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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.
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.
Hdac3 is a key target for Hdac inhibitors that are efficacious in cutaneous T cell lymphoma. Moreover, the regulation of chromatin structure is critical as thymocytes transition from an immature cell with open chromatin to a mature T cell with tightly condensed chromatin. To define the phenotypes controlled by Hdac3 during T cell development, we conditionally deleted Hdac3 using the Lck-Cre transgene. This strategy inactivated Hdac3 in the double-negative stages of thymocyte development and caused a significant impairment at the CD8 immature single-positive (ISP) stage and the CD4/CD8 double-positive stage, with few mature CD4(+) or CD8(+) single-positive cells being produced. When Hdac3(-/-) mice were crossed with Bcl-xL-, Bcl2-, or TCRβ-expressing transgenic mice, a modest level of complementation was found. However, when the null mice were crossed with mice expressing a fully rearranged T cell receptor αβ transgene, normal levels of CD4 single-positive cells were produced. Thus, Hdac3 is required for the efficient transit from double-negative stage 4 through positive selection.
Copyright © 2015, American Society for Microbiology. 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.
Estrogen receptor (ER) α-positive breast cancers initially respond to antiestrogens but eventually become estrogen independent and recur. ER(+) breast cancer cells resistant to long-term estrogen deprivation (LTED) exhibit hormone-independent ER transcriptional activity and growth. A kinome-wide siRNA screen using a library targeting 720 kinases identified Polo-like kinase 1 (PLK1) as one of the top genes whose downregulation resulted in inhibition of estrogen-independent ER transcriptional activity and growth of LTED cells. High PLK1 mRNA and protein correlated with a high Ki-67 score in primary ER(+) breast cancers after treatment with the aromatase inhibitor letrozole. RNAi-mediated knockdown of PLK1 inhibited ER expression, estrogen-independent growth, and ER transcription in MCF7 and HCC1428 LTED cells. Pharmacologic inhibition of PLK1 with volasertib, a small-molecule ATP-competitive PLK1 inhibitor, decreased LTED cell growth, ER transcriptional activity, and ER expression. Volasertib in combination with the ER antagonist, fulvestrant, decreased MCF7 xenograft growth in ovariectomized mice more potently than each drug alone. JUNB, a component of the AP-1 complex, was expressed 16-fold higher in MCF7/LTED compared with parental MCF7 cells. Furthermore, JUNB and BCL2L1 (which encodes antiapoptotic BCL-xL) mRNA levels were markedly reduced upon volasertib treatment in MCF7/LTED cells, while they were increased in parental MCF7 cells. Finally, JUNB knockdown decreased ER expression and transcriptional activity in MCF7/LTED cells, suggesting that PLK1 drives ER expression and estrogen-independent growth via JUNB. These data support a critical role of PLK1 in acquired hormone-independent growth of ER(+) human breast cancer and is therefore a promising target in tumors that have escaped estrogen deprivation therapy.
©2014 American Association for Cancer Research.
Commitment to survival or apoptosis within expanding progenitor populations poses distinct risks and benefits to the organism. We investigated whether specialized mechanisms regulate apoptosis in mouse neural progenitors and in the progenitor-derived brain tumor medulloblastoma. Here, we identified constitutive activation of proapoptotic Bax, maintained in check by Bcl-xL, as a mechanism for rapid cell death, common to postnatal neural progenitors and medulloblastoma. We found that tonic activation of Bax in cerebellar progenitors, along with sensitivity to DNA damage, was linked to differentiation state. In cerebellar progenitors, active Bax localized to mitochondria, where it was bound to Bcl-xL. Disruption of Bax:Bcl-xL binding by BH3-mimetic ABT 737 caused rapid apoptosis of cerebellar progenitors and primary murine medulloblastoma cells. Conditional deletion of Mcl-1, in contrast, did not cause death of cerebellar progenitors. Our findings identify a mechanism for the sensitivity of brain progenitors to typical anticancer therapies and reveal that this mechanism persists in medulloblastoma, a malignant brain tumor markedly sensitive to radiation and chemotherapy.
Myeloid cell leukemia 1 (Mcl-1), a member of the Bcl-2 family of proteins, is overexpressed and amplified in various cancers and promotes the aberrant survival of tumor cells that otherwise would undergo apoptosis. Here we describe the discovery of potent and selective Mcl-1 inhibitors using fragment-based methods and structure-based design. NMR-based screening of a large fragment library identified two chemically distinct hit series that bind to different sites on Mcl-1. Members of the two fragment classes were merged together to produce lead compounds that bind to Mcl-1 with a dissociation constant of <100 nM with selectivity for Mcl-1 over Bcl-xL and Bcl-2. Structures of merged compounds when complexed to Mcl-1 were obtained by X-ray crystallography and provide detailed information about the molecular recognition of small-molecule ligands binding Mcl-1. The compounds represent starting points for the discovery of clinically useful Mcl-1 inhibitors for the treatment of a wide variety of cancers.
