Kidney-targeted Birt-Hogg-Dube gene inactivation in a mouse model: Erk1/2 and Akt-mTOR activation, cell hyperproliferation, and polycystic kidneys.
ABSTRACT: BACKGROUND:Patients with Birt-Hogg-Dubé (BHD) syndrome harbor germline mutations in the BHD tumor suppressor gene that are associated with an increased risk for kidney cancer. BHD encodes folliculin, a protein that may interact with the energy- and nutrient-sensing 5'-AMP-activated protein kinase-mammalian target of rapamycin (AMPK-mTOR) signaling pathways. METHODS:We used recombineering methods to generate mice with a conditional BHD allele and introduced the cadherin 16 (KSP)-Cre transgene to target BHD inactivation to the kidney. Kidney cell proliferation was measured by BrdU incorporation and phospho-histone H3 staining. Kidney weight data were analyzed with Wilcoxon's rank-sum, Student's t, and Welch's t tests. Hematoxylin and eosin staining and immunoblot analysis and immunohistochemistry of cell cycle and signaling proteins were performed on mouse kidney cells and tissues. BHD knockout mice and kidney cells isolated from BHD knockout and control mice were treated with the mTOR inhibitor rapamycin. Mouse survival was evaluated by Kaplan-Meier analyses. All statistical tests were two-sided. RESULTS:BHD knockout mice developed enlarged polycystic kidneys and died from renal failure by 3 weeks of age. Targeted BHD knockout led to the activation of Raf-extracellular signal-regulated protein kinase (Erk)1/2 and Akt-mTOR pathways in the kidneys and increased expression of cell cycle proteins and cell proliferation. Rapamycin-treated BHD knockout mice had smaller kidneys than buffer-treated BHD knockout mice had (n = 4-6 mice per group, relative kidney/body weight ratios, mean = 4.64% vs 12.2%, difference = 7.6%, 95% confidence interval = 5.2% to 10.0%; P < .001) and longer median survival time (n = 4-5 mice per group, 41.5 vs 23 days; P = .0065 ). CONCLUSIONS:Homozygous loss of BHD may initiate renal tumorigenesis in the mouse. The conditional BHD knockout mouse may be a useful research model for dissecting multistep kidney carcinogenesis, and rapamycin may be considered as a potential treatment for Birt-Hogg-Dubé syndrome.
Project description:The Birt-Hogg-Dubé (BHD) disease is a genetic cancer syndrome. The responsible gene, BHD, has been identified by positional cloning and thought to be a novel tumor suppressor gene. BHD mutations cause many types of diseases including renal cell carcinomas, fibrofolliculomas, spontaneous pneumothorax, lung cysts, and colonic polyps/cancers. By combining Gateway Technology with the Ksp-Cre gene knockout system, we have developed a kidney-specific BHD knockout mouse model. BHD(flox/flox)/Ksp-Cre mice developed enlarged kidneys characterized by polycystic kidneys, hyperplasia, and cystic renal cell carcinoma. The affected BHD(flox/flox)/Ksp-Cre mice died of renal failure at approximate three weeks of age, having blood urea nitrogen levels over tenfold higher than those of BHD (flox/+)/Ksp-Cre and wild-type littermate controls. We further demonstrated that these phenotypes were caused by inactivation of BHD and subsequent activation of the mTOR pathway. Application of rapamycin, which inhibits mTOR activity, to the affected mice led to extended survival and inhibited further progression of cystogenesis. These results provide a correlation of kidney-targeted gene inactivation with renal carcinoma, and they suggest that the BHD product FLCN, functioning as a cyst and tumor suppressor, like other hamartoma syndrome-related proteins such as PTEN, LKB1, and TSC1/2, is a component of the mTOR pathway, constituting a novel FLCN-mTOR signaling branch that regulates cell growth/proliferation.
