As the culprit behind most cancer-related deaths, metastasis is the ultimate challenge in our effort to fight cancer as a life-threatening disease. The explosive growth of metastasis research in the past decade has yielded an unprecedented wealth of information about the tumor-intrinsic and tumor-extrinsic mechanisms that dictate metastatic behaviors, the molecular and cellular basis underlying the distinct courses of metastatic progression in different cancers and what renders metastatic cancer refractory to available therapies. However, integration of such new knowledge into an improved, metastasis-oriented oncological drug development strategy is needed to thwart the development of metastatic disease at every stage of progression.
Understanding the mechanism by which tumor cells influence osteoclast differentiation is crucial for improving treatment of osteolytic metastasis. Here, we report broad microRNA (miRNA) expression changes in differentiating osteoclasts after exposure to tumor-conditioned media, in part through activation of NFκB signaling by soluble intracellular adhesion molecule (sICAM1) secreted from bone-metastatic cancer cells. Ectopic expression of multiple miRNAs downregulated during osteoclastogenesis suppresses osteoclast differentiation by targeting important osteoclast genes. Intravenous delivery of these miRNAs in vivo inhibits osteoclast activity and reduces osteolytic bone metastasis. Importantly, serum levels of sICAM1 and two osteoclast miRNAs, miR-16 and miR-378, which are elevated in osteoclast differentiation, correlate with bone metastasis burden. These findings establish miRNAs as potential therapeutic targets and clinical biomarkers of bone metastasis.
The Notch signaling pathway regulates several distinct cellular programs that are indispensible for proper embryonic development and maintenance of adult tissue homeostasis. Among the various organs of the human body, the pathway has an important role in the bone microenvironment, managing cell-fate decisions in two bone-specific cells. Significantly, pathological activation of the Notch pathway in these cells by metastatic tumor cells promotes osteolytic colonization of the bone. Armed with this knowledge, disruption of the Notch pathway, and other bone microenvironment signaling components that facilitate Notch-mediated bone metastasis, may serve as a viable therapeutic intervention in this aggressive, incurable disease.
The epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT) is a complex process that occurs during organogenesis and in cancer metastasis. Despite recent progress, the molecular pathways connecting the physiological and pathological functions of EMT need to be better defined. Here we show that the transcription factor Elf5, a key regulator of mammary gland alveologenesis, controls EMT in both mammary gland development and metastasis. We uncovered this role for Elf5 through analyses of Elf5 conditional knockout animals, various in vitro and in vivo models of EMT and metastasis, an MMTV-neu transgenic model of mammary tumour progression and clinical breast cancer samples. Furthermore, we demonstrate that Elf5 suppresses EMT by directly repressing the transcription of Snail2, a master regulator of mammary stem cells and a known inducer of EMT. These findings establish Elf5 not only as a key cell lineage regulator during normal mammary gland development, but also as a suppressor of EMT and metastasis in breast cancer.
The transcription factor E74-like factor 5 (Elf5) functions downstream of the prolactin receptor signaling pathway and plays an important role in mammary gland development. Using conditional mouse knockouts, we have previously shown that Elf5-null mammary glands exhibit a complete failure of alveologenesis during pregnancy. The Elf5-null developmental phenotype is mediated through alteration in the expression of several critical genes involved in alveologenesis, particularly those belonging to the JAK/STAT pathway. Here, we demonstrate that in addition to regulating terminal differentiation of alveolar cells, Elf5 also plays a critical role in determining cell fate and in regulating the stem/progenitor function of the mammary epithelium. Targeted deletion of Elf5 in the mammary glands leads to accumulation of cell types with dual luminal/basal properties such as coexpression of K8 and K14 and an increase in CD61(+) luminal progenitor population during pregnancy. Further interrogation suggests that the abnormal increase in K14(+) K8(+) cells may represent the CD61(+) luminal progenitors blocked in differentiation. Remarkably, Elf5 deficiency in mammary epithelium also triggers an increase of adult mammary stem activity as evidenced by the accumulation of mammary stem cell (MaSC)-enriched cell population in both pregnant and virgin mice and further confirmed by mammosphere and transplantation assays. Additional support for this phenotype comes from the enriched MaSC gene signature based on transcriptomic analysis of the Elf5-null mammary gland. Finally, our biochemical studies suggest that Elf5 loss leads to hyperactivation of the Notch signaling pathway, which might constitute in part, the underlying molecular mechanism for the altered cell lineage decisions in Elf5-null mammary epithelial cells.
Malignant progression in cancer requires populations of tumor-initiating cells (TICs) endowed with unlimited self renewal, survival under stress, and establishment of distant metastases. Additionally, the acquisition of invasive properties driven by epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT) is critical for the evolution of neoplastic cells into fully metastatic populations. Here, we characterize 2 human cellular models derived from prostate and bladder cancer cell lines to better understand the relationship between TIC and EMT programs in local invasiveness and distant metastasis. The model tumor subpopulations that expressed a strong epithelial gene program were enriched in highly metastatic TICs, while a second subpopulation with stable mesenchymal traits was impoverished in TICs. Constitutive overexpression of the transcription factor Snai1 in the epithelial/TIC-enriched populations engaged a mesenchymal gene program and suppressed their self renewal and metastatic phenotypes. Conversely, knockdown of EMT factors in the mesenchymal-like prostate cancer cell subpopulation caused a gain in epithelial features and properties of TICs. Both tumor cell subpopulations cooperated so that the nonmetastatic mesenchymal-like prostate cancer subpopulation enhanced the in vitro invasiveness of the metastatic epithelial subpopulation and, in vivo, promoted the escape of the latter from primary implantation sites and accelerated their metastatic colonization. Our models provide new insights into how dynamic interactions among epithelial, self-renewal, and mesenchymal gene programs determine the plasticity of epithelial TICs.
Bone is the one of the most common sites of distant metastasis of solid tumors. Secreted proteins are known to influence pathological interactions between metastatic cancer cells and the bone stroma. To comprehensively profile secreted proteins associated with bone metastasis, we used quantitative and non-quantitative mass spectrometry to globally analyze the secretomes of nine cell lines of varying bone metastatic ability from multiple species and cancer types. By comparing the secretomes of parental cells and their bone metastatic derivatives, we identified the secreted proteins that were uniquely associated with bone metastasis in these cell lines. We then incorporated bioinformatic analyses of large clinical metastasis datasets to obtain a list of candidate novel bone metastasis proteins of several functional classes that were strongly associated with both clinical and experimental bone metastasis. Functional validation of selected proteins indicated that in vivo bone metastasis can be promoted by high expression of (1) the salivary cystatins CST1, CST2, and CST4; (2) the plasminogen activators PLAT and PLAU; or (3) the collagen functionality proteins PLOD2 and COL6A1. Overall, our study has uncovered several new secreted mediators of bone metastasis and therefore demonstrated that secretome analysis is a powerful method for identification of novel biomarkers and candidate therapeutic targets.
