Publications by authors named "Serena Cecchetti"

54 Publications

Hyperactive HRAS dysregulates energetic metabolism in fibroblasts from patients with Costello syndrome via enhanced production of reactive oxidizing species.

Hum Mol Genet 2021 Sep 11. Epub 2021 Sep 11.

Department of Oncology and Molecular Medicine, Istituto Superiore di Sanità, 00161 Rome, Italy.

Germline activating mutations in HRAS cause Costello Syndrome (CS), a cancer prone multisystem disorder characterized by reduced postnatal growth. In CS, poor weight gain and growth are not caused by low caloric intake. Here we show that constitutive plasma membrane translocation and activation of the GLUT4 glucose transporter, via ROS-dependent AMPKα and p38 hyperactivation, occurs in CS, resulting in accelerated glycolysis, and increased fatty acid synthesis and storage as lipid droplets in primary fibroblasts. An accelerated autophagic flux was also identified as contributing to the increased energetic expenditure in CS. Concomitant inhibition of p38 and PI3K signaling by wortmannin was able to rescue both the dysregulated glucose intake and accelerated autophagic flux. Our findings provide a mechanistic link between upregulated HRAS function, defective growth and increased resting energetic expenditure in CS, and document that targeting p38 and PI3K signaling is able to revert this metabolic dysfunction.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/hmg/ddab270DOI Listing
September 2021

The Fatty Acid and Protein Profiles of Circulating CD81-Positive Small Extracellular Vesicles Are Associated with Disease Stage in Melanoma Patients.

Cancers (Basel) 2021 Aug 18;13(16). Epub 2021 Aug 18.

Department of Oncology and Molecular Medicine, National Institute of Health, 00161 Rome, Italy.

The early detection of cutaneous melanoma, a potentially lethal cancer with rising incidence, is fundamental to increasing survival and therapeutic adjustment. In stages II-IV especially, additional indications for adjuvant therapy purposes after resection and for treatment of metastatic patients are urgently needed. We investigated whether the fatty acid (FA) and protein compositions of small extracellular vesicles (sEV) derived from the plasma of stage 0-I, II and III-IV melanoma patients ( = 38) could reflect disease stage. The subpopulation of sEV expressing CD81 EV marker (CD81sEV) was captured by an ad hoc immune affinity technique from plasma depleted of large EV. Biological macromolecules were investigated by gas chromatography and mass spectrometry in CD81sEV. A higher content of FA was detectable in patients with respect to healthy donors (HD). Moreover, a higher C18:0/C18:1 ratio, as a marker of cell membrane fluidity, distinguished early (stage 0-I) from late (III-IV) stages' CD81sEV. Proteomics detected increases in CD14, PON1, PON3 and APOA5 exclusively in stage II CD81sEV, and RAP1B was decreased in stage III-IV CD81sEV, in comparison to HD. Our results suggest that stage dependent alterations in CD81sEV' FA and protein composition may occur early after disease onset, strengthening the potential of circulating sEV as a source of discriminatory information for early diagnosis, prediction of metastatic behavior and following up of melanoma patients.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3390/cancers13164157DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8392159PMC
August 2021

Chronic Isolation Stress Affects Central Neuroendocrine Signaling Leading to a Metabolically Active Microenvironment in a Mouse Model of Breast Cancer.

Front Behav Neurosci 2021 9;15:660738. Epub 2021 Jul 9.

Center for Behavioral Sciences and Mental Health, Istituto Superiore di Sanità, Rome, Italy.

Social isolation is a powerful stressor capable of affecting brain plasticity and function. In the case of breast cancer, previous data indicate that stressful experiences may contribute to a worse prognosis, activating neuroendocrine and metabolism pathways, although the mechanisms underlying these effects are still poorly understood. In this study, we tested the hypothesis that chronic isolation stress (IS) may boost hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis activity, leading to changes in the hypothalamic expression of genes modulating both mood and metabolism in an animal model of breast cancer. This centrally activated signaling cascade would, in turn, affect the mammary gland microenvironment specifically targeting fat metabolism, leading to accelerated tumor onset. MMTVNeuTg female mice (a model of breast cancer developing mammary hyperplasia at 5 months of age) were either group-housed (GH) or subjected to IS from weaning until 5 months of age. At this time, half of these subjects underwent acute restraint stress to assess corticosterone (CORT) levels, while the remaining subjects were characterized for their emotional profile in the forced swimming and saccharin preference tests. At the end of the procedures, all the mice were sacrificed to assess hypothalamic expression levels of Brain-derived neurotrophic factor (), Neuropeptide Y (), Agouti-Related Peptide (), and Serum/Glucocorticoid-Regulated Protein Kinase 1 (). Leptin and adiponectin expression levels, as well as the presence of brown adipose tissue (BAT), were assessed in mammary fat pads. The IS mice showed higher CORT levels following acute stress and decreased expression of , and , associated with greater behavioral despair in the forced swimming test. Furthermore, they were characterized by increased consumption of saccharin in a preference test, suggesting an enhanced hedonic profile. The IS mice also showed an earlier onset of breast lumps (assessed by palpation) accompanied by elevated levels of adipokines (leptin and adiponectin) and BAT in the mammary fat pads. Overall, these data point to IS as a pervasive stressor that is able to specifically target neuronal circuits, mastered by the hypothalamus, modulating mood, stress reactivity and energy homeostasis. The activation of such IS-driven machinery may hold main implications for the onset and maintenance of pro-tumorigenic environments.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3389/fnbeh.2021.660738DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8298821PMC
July 2021

Re-Discovery of : Genomic and Functional Analysis of Viruses from Isolates.

Biomedicines 2021 Jun 8;9(6). Epub 2021 Jun 8.

Unit of Foodborne and Neglected Parasitic Disease, Department of Infectious Diseases, Istituto Superiore di Sanità, Viale Regina Elena 299, 00161 Rome, Italy.

Giardiasis, caused by the protozoan parasite , is an intestinal diarrheal disease affecting almost one billion people worldwide. A small endosymbiotic dsRNA viruses, virus (GLV), genus , family , might inhabit human and animal isolates of . Three GLV genomes have been sequenced so far, and only one was intensively studied; moreover, a positive correlation between GLV and parasite virulence is yet to be proved. To understand the biological significance of GLV infection in , the characterization of several GLV strains from naturally infected isolates is necessary. Here we report high-throughput sequencing of four GLVs strains, from isolates of human and animal origin. We also report on a new, unclassified viral sequence (designed GdRV-2), unrelated to , encoding and expressing for a single large protein with an RdRp domain homologous to and . The result of our sequencing and proteomic analyses challenge the current knowledge on GLV and strongly suggest that viral capsid protein translation unusually starts with a proline and that translation of the RNA-dependent RNA polymerase (RdRp) occurs via a +1/-2 ribosomal frameshift mechanism. Nucleotide polymorphism, confirmed by mass-spectrometry analysis, was also observed among and between GLV strains. Phylogenetic analysis indicated the occurrence of at least two GLV subtypes which display different phenotypes and transmissibility in experimental infections of a GLV naïve isolate.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3390/biomedicines9060654DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8230311PMC
June 2021

Integrase-Defective Lentiviral Vector Is an Efficient Vaccine Platform for Cancer Immunotherapy.

