Publications by authors named "Satyanarayana Rachagani"

75 Publications

Dual blockade of EGFR and CDK4/6 delays head and neck squamous cell carcinoma progression by inducing metabolic rewiring.

Cancer Lett 2021 Apr 17. Epub 2021 Apr 17.

Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, USA; Fred and Pamela Buffett Cancer Center, USA; Eppley Institute for Research in Cancer and Allied Diseases, University of Nebraska Medical Center, Omaha, NE, 68198, USA. Electronic address:

Despite preclinical success, monotherapies targeting EGFR or cyclin D1-CDK4/6 in Head and Neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC) have shown a limited clinical outcome. Here, we aimed to determine the combined effect of palbociclib (CDK4/6) and afatinib (panEGFR) inhibitors as an effective strategy to target HNSCC. Using the TCGA-HNSCC co-expression analysis, we found that patients with high EGFR and cyclin D1 expression showed enrichment of gene clusters associated with cell-growth, glycolysis, and epithelial to mesenchymal transition processes. Phosphorylated S6 (p-S6), a downstream effector of EGFR and cyclin D1-CDK4/6 signalling, showed a progressive increase from normal oral tissues to leukoplakia and frank malignancy with poor outcome. While increased p-S6 level was drastically reduced during combination treatment in the HNSCC cell lines and mouse models. Combination treatment reduced the cell growth and induced senescence via increasing reactive oxygen species with concurrent ablation of glycolytic and tricarboxylic acid cycle intermediates. Additionally sub-cutaneous and genetically engineered mouse model (K14-CreER;LSL-Kras;Trp53) studies indicated reduction in the tumor growth and delayed tumor progression, respectively. This study collectively demonstrates that dual targeting may be a critical therapeutic strategy in blocking tumor progression via inducing metabolic alteration and warrants clinical evaluation.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.canlet.2021.04.004DOI Listing
April 2021

Amyloid Precursor-like Protein 2 Expression Increases during Pancreatic Cancer Development and Shortens the Survival of a Spontaneous Mouse Model of Pancreatic Cancer.

Cancers (Basel) 2021 Mar 26;13(7). Epub 2021 Mar 26.

Eppley Institute for Research in Cancer & Allied Diseases and the Fred & Pamela Buffett Cancer Center, University of Nebraska Medical Center, Omaha, NE 68198, USA.

In the United States, pancreatic cancer is a major cause of cancer-related deaths. Although substantial efforts have been made to understand pancreatic cancer biology and improve therapeutic efficacy, patients still face a bleak chance of survival. A greater understanding of pancreatic cancer development and the identification of novel treatment targets are desperately needed. Our analysis of gene expression data from patient samples showed an increase in amyloid precursor-like protein 2 (APLP2) expression within primary tumor epithelium relative to pancreatic intraepithelial neoplasia (PanIN) epithelial cells. Augmented expression of APLP2 in primary tumors compared to adjacent stroma was also observed. Genetically engineered mouse models of spontaneous pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma were used to investigate APLP2's role in cancer development. We found that APLP2 expression intensifies significantly during pancreatic cancer initiation and progression in the ; ; (KPC) mouse model, as shown by immunohistochemistry analysis. In studies utilizing pancreas-specific heterozygous and homozygous knockout of APLP2 in the KPC mouse model background, we observed significantly prolonged survival and reduced metastatic progression of pancreatic cancer. These results demonstrate the importance of APLP2 in pancreatic cancer initiation and metastasis and indicate that APLP2 should be considered a potential therapeutic target for this disease.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3390/cancers13071535DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8036577PMC
March 2021

ST6GalNAc-I promotes lung cancer metastasis by altering MUC5AC sialylation.

Mol Oncol 2021 Mar 31. Epub 2021 Mar 31.

Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, University of Nebraska Medical Center, Omaha, NE, USA.

Lung cancer (LC) is the leading cause of cancer-related mortality. However, the molecular mechanisms associated with the development of metastasis are poorly understood. Understanding the biology of LC metastasis is critical to unveil the molecular mechanisms for designing targeted therapies. We developed two genetically engineered LC mouse models Kras ; Trp53 ; Ad-Cre (KPA) and Kras ; Ad-Cre (KA). Survival analysis showed significantly (P = 0.0049) shorter survival in KPA tumor-bearing mice as compared to KA, suggesting the aggressiveness of the model. Our transcriptomic data showed high expression of N-acetylgalactosaminide alpha-2, 6-sialyltransferase 1 (St6galnac-I) in KPA compared to KA tumors. ST6GalNAc-I is an O-glycosyltransferase, which catalyzes the addition of sialic acid to the initiating GalNAc residues forming sialyl Tn (STn) on glycoproteins, such as mucins. Ectopic expression of species-specific p53 mutants in the syngeneic mouse and human LC cells led to increased cell migration and high expression of ST6GalNAc-I, STn, and MUC5AC. Immunoprecipitation of MUC5AC in the ectopically expressing p53 cells exhibited higher affinity toward STn. In addition, ST6GalNAc-I knockout (KO) cells also showed decreased migration, possibly due to reduced glycosylation of MUC5AC as observed by low STn on the glycoprotein. Interestingly, ST6GalNAc-I KO cells injected mice developed less liver metastasis (P = 0.01) compared to controls, while colocalization of MUC5AC and STn was observed in the liver metastatic tissues of control mice. Collectively, our findings support the hypothesis that mutant p53 mediates ST6GalNAc-I expression, leading to the sialyation of MUC5AC, and thus contribute to LC liver metastasis.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/1878-0261.12956DOI Listing
March 2021

Plexin-B3 Regulates Cellular Motility, Invasiveness, and Metastasis in Pancreatic Cancer.

Cancers (Basel) 2021 Feb 16;13(4). Epub 2021 Feb 16.

Department of Pathology and Microbiology, Nebraska Medical Center, Omaha, NE 68198, USA.

The Plexins family of proteins are well-characterized transmembrane receptors of semaphorins, axon guidance cue molecules, that mediate the cell attraction or repelling effects for such cues. Plexins and their ligands are involved in numerous cellular activities, such as motility, invasion, and adhesion to the basement membrane. The detachment of cells and the gain in motility and invasion are hallmarks of the cancer metastasis cascade, thus generating interest in exploring the role of plexins in cancer metastasis. Semaphorin-plexin complexes can act as tumor promoters or suppressors, depending upon the cancer type, and are under investigation for therapeutic purposes. Our group has identified Semaphorin-5A (SEMA5A)/Plexin-B3 as an attractive targetable complex for pancreatic cancer (PC) metastasis. However, our understanding of the Plexin-B3 function and pathological expression in PC is limited, and our present study delineates the role of Plexin-B3 in PC malignancy. We examined the pathological expression of Plexin-B3 in PC tumors and metastasis using a human tissue microarray, disease progression model of PDX-Cre-Kras (KC) mice, and different metastatic sites obtained from the Kras; Trp53; Pdx1-Cre (KPC) mice model. We observed a higher Plexin-B3 expression in PC tumor cores than the normal pancreas, and different metastatic sites were positive for Plexin-B3 expression. However, in the KC mice model, the Plexin-B3 expression increased initially and then decreased with the disease progression. Next, to evaluate the functional role of Plexin-B3, we utilized T3M-4- and CD18/HPAF-Control and -Plexin B3 knockdown cells for different in vivo and in vitro studies. The knockdown of Plexin-B3 enhanced the in vitro cellular migration, invasiveness, and impaired colony formation in three-dimensional culture, along with an increase in cellular spread and remodeling of the actin filaments. We also observed a higher metastasis in nude mice injected with T3M-4- and CD18/HPAF-shPlexin-B3 cells compared to their respective control cells. Furthermore, we observed a lower number of proliferating Ki-67-positive cells and higher ALDH1-A1-positive cells in the tumors formed by Plexin-B3 knockdown cells compared to tumors formed by the control cells. Together, our data suggest that the loss of Plexin-B3 is associated with the interference of cell division machinery and the induction of stem cell-like characteristics in PC cells.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3390/cancers13040818DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7919786PMC
February 2021

Selective inhibition of stemness through EGFR/FOXA2/SOX9 axis reduces pancreatic cancer metastasis.

