Publications by authors named "Stefan Wiemann"

133 Publications

Cancer-Associated Fibroblasts: Implications for Cancer Therapy.

Cancers (Basel) 2021 Jul 14;13(14). Epub 2021 Jul 14.

German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ), Division of Molecular Genome Analysis, Im Neuenheimer Feld 580, 69120 Heidelberg, Germany.

Tumour cells do not exist as an isolated entity. Instead, they are surrounded by and closely interact with cells of the environment they are emerged in. The tumour microenvironment (TME) is not static and several factors, including cancer cells and therapies, have been described to modulate several of its components. Fibroblasts are key elements of the TME with the capacity to influence tumour progression, invasion and response to therapy, which makes them attractive targets in cancer treatment. In this review, we focus on fibroblasts and their numerous roles in the TME with a special attention to recent findings describing their heterogeneity and role in therapy response. Furthermore, we explore how different therapies can impact these cells and their communication with cancer cells. Finally, we highlight potential strategies targeting this cell type that can be employed for improving patient outcome.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3390/cancers13143526DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8307167PMC
July 2021

Host-Dependent Phenotypic Resistance to EGFR Tyrosine Kinase Inhibitors.

Cancer Res 2021 Jul 3;81(14):3862-3875. Epub 2021 May 3.

Department of Biological Regulation, Weizmann Institute of Science, Rehovot, Israel.

Lung cancers driven by mutant forms of EGFR invariably develop resistance to kinase inhibitors, often due to secondary mutations. Here we describe an unconventional mechanism of resistance to dacomitinib, a newly approved covalent EGFR kinase inhibitor, and uncover a previously unknown step of resistance acquisition. Dacomitinib-resistant (DR) derivatives of lung cancer cells were established by means of gradually increasing dacomitinib concentrations. These DR cells acquired no secondary mutations in the kinase or other domains of EGFR. Along with resistance to other EGFR inhibitors, DR cells acquired features characteristic to epithelial-mesenchymal transition, including an expanded population of aldehyde dehydrogenase-positive cells and upregulation of AXL, a receptor previously implicated in drug resistance. Unexpectedly, when implanted in animals, DR cells reverted to a dacomitinib-sensitive state. Nevertheless, cell lines derived from regressing tumors displayed renewed resistance when cultured . Three-dimensional and cocultures along with additional analyses indicated lack of involvement of hypoxia, fibroblasts, and immune cells in phenotype reversal, implying that other host-dependent mechanisms might nullify nonmutational modes of resistance. Thus, similar to the phenotypic resistance of bacteria treated with antibiotics, the reversible resisters described here likely evolve from drug-tolerant persisters and give rise to the irreversible, secondary mutation-driven nonreversible resister state. SIGNIFICANCE: This study reports that stepwise acquisition of kinase inhibitor resistance in lung cancers driven by mutant EGFR comprises a nonmutational, reversible resister state. GRAPHICAL ABSTRACT: http://cancerres.aacrjournals.org/content/canres/81/14/3862/F1.large.jpg.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1158/0008-5472.CAN-20-3555DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7611293PMC
July 2021

Lipomatous Solitary Fibrous Tumors Harbor Rare NAB2-STAT6 Fusion Variants and Show Up-Regulation of the Gene PPARG, Encoding for a Regulator of Adipocyte Differentiation.

Am J Pathol 2021 07 20;191(7):1314-1324. Epub 2021 Apr 20.

Institute of Pathology, University Hospital Erlangen, Friedrich-Alexander University Erlangen-Nuremberg, Erlangen, Germany.

Solitary fibrous tumors (SFTs) harbor activating NAB2-STAT6 gene fusions. Different variants of the NAB2-STAT6 gene fusion have been associated with distinct clinicopathologic features. Lipomatous SFTs are a morphologic variant of SFTs, characterized by a fat-forming tumor component. Our aim was to evaluate NAB2-STAT6 fusion variants and to further study the molecular genetic features in a cohort of lipomatous SFTs. A hybrid-capture-based next-generation sequencing panel was employed to detect NAB2-STAT6 gene fusions at the RNA level. In addition, the RNA expression levels of 507 genes were evaluated using this panel, and were compared with a control cohort of nonlipomatous SFTs. Notably, 5 of 11 (45%) of lipomatous SFTs in the current series harbored the uncommon NAB2 exon 4-STAT6 exon 4 gene fusion variant, which is observed in only 0.9% to 1.4% of nonlipomatous SFTs. Furthermore, lipomatous SFTs displayed significant differences in gene expression compared with their nonlipomatous counterparts, including up-regulation of the gene peroxisome proliferator activated receptor-γ (PPARG). Peroxisome proliferator activated receptor-γ is a nuclear receptor regulating adipocyte differentiation, providing a possible explanation for the fat-forming component in lipomatous SFTs. In summary, the current study provides a possible molecular genetic basis for the distinct morphologic features of lipomatous SFTs.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ajpath.2021.03.012DOI Listing
July 2021

Stromal NRG1 in luminal breast cancer defines pro-fibrotic and migratory cancer-associated fibroblasts.

Oncogene 2021 04 10;40(15):2651-2666. Epub 2021 Mar 10.

Division of Molecular Genome Analysis, German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ), Heidelberg, Germany.

HER3 is highly expressed in luminal breast cancer subtypes. Its activation by NRG1 promotes activation of AKT and ERK1/2, contributing to tumour progression and therapy resistance. HER3-targeting agents that block this activation, are currently under phase 1/2 clinical studies, and although they have shown favorable tolerability, their activity as a single agent has proven to be limited. Here we show that phosphorylation and activation of HER3 in luminal breast cancer cells occurs in a paracrine manner and is mediated by NRG1 expressed by cancer-associated fibroblasts (CAFs). Moreover, we uncover a HER3-independent NRG1 signaling in CAFs that results in the induction of a strong migratory and pro-fibrotic phenotype, describing a subtype of CAFs with elevated expression of NRG1 and an associated transcriptomic profile that determines their functional properties. Finally, we identified Hyaluronan Synthase 2 (HAS2), a targetable molecule strongly correlated with NRG1, as an attractive player supporting NRG1 signaling in CAFs.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41388-021-01719-3DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8049869PMC
April 2021

Gene Expression in Solitary Fibrous Tumors (SFTs) Correlates with Anatomic Localization and NAB2-STAT6 Gene Fusion Variants.

Am J Pathol 2021 04 23;191(4):602-617. Epub 2021 Jan 23.

