Pulmonary endothelial cell apoptosis is a transient, yet defining pathogenic event integral to the onset of many pulmonary vascular diseases such as pulmonary hypertension (PH). However, there is a paucity of information concerning the molecular pathway(s) that control pulmonary arterial endothelial cell apoptosis. Here, we introduce a molecular axis that when functionally active seems to induce pulmonary arterial endothelial cell apoptosis in vitro and PH in vivo. In response to apoptotic stimuli, human pulmonary arterial endothelial cells exhibited robust induction of a programmed cell death 4 (PDCD4)/caspase-3/apoptotic pathway that was reversible by direct PDCD4 silencing. Indirectly, this pathway was also repressed by delivery of a microRNA-21 mimic. In vivo, genetic deletion of microRNA-21 in mice (miR-21(-/-) mice) resulted in functional activation of the PDCD4/caspase-3 axis in the pulmonary tissues, leading to the onset of progressive PH. Conversely, microRNA-21-overexpressing mice (CAG-microRNA-21 mice) exhibited reduced PDCD4 expression in pulmonary tissues and were partially resistant to PH in response to chronic hypoxia plus SU 5416 injury. Furthermore, direct PDCD4 knockout in mice (PDCD4(-/-) mice) potently blocked pulmonary caspase-3 activation and the development of chronic hypoxia plus SU 5416 PH, confirming its importance in disease onset. Broadly, these findings support the existence of a microRNA-21-responsive PDCD4/caspase-3 pathway in the pulmonary tissues that when active serves to promote endothelial apoptosis in vitro and PH in vivo.
Rhabdomyosarcoma is a soft-tissue sarcoma with molecular and cellular features of developing skeletal muscle. Rhabdomyosarcoma has two major histologic subtypes, embryonal and alveolar, each with distinct clinical, molecular, and genetic features. Genomic analysis shows that embryonal tumors have more structural and copy number variations than alveolar tumors. Mutations in the RAS/NF1 pathway are significantly associated with intermediate- and high-risk embryonal rhabdomyosarcomas (ERMS). In contrast, alveolar rhabdomyosarcomas (ARMS) have fewer genetic lesions overall and no known recurrently mutated cancer consensus genes. To identify therapeutics for ERMS, we developed and characterized orthotopic xenografts of tumors that were sequenced in our study. High-throughput screening of primary cultures derived from those xenografts identified oxidative stress as a pathway of therapeutic relevance for ERMS.
Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the world, and non-small-cell lung cancer (NSCLC) accounts for 80% of cases. MicroRNA-21 (miR-21) expression is increased and predicts poor survival in NSCLC. Although miR-21 function has been studied in vitro with cancer cell lines, the role of miR-21 in tumor development in vivo is unknown. We utilize transgenic mice with loss-of-function and gain-of-function miR-21 alleles combined with a model of NSCLC to determine the role of miR-21 in lung cancer. We show that overexpression of miR-21 enhances tumorigenesis and that genetic deletion of miR-21 partially protects against tumor formation. MiR-21 drives tumorigenesis through inhibition of negative regulators of the Ras/MEK/ERK pathway and inhibition of apoptosis.
Rhabdomyosarcoma (RMS) is an aggressive skeletal muscle-lineage tumor composed of malignant myoblasts that fail to exit the cell cycle and are blocked from fusing into syncytial muscle. Rhabdomyosarcoma includes two histolopathologic subtypes: alveolar rhabdomyosarcoma, driven by the fusion protein PAX3-FOXO1 or PAX7-FOXO1, and embryonal rhabdomyosarcoma (ERMS), which is genetically heterogeneous. Here, we show that adipocyte-restricted activation of Sonic hedgehog signaling through expression of a constitutively active Smoothened allele in mice gives rise to aggressive skeletal muscle tumors that display the histologic and molecular characteristics of human ERMS with high penetrance. Our findings suggest that adipocyte progenitors can be a cell of origin for Sonic hedgehog-driven ERMS, showing that RMS can originate from nonskeletal muscle precursors.
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