Viruses 2021 02 23;13(2). Epub 2021 Feb 23.

Department of Infectious Diseases, Istituto Superiore di Sanità, 00161 Rome, Italy.

Integrase-defective lentiviral vectors (IDLVs) have been used as a safe and efficient delivery system in several immunization protocols in murine and non-human primate preclinical models as well as in recent clinical trials. In this work, we validated in preclinical murine models our vaccine platform based on IDLVs as delivery system for cancer immunotherapy. To evaluate the anti-tumor activity of our vaccine strategy we generated IDLV delivering ovalbumin (OVA) as a non-self-model antigen and TRP2 as a self-tumor associated antigen (TAA) of melanoma. Results demonstrated the ability of IDLVs to eradicate and/or controlling tumor growth after a single immunization in preventive and therapeutic approaches, using lymphoma and melanoma expressing OVA. Importantly, LV-TRP2 but not IDLV-TRP2 was able to break tolerance efficiently and prevent tumor growth of B16F10 melanoma cells. In order to improve the IDLV efficacy, the human homologue of murine TRP2 was used, showing the ability to break tolerance and control the tumor growth. These results validate the use of IDLV for cancer therapy.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3390/v13020355DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7927015PMC
February 2021

De Novo VPS4A Mutations Cause Multisystem Disease with Abnormal Neurodevelopment.

Am J Hum Genet 2020 12 12;107(6):1129-1148. Epub 2020 Nov 12.

Cambridge Institute for Medical Research, University of Cambridge, Cambridge CB2 0XY, UK; Department of Medical Genetics, University of Cambridge, Cambridge CB2 0QQ, UK. Electronic address:

The endosomal sorting complexes required for transport (ESCRTs) are essential for multiple membrane modeling and membrane-independent cellular processes. Here we describe six unrelated individuals with de novo missense variants affecting the ATPase domain of VPS4A, a critical enzyme regulating ESCRT function. Probands had structural brain abnormalities, severe neurodevelopmental delay, cataracts, growth impairment, and anemia. In cultured cells, overexpression of VPS4A mutants caused enlarged endosomal vacuoles resembling those induced by expression of known dominant-negative ATPase-defective forms of VPS4A. Proband-derived fibroblasts had enlarged endosomal structures with abnormal accumulation of the ESCRT protein IST1 on the limiting membrane. VPS4A function was also required for normal endosomal morphology and IST1 localization in iPSC-derived human neurons. Mutations affected other ESCRT-dependent cellular processes, including regulation of centrosome number, primary cilium morphology, nuclear membrane morphology, chromosome segregation, mitotic spindle formation, and cell cycle progression. We thus characterize a distinct multisystem disorder caused by mutations affecting VPS4A and demonstrate that its normal function is required for multiple human developmental and cellular processes.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ajhg.2020.10.012DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7820634PMC
December 2020

Enhanced MAPK1 Function Causes a Neurodevelopmental Disorder within the RASopathy Clinical Spectrum.

Am J Hum Genet 2020 09 27;107(3):499-513. Epub 2020 Jul 27.

Institute of Human Genetics, University Hospital Magdeburg, 39120 Magdeburg, Germany.

Signal transduction through the RAF-MEK-ERK pathway, the first described mitogen-associated protein kinase (MAPK) cascade, mediates multiple cellular processes and participates in early and late developmental programs. Aberrant signaling through this cascade contributes to oncogenesis and underlies the RASopathies, a family of cancer-prone disorders. Here, we report that de novo missense variants in MAPK1, encoding the mitogen-activated protein kinase 1 (i.e., extracellular signal-regulated protein kinase 2, ERK2), cause a neurodevelopmental disease within the RASopathy phenotypic spectrum, reminiscent of Noonan syndrome in some subjects. Pathogenic variants promote increased phosphorylation of the kinase, which enhances translocation to the nucleus and boosts MAPK signaling in vitro and in vivo. Two variant classes are identified, one of which directly disrupts binding to MKP3, a dual-specificity protein phosphatase negatively regulating ERK function. Importantly, signal dysregulation driven by pathogenic MAPK1 variants is stimulus reliant and retains dependence on MEK activity. Our data support a model in which the identified pathogenic variants operate with counteracting effects on MAPK1 function by differentially impacting the ability of the kinase to interact with regulators and substrates, which likely explains the minor role of these variants as driver events contributing to oncogenesis. After nearly 20 years from the discovery of the first gene implicated in Noonan syndrome, PTPN11, the last tier of the MAPK cascade joins the group of genes mutated in RASopathies.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ajhg.2020.06.018DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7477014PMC
September 2020

Natural-Killer-Derived Extracellular Vesicles: Immune Sensors and Interactors.

Front Immunol 2020 13;11:262. Epub 2020 Mar 13.

Department of Oncology and Molecular Medicine, Istituto Superiore di Sanità, Rome, Italy.

Natural killer (NK) cells contribute to immunosurveillance and first-line defense in the control of tumor growth and metastasis diffusion. NK-cell-derived extracellular vesicles (NKEVs) are constitutively secreted and biologically active. They reflect the protein and genetic repertoire of originating cells, and exert antitumor activity and . Cancer can compromise NK cell functions, a status potentially reflected by their extracellular vesicles. Hence, NKEVs could, on the one hand, contribute to improve cancer therapy by interacting with tumor and/or immune cells and on the other hand, sense the actual NK cell status in cancer patients. Here, we investigated the composition of healthy donors' NKEVs, including NK microvesicles and exosomes, and their interaction with uncompromised cells of the immune system. To sense the systemic NK cell status in cancer patients, we developed an immune enzymatic test (NKExoELISA) that measures plasma NK-cell-derived exosomes, captured as tsg101CD56 nanovesicles. NKEV mass spectrometry and cytokine analysis showed the expression of NK cell markers, i.e., NKG2D and CD94, perforin, granzymes, CD40L, and other molecules involved in cytotoxicity, homing, cell adhesion, and immune activation, together with EV markers tsg101, CD81, CD63, and CD9 in both NK-derived exosomes and microvesicles. Data are available via Proteome Xchange with identifier PXD014894. Immunomodulation studies revealed that NKEVs displayed main stimulatory functions in peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs), inducing the expression of human leukocyte antigen DR isotype (HLA-DR) and costimulatory molecules on monocytes and CD25 expression on T cells, which was maintained in the presence of lipopolysaccharide (LPS) and interleukin (IL)-10/transforming growth factor beta (TGFβ), respectively. Furthermore, NKEVs increased the CD56 NK cell fraction, suggesting that effects mediated by NKEVs might be potentially exploited in support of cancer therapy. The measurement of circulating NK exosomes in the plasma of melanoma patients and healthy donors evidenced lower levels of tsg101CD56 exosomes in patients with respect to donors. Likewise, we detected lower frequencies of NK cells in PBMCs of these patients. These data highlight the potential of NKExoELISA to sense alterations of the NK cell immune status.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3389/fimmu.2020.00262DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7082405PMC
March 2021

Development and Preclinical Evaluation of an Integrase Defective Lentiviral Vector Vaccine Expressing the HIVACAT T Cell Immunogen in Mice.