Institute of Pathology, University Hospital Erlangen, Friedrich-Alexander University Erlangen-Nuremberg, Erlangen, Germany. Electronic address:

Solitary fibrous tumors (SFTs) harbor recurrent NAB2-STAT6 gene fusions, promoting constitutional up-regulation of oncogenic early growth response 1 (EGR1)-dependent gene expression. SFTs with the most common canonical NAB2 exon 4-STAT6 exon 2 fusion variant are often located in the thorax (pleuropulmonary) and are less cellular with abundant collagen. In contrast, SFTs with NAB2 exon 6-STAT6 exon 16/17 fusion variants typically display a cellular round to ovoid cell morphology and are often located in the deep soft tissue of the retroperitoneum and intra-abdominal pelvic region or in the meninges. Here, we employed next-generation sequencing-based gene expression profiling to identify significant differences in gene expression associated with anatomic localization and NAB2-STAT6 gene fusion variants. SFTs with the NAB2 exon 4-STAT6 exon 2 fusion variant showed a transcriptional signature enriched for genes involved in DNA binding, gene transcription, and nuclear localization, whereas SFTs with the NAB2 exon 6-STAT6 exon 16/17 fusion variants were enriched for genes involved in tyrosine kinase signaling, cell proliferation, and cytoplasmic localization. Specific transcription factor binding motifs were enriched among differentially expressed genes in SFTs with different fusion variants, implicating co-transcription factors in the modification of chimeric NGFI-A binding protein 2 (NAB2)-STAT6-dependent deregulation of EGR1-dependent gene expression. In summary, this study establishes a potential molecular biologic basis for clinicopathologic differences in SFTs with distinct NAB2-STAT6 gene fusion variants.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ajpath.2020.12.015DOI Listing
April 2021

IFNβ1 secreted by breast cancer cells undergoing chemotherapy reprograms stromal fibroblasts to support tumour growth after treatment.

Mol Oncol 2021 May 11;15(5):1308-1329. Epub 2021 Feb 11.

Division of Molecular Genome Analysis, German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ), Heidelberg, Germany.

Chemotherapy (CTX) remains the standard of care for most aggressive tumours, including breast cancer (BC). In BC chemotherapeutic regimens, the maximum tolerated dose of cytotoxic drugs is administered at regular intervals, and cancer cells can re-grow or adapt during the resting periods between cycles. The impact of the tumour microenvironment on the fate of cancer cells after CTX remains poorly understood. Here, we show that paracrine signalling from CTX-treated cancer cells to stromal fibroblasts can drive cancer cell recovery after cytotoxic drug withdrawal. Interferon β1 (IFNβ1) secreted by cancer cells following treatment with high doses of CTX instigates the acquisition of an anti-viral state in stromal fibroblasts. This state is associated with an expression pattern here referred to as interferon signature (IFNS), which encompasses several interferon-stimulated genes (ISGs), including numerous pro-inflammatory cytokine genes. This crosstalk is an important driver of the expansion of BC cells after CTX, and IFNβ1 blockade in tumour cells abrogated their fibroblast-dependent recovery potential. Analysis of human breast carcinomas supported a link between CTX-induced IFNS in tumour stroma and poor response to CTX treatment. First, IFNβ1 expression in human breast carcinomas was found to inversely correlate with recurrence free survival (RFS). Second, using laser capture microdissection data sets, we show a higher expression of IFNS in the stromal tumour compartment compared to the epithelial one and this signature was found to be more prominent in more aggressive subtypes of BC (basal-like), pointing to a pro-tumorigenic role of this signature. Moreover, IFNS was associated with higher recurrence rates and a worse outcome in BC patients. Our study unravels a novel form of paracrine communication between cancer cells and fibroblasts that ultimately results in CTX resistance. Targeting this axis has the potential to improve CTX outcomes in patients with BC.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/1878-0261.12905DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8096792PMC
May 2021

Abrogating GPT2 in triple-negative breast cancer inhibits tumor growth and promotes autophagy.

Int J Cancer 2021 04 9;148(8):1993-2009. Epub 2021 Jan 9.

Division of Molecular Genome Analysis, German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ), Heidelberg, Germany.

Uncontrolled proliferation and altered metabolic reprogramming are hallmarks of cancer. Active glycolysis and glutaminolysis are characteristic features of these hallmarks and required for tumorigenesis. A fine balance between cancer metabolism and autophagy is a prerequisite of homeostasis within cancer cells. Here we show that glutamate pyruvate transaminase 2 (GPT2), which serves as a pivot between glycolysis and glutaminolysis, is highly upregulated in aggressive breast cancers, particularly the triple-negative breast cancer subtype. Abrogation of this enzyme results in decreased tricarboxylic acid cycle intermediates, which promotes the rewiring of glucose carbon atoms and alterations in nutrient levels. Concordantly, loss of GPT2 results in an impairment of mechanistic target of rapamycin complex 1 activity as well as the induction of autophagy. Furthermore, in vivo xenograft studies have shown that autophagy induction correlates with decreased tumor growth and that markers of induced autophagy correlate with low GPT2 levels in patient samples. Taken together, these findings indicate that cancer cells have a close network between metabolic and nutrient sensing pathways necessary to sustain tumorigenesis and that aminotransferase reactions play an important role in maintaining this balance.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/ijc.33456DOI Listing
April 2021

Time-Resolved Profiling Reveals ATF3 as a Novel Mediator of Endocrine Resistance in Breast Cancer.

Cancers (Basel) 2020 Oct 11;12(10). Epub 2020 Oct 11.

Division of Molecular Genome Analysis, German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ), Im Neuenheimer Feld 580, 69120 Heidelberg, Germany.

Breast cancer is one of the leading causes of death for women worldwide. Patients whose tumors express Estrogen Receptor α account for around 70% of cases and are mostly treated with targeted endocrine therapy. However, depending on the degree of severity of the disease at diagnosis, 10 to 40% of these tumors eventually relapse due to resistance development. Even though recent novel approaches as the combination with CDK4/6 inhibitors increased the overall survival of relapsing patients, this remains relatively short and there is a urgent need to find alternative targetable pathways. In this study we profiled the early phases of the resistance development process to uncover drivers of this phenomenon. Time-resolved analysis revealed that ATF3, a member of the ATF/CREB family of transcription factors, acts as a novel regulator of the response to therapy via rewiring of central signaling processes towards the adaptation to endocrine treatment. ATF3 was found to be essential in controlling crucial processes such as proliferation, cell cycle, and apoptosis during the early response to treatment through the regulation of MAPK/AKT signaling pathways. Its essential role was confirmed in vivo in a mouse model, and elevated expression of was verified in patient datasets, adding clinical relevance to our findings. This study proposes ATF3 as a novel mediator of endocrine resistance development in breast cancer and elucidates its role in the regulation of downstream pathways activities.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3390/cancers12102918DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7650760PMC
October 2020

Integrating proteomics into precision oncology.

Int J Cancer 2021 03 25;148(6):1438-1451. Epub 2020 Sep 25.

Division of Molecular Genome Analysis, German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ), Heidelberg, Germany.

