The T-box transcription factor Brachyury promotes epithelial-mesenchymal transition in human tumor cells.
ABSTRACT: Metastatic disease is responsible for the majority of human cancer deaths. Understanding the molecular mechanisms of metastasis is a major step in designing effective cancer therapeutics. Here we show that the T-box transcription factor Brachyury induces in tumor cells epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT), an important step in the progression of primary tumors toward metastasis. Overexpression of Brachyury in human carcinoma cells induced changes characteristic of EMT, including upregulation of mesenchymal markers, downregulation of epithelial markers, and an increase in cell migration and invasion. Brachyury overexpression also repressed E-cadherin transcription, an effect partially mediated by Slug. Conversely, inhibition of Brachyury resulted in downregulation of mesenchymal markers and loss of cell migration and invasion and diminished the ability of human tumor cells to form lung metastases in a xenograft model. Furthermore, we found Brachyury to be overexpressed in various human tumor tissues and tumor cell lines compared with normal tissues. We also determined that the percentage of human lung tumor tissues positive for Brachyury expression increased with the stage of the tumor, indicating a potential association between Brachyury and tumor progression. The selective expression of Brachyury in tumor cells and its role in EMT and cancer progression suggest that Brachyury may be an attractive target for antitumor therapies.
Project description:Epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT) is a molecular and cellular program in which epithelial cells lose their well-differentiated phenotype and adopt mesenchymal characteristics. This process, which occurs naturally during embryogenesis, has also been shown to be associated with cancer progression and with tumor recurrence following conventional therapies. Brachyury is a transcription factor that mediates EMT during development, and is aberrantly expressed in various human cancers where it promotes tumor cell EMT, metastatic dissemination, and resistance to conventional therapies. We have recently shown that very high expression of brachyury can protect tumor cells against immune cell-mediated cytotoxicity. In seeking to elucidate mechanisms of immunotherapy resistance, we have discovered a novel positive association between brachyury and mucin-1 (MUC1). MUC1 is overexpressed in the majority of carcinomas, and it has been shown to mediate oncogenic signaling and confer resistance to genotoxic agents. We found that MUC1 is concomitantly upregulated in tumor cell lines that highly express brachyury due to an enhancement of MUC1 mRNA stability. Analysis of patient lung tumor tissues also identified a positive association between these two proteins in the majority of samples. Inhibition of MUC1 by siRNA-based gene silencing markedly enhanced the susceptibility of brachyury-expressing cancer cells to killing by tumor necrosis-related apoptosis-inducing ligand (TRAIL) and to perforin/granzyme-dependent lysis by immune cytotoxic cells. These studies confirm a protective role for MUC1 in brachyury-expressing cancer cells, and suggest that inhibition of MUC1 can restore the susceptibility of mesenchymal-like cancer cells to immune attack.
Project description:PURPOSE:The epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT) is emerging as a critical factor for the progression and metastasis of carcinomas, as well as drug resistance. The T-box transcription factor Brachyury has been recently characterized as a driver of EMT in human carcinoma cells. The purpose of this study was to characterize Brachyury as a potential target for lung cancer therapy. EXPERIMENTAL DESIGN:The expression of Brachyury was evaluated by PCR and by immunohistochemistry in human lung tumors and adult normal tissues. Brachyury gene copy number and promoter methylation status were analyzed in tumor tissues with various levels of Brachyury expression. Lung carcinoma cells' susceptibility to T-cell lysis and EGF receptor (EGFR) kinase inhibition were also evaluated relative to the levels of Brachyury. RESULTS:Our results showed Brachyury protein expression in 41% of primary lung carcinomas, including 48% of adenocarcinomas and 25% of squamous cell carcinomas. With the exception of normal testis and some thyroid tissues, the majority of normal tissues evaluated in this study were negative for the expression of Brachyury protein. Brachyury-specific T cells could lyse Brachyury-positive tumors and the level of Brachyury corresponded to resistance of tumor cells to EGFR kinase inhibition. CONCLUSION:We hypothesize that the elimination of Brachyury-positive tumor cells may be able to prevent and/or diminish tumor dissemination and the establishment of metastases. The ability of Brachyury-specific T-cell lines to lyse Brachyury-positive tumor cells, in vitro, supports the development of Brachyury-based immunotherapeutic approaches for the treatment of lung cancer.