Tumor-derived exosomes are emerging mediators of tumorigenesis. We explored the function of melanoma-derived exosomes in the formation of primary tumors and metastases in mice and human subjects. Exosomes from highly metastatic melanomas increased the metastatic behavior of primary tumors by permanently 'educating' bone marrow progenitors through the receptor tyrosine kinase MET. Melanoma-derived exosomes also induced vascular leakiness at pre-metastatic sites and reprogrammed bone marrow progenitors toward a pro-vasculogenic phenotype that was positive for c-Kit, the receptor tyrosine kinase Tie2 and Met. Reducing Met expression in exosomes diminished the pro-metastatic behavior of bone marrow cells. Notably, MET expression was elevated in circulating CD45(-)C-KIT(low/+)TIE2(+) bone marrow progenitors from individuals with metastatic melanoma. RAB1A, RAB5B, RAB7 and RAB27A, regulators of membrane trafficking and exosome formation, were highly expressed in melanoma cells. Rab27A RNA interference decreased exosome production, preventing bone marrow education and reducing, tumor growth and metastasis. In addition, we identified an exosome-specific melanoma signature with prognostic and therapeutic potential comprised of TYRP2, VLA-4, HSP70, an HSP90 isoform and the MET oncoprotein. Our data show that exosome production, transfer and education of bone marrow cells supports tumor growth and metastasis, has prognostic value and offers promise for new therapeutic directions in the metastatic process.
It is unclear how cancer cells coordinate glycolysis and biosynthesis to support rapidly growing tumors. We found that the glycolytic enzyme phosphoglycerate mutase 1 (PGAM1), commonly upregulated in human cancers due to loss of TP53, contributes to biosynthesis regulation in part by controlling intracellular levels of its substrate, 3-phosphoglycerate (3-PG), and product, 2-phosphoglycerate (2-PG). 3-PG binds to and inhibits 6-phosphogluconate dehydrogenase in the oxidative pentose phosphate pathway (PPP), while 2-PG activates 3-phosphoglycerate dehydrogenase to provide feedback control of 3-PG levels. Inhibition of PGAM1 by shRNA or a small molecule inhibitor PGMI-004A results in increased 3-PG and decreased 2-PG levels in cancer cells, leading to significantly decreased glycolysis, PPP flux and biosynthesis, as well as attenuated cell proliferation and tumor growth.
Several bone marrow-derived cells have been shown to promote tumour growth and progression. These cells can home to the primary tumour and become active components of the tumour microenvironment. Recent studies have also identified bone marrow-derived cells—such as mesenchymal stem cells and regulatory T cells—as contributors to cancer metastasis. The innate versatility of these cells provides diverse functional aid to promote malignancy, ranging from structural support to signal-mediated suppression of the host immune response. Here, we review the role of mesenchymal stem cells and regulatory T cells in cancer metastasis. A better understanding of the bipolar nature of these bone marrow-derived cells in physiological and malignant contexts could pave the way for new therapeutics against metastatic disease.
The application of functional genomic analysis of breast cancer metastasis has led to the identification of a growing number of organ-specific metastasis genes, which often function in concert to facilitate different steps of the metastatic cascade. However, the gene regulatory network that controls the expression of these metastasis genes remains largely unknown. Here, we demonstrate a computational approach for the deconvolution of transcriptional networks to discover master regulators of breast cancer bone metastasis. Several known regulators of breast cancer bone metastasis such as Smad4 and HIF1 were identified in our analysis. Experimental validation of the networks revealed BACH1, a basic leucine zipper transcription factor, as the common regulator of several functional metastasis genes, including MMP1 and CXCR4. Ectopic expression of BACH1 enhanced the malignance of breast cancer cells, and conversely, BACH1 knockdown significantly reduced bone metastasis. The expression of BACH1 and its target genes was linked to the higher risk of breast cancer recurrence in patients. This study established BACH1 as the master regulator of breast cancer bone metastasis and provided a paradigm to identify molecular determinants in complex pathological processes.
Interchromosomal chimeric RNA molecules are often transcription products from genomic rearrangement in cancerous cells. Here we report the computational detection of an interchromosomal RNA fusion between ZC3HAV1L and CHMP1A from RNA-seq data of normal human mammary epithelial cells, and experimental confirmation of the chimeric transcript in multiple human cells and tissues. Our experimental characterization also detected three variants of the ZC3HAV1L-CHMP1A chimeric RNA, suggesting that these genes are involved in complex splicing. The fusion sequence at the novel exon-exon boundary, and the absence of corresponding DNA rearrangement suggest that this chimeric RNA is likely produced by trans-splicing in human cells.
It is well-known that pathways normally functioning during embryonic development are dysregulated in cancer. Experimental and clinical studies have established strong connections between aberrant developmental pathways and transformation, as well as other early stage events of cancer progression. There is now emerging evidence that also indicates the contribution of developmental pathways to the pathogenesis of distant metastasis, including bone metastasis. In particular, the Wnt, BMP, and Hedgehog signaling pathways have all been implicated in the development of bone metastasis. These developmental pathways participate in the regulation of cell-autonomous functions in tumor cells as well as tumor-stromal interactions in the bone microenvironment, eventually promoting the formation of osteolytic or osteoblastic bone metastasis.
Adult stem cells of the mammary gland (MaSCs) are a highly dynamic population of cells that are responsible for the generation of the gland during puberty and its expansion during pregnancy. In recent years significant advances have been made in understanding how these cells are regulated during these developmentally important processes both in humans and in mice. Understanding how MaSCs are regulated is becoming a particularly important area of research, given that they may be particularly susceptible targets for transformation in breast cancer. Here, we summarize the identification of MaSCs, how they are regulated and the evidence for their serving as the origins of breast cancer. In particular, we focus on how changes in MaSC populations may explain both the increased risk of developing aggressive ER/PR(-) breast cancer shortly after pregnancy and the long-term decreased risk of developing ER/PR(+) tumors.
BACKGROUND: Esophageal squamous cell carcinoma (ESCC) is often diagnosed at later stages until they are incurable. MicroRNA (miR) is a small, non-coding RNA that negatively regulates gene expression mainly via translational repression. Accumulating evidence indicates that deregulation of miR is associated with human malignancies including ESCC. The aim of this study was to identify miR that could be specifically expressed and exert distinct biological actions in ESCC.
METHODS: Total RNA was extracted from ESCC cell lines, OE21 and TE10, and a non-malignant human esophageal squamous cell line, Het-1A, and subjected to microarray analysis. Expression levels of miR that showed significant differences between the 2 ESCC and Het-1A cells based on the comprehensive analysis were analyzed by the quantitative reverse transcriptase (RT)-PCR method. Then, functional analyses, including cellular proliferation, apoptosis and Matrigel invasion and the wound healing assay, for the specific miR were conducted. Using ESCC tumor samples and paired surrounding non-cancerous tissue obtained endoscopically, the association with histopathological differentiation was examined with quantitative RT-PCR.
RESULTS: Based on the miR microarray analysis, there were 14 miRs that showed significant differences (more than 2-fold) in expression between the 2 ESCC cells and non-malignant Het-1A. Among the significantly altered miRs, miR-205 expression levels were exclusively higher in 5 ESCC cell lines examined than any other types of malignant cell lines and Het-1A. Thus, miR-205 could be a specific miR in ESCC. Modulation of miR-205 expression by transfection with its precursor or anti-miR-205 inhibitor did not affect ESCC cell proliferation and apoptosis, but miR-205 was found to be involved in cell invasion and migration. Western blot revealed that knockdown of miR-205 expression in ESCC cells substantially enhanced expression of zinc finger E-box binding homeobox 2, accompanied by reduction of E-cadherin, a regulator of epithelial mesenchymal transition. The miR-205 expression levels were not associated with histological differentiation of human ESCC.
CONCLUSIONS: These results imply that miR-205 is an ESCC-specific miR that exerts tumor-suppressive activities with EMT inhibition by targeting ZEB2.