Mol Ther Methods Clin Dev 2020 Jun 4;17:418-428. Epub 2020 Feb 4.

National Center for Global Health, Istituto Superiore di Sanità, Rome, Italy.

Cellular immune responses play a fundamental role in controlling viral replication and AIDS progression in human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)-infected subjects and in simian immunodeficiency virus (SIV)-infected macaques. Integrase defective lentiviral vector (IDLV) represents a promising vaccine candidate, inducing functional and durable immune responses in mice and non-human primates. Here, we designed HIV- and SIV-based IDLVs to express the HIVACAT T cell immunogen (HTI), a mosaic antigen designed to cover vulnerable sites in HIV-1 Gag, Pol, Vif, and Nef. We observed that HTI expression during lentiviral vector production interfered profoundly with IDLV particles release because of sequestration of both HIV- and SIV-Gag proteins in the cytoplasm of the vector-producing cells. However, modifications in IDLV design and vector production procedures greatly improved recovery of both HIV- and SIV-based IDLV-HTI. Immunization experiments in BALB/c mice showed that both IDLVs elicited HTI-specific T cell responses. However, immunization with HIV-based IDLV elicited also a T cell response toward exogenous HIV proteins in IDLV particles, suggesting that SIV-based IDLV may be a preferable platform to assess the induction of transgene-specific immune responses against rationally designed HIV structural antigens. These data support the further evaluation of IDLV as an effective platform of T cell immunogens for the development of an effective HIV vaccine.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.omtm.2020.01.013DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7056611PMC
June 2020

Aberrant Function of the C-Terminal Tail of HIST1H1E Accelerates Cellular Senescence and Causes Premature Aging.

Am J Hum Genet 2019 09 22;105(3):493-508. Epub 2019 Aug 22.

Department of Psychiatry, University of Pretoria, Weskoppies Hospital, Pretoria, 0001 South Africa.

Histones mediate dynamic packaging of nuclear DNA in chromatin, a process that is precisely controlled to guarantee efficient compaction of the genome and proper chromosomal segregation during cell division and to accomplish DNA replication, transcription, and repair. Due to the important structural and regulatory roles played by histones, it is not surprising that histone functional dysregulation or aberrant levels of histones can have severe consequences for multiple cellular processes and ultimately might affect development or contribute to cell transformation. Recently, germline frameshift mutations involving the C-terminal tail of HIST1H1E, which is a widely expressed member of the linker histone family and facilitates higher-order chromatin folding, have been causally linked to an as-yet poorly defined syndrome that includes intellectual disability. We report that these mutations result in stable proteins that reside in the nucleus, bind to chromatin, disrupt proper compaction of DNA, and are associated with a specific methylation pattern. Cells expressing these mutant proteins have a dramatically reduced proliferation rate and competence, hardly enter into the S phase, and undergo accelerated senescence. Remarkably, clinical assessment of a relatively large cohort of subjects sharing these mutations revealed a premature aging phenotype as a previously unrecognized feature of the disorder. Our findings identify a direct link between aberrant chromatin remodeling, cellular senescence, and accelerated aging.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ajhg.2019.07.007DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6731364PMC
September 2019

Activating Mutations of RRAS2 Are a Rare Cause of Noonan Syndrome.

Am J Hum Genet 2019 06 23;104(6):1223-1232. Epub 2019 May 23.

Département de Génétique, Assistance Publique des Hôpitaux de Paris (AP-HP) Hôpital Robert Debré, 75019 Paris, France; INSERM UMR 1141 - Université de Paris, 75019 Paris, France.

Aberrant signaling through pathways controlling cell response to extracellular stimuli constitutes a central theme in disorders affecting development. Signaling through RAS and the MAPK cascade controls a variety of cell decisions in response to cytokines, hormones, and growth factors, and its upregulation causes Noonan syndrome (NS), a developmental disorder whose major features include a distinctive facies, a wide spectrum of cardiac defects, short stature, variable cognitive impairment, and predisposition to malignancies. NS is genetically heterogeneous, and mutations in more than ten genes have been reported to underlie this disorder. Despite the large number of genes implicated, about 10%-20% of affected individuals with a clinical diagnosis of NS do not have mutations in known RASopathy-associated genes, indicating that additional unidentified genes contribute to the disease, when mutated. By using a mixed strategy of functional candidacy and exome sequencing, we identify RRAS2 as a gene implicated in NS in six unrelated subjects/families. We show that the NS-causing RRAS2 variants affect highly conserved residues localized around the nucleotide binding pocket of the GTPase and are predicted to variably affect diverse aspects of RRAS2 biochemical behavior, including nucleotide binding, GTP hydrolysis, and interaction with effectors. Additionally, all pathogenic variants increase activation of the MAPK cascade and variably impact cell morphology and cytoskeletal rearrangement. Finally, we provide a characterization of the clinical phenotype associated with RRAS2 mutations.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ajhg.2019.04.013DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6562003PMC
June 2019

Biallelic mutations in early-onset, variably progressive neurodegeneration.

Neurology 2018 07 29;91(4):e319-e330. Epub 2018 Jun 29.

From the Genetics and Rare Diseases Research Division (V.M., G.C., T.R., M.D.N., A.C., F.P., R.C., M.T.), Ospedale Pediatrico Bambino Gesù; Department of Oncology and Molecular Medicine (E.F., S.M.) and Confocal Microscopy Unit (S.C.), Core Facilities, Istituto Superiore di Sanità, Rome, Italy; Center for Human Disease Modeling (Z.K., M.M.K., N.K.), Duke University School of Medicine, Durham, NC; Institutes of Neurology (G.P., S.S.) and Nuclear Medicine (D.D.G.), Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore, Fondazione Policlinico Universitario A. Gemelli, Rome, Italy; Department of Genetics (H.G., N.M.), Faculty of Science, Shahid Chamran University of Ahvaz; Narges Medical Genetics and Prenatal Diagnosis Laboratory (H.G., N.M., A. Sedaghat, J.Z., G.R.S.), Kianpars, Ahvaz; Research and Clinical Center for Infertility (M.D.), Yazd Reproductive Sciences Institute, Medical Genetics Research Centre (M.D., M.Y.V.M.), and Department of Medical Genetics (M.Y.V.M.), Shahid Sadoughi University of Medical Sciences, Yazd, Iran; Department of Experimental Medicine (A.T., V.C.), Università "Sapienza," Rome, Italy; Genetics and Molecular Cell Sciences Research Centre (Y.J., R.M.), St. George's University of London, UK; Department of Paediatric Neurology (R.A.M.), Golestan Medical, Educational, and Research Center, and Department of Medical Genetics (G.R.S.), Faculty of Medicine, Ahvaz Jundishapur University of Medical Sciences, Iran; University of Exeter Medical School (A.R.J.), RILD, Royal Devon & Exeter Hospital, UK; and Department of Neurology (A. Sherafat), Kerman University of Medical Sciences, Iran.