DNA sequencing and RNA sequencing are increasingly applied in precision oncology, where molecular tumor boards evaluate the actionability of genetic events in individual tumors to guide targeted treatment. To work toward an additional level of patient characterization, we assessed the abundance and activity of 27 proteins in 134 patients whose tumors had previously undergone whole-exome and RNA sequencing within the Molecularly Aided Stratification for Tumor Eradication Research (MASTER) program of National Center for Tumor Diseases, Heidelberg. Proteomic and phosphoproteomic targets were selected to reflect the most relevant therapeutic baskets in MASTER. Among six different therapeutic baskets, the proteomic data supported treatment recommendations that were based on DNA and RNA analyses in 10% to 57% and frequently suggested alternative treatment options. In several cases, protein activities explained the patients' clinical course and provided potential explanations for treatment failure. Our study indicates that the integrative analysis of DNA, RNA and protein data may refine therapeutic stratification of individual patients and, thus, holds potential to increase the success rate of precision cancer therapy. Prospective validation studies are needed to advance the integration of proteomic analysis into precision oncology.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/ijc.33301DOI Listing
March 2021

Candidate methylation sites associated with endocrine therapy resistance in ER+/HER2- breast cancer.

BMC Cancer 2020 Jul 19;20(1):676. Epub 2020 Jul 19.

Bioinformatics Laboratory, Department of Clinical Epidemiology, Biostatistics, and Bioinformatics, Amsterdam Public Health research institute, Amsterdam UMC, University of Amsterdam, Meibergdreef 9, Amsterdam, AZ, 1105, The Netherlands.

Background: Estrogen receptor (ER) positive breast cancer is often effectively treated with drugs that inhibit ER signaling, i.e., tamoxifen (TAM) and aromatase inhibitors (AIs). However, 30% of ER+ breast cancer patients develop resistance to therapy leading to tumour recurrence. Changes in the methylation profile have been implicated as one of the mechanisms through which therapy resistance develops. Therefore, we aimed to identify methylation loci associated with endocrine therapy resistance.

Methods: We used genome-wide DNA methylation profiles of primary ER+/HER2- tumours from The Cancer Genome Atlas in combination with curated data on survival and treatment to predict development of endocrine resistance. Association of individual DNA methylation markers with survival was assessed using Cox proportional hazards models in a cohort of ER+/HER2- tumours (N = 552) and two sub-cohorts corresponding to the endocrine treatment (AI or TAM) that patients received (N = 210 and N = 172, respectively). We also identified multivariable methylation signatures associated with survival using Cox proportional hazards models with elastic net regularization. Individual markers and multivariable signatures were compared with DNA methylation profiles generated in a time course experiment using the T47D ER+ breast cancer cell line treated with tamoxifen or deprived from estrogen.

Results: We identified 134, 5 and 1 CpGs for which DNA methylation is significantly associated with survival in the ER+/HER2-, TAM and AI cohorts respectively. Multi-locus signatures consisted of 203, 36 and 178 CpGs and showed a large overlap with the corresponding single-locus signatures. The methylation signatures were associated with survival independently of tumour stage, age, AI treatment, and luminal status. The single-locus signature for the TAM cohort was conserved among the loci that were differentially methylated in endocrine-resistant T47D cells. Similarly, multi-locus signatures for the ER+/HER2- and AI cohorts were conserved in endocrine-resistant T47D cells. Also at the gene set level, several sets related to endocrine therapy and resistance were enriched in both survival and T47D signatures.

Conclusions: We identified individual and multivariable DNA methylation markers associated with therapy resistance independently of luminal status. Our results suggest that these markers identified from primary tumours prior to endocrine treatment are associated with development of endocrine resistance.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1186/s12885-020-07100-zDOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7368985PMC
July 2020

TNFR2+ TILs are significantly associated with improved survival in triple-negative breast cancer patients.

Cancer Immunol Immunother 2020 Jul 20;69(7):1315-1326. Epub 2020 Mar 20.

School of Molecular Cell Biology and Biotechnology, George S. Wise Faculty of Life Sciences, Tel Aviv University, 6997801, Tel Aviv, Israel.

In view of the relatively limited efficacy of immunotherapies targeting the PD-1-PD-L1 axis in triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC) and of published reports on tumor-promoting roles of TNFR2+ tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes (TNFR2+ TILs), we determined the incidence of TNFR2+ TILs in TNBC patient tumors, their association with disease outcome and relations with PD-1+ TILs. Using a cohort of treatment-naïve TNBC patients with long follow-up (n = 70), we determined the presence of TNFR2+ TILs and PD-1+ TILs by immunohistochemistry. TILs (≥ 1% of cellular mass) and TNFR2+ TILs (≥ 1% of total TILs) were detected in 96% and 74% of tumors, respectively. The presence of TILs at > 5% of tumor cell mass ("Positive TILs"), as well as of positive TNFR2+ TILs (> 5%), was independently associated with good prognosis, and combination of both parameters demonstrated superior outcome relative to their lower levels. PD1+ TILs (> 5/hot spot) were detected in 63% of patients. High levels of PD-1+ TILs (> 20/hot spot) showed an unfavorable disease outcome, and in their presence, the favorable outcome of positive TNFR2+ TILs was ablated. Thus, TNFR2+ TILs are strongly connected to improved prognosis in TNBC; these findings suggest that TNFR2+ TILs have favorable effects in TNBC patients, unlike the tumor-promoting roles attributed to them in other cancer systems. Overall, our observations propose that the TNFR2+ TIL subset should not be targeted in the course of TNBC therapy; rather, its beneficial impacts may become into power when anti-PD-1 regimens-that may potentiate immune activities-are administered to TNBC patients.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s00262-020-02549-0DOI Listing
July 2020

Reconstruction of Different Modes of WNT Dependent Protein Networks from Time Series Protein Quantification.

Stud Health Technol Inform 2019 Sep;267:175-180

University Medical Center Göttingen, Hematology & Medical Oncology, 37099 Göttingen.

Protein signaling networks are crucial cornerstones in cellular responses. Deregulation causes various diseases, including cancer. One pathway that is frequently deregulated in cancer is the WNT signaling pathway. It has been shown that WNT signaling is highly context-dependent and the availability of receptors and ligands determines downstream signaling. In order to reveal which signaling pathways are activated by a specific receptor-ligand combination, we overexpressed the non-canonical WNT receptor ROR2 in the human breast cancer cell line MCF-7 and stimulated it with its putative ligand WNT11. Based on characterization of the cells by Reverse Phase Protein Array (RPPA), we integrated the proteomic data by network reconstruction analysis with prior knowledge from a pathway database. Using this approach, we were able to identify novel edges that differed upon ROR2 overexpression and WNT11 stimulation.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3233/SHTI190823DOI Listing
September 2019

Notch-Mediated Tumor-Stroma-Inflammation Networks Promote Invasive Properties and CXCL8 Expression in Triple-Negative Breast Cancer.

