Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) infection is closely associated with undifferentiated nasopharyngeal carcinoma (NPC), strongly implicating a role for EBV in NPC pathogenesis; conversely, EBV infection is rarely detected in normal nasopharyngeal epithelial tissues. In general, EBV does not show a strong tropism for infecting human epithelial cells, and EBV infection in oropharyngeal epithelial cells is believed to be lytic in nature. To establish life-long infection in humans, EBV has evolved efficient strategies to infect B cells and hijack their cellular machinery for latent infection. Lytic EBV infection in oropharyngeal epithelial cells, though an infrequent event, is believed to be a major source of infectious EBV particles for salivary transmission. The biological events associated with nasopharyngeal epithelial cells are only beginning to be understood with the advancement of EBV infection methods and the availability of nasopharyngeal epithelial cell models for EBV infection studies. EBV infection in human epithelial cells is a highly inefficient process compared to that in B cells, which express the complement receptor type 2 (CR2) to mediate EBV infection. Although receptor(s) on the epithelial cell surface for EBV infection remain(s) to be identified, EBV infection in epithelial cells could be achieved via the interaction of glycoproteins on the viral envelope with surface integrins on epithelial cells, which might trigger membrane fusion to internalize EBV in cells. Normal nasopharyngeal epithelial cells are not permissive for latent EBV infection, and EBV infection in normal nasopharyngeal epithelial cells usually results in growth arrest. However, genetic alterations in premalignant nasopharyngeal epithelial cells, including p16 deletion and cyclin D1 overexpression, could override the growth inhibitory effect of EBV infection to support stable and latent EBV infection in nasopharyngeal epithelial cells. The EBV episome in NPC is clonal in nature, suggesting that NPC develops from a single EBV-infected nasopharyngeal epithelial cell, and the establishment of persistent and latent EBV infection in premalignant nasopharyngeal epithelium may represent an early and critical event for NPC development.
The close association of Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) infection with non-keratinizing nasopharyngeal carcinoma and a subset of gastric carcinomas suggests that EBV infection is a crucial event in these cancers. The difficulties encountered in infecting and transforming primary epithelial cells in experimental systems suggest that the role of EBV in epithelial malignancies is complex and multi-factorial in nature. Genetic alterations in the premalignant epithelium may support the establishment of latent EBV infection, which is believed to be an initiation event. Oncogenic properties have been reported in multiple EBV latent genes. The BamH1 A rightwards transcripts (BARTs) and the BART encoded microRNAs (miR-BARTs) are highly expressed in EBV-associated epithelial malignancies and may induce malignant transformation. However, enhanced proliferation may not be the crucial function of EBV infection in epithelial malignancies, at least in the early stages of cancer development. EBV-encoded gene products may confer anti-apoptotic properties and promote the survival of infected premalignant epithelial cells harbouring genetic alterations. Multiple EBV-encoded microRNAs have been reported to have immune evasion functions. Genetic alterations in host cells as well as inflammatory stroma could modulate expression of EBV gene expression and alter the growth properties of infected premalignant epithelial cells encouraging their selection during carcinogenesis.
