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Carcinogenesis

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Basic in vitro systems can be used to model and assess complex diseases, such as cancer. Recent advances in this field include the incorporation of multiple cell types and extracellular matrix proteins into three-dimensional (3D) models to recapitulate the structure, organization and functionality of live tissue in situ. Cells within such a 3D environment behave very differently from cells on two-dimensional (2D) substrates, as cell–matrix interactions trigger signalling pathways and cellular responses in 3D, which may not be observed in 2D. Thus, the use of 3D systems can be advantageous for the assessment of disease progression over 2D set-ups alone. Here, we highlight the current advantages and challenges of employing 3D systems in the study of cancer and provide an overview to guide the appropriate use of distinct models in cancer research.


The p53 transcription factor is a major tumor suppressor, whose diverse activities serve to ensure genome stability and inhibit neoplastic processes. In recent years, it is becoming increasingly clear that p53 also plays a broader role in maintaining cellular homeostasis, as well as contributing to tissue homeostasis in a non-cell-autonomous fashion. Chronic inflammation is a potential cancer-promoting condition, and as such is also within the radar of p53, which mounts a multifaceted attempt to prevent the escalation of chronic tissue imbalance into neoplasia. Recent understanding of the p53 pathway and other family members reveals a broad interaction with inflammatory elements such as reactive oxygen and nitrogen species, cytokines, infectious agents and major immune-regulatory pathways like nuclear factor-kappaB. This complex cross talk is highly dependent on p53 status, as different p53 isoforms and p53 mutants can mediate different responses and even promote chronic inflammation and associated cancer, acting in the tumor cells as well as in the stromal and immune compartments.


Speckle-type POZ protein (SPOP) is an adaptor of the cullin 3-based ubiquitin ligase responsible for the degradation of oncoproteins frequently overexpressed in many tumor cells. Altered expression and somatic mutations of SPOP have been observed in various tumor types with chromosomal aberrations, indicating a role of SPOP in maintaining genome stability, although a detailed mechanism remains unclear. Here, we show that SPOP is a component of the DNA damage response (DDR). SPOP is recruited to DNA double-strand break sites and it forms nuclear foci after DNA damage. SPOP foci colocalize with -H2AX foci and are predominantly dependent on the activity of the ataxia-telangiectasia mutated (ATM) kinase. Furthermore, SPOP interacts with ATM in response to DNA damage. Finally, we demonstrate that knocking down of SPOP resulted in an impaired DDR and a hypersensitivity to ionizing irradiation. Together, we highlight a critical role of SPOP in the DDR.


Bone morphogenetic protein-2 (BMP-2), a member of the transforming growth factor-β family, plays critical roles in cell differentiation, modeling and regeneration processes in several tissues. BMP-2 is also closely associated with various malignant tumors. microRNAs negatively and posttranscriptionally regulate gene expression and function as oncogenes or tumor suppressors. Herein, we report that miR-656 expression was significantly downregulated in glioma cell lines and tissues. We identified and confirmed that BMP receptor, type 1A (BMPR1A) is a direct target of miR-656. The expression of BMPR1A was negatively correlated with that of miR-656 in human glioma tissues. We further demonstrated that miR-656 suppressed glioma cell proliferation, neurosphere formation, migration and invasion with or without exogenous BMP-2. Engineered knockdown of BMPR1A diminished the antiproliferation effect of miR-656 in vitro. Moreover, the canonical BMP/Smad and non-canonical BMP/mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) pathways were inhibited by miR-656 overexpression. Several cancer-related signaling molecules, including cyclin B, cyclin D1, matrix metalloproteinase-9, p21 and p27, were also involved in miR-656 function in glioma cells. The tumor-suppressing function of miR-656 was validated using an in vivo intracranial xenograft mouse model. Notably, ectopic expression of miR-656 markedly reduced tumor size and prolonged the survival of mice treated with or without BMP-2. These results elucidate the function of miR-656 in glioma progression and suggest a promising application for glioma treatment.


The 5 year survival rate of lung cancer is <20%, with most patients dying from distant metastasis. However, the molecular mechanisms underlying lung cancer invasion and metastasis have not been fully characterized. In this study, we found that fibulin-3, a fibulin family extracellular matrix protein, functions as a suppressor of lung cancer invasion and metastasis. Fibulin-3 was downregulated in large fractions of lung tumors and cell lines, and inhibited lung cancer cell invasion and the expression of matrix metalloproteinase-7 (MMP-7), a promoter of lung cancer invasion. The expression levels of fibulin-3 and MMP-7 were inversely correlated in lung tumors. Fibulin-3 inhibited extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK) to activate glycogen synthase kinase 3β and suppress Wnt/β-catenin signaling, which induces MMP-7 expression in lung cancer cells. Furthermore, fibulin-3 expression impeded the growth and metastasis of lung tumors in mice. Collectively, these results suggest that downregulation of fibulin-3 contributes to lung cancer invasion and metastasis by activating Wnt/β-catenin signaling and MMP-7 expression.