Project description:The embryonic T-box transcription factor brachyury is aberrantly expressed in a range of human tumors. Previous studies have demonstrated that brachyury is a driver of the epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT), a process associated with cancer progression. Brachyury expression in human tumor cells enhances tumor invasiveness in vitro and metastasis in vivo, and induces resistance to various conventional therapeutics including chemotherapy and radiation. These characteristics, and the selective expression of brachyury for a range of human tumor types vs. normal adult tissues, make brachyury an attractive tumor target. Due to its intracellular localization and the "undruggable" character of transcription factors, available options to target brachyury are currently limited. Here we report on the development and characterization of an immunological platform for the efficient targeting of brachyury-positive tumors consisting of a heat-killed, recombinant Saccharomyces cerevisiae (yeast)-brachyury vector-based vaccine (designated as GI-6301) that expresses the full-length human brachyury protein. We demonstrate that human dendritic cells treated with recombinant yeast-brachyury can activate and expand brachyury-specific CD4+ and CD8+ T cells in vitro that, in turn, can effectively lyse human tumor cells expressing the brachyury protein. Vaccination of mice with recombinant yeast-brachyury is also shown here to elicit brachyury-specific CD4+ and CD8+ T-cell responses, and to induce anti-tumor immunity in the absence of toxicity. Based on these results, a Phase I clinical trial of GI-6301 is currently ongoing in patients with advanced tumors; to our knowledge, this is the first vaccine platform aimed at targeting a driver of tumor EMT that has successfully reached the clinical stage.
Project description:Transcription factor brachyury, with a DNA-binding T-domain, regulates posterior mesoderm formation and notochord development through binding with highly conserved palindromic consensus sequence in a variety of organisms. The absence of brachyury expression in majority of adult normal tissues and exclusive tumor-specific expression provides the potential to be developed into a novel and promising diagnostic and therapeutic target in cancer. As a sensitive and specific marker in the diagnosis of chordoma, brachyury protein has been verified to involve in the process of carcinogenesis and progression of chordoma and several epithelial carcinomas in various studies, but the mechanism by which brachyury promotes tumor cells migrate, invade and metastasis still remains less clear. To this end, we attempt to summarize the literature on the upstream regulatory pathway of brachyury transcription and downstream controlling network by brachyury activation, all of which involve in both the embryonic development and tumor progression. We present the respective correlation of brachyury expression with tumor progression, distant metastasis, survival rate and prognosis in several types of tumor samples (including chordoma, lung cancer, breast carcinoma, and prostate cancer), and various brachyury gain-of-function and loss-of-function experiments are summarized to explore its specific role in respective tumor cell line in vitro. In addition, we also discuss another two programs relating to brachyury function: epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition (EMT) and cell cycle control, both of which implicate in the regulation of brachyury on biological behavior of tumor cells. This review will provide an overview of the function of master transcriptional factor brachyury, compare the similarities and differences of its role between embryonic development and carcinogenesis, and list the evidence on which brachyury-target therapies have the potential to help control advanced cancer populations.
Project description:The epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT) has been implicated as an important process in tumor cell invasion, metastasis, and drug resistance. The transcription factor brachyury has recently been described as a driver of EMT of human carcinoma cells. Brachyury mRNA and protein expression was analyzed in human breast carcinomas and benign tissues. The role of brachyury in breast tumor prognosis and drug resistance and the ability of brachyury-specific T cells to lyse human breast carcinoma cells were also evaluated. Kaplan-Meier analyses were used to evaluate the association between brachyury expression and survival. All statistical tests were two-sided. The level of brachyury expression in breast cancer cells was positively associated with their ability to invade the extracellular matrix, efficiently form mammospheres in vitro, and resist the cytotoxic effect of docetaxel. A comparison of survival among breast cancer patients treated with tamoxifen in the adjuvant setting who had tumors with high vs low brachyury mRNA expression demonstrated that high expression of brachyury is associated as an independent variable with higher risk of recurrence (hazard ratio [HR] = 7.5; 95% confidence interval [CI] = 2.4 to 23.5; P = 5.14×10(-4)) and distant metastasis (HR = 15.2; 95% CI = 3.5 to 66.3; P = 3.01×10(-4)). We also demonstrated that brachyury-specific T cells can lyse human breast carcinoma cells. The studies reported here provide the rationale for the use of a vaccine targeting brachyury for the therapy of human breast cancer, either as a monotherapy or in combination therapies.
Project description:Prostate cancer (PCa) is the most commonly diagnosed neoplasm and the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths in men. Acquisition of resistance to conventional therapy is a major problem for PCa patient management. Several mechanisms have been described to promote therapy resistance in PCa, such as androgen receptor (AR) activation, epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition (EMT), acquisition of stem cell properties and neuroendocrine transdifferentiation (NEtD). Recently, we identified Brachyury as a new biomarker of PCa aggressiveness and poor prognosis. In the present study we aimed to assess the role of Brachyury in PCa therapy resistance. We showed that Brachyury overexpression in prostate cancer cells lines increased resistance to docetaxel and cabazitaxel drugs, whereas Brachyury abrogation induced decrease in therapy resistance. Through ChiP-qPCR assays we further demonstrated that Brachyury is a direct regulator of AR expression as well as of the biomarker AMACR and the mesenchymal markers Snail and Fibronectin. Furthermore, in vitro Brachyury was also able to increase EMT and stem properties. By in silico analysis, clinically human Brachyury-positive PCa samples were associated with biomarkers of PCa aggressiveness and therapy resistance, including PTEN loss, and expression of NEtD markers, ERG and Bcl-2. Taken together, our results indicate that Brachyury contributes to tumor chemotherapy resistance, constituting an attractive target for advanced PCa patients.