Nasopharyngeal carcinoma (NPC) is a common disease among southern Chinese. The major etiological factors proposed for NPC pathogenesis include genetic susceptibility, environment factors and EBV infection. In the high risk population, genetic susceptibility to NPC has been mapped to the HLA loci and adjacent genes in MHC region on chromosome 6p21. Consumption of preserved food including salted fish has been implicated in its etiology in earlier studies. Its contribution to pathogenesis of NPC remains to be determined. A decreasing trend of NPC incidence was observed in Hong Kong, Taiwan and Singapore in recent years which may be accounted by a change of dietary habits. A comprehensive epidemiological study will help to elucidate the relative importance of various risk factors in the pathogenesis of NPC. Despite the close association of EBV infection with NPC, the etiological role of EBV in NPC pathogenesis remains enigmatic. EBV infection in primary nasopharyngeal epithelial cells is uncommon and difficult to achieve. EBV does not transform primary nasopharyngeal epithelial cells into proliferative clones, which contrasts greatly with the well-documented ability of EBV to transform and immortalize primary B cells. Genetic alterations identified in premalignant nasopharyngeal epithelium may play crucial roles to support stable EBV infection. Subsequently, latent and lytic EBV gene products may drive clonal expansion and transformation of premalignant nasopharyngeal epithelial cells into cancer cells. Stromal inflammation in nasopharyngeal mucosa is believed to play an important role in modulating the growth and possibly drive the malignant transformation of EBV-infected nasopharyngeal epithelial cells. Furthermore, there are increasing evidences supporting a role of EBV infection to evade host immune surveillance. EBV-infected cells may have selective growth advantages in vivo by acquiring a stress-resistance phenotype. Understanding the etiological factors and pathogenesis of NPC will contribute effectively to the prevention and treatment of this disease.
The dual PI3K-mTOR inhibitor BEZ235 was evaluated in preclinical models of nasopharyngeal carcinoma (NPC). The IC50 value of BEZ235 for growth was in the nanomolar range in vitro, induce G1 cycle arrest and apoptosis, and inhibited AKT and mTOR signaling in most NPC cell lines. No synergistic effect was observed when BEZ235 was combined with chemotherapy. BEZ235 increased MAPK activation in vitro but not in vivo. A daily schedule was more effective than a weekly schedule on tumor growth and inhibition of downstream mTOR signaling in vivo. The activity of BEZ235 maybe independent of the PIK3CA amplification and mutation status.
Nasopharyngeal carcinoma (NPC) is common among southern Chinese including the ethnic Cantonese population living in Hong Kong. Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) infection is detected in all undifferentiated type of NPC in this endemic region. Establishment of stable and latent EBV infection in premalignant nasopharyngeal epithelial cells is an early event in NPC development and may contribute to its pathogenesis. Immortalized primary nasopharyngeal epithelial cells represent an important tool for investigation of EBV infection and its tumorigenic potential in this special type of epithelial cells. However, the limited availability and small sizes of nasopharyngeal biopsies have seriously restricted the establishment of primary nasopharyngeal epithelial cells for immortalization. A reliable and effective method to immortalize primary nasopharyngeal epithelial cells will provide unrestricted materials for EBV infection studies. An earlier study has reported that Bmi-1 expression could immortalize primary nasopharyngeal epithelial cells. However, its efficiency and actions in immortalization have not been fully characterized. Our studies showed that Bmi-1 expression alone has limited ability to immortalize primary nasopharyngeal epithelial cells and additional events are often required for its immortalization action. We have identified some of the key events associated with the immortalization of primary nasopharyngeal epithelial cells. Efficient immortalization of nasopharyngeal epithelial cells could be reproducibly and efficiently achieved by the combined actions of Bmi-1 expression, activation of telomerase and silencing of p16 gene. Activation of MAPK signaling and gene expression downstream of Bmi-1 were detected in the immortalized nasopharyngeal epithelial cells and may play a role in immortalization. Furthermore, these newly immortalized nasopharyngeal epithelial cells are susceptible to EBV infection and supported a type II latent EBV infection program characteristic of EBV-infected nasopharyngeal carcinoma. The establishment of an efficient method to immortalize primary nasopharyngeal epithelial cells will facilitate the investigation into the role of EBV infection in pathogenesis of nasopharyngeal carcinoma.
