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In JoVE (1)

Other Publications (12)

Articles by Timothy K. Starr in JoVE

 JoVE Clinical and Translational Medicine

Identification of Sleeping Beauty Transposon Insertions in Solid Tumors using Linker-mediated PCR

1Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology & Women's Health, Masonic Cancer Center, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, 2Department of Genetics, Cell Biology & Development, Center for Genome Engineering, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis


JoVE 50156

A method of identifying unknown drivers of carcinogenesis using an unbiased approach is described. The method uses the Sleeping Beauty transposon as a random mutagen directed to specific tissues. Genomic mapping of transposon insertions that drive tumor formation identifies novel oncogenes and tumor suppressor genes

Other articles by Timothy K. Starr on PubMed

Positive and Negative Selection of T Cells

A functional immune system requires the selection of T lymphocytes expressing receptors that are major histocompatibility complex restricted but tolerant to self-antigens. This selection occurs predominantly in the thymus, where lymphocyte precursors first assemble a surface receptor. In this review we summarize the current state of the field regarding the natural ligands and molecular factors required for positive and negative selection and discuss a model for how these disparate outcomes can be signaled via the same receptor. We also discuss emerging data on the selection of regulatory T cells. Such cells require a high-affinity interaction with self-antigens, yet differentiate into regulatory cells instead of being eliminated.

Receptor Sensitivity: when T Cells Lose Their Sense of Self

The T-cell antigen receptor binds to self-MHC molecules with low affinity. Recent reports disagree as to whether this interaction sensitizes or desensitizes the receptor. Here we discuss how these findings might be reconciled.

Thymocyte Sensitivity and Supramolecular Activation Cluster Formation Are Developmentally Regulated: a Partial Role for Sialylation

TCR reactivity is tuned during thymic development. Immature thymocytes respond to low-affinity self-ligands resulting in positive selection. Following differentiation, T cells no longer respond to low-affinity ligands, but respond well to high-affinity (foreign) ligands. We show in this study that this response includes integrin activation, supramolecular activation cluster formation, Ca(2+) flux, and CD69 expression. Because glycosylation patterns are known to change during T cell development, we tested whether alterations in sialylation influence CD8 T cell sensitivity to low affinity TCR ligands. Using neuraminidase treatment or genetic deficiency in the ST3Gal-I sialyltransferase, we show that desialylation of mature CD8 T cells enhances their sensitivity to low-affinity ligands, although these treatments do not completely recapitulate the dynamic range of immature T cells. These studies identify sialylation as one of the factors that regulate CD8 T cell tuning during development.

The Regulated Expression of a Diverse Set of Genes During Thymocyte Positive Selection in Vivo

A signal initiated by the newly formed Ag receptor is integrated with microenvironmental cues during T cell development to ensure positive selection of CD4+CD8+ progenitors into functionally mature CD4+ or CD8+ T lymphocytes. During this transition, a survival program is initiated, TCR gene recombination ceases, cells migrate into a new thymic microenvironment, the responsiveness of the Ag receptor is tuned, and the cells commit to a specific T lineage. To determine potential regulators of these processes, we used mRNA microarray analysis to compare gene expression changes in CD4+CD8+ thymocytes from TCR transgenic mice that have received a TCR selection signal with those that had not received a signal. We found 129 genes with expression that changed significantly during positive selection, the majority of which were not previously appreciated. A large number of these changes were confirmed by real-time PCR or flow cytometry. We have combined our findings with gene changes reported in the literature to provide a comprehensive report of the genes regulated during positive selection, and we attempted to assign these genes to positive selection process categories.

A Requirement for Sustained ERK Signaling During Thymocyte Positive Selection in Vivo

It is unknown how the contrasting events of positive and negative selection can lead to the distinct biological outcomes of life or death. An increasing body of evidence suggests that the duration of extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK) signaling plays a role in thymocyte selection. However, it remains unclear what the kinetics of ERK activation are during positive selection in vivo. In this study, we examined the magnitude and duration of ERK signaling in intact murine thymic tissues cultured under conditions of negative or positive selection. We found that negative selection induced a rapid and robust ERK activation that is associated with death, whereas positive selection stimulated a lower intensity and brief ERK activation that quickly declined and then gradually increased and was sustained over several days. The expression pattern of Egr-1 (early growth response-1), a downstream ERK effector, correlates with the biphasic kinetics of ERK during positive selection. Id3 (inhibitor of differentiation/DNA binding 3) also exhibits biphasic kinetics but appeared to be independent of ERK signaling. Furthermore, inhibitors of T cell receptor ligation and ERK activation block maturation of CD8 single-positive thymocytes even when added after 24 h. These results demonstrate that the in vivo duration of ERK signaling must be sustained to support positive selection.

