A high level of liver-specific expression of oncogenic Kras(V12) drives robust liver tumorigenesis in transgenic zebrafish.
ABSTRACT: Human liver cancer is one of the deadliest cancers worldwide, with hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) being the most common type. Aberrant Ras signaling has been implicated in the development and progression of human HCC, but a complete understanding of the molecular mechanisms of this protein in hepatocarcinogenesis remains elusive. In this study, a stable in vivo liver cancer model using transgenic zebrafish was generated to elucidate Ras-driven tumorigenesis in HCC. Using the liver-specific fabp10 (fatty acid binding protein 10) promoter, we overexpressed oncogenic kras(V12) specifically in the transgenic zebrafish liver. Only a high level of kras(V12) expression initiated liver tumorigenesis, which progressed from hyperplasia to benign and malignant tumors with activation of the Ras-Raf-MEK-ERK and Wnt-?-catenin pathways. Histological diagnosis of zebrafish tumors identified HCC as the main lesion. The tumors were invasive and transplantable, indicating malignancy of these HCC cells. Oncogenic kras(V12) was also found to trigger p53-dependent senescence as a tumor suppressive barrier in the pre-neoplastic stage. Microarray analysis of zebrafish liver hyperplasia and HCC uncovered the deregulation of several stage-specific and common biological processes and signaling pathways responsible for kras(V12)-driven liver tumorigenesis that recapitulated the molecular hallmarks of human liver cancer. Cross-species comparisons of cancer transcriptomes further defined a HCC-specific gene signature as well as a liver cancer progression gene signature that are evolutionarily conserved between human and zebrafish. Collectively, our study presents a comprehensive portrait of molecular mechanisms during progressive Ras-induced HCC. These observations indicate the validity of our transgenic zebrafish to model human liver cancer, and this model might act as a useful platform for drug screening and identifying new therapeutic targets.
Project description:Because Ras signaling is frequently activated by major hepatocellular carcinoma etiological factors, a transgenic zebrafish constitutively expressing the kras(V12) oncogene in the liver was previously generated by our laboratory. Although this model depicted and uncovered the conservation between zebrafish and human liver tumorigenesis, the low tumor incidence and early mortality limit its use for further studies of tumor progression and inhibition. Here, we employed a mifepristone-inducible transgenic system to achieve inducible kras(V12) expression in the liver. The system consisted of two transgenic lines: the liver-driver line had a liver-specific fabp10 promoter to produce the LexPR chimeric transactivator, and the Ras-effector line contained a LexA-binding site to control EGFP-kras(V12) expression. In double-transgenic zebrafish (driver-effector) embryos and adults, we demonstrated mifepristone-inducible EGFP-kras(V12) expression in the liver. Robust and homogeneous liver tumors developed in 100% of double-transgenic fish after 1 month of induction and the tumors progressed from hyperplasia by 1 week post-treatment (wpt) to carcinoma by 4 wpt. Strikingly, liver tumorigenesis was found to be 'addicted' to Ras signaling for tumor maintenance, because mifepristone withdrawal led to tumor regression via cell death in transgenic fish. We further demonstrated the potential use of the transparent EGFP-kras(V12) larvae in inhibitor treatments to suppress Ras-driven liver tumorigenesis by targeting its downstream effectors, including the Raf-MEK-ERK and PI3K-AKT-mTOR pathways. Collectively, this mifepristone-inducible and reversible kras(V12) transgenic system offers a novel model for understanding hepatocarcinogenesis and a high-throughput screening platform for anti-cancer drugs.