Nasopharyngeal carcinoma (NPC) is etiologically associated with Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) infection. However, the exact role of EBV in NPC pathogenesis remains elusive. Activation of signal transducer and activator of transcription 3 (STAT3) is common in human cancers including NPC and plays an important role in the pathogenesis and progression of human cancers. Interleukin-6 (IL-6), a major inflammatory cytokine, is a potent activator of STAT3. In this study, we report that EBV-infected immortalized nasopharyngeal epithelial (NPE) cells often acquire an enhanced response to IL-6-induced STAT3 activation to promote their growth and invasive properties. Interestingly, this enhanced IL-6/STAT3 response was mediated by overexpression of IL-6 receptor (IL-6R). Furthermore, IL-6R overexpression enhanced IL-6-induced STAT3 activation in uninfected immortalized NPE cells in vitro, and promoted growth and tumorigenicity of EBV-positive NPC cell line (C666-1) in vivo. Moreover, it is shown for the first time that IL-6R was overexpressed in clinical specimens of NPC. IL-6 expression could also be strongly detected in the stromal cells of NPC and a higher circulating level of IL-6 was found in the sera of advance-staged NPC patients compared to the control subjects. Therefore, IL-6R overexpression, coupled with enhanced IL-6/STAT3 signaling may facilitate the malignant transformation of EBV-infected premalignant NPE cells into cancer cells, and enhance malignant properties of NPC cells.
The EBV-encoded latent membrane protein 1 (LMP1) functions as a constitutive active form of tumor necrosis factor receptor (TNFR) and activates multiple downstream signaling pathways similar to CD40 signaling in a ligand-independent manner. LMP1 expression in EBV-infected cells has been postulated to play an important role in pathogenesis of nasopharyngeal carcinoma. However, variable levels of LMP1 expression were detected in nasopharyngeal carcinoma. At present, the regulation of LMP1 levels in nasopharyngeal carcinoma is poorly understood. Here we show that LMP1 mRNAs are transcribed in an EBV-positive nasopharyngeal carcinoma (NPC) cell line (C666-1) and other EBV-negative nasopharyngeal carcinoma cells stably re-infected with EBV. The protein levels of LMP1 could readily be detected after incubation with proteasome inhibitor, MG132 suggesting that LMP1 protein is rapidly degraded via proteasome-mediated proteolysis. Interestingly, we observed that Id1 overexpression could stabilize LMP1 protein in EBV-infected cells. In contrary, Id1 knockdown significantly reduced LMP1 levels in cells. Co-immunoprecipitation studies revealed that Id1 interacts with LMP1 by binding to the CTAR1 domain of LMP1. N-terminal region of Id1 is required for the interaction with LMP1. Furthermore, binding of Id1 to LMP1 suppressed polyubiquitination of LMP1 and may be involved in stabilization of LMP1 in EBV-infected nasopharyngeal epithelial cells.
Extensive studies have revealed that berberine, a small molecule derived from Coptidis rhizoma (Huanglian in Chinese) and many other plants, has strong anti-tumor properties. To better understand berberine-induced cell death and its underlying mechanisms in cancer, we examined autophagy and apoptosis in the human hepatic carcinoma cell lines HepG2 and MHCC97-L. The results of this study indicate that berberine can induce both autophagy and apoptosis in hepatocellular carcinoma cells. Berberine-induced cell death in human hepatic carcinoma cells was diminished in the presence of the cell death inhibitor 3-methyladenine, or following interference with the essential autophagy gene Atg5. Mechanistic studies showed that berberine may activate mitochondrial apoptosis in HepG2 and MHCC97-L cells by increasing Bax expression, the formation of permeable transition pores, cytochrome C release to cytosol, and subsequent activation of the caspases 3 and 9 execution pathway. Berberine may also induce autophagic cell death in HepG2 and MHCC97-L cells through activation of Beclin-1 and inhibition of the mTOR-signaling pathway by suppressing the activity of Akt and up-regulating P38 MAPK signaling. This is the first study to describe the role of Beclin-1 activation and mTOR inhibition in berberine-induced autophagic cell death. These results further demonstrate the potential of berberine as a therapeutic agent in the emerging list of cancer therapies with novel mechanisms.