Despite evidence supporting an oncogenic role in breast cancer, the Notch pathway's contribution to metastasis remains unknown. Here, we report that the Notch ligand Jagged1 is a clinically and functionally important mediator of bone metastasis by activating the Notch pathway in bone cells. Jagged1 promotes tumor growth by stimulating IL-6 release from osteoblasts and directly activates osteoclast differentiation. Furthermore, Jagged1 is a potent downstream mediator of the bone metastasis cytokine TGFβ that is released during bone destruction. Importantly, γ-secretase inhibitor treatment reduces Jagged1-mediated bone metastasis by disrupting the Notch pathway in stromal bone cells. These findings elucidate a stroma-dependent mechanism for Notch signaling in breast cancer and provide rationale for using γ-secretase inhibitors for the treatment of bone metastasis.
Osteoprotegerin (OPG) is a decoy receptor of the receptor activator of nuclear factor-κB ligand (RANK-L) and plays an important role in the formation of metastatic bone lesions. We evaluated the usefulness of circulating OPG and RANK-L for the detection of bone metastases. We enrolled 143 individuals in the study: 30 healthy donors (HD) and 113 breast cancer patients. Among patients, 49 had no evidence of disease (NEDP), 54 had bone metastases (BMP) at first diagnosis, and 10 had visceral metastases (VMP). Both transcripts were determined in peripheral blood samples using quantitative PCR. Receiver operating characteristic (ROC) curve analysis was used to calculate the diagnostic accuracy of OPG, RANK-L, CEA and CA15-3. OPG and RANK-L median values were significantly lower in BMP (median 0.5, range 0.1-5.7, p<0.001 and median 0.5, range 0.1-4.5, p=0.024, respectively) compared to NEDP (median 1.7, range 0.4-8.9 and median 0.8, range 0.2-3.8, respectively), regardless of the number and type of bone lesions or the presence of visceral metastases. The area under the ROC curve (NEDP vs. BMP) was higher for OPG (82.5, 95% CI 74.5-90.6) than for RANK-L (69.2, 95% CI 59.0-79.40). Specificity for OPG was 87.7% (95% CI 75.7-94.2) and sensitivity was 74.1% (95% CI 60.4-85.0), both values increasing when considered together with CEA and CA15-3. For VMP, OPG and RANK-L were expressed in only one patient. Our results highlight the potentially important role of circulating OPG in the diagnosis of bone metastases. A confirmatory study on a larger case series is ongoing.
A major advance in recent cancer research is the identification of tumor cells with stem cell-like properties. Cancer stem cells (CSCs) often represent a rare population in the tumor mass and possess the exclusive ability to initiate the growth of a heterogeneous tumor. The origin of CSCs remains elusive and is likely to be cancer type specific. One possible but under-appreciated potential mechanism for the generation of CSCs is through fusion between stem cells and differentiated cells. The cell fusion hypothesis of CSCs adds an important functional underpinning to the potential multifaceted roles of cell fusion in the initiation and progression of cancer.
Although the role of miR-200s in regulating E-cadherin expression and epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition is well established, their influence on metastatic colonization remains controversial. Here we have used clinical and experimental models of breast cancer metastasis to discover a pro-metastatic role of miR-200s that goes beyond their regulation of E-cadherin and epithelial phenotype. Overexpression of miR-200s is associated with increased risk of metastasis in breast cancer and promotes metastatic colonization in mouse models, phenotypes that cannot be recapitulated by E-cadherin expression alone. Genomic and proteomic analyses revealed global shifts in gene expression upon miR-200 overexpression toward that of highly metastatic cells. miR-200s promote metastatic colonization partly through direct targeting of Sec23a, which mediates secretion of metastasis-suppressive proteins, including Igfbp4 and Tinagl1, as validated by functional and clinical correlation studies. Overall, these findings suggest a pleiotropic role of miR-200s in promoting metastatic colonization by influencing E-cadherin-dependent epithelial traits and Sec23a-mediated tumor cell secretome.
While the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR)-mediated signaling pathway has been shown to have vital roles in many developmental and pathologic processes, its functions in the development and homeostasis of the skeletal system has been poorly defined. To address its in vivo role, we constructed transgenic and pharmacologic mouse models and used peripheral quantitative computed tomography (pQCT), micro-computed tomography (µCT) and histomorphometry to analyze their trabecular and cortical bone phenotypes. We initially deleted the EGFR in preosteoblasts/osteoblasts using a Cre/loxP system (Col-Cre Egfr(f/f)), but no bone phenotype was observed because of incomplete deletion of the Egfr genomic locus. To further reduce the remaining osteoblastic EGFR activity, we introduced an EGFR dominant-negative allele, Wa5, and generated Col-Cre Egfr(Wa5/f) mice. At 3 and 7 months of age, both male and female mice exhibited a remarkable decrease in tibial trabecular bone mass with abnormalities in trabecular number and thickness. Histologic analyses revealed decreases in osteoblast number and mineralization activity and an increase in osteoclast number. Significant increases in trabecular pattern factor and structural model index indicate that trabecular microarchitecture was altered. The femurs of these mice were shorter and smaller with reduced cortical area and periosteal perimeter. Moreover, colony-forming unit-fibroblast (CFU-F) assay indicates that these mice had fewer bone marrow mesenchymal stem cells and committed progenitors. Similarly, administration of an EGFR inhibitor into wild-type mice caused a significant reduction in trabecular bone volume. In contrast, Egfr(Dsk5/+) mice with a constitutively active EGFR allele displayed increases in trabecular and cortical bone content. Taken together, these data demonstrate that the EGFR signaling pathway is an important bone regulator and that it primarily plays an anabolic role in bone metabolism.
Metastasis is the deadliest and most poorly understood feature of malignant diseases. Recent work has shown that Metadherin (MTDH) is overexpressed in over 40% of breast cancer patients and promotes metastasis and chemoresistance in experimental models of breast cancer progression. Here we applied mass spectrometry-based screen to identify staphylococcal nuclease domain-containing 1 (SND1) as a candidate MTDH-interacting protein. After confirming the interaction between SND1 and MTDH, we tested the role of SND1 in breast cancer and found that it strongly promotes lung metastasis. SND1 was further shown to promote resistance to apoptosis and to regulate the expression of genes associated with metastasis and chemoresistance. Analyses of breast cancer clinical microarray data indicated that high expression of SND1 in primary tumors is strongly associated with reduced metastasis-free survival in multiple large scale data sets. Thus, we have uncovered SND1 as a novel MTDH-interacting protein and shown that it is a functionally and clinically significant mediator of metastasis.
UNLABELLED: This is a retrospective study on 40 breast cancer patients, of which 20 have bone metastases, 10 have visceral metastases, and 10 have no evidence of disease, aimed at evaluating the role of CXCR4 and the RANK/RANKL/OPG system to predict bone metastases. CXCR4 expression, alone or in combination with RANK, identified patients destined to relapse to bone.
BACKGROUND: The RANK/RANKL/OPG system is active in primary cancers such as breast, prostate, and also in their bone metastases. CXCR4 chemokine receptor is highly expressed in human breast cancer cells and is believed to facilitate the homing of tumor cells to organs such as bone that express high levels of its ligand SDF1. Our study aimed to investigate whether the analysis of these markers with an inexpensive and simple test can help to predict bone metastases in breast cancer patients.
PATIENTS AND METHODS: Marker expression was evaluated by immunohistochemical staining in paraffin-embedded tissue sections of primary breast cancers from 40 individuals: 20 patients with bone metastases (BM), 10 with visceral metastases (VM; considered together as the relapsed group), and 10 with no evidence of disease (NED).