Project description:Germline mutations in the BHD/FLCN tumor suppressor gene predispose patients to develop renal tumors in the hamartoma syndrome, Birt-Hogg-Dubé (BHD). BHD encodes folliculin, a protein with unknown function that may interact with the energy- and nutrient-sensing AMPK-mTOR signaling pathways. To clarify BHD function in the mouse, we generated a BHD knockout mouse model. BHD homozygous null (BHD(d/d)) mice displayed early embryonic lethality at E5.5-E6.5, showing defects in the visceral endoderm. BHD heterozygous knockout (BHDd(/+)) mice appeared normal at birth but developed kidney cysts and solid tumors as they aged (median kidney-lesion-free survival = 23 months, median tumor-free survival = 25 months). As observed in human BHD kidney tumors, three different histologic types of kidney tumors developed in BHD(d/+) mice including oncocytic hybrid, oncocytoma, and clear cell with concomitant loss of heterozygosity (LOH), supporting a tumor suppressor function for BHD in the mouse. The PI3K-AKT pathway was activated in both human BHD renal tumors and kidney tumors in BHD(d/+) mice. Interestingly, total AKT protein was elevated in kidney tumors compared to normal kidney tissue, but without increased levels of AKT mRNA, suggesting that AKT may be regulated by folliculin through post translational or post-transcriptional modification. Finally, BHD inactivation led to both mTORC1 and mTORC2 activation in kidney tumors from BHD(d/+) mice and human BHD patients. These data support a role for PI3K-AKT pathway activation in kidney tumor formation caused by loss of BHD and suggest that inhibitors of both mTORC1 and mTORC2 may be effective as potential therapeutic agents for BHD-associated kidney cancer.
Project description:Birt-Hogg-Dubé syndrome, a hamartoma disorder characterized by benign tumors of the hair follicle, lung cysts, and renal neoplasia, is caused by germ-line mutations in the BHD(FLCN) gene, which encodes a tumor-suppressor protein, folliculin (FLCN), with unknown function. The tumor-suppressor proteins encoded by genes responsible for several other hamartoma syndromes, LKB1, TSC1/2, and PTEN, have been shown to be involved in the mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) signaling pathway. Here, we report the identification of the FLCN-interacting protein, FNIP1, and demonstrate its interaction with 5' AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK), a key molecule for energy sensing that negatively regulates mTOR activity. FNIP1 was phosphorylated by AMPK, and its phosphorylation was reduced by AMPK inhibitors, which resulted in reduced FNIP1 expression. AMPK inhibitors also reduced FLCN phosphorylation. Moreover, FLCN phosphorylation was diminished by rapamycin and amino acid starvation and facilitated by FNIP1 overexpression, suggesting that FLCN may be regulated by mTOR and AMPK signaling. Our data suggest that FLCN, mutated in Birt-Hogg-Dubé syndrome, and its interacting partner FNIP1 may be involved in energy and/or nutrient sensing through the AMPK and mTOR signaling pathways.
Project description:Birt-Hogg-Dubé (BHD) syndrome is an autosomal dominant disorder characterized by cutaneous fibrofolliculomas, pulmonary cysts, and kidney malignancies. Affected individuals carry germ line mutations in folliculin (FLCN), a tumor suppressor gene that becomes biallelically inactivated in kidney tumors by second-hit mutations. Similar to other factors implicated in kidney cancer, FLCN has been shown to modulate activation of mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR). However, its precise in vivo function is largely unknown because germ line deletion of Flcn results in early embryonic lethality in animal models. Here, we describe mice deficient in the newly characterized folliculin-interacting protein 1 (Fnip1). In contrast to Flcn, Fnip1(-/-) mice develop normally, are not susceptible to kidney neoplasia, but display a striking pro-B cell block that is entirely independent of mTOR activity. We show that this developmental arrest results from rapid caspase-induced pre-B cell death, and that a Bcl2 transgene reconstitutes mature B-cell populations, respectively. We also demonstrate that conditional deletion of Flcn recapitulates the pro-B cell arrest of Fnip1(-/-) mice. Our studies thus demonstrate that the FLCN-FNIP complex deregulated in BHD syndrome is absolutely required for B-cell differentiation, and that it functions through both mTOR-dependent and independent pathways.