Objective: To characterize clinically and molecularly an early-onset, variably progressive neurodegenerative disorder characterized by a cerebellar syndrome with severe ataxia, gaze palsy, dyskinesia, dystonia, and cognitive decline affecting 11 individuals from 3 consanguineous families.

Methods: We used whole-exome sequencing (WES) (families 1 and 2) and a combined approach based on homozygosity mapping and WES (family 3). We performed in vitro studies to explore the effect of the nontruncating mutation on protein function and the effect of impaired SQSTM1 function on autophagy. We analyzed the consequences of sqstm1 down-modulation on the structural integrity of the cerebellum in vivo using zebrafish as a model.

Results: We identified 3 homozygous inactivating variants, including a splice site substitution (c.301+2T>A) causing aberrant transcript processing and accelerated degradation of a resulting protein lacking exon 2, as well as 2 truncating changes (c.875_876insT and c.934_936delinsTGA). We show that loss of SQSTM1 causes impaired production of ubiquitin-positive protein aggregates in response to misfolded protein stress and decelerated autophagic flux. The consequences of sqstm1 down-modulation on the structural integrity of the cerebellum in zebrafish documented a variable but reproducible phenotype characterized by cerebellum anomalies ranging from depletion of axonal connections to complete atrophy. We provide a detailed clinical characterization of the disorder; the natural history is reported for 2 siblings who have been followed up for >20 years.

Conclusions: This study offers an accurate clinical characterization of this recently recognized neurodegenerative disorder caused by biallelic inactivating mutations in and links this phenotype to defective selective autophagy.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1212/WNL.0000000000005869DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6070386PMC
July 2018

Clinical and functional characterization of two novel ZBTB20 mutations causing Primrose syndrome.

Hum Mutat 2018 07 17;39(7):959-964. Epub 2018 May 17.

Institute of Medical Genetics, University of Zurich, Schlieren-Zurich, Switzerland.

Primrose syndrome (PS) is a rare disorder characterized by macrocephaly, tall stature, intellectual disability, autistic traits, and disturbances of glucose metabolism with insulin-resistant diabetes and distal muscle wasting occurring in adulthood. The disorder is caused by functional dysregulation of ZBTB20, a transcriptional repressor controlling energetic metabolism and developmental programs. ZBTB20 maps in a genomic region that is deleted in the 3q13.31 microdeletion syndrome, which explains the clinical overlap between the two disorders. A narrow spectrum of amino acid substitutions in a restricted region of ZBTB20 encompassing the first and second zinc-finger motifs have been reported thus far. Here, we characterize clinically and functionally the first truncating mutation [(c.1024delC; p.(Gln342Serfs*42)] and a missense change affecting the third zinc-finger motif of the protein [(c.1931C > T; p.(Thr644Ile)]. Our data document that both mutations have dominant negative impact on wild-type ZBTB20, providing further evidence of the specific behavior of PS-causing mutations on ZBTB20 function.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/humu.23546DOI Listing
July 2018

Defective kinesin binding of TUBB2A causes progressive spastic ataxia syndrome resembling sacsinopathy.

Hum Mol Genet 2018 06;27(11):1892-1904

Unit of Neuromuscular and Neurodegenerative Disorders, Department Neurosciences, Ospedale Pediatrico Bambino Gesù, 00146 Rome, Italy.

Microtubules participate in fundamental cellular processes, including chromosomal segregation and cell division, migration and intracellular trafficking. Their proper function is required for correct central nervous system development and operative preservation, and mutations in genes coding tubulins, the constituting units of microtubules, underlie a family of neurodevelopmental and neurodegenerative diseases, collectively known as 'tubulinopathies', characterized by a wide range of neuronal defects resulting from defective proliferation, migration and function. Here, we causally link a previously unreported missense mutation in TUBB2A (c.1249G>A, p.D417N), encoding one of the neuron-specific β-tubulin isotype II, to a disorder characterized by progressive spastic paraplegia, peripheral sensory-motor polyneuropathy and ataxia. Asp417 is a highly conserved solvent-exposed residue at the site mediating binding of kinesin superfamily motors. Impaired binding to KIF1A, a neuron-specific kinesin required for transport of synaptic vesicle precursors of the disease-associated TUBB2A mutant, was predicted by structural analyses and confirmed experimentally in vitro. We show that overexpression of TUBB2AD417N disrupts the mitotic spindle bipolarity and morphology and affects the M phase entry and length. Differently from the TUBB2AN247K and TUBB2AA248V, two mutants previously identified to affect neurodevelopment, TUBB2AD417N retains the ability to assemble into microtubules. Consistent with the differential clinical and structural impact, TUBB2AA248V does not drastically affect TUBB2A binding to KIF1A, nor mitotic spindle bipolarity. Overall, our data demonstrate a pathogenic role of the p.D417N substitution that is different from previously reported TUBB2A mutations and expand the phenotypic spectrum associated with mutations in this gene.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/hmg/ddy096DOI Listing
June 2018

Integrase Defective Lentiviral Vector as a Vaccine Platform for Delivering Influenza Antigens.

Front Immunol 2018 5;9:171. Epub 2018 Feb 5.

Department of Infectious Diseases, Istituto Superiore di Sanità, Rome, Italy.

Viral vectors represent an attractive technology for vaccine delivery. We exploited the integrase defective lentiviral vector (IDLV) as a platform for delivering relevant antigens within the context of the ADITEC collaborative research program. In particular, Influenza virus hemagglutinin (HA) and nucleoprotein (NP) were delivered by IDLVs while H1N1 A/California/7/2009 subunit vaccine (HAp) with or without adjuvant was used to compare the immune response in a murine model of immunization. In order to maximize the antibody response against HA, both IDLVs were also pseudotyped with HA (IDLV-HA/HA and IDLV-NP/HA, respectively). Groups of CB6F1 mice were immunized intramuscularly with a single dose of IDLV-NP/HA, IDLV-HA/HA, HAp alone, or with HAp together with the systemic adjuvant MF59. Six months after the vaccine prime all groups were boosted with HAp alone. Cellular and antibody responses to influenza antigens were measured at different time points after the immunizations. Mice immunized with HA-pseudotyped IDLVs showed similar levels of anti-H1N1 IgG over time, evaluated by ELISA, which were comparable to those induced by HAp + MF59 vaccination, but significantly higher than those induced by HAp alone. The boost with HAp alone induced an increase of antibodies in all groups, and the responses were maintained at higher levels up to 18 weeks post-boost. The antibody response was functional and persistent overtime, capable of neutralizing virus infectivity, as evaluated by hemagglutination inhibition and microneutralization assays. Moreover, since neuraminidase (NA)-expressing plasmid was included during IDLV preparation, immunization with IDLV-NP/HA and IDLV-HA/HA also induced functional anti-NA antibodies, evaluated by enzyme-linked lectin assay. IFNγ-ELISPOT showed evidence of HA-specific response in IDLV-HA/HA immunized animals and persistent NP-specific CD8+ T cell response in IDLV-NP/HA immunized mice. Taken together our results indicate that IDLV can be harnessed for producing a vaccine able to induce a comprehensive immune response, including functional antibodies directed toward HA and NA proteins present on the vector particles in addition to a functional T cell response directed to the protein transcribed from the vector.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3389/fimmu.2018.00171DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5807328PMC
April 2019

Phosphatidylcholine-specific phospholipase C inhibition reduces HER2-overexpression, cell proliferation and tumor growth in a highly tumorigenic ovarian cancer model.