Front Immunol 2019 24;10:804. Epub 2019 Apr 24.

School of Molecular Cell Biology and Biotechnology, George S. Wise Faculty of Life Sciences, Tel Aviv University, Tel Aviv, Israel.

Stromal cells and pro-inflammatory cytokines play key roles in promoting the aggressiveness of triple-negative breast cancers (TNBC; Basal/Basal-like). In our previous study we demonstrated that stimulation of TNBC and mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) co-cultures by the pro-inflammatory cytokine tumor necrosis factor α (TNFα) has led to increased metastasis-related properties and . In this context, elevated release of the pro-metastatic chemokines CXCL8 (IL-8) and CCL5 (RANTES) was noted in TNFα- and interleukin-1β (IL-1β)-stimulated TNBC:MSC co-cultures; the process was partly (CXCL8) and entirely (CCL5) dependent on physical contacts between the two cell types. Here, we demonstrate that DAPT, inhibitor of γ-secretase that participates in activation of Notch receptors, inhibited the migration and invasion of TNBC cells that were grown in "Contact" co-cultures with MSCs or with patient-derived cancer-associated fibroblasts (CAFs), in the presence of TNFα. DAPT also inhibited the contact-dependent induction of CXCL8, but not of CCL5, in TNFα- and IL-1β-stimulated TNBC:MSC/CAF co-cultures; some level of heterogeneity between the responses of different TNBC cell lines was noted, with MDA-MB-231:MSC/CAF co-cultures being the most sensitive to DAPT. Patient dataset studies comparing basal tumors to luminal-A tumors, and mRNA analyses of Notch receptors in TNBC and luminal-A cells pointed at Notch1 as possible mediator of CXCL8 increase in TNFα-stimulated TNBC:stroma "Contact" co-cultures. Accordingly, down-regulation of Notch1 in TNBC cells by siRNA has substantially reduced the contact-dependent elevation in CXCL8 in TNFα- and also in IL-1β-stimulated TNBC:MSC "Contact" co-cultures. Then, studies in which CXCL8 or p65 (NF-κB pathway) were down-regulated (siRNAs; CRISPR/Cas9) in TNBC cells and/or MSCs, indicated that upon TNFα stimulation of "Contact" co-cultures, p65 was activated and led to CXCL8 production mainly in TNBC cells. Moreover, our findings indicated that when tumor cells interacted with stromal cells in the presence of pro-inflammatory stimuli, TNFα-induced p65 activation has led to elevated Notch1 expression and activation, which then gave rise to elevated production of CXCL8. Overall, tumor:stroma interactions set the stage for Notch1 activation by pro-inflammatory signals, leading to CXCL8 induction and consequently to pro-metastatic activities. These observations may have important clinical implications in designing novel therapy combinations in TNBC.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3389/fimmu.2019.00804DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6492532PMC
October 2020

Nuclear NR4A3 Immunostaining Is a Specific and Sensitive Novel Marker for Acinic Cell Carcinoma of the Salivary Glands.

Am J Surg Pathol 2019 09;43(9):1264-1272

Institute of Pathology.

Recently, we discovered the recurrent genomic rearrangement [t(4;9)(q13;q31)] enabling upregulation of the transcription factor Nuclear Receptor Subfamily 4 Group A Member 3 (NR4A3) through enhancer hijacking as the oncogenic driver event in acinic cell carcinoma (AciCC) of the salivary glands. In the current study, we evaluated the usefulness of NR4A3 immunostaining and NR4A3 fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH) in the differential diagnosis of AciCC, comparing a total of 64 AciCCs including 17% cases with high-grade transformation, 29 secretory (mammary analog) carcinomas (MASC), and 70 other salivary gland carcinomas. Nuclear NR4A3 immunostaining was a highly specific (100%) and sensitive (98%) marker for AciCC with only 1 negative case, whereas NR4A3 FISH was less sensitive (84%). None of the MASCs or other salivary gland carcinomas displayed any nuclear NR4A3 immunostaining. The recently described HTN3-MSANTD3 gene fusion was observed in 4 of 49 (8%) evaluable AciCCs, all with nuclear NR4A3 immunostaining. In summary, NR4A3 immunostaining is a highly specific and sensitive marker for AciCC, which may be especially valuable in cases with high-grade transformation and in "zymogen granule"-poor examples within the differential diagnostic spectrum of AciCC and MASC.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1097/PAS.0000000000001279DOI Listing
September 2019

Tumor-Stroma-Inflammation Networks Promote Pro-metastatic Chemokines and Aggressiveness Characteristics in Triple-Negative Breast Cancer.

Front Immunol 2019 12;10:757. Epub 2019 Apr 12.

School of Molecular Cell Biology and Biotechnology, George S. Wise Faculty of Life Sciences, Tel Aviv University, Tel Aviv, Israel.

The tumor microenvironment (TME) plays key roles in promoting disease progression in the aggressive triple-negative subtype of breast cancer (TNBC; Basal/Basal-like). Here, we took an integrative approach and determined the impact of tumor-stroma-inflammation networks on pro-metastatic phenotypes in TNBC. With the TCGA dataset we found that the pro-inflammatory cytokines tumor necrosis factor α (TNFα) and interleukin 1β (IL-1β), as well as their target pro-metastatic chemokines CXCL8 (IL-8), CCL2 (MCP-1), and CCL5 (RANTES) were expressed at significantly higher levels in basal patients than luminal-A patients. Then, we found that TNFα- or IL-1β-stimulated co-cultures of TNBC cells (MDA-MB-231, MDA-MB-468, BT-549) with mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) expressed significantly higher levels of CXCL8 compared to non-stimulated co-cultures or each cell type alone, with or without cytokine stimulation. CXCL8 was also up-regulated in TNBC co-cultures with breast cancer-associated fibroblasts (CAFs) derived from patients. CCL2 and CCL5 also reached the highest expression levels in TNFα/IL-1β-stimulated TNBC:MSC/CAF co-cultures. The elevations in CXCL8 and CCL2 expression partly depended on direct physical contacts between the tumor cells and the MSCs/CAFs, whereas CCL5 up-regulation was entirely dependent on cell-to-cell contacts. Supernatants of TNFα-stimulated TNBC:MSC "Contact" co-cultures induced robust endothelial cell migration and sprouting. TNBC cells co-cultured with MSCs and TNFα gained migration-related morphology and potent migratory properties; they also became more invasive when co-cultured with MSCs/CAFs in the presence of TNFα. Using siRNA to CXCL8, we found that CXCL8 was significantly involved in mediating the pro-metastatic activities gained by TNFα-stimulated TNBC:MSC "Contact" co-cultures: angiogenesis, migration-related morphology of the tumor cells, as well as cancer cell migration and invasion. Importantly, TNFα stimulation of TNBC:MSC "Contact" co-cultures has increased the aggressiveness of the tumor cells , leading to higher incidence of mice with lung metastases than non-stimulated TNBC:MSC co-cultures. Similar tumor-stromal-inflammation networks established in-culture with luminal-A cells demonstrated less effective or differently-active pro-metastatic functions than those of TNBC cells. Overall, our studies identify novel tumor-stroma-inflammation networks that may promote TNBC aggressiveness by increasing the pro-malignancy potential of the TME and of the tumor cells themselves, and reveal key roles for CXCL8 in mediating these metastasis-promoting activities.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3389/fimmu.2019.00757DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6473166PMC
August 2020

Enhancer hijacking activates oncogenic transcription factor NR4A3 in acinic cell carcinomas of the salivary glands.