Cancer Gene Discovery Using the Sleeping Beauty Transposon

Epidemiological and molecular data support the hypothesis that cancer results from a series of acquired somatic mutations. Discovering the initial mutations required for oncogenesis has long been a goal of cancer research. To date, the majority of causative mutations have been identified based on their ability to act in a dominant fashion and/or because they are activated by chromosomal translocations. Forward genetic screens are necessary for unbiased discovery of the remaining unknown oncogenic mutations. Two recent projects have demonstrated the feasibility of using the Sleeping Beauty transposon as an insertional mutagen for cancer gene discovery. In this article we discuss the history of cancer gene discovery and propose novel forward genetic screens using Sleeping Beauty transposon aimed at specific tissues and accelerating the discovery of recessive tumor suppressor genes.

A Conditional Transposon-based Insertional Mutagenesis Screen for Genes Associated with Mouse Hepatocellular Carcinoma

We describe a system that permits conditional mobilization of a Sleeping Beauty (SB) transposase allele by Cre recombinase to induce cancer specifically in a tissue of interest. To demonstrate its potential for developing tissue-specific models of cancer in mice, we limit SB transposition to the liver by placing Cre expression under the control of an albumin enhancer/promoter sequence and screen for hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC)-associated genes. From 8,060 nonredundant insertions cloned from 68 tumor nodules and comparative analysis with data from human HCC samples, we identify 19 loci strongly implicated in causing HCC. These encode genes, such as EGFR and MET, previously associated with HCC and others, such as UBE2H, that are potential new targets for treating this neoplasm. Our system, which could be modified to drive transposon-based insertional mutagenesis wherever tissue-specific Cre expression is possible, promises to enhance understanding of cancer genomes and identify new targets for therapeutic development.

A Transposon-based Genetic Screen in Mice Identifies Genes Altered in Colorectal Cancer

Human colorectal cancers (CRCs) display a large number of genetic and epigenetic alterations, some of which are causally involved in tumorigenesis (drivers) and others that have little functional impact (passengers). To help distinguish between these two classes of alterations, we used a transposon-based genetic screen in mice to identify candidate genes for CRC. Mice harboring mutagenic Sleeping Beauty (SB) transposons were crossed with mice expressing SB transposase in gastrointestinal tract epithelium. Most of the offspring developed intestinal lesions, including intraepithelial neoplasia, adenomas, and adenocarcinomas. Analysis of over 16,000 transposon insertions identified 77 candidate CRC genes, 60 of which are mutated and/or dysregulated in human CRC and thus are most likely to drive tumorigenesis. These genes include APC, PTEN, and SMAD4. The screen also identified 17 candidate genes that had not previously been implicated in CRC, including POLI, PTPRK, and RSPO2.

A Modified Sleeping Beauty Transposon System That Can Be Used to Model a Wide Variety of Human Cancers in Mice

Recent advances in cancer therapeutics stress the need for a better understanding of the molecular mechanisms driving tumor formation. This can be accomplished by obtaining a more complete description of the genes that contribute to cancer. We previously described an approach using the Sleeping Beauty (SB) transposon system to model hematopoietic malignancies in mice. Here, we describe modifications of the SB system that provide additional flexibility in generating mouse models of cancer. First, we describe a Cre-inducible SBase allele, RosaSBase(LsL), that allows the restriction of transposon mutagenesis to a specific tissue of interest. This allele was used to generate a model of germinal center B-cell lymphoma by activating SBase expression with an Aid-Cre allele. In a second approach, a novel transposon was generated, T2/Onc3, in which the CMV enhancer/chicken beta-actin promoter drives oncogene expression. When combined with ubiquitous SBase expression, the T2/Onc3 transposon produced nearly 200 independent tumors of more than 20 different types in a cohort of 62 mice. Analysis of transposon insertion sites identified novel candidate genes, including Zmiz1 and Rian, involved in squamous cell carcinoma and hepatocellular carcinoma, respectively. These novel alleles provide additional tools for the SB system and provide some insight into how this mutagenesis system can be manipulated to model cancer in mice.