Project description:The embryonic transcription factor brachyury is overexpressed in a variety of human tumors, including lung, breast, colon and prostate carcinomas, chordomas and hemangioblastomas. In human carcinoma cells, overexpression of brachyury associates with the occurrence of the phenomenon of epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT), acquisition of metastatic propensity and resistance to a variety of anti-cancer therapeutics. Brachyury is preferentially expressed in human tumors vs. normal adult tissues, and high levels of this molecule associate with poor prognosis in patients with lung, colon and prostate carcinomas, and in breast cancer patients treated with adjuvant tamoxifen. Brachyury is immunogenic in humans and vaccines against this novel oncotarget are currently undergoing clinical investigation. While our group and others have employed various anti-brachyury antibodies to interrogate the above findings, we report here on the development and thorough characterization of a novel rabbit monoclonal antibody (MAb 54-1) that reacts with distinct high affinity and specificity with human brachyury. MAb 54-1 was successfully used in ELISA, western blot, immunofluorescence and immunohistochemistry assays to evaluate expression of brachyury in various human tumor cell lines and tissues. We propose the use of this antibody to assist in research studies of EMT and in prognostic studies for a range of human tumors.
Project description:Epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT) is recognized as a relevant process during the progression of carcinomas towards metastatic disease. Epithelial cancer cells undergoing an EMT program may acquire mesenchymal features, motility, invasiveness, and resistance to a variety of anticancer therapeutics. Preventing or reverting the EMT process in carcinomas has the potential to minimize tumor dissemination and the emergence of therapeutic resistance. One of the strategies currently under investigation to target tumor cells undergoing EMT is the generation of a sustained immune response directed against an essential molecular driver of the process. This review focuses on the current development of immune-mediated anticancer interventions aimed at targeting a transcription factor, brachyury, associated with human tumor EMT. Also presented here is a summary of recent studies demonstrating a role for EMT in tumor resistance to immune effector cytotoxicity, and the study of novel strategies aimed at reverting the EMT to be used in combination with immune-mediated anticancer interventions.
Project description:The epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT) is a process associated with the metastasis of solid tumors as well as with the acquisition of resistance to standard anticancer modalities. A major initiator of EMT in carcinoma cells is TGF-?, which has been shown to induce the expression of several transcription factors ultimately responsible for initiating and maintaining the EMT program. We have previously identified Brachyury, a T-box transcription factor, as an inducer of mesenchymal features in human carcinoma cells. In this study, a potential link between Brachyury and TGF-? signaling has been investigated. The results show for the first time that Brachyury expression is enhanced during TGF-?1-induced EMT in various human cancer cell lines, and that a positive feedback loop is established between Brachyury and TGF-?1 in mesenchymal-like tumor cells. In this context, Brachyury overexpression is shown to promote upregulation of TGF-?1 at the mRNA and protein levels, an effect mediated by activation of the TGF-?1 promoter in the presence of high levels of Brachyury. Furthermore, inhibition of TGF-?1 signaling by a small-molecule inhibitor of TGF-? receptor type I decreases Brachyury expression, induces a mesenchymal-to-epithelial transition, and renders cancer cells more susceptible to chemotherapy. This study thus has implications for the future development of clinical trials using TGF-? inhibitors in combination with other anticancer agents.
Project description:As a manifestation of their inherent plasticity, carcinoma cells undergo profound phenotypic changes during progression toward metastasis. One such phenotypic modulation is the epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT), an embryonically relevant process that can be reinstated by tumor cells, resulting in the acquisition of metastatic propensity, stem-like cell properties, and resistance to a variety of anticancer therapies, including chemotherapy, radiation, and some small-molecule targeted therapies. Targeting of the EMT is emerging as a novel intervention against tumor progression. This review focuses on the potential use of cancer vaccine strategies targeting tumor cells that exhibit mesenchymal-like features, with an emphasis on the current status of development of vaccine platforms directed against the T-box transcription factor brachyury, a novel cancer target involved in tumor EMT, stemness, and resistance to therapies. Also presented is a summary of potential mechanisms of resistance to immune-mediated attack driven by EMT and the development of novel combinatorial strategies based on the use of agents that alleviate tumor EMT for an optimized targeting of plastic tumor cells that are responsible for tumor recurrence and the establishment of therapeutic refractoriness.