Oncotarget 2017 Aug 5;8(33):55022-55038. Epub 2017 Jul 5.

Department of Cell Biology and Neurosciences, Istituto Superiore di Sanità, 00161, Roma, Italy.

Antagonizing the oncogenic effects of human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (HER2) with current anti-HER2 agents has not yet yielded major progress in the treatment of advanced HER2-positive epithelial ovarian cancer (EOC). Using preclinical models to explore alternative molecular mechanisms affecting HER2 overexpression and oncogenicity may lead to new strategies for EOC patient treatment. We previously reported that phosphatidylcholine-specific phospholipase C (PC-PLC) exerts a pivotal role in regulating HER2 overexpression in breast cancer cells. The present study, conducted on two human HER2-overexpressing EOC cell lines - SKOV3 and its -passaged SKOV3.ip cell variant characterized by enhanced tumorigenicity - and on SKOV3.ip xenografts implanted in SCID mice, showed: a) about 2-fold higher PC-PLC and HER2 protein expression levels in SKOV3.ip compared to SKOV3 cells; b) physical association of PC-PLC with HER2 in non-raft domains; c) HER2 internalization and ca. 50% reduction of HER2 mRNA and protein expression levels in SKOV3.ip cells exposed to the PC-PLC inhibitor tricyclodecan-9-yl-potassium xanthate (D609); d) differential effects of D609 and trastuzumab on HER2 protein expression and cell proliferation; e) decreased tumor growth in SKOV3.ip xenografts during treatment with D609; f) potential use of magnetic resonance spectroscopy (MRS) and imaging (MRI) parameters as biomarkers of EOC response to PC-PLC inhibition. Overall, these findings support the view that PC-PLC inhibition may represent an effective means to target the tumorigenic effects of HER2 overexpression in EOC and that MR approaches can efficiently monitor its effects.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.18632/oncotarget.18992DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5589638PMC
August 2017

Macrophages and Phospholipases at the Intersection between Inflammation and the Pathogenesis of HIV-1 Infection.

Int J Mol Sci 2017 Jun 29;18(7). Epub 2017 Jun 29.

Center for Global Health, Istituto Superiore di Sanità, Viale Regina Elena 299, 00161 Rome, Italy.

Persistent low grade immune activation and chronic inflammation are nowadays considered main driving forces of the progressive immunologic failure in effective antiretroviral therapy treated HIV-1 infected individuals. Among the factors contributing to this phenomenon, microbial translocation has emerged as a key driver of persistent immune activation. Indeed, the rapid depletion of gastrointestinal CD4⁺ T lymphocytes occurring during the early phases of infection leads to a deterioration of the gut epithelium followed by the translocation of microbial products into the systemic circulation and the subsequent activation of innate immunity. In this context, monocytes/macrophages are increasingly recognized as an important source of inflammation, linked to HIV-1 disease progression and to non-AIDS complications, such as cardiovascular disease and neurocognitive decline, which are currently main challenges in treated patients. Lipid signaling plays a central role in modulating monocyte/macrophage activation, immune functions and inflammatory responses. Phospholipase-mediated phospholipid hydrolysis leads to the production of lipid mediators or second messengers that affect signal transduction, thus regulating a variety of physiologic and pathophysiologic processes. In this review, we discuss the contribution of phospholipases to monocyte/macrophage activation in the context of HIV-1 infection, focusing on their involvement in virus-associated chronic inflammation and co-morbidities.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3390/ijms18071390DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5535883PMC
June 2017

Phosphatidylcholine-specific phospholipase C inhibition down- regulates CXCR4 expression and interferes with proliferation, invasion and glycolysis in glioma cells.

PLoS One 2017 19;12(4):e0176108. Epub 2017 Apr 19.

Department of Cell Biology and Neurosciences, Istituto Superiore di Sanità, Rome, Italy.

Background: The chemokine receptor CXCR4 plays a crucial role in tumors, including glioblastoma multiforme (GBM), the most aggressive glioma. Phosphatidylcholine-specific phospholipase C (PC-PLC), a catabolic enzyme of PC metabolism, is involved in several aspects of cancer biology and its inhibition down-modulates the expression of growth factor membrane receptors interfering with their signaling pathways. In the present work we investigated the possible interplay between CXCR4 and PC-PLC in GBM cells.

Methods: Confocal microscopy, immunoprecipitation, western blot analyses, and the evaluation of migration and invasion potential were performed on U87MG cells after PC-PLC inhibition with the xanthate D609. The intracellular metabolome was investigated by magnetic resonance spectroscopy; lactate levels and lactate dehydrogenase (LDH) activity were analyzed by colorimetric assay.

Results: Our studies demonstrated that CXCR4 and PC-PLC co-localize and are associated on U87MG cell membrane. D609 reduced CXCR4 expression, cell proliferation and invasion, interfering with AKT and EGFR activation and expression. Metabolic analyses showed a decrease in intracellular lactate concentration together with a decrement in LDH activity.

Conclusions: Our data suggest that inhibition of PC-PLC could represent a new molecular approach in glioma biology not only for its ability in modulating cell metabolism, glioma growth and motility, but also for its inhibitory effect on crucial molecules involved in cancer progression.
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http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0176108PLOS
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5397108PMC
April 2017

Aberrant HRAS transcript processing underlies a distinctive phenotype within the RASopathy clinical spectrum.

Hum Mutat 2017 07 3;38(7):798-804. Epub 2017 May 3.

Genetics and Rare Diseases Research Division, Ospedale Pediatrico Bambino Gesù, Rome, Italy.

RASopathies are a group of rare, clinically related conditions affecting development and growth, and are caused by germline mutations in genes encoding signal transducers and modulators with a role in the RAS signaling network. These disorders share facial dysmorphia, short stature, variable cognitive deficits, skeletal and cardiac defects, and a variable predisposition to malignancies. Here, we report on a de novo 10-nucleotide-long deletion in HRAS (c.481_490delGGGACCCTCT, NM_176795.4; p.Leu163ProfsTer52, NP_789765.1) affecting transcript processing as a novel event underlying a RASopathy characterized by developmental delay, intellectual disability and autistic features, distinctive coarse facies, reduced growth, and ectodermal anomalies. Molecular and biochemical studies demonstrated that the deletion promotes constitutive retention of exon IDX, which is generally skipped during HRAS transcript processing, and results in a stable and mildly hyperactive GDP/GTP-bound protein that is constitutively targeted to the plasma membrane. Our findings document a new mechanism leading to altered HRAS function that underlies a previously unappreciated phenotype within the RASopathy spectrum.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/humu.23224DOI Listing
July 2017

Proteomic and functional analyses reveal pleiotropic action of the anti-tumoral compound NBDHEX in Giardia duodenalis.