Lung cancer is a major disease carrying heterogeneous molecular lesions and many of them remain to be analyzed functionally in vivo. Gain-of-function (GOF) SHP2 (PTPN11) mutations have been found in various types of human cancer, including lung cancer. However, the role of activating SHP2 mutants in lung cancer has not been established. We generated transgenic mice containing a doxycycline (Dox)-inducible activating SHP2 mutant (tetO-SHP2E76K) and analyzed the role of SHP2E76K in lung tumorigenesis in the Clara cell secretory protein (CCSP)-reverse tetracycline transactivator (rtTA)/tetO-SHP2E76K bitransgenic mice. SHP2E76K activated Erk1/Erk2 (Erk1/2) and Src, and upregulated c-Myc and Mdm2 in the lungs of bitransgenic mice. Atypical adenomatous hyperplasia and small adenomas were observed in CCSP-rtTA/tetO-SHP2E76K bitransgenic mice induced with Dox for 2–6 months and progressed to larger adenoma and adenocarcinoma by 9 months. Dox withdrawal from bitransgenic mice bearing magnetic resonance imaging-detectable lung tumors resulted in tumor regression. These results show that the activating SHP2 mutant promotes lung tumorigenesis and that the SHP2 mutant is required for tumor maintenance in this mouse model of non-small cell lung cancer. SHP2E76K was associated with Gab1 in the lung of transgenic mice. Elevated pGab1 was observed in the lung of Dox-induced CCSP-rtTA/tetO-SHP2E76K mice and in cell lines expressing SHP2E76K, indicating that the activating SHP2 mutant autoregulates tyrosine phosphorylation of its own docking protein. Gab1 tyrosine phosphorylation is sensitive to inhibition by the Src inhibitor dasatinib in GOF SHP2-mutant-expressing cells, suggesting that Src family kinases are involved in SHP2 mutant-induced Gab1 tyrosine phosphorylation.


Chemical carcinogenesis has long been synonymous with genotoxicity, which entails DNA damage, genetic mutations and chromosomal abnormalities. The present study investigates a paradigm-shifting model in which epigenetic changes are key contributors to chemical carcinogenesis. Using genome-wide microarray-based analysis followed by conventional validation assays, we have progressively chronicled changes in the epigenetic landscape, as reflected in the patterns of DNA methylation, in the target organ of tumorigenesis in mice treated in vivo with a prototype chemical carcinogen (benzo[a]pyrene). Here, we demonstrate characteristic CpG island gain/loss of methylation and demethylation of repetitive DNA elements in carcinogen-treated mice, dependent on tumor progression. Alterations of the DNA methylome are accompanied by silencing of major DNA methyltransferases. Members of the Nanog pathway that establishes and maintains pluripotency in embryonic stem cells and possibly triggers uncontrolled proliferation of neoplastic cells are preferential targets of aberrant DNA methylation and concomitant gene dysregulation during chemical carcinogenesis. Several components of the MEK/ERK, JAK/STAT3, PI3K/AKT, WNT/β- catenin and Shh signaling cascades, which are known to modulate Nanog expression, also show concurrent changes in the patterns of DNA methylation and gene expression. Our data support an epigenetic model of chemical carcinogenesis and suggest that surveillance of the epigenetic landscape, particularly at the loci and in the pathways identified in this study, may have utility for early detection and monitoring of the progression of malignancy.


Bladder cancer is a complex disease with known environmental and genetic risk factors. We performed a genome-wide interaction study (GWAS) of smoking and bladder cancer risk based on primary scan data from 3002 cases and 4411 controls from the National Cancer Institute Bladder Cancer GWAS. Alternative methods were used to evaluate both additive and multiplicative interactions between individual single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) and smoking exposure. SNPs with interaction P values < 5 x 10 5 were evaluated further in an independent dataset of 2422 bladder cancer cases and 5751 controls. We identified 10 SNPs that showed association in a consistent manner with the initial dataset and in the combined dataset, providing evidence of interaction with tobacco use. Further, two of these novel SNPs showed strong evidence of association with bladder cancer in tobacco use subgroups that approached genome-wide significance. Specifically, rs1711973 (FOXF2) on 6p25.3 was a susceptibility SNP for never smokers [combined odds ratio (OR) = 1.34, 95% confidence interval (CI) = 1.20–1.50, P value = 5.18 x 10 7]; and rs12216499 (RSPH3-TAGAP-EZR) on 6q25.3 was a susceptibility SNP for ever smokers (combined OR = 0.75, 95% CI = 0.67–0.84, P value = 6.35 x 10 7). In our analysis of smoking and bladder cancer, the tests for multiplicative interaction seemed to more commonly identify susceptibility loci with associations in never smokers, whereas the additive interaction analysis identified more loci with associations among smokers—including the known smoking and NAT2 acetylation interaction. Our findings provide additional evidence of gene–environment interactions for tobacco and bladder cancer.