Project description:Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is more prevalent in men than women, but the reason for this gender disparity is not well understood. To investigate whether zebrafish could be used to study the gender disparity of HCC, we compared the difference of liver tumorigenesis between female and male fish during early tumorigenesis and long-term tumor progression in our previously established inducible and reversible HCC model - the kras<sup>V12</sup> transgenic zebrafish. We found that male fish developed HCC faster than females. The male tumors were more severe from the initiation stage, characteristic of higher proliferation, activation of WNT/?-catenin pathway and loss of cell adhesion. During long-term tumor progression, the male tumors developed into more advanced multi-nodular tumors, whereas the female tumors remain uniform and homogenous. Moreover, regression of male tumors required longer time. We further investigated the role of sex hormones in kras<sup>V12</sup> transgenic fish. Estrogen treatment showed tumor suppressing effect during early tumorigenesis through inhibiting cell proliferation, whereas androgen accelerated tumor growth by promoting cell proliferation. Overall, our study presented the zebrafish as a useful animal model for study of gender disparity of HCC.
Project description:Here we report a new transgenic expression system by combination of liver-specific expression, mifepristone induction and Cre-loxP recombination to conditionally control the expression of oncogenic kras(V12). This transgenic system allowed expression of kras(V12) specifically in the liver by a brief exposure of mifepristone to induce permanent genomic recombination mediated by the Cre-loxP system. We found that liver tumors were generally induced from multiple foci due to incomplete Cre-loxP recombination, thus mimicking naturally occurring human tumors resulting from one or a few mutated cells and clonal proliferation to form nodules. Similar to our earlier studies by both constitutive and inducible expression of the kras(V12) oncogene, hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is the main type of liver tumor induced by kras(V12) expression. Moreover, mixed tumors with hepatocellular adenoma and hepatoblastoma (HB) were also frequently observed. Molecular analyses also indicated similar increase of phosphorylated ERK1/2 in all types of liver tumors, but nuclear localization of ?-catenin, a sign of malignant transformation, was found only in HCC and HB. Taken together, our new transgenic system reported in this study allows transgenic kras(V12) expression specifically in the zebrafish liver only by a brief exposure of mifepristone to induce permanent genomic recombination mediated by the Cre-loxP system.
Project description:Chronic inflammation is a major etiological factor for hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), but how immune cells respond in the initiation of hepatocarcinogenesis remains uncharacterized. This study aims to investigate the response and roles of neutrophils in early hepatocarcinogenesis.By inducible expression of oncogenic kras(V12) in hepatocytes in transgenic zebrafish combined with live imaging of neutrophils in transparent larvae, the response of neutrophils to oncogenic liver was characterized and their roles investigated by pharmaceutical and genetic manipulations.We found a rapid recruitment of neutrophils to the liver upon induction of kras(V12) expression. Pharmaceutical stimulation of neutrophils resulted in further increases of neutrophils in oncogenic livers, liver size and tumor severity, while inhibition of neutrophils caused decreases of liver-associated neutrophils and liver size. Time-lapse video indicated that neutrophils had a stagnant migratory pattern meandering along the tumor edge but became relatively stationary upon entering the kras(V12)-expressing liver. Both oncogenic hepatocytes and tumor-associated neutrophils (TANs) were isolated via fluorescence-activated cell sorting. Molecular analyses indicated a pro-inflammatory microenvironment, as marked by increased tgf?1a expression in kras(V12)-expressing hepatocytes and a loss of anti-tumor activities in TANs. Depletion of Tgf-? significantly reduced the number of TANs and the size of oncogenic liver.An inflammatory cue from oncogenic hepatocytes upon induction of kras(V12) expression causes a rapid recruitment of neutrophils to oncogenic liver and the neutrophils play a promoting role in early hepatocarcinogenesis.
