H. pylori strain (B128) generated a derivative strain (7.13) with the ability to induce adenocarcinoma, providing a unique opportunity to define mechanisms that mediate gastric carcinogenesis. MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are small noncoding RNAs that regulate expression of oncogenes or tumor suppressors and are frequently dysregulated in carcinogenesis. To identify miRNAs and their targets involved in H. pylori-mediated carcinogenesis, miRNA microarrays were performed on RNA isolated from gastric epithelial cells cocultured with H. pylori strains B128, 7.13, or a 7.13 cagA(-) isogenic mutant. Among 61 miRNAs differentially expressed in a cagA-dependent manner, the tumor suppressor miR-320 was significantly downregulated by strain 7.13. Since miR-320 negatively regulates the antiapoptotic protein Mcl-1, we demonstrated that H. pylori significantly induced Mcl-1 expression in a cagA-dependent manner and that suppression of Mcl-1 results in increased apoptosis. To extend these results, mice were challenged with H. pylori strain 7.13 or its cagA(-) mutant; consistent with cell culture data, H. pylori induced Mcl-1 expression in a cagA-dependent manner. In human subjects, cag(+) strains induced significantly higher levels of Mcl-1 than cag(-) strains, and Mcl-1 expression levels paralleled the severity of neoplastic lesions. Collectively, these results indicate that H. pylori suppresses miR-320, upregulates Mcl-1, and decreases apoptosis in a cagA-dependent manner, which likely confers an increased risk for gastric carcinogenesis.