A Sleeping Beauty Transposon-mediated Screen Identifies Murine Susceptibility Genes for Adenomatous Polyposis Coli (Apc)-dependent Intestinal Tumorigenesis

It is proposed that a progressive series of mutations and epigenetic events leads to human colorectal cancer (CRC) and metastasis. Furthermore, data from resequencing of the coding regions of human CRC suggests that a relatively large number of mutations occur in individual human CRC, most at low frequency. The functional role of these low-frequency mutations in CRC, and specifically how they may cooperate with high-frequency mutations, is not well understood. One of the most common rate-limiting mutations in human CRC occurs in the adenomatous polyposis coli (APC) gene. To identify mutations that cooperate with mutant APC, we performed a forward genetic screen in mice carrying a mutant allele of Apc (Apc(Min)) using Sleeping Beauty (SB) transposon-mediated mutagenesis. Apc(Min) SB-mutagenized mice developed three times as many polyps as mice with the Apc(Min) allele alone. Analysis of transposon common insertion sites (CIS) identified the Apc locus as a major target of SB-induced mutagenesis, suggesting that SB insertions provide an efficient route to biallelic Apc inactivation. We also identified an additional 32 CIS genes/loci that may represent modifiers of the Apc(Min) phenotype. Five CIS genes tested for their role in proliferation caused a significant change in cell viability when message levels were reduced in human CRC cells. These findings demonstrate the utility of using transposon mutagenesis to identify low-frequency and cooperating cancer genes; this approach will aid in the development of combinatorial therapies targeting this deadly disease.

New Methods for Finding Common Insertion Sites and Co-occurring Common Insertion Sites in Transposon- and Virus-based Genetic Screens

Insertional mutagenesis screens in mice are used to identify individual genes that drive tumor formation. In these screens, candidate cancer genes are identified if their genomic location is proximal to a common insertion site (CIS) defined by high rates of transposon or retroviral insertions in a given genomic window. In this article, we describe a new method for defining CISs based on a Poisson distribution, the Poisson Regression Insertion Model, and show that this new method is an improvement over previously described methods. We also describe a modification of the method that can identify pairs and higher orders of co-occurring common insertion sites. We apply these methods to two data sets, one generated in a transposon-based screen for gastrointestinal tract cancer genes and another based on the set of retroviral insertions in the Retroviral Tagged Cancer Gene Database. We show that the new methods identify more relevant candidate genes and candidate gene pairs than found using previous methods. Identification of the biologically relevant set of mutations that occur in a single cell and cause tumor progression will aid in the rational design of single and combinatorial therapies in the upcoming age of personalized cancer therapy.

Recurrent R-spondin Fusions in Colon Cancer

Identifying and understanding changes in cancer genomes is essential for the development of targeted therapeutics. Here we analyse systematically more than 70 pairs of primary human colon tumours by applying next-generation sequencing to characterize their exomes, transcriptomes and copy-number alterations. We have identified 36,303 protein-altering somatic changes that include several new recurrent mutations in the Wnt pathway gene TCF7L2, chromatin-remodelling genes such as TET2 and TET3 and receptor tyrosine kinases including ERBB3. Our analysis for significantly mutated cancer genes identified 23 candidates, including the cell cycle checkpoint kinase ATM. Copy-number and RNA-seq data analysis identified amplifications and corresponding overexpression of IGF2 in a subset of colon tumours. Furthermore, using RNA-seq data we identified multiple fusion transcripts including recurrent gene fusions involving R-spondin family members RSPO2 and RSPO3 that together occur in 10% of colon tumours. The RSPO fusions were mutually exclusive with APC mutations, indicating that they probably have a role in the activation of Wnt signalling and tumorigenesis. Consistent with this we show that the RSPO fusion proteins were capable of potentiating Wnt signalling. The R-spondin gene fusions and several other gene mutations identified in this study provide new potential opportunities for therapeutic intervention in colon cancer.

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