Nat Commun 2019 01 21;10(1):368. Epub 2019 Jan 21.

Institute of Pathology, University Hospital Erlangen, Friedrich-Alexander University Erlangen-Nuremberg, Krankenhausstr. 8-10, 91054, Erlangen, Germany.

The molecular pathogenesis of salivary gland acinic cell carcinoma (AciCC) is poorly understood. The secretory Ca-binding phosphoprotein (SCPP) gene cluster at 4q13 encodes structurally related phosphoproteins of which some are specifically expressed at high levels in the salivary glands and constitute major components of saliva. Here we report on recurrent rearrangements [t(4;9)(q13;q31)] in AciCC that translocate active enhancer regions from the SCPP gene cluster to the region upstream of Nuclear Receptor Subfamily 4 Group A Member 3 (NR4A3) at 9q31. We show that NR4A3 is specifically upregulated in AciCCs, and that active chromatin regions and gene expression signatures in AciCCs are highly correlated with the NR4A3 transcription factor binding motif. Overexpression of NR4A3 in mouse salivary gland cells increases expression of known NR4A3 target genes and has a stimulatory functional effect on cell proliferation. We conclude that NR4A3 is upregulated through enhancer hijacking and has important oncogenic functions in AciCC.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41467-018-08069-xDOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6341107PMC
January 2019

Functional Proteomics of Breast Cancer Metabolism Identifies GLUL as Responder during Hypoxic Adaptation.

J Proteome Res 2019 03 18;18(3):1352-1362. Epub 2019 Jan 18.

Division of Molecular Genome Analysis , German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ) , Im Neuenheimer Feld 580 , 69120 Heidelberg , Germany.

Hypoxia as well as metabolism are central hallmarks of cancer, and hypoxia-inducible factors (HIFs) and metabolic effectors are crucial elements in oxygen-compromised tumor environments. Knowledge of changes in the expression of metabolic proteins in response to HIF function could provide mechanistic insights into adaptation to hypoxic stress, tumorigenesis, and disease progression. We analyzed time-resolved alterations in metabolism-associated protein levels in response to different oxygen potentials across breast cancer cell lines. Effects on the cellular metabolism of both HIF-dependent and -independent processes were analyzed by reverse-phase protein array profiling and a custom statistical model. We revealed a strong induction of glucose transporter 1 (GLUT1) and lactate dehydrogenase A (LDHA) as well as reduced glutamate-ammonia ligase (GLUL) protein levels across all cell lines tested as consistent changes upon hypoxia induction. Low GLUL protein levels were correlated with aggressive molecular subtypes in breast cancer patient data sets and also with hypoxic tumor regions in a xenograft mouse tumor model. Moreover, low GLUL expression was associated with poor survival in breast cancer patients and with high HIF-1α-expressing patient subgroups. Our data reveal time-resolved changes in the regulation of metabolic proteins under oxygen-deprived conditions and elucidate GLUL as a strong responder to HIFs and the hypoxic environment.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1021/acs.jproteome.8b00944DOI Listing
March 2019

Long-peptide vaccination with driver gene mutations in p53 and Kras induces cancer mutation-specific effector as well as regulatory T cell responses.

Oncoimmunology 2018;7(12):e1500671. Epub 2018 Sep 21.

Department of Translational Immunology, German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ) and National Center for Tumor Diseases (NCT), Heidelberg, Germany.

Mutated proteins arising from somatic mutations in tumors are promising targets for cancer immunotherapy. They represent true tumor-specific antigens (TSAs) as they are exclusively expressed in tumors, reduce the risk of autoimmunity and are more likely to overcome tolerance compared to wild-type (wt) sequences. Hence, we designed a panel of long peptides (LPs, 28-35 aa) comprising driver gene mutations in and frequently found in gastrointestinal tumors to test their combined immunotherapeutic potential. We found increased numbers of T cells responsive against respective mutated and wt peptides in colorectal cancer patients that carry the tested mutations in their tumors than patients with other mutations. Further, active immunization of HLA(-A2/DR1)-humanized mice with mixes of the same mutated LPs yielded simultaneous, polyvalent CD8/CD4 T cell responses against the majority of peptides. Peptide-specific T cells possessed a multifunctional cytokine profile with CD4 T cells showing a T1-like phenotype. Two mutated peptides (Kras[G12V], p53[R248W]) induced significantly higher T cell responses than corresponding wt sequences and comprised HLA-A2/DR1-restricted mutated epitopes. However, vaccination with the same highly immunogenic LPs strongly increased systemic regulatory T cells (T) numbers in a syngeneic sarcoma model over-expressing these mutated protein variants and resulted in accelerated tumor outgrowth. In contrast, tumor outgrowth was delayed when vaccination was directed against tumor-intrinsic / mutations of lower immunogenicity. Conclusively, we show that LP vaccination targeting multiple mutated TSAs elicits polyvalent, multifunctional, and mutation-specific effector T cells capable of targeting tumors. However, the success of this therapeutic approach can be hampered by vaccination-induced, TSA-specific Ts.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/2162402X.2018.1500671DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6279329PMC
September 2018

Assembly of a parts list of the human mitotic cell cycle machinery.

J Mol Cell Biol 2019 08;11(8):703-718

The Roslin Institute, University of Edinburgh, Easter Bush, Midlothian, Scotland, UK.

The set of proteins required for mitotic division remains poorly characterized. Here, an extensive series of correlation analyses of human and mouse transcriptomics data were performed to identify genes strongly and reproducibly associated with cells undergoing S/G2-M phases of the cell cycle. In so doing, 701 cell cycle-associated genes were defined and while it was shown that many are only expressed during these phases, the expression of others is also driven by alternative promoters. Of this list, 496 genes have known cell cycle functions, whereas 205 were assigned as putative cell cycle genes, 53 of which are functionally uncharacterized. Among these, 27 were screened for subcellular localization revealing many to be nuclear localized and at least three to be novel centrosomal proteins. Furthermore, 10 others inhibited cell proliferation upon siRNA knockdown. This study presents the first comprehensive list of human cell cycle proteins, identifying many new candidate proteins.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/jmcb/mjy063DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6788831PMC
August 2019

PI3K: A master regulator of brain metastasis-promoting macrophages/microglia.