RESULTS: RANKL was not detected in tumor cells. OPG- and RANK-positive tumors are found with similar frequency in NED (20%) and in relapsed patients (23% and 17%, respectively). However, in the latter subgroup, only RANK positivity was always associated with bone relapse. The frequency of CXCR4-positive tumors was three-fold higher in relapsed (30%) than in NED (10%) patients and positivity was always linked to bone metastases. Considering NED and VM patients together versus BM patients, we observed that CXCR4 expression, alone (P = .008) or in combination with RANK (P < .001), identified patients destined to relapse to bone.
CONCLUSION: Our results provide the first clinical evidence to support a pivotal role of combined CXCR4 and RANK expression in predicting bone relapse.
The advent of genomic profiling technology has brought about revolutionary changes in our understanding of breast cancer metastasis. Gene expression analyses of primary tumors have been used to predict metastatic propensity with high accuracy. Animal models of metastasis additionally offer a platform to experimentally dissect components of the metastasis genetic program. Recent integrated studies have synergized clinical bioinformatic analyses with advanced experimental methodology and begun to uncover the identities and dynamics of signaling programs driving breast cancer metastasis. Such functional genomics studies hold great promise for understanding the genetic basis of metastasis and improving therapeutics for advanced diseases.
Despite recognizing the devastating consequences of metastasis, we are not yet able to effectively treat cancer that has spread to vital organs. The inherent complexity of genomic alterations in late-stage cancers, coupled with numerous heterotypic interactions that occur between tumour and stromal cells, represent fundamental challenges in our quest to understand and control metastatic disease. The incorporation of genomic and other systems level approaches, as well as technological breakthroughs in imaging and animal modelling, have galvanized the effort to overcome gaps in our understanding of metastasis. Future research carries with it the potential to translate the wealth of new knowledge and conceptual advances into effective targeted therapies.
Breast cancer patients often develop locoregional or distant recurrence years after mastectomy. Understanding the mechanism of metastatic recurrence after dormancy is crucial for improving the cure rate for breast cancer. Here, we characterize a bone metastasis dormancy model to show that aberrant expression of vascular cell adhesion molecule 1 (VCAM-1), in part dependent on the activity of the NF-κB pathway, promotes the transition from indolent micrometastasis to overt metastasis. By interacting with the cognate receptor integrin α4β1, VCAM-1 recruits monocytic osteoclast progenitors and elevates local osteoclast activity. Antibodies against VCAM-1 and integrin α4 effectively inhibit bone metastasis progression and preserve bone structure. These findings establish VCAM-1 as a promising target for the prevention and inhibition of metastatic recurrence in bone.
Breast cancer is the most common cancer type for women in the western world. Despite decades of research, the molecular processes associated with breast cancer progression are still inadequately defined. Here, we focus on the systematic alteration of metabolism by using the state of the art metabolomic profiling techniques to investigate the changes of 157 metabolites during the progression of normal mouse mammary epithelial cells to an isogenic series of mammary tumor cell lines with increasing metastatic potentials. Our results suggest a two-step metabolic progression hypothesis during the acquisition of tumorigenic and metastatic abilities. Metabolite changes accompanying tumor progression are identified in the intracellular and secreted forms in several pathways, including glycolysis, the tricarboxylic acid cycle, the pentose phosphate pathway, fatty acid and nucleotide biosynthesis, and the GSH-dependent antioxidative pathway. These results suggest possible biomarkers of breast cancer progression as well as opportunities of interrupting tumor progression through the targeting of metabolic pathways.
Transforming growth factor (TGF)-beta signalling plays a dichotomous role in tumour progression, acting as a tumour suppressor early and as a pro-metastatic pathway in late-stages. There is accumulating evidence that advanced-stage tumours produce excessive levels of TGF-beta, which acts to promote tumour growth, invasion and colonisation of secondary organs. In light of the pro-metastasis function, many strategies are currently being explored to antagonise the TGF-beta pathway as a treatment for metastatic cancers. Strategies such as using large molecule ligand traps, reducing the translational efficiency of TGF-beta ligands using antisense technology, and antagonising TGF-beta receptor I/II kinase function using small molecule inhibitors are the most prominent methods being explored today. Administration of anti-TGF-beta therapies alone, or in combination with immunosuppressive or cytotoxic therapies, has yielded promising results in the preclinical and clinical settings. Despite these successes, the temporal- and context-dependent roles of TGF-beta signalling in cancer has made it challenging to define patient subgroups that are most likely to respond, and the therapeutic regimens that will be most effective in the clinic. Novel mouse models and diagnostic tools are being developed today to circumvent these issues, which may potentially expedite anti-TGF-beta drug development and clinical application.
Hypoxia is a common condition found in a wide range of solid tumors and is often associated with poor prognosis. Hypoxia increases tumor glycolysis, angiogenesis, and other survival responses, as well as invasion and metastasis by activating relevant gene expressions through hypoxia-inducible factors (HIF). HIF-1α and HIF-2α undergo oxygen-dependent regulation, and their overexpression is frequently associated with metastasis and poor clinical outcomes. Recent studies show that each step of the metastasis process, from the initial epithelial-mesenchymal transition to the ultimate organotropic colonization, can potentially be regulated by hypoxia, suggesting a master regulator role of hypoxia and HIFs in metastasis. Furthermore, modulation of cancer stem cell self-renewal by HIFs may also contribute to the hypoxia-regulated metastasis program. The hypoxia-induced metastatic phenotype may be one of the reasons for the modest efficacy of antiangiogenic therapies and may well explain the recent provocative findings that antiangiogenic therapy increased metastasis in preclinical models. Multiple approaches to targeting hypoxia and HIFs, including HIF inhibitors, hypoxia-activated bioreductive prodrugs, and gene therapies may become effective treatments to prevent or reduce metastasis.
Tumor hypoxia is known to activate angiogenesis, anaerobic glycolysis, invasion, and metastasis. However, a comparative analysis of the potentially distinct functions of hypoxia in primary tumor growth and organ-specific metastasis has not been reported. Here, we show distinct hypoxia kinetics in tumors generated by the MDA-MB-231 breast cancer sublines with characteristically different primary tumor growth rates and organotropic metastasis potentials. Hypoxia-induced angiogenesis promotes both primary tumor growth and lung metastasis but is nonessential for bone metastasis. Microarray profiling revealed that hypoxia enhances the expression of a significant number of genes in the lung metastasis signature, but only activates a few bone metastasis genes, among which DUSP1 was functionally validated in this study. Despite the different mechanisms by which hypoxia promotes organ-specific metastasis, inhibition of HIF-1alpha with a dominant-negative form of HIF-1alpha or 2-methoxyestradiol reduced metastasis to both lung and bone. Consistent with the extensive functional overlap of hypoxia in promoting primary tumor growth and lung metastasis, a 45-gene hypoxia response signature efficiently stratifies breast cancer patients with low or high risks of lung metastasis, but not for bone metastasis. Our study shows distinct functions of hypoxia in regulating angiogenesis and metastasis in different organ microenvironments and establishes HIF-1alpha as a promising target for controlling organotropic metastasis of breast cancer.
