Much controversy surrounds the cell-of-origin of mutant K-Ras (K-RasG12D)-induced lung adenocarcinoma. To shed light on this issue, we have used technology that enables us to conditionally target K-RasG12D expression in Surfactant Protein C (SPC)(+) alveolar type 2 cells and in Clara cell antigen 10 (CC10)(+) Clara cells by use of cell-type-restricted recombinant Adeno-Cre viruses. Experiments were performed both in the presence and absence of the tumor suppressor gene p53, enabling us to assess what effect the cell-of-origin and the introduced genetic lesions have on the phenotypic characteristics of the resulting adenocarcinomas. We conclude that both SPC-expressing alveolar type 2 cells and CC10-expressing Clara cells have the ability to initiate malignant transformation following the introduction of these genetic alterations. The lungs of K-Ras(lox-Stop-lox-G12D/+) and K-Ras(lox-Stop-lox-G12D/+);tumor suppressor gene Trp53(F/F) mice infected with Adeno5-SPC-Cre and Adeno5-CC10-Cre viruses displayed differences in their tumor spectrum, indicating distinct cellular routes of tumor initiation. Moreover, using a multicolor Cre reporter line, we demonstrate that the resulting tumors arise from a clonal expansion of switched cells. Taken together, these results indicate that there are multiple cellular paths to K-RasG12D-induced adenocarcinoma and that the initiating cell influences the histopathological phenotype of the tumors that arise.
Metastasis confronts clinicians with two major challenges: estimating the patients risk of metastasis and identifying therapeutic targets. Because they are key signal integrators connecting cellular processes to clinical outcome, we aimed to identify transcriptional nodes regulating cancer cell metastasis. Using rodent xenograft models that we previously developed, we identified the transcription factor Fos-related antigen-1 (Fra-1) as a key coordinator of metastasis. Because Fra-1 often is overexpressed in human metastatic breast cancers and has been shown to control their invasive potential in vitro, we aimed to assess the implication and prognostic significance of the Fra-1-dependent genetic program in breast cancer metastasis and to identify potential Fra-1-dependent therapeutic targets. In several in vivo assays in mice, we demonstrate that stable RNAi depletion of Fra-1 from human breast cancer cells strongly suppresses their ability to metastasize. These results support a clinically important role for Fra-1 and the genetic program it controls. We show that a Fra-1-dependent gene-expression signature accurately predicts recurrence of breast cancer. Furthermore, a synthetic lethal drug screen revealed that antagonists of the adenosine receptor A2B (ADORA2B) are preferentially toxic to breast tumor cells expressing Fra-1. Both RNAi silencing and pharmacologic blockade of ADORA2B inhibited filopodia formation and invasive activity of breast cancer cells and correspondingly reduced tumor outgrowth in the lungs. These data show that Fra-1 activity is causally involved in and is a prognostic indicator of breast cancer metastasis. They suggest that Fra-1 activity predicts responsiveness to inhibition of pharmacologically tractable targets, such as ADORA2B, which may be used for clinical interference of metastatic breast cancer.
Mutations in the serine-threonine kinase (LKB1) lead to a gastrointestinal hamartomatous polyposis disorder with increased predisposition to cancer (Peutz-Jeghers syndrome). LKB1 has many targets, including the AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK) that is phosphorylated under low-energy conditions. AMPK phosphorylation in turn, affects several processes, including inhibition of the target of rapamycin (TOR) pathway, and leads to proliferation inhibition. To gain insight into how LKB1 mediates its effects during development, we generated zebrafish mutants in the single LKB1 ortholog. We show that in zebrafish lkb1 is dispensable for embryonic survival but becomes essential under conditions of energetic stress. After yolk absorption, lkb1 mutants rapidly exhaust their energy resources and die prematurely from starvation. Notably, intestinal epithelial cells were polarized properly in the lkb1 mutants. We show that attenuation of metabolic rate in lkb1 mutants, either by application of the TOR inhibitor rapamycin or by crossing with von Hippel-Lindau (vhl) mutant fish (in which constitutive hypoxia signaling results in reduced metabolic rate), suppresses key aspects of the lkb1 phenotype. Thus, we demonstrate a critical role for LKB1 in regulating energy homeostasis at the whole-organism level in a vertebrate. Zebrafish models of Lkb1 inactivation could provide a platform for chemical genetic screens to identify compounds that target accelerated metabolism, a key feature of tumor cells.