Cell immortalization is regarded as an early and pre-requisite step in tumor development. Defining the specific genetic events involved in cell immortalization may provide insights into the early events of carcinogenesis. Nasopharyngeal carcinoma is common among the Southern Chinese population. Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) infection is associated closely with nasopharyngeal carcinoma. The involvement of LMP1 (an EBV-encoded oncogene) has been implicated in the pathogenesis of nasopharyngeal carcinoma. In this study, LMP1 expression, in combination with ectopic expression of hTERT (catalytic unit of human telomerase), was shown to extend the life span of primary cultures of nasopharyngeal epithelial cells and facilitate the immortalization of one of the cell lines (NP446). This is the first report on the successful immortalization of nasopharyngeal epithelial cells involving LMP1. The events associated with the immortalization of nasopharyngeal epithelial cells by LMP1/hTERT were characterized. Expression of c-Myc, Bmi-1, and Id-1 were upregulated at an early stage of immortalization. At a later stage of immortalization, downregulation of p21 and p16 expression were observed. Upregulation of EGFR expression and activation of MAPK signaling pathway were observed in LMP1/hTERT-immortalized nasopharyngeal epithelial cells. The LMP1/hTERT-immortalized NP446 cells were non-tumorigenic in immunosuppressed nude mice and retained anchorage-dependent growth, suggesting that additional events are required for tumorigenic transformation. The ability of the EBV-encoded LMP1, in the presence of hTERT expression, to extend the life span and immortalize primary cultures of nasopharyngeal epithelial cells supports the involvement of EBV infection and its viral products in the early stage of pathogenesis of nasopharyngeal carcinoma.
Recent studies revealed an unexpected role of the neurotrophin receptor pathway, BDNF/TrkB signaling, in cancer metastasis and anoikis (i.e. detachment-induced cell death). Survival of cancer cells in detached state (known as anoikis-resistance) is known to be pre-requisite for metastasis. Nasopharyngeal carcinoma (NPC), an endemic head and neck cancer in Southeast Asia, is highly invasive, metastatic, and etiologically associated with Epstein-Barr virus (EBV, an oncovirus) infection. Mechanistic studies on the invasive/metastatic nature of NPC can facilitate the development of anti-metastatic therapy in NPC. Thus far, the role of BDNF/TrkB signaling in virus-associated human cancer is unclear. Here, using multiple cell line models of NPC with EBV-association (HONE-1-EBV, HK1-LMP1 and C666-1), we investigated the potential involvement of BDNF/TrkB signaling in cellular migration and anoikis-resistant characteristics of NPC. We found that all three EBV-associated NPC cell lines tested were intrinsically anoikis-resistant (i.e. survived in detached state) and expressed both BDNF and TrkB. BDNF stimulation induced cellular migration, but not proliferation of these cells. Further, we examined if pharmacologic targeting of anoikis-resistance of NPC cells can be achievable by a proof-of-concept Trk inhibitor, K252a, in these EBV-associated NPC models. Our results demonstrated that K252a, was able to attenuate BDNF-induced migration and proliferation of NPC cells. More importantly, we demonstrated for the first time that K252a harbored potent anoikis-sensitization activity (i.e. sensitizing cancer cells to detachment-induced cell death) against EBV-associated human cancer cells, namely NPC cells. This proof-of-concept study demonstrated that K252a, a Trk inhibitor, can potentially be used as an anoikis-sensitizing agent in NPC.