Prediction of efficient oligonucleotides for RNA interference presents a serious challenge, especially for the development of genome-wide RNAi libraries which encounter difficulties and limitations due to ambiguities in the results and the requirement for significant computational resources. Here we present a fast and practical algorithm for shRNA design based on the thermodynamic parameters. In order to identify shRNA and siRNA features universally associated with high silencing efficiency, we analyzed structure-activity relationships in thousands of individual RNAi experiments from publicly available databases (ftp://ftp.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pub/shabalin/siRNA/si_shRNA_selector/). Using this statistical analysis, we found free energy ranges for the terminal duplex asymmetry and for fully paired duplex stability, such that shRNAs or siRNAs falling in both ranges have a high probability of being efficient. When combined, these two parameters yield a approximately 72% success rate on shRNAs from the siRecords database, with the target RNA levels reduced to below 20% of the control. Two other parameters correlate well with silencing efficiency: the stability of target RNA and the antisense strand secondary structure. Both parameters also correlate with the short RNA duplex stability; as a consequence, adding these parameters to our prediction scheme did not substantially improve classification accuracy. To test the validity of our predictions, we designed 83 shRNAs with optimal terminal asymmetry, and experimentally verified that small shifts in duplex stability strongly affected silencing efficiency. We showed that shRNAs with short fully paired stems could be successfully selected by optimizing only two parameters: terminal duplex asymmetry and duplex stability of the hypothetical cleavage product, which also relates to the specificity of mRNA target recognition. Our approach performs at the level of the best currently utilized algorithms that take into account prediction of the secondary structure of the target and antisense RNAs, but at significantly lower computational costs. Based on this study, we created the si-shRNA Selector program that predicts both highly efficient shRNAs and functional siRNAs (ftp://ftp.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pub/shabalin/siRNA/si_shRNA_selector/).
Aneuploidy is commonly observed in breast cancer and is associated with poor prognosis. One frequent type of aneuploidy, hypertetraploidy, may derive from ploidy duplication of hyperdiploid cells. However, the pathological consequences of ploidy duplication in breast cancer progression have not been characterized. Here, we present an experimental system demonstrating spontaneous appearance of hypertetraploid cells from organ-specific metastatic variants of the MDA-MB-231 breast cancer cell line through ploidy duplication in vitro and in vivo. The hypertetraploid progenies showed increased metastatic potential to lung and brain, but not to bone, which may be partially explained by the distinct capillary structures in these organs that confer differential lodging advantages to tumor cells with enlarged size. Our results suggest a potential mechanistic link between ploidy duplication and enhancement of metastatic potentials, as was observed in previous clinical studies of breast cancer.
The Notch signaling pathway is important for cell fate decisions in embryonic development and adult life. Defining the functional importance of the Notch pathway in these contexts requires the elucidation of essential signal transduction components that have not been fully characterized. Here, we show that Rabconnectin-3B is required for the Notch pathway in mammalian cells. siRNA-mediated silencing of Rabconnectin-3B in mammalian cells attenuated Notch signaling and disrupted the activation and nuclear accumulation of the Notch target Hes1. Rabconnectin-3B knockdown also disrupted V-ATPase activity in mammalian cells, consistent with previous observations in Drosophila. Pharmacological inhibition of the V-ATPase complex significantly reduced Notch signaling in mammalian cells. Finally, Rabconnectin-3B knockdown phenocopied functional disruption of Notch signaling during osteoclast differentiation. Collectively, these findings define an important role for Rabconnectin-3 and V-ATPase activity in the Notch signaling pathway in mammalian cells.
BACKGROUND: Transforming Growth Factor beta (TGF-beta) plays an important role in tumor invasion and metastasis. We set out to investigate the possible clinical utility of TGF-beta antagonists in a human metastatic basal-like breast cancer model. We examined the effects of two types of the TGF-beta pathway antagonists (1D11, a mouse monoclonal pan-TGF-beta neutralizing antibody and LY2109761, a chemical inhibitor of TGF-beta type I and II receptor kinases) on sublines of basal cell-like MDA-MB-231 human breast carcinoma cells that preferentially metastasize to lungs (4175TR, 4173) or bones (SCP2TR, SCP25TR, 2860TR, 3847TR).
RESULTS: Both 1D11 and LY2109761 effectively blocked TGF-beta-induced phosphorylation of receptor-associated Smads in all MDA-MB-231 subclones in vitro. Moreover, both antagonists inhibited TGF-beta stimulated in vitro migration and invasiveness of MDA-MB-231 subclones, indicating that these processes are partly driven by TGF-beta. In addition, both antagonists significantly reduced the metastatic burden to either lungs or bones in vivo, seemingly independently of intrinsic differences between the individual tumor cell clones. Besides inhibiting metastasis in a tumor cell autonomous manner, the TGF-beta antagonists inhibited angiogenesis associated with lung metastases and osteoclast number and activity associated with lytic bone metastases. In aggregate, these studies support the notion that TGF-beta plays an important role in both bone-and lung metastases of basal-like breast cancer, and that inhibiting TGF-beta signaling results in a therapeutic effect independently of the tissue-tropism of the metastatic cells. Targeting the TGF-beta pathway holds promise as a novel therapeutic approach for metastatic basal-like breast cancer.
CONCLUSIONS: In aggregate, these studies support the notion that TGF-beta plays an important role in both bone-and lung metastases of basal-like breast cancer, and that inhibiting TGF-beta signaling results in a therapeutic effect independently of the tissue-tropism of the metastatic cells. Targeting the TGF-beta pathway holds promise as a novel therapeutic approach for metastatic basal-like breast cancer.
Metastatic spread of cancer cells from the primary tumors to distant vital organs, such as lung, liver, brain, and bone, is responsible for the majority of cancer-related deaths. Cancer stem cells are likely to play essential roles in the metastatic spread of primary tumors because of their self-renewal capability and their potential to give rise to differentiated progenies that can adapt to different target organ microenvironments. Investigating the metastatic behavior of cancer stem cells (CSCs) is critical for the development of more effective therapies to prevent or delay the progression of malignant diseases. Animal models have been developed to mimic the multistep process of metastasis to various target organs. In this chapter, I will describe several xenograft methods to introduce human breast cancer cells into nude mice in order to generate spontaneous and experimental metastases. Similar experimental approach can be applied to analyze the metastatic behavior of CSCs derived from other tumor types.
Cell fusion is involved in many critical developmental processes, including zygote formation and organogenesis of placenta, bone, and skeletal muscle. In adult tissues, cell fusion has been shown to play an active role in tissue regeneration and repair, and its frequency of occurrence is significantly increased during chronic inflammation. Fusion between tumor cells and normal cells, or among tumor cells themselves, has also been speculated to contribute to tumor initiation, as well as phenotypic evolution during cancer progression and metastasis. Here, we show that dual metastasis organotropisms can be acquired in the same cell through in vitro or in vivo spontaneous fusion between bone- and lung-tropic sublines of the MDA-MB-231 human breast cancer cell line. The synkaryonic hybrids assimilate organ-specific metastasis gene signatures from both parental cells and are genetically and phenotypically stable. Our study suggests cell fusion as an efficient means of phenotypic evolution during tumor progression and additionally demonstrates the compatibility of different metastasis organotropisms.
Targeted therapy for metastatic diseases relies on the identification of functionally important metastasis genes from a large number of random genetic alterations. Here we use a computational algorithm to map minimal recurrent genomic alterations associated with poor-prognosis breast cancer. 8q22 genomic gain was identified by this approach and validated in an extensive collection of breast tumor samples. Regional gain of 8q22 elevates expression of the metastasis gene metadherin (MTDH), which is overexpressed in more than 40% of breast cancers and is associated with poor clinical outcomes. Functional characterization of MTDH revealed its dual role in promoting metastatic seeding and enhancing chemoresistance. These findings establish MTDH as an important therapeutic target for simultaneously enhancing chemotherapy efficacy and reducing metastasis risk.