To develop a transgenic mouse model of glioma that can be conveniently used for testing therapy intervention strategies. High-grade glioma is a devastating and uniformly fatal disease for which better therapy is urgently needed. Typical for high-grade glioma is that glioma cells infiltrate extensively into surrounding pivotal brain structures, thereby rendering current treatments largely ineffective. Evaluation of novel therapies requires the availability of appropriate glioma mouse models.
Bmi1 is a member of the polycomb repressive complex 1 and plays different roles during embryonic development, depending on the developmental context. Bmi1 over expression is observed in many types of cancer, including tumors of astroglial and neural origin. Although genetic depletion of Bmi1 has been described to result in tumor inhibitory effects partly through INK4A/Arf mediated senescence and apoptosis and also through INK4A/Arf independent effects, it has not been proven that Bmi1 can be causally involved in the formation of these tumors. To see whether this is the case, we developed two conditional Bmi1 transgenic models that were crossed with GFAP-Cre mice to activate transgenic expression in neural and glial lineages. We show here that these mice generate intermediate and anterior lobe pituitary tumors that are positive for ACTH and beta-endorphin. Combined transgenic expression of Bmi1 together with conditional loss of Rb resulted in pituitary tumors but was insufficient to induce medulloblastoma therefore indicating that the oncogenic function of Bmi1 depends on regulation of p16(INK4A)/Rb rather than on regulation of p19(ARF)/p53. Human pituitary adenomas show Bmi1 overexpression in over 50% of the cases, which indicates that Bmi1 could be causally involved in formation of these tumors similarly as in our mouse model.
Prostate cancer (PCa) is a major lethal malignancy in men, but the molecular events and their interplay underlying prostate carcinogenesis remain poorly understood. Epigenetic events and the upregulation of polycomb group silencing proteins including Bmi1 have been described to occur during PCa progression. Here, we found that conditional overexpression of Bmi1 in mice induced prostatic intraepithelial neoplasia, and elicited invasive adenocarcinoma when combined with PTEN haploinsufficiency. In addition, Bmi1 and the PI3K/Akt pathway were coactivated in a substantial fraction of human high-grade tumors. We found that Akt mediated Bmi1 phosphorylation, enhancing its oncogenic potential in an Ink4a/Arf-independent manner. This process also modulated the DNA damage response and affected genomic stability. Together, our findings demonstrate the etiological role of Bmi1 in PCa, unravel an oncogenic collaboration between Bmi1 and the PI3K/Akt pathway, and provide mechanistic insights into the modulation of Bmi1 function by phosphorylation during prostate carcinogenesis.
Since its discovery in the early 1990s the deleted in colorectal cancer (DCC) gene, located on chromosome 18q21, has been proposed as a tumour suppressor gene as its loss is implicated in the majority of advanced colorectal and many other cancers. DCC belongs to the family of netrin 1 receptors, which function as dependence receptors as they control survival or apoptosis depending on ligand binding. However, the role of DCC as a tumour suppressor remains controversial because of the rarity of DCC-specific mutations and the presence of other tumour suppressor genes in the same chromosomal region. Here we show that in a mouse model of mammary carcinoma based on somatic inactivation of p53, additional loss of DCC promotes metastasis formation without affecting the primary tumour phenotype. Furthermore, we demonstrate that in cell cultures derived from p53-deficient mouse mammary tumours DCC expression controls netrin-1-dependent cell survival, providing a mechanistic basis for the enhanced metastatic capacity of tumour cells lacking DCC. Consistent with this idea, in vivo tumour-cell survival is enhanced by DCC loss. Together, our data support the function of DCC as a context-dependent tumour suppressor that limits survival of disseminated tumour cells.
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