Nasopharyngeal cancer (NPC) is a highly prevalent and invasive head and neck cancer in Asia. Disease recurrence and distant metastasis account for major NPC deaths. Therefore, more effective therapy is needed. Lapatinib, a dual tyrosine kinase inhibitor (TKI) against both EGFR and HER-2, has been known to exert potent antitumor activity against several cancer models. Given that both EGFR and HER-2 are co-expressed in NPC, we hypothesized that dual targeting of EGFR and HER-2 by this small molecule EGFR/HER-2 TKI would elicit anti-tumor activity in NPC. Using in vitro models of NPC, we demonstrated that lapatinib was able to efficiently inhibit the phosphorylation of both EGFR and HER-2. This was accompanied by significant growth inhibition of NPC cells (with maximal growth inhibition >90%). For the most lapatinib-sensitive cell line (HK1-LMP1, with IC(50) ? 600 nM), which harbored the highest levels of both EGFR and HER-2, inhibition of cell growth was associated G(0)/G(1) cell cycle arrest, marked PARP cleavage, caspase-3 cleavage, as well as significant downregulation of several important survival proteins (e.g. survivin, Mcl-1 and cyclin D1). NPC cells are intrinsically invasive. We found that lapatinib was able to inhibit cellular invasion of both HK1-LMP1 and HONE-1 cells. Furthermore, our data demonstrated for the first time that lapatinib harbored potent anoikis-sensitization activity (i.e. sensitizing cancer cells to detachment-induced apoptosis) in human cancer cells overexpressing both EGFR and HER-2 (HK1-LMP1 and HK1). Taken together, our findings suggest that lapatinib is a promising anti-cancer agent for NPC with anti-invasion and anoikis-sensitization activities.
This study aimed at evaluating the potential anti-proliferative effects of the microRNA let-7 family in nasopharyngeal carcinoma (NPC) cells. In addition, the association between let-7 suppression and DNA hypermethylation is examined.
1-(3-C-ethynyl-beta-d-ribo-pentofuranosyl)cytosine (ECyd) is a ribose-modified nucleoside analog of cytidine with potent anticancer activity in several cancers. The main antitumor mechanism of this promising RNA-directed nucleoside anti-metabolite is efficient blockade of RNA synthesis in cancer cells. Here, we examined the therapeutic potential of this RNA-directed anti-metabolite in in vitro models of nasopharyngeal cancer (NPC). In a panel of 6 NPC cell lines, ECyd effectively inhibited cellular proliferation at nM concentrations (IC(50): approximately 13-44nM). Moreover, cisplatin-resistant NPC cells were highly sensitive to ECyd (at nM concentration). The ECyd-mediated growth inhibition was associated with G(2)/M cell cycle arrest, PARP cleavage (a hallmark of apoptosis) and Bcl-2 downregulation, indicating induction of apoptosis by ECyd in NPC cells. Unexpectedly, ECyd-induced significant downregulation of TIGAR, a newly described dual regulator of apoptosis and glycolysis. More importantly, this novel action of ECyd on TIGAR was accompanied by marked depletion of NADPH, the major reducing power critically required for cell proliferation and survival. We hypothesized that ECyd-induced TIGAR downregulation was crucially involved in the antitumor activity of ECyd. Indeed, overexpression of TIGAR was able to rescue NPC cells from ECyd-induced growth inhibition, demonstrating a novel mechanistic action of ECyd on TIGAR. We demonstrated for the first time that an RNA-directed nucleoside analog, ECyd, exerts its antitumor activity via downregulation of a novel regulator of apoptosis, TIGAR. Moreover, ECyd may represent a novel therapy for NPC.
Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) infection has been postulated to be an early event involved in the pathogenesis of nasopharyngeal carcinomas (NPC). The lack of representative premalignant nasopharyngeal epithelial cell system for EBV infection has hampered research investigation into the regulation and involvement of EBV infection in NPC pathogenesis. We have compared the efficiency of EBV infection in nasopharyngeal epithelial cells with different biological properties including immortalized, primary and cancerous nasopharyngeal epithelial cells. EBV infection could be achieved in all the nasopharyngeal epithelial cells examined with variable infection rate. TGF-beta effectively enhanced EBV infection into nasopharyngeal epithelial cells both in the immortalized and primary nasopharyngeal epithelial cells. Stable infection of EBV was achieved in a telomerase-immortalized nasopharyngeal epithelial cell line, NP460hTert. The expression pattern of EBV-encoded genes and biological properties of this EBV infected cell line on long-term propagation were monitored. The EBV-infected nasopharyngeal epithelial cells acquired anchorage-independent growth and exhibited invasive growth properties on prolonged propagation. A distinguished feature of this EBV-infected nasopharyngeal epithelial cell model was its enhanced ability to survive under growth factor and nutrient starvation. This was evidenced by the suppressed activation of apoptotic markers and sustained activation of pAkt of EBV-infected cells compared to control cells under nutrient starvation. Examination of cytokine profiles of EBV-infected NP460hTert cells to nutrient and growth factor deprivation revealed upregulation of expression of MCP-1 and GRO-alpha. The establishment of a stable EBV infection model of premalignant nasopharyngeal epithelial cells will facilitate research investigation into the pathogenic role of EBV in NPC development.
Nasopharyngeal carcinoma (NPC) is an Asian-prevalent head and neck cancer with high invasiveness. Although several important risk factors for NPC development have been identified, there is currently no preventive strategy for NPC, even in endemic regions. Signal transducer and activator of transcription 3 (STAT3) has been implicated in NPC carcinogenesis, which may serve as a potential target for cancer prevention. Here, we examined the chemopreventive potential of Cucurbitacin I, a natural-occurring selective inhibitor of JAK/STAT3, in NPC models. We hypothesized that Cucurbitacin I would prevent NPC invasion and tumor formation. Our data demonstrated that brief exposure of NPC cells to Cucurbitacin I was sufficient to significantly reduce the in vitro clonogenicity and in vivo tumorigenicity of NPC cells. The chemopreventive potential of Cucurbitacin I was further demonstrated by pre-dosing of the animals with Cucurbitacin I prior to tumor inoculation, which was found to be able to suppress tumor growth up to 7 days post-inoculation. The anti-proliferation activity of Cucurbitacin I was accompanied by downregulation of phospho-STAT3 and STAT3 target gene expression (e.g. cyclin D1 and Mcl-1). Cucurbitacin I also reduced the invasiveness of invasive NPC cell lines with elevated STAT3 activation. Furthermore, our data demonstrated for the first time that Cucurbitacin I harbored potent anoikis-sensitization activity (i.e. sensitizing cancer cells to detachment-induced cell death) against human cancer. Taken together, our results suggested that Cucurbitacin I may be a potent chemopreventive agent for NPC with anti-invasion and anoikis-sensitizing activities.
Hypoxia is commonly developed in solid tumors, which contributes to metastasis as well as radio- and chemo-resistance. Nasopharyngeal carcinoma (NPC) is a highly invasive and metastatic head and neck cancer prevalent in Southeast Asia with a high incidence rate of 15-30/100,000 persons/year (comparable to that of pancreatic cancer in the US). Previous clinical studies in NPC showed that hypoxia is detected in almost 100% of primary tumors and overexpression of hypoxia markers correlated with poor clinical outcome. Tirapazamine (TPZ) is a synthetic hypoxia-activated prodrug, which preferentially forms cytotoxic and DNA-damaging free radicals under hypoxia, thus selectively eradicate hypoxic cells. Here, we hypothesized that specific hypoxia-targeting by this clinical trial agent may be therapeutic for NPC. Our findings demonstrated that under hypoxia, TPZ was able to induce preferential growth inhibition of NPC cells, which was associated with marked cell cycle arrest at S-phase and PARP cleavage (a hallmark of apoptosis). Examination of S-phase checkpoint regulators revealed that Chk1 and Chk2 were selectively activated by TPZ in NPC cells under hypoxia. Hypoxia-selectivity of TPZ was also demonstrated by preferential downregulation of several important hypoxia-induced markers (HIF-1?, CA IX and VEGF) under hypoxia. Furthermore, we demonstrated that TPZ was equally effective and hypoxia-selective even in the presence of the EBV oncoprotein, LMP1 or the EBV genome. In summary, encouraging results from this proof-of-concept study implicate the therapeutic potential of hypoxia-targeting approaches for the treatment of NPC.