Oncogene 2021 Jan 7;40(4):848-862. Epub 2020 Dec 7.

Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, University of Nebraska Medical Center, Omaha, NE, USA.

Pancreatic cancer (PC) is difficult to defeat due to mechanism (s) driving metastasis and drug resistance. Cancer stemness is a major challenging phenomenon associated with PC metastasis and limiting therapy efficacy. In this study, we evaluated the pre-clinical and clinical significance of eradicating pancreatic cancer stem cells (PCSC) and its components using a pan-EGFR inhibitor afatinib in combination with gemcitabine. Afatinib in combination with gemcitabine significantly reduced Kras; Pdx-1 Cre (KC) (P < 0.01) and Kras; p53; Pdx-1 Cre (KPC) (P < 0.05) derived mouse tumoroids and KPC-derived murine syngeneic cell line growth compared to gemcitabine/afatinib alone treatment. The drug combination also reduced PC xenograft tumor burden (P < 0.05) and the incidence of metastasis by affecting key stemness markers, as confirmed by co-localization studies. Moreover, the drug combination significantly decreases the growth of various PC patient-derived organoids (P < 0.001). We found that SOX9 is significantly overexpressed in high-grade PC tumors (P < 0.05) and in chemotherapy-treated patients compared to chemo-naïve patients (P < 0.05). These results were further validated using publicly available datasets. Moreover, afatinib alone or in combination with gemcitabine decreased stemness and tumorspheres by reducing phosphorylation of EGFR family proteins, ERK, FAK, and CSC markers. Mechanistically, afatinib treatment decreased CSC markers by downregulating SOX9 via FOXA2. Indeed, EGFR and FOXA2 depletion reduced SOX9 expression in PCSCs. Taken together, pan-EGFR inhibition by afatinib impedes PCSCs growth and metastasis via the EGFR/ERK/FOXA2/SOX9 axis. This novel mechanism of pan-EGFR inhibitor and its ability to eradicate CSC may serve as a tailor-made approach to enhance chemotherapeutic benefits in other cancer types.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41388-020-01564-wDOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7848971PMC
January 2021

Nanoscale platform for delivery of active IRINOX to combat pancreatic cancer.

J Control Release 2021 Feb 18;330:1229-1243. Epub 2020 Nov 18.

Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences, Center for Drug Delivery and Nanomedicine, College of Pharmacy, University of Nebraska Medical Center, 985830 Nebraska Medical Center, Omaha, NE 68198, USA. Electronic address:

Due to its late diagnosis and dismal prognosis, pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC) is one of the most devastating solid malignancies, with only 9% of patients surviving after being diagnosed. A multidrug chemotherapeutic regimen FOL-F-IRIN-OX (combination of 5-fluorouracil, leucovorin, irinotecan, and oxaliplatin) offers survival benefits superior to that of gemcitabine single agent, but the treatment-related side effects are also severe. To overcome this therapeutic barrier, we developed polymeric micelles bearing active formats of irinotecan and oxaliplatin, SN38 and 1,2-diaminocyclohexane‑platinum (II), DACHPt. Crosslinked micelles were prepared using amphiphilic PEG-b-poly(L-glutamic acid)/SN38 conjugates and subsequently loaded with DACHPt. The dual drug-loaded micelles exhibited improved colloidal stability, prolonged drug release and remarkable cytotoxicity in human pancreatic cancer cell lines and Kras; Trp52; Pdx-1 Cre murine tumor organoids models. In vivo, (SN38 + DACHPt)-loaded micelles displayed superior antitumor and antimetastatic activities without impairing safety. Our results suggest that nanomedicine mimicking irinotecan and oxaliplatin as parts of FOLFIRINOX regimen may further improve the feasibility of this multidrug treatment for patients with advanced pancreatic cancer.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jconrel.2020.11.029DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8008503PMC
February 2021

Secretory Mucin 5AC Promotes Neoplastic Progression by Augmenting KLF4-Mediated Pancreatic Cancer Cell Stemness.

Cancer Res 2021 01 30;81(1):91-102. Epub 2020 Oct 30.

Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, University of Nebraska Medical Center, Omaha, Nebraska.

Secreted mucin 5AC (MUC5AC) is the most abundantly overexpressed member of the mucin family during early pancreatic intraepithelial neoplasia stage I (PanIN-I) of pancreatic cancer. To comprehend the contribution of Muc5ac in pancreatic cancer pathology, we genetically ablated it in an autochthonous murine model (KrasG12D; Pdx-1cre, KC), which mirrors the early stages of pancreatic cancer development. Neoplastic onset and the PanIN lesion progression were significantly delayed in Muc5ac knockout (KrasG12D; Pdx-1 cre; Muc5ac-/-, KCM) animals with a 50% reduction in PanIN-2 and 70% reduction in PanIN-3 lesions compared with KC at 50 weeks of age. High-throughput RNA-sequencing analysis from pancreatic tissues of KCM animals revealed a significant decrease in cancer stem cell (CSC) markers Aldh1a1, Klf4, EpCAM, and CD133. Furthermore, the silencing of MUC5AC in human pancreatic cancer cells reduced their tumorigenic propensity, as indicated by a significant decline in tumor formation frequency by limiting dilution assay upon subcutaneous administration. The contribution of MUC5AC in CSC maintenance was corroborated by a significant decrease in tumor burden upon orthotopic implantation of MUC5AC-depleted pancreatic cancer cells. Mechanistically, MUC5AC potentiated oncogenic signaling through integrin αvβ5, pSrc (Y416), and pSTAT3 (Y705). Phosphorylated STAT3, in turn, upregulated Klf4 expression, thereby enriching the self-renewing CSC population. A strong positive correlation of Muc5ac with Klf4 and pSTAT3 in the PanIN lesions of KC mouse pancreas reinforces the crucial involvement of MUC5AC in bolstering the CSC-associated tumorigenic properties of Kras-induced metaplastic cells, which leads to pancreatic cancer onset and progression. SIGNIFICANCE: This study elucidates that expression of MUC5AC promotes cancer cell stemness during Kras-driven pancreatic tumorigenesis and can be targeted for development of a novel therapeutic regimen.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1158/0008-5472.CAN-20-1293DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7990052PMC
January 2021

Metabolic programming of distinct cancer stem cells promotes metastasis of pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma.

Oncogene 2021 01 27;40(1):215-231. Epub 2020 Oct 27.

Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, College of Medicine, University of Nebraska Medical Center, Omaha, NE, 68198-5870, USA.

Pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC) metastasizes to distant organs, which is the primary cause of mortality; however, specific features mediating organ-specific metastasis remain unexplored. Emerging evidence demonstrates that cancer stem cells (CSCs) and cellular metabolism play a pivotal role in metastasis. Here we investigated the role of distinct subtypes of pancreatic CSCs and their metabolomic signatures in organ-specific metastatic colonization. We found that PDAC consists of ALDH+/CD133+ and drug-resistant (MDR1+) subtypes of CSCs with specific metabolic and stemness signatures. Human PDAC tissues with gemcitabine treatment, autochthonous mouse tumors from Kras; Pdx1-Cre (KC) and Kras; Trp53; Pdx-1 Cre (KPC) mice, and KPC- Liver/Lung metastatic cells were used to evaluate the CSC, EMT (epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition), and metabolic profiles. A strong association was observed between distinct CSC subtypes and organ-specific colonization. The liver metastasis showed drug-resistant CSC- and EMT-like phenotype with aerobic glycolysis and fatty acid β-oxidation-mediated oxidative (glyco-oxidative) metabolism. On the contrary, lung metastasis displayed ALDH+/CD133+ and MET-like phenotype with oxidative metabolism. These results were obtained by evaluating FACS-based side population (SP), autofluorescence (AF+) and Alde-red assays for CSCs, and Seahorse-based oxygen consumption rate (OCR), extracellular acidification rate (ECAR), and fatty acid β-oxidation (FAO)-mediated OCR assays for metabolic features along with specific gene signatures. Further, we developed in vitro human liver and lung PDAC metastasis models by using a combination of liver or lung decellularized scaffolds, a co-culture, and a sphere culture methods. PDAC cells grown in the liver-mimicking model showed the enrichment of MDR1+ and CPT1A+ populations, whereas the PDAC cells grown in the lung-mimicking environment showed the enrichment of ALDH+/CD133+ populations. In addition, we observed significantly elevated expression of ALDH1 in lung metastasis and MDR1/LDH-A expression in liver metastasis compared to human primary PDAC tumors. Our studies elucidate that distinct CSCs adapt unique metabolic signatures for organotropic metastasis, which will pave the way for the development of targeted therapy for PDAC metastasis.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41388-020-01518-2DOI Listing
January 2021

Sildenafil Potentiates the Therapeutic Efficacy of Docetaxel in Advanced Prostate Cancer by Stimulating NO-cGMP Signaling.

Clin Cancer Res 2020 Nov 26;26(21):5720-5734. Epub 2020 Aug 26.

Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, University of Nebraska Medical Center, Omaha, Nebraska.

Purpose: Docetaxel plays an indispensable role in the management of advanced prostate cancer. However, more than half of patients do not respond to docetaxel, and those good responders frequently experience significant cumulative toxicity, which limits its dose duration and intensity. Hence, a second agent that could increase the initial efficacy of docetaxel and maintain tolerability at biologically effective doses may improve outcomes for patients.

Experimental Design: We determined phosphodiesterase 5 (PDE5) expression levels in human and genetically engineered mouse (GEM) prostate tissues and tumor-derived cell lines. Furthermore, we investigated the therapeutic benefits and underlying mechanism of PDE5 inhibitor sildenafil in combination with docetaxel using , Pten conditional knockout (cKO), derived tumoroid and xenograft prostate cancer models.

Results: PDE5 expression was higher in both human and mouse prostate tumors and cancer cell lines compared with normal tissues/cells. In GEM prostate-derived cell lines, PDE5 expression increased from normal prostate (wild-type) epithelial cells to androgen-dependent and castrated prostate-derived cell lines. The addition of physiologically achievable concentrations of sildenafil enhanced docetaxel-induced prostate cancer cell growth inhibition and apoptosis , reduced murine 3D tumoroid growth, and tumorigenicity as compared with docetaxel alone. Furthermore, sildenafil enhanced docetaxel-induced NO and cGMP levels thereby augmenting antitumor activity.

Conclusions: Our results demonstrate that sildenafil's addition could sensitize docetaxel chemotherapy in prostate cancer cells at much lesser concentration than needed for inducing cell death. Thus, the combinatorial treatment of sildenafil and docetaxel may improve anticancer efficacy and reduce chemotherapy-induced side-effects among patients with advanced prostate cancer.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1158/1078-0432.CCR-20-1569DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7642013PMC
November 2020

RNA Polymerase II-Associated Factor 1 Regulates Stem Cell Features of Pancreatic Cancer Cells, Independently of the PAF1 Complex, via Interactions With PHF5A and DDX3.

Gastroenterology 2020 11 8;159(5):1898-1915.e6. Epub 2020 Aug 8.

Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, University of Nebraska Medical Center, Omaha, Nebraska; Eppley Institute for Research in Cancer and Allied Diseases and Buffett Cancer Center, University of Nebraska Medical Center, Omaha, Nebraska. Electronic address:

Background & Aims: It is not clear how pancreatic cancer stem cells (CSCs) are regulated, resulting in ineffective treatments for pancreatic cancer. PAF1, a RNA polymerase II-associated factor 1 complex (PAF1C) component, maintains pluripotency of stem cells, by unclear mechanisms, and is a marker of CSCs. We investigated mechanisms by which PAF1 maintains CSCs and contributes to development of pancreatic tumors.

Methods: Pancreatic cancer cell lines were engineered to knockdown PAF1 using inducible small hairpin RNAs. These cells were grown as orthotopic tumors in athymic nude mice and PAF1 knockdown was induced by administration of doxycycline in drinking water. Tumor growth and metastasis were monitored via IVIS imaging. CSCs were isolated from pancreatic cancer cell populations using flow cytometry and characterized by tumor sphere formation, tumor formation in nude mice, and expression of CSC markers. Isolated CSCs were depleted of PAF1 using the CRISPR/Cas9 system. PAF1-regulated genes in CSCs were identified via RNA-seq and PCR array analyses of cells with PAF1 knockdown. Proteins that interact with PAF1 in CSCs were identified by immunoprecipitations and mass spectrometry. We performed chromatin immunoprecipitation sequencing of CSCs to confirm the binding of the PAF1 sub-complex to target genes.

Results: Pancreatic cancer cells depleted of PAF1 formed smaller and fewer tumor spheres in culture and orthotopic tumors and metastases in mice. Isolated CSCs depleted of PAF1 downregulated markers of self-renewal (NANOG, SOX9, and β-CATENIN), of CSCs (CD44v6, and ALDH1), and the metastasis-associated gene signature, compared to CSCs without knockdown of PAF1. The role of PAF1 in CSC maintenance was independent of its RNA polymerase II-associated factor 1 complex component identity. We identified DDX3 and PHF5A as proteins that interact with PAF1 in CSCs and demonstrated that the PAF1-PHF5A-DDX3 sub-complex bound to the promoter region of Nanog, whose product regulates genes that control stemness. Levels of the PAF1-DDX3 and PAF1-PHF5A were increased and co-localized in human pancreatic tumor specimens, human pancreatic tumor-derived organoids, and organoids derived from tumors of KPC mice, compared with controls. Binding of DDX3 and PAF1 to the Nanog promoter, and the self-renewal capacity of CSCs, were decreased in cells incubated with the DDX3 inhibitor RK-33. CSCs depleted of PAF1 downregulated genes that regulate stem cell features (Flot2, Taz, Epcam, Erbb2, Foxp1, Abcc5, Ddr1, Muc1, Pecam1, Notch3, Aldh1a3, Foxa2, Plat, and Lif).

Conclusions: In pancreatic CSCs, PAF1 interacts with DDX3 and PHF5A to regulate expression of NANOG and other genes that regulate stemness. Knockdown of PAF1 reduces the ability of orthotopic pancreatic tumors to develop and progress in mice and their numbers of CSCs. Strategies to target the PAF1-PHF5A-DDX3 complex might be developed to slow or inhibit progression of pancreatic cancer.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1053/j.gastro.2020.07.053DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7680365PMC
November 2020

Acinar transformed ductal cells exhibit differential mucin expression in a tamoxifen-induced pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma mouse model.

Biol Open 2020 09 7;9(9). Epub 2020 Sep 7.

Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, University of Nebraska Medical Center, Omaha, NE 68198-5870, USA

Pancreatic cancer (PC) is acquired postnatally; to mimic this scenario, we developed an inducible Kras; Ptf1a-CreER™ (iKC) mouse model, in which Kras is activated postnatally at week 16 upon tamoxifen (TAM) administration. Upon TAM treatment, iKC mice develop pancreatic intraepithelial neoplasia (PanIN) lesions and PC with metastasis at the fourth and fortieth weeks, respectively, and exhibited acinar-to-ductal metaplasia (ADM) and transdifferentiation. Kras activation upregulated the transcription factors Ncoa3, p-cJun and FoxM1, which in turn upregulated expression of transmembrane mucins (Muc1, Muc4 and Muc16) and secretory mucin (Muc5Ac). Interestingly, knockdown of Kras in multiple PC cell lines resulted in downregulation of MUC1, MUC4, MUC5AC and MUC16. In addition, iKC mice exhibited ADM and transdifferentiation. Our results show that the iKC mouse more closely mimics human PC development and can be used to investigate pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC) biomarkers, early onset of PDAC, and ADM. The iKC model can also be used for preclinical strategies such as targeting mucin axis alone or in combination with neo-adjuvant, immunotherapeutic approaches and to monitor chemotherapy response.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1242/bio.052878DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7502593PMC
September 2020

CXCR2 signaling promotes secretory cancer-associated fibroblasts in pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma.

FASEB J 2020 07 26;34(7):9405-9418. Epub 2020 May 26.

Department of Pathology and Microbiology, University of Nebraska Medical Center, Omaha, NE, USA.

Pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC) remains one of the most challenging malignancies. Desmoplasia and tumor-supporting inflammation are hallmarks of PDAC. The tumor microenvironment contributes significantly to tumor progression and spread. Cancer-associated fibroblasts (CAFs) facilitate therapy resistance and metastasis. Recent reports emphasized the concurrence of multiple subtypes of CAFs with diverse roles, fibrogenic, and secretory. C-X-C motif chemokine receptor 2 (CXCR2) is a chemokine receptor known for its role during inflammation and its adverse role in PDAC. Oncogenic Kras upregulates CXCR2 and its ligands and, thus, contribute to tumor proliferation and immunosuppression. CXCR2 deletion in a PDAC syngeneic mouse model produced increased fibrosis revealing a potential undescribed role of CXCR2 in CAFs. In this study, we demonstrate that the oncogenic Kras-CXCR2 axis regulates the CAFs function in PDAC and contributes to CAFs heterogeneity. We observed that oncogenic Kras and CXCR2 signaling alter CAFs, producing a secretory CAF phenotype with low fibrogenic features; and increased secretion of pro-tumor cytokines and CXCR2 ligands, utilizing the NF-κB activity. Finally, using syngeneic mouse models, we demonstrate that oncogenic Kras is associated with secretory CAFs and that CXCR2 inhibition promotes activation of fibrotic cells (myofibroblasts) and impact tumors in a mutation-dependent manner.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1096/fj.201902990RDOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7501205PMC
July 2020

Correction: Global analysis of human glycosyltransferases reveals novel targets for pancreatic cancer pathogenesis.

Br J Cancer 2020 May;122(11):1726

Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, University of Nebraska Medical Center, Omaha, NE, USA.

An amendment to this paper has been published and can be accessed via a link at the top of the paper.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41416-020-0842-6DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7251069PMC
May 2020

Global analysis of human glycosyltransferases reveals novel targets for pancreatic cancer pathogenesis.

Br J Cancer 2020 05 19;122(11):1661-1672. Epub 2020 Mar 19.

Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, University of Nebraska Medical Center, Omaha, NE, USA.

Background: Several reports have shown the role of glycosylation in pancreatic cancer (PC), but a global systematic screening of specific glycosyltransferases (glycoTs) in its progression remains unknown.

Methods: We demonstrate a rigorous top-down approach using TCGA-based RNA-Seq analysis, multi-step validation using RT-qPCR, immunoblots and immunohistochemistry. We identified six unique glycoTs (B3GNT3, B4GALNT3, FUT3, FUT6, GCNT3 and MGAT3) in PC pathogenesis and studied their function using CRISPR/Cas9-based KD systems.

Results: Serial metastatic in vitro models using T3M4 and HPAF/CD18, generated in house, exhibited decreases in B3GNT3, FUT3 and GCNT3 expression on increasing metastatic potential. Immunohistochemistry identified clinical significance for GCNT3, B4GALNT3 and MGAT3 in PC. Furthermore, the effects of B3GNT3, FUT3, GCNT3 and MGAT3 were shown on proliferation, migration, EMT and stem cell markers in CD18 cell line. Talniflumate, GCNT3 inhibitor, reduced colony formation and migration in T3M4 and CD18 cells. Moreover, we found that loss of GCNT3 suppresses PC progression and metastasis by downregulating cell cycle genes and β-catenin/MUC4 axis. For GCNT3, proteomics revealed downregulation of MUC5AC, MUC1, MUC5B including many other proteins.

Conclusions: Collectively, we demonstrate a critical role of O- and N-linked glycoTs in PC progression and delineate the mechanism encompassing the role of GCNT3 in PC.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41416-020-0772-3DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7251111PMC
May 2020

Mechanistic and Functional Shades of Mucins and Associated Glycans in Colon Cancer.

Cancers (Basel) 2020 Mar 11;12(3). Epub 2020 Mar 11.

Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, University of Nebraska Medical Center, Omaha, NE-68198, USA.

Mucus serves as the chief protective barrier against pathogenic and mechanical insults in respiratory, gastrointestinal, and urogenital tracts. Altered mucin expression, the major component of mucus, in conjunction with differential glycosylation has been strongly associated with both benign and malignant pathologies of colon. Mucins and their associated glycans arbitrate their impact sterically as well as mechanically by altering molecular and microbial spectrum during pathogenesis. Mucin expression in normal and pathological conditions is regulated by nonspecific (dietary factors and gut microbiota) and specific (epigenetic and transcriptional) modulators. Further, recent studies highlight the impact of altering mucin glycome (cancer-associated carbohydrate antigens including Tn, Sialyl-Tn, Sialyl-Lew A, and Sialyl-Lewis X) on host immunomodulation, antitumor immunity, as well as gut microbiota. In light of emerging literature, the present review article digs into the impact of structural organization and of expressional and glycosylation alteration of mucin family members on benign and malignant pathologies of colorectal cancer.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3390/cancers12030649DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7139953PMC
March 2020

Molecular implications of MUC5AC-CD44 axis in colorectal cancer progression and chemoresistance.

Mol Cancer 2020 02 25;19(1):37. Epub 2020 Feb 25.

Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, University of Nebraska Medical Center, Omaha, NE, USA.

Background: Differential expression of mucins has been associated with several cancers including colorectal cancer (CRC). In normal physiological conditions, secretory mucin MUC5AC is not expressed in the colonic mucosa, whereas its aberrant expression is observed during development of colon cancer and its precursor lesions. To date, the molecular mechanism of MUC5AC in CRC progression and drug resistance remains obscure.

Methods: MUC5AC expression was determined in colon tissue microarray by immunohistochemistry. A RNA interference and CRISPR/Cas9-mediated system was used to knockdown/knockout the MUC5AC in CRC cell lines to delineate its role in CRC tumorigenesis using in vitro functional assays and in vivo (sub-cutaneous and colon orthotopic) mouse models. Finally, CRC cell lines and xenograft models were used to identify the mechanism of action of MUC5AC.

Results: Overexpression of MUC5AC is observed in CRC patient tissues and cell lines. MUC5AC expression resulted in enhanced cell invasion and migration, and decreased apoptosis of CRC cells. MUC5AC interacted with CD44 physically, which was accompanied by the activation of Src signaling. Further, the presence of MUC5AC resulted in enhanced tumorigenesis and appearance of metastatic lesions in orthotopic mouse model. Additionally, up-regulation of MUC5AC resulted in resistance to 5-fluorouracil (5-FU) and oxaliplatin, and its knockout increased sensitivity to these drugs. Finally, we observed that up-regulation of MUC5AC conferred resistance to 5-FU through down-regulation of p53 and its target gene p21 and up-regulation of β-catenin and its target genes CD44 and Lgr5.

Conclusion: Our findings suggest that differential expression of secretory mucin MUC5AC results in enhanced tumorigenesis and also confers chemoresistance via CD44/β-catenin/p53/p21 signaling.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1186/s12943-020-01156-yDOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7041280PMC
February 2020

Irreversible and sustained upregulation of endothelin axis during oncogene-associated pancreatic inflammation and cancer.