Int J Parasitol Drugs Drug Resist 2017 08 29;7(2):147-158. Epub 2017 Mar 29.

Department of Infectious Diseases, Istituto Superiore di Sanità, viale Regina Elena 299, 00161 Rome, Italy. Electronic address:

Giardiasis, a parasitic diarrheal disease caused by Giardia duodenalis, affects one billion people worldwide. Treatment relies only on a restricted armamentarium of drugs. The disease burden and the increase in treatment failure highlight the need for novel, safe and well characterized drug options. The antitumoral compound NBDHEX is effective in vitro against Giardia trophozoites and inhibits glycerol-3-phosphate dehydrogenase. Aim of this work was to search for additional NBDHEX protein targets. The intrinsic NBDHEX fluorescence was exploited in a proteomic analysis to select and detect modified proteins in drug treated Giardia. In silico structural analysis, intracellular localization and functional assays were further performed to evaluate drug effects on the identified targets. A small subset of Giardia proteins was covalently bound to the drug at specific cysteine residues. These proteins include metabolic enzymes, e.g. thioredoxin reductase (gTrxR), as well as elongation factor 1B-γ (gEF1Bγ), and structural proteins, e.g. α-tubulin. We showed that NBDHEX in vitro binds to recombinant gEF1Bγ and gTrxR, but only the last one could nitroreduce NBDHEX leading to drug modification of gTrxR catalytic cysteines, with concomitant disulphide reductase activity inhibition and NADPH oxidase activity upsurge. Our results indicate that NBDHEX reacts with multiple targets whose roles and/or functions are specifically hampered. In addition, NBDHEX is in turn converted to reactive intermediates extending its toxicity. The described NBDHEX pleiotropic action accounts for its antigiardial activity and encourages the use of this drug as a promising alternative for the future treatment of giardiasis.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ijpddr.2017.03.006DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5377010PMC
August 2017

Acridine Orange/exosomes increase the delivery and the effectiveness of Acridine Orange in human melanoma cells: A new prototype for theranostics of tumors.

J Enzyme Inhib Med Chem 2017 Dec;32(1):648-657

a Anti-Tumour Drugs Section, Department of Drug Research and Medicines Evaluation , National Institute of Health , Rome , Italy.

Specifically targeted drug delivery systems with low immunogenicity and toxicity are deemed to increase efficacy of cancer chemotherapy. Acridine Orange (AO) is an acidophilic dye with a strong tumoricidal action following excitation with a light source at 466 nm. However, to date the clinical use of AO is limited by the potential side effects elicited by systemic administration. The endogenous nanocarrier exosomes have been recently introduced as a natural delivery system for therapeutic molecules. In this article, we show the outcome of the administration to human melanoma cells of AO charged Exosomes (Exo-AO), in both monolayer and spheroid models. The results showed an extended drug delivery time of Exo-AO to melanoma cells as compared to the free AO, improving the cytotoxicity of AO. This study shows that Exo-AO have a great potential for a real exploitation as a new theranostic approach against tumors based on AO delivered through the exosomes.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/14756366.2017.1292263DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6010124PMC
December 2017

Phospholipases: at the crossroads of the immune system and the pathogenesis of HIV-1 infection.

J Leukoc Biol 2017 01 1;101(1):53-75. Epub 2016 Nov 1.

Department of Hematology, Oncology and Molecular Medicine, Istituto Superiore di Sanità, Rome, Italy

Multiple host factors and their interactions with viral proteins contribute to the complexity of HIV-1 pathogenesis and disease progression. The virus exploits the cell-signaling networks to prepare the ground for viral replication, to affect functions of either infected or uninfected bystander cells, and to evade the immune response. These events are hallmarks of HIV-1 pathogenesis that lead toward AIDS. Phospholipases are essential mediators of intracellular and intercellular signaling. They function as phospholipid-hydrolyzing enzymes, generating many bioactive lipid mediators or second messengers, which control multiple cellular functions, thus regulating a variety of physiologic and pathophysiologic processes. These enzymes also represent important components of the cell-signaling networks exploited by HIV-1 and its proteins to favor viral replication and persistence, as well as immune response dysfunction. Although some individual phospholipases were studied in the context of HIV-1 infection, the mechanisms whereby they regulate diverse infection-associated processes, as well as the interaction among different phospholipases have yet to be fully elucidated. In this review, we discuss the principal aspects of the complex interaction between phospholipases, HIV-1, and the immune system. A thorough understanding of the signaling networks that involve phospholipases in both HIV-1-infected cells and individuals is essential to determine whether therapeutic targeting of these enzymes may represent a novel approach to control viral replication, as well as the associated inflammation and comorbidities.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1189/jlb.3RU0316-148RRDOI Listing
January 2017

Key Players in Choline Metabolic Reprograming in Triple-Negative Breast Cancer.

Front Oncol 2016 30;6:205. Epub 2016 Sep 30.

Department of Cell Biology and Neurosciences, Istituto Superiore di Sanità , Rome , Italy.

Triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC), defined as lack of estrogen and progesterone receptors in the absence of protein overexpression/gene amplification of human epidermal growth factor receptor 2, is still a clinical challenge despite progress in breast cancer care. H magnetic resonance spectroscopy allows identification and non-invasive monitoring of TNBC metabolic aberrations and elucidation of some key mechanisms underlying tumor progression. Thus, it has the potential to improve diagnosis and follow-up and also to identify new targets for treatment. Several studies have shown an altered phosphatidylcholine (PtdCho) metabolism in TNBCs, both in patients and in experimental models. Upregulation of choline kinase-alpha, an enzyme of the Kennedy pathway that phosphorylates free choline (Cho) to phosphocholine (PCho), is a major contributor to the increased PCho content detected in TNBCs. Phospholipase-mediated PtdCho headgroup hydrolysis also contributes to the build-up of a PCho pool in TNBC cells. The oncogene-driven PtdCho cycle appears to be fine tuned in TNBC cells in at least three ways: by modulating the choline import, by regulating the activity or expression of specific metabolic enzymes, and by contributing to the rewiring of the entire metabolic network. Thus, only by thoroughly dissecting these mechanisms, it will be possible to effectively translate this basic knowledge into further development and implementation of Cho-based imaging techniques and novel classes of therapeutics.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3389/fonc.2016.00205DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5043614PMC
September 2016

Biallelic Mutations in TBCD, Encoding the Tubulin Folding Cofactor D, Perturb Microtubule Dynamics and Cause Early-Onset Encephalopathy.