Project description:Folliculin-interacting protein 1 and 2 (FNIP1 and FNIP2) play critical roles in preventing renal malignancy through their association with the tumor suppressor FLCN. Mutations in FLCN are associated with Birt-Hogg-Dubé (BHD) syndrome, a rare disorder with increased risk of renal cancer. Recent studies indicated that FNIP1/FNIP2 double knockout mice display enlarged polycystic kidneys and renal carcinoma, which phenocopies FLCN knockout mice, suggesting that these two proteins function together to suppress renal cancer. However, the molecular mechanism functionally linking FNIP1/FNIP2 and FLCN remains largely elusive. Here, we demonstrated that FNIP2 protein is unstable and subjected to proteasome-dependent degradation via β-TRCP and Casein Kinase 1 (CK1)-directed ubiquitination in a nutrition-dependent manner. Degradation of FNIP2 leads to lysosomal dissociation of FLCN and subsequent lysosomal association of mTOR, which in turn promotes the proliferation of renal cancer cells. These results indicate that SCFβ-TRCP negatively regulates the FLCN complex by promoting FNIP degradation and provide molecular insight into the pathogenesis of BHD-associated renal cancer.
Project description:Germline H255Y and K508R missense mutations in the folliculin (FLCN) gene have been identified in patients with bilateral multifocal (BMF) kidney tumours and clinical manifestations of Birt-Hogg-Dubé (BHD) syndrome, or with BMF kidney tumours as the only manifestation; however, their impact on FLCN function remains to be determined. In order to determine if FLCN H255Y and K508R missense mutations promote aberrant kidney cell proliferation leading to pathogenicity, we generated mouse models expressing these mutants using BAC recombineering technology and investigated their ability to rescue the multi-cystic phenotype of Flcn-deficient mouse kidneys. Flcn H255Y mutant transgene expression in kidney-targeted Flcn knockout mice did not rescue the multi-cystic kidney phenotype. However, expression of the Flcn K508R mutant transgene partially, but not completely, abrogated the phenotype. Notably, expression of the Flcn K508R mutant transgene in heterozygous Flcn knockout mice resulted in development of multi-cystic kidneys and cardiac hypertrophy in some mice. These results demonstrate that both FLCN H255Y and K508R missense mutations promote aberrant kidney cell proliferation, but to different degrees. Based on the phenotypes of our preclinical models, the FLCN H255Y mutant protein has lost it tumour suppressive function leading to the clinical manifestations of BHD, whereas the FLCN K508R mutant protein may have a dominant negative effect on the function of wild-type FLCN in regulating kidney cell proliferation and, therefore, act as an oncoprotein. These findings may provide mechanistic insight into the role of FLCN in regulating kidney cell proliferation and facilitate the development of novel therapeutics for FLCN-deficient kidney cancer.
Project description:Birt-Hogg-Dubé syndrome (BHD) is an autosomal dominant inherited disorder characterised by fibrofolliculomas, renal tumours, pulmonary cysts and pneumothorax. The pulmonary cysts and repeated episodes of pneumothorax are the clinical hallmarks for discovering families affected by the syndrome. This disorder is caused by mutations in the gene coding for folliculin (FLCN). FLCN forms a complex with FLCN-interacting protein 1 (FNIP1) and FNIP2 (also known as FNIPL), and the complex cross-talks with signalling molecules such as 5'-AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK) and the mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR). Heterozygous Flcn knockout mice and rats with Flcn gene mutations develop renal cysts, adenomas and/or carcinomas. These findings suggest that FLCN functions as a tumour suppressor that inhibits renal carcinogenesis. However, the mechanisms of the formation of pulmonary cysts and pneumothorax associated with heterozygous mutations in FLCN are poorly understood. Resected lung specimens from patients with BHD are often misdiagnosed by pathologists as non-specific blebs or bullae or emphysema, and patients with BHD who have pulmonary cysts and repeated pneumothorax frequently do not receive appropriate medical investigations. This review discusses the clinical and pathological features of lungs of patients with BHD, focusing on the diagnostic pathology and possible mechanisms of cyst formation.