Neoplasia 2020 02 7;22(2):98-110. Epub 2020 Jan 7.

Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, University of Nebraska Medical Center, Omaha, NE 68198, USA; Fred and Pamela Buffett Cancer Center, University of Nebraska Medical Center, Omaha, NE 68198, USA. Electronic address:

Endothelin-1 (ET-1) and its two receptors, endothelin receptor A (ETR) and endothelin receptor B (ETR) exhibit deregulated overexprerssion in pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC) and pancreatitis. We examined the expression pattern of endothelin (ET) axis components in the murine models of chronic and acute inflammation in the presence or absence of oncogenic K-ras. While the expression of endothelin converting enzyme-1 (ECE-1), ET-1, ETR and ETR in the normal pancreas is restricted predominantly to the islet cells, progressive increase of ET receptors in ductal cells and stromal compartment is observed in the KC model (Pdx-1 Cre; K-ras) of PDAC. In the murine pancreas harboring K-ras mutation (KC mice), following acute inflammation induced by cerulein, increased ETR and ETR expression is observed in the amylase and CK19 double positive cells that represent cells undergoing pancreatic acinar to ductal metaplasia (ADM). As compared to the wild type (WT) mice, cerulein treatment in KC mice resulted in significantly higher levels of ECE-1, ET-1, ETR and ETR, transcripts in the pancreas. Similarly, in response to cigarette smoke-induced chronic inflammation, the expression of ET axis components is significantly upregulated in the pancreas of KC mice as compared to the WT mice. In addition to the expression in the precursor pancreatic intraepithelial neoplasm (PanIN lesions) in cigarette smoke-exposure model and metaplastic ducts in cerulein-treatment model, ETR and ETR expression is also observed in infiltrating F4/80 positive macrophages and α-SMA positive fibroblasts and high co-localization was seen in the presence of oncogenic K-ras. In conclusion, both chronic and acute pancreatic inflammation in the presence of oncogenic K-ras contribute to sustained upregulation of ET axis components in the ductal and stromal cells suggesting a potential role of ET axis in the initiation and progression of PDAC.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.neo.2019.11.001DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6951489PMC
February 2020

Comparative Study of Subcutaneous and Orthotopic Mouse Models of Prostate Cancer: Vascular Perfusion, Vasculature Density, Hypoxic Burden and BB2r-Targeting Efficacy.

Sci Rep 2019 07 31;9(1):11117. Epub 2019 Jul 31.

Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences, University of Nebraska Medical Center, Omaha, NE, USA.

The gastrin-releasing peptide receptor (BB2r) is overexpressed in a variety of cancers including prostate cancer. As a consequence, the development of BB2r-targeted diagnostic/therapeutic radiopharmaceuticals has been widely explored. Both subcutaneous and orthotopic mouse models have been extensively used in BB2r-targeted agent development, but side-by-side studies examining how biological parameters (tumor perfusion efficacy, hypoxic burden and microvasculature density) impact BB2r-targeted agent delivery has not been reported. Herein, we examine these biological parameters using subcutaneous and orthotopic PC-3 xenografts. Using a dual isotope biodistribution study, tumor perfusion was accessed using [Tc]NaTcO and BB2r-targeted uptake evaluated by utilization of a novel Lu-labeled conjugate ([Lu]Lu-DOTA-SP714). Immunofluorescence, immunohistochemistry and autoradiography were utilized to examine the tumor vascular density, hypoxic burden and microdistribution of the BB2r-targeted agent. Our studies demonstrated that compared to the subcutaneous model the PC-3 orthotopic tumors had significantly higher levels of perfusion that led to higher BB2r-targeted uptake and lower levels of hypoxia burden. It is anticipated that our results will allow researchers to better understand the biological variables affecting drug delivery and assist them in more clearly interpreting their results in this common prostate cancer mouse model.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41598-019-47308-zDOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6668441PMC
July 2019

Afatinib and Temozolomide combination inhibits tumorigenesis by targeting EGFRvIII-cMet signaling in glioblastoma cells.

J Exp Clin Cancer Res 2019 Jun 18;38(1):266. Epub 2019 Jun 18.

Fred and Pamela Buffett Cancer Center, University of Nebraska Medical Center, Omaha, NE, 68198, USA.

Background: Glioblastoma (GBM) is an aggressive brain tumor with universal recurrence and poor prognosis. The recurrence is largely driven by chemoradiation resistant cancer stem cells (CSCs). Epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) and its mutant EGFRvIII are amplified in ~ 60% and ~ 30% of GBM patients, respectively; however, therapies targeting EGFR have failed to improve disease outcome. EGFRvIII-mediated cross-activation of tyrosine kinase receptor, cMET, regulates GBM CSC maintenance and promote tumor recurrence. Here, we evaluated the efficacy of pan-EGFR inhibitor afatinib and Temozolomide (TMZ) combination on GBM in vitro and in vivo.

Methods: We analyzed the effect of afatinib and temozolomide (TMZ) combination on GBM cells U87MG and U251 engineered to express wild type (WT) EGFR, EGFRvIII or EGFRvIII dead kinase, CSCs isolated from U87 and U87EGFRvIII in vitro. The therapeutic utility of the drug combination was investigated on tumor growth and progression using intracranially injected U87EGFRvIII GBM xenografts.

Results: Afatinib and TMZ combination synergistically inhibited the proliferation, clonogenic survival, motility, invasion and induced senescence of GBM cells compared to monotherapy. Mechanistically, afatinib decreased U87EGFRvIII GBM cell proliferation and motility/invasion by inhibiting EGFRvIII/AKT, EGFRvIII/JAK2/STAT3, and focal adhesion kinase (FAK) signaling pathways respectively. Interestingly, afatinib specifically inhibited EGFRvIII-cMET crosstalk in CSCs, resulting in decreased expression of Nanog and Oct3/4, and in combination with TMZ significantly decreased their self-renewal property in vitro. More interestingly, afatinib and TMZ combination significantly decreased the xenograft growth and progression compared to single drug alone.

Conclusion: Our study demonstrated significant inhibition of GBM tumorigenicity, CSC maintenance in vitro, and delayed tumor growth and progression in vivo by combination of afatinib and TMZ. Our results warrant evaluation of this drug combination in EGFR and EGFRvIII amplified GBM patients.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1186/s13046-019-1264-2DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6582495PMC
June 2019

Trefoil factor(s) and CA19.9: A promising panel for early detection of pancreatic cancer.

EBioMedicine 2019 Apr 5;42:375-385. Epub 2019 Apr 5.

Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, College of Medicine, University of Nebraska Medical Center, Omaha, NE 68198-5870, USA; Buffett Cancer Center, University of Nebraska Medical Center, Omaha, NE, USA; Eppley Institute for Research in Cancer and Allied Diseases, University of Nebraska Medical Center, Omaha, NE, USA. Electronic address:

Background: Trefoil factors (TFF1, TFF2, and TFF3) are small secretory molecules that recently have gained significant attention in multiple studies as an integral component of pancreatic cancer (PC) subtype-specific gene signature. Here, we comprehensively investigated the diagnostic potential of all the member of trefoil family, i.e., TFF1, TFF2, and TFF3 in combination with CA19.9 for detection of PC.

Methods: Trefoil factors (TFFs) gene expression was analyzed in publicly available cancer genome datasets, followed by assessment of their expression in genetically engineered spontaneous mouse model (GEM) of PC (KrasG12D; Pdx1-Cre (KC)) and in human tissue microarray consisting of normal pancreas adjacent to tumor (NAT), precursor lesions (PanIN), and various pathological grades of PC by immunohistochemistry (IHC). Serum TFFs and CA19.9 levels were evaluated via ELISA in comprehensive sample set (n = 362) comprised of independent training and validation sets each containing benign controls (BC), chronic pancreatitis (CP), and various stages of PC. Univariate and multivariate logistic regression and receiver operating characteristic curves (ROC) were used to examine their diagnostic potential both alone and in combination with CA19.9.