The study’s purpose was to assess whether individuals who developed a second malignant neoplasm (SMN) after treatment for a first malignant neoplasm (FMN) had a lower ability to repair DNA double-strand breaks (DSBs) using a bioassay with H2AX intensity as a surrogate endpoint. In a case–control study nested in a cohort of childhood cancer survivors, lymphoblastoid cell lines (LCLs) were established from blood samples collected from 94 cases (SMN) and 94 matched controls (FMN). LCLs were irradiated with ionizing radiation (2 and 5 Gy) and H2AX intensities measured 1, 3, 5 and 24h post-irradiation. Differences in mean H2AX intensity between cases and controls were compared using Kruskal–Wallis tests. Generalized linear models for repeated measures and conditional logistic regressions for SMN risk estimates were performed. The mean baseline H2AX intensity measured without irradiation was 9.1 [95% confidence interval (95% CI): 8.5–9.7] in the LCLs from cases and 6.4 (95% CI: 6.0–6.8) from controls (P < 0.001). Markedly higher H2AX intensity, particularly at 1 h post-irradiation, was also found in the LCLs from the cases compared with the controls for all FMNs and for different types of FMN. Chemotherapy and radiation doses received by bone marrow and thymus for FMN treatment showed a non-significant effect on H2AX intensity. This case–control study shows that higher baseline and post-irradiation levels of DNA DSBs, as measured by H2AX intensity, are associated with the risk of SMN in childhood cancer survivors. Further investigations in a prospective setting are warranted to confirm this association.


Interleukins (ILs) are key regulators of immune response. Genetic variation in IL genes may influence breast cancer risk and mortality given their role in cell growth, angiogenesis and regulation of inflammatory process. We examined 16 IL genes with breast cancer risk and mortality in an admixed population of Hispanic/Native American (NA) (2111 cases and 2597 controls) and non-Hispanic white (NHW) (1481 cases and 1585 controls) women. Adaptive Rank Truncated Product (ARTP) analysis was conducted to determine gene significance and lasso (least absolute shrinkage and selection operator) was used to identify potential gene by gene and gene by lifestyle interactions. The pathway was statistically significant for breast cancer risk overall (P ARTP = 0.0006), for women with low NA ancestry (P ARTP = 0.01), for premenopausal women (P ARTP = 0.02), for estrogen receptor (ER)+/progesterone receptor (PR)+ tumors (P ARTP = 0.03) and ER–/PR– tumors (P ARTP = 0.02). Eight of the 16 genes evaluated were associated with breast cancer risk (IL1A, IL1B, IL1RN, IL2, IL2RA, IL4, IL6 and IL10); four genes were associated with breast cancer risk among women with low NA ancestry (IL1B, IL6, IL6R and IL10), two were associated with breast cancer risk among women with high NA ancestry (IL2 and IL2RA) and four genes were associated with premenopausal breast cancer risk (IL1A, IL1B, IL2 and IL3). IL4, IL6R, IL8 and IL17A were associated with breast cancer-specific mortality. We confirmed associations with several functional polymorphisms previously associated with breast cancer risk and provide support that their combined effect influences the carcinogenic process.


Although changes in the mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) copy number in peripheral blood leukocytes (PBLs) have been linked to increased susceptibility to several cancers, the relationship between the mtDNA copy number in PBLs and the risk of cancer precursors has not been investigated. In this study, we measured the relative mtDNA copy number in PBLs of 143 patients with histologically confirmed oral premalignant lesions (OPLs) and of 357 healthy controls that were frequency-matched to patients according to age, sex and race. OPL patients had a significantly higher mtDNA copy number than the controls (1.36±0.74 versus 1.11±0.32; P < 0.001). In analyses stratified by sex, race, alcohol consumption and smoking status, the mtDNA copy number was higher in the OPL patients than in the controls in all the strata. Using the median mtDNA copy number in the control group as a cutoff, we found that individuals with a high mtDNA copy number had significantly higher risk of having OPLs than individuals with a low mtDNA copy number (adjusted odds ratio, 1.93; 95% confidence interval, 1.23–3.05, P = 0.004). Analysis of the joint effect of alcohol consumption and smoking revealed even greater risk for OPLs. Our results suggest that high mtDNA copy number in PBLs is significantly associated with having OPLs. To our knowledge, this is the first epidemiologic study to show that the mtDNA copy number may indicate the risk of cancer precursors.


Compared with the other human leukocyte antigen (HLA) genes, few studies have evaluated the role of HLA-DP genes in cervical cancer pathogenesis. A recent genome-wide association study (GWAS) in the Swedish population has identified a susceptibility locus for cervical cancer within the HLA-DP region. To further study this locus, we imputed classic HLA alleles using single-nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) data and analysed 449 genotyped and 3066 imputed SNPs in 1034 cervical cancer patients and 3948 controls. We confirmed that the strongest signal came from a SNP located at HLA-DPB2 [rs3117027, odds ratio (OR) = 1.29, 95% confidence interval (CI) = 1.16–1.43, P = 1.9x10–6 for A allele] and that this effect is not driven by associations with classic HLA alleles. In silico analysis further revealed that this SNP is highly correlated with rs3129294 (D' = 1, r 2 = 0.95 in controls), which may have a putative regulatory function. We also identified an independent association at DPB1*0402, which conferred decreased risk of cervical cancer (OR = 0.75, 95% CI = 0.63–0.89, P = 7.0x10–4) and is independent of previously described associations with HLA-B*0702, DRB1*1501-DQB1*0602, and DRB1*1301-DQA1*0103-DQB1*0603. No association was found with the two SNPs (rs4282438 or rs9277952) that were recently identified within the HLA-DP region in a cervical cancer GWAS in the Chinese population. Our study provides the first systematic investigation of the association of genetic variants in the HLA-DP region with cervical cancer susceptibility and provides further insight into the contribution of polymorphisms in the HLA-DP region to risk of cervical cancer.