Project description:Birt-Hogg-Dubé (BHD) syndrome is an inherited cancer susceptibility disease characterized by skin and kidney tumors, as well as cystic lung disease, which results from loss-of-function mutations in the BHD gene. BHD is also inactivated in a significant fraction of patients with sporadic renal cancers and idiopathic cystic lung disease, and little is known about its mode of action. To investigate the molecular and cellular basis of BHD tumor suppressor activity, we generated mutant Bhd mice and embryonic stem cell lines. BHD-deficient cells exhibited defects in cell-intrinsic apoptosis that correlated with reduced expression of the BH3-only protein Bim, which was similarly observed in all human and murine BHD-related tumors examined. We further demonstrate that Bim deficiency in Bhd(-/-) cells is not a consequence of elevated mTOR or ERK activity, but results instead from reduced Bim transcription associated with a general loss of TGF?-mediated transcription and chromatin modifications. In aggregate, this work identifies a specific tumor suppressive mechanism for BHD in regulating TGF?-dependent transcription and apoptosis, which has implications for the development of targeted therapies.
Project description:Birt-Hogg-Dubé syndrome (BHD) is a rare autosomal dominant disorder characterised by the occurrence of benign, mostly facial, skin tumours called fibrofolliculomas, multiple lung cysts, spontaneous pneumothorax and an increased renal cancer risk. Current treatments for fibrofolliculomas have high rates of recurrence and carry a risk of complications. It would be desirable to have a treatment that could prevent fibrofolliculomas from growing. Animal models of BHD have previously shown deregulation of mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR). Topical use of the mTOR inhibitor rapamycin is an effective treatment for the skin tumours (angiofibromas) in tuberous sclerosis complex, which is also characterised by mTOR deregulation. In this study we aimed to determine if topical rapamycin is also an effective treatment for fibrofolliculomas in BHD.We performed a double blinded, randomised, facial left-right controlled trial of topical rapamycin 0.1% versus placebo in 19 BHD patients. Trial duration was 6 months. The primary outcome was cosmetic improvement as measured by doctors and patients. Changes in fibrofolliculoma number and size were also measured, as was occurrence of side effects.No change in cosmetic status of fibrofolliculomas was reported in the majority of cases for the rapamycin treated (79% by doctors, 53% by patients) as well as the placebo treated facial sides (both 74%). No significant differences between rapamycin and placebo treated facial halves were observed (p?=?1.000 for doctors opinion, p?=?0.344 for patients opinion). No significant difference in fibrofolliculoma number or change in size of the fibrofolliculomas was seen after 6 months. Side effects occurred more often after rapamycin treatment (68% of patients) than after placebo (58% of patients; p?=?0.625). A burning sensation, erythema, itching and dryness were most frequently reported.This study provides no evidence that treatment of fibrofolliculomas with topical rapamycin in BHD results in cosmetic improvement.ClinicalTrials.gov NCT00928798.
Project description:Birt-Hogg-Dubé (BHD) syndrome is an inherited renal cancer syndrome in which affected individuals are at risk of developing benign cutaneous fibrofolliculomas, bilateral pulmonary cysts and spontaneous pneumothoraces, and kidney tumours. Bilateral multifocal renal tumours that develop in BHD syndrome are most frequently hybrid oncocytic tumours and chromophobe renal carcinoma, but can present with other histologies. Germline mutations in the FLCN gene on chromosome 17 are responsible for BHD syndrome--BHD-associated renal tumours display inactivation of the wild-type FLCN allele by somatic mutation or chromosomal loss, confirming that FLCN is a tumour suppressor gene that fits the classic two-hit model. FLCN interacts with two novel proteins, FNIP1 and FNIP2, and with AMPK, a negative regulator of mTOR. Studies with FLCN-deficient cell and animal models support a role for FLCN in modulating the AKT-mTOR pathway. Emerging evidence links FLCN with a number of other molecular pathways and cellular processes important for cell homeostasis that are frequently deregulated in cancer, including regulation of TFE3 and/or TFEB transcriptional activity, amino-acid-dependent mTOR activation through Rag GTPases, TGF? signalling, PGC1?-driven mitochondrial biogenesis, and autophagy. Currently, surgical intervention is the only therapy available for BHD-associated renal tumours, but improved understanding of the FLCN pathway will hopefully lead to the development of effective forms of targeted systemic therapy for this disease.