Project description:Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is one of the most severe cancer types and many genetic and environmental factors contribute to the development of HCC. Androgen receptor (AR) signaling is increasingly recognized as one of the important factors associated with HCC. Previously, we have developed an inducible HCC model in kras transgenic zebrafish. In the present study, to investigate the role of AR in liver tumor development, we specifically knocked out ar gene in the liver of zebrafish via the CRISPR/Cas9 system and the knockout zebrafish was named L-ARKO for liver-specific ar knockout. We observed that liver-specific knockout of ar attenuated liver tumor development in kras transgenic zebrafish at the early stage (one week of tumor induction). However, at the late stage (two weeks of tumor induction), essentially all kras transgenic fish continue to develop HCC irrespective of the absence or presence of ar gene, indicating an overwhelming role of the driver oncogene kras over ar knockout. Consistently, cell proliferation was reduced at the early stage, but not the late stage, of liver tumor induction in the kras/L-ARKO fish, indicating that the attenuant effect of ar knockout was at least in part via cell proliferation. Furthermore, androgen treatment showed acceleration of HCC progression in kras fish but not in kras/L-ARKO fish, further indicating the abolishment of ar signalling. Therefore, we have established a tissue-specific ar knockout zebrafish and it should be a valuable tool to investigate AR signalling in the liver in future.
Project description:The zebrafish (Danio rerio) represents an important animal model for analyzing genetic contributors to carcinogenesis. To assess the role for mutationally activated Ras in ovarian cancer, we developed a transgenic zebrafish model using the putative promoter for zebrafish insulin-like growth factor 3 (igf3) to drive expression of the human oncogene KRAS(G12V) fused to EGFP. A member of the IGF family, igf3 is unique to teleosts and reportedly exhibits gonad-specific expression in fish species. In contrast to previous studies, we observed igf3 expression in wild-type zebrafish gills in addition to gonads, indicating that igf3 expression is not necessarily gonad specific. In transgenic zebrafish, expression of EGFP-KRAS(G12V) driven by the igf3 promoter occurred only in the gills and resulted in proliferation of a putative progenitor cell population, chondroid hyperplasia, and localized inflammation. KRAS(G12V)-transformed cells in transgenic zebrafish showed activation of the ERK-MAP kinase pathway and expressed the zebrafish homologue for human CXCL8, a cytokine produced by mammalian Ras-transformed cells in tumor-associated inflammatory lesions. These findings indicate that KRAS(G12V)-transformed cells in zebrafish recruit inflammatory cells, but may require additional mutational events for neoplastic transformation. The conserved role for mutationally activated KRAS in leukocyte recruitment indicates that zebrafish can provide a valuable comparative model for Ras-associated inflammation.
Project description:KRAS mutations are a major risk factor in colorectal cancers. In particular, a point mutation of KRAS of amino acid 12, such as KRASV12, renders it stable activity in oncogenesis. We found that krasV12 promotes intestinal carcinogenesis by generating a transgenic zebrafish line with inducible krasV12 expression in the intestine, Tg(ifabp:EGFP-krasV12). The transgenic fish generated exhibited significant increases in the rates of intestinal epithelial outgrowth, proliferation, and cross talk in the active Ras signaling pathway involving in epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT). These results provide in vivo evidence of Ras pathway activation via krasV12 overexpression. Long-term transgenic expression of krasV12 resulted in enteritis, epithelial hyperplasia, and tubular adenoma in adult fish. This was accompanied by increased levels of the signaling proteins p-Erk and p-Akt and by downregulation of the EMT marker E-cadherin. Furthermore, we also observed a synergistic effect of krasV12 expression and dextran sodium sulfate treatment to enhance intestinal tumor in zebrafish. Our results demonstrate that krasV12 overexpression induces intestinal tumorigenesis in zebrafish, which mimics intestinal tumor formation in humans. Thus, our transgenic zebrafish may provide a valuable in vivo platform that can be used to investigate tumor initiation and anticancer drugs for gastrointestinal cancers.