It has been proposed that epithelial cells can acquire invasive properties through exposure to paracrine signals originated from mesenchymal cells within the tumor microenvironment. Transforming growth factor-β (TGF-β) has been revealed as an active factor that mediates the epithelial–stroma cross-talk that facilitates cell invasion and metastasis. TGF-β signaling is modulated by the coreceptor Endoglin (Eng), which shows a tumor suppressor activity in epithelial cells and regulates the ALK1-Smad1,5,8 as well as the ALK5-Smad2,3 signaling pathways. In the current work, we present evidence showing that cell surface Eng abundance in epithelial MCF-7 breast cancer cells is inversely related with cell motility. Shedding of Eng in MCF-7 cell surface by soluble matrix metalloproteinase-14 (MMP-14) derived from the HS-5 bone-marrow-derived cell line induces a motile epithelial phenotype. On the other hand, restoration of full-length Eng expression blocks the stromal stimulus on migration. Processing of surface Eng by stromal factors was demonstrated by biotin-neutravidin labeling of cell surface proteins and this processing generated a shift in TGF-β signaling through the activation of Smad2,3 pathway. Stromal MMP-14 abundance was stimulated by TGF-β secreted by MCF-7 cells acting in a paracrine manner. In turn, the stromal proteolytic activity of soluble MMP-14, by inducing Eng shedding, promoted malignant progression. From these data, and due to the capacity of TGF-β to regulate malignancy in epithelial cancer, we propose that stromal-dependent epithelial Eng shedding constitutes a putative mechanism that exerts an environmental control of cell malignancy.


Tumor-associated macrophages (TAMs) can promote cancer initiation and progression by releasing cytokines. Previously, we have found the density of TAMs correlated with lymph node metastasis in papillary thyroid carcinoma (PTC). However, the mechanisms of how TAMs promote PTC progression remain unclear. In this study, we first showed that the TAMs density in the tumor core was associated with progressive PTC features and TAMs conditioned medium enhanced PTC cells invasion. Cytokine profiling identified a mixed M1/M2 phenotype and CXCL8 was the most consistently abundant cytokine in PTC-derived TAMs. CXCL8 receptors, CXCR1 and CXCR2, were positively stained in PTC cell lines and tissues, though no association with lymph node metastasis or extrathyroid extension. PTC cell invasion was abrogated by anti-CXCL8-neutralizing antibody, whereas addition of exogenous recombinant human CXCL8 enhanced the invasiveness. More importantly, CXCL8 promoted PTC metastasis in vivo. No difference was found for TAMs-derived CXCL8 expression in patients with and without lymph node metastasis or extrathyroid extension. These findings indicated that TAMs may facilitate PTC cell metastasis through CXCL8 and its paracrine interaction with CXCR1/2.


Cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2) expression is associated with poor prognosis across a range of human cancers, including breast cancer. The contribution of tumor cell-derived COX-2 to tumorigenesis has been examined in numerous studies; however, the role of stromal-derived COX-2 is ill-defined. Here, we examined how COX-2 in myeloid cells, an immune cell subset that includes macrophages, influences mammary tumor progression. In mice engineered to selectively lack myeloid cell COX-2 [myeloid-COX-2 knockout (KO) mice], spontaneous neu oncogene-induced tumor onset was delayed, tumor burden reduced, and tumor growth slowed compared with wild-type (WT). Similarly, growth of neu-transformed mammary tumor cells as orthotopic tumors in immune competent syngeneic myeloid-COX-2 KO host mice was reduced compared with WT. By flow cytometric analysis, orthotopic myeloid-COX-2 KO tumors had lower tumor-associated macrophage (TAM) infiltration consistent with impaired colony stimulating factor-1-dependent chemotaxis by COX-2 deficient macrophages in vitro. Further, in both spontaneous and orthotopic tumors, COX-2-deficient TAM displayed lower immunosuppressive M2 markers and this was coincident with less suppression of CD8+ cytotoxic T lymphocytes (CTLs) in myeloid-COX-2 KO tumors. These studies suggest that reduced tumor growth in myeloid-COX-2 KO mice resulted from disruption of M2-like TAM function, thereby enhancing T-cell survival and immune surveillance. Antibody-mediated depletion of CD8+, but not CD4+ cells, restored tumor growth in myeloid-COX-2 KO to WT levels, indicating that CD8+ CTLs are dominant antitumor effectors in myeloid-COX-2 KO mice. Our studies suggest that inhibition of myeloid cell COX-2 can potentiate CTL-mediated tumor cytotoxicity and may provide a novel therapeutic approach in breast cancer therapy.