Bone metastasis is mediated by complex interactions between tumor cells and resident stromal cells in the bone microenvironment. The functions of metalloproteinases in organ-specific metastasis remain poorly defined despite their well-appreciated role in matrix degradation and tumor invasion. Here, we show a mechanism whereby two distinct metalloproteinases, a disintegrin and metalloproteinase with thrombospondin motifs (ADAMTS1) and matrix metalloproteinase-1 (MMP1), orchestrate a paracrine signaling cascade to modulate the bone microenvironment in favor of osteoclastogenesis and bone metastasis. Proteolytic release of membrane-bound epidermal growth factor (EGF)-like growth factors, including Amphiregulin (AREG), heparin-binding EGF (HB-EGF), and transforming growth factor alpha (TGFalpha) from tumor cells suppress the expression of osteoprotegerin (OPG) in osteoblasts and subsequently potentiate osteoclast differentiation. EGF receptor (EGFR) inhibitors block osteolytic bone metastasis by targeting EGFR signaling in bone stromal cells. Furthermore, elevated MMP1 and ADAMTS1 expression is associated with increased risk of bone metastasis in breast cancer patients. This study established MMP1 and ADAMTS1 in tumor cells, as well as EGFR signaling in osteoblasts, as promising therapeutic targets for inhibiting bone metastasis of breast cancer.
Cell fusion plays an essential role in fertilization, formation of placenta, bone and muscle tissues, immune response, tissue repair, and regeneration. Increasing recognition of cell fusion in somatic cell dynamics has revitalized the century-old hypothesis that cell fusion may contribute to the initiation and progression of cancer. In this review, we discuss findings from experimental and clinical studies that suggest a potentially multifaceted involvement of cell fusion in different stages of tumor progression, including aneuploidy and tumor initiation, origin of cancer stem cells, multidrug resistance, and the acquisition and diversification of metastatic abilities.
Metastatic spread of cancer to distant vital organs, including lung and bone, is the overwhelming cause of breast cancer mortality and morbidity. Effective treatment of systemic metastasis relies on the identification and functional characterization of metastasis mediators to multiple organs. Overexpression of the chemokine (C-C motif) ligand 2 (CCL2) is frequently associated with advanced tumor stage and metastatic relapse in breast cancer. However, the functional mechanism of CCL2 in promoting organ-specific metastasis of breast cancer has not been rigorously investigated. Here, we used organ-specific metastatic sublines of the MDA-MB-231 human breast cancer cell line to demonstrate that overexpression of CCL2 promotes breast cancer metastasis to both lung and bone. Conversely, blocking CCL2 function with a neutralizing antibody reduced lung and bone metastases. The enhancement of lung and bone metastases by CCL2 was associated with increased macrophage infiltration and osteoclast differentiation, respectively. By performing functional assays with primary cells isolated from the wild type, CCL2 and CCR2 knock-out mice, we showed that tumor cell-derived CCL2 depends on its receptor CCR2 (chemokine, CC motif, receptor 2) expressed on stromal cells to exert its function in promoting macrophage recruitment and osteoclast differentiation. Overall, these data demonstrated that CCL2-expressing breast tumor cells engage CCR2(+) stromal cells of monocytic origin, including macrophages and preosteoclasts, to facilitate colonization in lung and bone. Therefore, CCL2 and CCR2 are promising therapeutic targets for simultaneously inhibiting lung and bone metastasis of breast cancer.
Metastatic colonization of different target organs is a highly selective process that depends on specialized properties of tumor cells. In a recent Nature paper, Massagué and colleagues built on their earlier success in functional genomic analysis of breast cancer metastasis to bone and lung and reported the identification of breast cancer brain metastasis genes, highlighting the importance of the stromal environment in the development of organ-specific metastasis.
Although the transforming growth factor-beta (TGF-beta) pathway has been implicated in breast cancer metastasis, its in vivo dynamics and temporal-spatial involvement in organ-specific metastasis have not been investigated. Here we engineered a xenograft model system with a conditional control of the TGF-beta-SMAD signaling pathway and a dual-luciferase reporter system for tracing both metastatic burden and TGF-beta signaling activity in vivo. Strong TGF-beta signaling in osteolytic bone lesions is suppressed directly by genetic and pharmacological disruption of the TGF-beta-SMAD pathway and indirectly by inhibition of osteoclast function with bisphosphonates. Notably, disruption of TGF-beta signaling early in metastasis can substantially reduce metastasis burden but becomes less effective when bone lesions are well established. Our in vivo system for real-time manipulation and detection of TGF-beta signaling provides a proof of principle for using similar strategies to analyze the in vivo dynamics of other metastasis-associated signaling pathways and will expedite the development and characterization of therapeutic agents.
Cancer is the result of the progressive acquisition of multiple malignant traits through the accumulation of genetic or epigenetic alterations. Recent studies have established a functional role of MTDH (Metadherin)/AEG-1 (Astrocyte Elevated Gene 1) in several crucial aspects of tumor progression, including transformation, evasion of apoptosis, invasion, metastasis, and chemoresistance. Overexpression of MTDH/AEG-1 is frequently observed in melanoma, glioma, neuroblastoma, and carcinomas of breast, prostate, liver, and esophagus and is correlated with poor clinical outcomes. MTDH/AEG-1 functions as a downstream mediator of the transforming activity of oncogenic Ha-Ras and c-Myc. Furthermore, MTDH/AEG-1 overexpression activates the PI3K/Akt, nuclear factor kappaB (NFkappaB), and Wnt/beta-catenin signaling pathways to stimulate proliferation, invasion, cell survival, and chemoresistance. The lung-homing domain of MTDH/AEG-1 also mediates the adhesion of tumor cells to the vasculature of distant organs and promotes metastasis. These findings suggest that therapeutic targeting of MTDH/AEG-1 may simultaneously suppress tumor growth, block metastasis, and enhance the efficacy of chemotherapeutic treatments.
Mammary stem cells (MaSCs) play essential roles for the development of the mammary gland and its remodeling during pregnancy. However, the precise localization of MaSCs in the mammary gland and their regulation during pregnancy is unknown. Here we report a transgenic mouse model for luciferase-based single marker detection of MaSCs in vivo that we used to address these issues. Single transgene expressing mammary epithelial cells were shown to reconstitute mammary glands in vivo while immunohistochemical staining identified MaSCs in basal and luminal locations, with preponderance towards the basal position. By quantifying luciferase expression using bioluminescent imaging, we were able to track MaSCs non-invasively in individual mice over time. Using this model to monitor MaSC dynamics throughout pregnancy, we found that MaSCs expand in both total number and percentage during pregnancy and then drop down to or below baseline levels after weaning. However, in a second round of pregnancy, this expansion was not as extensive. These findings validate a powerful system for the analysis of MaSC dynamics in vivo, which will facilitate future characterization of MaSCs during mammary gland development and breast cancer.
MicroRNAs (miRNAs) play essential roles in many physiological and pathological processes, including tumor development, by regulating the expression of a plethora of mRNAs. Although the importance of miRNAs in tumorigenesis is well established, only recently have reports elucidated miRNAs as promoters or suppressors of metastasis. The miR-200 family has been shown to inhibit the initiating step of metastasis, epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT), by maintaining the epithelial phenotype through direct targeting of transcriptional repressors of E-cadherin, ZEB1 and ZEB2. These findings shed light into a miRNA-mediated regulatory pathway that influences EMT in a developmentally and pathologically relevant setting.