Findings: The publicly available datasets and expression analysis revealed significant increased expression of TFF1, TFF2, and TFF3 in human PanINs and PC tissues. Assessment of KC mouse model also suggested upregulated expression of TFFs in PanIN lesions and early stage of PC. In serum analyses studies, TFF1 and TFF2 were significantly elevated in early stages of PC in comparison to benign and CP control group while significant elevation in TFF3 levels were observed in CP group with no further elevation in its level in early stage PC group. In receiver operating curve (ROC) analyses, combination of TFFs with CA19.9 emerged as promising panel for discriminating early stage of PC (EPC) from BC (AUC = 0.93) as well as CP (AUC = 0.93). Notably, at 90% specificity (desired for blood-based biomarker panel), TFFs combination improved CA19.9 sensitivity by 10% and 25% to differentiate EPC from BC and CP respectively. In an independent blinded validation set, the combination of TFFs and CA19.9 (AUC = 0.82) also improved the overall efficacy of CA19.9 (AUC = 0.66) to differentiate EPC from CP proving unique biomarker capabilities of TFFs to distinguish early stage of this deadly lethal disease.

Interpretation: In silico, tissue and serum analyses validated significantly increased level of all TFFs in precursor lesions and early stages of PC. The combination of TFFs enhanced sensitivity and specificity of CA19.9 to discriminate early stage of PC from benign control and chronic pancreatitis groups.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ebiom.2019.03.056DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6491718PMC
April 2019

FDPS cooperates with PTEN loss to promote prostate cancer progression through modulation of small GTPases/AKT axis.

Oncogene 2019 06 26;38(26):5265-5280. Epub 2019 Mar 26.

Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, University of Nebraska Medical Center, Omaha, NE, USA.

Farnesyl diphosphate synthase (FDPS), a mevalonate pathway enzyme, is highly expressed in several cancers, including prostate cancer (PCa). To date, the mechanistic, functional, and clinical significance of FDPS in cancer remains unexplored. We evaluated the FDPS expression and its cancer-associated phenotypes using in vitro and in vivo methods in PTEN-deficient and sufficient human and mouse PCa cells and tumors. Interestingly, FDPS overexpression synergizes with PTEN deficiency in PTEN conditionally knockout mice (P < 0.05) and expressed significantly higher in human (P < 0.001) PCa tissues, cell lines, and murine tumoroids compared to respective controls. In silico analysis revealed that FDPS is associated with increasing Gleason score, PTEN functionally deficient status, and poor survival of PCa. Ectopic overexpression of FDPS promotes oncogenic phenotypes such as colony formation (P < 0.01) and proliferation (P < 0.01) through activation of AKT and ERK signaling by prenylating Rho A, Rho G, and CDC42 small GTPases. Of interest, knockdown of FDPS in PCa cells exhibits decreased colony growth and proliferation (P < 0.001) by modulating AKT and ERK pathways. Further, genetic and pharmacological inhibition of PI3K but not AKT reduced FDPS expression. Pharmacological targeting of FDPS by zoledronic acid (ZOL), which is already in clinics, exhibit reduced growth and clonogenicity of human and murine PCa cells (P < 0.01) and 3D tumoroids (P < 0.02) by disrupting AKT and ERK signaling through direct interference of small GTPases protein prenylation. Thus, FDPS plays an oncogenic role in PTEN-deficient PCa through GTPase/AKT axis. Identifying mevalonate pathway proteins could serve as a therapeutic target in PTEN dysregulated tumors.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41388-019-0791-9DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6597298PMC
June 2019

Enhancing responsiveness of pancreatic cancer cells to gemcitabine treatment under hypoxia by heme oxygenase-1 inhibition.

Transl Res 2019 05 4;207:56-69. Epub 2019 Jan 4.

Departments of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, University of Nebraska Medical Center, Omaha, Nebraska.

Pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC) is one of the most aggressive malignancies and has one of the worst prognoses leading to a meager 5-year survival rate of ∼8%. Chemotherapy has had limited success in extending the life span of patients with advanced PDAC due to poor tumor perfusion and hypoxia-induced resistance. Hypoxia reprograms the gene expression profile and upregulates the expression of multiple genes including heme oxygenase-1 (HO-1), which provide survival advantage to PDAC cells. However, the relationships between HO-1, hypoxia, and response to chemotherapy is unclear. Our results showed that hypoxia upregulates the expression of HO-1 in PDAC cells, and HO-1 inhibition using the HO-1 inhibitors zinc protoporphyrin, tin protoporphyrin IX (SnPP), and HO-1 knockout using CRISPR/Cas9 suppresses the proliferation of PDAC cells under hypoxia and sensitize them to gemcitabine under in vitro conditions. Treating orthotopic tumors with SnPP, or SnPP in combination with gemcitabine, significantly reduced the weight of pancreatic tumors (P < 0.05), decreased metastasis and improved the efficacy of gemcitabine treatment (P < 0.05). Mechanistically, inhibition of HO-1 increased the production of reactive oxygen species as demonstrated by increased dihydroethidium, and Mitosox, disrupted glutathione cycle, and enhanced apoptosis. There was significant increase in cleaved caspase-3 staining in tumors after combined treatment with SnPP and gemcitabine comparing to control or gemcitabine alone. In addition, inhibiting HO-1 reduced expression of stemness markers (CD133, and CD44) as compared to control or gemcitabine. Overall, our study may present a novel therapeutic regimen that might be adopted for the treatment of PDAC patients.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.trsl.2018.12.008DOI Listing
May 2019

Dual delivery nanoscale device for miR-345 and gemcitabine co-delivery to treat pancreatic cancer.

J Control Release 2019 01 18;294:237-246. Epub 2018 Dec 18.

Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, University of Nebraska Medical Center, Omaha, NE, USA. Electronic address:

A polymeric dual delivery nanoscale device (DDND) was designed for combined delivery of microRNA (miR-345) and gemcitabine (GEM) to treat pancreatic cancer (PC). This temperature and pH-responsive pentablock copolymer system was able to restore miR-345, making xenograft tumors more susceptible to GEM, the standard therapy for PC. Restoration using DDND treatment results in sonic hedgehog signaling down regulation, which decreases desmoplasia, thereby resulting in improved GEM perfusion to the tumor and better therapeutic outcomes. The release of miR-345 and GEM could be tuned by using the DDND in the form of micelles or in the form of thermoreversible gels, based on polymer concentration. The DDNDs enabled miR-345 stability and sustained co-release of miR-345 and GEM, thereby facilitating dose-sparing use of GEM. Further, enhanced in vitro cellular uptake due to amphiphilic character, and endosomal escape because of the cationic end blocks led to efficient transfection with DDNDs. The combined DDND treatment enabled efficient reduction in cell viability of Capan-1 and CD18/HPAF cells in vitro compared with either GEM or miR-345 treatment alone. Mice carrying xenograft tumors treated with DDNDs carrying both miR-345 and GEM combination therapy displayed reduced tumor growth and less metastasis in distant organs compared to individual drug treatments. Immunohistochemical analysis of the xenograft tissues revealed significant down regulation of desmoplastic reaction, SHH, Gli-1, MUC4, and Ki67 compared to control groups.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jconrel.2018.12.031DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6379902PMC
January 2019

Pancreatic cancer associated with obesity and diabetes: an alternative approach for its targeting.

J Exp Clin Cancer Res 2018 Dec 19;37(1):319. Epub 2018 Dec 19.

Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, University of Nebraska Medical Center, Omaha, NE, USA.