Stromal cells influence cancer progression. Myofibroblasts are an important stromal cell type, which influence the tumour microenvironment by release of extracellular matrix (ECM) proteins, proteases, cytokines and chemokines. The mechanisms of secretion are poorly understood. Here, we describe the secretion of marker proteins in gastric cancer and control myofibroblasts in response to insulin-like growth factor (IGF) stimulation and, using functional genomic approaches, we identify proteins influencing the secretory response. IGF rapidly increased myofibroblast secretion of an ECM protein, TGFβig-h3. The secretory response was not blocked by inhibition of protein synthesis and was partially mediated by increased intracellular calcium (Ca2+). The capacity for evoked secretion was associated with the presence of dense-core secretory vesicles and was lost in cells from patients with advanced gastric cancer. In cells responding to IGF-II, the expression of neuroendocrine marker proteins, including secretogranin-II and proenkephalin, was identified by gene array and LC-MS/MS respectively, and verified experimentally. The expression of proenkephalin was decreased in cancers from patients with advanced disease. Inhibition of secretogranin-II expression decreased the secretory response to IGF, and its over-expression recovered the secretory response consistent with a role in secretory vesicle biogenesis. We conclude that normal and some gastric cancer myofibroblasts have a neuroendocrine-like phenotype characterized by Ca2+-dependent regulated secretion, dense-core secretory vesicles and expression of neuroendocrine marker proteins; loss of the phenotype is associated with advanced cancer. A failure to regulate myofibroblast protein secretion may contribute to cancer progression.


Non-classical class Ib (class Ib) genes are found in all jawed vertebrates, including the amphibian Xenopus, which possesses at least 20 distinct Xenopus non-classical class Ib genes (XNCs). As an immune evasion strategy, tumors often downregulate surface expression of classical major histocompatibility complex class Ia molecules. In contrast, cancers commonly express class Ib molecules, presenting an alternative for tumor immune recognition. We characterized a novel XNC, XNC10, functionally similar to CD1d from a class Ia-deficient thymic lymphoid tumor (15/0), which grows aggressively in Xenopus LG-15 cloned animals. To investigate the roles of XNC10 in antitumor immunity, we generated stable 15/0-transfectants with silenced XNC10 mRNA and protein expression. Notably, XNC10 silencing resulted in acute tumor rejection by naturally class Ia-deficient syngeneic tadpoles, with greater potency of rejection in tumors with more efficient XNC10 knockdown. In vivo killing assays shows that the rejection of XNC10-deficient tumors is due to a cell-mediated cytotoxic immune response elicited by the tadpole host. Importantly, priming enhances XNC10-deficient tumor rejection. Flow cytometry reveals that XNC10-deficient tumor rejection is associated with an accumulation of XNC10-restricted invariant T cells and conventional CD8 T cells as well as other leukocytes. Similarly, semisolid tumor grafts in tadpoles also exhibit leukocytes infiltration. These findings suggest that XNC10 allows the 15/0-tumor to escape immune recognition and class Ia-independent cytotoxicity, thus emphasizing the critical roles of class Ibs in tumor immunity.


Aristolochic acids are potent human carcinogens; the role of phase II metabolism in their bioactivation is unclear. Accordingly, we tested the ability of the partially reduced metabolites, N-hydroxyaristolactams (AL-NOHs), and their N-O-sulfonated and N-O-acetylated derivatives to react with DNA to form aristolactam–DNA adducts. AL-NOHs displayed little or no activity in this regard while the sulfo- and acetyl compounds readily form DNA adducts, as detected by 32P-post-labeling analysis. Mouse hepatic and renal cytosols stimulated binding of AL-NOHs to DNA in the presence of adenosine 3'-phosphate 5'-phosphosulfate (PAPS) but not of acetyl-CoA. Using Time of Flight liquid chromatography/mass spectrometry, N-hydroxyaristolactam I formed the sulfated compound in the presence of PAPS and certain human sulfotransferases, SULT1B1 >>> SULT1A2 > SULT1A1 >>> SULT1A3. The same pattern of SULT reactivity was observed when N-hydroxyaristolactam I was incubated with these enzymes and PAPS and the reaction was monitored by formation of aristolactam–DNA adducts. In the presence of human NAD(P)H:quinone oxidoreductase, the ability of aristolochic acid I to bind DNA covalently was increased significantly by addition of PAPS and SULT1B1. We conclude from these studies that AL-NOHs, formed following partial nitroreduction of aristolochic acids, serve as substrates for SULT1B1, producing N-sulfated esters, which, in turn, are converted to highly active species that react with DNA and, potentially, cellular proteins, resulting in the genotoxicity and nephrotoxicity associated with ingestion of aristolochic acids by humans.