MicroRNAs are small non-coding RNA molecules that can regulate gene expression by interacting with multiple mRNAs and inducing either translation suppression or degradation of mRNA. Recently, several miRNAs were identified as either promoters or suppressors of metastasis. However, it is unclear in which step(s) of the multistep metastatic cascade these miRNAs play a defined functional role. To study the functional importance of miRNAs in epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT), a process thought to initiate metastasis by enhancing the motility of tumor cells, we used a well established in vitro EMT assay: transforming growth factor-beta-induced EMT in NMuMG murine mammary epithelial cells. We found that members of the miR-200 family, organized as two clusters in the genome, were repressed during EMT. Overexpression of each miRNA individually or as clusters in NMuMG cells hindered EMT by enhancing E-cadherin expression through direct targeting of ZEB1 and ZEB2, which encode transcriptional repressors of E-cadherin. In the 4TO7 mouse carcinoma cell line, which expresses low levels of endogenous E-cadherin and displays a mesenchymal phenotype, ectopic expression of the miR-200 family miRNAs significantly increased E-cadherin expression and altered cell morphology to an epithelial phenotype. Furthermore, ectopic expression of each miR-200 miRNA cluster significantly reduced the in vitro motility of 4TO7 cells in migration assays. These results suggested that loss of expression of the miR-200 family members may play a critical role in the repression of E-cadherin by ZEB1 and ZEB2 during EMT, thereby enhancing migration and invasion during cancer progression.
The importance of cancer stem cells (CSCs) in tumor-initiation has been firmly established in leukemia and recently reported for a variety of solid tumors. However, the role of CSCs in multistage cancer progression, particularly with respect to metastasis, has not been well-defined. Cancer metastasis requires the seeding and successful colonization of specialized CSCs at distant organs. The biology of normal stem cells and CSCs share remarkable similarities and may have important implications when applied to the study of cancer metastasis. Furthermore, overlapping sets of molecules and pathways have recently been identified to regulate both stem cell migration and cancer metastasis. These molecules constitute a complex network of cellular interactions that facilitate both the initiation of the pre-metastasis niche by the primary tumor and the formation of a nurturing organ microenvironment for migrating CSCs. In this review, we surveyed the recent advances in this dynamic field and propose a unified model of cancer progression in which CSCs assume a central role in both tumorigenesis and metastasis. Better understanding of CSCs as a fundamental component of the metastatic cascade will lead to novel therapeutic strategies against metastatic cancer.
Epidermal growth factor (EGF)-like ligands and their receptors constitute one of the most important signaling networks functioning in normal tissue development and cancer biology. Recent in vivo mouse models suggest this signaling network plays an essential role in bone metabolism. Using a coculture system containing bone marrow macrophage and osteoblastic cells, here we report that EGF-like ligands stimulate osteoclastogenesis by acting on osteoblastic cells. This stimulation is not a direct effect because osteoclasts do not express functional EGF receptors (EGFRs). Further studies reveal that EGF-like ligands strongly regulate the expression of two secreted osteoclast regulatory factors in osteoblasts by decreasing osteoprotegerin (OPG) expression and increasing monocyte chemoattractant protein 1 (MCP1) expression in an EGFR-dependent manner and consequently stimulate TRAP-positive osteoclast formation. Addition of exogenous OPG completely inhibited osteoclast formation stimulated by EGF-like ligands, while addition of a neutralizing antibody against MCP-1 exhibited partial inhibition. Coculture with bone metastatic breast cancer MDA-MB-231 cells had similar effects on the expression of OPG and MCP1 in the osteoblastic cells, and those effects could be partially abolished by the EGFR inhibitor PD153035. Because a high percentage of human carcinomas express EGF-like ligands, our findings suggest a novel mechanism for osteolytic lesions caused by cancer cells metastasizing to bone.
Breast cancer causes mortality by metastasizing to a variety of vital organs, such as bone, lung, brain and liver. Effective therapeutic intervention of this deadly process relies on a better mechanistic understanding of metastasis organotropism. Recent studies have confirmed earlier speculations that metastasis is a non-random process and is dependent on intricate tumor-stroma interactions at the target organ. Both the intrinsic properties of breast cancer cells and the host organ microenvironment are important in determining the efficiency of organ-specific metastasis. Advances in animal modeling, in vivo imaging and functional genomics have accelerated the discovery of important molecular mediators of organ-specific metastasis. A conceptual framework of breast cancer organotropism is emerging and will be instrumental in guiding future efforts in this exciting research field.
The transforming growth factor beta (TGFbeta) signaling pathway plays a vital role in the development and homeostasis of normal tissues. Abnormal function of this pathway contributes to the initiation and progression of cancer. Smad proteins are key signal transducers of the TGFbeta pathway and are essential for the growth suppression function of TGFbeta. Smads are bona fide tumor suppressors whose mutation, deletion, and silencing are associated with many types of human cancer. However, the involvement and functional mechanism of Smad proteins in cancer metastasis are poorly defined. Recent studies using genetically modified cancer cells and mouse tumor models have provided concrete evidence for a Smad-dependent mechanism for metastasis promotion by TGFbeta. Understanding the dual roles of Smad proteins in tumor initiation and progression has important implications for cancer therapeutics.
Breast cancer inflicts casualties by metastasizing to a variety of distant organs, including lung, bone, liver and brain. Although the tissue tropism for breast cancer metastasis has been recognized and studied for along time, the molecular and cellular mechanisms underlying this process remain sketchy. Recent technological breakthroughs in functional genomics, in vivo imaging, and genetic manipulation of cancer cells in animal metastasis models have enabled the discovery and analysis of tissue-specific metastasis genes. These genes play vital roles in mediating tumor-stroma interactions during metastasis and are likely candidates for therapeutic interventions. Analysis of tissue-specific metastasis not only enriched our understanding about the malignancy of breast cancer, but also provided elegant experimental support for the century-old "seed and soil" hypothesis.
TGF-beta can signal by means of Smad transcription factors, which are quintessential tumor suppressors that inhibit cell proliferation, and by means of Smad-independent mechanisms, which have been implicated in tumor progression. Although Smad mutations disable this tumor-suppressive pathway in certain cancers, breast cancer cells frequently evade the cytostatic action of TGF-beta while retaining Smad function. Through immunohistochemical analysis of human breast cancer bone metastases and functional imaging of the Smad pathway in a mouse xenograft model, we provide evidence for active Smad signaling in human and mouse bone-metastatic lesions. Genetic depletion experiments further demonstrate that Smad4 contributes to the formation of osteolytic bone metastases and is essential for the induction of IL-11, a gene implicated in bone metastasis in this mouse model system. Activator protein-1 is a key participant in Smad-dependent transcriptional activation of IL-11 and its overexpression in bone-metastatic cells. Our findings provide functional evidence for a switch of the Smad pathway, from tumor-suppressor to prometastatic, in the development of breast cancer bone metastasis.