Glia 2018 11 25;66(11):2438-2455. Epub 2018 Oct 25.

Department of Internal Medicine III, University Hospital Regensburg, Regensburg, Germany.

Mutations and activation of the PI3K signaling pathway in breast cancer cells have been linked to brain metastases. However, here we describe that in some breast cancer brain metastases samples the protein expression of PI3K signaling components is restricted to the metastatic microenvironment. In contrast to the therapeutic effects of PI3K inhibition on the breast cancer cells, the reaction of the brain microenvironment is less understood. Therefore we aimed to quantify the PI3K pathway activity in breast cancer brain metastasis and investigate the effects of PI3K inhibition on the central nervous system (CNS) microenvironment. First, to systematically quantify the PI3K pathway activity in breast cancer brain metastases, we performed a prospective biomarker study using a reverse phase protein array (RPPA). The majority, namely 30 out of 48 (62.5%) brain metastatic tissues examined, revealed high PI3K signaling activity that was associated with a median overall survival (OS) of 9.41 months, while that of patients, whose brain metastases showed only moderate or low PI3K activity, amounted to only 1.93 and 6.71 months, respectively. Second, we identified PI3K as a master regulator of metastasis-promoting macrophages/microglia during CNS colonization; and treatment with buparlisib (BKM120), a pan-PI3K Class I inhibitor with a good blood-brain-barrier penetrance, reduced their metastasis-promoting features. In conclusion, PI3K signaling is active in the majority of breast cancer brain metastases. Since PI3K inhibition does not only affect the metastatic cells but also re-educates the metastasis-promoting macrophages/microglia, PI3K inhibition may hold considerable promise in the treatment of brain metastasis and the respective microenvironment.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/glia.23485DOI Listing
November 2018

Long noncoding RNA HOTAIR is upregulated in an aggressive subgroup of gastrointestinal stromal tumors (GIST) and mediates the establishment of gene-specific DNA methylation patterns.

Genes Chromosomes Cancer 2018 11 24;57(11):584-597. Epub 2018 Sep 24.

Diagnostic Molecular Pathology, Institute of Pathology, Friedrich Alexander University, Erlangen, Germany.

Aberrant alterations of DNA methylation are common events in oncogenesis. The origin of cancer-associated epigenetic defects is of interest for mechanistic understanding of malignant transformation and-in the long run-therapeutic modulation of DNA methylation in a locus-specific manner. Given the ability of certain long noncoding RNAs to operate as an interface between DNA and the epigenetic modification machinery which can interact with DNA methyltransferases, we hypothesized-considering HOTAIR as an example-that this transcript may contribute to gene specificity of DNA methylation. Using gastrointestinal stromal tumors (GISTs, n = 67) as a model, we confirmed upregulation of HOTAIR in tumors with high risk of recurrence and showed high abundance of the transcript in GIST cell lines. HOTAIR knockdown in GIST-T1 cells triggered transcriptional response of genes involved in the organization and disassembly of the extracellular matrix and, notably, induced global locus-specific alterations of DNA methylation patterns. Hypomethylation was induced at a total of 507 CpG sites, whereas 382 CpG dinucleotides underwent gain of methylation upon HOTAIR depletion. Importantly, orchestrated gain or loss of methylation at multiple individual CpG sites was shown for cancer-related DPP4, RASSF1, ALDH1A3, and other targets. Collectively, our data indicate that HOTAIR enables target specificity of DNA methylation in GIST and is capable of dual (hypo- and hypermethylation) regulation by a yet to be defined mechanism. The results further suggest the feasibility of manipulating DNA methylation in a targeted manner and are of interest in the context of epigenetic cancer therapy.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/gcc.22672DOI Listing
November 2018

TGFβ1 regulates HGF-induced cell migration and hepatocyte growth factor receptor MET expression via C-ets-1 and miR-128-3p in basal-like breast cancer.

Mol Oncol 2018 09 30;12(9):1447-1463. Epub 2018 Jul 30.

Division of Molecular Genome Analysis, German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ), Heidelberg, Germany.

Breast cancer is the most common cancer in women worldwide. The tumor microenvironment contributes to tumor progression by inducing cell dissemination from the primary tumor and metastasis. TGFβ signaling is involved in breast cancer progression and is specifically elevated during metastatic transformation in aggressive breast cancer. In this study, we performed genomewide correlation analysis of TGFBR2 expression in a panel of 51 breast cancer cell lines and identified that MET is coregulated with TGFBR2. This correlation was confirmed at the protein level in breast cancer cell lines and human tumor tissues. Flow cytometric analysis of luminal and basal-like breast cancer cell lines and examination of 801 tumor specimens from a prospective cohort of breast cancer patients using reverse phase protein arrays revealed that expression of TGFBR2 and MET is increased in basal-like breast cancer cell lines, as well as in triple-negative breast cancer tumor tissues, compared to other subtypes. Using real-time cell analysis technology, we demonstrated that TGFβ1 triggered hepatocyte growth factor (HGF)-induced and MET-dependent migration in vitro. Bioinformatic analysis predicted that TGFβ1 induces expression of C-ets-1 as a candidate transcription factor regulating MET expression. Indeed, TGFβ1-induced expression of ETS1 and breast cancer cell migration was blocked by knockdown of ETS1. Further, we identified that MET is a direct target of miR-128-3p and that this miRNA is negatively regulated by TGFβ1. Overexpression of miR-128-3p reduced MET expression and abrogated HGF-induced cell migration of invasive breast cancer cells. In conclusion, we have identified that TGFβ1 regulates HGF-induced and MET-mediated cell migration, through positive regulation of C-ets-1 and negative regulation of miR-128-3p expression in basal-like breast cancer cell lines and in triple-negative breast cancer tissue.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/1878-0261.12355DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6120235PMC
September 2018

Cutis laxa, exocrine pancreatic insufficiency and altered cellular metabolomics as additional symptoms in a new patient with ATP6AP1-CDG.

Mol Genet Metab 2018 03 31;123(3):364-374. Epub 2018 Jan 31.