High-risk human papillomavirus (HPV) 16-infected oral cavity squamous cell carcinoma (OCSCC) differs significantly from non-HPV-infected OCSCC. However, the molecular pathogenesis of HPV-infected OCSCC remains unclear. Paxillin (PXN) has been reported to promote lung tumor progression by miR-218 targeting. In addition, expression of miR-218 has been shown to be reduced by HPV16 E6 in cervical cancer. We thus asked whether PXN can promote tumor progression by E6-reduced miR-218 in OCSCC, especially in HPV-infected OCSCC. Mechanistic studies demonstrated that PXN expression increased markedly upon E6-mediated reductions in miR-218, resulting in increased colony formation and invasion capabilities in HPV-infected OCSCC cells. Among tumor specimens, HPV16/18 infection was negatively associated with miR-218 expression and positively associated with PXN expression. Kaplan–Meier and Cox regression models demonstrated that patients with low-miR-218 tumors or high-PXN tumors exhibited shorter overall survival (OS) and relapse-free survival (RFS) than those with high-miR-218 tumors or low-PXN tumors. Interestingly, HPV-infected patients with low-miR-218, high-PXN tumors and both combinations exhibited the worst OS and RFS compared with patients in their counterparts. These observations in patients were consistent with the findings from the cell model. Therefore, we suggest that PXN might be targeted to suppress tumor progression and consequently to improve outcomes in OCSCC, especially in HPV-infected OCSCC.


Despite significant research, our understanding of the molecular mechanisms of Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) induced cancers remains incomplete. Majority of invasive cervical cancers are caused by high-risk HPV 16 and 18. Two potent HPV oncoproteins, E6 and E7, promote human malignancies by disrupting the activities of key regulators of cell proliferation and apoptosis. Recent investigations have identified hADA3, a transcriptional coactivator protein as a target of high-risk HPV16E6. However, the mechanism of degradation of hADA3 by E6 and its contribution in HPV induced carcinogenesis is poorly understood. Here, we showed that E6-mediated proteolysis of hADA3 is responsible for maintaining low levels of hADA3 in HPV-positive cervical cancer cell lines. We demonstrate that HPV16E6 targets hADA3 for ubiquitin-mediated degradation via E6AP ubiquitin ligase. We also show that hADA3 undergoes accelerated SUMOylation in the presence of HPV16E6. Our data represent the first evidence that hADA3 is posttranslationally modified by SUMOylation, which makes it unstable and establishes a link between SUMOylation and E6-mediated ubiquitination of hADA3. Furthermore, depletion of Ubc9 prevented rapid degradation of hADA3 in E6 expressing cervical cancer cells and overexpression of hADA3 resulted in suppression of proliferation and migration abilities of SiHa cells. Overall, this study underscores the importance of posttranslational modifications in HPV16E6-mediated downregulation of hADA3 thereby unveiling a novel mechanism by which HPV induces oncogenesis.


Pancreatic ductal adenocarcinomas (PDACs) are considered to arise through neoplastic transformation of human pancreatic duct epithelial cells (HPDECs). In order to evaluate the biological significance of genetic and epigenetic alterations in PDACs, we isolated primary HPDECs and established an in vitro carcinogenesis model. Firstly, lentivirus-mediated transduction of KRASG12V, MYC and human papillomavirus 16 (HPV16) E6/E7 under the control of a tetracyclin-inducible promoter efficiently immortalized and transformed primary HPDECs, which gave rise to adenocarcinomas subcutaneously in an immune-deficient mouse xenograft model, depending on expression of the four genes. The tumors regressed promptly upon shutting-off the oncogenes, and the remaining tissues showed histological features corresponding to normal ductal structures with simple columnar epithelium. Reexpression of the oncogenes resulted in development of multiple PDACs through pancreatic intraepithelial neoplasia-like structures. We also succeeded in efficient immortalization of primary HPDECs with transduction of mutant CDK4, cyclin D1 and TERT. The cells maintained a normal diploid status and formed duct-like structures in a three-dimensional culture. In combination with p53 silencing, KRASG12V alone was sufficient to fully transform the immortalized HPDECs, and MYC markedly accelerated the development of tumors. Our PDAC model supports critical roles of KRAS mutations, inactivation of the p53 and p16-pRB pathways, active telomerase and MYC expression in pancreatic carcinogenesis and thus recapitulates many features of human PDAC development. The present system with reversible control of oncogene expression enabled de novo development of PDAC from quasinormal human tissues preformed subcutaneously in mice and might be applicable to carcinogenesis models in many organ sites.


The mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR), which is a master regulator of cellular catabolism and anabolism, plays an important role in tumourigenesis and progression. In this study, we report the chemopreventive effect of the dietary compound ampelopsin (AMP) on breast carcinogenesis in vivo and in vitro, which acts by inhibiting the mTOR signalling pathway. Our study indicates that AMP treatment effectively suppresses 1-methyl-1-nitrosourea (MNU)-induced breast carcinogenesis in rats and inhibits 4-(methylnitrosamino)-1-(3-pyridyl)-1-butanone (NNK) and benzo[a]pyrene (B[a]P)-induced cellular carcinogenesis. Additionally, AMP inhibits the growth of breast cancer cells in vitro and in vivo. The activity of mTOR kinase was found to be significantly increased in a time-dependent manner during chronic breast carcinogenesis, and this increase can be suppressed by AMP co-treatment. AMP also effectively suppresses mTOR activity in breast cancer MDA-MB-231 cells. We also demonstrated that AMP is an effective mTOR inhibitor that binds to one site on the mTOR target in two ways. Further studies confirmed that AMP inhibits the activation of Akt, suppresses the formation of mTOR complexes (mTORC)1/2 by dissociating regulatory-associated protein of mTOR and rapamycin-insensitive companion of mTOR and, consequently, decreases the activation of the downstream targets of mTOR, including ribosomal p70-S6 kinase, ribosomal protein S6, eukaryotic translation initiation factor 4B and eukaryotic translation initiation factor 4E-binding protein 1. These finding suggest that AMP is a bioactive natural chemopreventive agent against breast carcinogenesis and is an effective mTOR inhibitor that may be developed as a useful chemotherapeutic agent in the treatment of breast cancer.