Am J Hum Genet 2016 Oct 22;99(4):962-973. Epub 2016 Sep 22.

Department of Human Genetics, Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition and Behaviour, Radboud University Medical Center, Nijmegen 1105, the Netherlands.

Microtubules are dynamic cytoskeletal elements coordinating and supporting a variety of neuronal processes, including cell division, migration, polarity, intracellular trafficking, and signal transduction. Mutations in genes encoding tubulins and microtubule-associated proteins are known to cause neurodevelopmental and neurodegenerative disorders. Growing evidence suggests that altered microtubule dynamics may also underlie or contribute to neurodevelopmental disorders and neurodegeneration. We report that biallelic mutations in TBCD, encoding one of the five co-chaperones required for assembly and disassembly of the αβ-tubulin heterodimer, the structural unit of microtubules, cause a disease with neurodevelopmental and neurodegenerative features characterized by early-onset cortical atrophy, secondary hypomyelination, microcephaly, thin corpus callosum, developmental delay, intellectual disability, seizures, optic atrophy, and spastic quadriplegia. Molecular dynamics simulations predicted long-range and/or local structural perturbations associated with the disease-causing mutations. Biochemical analyses documented variably reduced levels of TBCD, indicating relative instability of mutant proteins, and defective β-tubulin binding in a subset of the tested mutants. Reduced or defective TBCD function resulted in decreased soluble α/β-tubulin levels and accelerated microtubule polymerization in fibroblasts from affected subjects, demonstrating an overall shift toward a more rapidly growing and stable microtubule population. These cells displayed an aberrant mitotic spindle with disorganized, tangle-shaped microtubules and reduced aster formation, which however did not alter appreciably the rate of cell proliferation. Our findings establish that defective TBCD function underlies a recognizable encephalopathy and drives accelerated microtubule polymerization and enhanced microtubule stability, underscoring an additional cause of altered microtubule dynamics with impact on neuronal function and survival in the developing brain.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ajhg.2016.08.003DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5065658PMC
October 2016

TBCE Mutations Cause Early-Onset Progressive Encephalopathy with Distal Spinal Muscular Atrophy.

Am J Hum Genet 2016 Oct 22;99(4):974-983. Epub 2016 Sep 22.

Genetics and Rare Diseases Research Division, Ospedale Pediatrico Bambino Gesù, 00146 Rome, Italy. Electronic address:

Tubulinopathies constitute a family of neurodevelopmental/neurodegenerative disorders caused by mutations in several genes encoding tubulin isoforms. Loss-of-function mutations in TBCE, encoding one of the five tubulin-specific chaperones involved in tubulin folding and polymerization, cause two rare neurodevelopmental syndromes, hypoparathyroidism-retardation-dysmorphism and Kenny-Caffey syndrome. Although a missense mutation in Tbce has been associated with progressive distal motor neuronopathy in the pmn/pmn mice, no similar degenerative phenotype has been recognized in humans. We report on the identification of an early-onset and progressive neurodegenerative encephalopathy with distal spinal muscular atrophy resembling the phenotype of pmn/pmn mice and caused by biallelic TBCE mutations, with the c.464T>A (p.Ile155Asn) change occurring at the heterozygous/homozygous state in six affected subjects from four unrelated families originated from the same geographical area in Southern Italy. Western blot analysis of patient fibroblasts documented a reduced amount of TBCE, suggestive of rapid degradation of the mutant protein, similarly to what was observed in pmn/pmn fibroblasts. The impact of TBCE mutations on microtubule polymerization was determined using biochemical fractionation and analyzing the nucleation and growth of microtubules at the centrosome and extracentrosomal sites after treatment with nocodazole. Primary fibroblasts obtained from affected subjects displayed a reduced level of polymerized α-tubulin, similarly to tail fibroblasts of pmn/pmn mice. Moreover, markedly delayed microtubule re-polymerization and abnormal mitotic spindles with disorganized microtubule arrangement were also documented. Although loss of function of TBCE has been documented to impact multiple developmental processes, the present findings provide evidence that hypomorphic TBCE mutations primarily drive neurodegeneration.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ajhg.2016.08.006DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5065657PMC
October 2016

Activation of Phosphatidylcholine-Specific Phospholipase C in Breast and Ovarian Cancer: Impact on MRS-Detected Choline Metabolic Profile and Perspectives for Targeted Therapy.

Front Oncol 2016 2;6:171. Epub 2016 Aug 2.

Molecular and Cellular Imaging Unit, Department of Cell Biology and Neurosciences, Istituto Superiore di Sanità , Rome , Italy.

Elucidation of molecular mechanisms underlying the aberrant phosphatidylcholine cycle in cancer cells plays in favor of the use of metabolic imaging in oncology and opens the way for designing new targeted therapies. The anomalous choline metabolic profile detected in cancer by magnetic resonance spectroscopy and spectroscopic imaging provides molecular signatures of tumor progression and response to therapy. The increased level of intracellular phosphocholine (PCho) typically detected in cancer cells is mainly attributed to upregulation of choline kinase, responsible for choline phosphorylation in the biosynthetic Kennedy pathway, but can also be partly produced by activation of phosphatidylcholine-specific phospholipase C (PC-PLC). This hydrolytic enzyme, known for implications in bacterial infection and in plant survival to hostile environmental conditions, is reported to be activated in mitogen- and oncogene-induced phosphatidylcholine cycles in mammalian cells, with effects on cell signaling, cell cycle regulation, and cell proliferation. Recent investigations showed that PC-PLC activation could account for 20-50% of the intracellular PCho production in ovarian and breast cancer cells of different subtypes. Enzyme activation was associated with PC-PLC protein overexpression and subcellular redistribution in these cancer cells compared with non-tumoral counterparts. Moreover, PC-PLC coimmunoprecipitated with the human epidermal growth factor receptor-2 (HER2) and EGFR in HER2-overexpressing breast and ovarian cancer cells, while pharmacological PC-PLC inhibition resulted into long-lasting HER2 downregulation, retarded receptor re-expression on plasma membrane and antiproliferative effects. This body of evidence points to PC-PLC as a potential target for newly designed therapies, whose effects can be preclinically and clinically monitored by metabolic imaging methods.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3389/fonc.2016.00171DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4969288PMC
August 2016

Chemo-immunotherapy induces tumor regression in a mouse model of spontaneous mammary carcinogenesis.

Oncotarget 2016 Sep;7(37):59754-59765

Department of Haematology, Oncology and Molecular Medicine, Istituto Superiore di Sanità, Rome, Italy.