Center for Child and Adolescent Medicine, Department I, Im Neuenheimer Feld 669, 69120 Heidelberg, Germany. Electronic address:

Congenital disorders of glycosylation (CDG) are genetic defects in the glycoconjugate biosynthesis. >100 types of CDG are known, most of them cause multi-organ diseases. Here we describe a boy whose leading symptoms comprise cutis laxa, pancreatic insufficiency and hepatosplenomegaly. Whole exome sequencing identified the novel hemizygous mutation c.542T>G (p.L181R) in the X-linked ATP6AP1, an accessory protein of the mammalian vacuolar H-ATPase, which led to a general N-glycosylation deficiency. Studies of serum N-glycans revealed reduction of complex sialylated and appearance of truncated diantennary structures. Proliferation of the patient's fibroblasts was significantly reduced and doubling time prolonged. Additionally, there were alterations in the fibroblasts' amino acid levels and the acylcarnitine composition. Especially, short-chain species were reduced, whereas several medium- to long-chain acylcarnitines (C14-OH to C18) were elevated. Investigation of the main lipid classes revealed that total cholesterol was significantly enriched in the patient's fibroblasts at the expense of phophatidylcholine and phosphatidylethanolamine. Within the minor lipid species, hexosylceramide was reduced, while its immediate precursor ceramide was increased. Since catalase activity and ACOX3 expression in peroxisomes were reduced, we assume an ATP6AP1-dependent impact on the β-oxidation of fatty acids. These results help to understand the complex clinical characteristics of this new patient.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ymgme.2018.01.008DOI Listing
March 2018

Targeting PLK1 overcomes T-DM1 resistance via CDK1-dependent phosphorylation and inactivation of Bcl-2/xL in HER2-positive breast cancer.

Oncogene 2018 04 2;37(17):2251-2269. Epub 2018 Feb 2.

Department of Molecular Biology and Genetics, Faculty of Science, Bilkent University, 06800, Ankara, Turkey.

Trastuzumab-refractory, HER2 (human epidermal growth factor receptor 2)-positive breast cancer is commonly treated with trastuzumab emtansine (T-DM1), an antibody-drug conjugate of trastuzumab and the microtubule-targeting agent, DM1. However, drug response reduces greatly over time due to acquisition of resistance whose molecular mechanisms are mostly unknown. Here, we uncovered a novel mechanism of resistance against T-DM1 by combining whole transcriptome sequencing (RNA-Seq), proteomics and a targeted small interfering RNA (siRNA) sensitization screen for molecular level analysis of acquired and de novo T-DM1-resistant models of HER2-overexpressing breast cancer. We identified Polo-like kinase 1 (PLK1), a mitotic kinase, as a resistance mediator whose genomic as well as pharmacological inhibition restored drug sensitivity. Both acquired and de novo resistant models exhibited synergistic growth inhibition upon combination of T-DM1 with a selective PLK1 inhibitor, volasertib, at a wide concentration range of the two drugs. Mechanistically, T-DM1 sensitization upon PLK1 inhibition with volasertib was initiated by a spindle assembly checkpoint (SAC)-dependent mitotic arrest, leading to caspase activation, followed by DNA damage through CDK1-dependent phosphorylation and inactivation of Bcl-2/xL. Furthermore, we showed that Ser70 phosphorylation of Bcl-2 directly regulates apoptosis by disrupting the binding to and sequestration of the pro-apoptotic protein Bim. Importantly, T-DM1 resistance signature or PLK1 expression correlated with cell cycle progression and DNA repair, and predicted a lower sensitivity to taxane/trastuzumab combination in HER2-positive breast cancer patients. Finally, volasertib in combination with T-DM1 greatly synergized in models of T-DM1 resistance in terms of growth inhibition both in three dimensional (3D) cell culture and in vivo. Altogether, our results provide promising pre-clinical evidence for potential testing of T-DM1/volasertib combination in T-DM1 refractory HER2-positive breast cancer patients for whom there is currently no treatment available.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41388-017-0108-9DOI Listing
April 2018

Reactivation of cAMP Pathway by PDE4D Inhibition Represents a Novel Druggable Axis for Overcoming Tamoxifen Resistance in ER-positive Breast Cancer.

Clin Cancer Res 2018 04 31;24(8):1987-2001. Epub 2018 Jan 31.

Department of Molecular Biology and Genetics, Faculty of Science, Bilkent University, Ankara, Turkey.

Tamoxifen remains an important hormonal therapy for ER-positive breast cancer; however, development of resistance is a major obstacle in clinics. Here, we aimed to identify novel mechanisms of tamoxifen resistance and provide actionable drug targets overcoming resistance. Whole-transcriptome sequencing, downstream pathway analysis, and drug repositioning approaches were used to identify novel modulators [here: phosphodiesterase 4D (PDE4D)] of tamoxifen resistance. Clinical data involving tamoxifen-treated patients with ER-positive breast cancer were used to assess the impact of PDE4D in tamoxifen resistance. Tamoxifen sensitization role of PDE4D was tested and Cytobiology, biochemistry, and functional genomics tools were used to elucidate the mechanisms of PDE4D-mediated tamoxifen resistance. PDE4D, which hydrolyzes cyclic AMP (cAMP), was significantly overexpressed in both MCF-7 and T47D tamoxifen-resistant (TamR) cells. Higher PDE4D expression predicted worse survival in tamoxifen-treated patients with breast cancer ( = 469, = 0.0036 for DMFS; = 561, = 0.0229 for RFS) and remained an independent prognostic factor for RFS in multivariate analysis ( = 132, = 0.049). Inhibition of PDE4D by either siRNAs or pharmacologic inhibitors (dipyridamole and Gebr-7b) restored tamoxifen sensitivity. Sensitization to tamoxifen is achieved via cAMP-mediated induction of unfolded protein response/ER stress pathway leading to activation of p38/JNK signaling and apoptosis. Remarkably, acetylsalicylic acid (aspirin) was predicted to be a tamoxifen sensitizer using a drug repositioning approach and was shown to reverse resistance by targeting PDE4D/cAMP/ER stress axis. Finally, combining PDE4D inhibitors and tamoxifen suppressed tumor growth better than individual groups PDE4D plays a pivotal role in acquired tamoxifen resistance via blocking cAMP/ER stress/p38-JNK signaling and apoptosis. .
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1158/1078-0432.CCR-17-2776DOI Listing
April 2018

Identification of SLC20A1 and SLC15A4 among other genes as potential risk factors for combined pituitary hormone deficiency.

Genet Med 2018 07 26;20(7):728-736. Epub 2017 Oct 26.

Department of Human Molecular Genetics, Institute of Human Genetics, Heidelberg University Hospital, Heidelberg, Germany.

Purpose: Combined pituitary hormone deficiency (CPHD) is characterized by a malformed or underdeveloped pituitary gland resulting in an impaired pituitary hormone secretion. Several transcription factors have been described in its etiology, but defects in known genes account for only a small proportion of cases.

Methods: To identify novel genetic causes for congenital hypopituitarism, we performed exome-sequencing studies on 10 patients with CPHD and their unaffected parents. Two candidate genes were sequenced in further 200 patients. Genotype data of known hypopituitary genes are reviewed.