Background: Pancreatic cancer (PC) is among foremost causes of cancer related deaths worldwide due to generic symptoms, lack of effective screening strategies and resistance to chemo- and radiotherapies. The risk factors associated with PC include several metabolic disorders such as obesity, insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM). Studies have shown that obesity and T2DM are associated with PC pathogenesis; however, their role in PC initiation and development remains obscure.

Main Body: Several biochemical and physiological factors associated with obesity and/or T2DM including adipokines, inflammatory mediators, and altered microbiome are involved in PC progression and metastasis albeit by different molecular mechanisms. Deep understanding of these factors and causal relationship between factors and altered signaling pathways will facilitate deconvolution of disease complexity as well as lead to development of novel therapies. In the present review, we focuses on the interplay between adipocytokines, gut microbiota, adrenomedullin, hyaluronan, vanin and matrix metalloproteinase affected by metabolic alteration and pancreatic tumor progression.

Conclusions: Metabolic diseases, such as obesity and T2DM, contribute PC development through altered metabolic pathways. Delineating key players in oncogenic development in pancreas due to metabolic disorder could be a beneficial strategy to combat cancers associated with metabolic diseases in particular, PC.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1186/s13046-018-0963-4DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6299603PMC
December 2018

Novel therapies hijack the blood-brain barrier to eradicate glioblastoma cancer stem cells.

Carcinogenesis 2019 03;40(1):2-14

Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, University of Nebraska Medical Center, Omaha, NE, USA.

Glioblastoma (GBM) is amongst the most aggressive brain tumors with a dismal prognosis. Despite significant advances in the current multimodality therapy including surgery, postoperative radiotherapy (RT) and temozolomide (TMZ)-based concomitant and adjuvant chemotherapy (CT), tumor recurrence is nearly universal with poor patient outcomes. These limitations are in part due to poor drug penetration through the blood-brain barrier (BBB) and resistance to CT and RT by a small population of cancer cells recognized as tumor-initiating cells or cancer stem cells (CSCs). Though CT and RT kill the bulk of the tumor cells, they fail to affect CSCs, resulting in their enrichment and their development into more refractory tumors. Therefore, identifying the mechanisms of resistance and developing therapies that specifically target CSCs can improve response, prevent the development of refractory tumors and increase overall survival of GBM patients. Small molecule inhibitors that can breach the BBB and selectively target CSCs are emerging. In this review, we have summarized the recent advancements in understanding the GBM CSC-specific signaling pathways, the CSC-tumor microenvironment niche that contributes to CT and RT resistance and the use of novel combination therapies of small molecule inhibitors that may be used in conjunction with TMZ-based chemoradiation for effective management of GBM.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/carcin/bgy171DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6412134PMC
March 2019

Novel role of O-glycosyltransferases GALNT3 and B3GNT3 in the self-renewal of pancreatic cancer stem cells.

BMC Cancer 2018 Nov 22;18(1):1157. Epub 2018 Nov 22.

Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, University of Nebraska Medical Center, Omaha, NE, 68198-5870, USA.

Background: Glycosylation plays a critical role in the aggressiveness of pancreatic cancer (PC). Emerging evidences indicate significant involvement of cancer stem cells (CSCs) in PC aggressiveness. However, the importance of glycosylation in pancreatic cancer stem cells (PCSCs) is yet to be addressed. Hence, we evaluated the potential role of glycosylation in maintenance of stemness of PCSCs.

Methods: Effect of glycosylation specific inhibitors on growth and PCSCs of PC cells was assessed by MTT assay and Side Population (SP) analysis. Isolated PCSCs/SP were characterized using molecular and functional assays. Expression of tumor-associated carbohydrate antigens (TACAs) was analyzed in PCSCs by western blotting. Effect of tunicamycin on PCSCs was analyzed by tumorsphere, clonogenicity, migration assay and immunoblotting for CSCs markers. The differential expression of glycogenes in PCSCs compared to non-CSCs were determined by RT-qPCR, immunoblotting and immunofluorescence. Co-expression of GALNT3 and B3GNT3 with CD44v6 was assessed in progression stages of Kras; Pdx-1-Cre (KC) and Kras; p53; Pdx-1-Cre (KPC) tumors by immunofluorescence. Transient and CRISPR/Cas9 silencing of GALNT3 and B3GNT3 was performed to examine their effect on CSCs maintenance.

Results: Inhibition of glycosylation decreased growth and CSCs/SP in PC cells. PCSCs overexpressed CSC markers (CD44v6, ESA, SOX2, SOX9 and ABCG2), exhibited global expressional variation of TACAs and showed higher self-renewal potential. Specifically, N-glycosylation inhibition, significantly decreased tumorsphere formation, migration, and clonogenicity of PCSCs, as well as hypo-glycosylated CD44v6 and ESA. Of note, glycosyltransferases (GFs), GALNT3 and B3GNT3, were significantly overexpressed in PCSCs and co-expressed with CD44v6 at advanced PDAC stages in KC and KPC tumors. Further, GALNT3 and B3GNT3 knockdown led to a decrease in the expression of cell surface markers (CD44v6 and ESA) and self-renewal markers (SOX2 and OCT3/4) in PCSCs. Interestingly, CD44v6 was modified with sialyl Lewis a in PCSCs. Finally, CRISPR/Cas9-mediated GALNT3 KO significantly decreased self-renewal, clonogenicity, and migratory capacity in PCSCs.

Conclusions: Taken together, for the first time, our study showed the importance of glycosylation in mediating growth, stemness, and maintenance of PCSCs. These results indicate that elevated GALNT3 and B3GNT3 expression in PCSCs regulate stemness through modulating CSC markers.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1186/s12885-018-5074-2DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6251200PMC
November 2018

Disruption of C1galt1 Gene Promotes Development and Metastasis of Pancreatic Adenocarcinomas in Mice.

Gastroenterology 2018 11 4;155(5):1608-1624. Epub 2018 Aug 4.

Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, University of Nebraska Medical Center, Omaha, Nebraska; Eppley Institute for Research in Cancer and Allied Diseases, University of Nebraska Medical Center, Omaha, Nebraska; Fred and Pamela Buffett Cancer Center, University of Nebraska Medical Center, Omaha, Nebraska. Electronic address:

Background & Aims: Pancreatic ductal adenocarcinomas (PDACs) produce higher levels of truncated O-glycan structures (such as Tn and sTn) than normal pancreata. Dysregulated activity of core 1 synthase glycoprotein-N-acetylgalactosamine 3-β-galactosyltransferase 1 (C1GALT1) leads to increased expression of these truncated O-glycans. We investigated whether and how truncated O-glycans contributes to the development and progression of PDAC using mice with disruption of C1galt1.

Methods: We crossed C1galt1 floxed mice (C1galt1) with Kras; Trp53; Pdx1-Cre (KPC) mice to create KPCC mice. Growth and progression of pancreatic tumors were compared between KPC and KPCC mice; pancreatic tissues were collected and analyzed by immunohistochemistry; immunofluorescence; and Sirius red, alcian blue, and lectin staining. We used the CRISPR/Cas9 system to disrupt C1GALT1 in human PDAC cells (T3M4 and CD18/HPAF) and levels of O-glycans were analyzed by lectin blotting, mass spectrometry, and lectin pulldown assay. Orthotopic studies and RNA sequencing analyses were performed with control and C1GALT1 knockout PDAC cells. C1GALT1 expression was analyzed in well-differentiated (n = 36) and poorly differentiated (n = 23) PDAC samples by immunohistochemistry.

Results: KPCC mice had significantly shorter survival times (median 102 days) than KPC mice (median 200 days) and developed early pancreatic intraepithelial neoplasias at 3 weeks, PDAC at 5 weeks, and metastasis at 10 weeks compared with KPC mice. Pancreatic tumors that developed in KPCC mice were more aggressive (more invasive and metastases) than those in KPC mice, had a decreased amount of stroma, and had increased production of Tn. Poorly differentiated PDAC specimens had significantly lower levels of C1GALT1 than well-differentiated PDACs. Human PDAC cells with knockout of C1GALT1 had aberrant glycosylation of MUC16 compared with control cells and increased expression of genes that regulate tumorigenesis and metastasis.