Tumor-specific immune tolerance represents an obstacle for the development of effective anti-tumor immune responses through cancer vaccines. We here evaluated the efficacy of chemo-immunotherapy in breaking tumor-specific immune tolerance in an almost incurable mouse model of spontaneous carcinogenesis.Transgenic HER-2/neu mice bearing large mammary tumors received the adoptive transfer of splenocytes and serum isolated from immune donors, with or without pre-conditioning with cyclophosphamide. Treatment efficacy was assessed by monitoring tumor growth by manual inspection and by magnetic resonance imaging. The same chemo-immunotherapy protocol was tested on tumor-free HER-2/neu mice, to evaluate the effects on tumor emergence.Our data show that chemo-immunotherapy hampered carcinogenesis and caused the regression of large mammary tumor lesions in tumor-bearing HER-2/neu mice. The complete eradication of a significant number of tumor lesions occurred only in mice receiving cyclophosphamide shortly before immunotherapy, and was associated with increased serum anti HER-2/p185 antibodies and tumor leukocyte infiltration. The same protocol significantly delayed the appearance of mammary tumors when administered to tumor-free HER-2/neu mice, indicating that this chemo-immunotherapy approach acted through the elicitation of an effective anti-tumor immune response. Overall, our data support the immune-modulatory role of chemotherapy in overcoming cancer immune tolerance when administered at lymphodepleting non-myeloablative doses shortly before transfer of antigen-specific immune cells and immunoglobulins. These findings open new perspectives on combining immune-modulatory chemotherapy and immunotherapy to overcome immune tolerance in cancer patients.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.18632/oncotarget.10880DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5312346PMC
September 2016

SHOC2 subcellular shuttling requires the KEKE motif-rich region and N-terminal leucine-rich repeat domain and impacts on ERK signalling.

Hum Mol Genet 2016 09 27;25(17):3824-3835. Epub 2016 Jul 27.

Genetics and Rare Diseases Research Division, Ospedale Pediatrico Bambino Gesù, Rome, Italy

SHOC2 is a scaffold protein composed almost entirely by leucine-rich repeats (LRRs) and having an N-terminal region enriched in alternating lysine and glutamate/aspartate residues (KEKE motifs). SHOC2 acts as a positive modulator of the RAS-RAF-MEK-ERK signalling cascade by favouring stable RAF1 interaction with RAS. We previously reported that the p.Ser2Gly substitution in SHOC2 underlies Mazzanti syndrome, a RASopathy clinically overlapping Noonan syndrome, promoting N-myristoylation and constitutive targeting of the mutant to the plasma membrane. We also documented transient nuclear translocation of wild-type SHOC2 upon EGF stimulation, suggesting a more complex function in signal transduction.Here, we characterized the domains controlling SHOC2 shuttling between the nucleus and cytoplasm, and those contributing to SHOC2 mistargeting to the plasma membrane, analysed the structural organization of SHOC2's LRR motifs, and determined the impact of SHOC2 mislocalization on ERK signalling. We show that LRRs 1 to 13 constitute a structurally recognizable domain required for SHOC2 import into the nucleus and constitutive targeting of SHOC2 to the plasma membrane, while the KEKE motif-rich region is necessary to achieve efficient SHOC2 export from the nucleus. We also document that SHOC2 localizes both in raft and non-raft domains, and that it translocates to the non-raft domains following stimulation. Finally, we demonstrate that SHOC2 trapping at different subcellular sites has a diverse impact on ERK signalling strength and dynamics, suggesting a dual counteracting modulatory role of SHOC2 in the control of ERK signalling exerted at different intracellular compartments.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/hmg/ddw229DOI Listing
September 2016

Exosomes from human colorectal cancer induce a tumor-like behavior in colonic mesenchymal stromal cells.

Oncotarget 2016 Aug;7(31):50086-50098

Department of Therapeutic Research and Medicine Evaluation, Istituto Superiore di Sanità, Rome, Italy.

Background: Cancer cells, including colorectal cancer ones (CRC), release high amounts of nanovesicles (exosomes), delivering biochemical messages for paracrine or systemic crosstalk. Mesenchymal stromal cells (MSCs) have been shown to play contradicting roles in tumor progression.

Results: CRC exosomes induce in cMSCs: i) atypical morphology, higher proliferation, migration and invasion; ii) formation of spheroids; iii) an acidic extracellular environment associated with iv) a plasma membrane redistribution of vacuolar H+-ATPase and increased expression of CEA. Colon cancer derived MSCs, which were isolated from tumor masses, produce umbilicated spheroids, a future frequently observed in the inner core of rapidly growing tumors and recapitulate the changes observed in normal colonic MSCs exposed to CRC exosomes.

Materials And Methods: Tissue specific colonic (c)MSCs were exposed to primary or metastatic CRC exosomes and analysed by light and electron microscopy, proliferation in 2D and 3D cultures, migration and invasion assays, Western blot and confocal microscopy for vacuolar H+-ATPase expression.

Conclusions: CRC exosomes are able to induce morphological and functional changes in colonic MSCs, which may favour tumor growth and its malignant progression. Our results suggest that exosomes are actively involved in cancer progression and that inhibiting tumor exosome release may represent a way to interfere with cancer.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.18632/oncotarget.10574DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5226570PMC
August 2016

Targeting CXCR4 by a selective peptide antagonist modulates tumor microenvironment and microglia reactivity in a human glioblastoma model.

J Exp Clin Cancer Res 2016 Mar 25;35:55. Epub 2016 Mar 25.

Department of Cell Biology and Neurosciences, Istituto Superiore di Sanità, Rome, Italy.

Background: The CXCL12/CXCR4 pathway regulates tumor cell proliferation, metastasis, angiogenesis and the tumor-microenvironment cross-talk in several solid tumors, including glioblastoma (GBM), the most common and fatal brain cancer. In the present study, we evaluated the effects of peptide R, a new specific CXCR4 antagonist that we recently developed by a ligand-based approach, in an in vitro and in vivo model of GBM. The well-characterized CXCR4 antagonist Plerixafor was also included in the study.

Methods: The effects of peptide R on CXCR4 expression, cell survival and migration were assessed on the human glioblastoma cell line U87MG exposed to CXCL12, by immunofluorescence and western blotting, MTT assay, flow cytometry and transwell chamber migration assay. Peptide R was then tested in vivo, by using U87MG intracranial xenografts in CD1 nude mice. Peptide R was administered for 23 days since cell implantation and tumor volume was assessed by magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) at 4.7 T. Glioma associated microglia/macrophage (GAMs) polarization (anti-tumor M1 versus pro-tumor M2 phenotypes) and expressions of vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) and CD31 were assessed by immunohistochemistry and immunofluorescence.

Results: We found that peptide R impairs the metabolic activity and cell proliferation of human U87MG cells and stably reduces CXCR4 expression and cell migration in response to CXCL12 in vitro. In the orthotopic U87MG model, peptide R reduced tumor cellularity, promoted M1 features of GAMs and astrogliosis, and hindered intra-tumor vasculature.

Conclusions: Our findings suggest that targeting CXCR4 by peptide R might represent a novel therapeutic approach against GBM, and contribute to the rationale to further explore in more complex pre-clinical settings the therapeutic potential of peptide R, alone or in combination with standard therapies of GBM.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1186/s13046-016-0326-yDOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4807593PMC
March 2016
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