Cyclin A-Cdk2, a cell cycle regulated Ser/Thr kinase, plays important roles in a variety of apoptoticprocesses. However, the mechanism of cyclin A-Cdk2 regulated apoptosis remains unclear. Here, we demonstrated that Rad9, a member of the BH3-only subfamily of Bcl-2 proteins, could be phosphorylated by cyclin A-Cdk2 in vitro and in vivo. Cyclin A-Cdk2 catalyzed the phosphorylation of Rad9 at serine 328 in HeLa cells during apoptosis induced by etoposide, an inhibitor of topoisomeraseII. The phosphorylation of Rad9 resulted in its translocation from the nucleus to the mitochondria and its interaction with Bcl-xL. The forced activation of cyclin A-Cdk2 in these cells by the overexpression of cyclin A,triggered Rad9 phosphorylation at serine 328 and thereby promoted the interaction of Rad9 with Bcl-xL and the subsequent initiation of the apoptotic program. The pro-apoptotic effects regulated by the cyclin A-Cdk2 complex were significantly lower in cells transfected with Rad9S328A, an expression vector that encodes a Rad9 mutant that is resistant to cyclin A-Cdk2 phosphorylation. These findings suggest that cyclin A-Cdk2 regulates apoptosis through a mechanism that involves Rad9phosphorylation.
PURPOSE - Dopamine and cAMP-regulated phosphoprotein, Mr 32,000 (DARPP-32), is overexpressed during the gastric carcinogenesis cascade. Here, we investigated the role of DARPP-32 in promoting resistance to treatment with TRAIL.
EXPERIMENTAL DESIGN - In vitro cell models including stable expression and knockdown of DARPP-32 were used. The role of DARPP-32 in regulating TRAIL-dependent apoptosis was evaluated by clonogenic survival assay, Annexin V staining, immunofluorescence, quantitative reverse transcriptase PCR, Western blot, and luciferase reporter assays.
RESULTS - Stable expression of DARPP-32 in MKN-28 cells enhanced cell survival and suppressed TRAIL-induced cytochrome c release and activation of caspase-8, -9, and -3. Conversely, short hairpin RNA-mediated knockdown of endogenous DARPP-32 sensitized the resistant MKN-45 cells to TRAIL-induced apoptosis and enhanced TRAIL-mediated activation of caspase-8, -9, and -3. DARPP-32 induced BCL-xL expression through activation of Src/STAT3 signaling, and treatment with the Src-specific inhibitor PP1 abrogated DARPP-32-dependent BCL-xL upregulation and cell survival in MKN-28 cells. The TRAIL treatment induced caspase-dependent cleavage of NF-κBp65 protein; this cleavage was prevented by DARPP-32, thus maintaining NF-κB activity and the expression of its target, FLIP(S) protein. This suggests that upregulation of BCL-xL could play a possible role in blocking the mitochondria intrinsic apoptosis pathway, whereas the DARPP-32 effect on the NF-κB/FLIP(S) axis could serve as an additional negative feedback loop that blocks TRAIL-induced activation of caspase-8.
CONCLUSION - Our findings uncover a novel mechanism of TRAIL resistance mediated by DARPP-32, whereby it inhibits the intrinsic apoptosis pathway through upregulation of BCL-xL, and the extrinsic apoptosis pathway through the NF-κB/FLIP(S) axis.
Paclitaxel, an anti-microtubule agent, is an effective chemotherapeutic drug in breast cancer. Nonetheless, resistance to paclitaxel remains a major clinical challenge. The need to better understand the resistant phenotype and to find biomarkers that could predict tumor response to paclitaxel is evident. In estrogen receptor α-positive (ER(+)) breast cancer cells, phosphorylation of caveolin-1 (CAV1) on Tyr-14 facilitates mitochondrial apoptosis by increasing BCL2 phosphorylation in response to low dose paclitaxel (10 nM). However, two variants of CAV1 exist: the full-length form, CAV1α (wild-type CAV1 or wtCAV1), and a truncated form, CAV1β. Only wtCAV1 has the Tyr-14 region at the N terminus. The precise cellular functions of CAV1 variants are unknown. We now show that CAV1 variants play distinct roles in paclitaxel-mediated cell death/survival. CAV1β expression is increased in paclitaxel-resistant cells when compared with sensitive cells. Expression of CAV1β in sensitive cells significantly reduces their responsiveness to paclitaxel. These activities reflect an essential role for Tyr-14 phosphorylation because wtCAV1 expression, but not a phosphorylation-deficient mutant (Y14F), inactivates BCL2 and BCLxL through activation of c-Jun N-terminal kinase (JNK). MCF-7 cells that express Y14F are resistant to paclitaxel and are resensitized by co-treatment with ABT-737, a BH3-mimetic small molecule inhibitor. Using structural homology modeling, we propose that phosphorylation on Tyr-14 enables a favorable conformation for proteins to bind to the CAV1 scaffolding domain. Thus, we highlight novel roles for CAV1 variants in cell death; wtCAV1 promotes cell death, whereas CAV1β promotes cell survival by preventing inactivation of BCL2 and BCLxL via JNK in paclitaxel-mediated apoptosis.