Results: We discovered 51 likely damaging variants in 38 genes; 12 of the 51 variants represent de novo events (24%); 11 of the 38 genes (29%) were present in the E12.5/E14.5 pituitary transcriptome. Targeted sequencing of two candidate genes, SLC20A1 and SLC15A4, of the solute carrier membrane transport protein family in 200 additional patients demonstrated two further variants predicted as damaging. We also found combinations of de novo (SLC20A1/SLC15A4) and transmitted variants (GLI2/LHX3) in the same individuals, leading to the full-blown CPHD phenotype.

Conclusion: These data expand the pituitary target genes repertoire for diagnostics and further functional studies. Exome sequencing has identified a combination of rare variants in different genes that might explain incomplete penetrance in CPHD.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/gim.2017.165DOI Listing
July 2018

A novel homozygous ARL13B variant in patients with Joubert syndrome impairs its guanine nucleotide-exchange factor activity.

Eur J Hum Genet 2017 12 15;25(12):1324-1334. Epub 2017 Nov 15.

Department of Human Molecular Genetics, Heidelberg University, 69120, Heidelberg, Germany.

ARL13B encodes for the ADP-ribosylation factor-like 13B GTPase, which is required for normal cilia structure and Sonic hedgehog (Shh) signaling. Disruptions in cilia structure or function lead to a class of human disorders called ciliopathies. Joubert syndrome is characterized by a wide spectrum of symptoms, including a variable degree of intellectual disability, ataxia, and ocular abnormalities. Here we report a novel homozygous missense variant c.[223G>A] (p.(Gly75Arg) in the ARL13B gene, which was identified by whole-exome sequencing of a trio from a consanguineous family with multiple-affected individuals suffering from intellectual disability, ataxia, ocular defects, and epilepsy. The same variant was also identified in a second family. We saw a striking difference in the severity of ataxia between affected male and female individuals in both families. Both ARL13B and ARL13B-c.[223G>A] (p.(Gly75Arg) expression rescued the cilia length and Shh defects displayed by Arl13b (null) cells, indicating that the variant did not disrupt either ARL13B function. In contrast, ARL13B-c.[223G>A] (p.(Gly75Arg) displayed a marked loss of ARL3 guanine nucleotide-exchange factor activity, with retention of its GTPase activities, highlighting the correlation between its loss of function as an ARL3 guanine nucleotide-exchange factor and Joubert syndrome.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41431-017-0031-0DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5865152PMC
December 2017

Epigenetic mechanisms underlie the crosstalk between growth factors and a steroid hormone.

Nucleic Acids Res 2017 Dec;45(22):12681-12699

Department of Biological Regulation, Weizmann Institute of Science, Rehovot 76100, Israel.

Crosstalk between growth factors (GFs) and steroid hormones recurs in embryogenesis and is co-opted in pathology, but underlying mechanisms remain elusive. Our data from mammary cells imply that the crosstalk between the epidermal GF and glucocorticoids (GCs) involves transcription factors like p53 and NF-κB, along with reduced pausing and traveling of RNA polymerase II (RNAPII) at both promoters and bodies of GF-inducible genes. Essentially, GCs inhibit positive feedback loops activated by GFs and stimulate the reciprocal inhibitory loops. As expected, no alterations in DNA methylation accompany the transcriptional events instigated by either stimulus, but forced demethylation of regulatory regions broadened the repertoire of GF-inducible genes. We report that enhancers, like some promoters, are poised for activation by GFs and GCs. In addition, within the cooperative interface of the crosstalk, GFs enhance binding of the GC receptor to DNA and, in synergy with GCs, promote productive RNAPII elongation. Reciprocally, within the antagonistic interface GFs hyper-acetylate chromatin at unmethylated promoters and enhancers of genes involved in motility, but GCs hypoacetylate the corresponding regions. In conclusion, unmethylated genomic regions that encode feedback regulatory modules and differentially recruit RNAPII and acetylases/deacetylases underlie the crosstalk between GFs and a steroid hormone.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/nar/gkx865DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5727445PMC
December 2017

Proteomic profiling of breast cancer metabolism identifies SHMT2 and ASCT2 as prognostic factors.

Breast Cancer Res 2017 Oct 11;19(1):112. Epub 2017 Oct 11.

Department of Gynaecology, Martin-Luther-University, Halle-Wittenberg, Ernst-Grube-Str. 40, 06120, Halle (Saale), Germany.

Background: Breast cancer tumors are known to be highly heterogeneous and differences in their metabolic phenotypes, especially at protein level, are less well-understood. Profiling of metabolism-related proteins harbors the potential to establish new patient stratification regimes and biomarkers promoting individualized therapy. In our study, we aimed to examine the relationship between metabolism-associated protein expression profiles and clinicopathological characteristics in a large cohort of breast cancer patients.

Methods: Breast cancer specimens from 801 consecutive patients, diagnosed between 2009 and 2011, were investigated using reverse phase protein arrays (RPPA). Patients were treated in accordance with national guidelines in five certified German breast centers. To obtain quantitative expression data, 37 antibodies detecting proteins relevant to cancer metabolism, were applied. Hierarchical cluster analysis and individual target characterization were performed. Clustering results and individual protein expression patterns were associated with clinical data. The Kaplan-Meier method was used to estimate survival functions. Univariate and multivariate Cox regression models were applied to assess the impact of protein expression and other clinicopathological features on survival.

Results: We identified three metabolic clusters of breast cancer, which do not reflect the receptor-defined subtypes, but are significantly correlated with overall survival (OS, p ≤ 0.03) and recurrence-free survival (RFS, p ≤ 0.01). Furthermore, univariate and multivariate analysis of individual protein expression profiles demonstrated the central role of serine hydroxymethyltransferase 2 (SHMT2) and amino acid transporter ASCT2 (SLC1A5) as independent prognostic factors in breast cancer patients. High SHMT2 protein expression was significantly correlated with poor OS (hazard ratio (HR) = 1.53, 95% confidence interval (CI) = 1.10-2.12, p ≤ 0.01) and RFS (HR = 1.54, 95% CI = 1.16-2.04, p ≤ 0.01). High protein expression of ASCT2 was significantly correlated with poor RFS (HR = 1.31, 95% CI = 1.01-1.71, p ≤ 0.05).

Conclusions: Our data confirm the heterogeneity of breast tumors at a functional proteomic level and dissects the relationship between metabolism-related proteins, pathological features and patient survival. These observations highlight the importance of SHMT2 and ASCT2 as valuable individual prognostic markers and potential targets for personalized breast cancer therapy.

Trial Registration: ClinicalTrials.gov, NCT01592825 . Registered on 3 May 2012.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1186/s13058-017-0905-7DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5637318PMC
October 2017
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