Project description:Hepatocarcinogenesis is a multistep process that starts from fatty liver and transitions to fibrosis and, finally, into cancer. Many etiological factors, including hepatitis B virus X antigen (HBx) and p53 mutations, have been implicated in hepatocarcinogenesis. However, potential synergistic effects between these two factors and the underlying mechanisms by which they promote hepatocarcinogenesis are still unclear. In this report, we show that the synergistic action of HBx and p53 mutation triggers progressive hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) formation via src activation in zebrafish. Liver-specific expression of HBx in wild-type zebrafish caused steatosis, fibrosis and glycogen accumulation. However, the induction of tumorigenesis by HBx was only observed in p53 mutant fish and occurred in association with the up-regulation and activation of the src tyrosine kinase pathway. Furthermore, the overexpression of src in p53 mutant zebrafish also caused hyperplasia, HCC, and sarcomatoid HCC, which were accompanied by increased levels of the signaling proteins p-erk, p-akt, myc, jnk1 and vegf. Increased expression levels of lipogenic factors and the genes involved in lipid metabolism and glycogen storage were detected during the early stages of hepatocarcinogenesis in the HBx and src transgenic zebrafish. The up-regulation of genes involved in cell cycle regulation, tumor progression and other molecular hallmarks of human liver cancer were found at later stages in both HBx and src transgenic, p53 mutant zebrafish. Together, our study demonstrates that HBx and src overexpression induced hepatocarcinogenesis in p53 mutant zebrafish. This phenomenon mimics human HCC formation and provides potential in vivo platforms for drug screening for therapies for human liver cancer.
Project description:Chronic infectious diseases, such as Helicobacter pylori infection, can promote cancer in a large part through induction of chronic inflammation. Oncogenic K-ras mutation in epithelial cells activates inflammatory pathways, which could compensate for a lack of infectious stimulus. Gastric histopathology and putative progenitor markers [doublecortin and calcium/calmodulin-dependent protein kinase-like 1 (Dcamkl1) and keratin 19 (K19)] in K19-K-ras-V12 (K19-kras) transgenic mice were assessed at 3, 6, 12, and 18 months of age, in comparison with Helicobacter felis-infected wild-type littermates. Inflammation was evaluated by reverse transcription-PCR of proinflammatory cytokines, and K19-kras mice were transplanted with green fluorescent protein (GFP)-labeled bone marrow. Both H. felis infection and K-ras mutation induced upregulation of proinflammatory cytokines, expansion of Dcamkl1(+) cells, and progression to oxyntic atrophy, metaplasia, hyperplasia, and high-grade dysplasia. K19-kras transgenic mice uniquely displayed mucous metaplasia as early as 3 months and progressed to high-grade dysplasia and invasive intramucosal carcinoma by 20 months. In bone marrow-transplanted K19-kras mice that progressed to dysplasia, a large proportion of stromal cells were GFP(+) and bone marrow-derived, but only rare GFP(+) epithelial cells were observed. GFP(+) bone marrow-derived cells included leukocytes and CD45(-) stromal cells that expressed vimentin or ? smooth muscle actin and were often found surrounding clusters of Dcamkl1(+) cells at the base of gastric glands. In conclusion, the expression of mutant K-ras in K19(+) gastric epithelial cells can induce chronic inflammation and promote the development of dysplasia.
Project description:Activation of hepatic stellate cells (HSC) plays a crucial role in the liver disease progression from liver fibrosis/cirrhosis to cancer. Here, we found a rapid change of microenvironment after kras V12 -induction in zebrafish liver with progressively increased stromal cell number and enlarged liver size. Neutrophils and macrophages exhibited a faster response than HSCs. By manipulating the numbers of neutrophils and macrophages through morpholino knockdown, we found that macrophages contributed to both HSC survival and activation while neutrophils appear to be only required for HSC activation. Serotonin, which is essential for HSC survival and activation, was found up-regulated in hepatocytes and macrophages, but not in neutrophils after kras V12 induction. Serotonin receptor was highly expressed in HSCs; increase of the receptor activity by an agonist stimulated HSCs and oncogenic growth of the liver while an opposite effect was observed with an antagonist. Activated HSCs promoted the pro-tumorigenesis functions of neutrophils and macrophages through secretion of Tgfb1. Overall, these observations elucidated a cellular interaction in microenvironment where that upregulated serotonin in hepatocytes and macrophages activated HSCs. Since the microenvironment crosstalk plays a vital role in manipulation of liver carcinogenesis, the underlying mechanism may provide potential therapeutic targets for liver diseases.