We used bioluminescence imaging to reveal patterns of metastasis formation by human breast cancer cells in immunodeficient mice. Individual cells from a population established in culture from the pleural effusion of a breast cancer patient showed distinct patterns of organ-specific metastasis. Single-cell progenies derived from this population exhibited markedly different abilities to metastasize to the bone, lung, or adrenal medulla, which suggests that metastases to different organs have different requirements. Transcriptomic profiling revealed that these different single-cell progenies similarly express a previously described "poor-prognosis" gene expression signature. Unsupervised classification using the transcriptomic data set supported the hypothesis that organ-specific metastasis by breast cancer cells is controlled by metastasis-specific genes that are separate from a general poor-prognosis gene expression signature. Furthermore, by using a gene expression signature associated with the ability of these cells to metastasize to bone, we were able to distinguish primary breast carcinomas that preferentially metastasized to bone from those that preferentially metastasized elsewhere. These results suggest that the bone-specific metastatic phenotypes and gene expression signature identified in a mouse model may be clinically relevant.
Metastasis, the spread of cancer from primary tumors to distant vital organs, has devastating consequences. Lack of effective tools to study this complex problem has hindered the development of accurate prognostic methods and effective treatments for metastatic cancer. In the postgenomic era, the application of genomic profiling methods to the analysis of clinical metastasis samples and animal metastasis models has revolutionized the field of metastasis research. This article reviews recent breakthroughs in the functional genomic analysis of metastasis. In addition, its impacts on our understanding of the molecular basis of metastasis and on clinical practice are discussed.
Foamy virus (FV) Bel1/Tas transactivators act as key regulators of gene expression and directly bind DNA Bel1 response elements (BREs) in both the internal (IP) and 5'LTR promoters. Here, we report the mapping and the virus species specificity of the nonhomologous feline foamy virus (FFV) BREs in both promoters. The data indicate that FFV Bel1 did not bind the primate FV IP.BRE and that primate FV Bel1 was not capable of binding the FFV IP.BRE. In addition, we show that the C-terminal activation domain of FFV Bel1 does not contribute to DNA binding because a C-terminal trans-dominant negative FFV Bel1 mutant was still able to bind to both promoters.
Epithelial-mesenchymal transitions (EMT) are vital for morphogenesis during embryonic development and are also implicated in the conversion of early stage tumors into invasive malignancies. Several key inducers of EMT are transcription factors that repress E-cadherin expression. A recent report in Cell (Yang et al., 2004) adds Twist to this list and links EMT to the ability of breast cancer cells to enter the circulation and seed metastases.
We investigated the molecular basis for osteolytic bone metastasis by selecting human breast cancer cell line subpopulations with elevated metastatic activity and functionally validating genes that are overexpressed in these cells. These genes act cooperatively to cause osteolytic metastasis, and most of them encode secreted and cell surface proteins. Two of these genes, interleukin-11 and CTGF, encode osteolytic and angiogenic factors whose expression is further increased by the prometastatic cytokine TGF beta. Overexpression of this bone metastasis gene set is superimposed on a poor-prognosis gene expression signature already present in the parental breast cancer population, suggesting that metastasis requires a set of functions beyond those underlying the emergence of the primary tumor.
Genome-wide transcriptional profiling of human epithelial cells revealed that repression of Id inhibitors of differentiation (Id1, Id2, and Id3) is a general feature of the TGFbeta cytostatic program. Opposite responses of Id1 to TGFbeta and the related factor BMP are dictated by the specific ability of the TGFbeta mediator, Smad3, to activate expression of stress response factor ATF3 and then recruit this factor to the Id1 promoter. Thus, a Smad3-mediated primary gene response, ATF3 induction, enables Smad3 to participate in an ATF3-mediated, secondary gene response. As a common target of TGFbeta/Smad signals and stress signals via p38 kinase, ATF3 additionally serves to channel synergy between these pathways in the response of epithelial cells to stress and injury.
The Tap protein mediates the sequence nonspecific nuclear export of cellular mRNAs as well as the sequence-specific export of retroviral mRNAs bearing the constitutive transport element (CTE). Previously, the structures of individual Tap subdomains, including ribonucleoprotein and leucine-rich repeat domains, have been described. Here, we report the crystal structure of a functional CTE RNA-binding domain of human Tap, including the N-terminal arm of the ribonucleoprotein domain and interdomain linking polypeptide. To identify residues that interact with the CTE, we have introduced 38 alanine substitutions for surface residues in the Tap CTE-binding domain and tested these mutants for their ability to support CTE-dependent nuclear RNA export and CTE binding. Four residues that cluster on a concave surface in the leucine-rich repeat domain were found to be critical for CTE binding and define a CTE-interacting surface on this domain. The second critical CTE-interacting surface on Tap is defined by three previously identified residues on the surface of the ribonucleoprotein domain. The structural and mutational data define a novel RNA-binding site on the Tap protein.
Smad3 is a direct mediator of transcriptional activation by the TGFbeta receptor. Its target genes in epithelial cells include cyclin-dependent kinase inhibitors that generate a cytostatic reponse. We defined how, in the same context, Smad3 can also mediate transcriptional repression of the growth-promoting gene c-myc. A complex containing Smad3, the transcription factors E2F4/5 and DP1, and the corepressor p107 preexists in the cytoplasm. In response to TGFbeta, this complex moves into the nucleus and associates with Smad4, recognizing a composite Smad-E2F site on c-myc for repression. Previously known as the ultimate recipients of cdk regulatory signals, E2F4/5 and p107 act here as transducers of TGFbeta receptor signals upstream of cdk. Smad proteins therefore mediate transcriptional activation or repression depending on their associated partners.
The Tap protein has been shown to activate the nuclear export of mRNA species bearing retroviral constitutive transport elements and is also believed to play an essential role in the sequence nonspecific export of cellular mRNAs. However, it has remained unclear how Tap activity is regulated in vivo. Here, we report that the small NXT1/p15-1 protein functions as a critical cofactor for Tap-mediated mRNA export in both human and invertebrate cells. In the absence of NXT1 binding, the Tap protein is unable to effectively interact with components of the nuclear pore complex and both Tap nucleocytoplasmic shuttling and the nuclear export of mRNA molecules tethered to Tap are therefore severely attenuated. Formation of a Tap/NXT1 heterodimer enhances nucleoporin binding both in vitro and in vivo and induces the formation of a Tap/NXT1/nucleoporin ternary complex that is likely to be a key intermediate in the process of nuclear mRNA export. The critical importance of NXT1 for the nuclear export of poly(A)(+) RNA is emphasized by the finding that specific inhibition of the expression of the Drosophila homolog of human NXT1, by using RNA interference, results in the nuclear accumulation of poly(A)(+) RNA in cultured insect cells. These data suggest that NXT1 may act as a molecular switch that regulates the ability of Tap to mediate nuclear mRNA export by controlling the interaction of Tap with components of the nuclear pore.
The transcription factor Smad2 is released from cytoplasmic retention by TGFbeta receptor-mediated phosphorylation, accumulating in the nucleus where it associates with cofactors to regulate transcription. We uncovered direct interactions of Smad2 with the nucleoporins CAN/Nup214 and Nup153. These interactions mediate constitutive nucleocytoplasmic shuttling of Smad2. CAN/Nup214 and Nup153 compete with the cytoplasmic retention factor SARA and the nuclear Smad2 partner FAST-1 for binding to a hydrophobic corridor on the MH2 surface of Smad2. TGFbeta receptor-mediated phosphorylation stimulates nuclear accumulation of Smad2 by modifying its affinity for SARA and Smad4 but not for CAN/Nup214 or Nup153. Thus, by directly contacting the nuclear pore complex, Smad2 undergoes constant shuttling, providing a dynamic pool that is competitively drawn by cytoplasmic and nuclear signal transduction partners.