Nasopharyngeal cancer (NPC) is an Epstein-Barr virus (EBV)-associated head and neck cancer prevalent in Asia. Although with reasons not fully understood, the intrinsic invasiveness of NPC is believed to be EBV-linked. Recently, EBV was found to induce STAT3 activation. Constitutive STAT3 activation correlated with advanced clinical staging in NPC. We hypothesized that STAT3 activation by EBV directly contributes to the intrinsic invasiveness of NPC cells. Phospho-STAT3-Tyr705 was detected in high percentage of NPC tumors (7/10 cases). Using a paired NPC cell line model, HONE-1 and the EBV-infected counterpart, HONE-1-EBV, we found that HONE-1-EBV expressed a higher level of phospho-STAT3-Tyr705 and was approximately 11-fold more invasive than HONE-1. In HONE-1-EBV, STAT3 siRNA targeting inhibited both spontaneous and serum-induced invasion, as well as cell growth. Conversely, activation of STAT3 (by expressing an activated STAT3 mutant, namely STAT3C) in the parental HONE-1, mimicking EBV-induced STAT3 activation, significantly enhanced its invasiveness and proliferation, which was accompanied by increased expression of markers of mesenchymal status, proliferation and anti-apoptosis. Our results demonstrated that EBV-induced STAT3 activation is responsible for NPC cell proliferation and invasion. This was further confirmed by a small molecule inhibitor of JAK/STAT3, JSI-124. JSI-124 inhibited STAT3 activation in HONE-1-EBV, with subsequent growth inhibition, induction of PARP cleavage, abrogation of anchorage-independent growth and invasion. We found that EBV-independent activation of STAT3 by a growth factor, EGF, also contributed to NPC invasion. In conclusion, EBV-induced STAT3 activation directly contributes to the intrinsic invasiveness of NPC cells and STAT3 targeting may be beneficial in treating aggressive NPC.
Berberine is an active ingredient extracted from Coptidis rhizoma which has been used for centuries as a traditional Chinese medicine for treatment of inflammatory diseases. Recent studies have indicated that berberine has anticancer properties. Berberine arrested cell growth and inhibited cell migration in various cancer cell lines. In this study, we examined the effects of berberine on HONE1 cells, which have been commonly used as a cell model for nasopharyngeal carcinoma. We observed the inhibitory effects of berberine on HONE1 cells at a high dosage (>150 microM). Berberine effectively induced the mitotic arrest of HONE1 cells at 300 microM which was associated with apoptosis. Berberine had differential intracellular localization at low and high doses. At a low dose (50 microM), berberine was localized in the mitochondria while at a high dose (300 microM), berberine was localized in the nucleus which may have induced mitotic arrest. Berberine effectively inhibited cell migration and invasion at low doses. Using a specific GST pull-down assay of activated Rho GTPases, we demonstrated that berberine suppressed the activation of Rho GTPases including RhoA, Cdc42 and Rac1. This indicates a novel function of berberine in the suppression of Rho GTPase signaling to mediate its inhibitory action on cell migration and motility. The potential of berberine to inhibit cancer metastasis in cancer warrants further investigation.
Despite the demonstrated constitutive activation of NF-kappaB in nasopharyngeal carcinoma (NPC), the therapeutic potential of targeting this pathway has not been investigated. Here, we employed a small molecule inhibitor of NF-kappaB, DHMEQ (which mainly blocks nuclear translocation of activated NF-kappaB) and demonstrated significant inhibition of NPC cell proliferation, migration, invasion, as well as anchorage-independent growth. These antitumor effects were associated with induction of G(2)/M cell cycle arrest and apoptosis, and downregulation of NF-kappaB target genes (EGFR, cyclin D1 and survivin). This first demonstration of therapeutic benefits of NF-kappaB targeting in NPC implicates the importance of targeting this pathway in NPC.