Conclusions: In studies of KPC mice with disruption of C1galt1, we found that loss of C1galt1 promotes development of aggressive PDACs and increased metastasis. Knockout of C1galt1 leads to increased tumorigenicity and truncation of O-glycosylation on MUC16, which could contribute to increased aggressiveness.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1053/j.gastro.2018.08.007DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6219903PMC
November 2018

Cigarette Smoke Induces Stem Cell Features of Pancreatic Cancer Cells via PAF1.

Gastroenterology 2018 09 2;155(3):892-908.e6. Epub 2018 Jun 2.

Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, College of Medicine, University of Nebraska Medical Center, Omaha, Nebraska; Eppley Institute for Research in Cancer and Allied Diseases, Fred & Pamela Buffett Cancer Center, University of Nebraska Medical Center, Omaha, Nebraska. Electronic address:

Background & Aims: Cigarette smoking is a major risk factor for pancreatic cancer. Aggressive pancreatic tumors contain cancer cells with stem cell features. We investigated whether cigarette smoke induces stem cell features in pancreatic cancer cells.

Methods: Kras; Pdx1-Cre mice were exposed to cigarette smoke or clean air (controls) for up to 20 weeks; pancreata were collected and analyzed by histology, quantitative reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction, and confocal immunofluorescence microscopy. HPNE and Capan1 cells were exposed to cigarette smoke extract (CSE), nicotine and nicotine-derived carcinogens (NNN or NNK), or clean air (controls) for 80 days and evaluated for stem cell markers and features using flow cytometry-based autofluorescence, sphere formation, and immunoblot assays. Proteins were knocked down in cells with small interfering RNAs. We performed RNA sequencing analyses of CSE-exposed cells. We used chromatin immunoprecipitation assays to confirm the binding of FOS-like 1, AP-1 transcription factor subunit (FOSL1) to RNA polymerase II-associated factor (PAF1) promoter. We obtained pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC) and matched nontumor tissues (n = 15) and performed immunohistochemical analyses.

Results: Chronic exposure of HPNE and Capan1 cells to CSE caused them to increase markers of stem cells, including autofluorescence and sphere formation, compared with control cells. These cells increased expression of ABCG2, SOX9, and PAF1, via cholinergic receptor nicotinic alpha 7 subunit (CHRNA7) signaling to mitogen-activated protein kinase 1 and FOSL1. CSE-exposed pancreatic cells with knockdown of PAF1 did not show stem cell features. Exposure of cells to NNN and NNK led to increased expression of CHRNA7, FOSL1, and PAF1 along with stem cell features. Pancreata from Kras; Pdx1-Cre mice exposed to cigarette smoke had increased levels of PAF1 mRNA and protein, compared with control mice, as well as increased expression of SOX9. Levels of PAF1 and FOSL1 were increased in PDAC tissues, especially those from smokers, compared with nontumor pancreatic tissue. CSE exposure increased expression of PHD-finger protein 5A, a pluripotent transcription factor and its interaction with PAF1.

Conclusions: Exposure to cigarette smoke activates stem cell features of pancreatic cells, via CHRNA7 signaling and FOSL1 activation of PAF1 expression. Levels of PAF1 are increased in pancreatic tumors of humans and mice with chronic cigarette smoke exposure.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1053/j.gastro.2018.05.041DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6120776PMC
September 2018

Axed MUC4 (MUC4/X) aggravates pancreatic malignant phenotype by activating integrin-β1/FAK/ERK pathway.

Biochim Biophys Acta Mol Basis Dis 2018 Aug 16;1864(8):2538-2549. Epub 2018 May 16.

Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Fred and Pamela Buffett Cancer Center, University of Nebraska Medical Center, NE-68198, USA; Eppley Institute for Research in Cancer and Allied Diseases, Fred and Pamela Buffett Cancer Center, University of Nebraska Medical Center, NE-68198, USA. Electronic address:

Alternative splicing is evolving as an eminent player of oncogenic signaling for tumor development and progression. Mucin 4 (MUC4), a type I membrane-bound mucin, is differentially expressed in pancreatic cancer (PC) and plays a critical role in its progression and metastasis. However, the molecular implications of MUC4 splice variants during disease pathogenesis remain obscure. The present study delineates the pathological and molecular significance of a unique splice variant of MUC4, MUC4/X, which lacks the largest exon 2, along with exon 3. Exon 2 encodes for the highly glycosylated tandem repeat (TR) domain of MUC4 and its absence creates MUC4/X, which is devoid of TR. Expression analysis from PC clinical samples revealed significant upregulation of MUC4/X in PC tissues with most differential expression in poorly differentiated tumors. In vitro studies suggest that overexpression of MUC4/X in wild-type-MUC4 (WT-MUC4) null PC cell lines markedly enhanced PC cell proliferation, invasion, and adhesion to extracellular matrix (ECM) proteins. Furthermore, MUC4/X overexpression leads to an increase in the tumorigenic potential of PC cells in orthotopic transplantation studies. In line with these findings, doxycycline-induced expression of MUC4/X in an endogenous WT-MUC4 expressing PC cell line (Capan-1) also displayed enhanced cell proliferation, invasion, and adhesion to ECM, compared to WT-MUC4 alone, emphasizing its direct involvement in the aggressive behavior of PC cells. Investigation into the molecular mechanism suggested that MUC4/X facilitated PC tumorigenesis via integrin-β1/FAK/ERK signaling pathway. Overall, these findings revealed the novel role of MUC4/X in promoting and sustaining the oncogenic features of PC.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.bbadis.2018.05.008DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6047753PMC
August 2018

Pathological and functional significance of Semaphorin-5A in pancreatic cancer progression and metastasis.

Oncotarget 2018 Jan 23;9(5):5931-5943. Epub 2017 Dec 23.

Department of Pathology and Microbiology, University of Nebraska Medical Center, Omaha, NE 68198, USA.

Semaphorin-5A (SEMA5A) has differential cell surface expression between normal and cancer cells and represents an attractive target for therapeutic intervention in pancreatic cancer (PC). In this study, we delineated the pathological expression and significance of SEMA5A during PC progression and metastasis. We utilized human tissue microarrays and different PC mouse models (Pdx1-cre; LSL- Kras, Pdx1-Cre; LSL-Kras; LSL-p53 and RIP1-Tag2) to analyze SEMA5A expression during PC progression. Using human patients and different mouse models, we demonstrated that SEMA5A expression was highest in liver metastases, followed by primary pancreatic tumors, and the lowest expression was found in the normal pancreas. SEMA5A expression was localized on tumor cells with no staining in the surrounding stroma. To understand the functional significance of SEMA5A, we treated PC cell lines with recombinant SEMA5A. We observed an increase in migration, chemotaxis, and scattering of PC cells. To delineate the signaling axis of SEMA5A, we generated SEMA5A receptor-Plexin-B3 knockdown in T3M-4 and CD18/HPAF PC cell lines and observed that the effect of SEMA5A treatment was absent in the Plexin-B3 knockdown counterparts of T3M-4 and CD18/HPAF cells. SEMA5A treatment leads to phosphorylation of cMET in Plexin-B3 dependent manner. Our data demonstrate that there is an increase in SEMA5A expression during PC progression and the elevation of this expression takes place at metastatic sites especially the liver in both exocrine and endocrine tumors. SEMA5A can elicit a migratory response in cells by activating cMET through the Plexin-B3 receptor. In conclusion, SEMA5A signaling represents a potential molecule for targeting metastasis in pancreatic cancer.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.18632/oncotarget.23644DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5814185PMC
January 2018