The cell adhesion molecule E-cadherin has critical functions in development and carcinogenesis. Impaired expression of E-cadherin has been associated with disrupted tissue homeostasis, progression of cancer and a worse patient prognosis. So far, the role of E-cadherin in homeostasis and carcinogenesis of the liver is not well understood. By use of a mouse model with liver-specific deletion of E-cadherin and administration of the carcinogen diethylnitrosamine, we demonstrate that loss of E-cadherin expression in hepatocytes results in acceleration of the growth of hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). In contrast, liver regeneration is not disturbed in mice lacking E-cadherin expression in hepatocytes. In human HCC, we observed four different expression patterns of E-cadherin. Notably, atypical cytosolic expression of E-cadherin was positively correlated with a poorer patient prognosis. The median overall survival of patients with HCC expressing E-cadherin on the membrane only was 221 weeks (95% confidence interval: 51–391) compared with 131 weeks in patients with cytosolic expression (95% confidence interval: 71–191 weeks; P < 0.05). In conclusion, we demonstrate that impaired expression of E-cadherin promotes hepatocellular carcinogenesis and is associated with a worse prognosis in humans.


Spermatogenesis and oogenesis basic helix-loop-helix (bHLH) transcription factor 2 (Sohlh2) functions as a bhlh transcription factor to regulate mouse germ cell differentiation. Our previous data showed that Sohlh2 was highly expressed in human normal tissues, but low level of Sohlh2 was observed in many cancer cell lines, suggesting a possible role of Sohlh2 in tumorigenesis. In this study, we examined this possibility by using immunohistochemistry, MTT, 5-bromo-2-deoxyuridine, clonogenic assay and tumor xenograft techniques. Our results showed that the expression of Sohlh2 was decreased in epithelial ovarian carcinoma (EOC) tissues compared with benign ovarian tumors and ovarian tumors with low malignant potential. Forced expression of Sohlh2 led to a significant reduction in cancer cell proliferation in vitro and tumorigenesis in nude mice. Conversely, silencing of Sohlh2 enhanced ovarian cancer cell proliferation. Furthermore, Sohlh2 had opposite effects on its two direct targets p21 and cyclin D1: overexpression of Sohlh2 upregulated p21 but downregulated cyclin D1 expression. p21 knockdown could reverse the effects of Sohlh2 overexpression on inhibiting cell proliferation, and cyclin D1 knockdown could reverse the effects of Sohlh2 ablation on promoting cell proliferation. Thus, our data indicate that Sohlh2 likely functions as a tumor suppressor in EOCs, which is achieved by inducing p21 expression but repressing cyclin D1 expression.


The importance of estrogens in the etiology of breast cancer is widely recognized. Estrogen-induced oxidative stress has been implicated in this carcinogenic process. Resveratrol (Res), a natural antioxidant phytoestrogen has chemopreventive effects against a variety of illnesses including cancer. The objective of the present study was to characterize the mechanism(s) of Res-mediated protection against estrogen-induced breast carcinogenesis. Female August Copenhagen Irish rats were treated with 17β-estradiol (E2), Res and Res + E2 for 8 months. Cotreatment of rats with Res and E2 inhibited E2-mediated proliferative changes in mammary tissues and significantly increased tumor latency and reduced E2-induced breast tumor development. Resveratrol treatment alone or in combination with E2 significantly upregulated expression of nuclear factor erythroid 2-related factor 2 (NRF2) in mammary tissues. Expression of NRF2-regulated antioxidant genes NQO1, SOD3 and OGG1 that are involved in protection against oxidative DNA damage was increased in Res- and Res + E2-treated mammary tissues. Resveratrol also prevented E2-mediated inhibition of detoxification genes AOX1 and FMO1. Inhibition of E2-mediated alterations in NRF2 promoter methylation and expression of NRF2 targeting miR-93 after Res treatment indicated Res-mediated epigenetic regulation of NRF2 during E2-induced breast carcinogenesis. Resveratrol treatment also induced apoptosis and inhibited E2-mediated increase in DNA damage in mammary tissues. Increased apoptosis and decreased DNA damage, cell migration, colony and mammosphere formation in Res- and Res + E2-treated MCF-10A cells suggested a protective role of Res against E2-induced mammary carcinogenesis. Small-interfering RNA-mediated silencing of NRF2 inhibited Res-mediated preventive effects on the colony and mammosphere formation. Taken together, these results suggest that Res inhibits E2-induced breast carcinogenesis via induction of NRF2-mediated protective pathways.