Undifferentiated nasopharyngeal carcinomas (NPCs) are commonly present with latent EBV infection. However, events regulating EBV infection at early stages of the disease and the role of EBV in disease pathogenesis are largely undefined. Genetic alterations leading to activation of cyclin D1 signaling in premalignant nasopharyngeal epithelial (NPE) cells have been postulated to predispose cells to EBV infection. We previously reported that loss of p16, a negative regulator of cyclin D1 signaling, is a frequent feature of NPC tumors. Here, we report that early premalignant lesions of nasopharyngeal epithelium overexpress cyclin D1. Furthermore, overexpression of cyclin D1 is closely associated with EBV infection. Therefore we investigated the potential role of cyclin D1 overexpression in dysplastic NPE cells in vitro. In human telomerase reverse transcriptase-immortalized NPE cells, overexpression of cyclin D1 or a p16-resistant form of CDK4 (CDK4(R24C)) suppressed differentiation. This suppression may have implications for the close association of EBV infection with undifferentiated NPC. In these in vitro models, we found that cellular growth arrest and senescence occurred in EBV-infected cell populations immediately after infection. Nevertheless, overexpression of cyclin D1 or a p16-resistant form of CDK4 or knockdown of p16 in the human telomerase reverse transcriptase-immortalized NPE cell lines could counteract the EBV-induced growth arrest and senescence. We conclude that dysregulated expression of cyclin D1 in NPE cells may contribute to NPC pathogenesis by enabling persistent infection of EBV.
Nasopharyngeal carcinoma (NPC) is a common cancer in Southeast Asia, particularly in southern regions of China. EBV infection is closely associated with NPC and has long been postulated to play an etiological role in the development of NPC. However, the role of EBV in malignant transformation of nasopharyngeal epithelial cells remains enigmatic. The current hypothesis of NPC development is that premalignant nasopharyngeal epithelial cells harboring genetic alterations support EBV infection and expression of EBV genes induces further genomic instability to facilitate the development of NPC. The latent membrane protein 1 (LMP1) is a well-documented EBV-encoded oncogene. The involvement of LMP1 in human epithelial malignancies has been implicated, but the mechanisms of oncogenic actions of LMP1, particularly in nasopharyngeal cells, are unclear. Here we observed that LMP1 expression in nasopharyngeal epithelial cells impaired G2 checkpoint, leading to formation of unrepaired chromatid breaks in metaphases after ?-ray irradiation. We further found that defective Chk1 activation was involved in the induction of G2 checkpoint defect in LMP1-expressing nasopharyngeal epithelial cells. Impairment of G2 checkpoint could result in loss of the acentrically broken chromatids and propagation of broken centric chromatids in daughter cells exiting mitosis, which facilitates chromosome instability. Our findings suggest that LMP1 expression facilitates genomic instability in cells under genotoxic stress. Elucidation of the mechanisms involved in LMP1-induced genomic instability in nasopharyngeal epithelial cells will shed lights on the understanding of role of EBV infection in NPC development.
EBV-associated human malignancies may originate from B cells and epithelial cells. EBV readily infects B cells in vitro and transforms them into proliferative lymphoblastoid cell lines. In contrast, infection of human epithelial cells in vitro with EBV has been difficult to achieve. The lack of experimental human epithelial cell systems for EBV infection has hampered the understanding of biology of EBV infection in epithelial cells. The recent success to infect human epithelial cells with EBV in vitro has allowed systematic investigations into routes of EBV entry, regulation of latent and lytic EBV infection, and persistence of EBV infection in infected epithelial cells. Understanding the biology of EBV infection in human epithelial cells will provide important insights to the role of EBV infection in the pathogenesis of EBV-associated epithelial malignancies including nasopharyngeal carcinoma and gastric carcinoma.
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