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.
Apart from regulating stem cell self-renewal, embryonic development and proliferation, Bmi-1 has been recently reported to be critical in the maintenance of genome integrity. In searching for novel mechanisms underlying the anticlastogenic function of Bmi-1, we observed, for the first time, that Bmi-1 positively regulates p21 expression. We extended the finding that Bmi-1 deficiency induced chromosome breaks in multiple cancer cell models. Interestingly, we further demonstrated that knockdown of cyclin E or ectopic overexpression of p21 rescued Bmi-1 deficiency-induced chromosome breaks. We therefore conclude that p21/cyclin E pathway is crucial in modulating the anticlastogenic function of Bmi-1. As it is well established that the overexpression of cyclin E potently induces genome instability and p21 suppresses the function of cyclin E, the novel and important implication from our findings is that Bmi-1 plays an important role in limiting genomic instability in cylin E-overexpressing cancer cells by positive regulation of p21.
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.
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.
Protein p63 is a key regulator in cell proliferation and cell differentiation in stratified squamous epithelium. ?Np63? is the most commonly expressed p63 isoform, which is often overexpressed in human tumor. In the present work we report the potential involvement of ?Np63? in cell cycle regulation. ?Np63? accumulated in mitotic cells but its expression decreased during mitotic exit. Moreover, ?Np63? knockdown promoted mitotic exit. ?Np63? shares a conserved destruction box (D-box) motif with other potential targets of the Anaphase-Promoting Complex/Cyclosome (APC/C). Overexpression of APC/C coactivator Cdh1 destabilized ?Np63?. Our results suggest that ?Np63? level is cell cycle-regulated and may play a role in the regulation of mitotic exit.
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.
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.
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.
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