Mutation of tumor suppressor adenomatous polyposis coli (APC) initiates most colorectal cancers and chronic colitis increases risk. APC is a nucleo-cytoplasmic shuttling protein, best known for antagonizing Wnt signaling by forming a cytoplasmic complex that marks β-catenin for degradation. Using our unique mouse model with compromised nuclear Apc import (ApcmNLS), we show that ApcmNLS/mNLS mice have increased susceptibility to tumorigenesis induced with azoxymethane (AOM) and dextran sodium sulfate (DSS). The AOM–DSS-induced colon adenoma histopathology, proliferation, apoptosis, stem cell number and β-catenin and Kras mutation spectra were similar in ApcmNLS/mNLS and Apc+/+ mice. However, AOM–DSS-treated ApcmNLS/mNLS mice showed more weight loss, more lymphoid follicles and edema, and increased colon shortening than treated Apc+/+ mice, indicating a colitis predisposition. To test this directly, we induced acute colitis with a 7 day DSS treatment followed by 5 days of recovery. Compared with Apc+/+ mice, DSS-treated ApcmNLS/mNLS mice developed more severe colitis based on clinical grade and histopathology. ApcmNLS/mNLS mice also had higher lymphocytic infiltration and reduced expression of stem cell markers, suggesting an increased propensity for chronic inflammation. Moreover, colons from DSS-treated ApcmNLS/mNLS mice showed fewer goblet cells and reduced Muc2 expression. Even in untreated ApcmNLS/mNLS mice, there were significantly fewer goblet cells in jejuna, and a modest decrease in colonocyte Muc2 expression compared with Apc+/+ mice. Colonocytes from untreated ApcmNLS/mNLS mice also showed increased expression of inflammatory mediators cyclooxygenase-2 (Cox-2) and macrophage inflammatory protein-2 (MIP-2). These findings reveal novel functions for nuclear Apc in goblet cell differentiation and protection against inflammation-induced colon tumorigenesis.


Activated cancer-associated human pancreatic stellate cells (CAhPSCs, which produce the collagenous stroma of pancreatic cancer [PC]) are known to play a major role in PC progression. Apart from inducing cancer cell proliferation and migration, CAhPSCs have also been implicated in neoangiogenesis in PC. However, the mechanisms mediating the observed angiogenic effects of CAhPSCs are unknown. A candidate pathway that may be involved in this process is the hepatocyte growth factor (HGF)/c-MET pathway and its helper molecule, urokinase-type plasminogen activator (uPA). This study investigated the effects of CAhPSC secretions on endothelial cell function in the presence and absence of HGF, c-MET and uPA inhibitors. HGF levels in CAhPSC secretions were quantified using ELISA. CAhPSC secretions were then incubated with human microvascular endothelial cells (HMEC-1) and angiogenesis assessed by quantifying HMEC-1 tube formation and proliferation. CAhPSC-secreted HGF significantly increased HMEC-1 tube formation and proliferation; notably, these effects were downregulated by inhibition of HGF, its receptor c-MET and uPA. Phosphorylation of p38 mitogen-activated protein kinase was downregulated during inhibition of the HGF/c-MET pathway, whereas phosphatidylinositol-3 kinase and ERK1/2 remained unaffected. Our studies have shown for the first time that CAhPSCs induce proliferation and tube formation of HMEC-1 and that the HGF/c-MET pathway plays a major role in this induction. Given that standard antiangiogenic treatment targeting vascular endothelial growth factor has had limited success in the clinical setting, the findings of the current study provide strong support for a novel, alternative antiangiogenic approach targeting the HGF/c-MET and uPA pathways in PC.


The membrane protein tyrosine phosphatase receptor U (PTPRU) has been shown to function as a negative regulator of adhesion and proliferation in certain cancer cell types, primarily through its dephosphorylation of β-catenin and inhibition of subsequent downstream signaling. In the present study, we set out to characterize the role of PTPRU in glioma and found that, while the expression of full-length PTPRU protein is low in these tumors, a number of non-full-length PTPRU isoforms are highly expressed. Among these isoforms, one in particular is localized to the nucleus, and its expression is increased in glioma tissues in a manner that positively correlates with malignancy grade. Short hairpin RNA knockdown of endogenous PTPRU in human and rat glioma cell lines suppressed proliferation, survival, invasion, migration, adhesion and vasculogenic tube formation in vitro, as well as intracranial tumor progression in vivo. In addition, knocking down PTPRU reduced tyrosine phosphorylation (pY) and transcriptional activity of β-catenin, and we were able to specifically rescue the cell migration defect by expressing a LEF1-β-catenin fusion protein in PTPRU-depleted cells. PTPRU knockdown also led to increased tyrosine pY of the E3 ubiquitin ligase c-Cbl and to the destabilization of several focal adhesion proteins. Taken together, our findings demonstrate that endogenous PTPRU promote glioma progression through their effect on β-catenin and focal adhesion signaling.