ABSTRACT: Conventional chemotherapy not only kills tumor cells but also changes gene expression in treatment-damaged tissues, inducing production of multiple tumor-supporting secreted factors. This secretory phenotype was found here to be mediated in part by a damage-inducible cell-cycle inhibitor p21 (CDKN1A). We developed small-molecule compounds that inhibit damage-induced transcription downstream of p21. These compounds were identified as selective inhibitors of a transcription-regulating kinase CDK8 and its isoform CDK19. Remarkably, p21 was found to bind to CDK8 and stimulate its kinase activity. p21 and CDK8 also cooperate in the formation of internucleolar bodies, where both proteins accumulate. A CDK8 inhibitor suppresses damage-induced tumor-promoting paracrine activities of tumor cells and normal fibroblasts and reverses the increase in tumor engraftment and serum mitogenic activity in mice pretreated with a chemotherapeutic drug. The inhibitor also increases the efficacy of chemotherapy against xenografts formed by tumor cell/fibroblast mixtures. Microarray data analysis revealed striking correlations between CDK8 expression and poor survival in breast and ovarian cancers. CDK8 inhibition offers a promising approach to increasing the efficacy of cancer chemotherapy.
Project description:CDK8 and its paralog CDK19, in complex with CCNC, MED12 and MED13, are transcriptional regulators that mediate several carcinogenic pathways and the chemotherapy-induced tumor-supporting paracrine network. Following up on our previous observation that CDK8, CDK19 and CCNC RNA expression is associated with shorter relapse-free survival (RFS) in breast cancer, we now found by immunohistochemical analysis that CDK8/19 protein is overexpressed in invasive ductal carcinomas relative to non-malignant mammary tissues. Meta-analysis of transcriptomic data revealed that higher CDK8 expression is associated with shorter RFS in all molecular subtypes of breast cancer. These correlations were much stronger in patients who underwent systemic adjuvant therapy, suggesting that CDK8 impacts the failure of systemic therapy. The same associations were found for CDK19, CCNC and MED13. In contrast, MED12 showed the opposite association with a longer RFS. The expression levels of CDK8 in breast cancer samples were directly correlated with the expression of MYC, as well as CDK19, CCNC and MED13 but inversely correlated with MED12. CDK8, CDK19 and CCNC expression was strongly increased and MED12 expression was decreased in tumors with mutant p53. Gene amplification is the most frequent type of genetic alterations of CDK8, CDK19, CCNC and MED13 in breast cancers (9.7% of which have amplified MED13), whereas point mutations are more common in MED12. These results suggest that the expression of CDK8 and its interactive genes has a profound impact on the response to adjuvant therapy in breast cancer in accordance with the role of CDK8 in chemotherapy-induced tumor-supporting paracrine activities.
Project description:Foxp3 expressing regulatory T (Treg) cells, as the central negative regulator of adaptive immune system, are essential to suppress immune response and maintain immune homeostasis. However, the function of Treg cells is frequently compromised in autoimmunity and hyper-activated in infections and tumor microenvironments. Thus, manipulating Treg cells becomes a promising therapeutic strategy for treating various diseases. Here we reported that inhibition of Cdk8/Cdk19 activity by small molecule inhibitors CCT251921 or Senexin A greatly promoted the differentiation of Treg cells and the expression of Treg signature genes, such as Foxp3, CTLA4, PD-1, and GITR. Mechanistically, we found that the augmented Treg cell differentiation was due to sensitized TGF-? signaling by Cdk8/Cdk19 inhibition, which was associated with attenuation of IFN-?-Stat1 signaling and enhancement of phosphorylated Smad2/3. Importantly, treatment with Cdk8/Cdk19 inhibitor CCT251921 significantly increased Treg population and ameliorated autoimmune symptoms in an experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis (EAE) model. Taken together, our study reveals a novel role of Cdk8/Cdk19 in Treg cell differentiation and provides a potential target for Treg cell based therapeutics.
Project description:The nuclear factor-?B (NF?B) family of transcription factors has been implicated in inflammatory disorders, viral infections, and cancer. Most of the drugs that inhibit NF?B show significant side effects, possibly due to sustained NF?B suppression. Drugs affecting induced, but not basal, NF?B activity may have the potential to provide therapeutic benefit without associated toxicity. NF?B activation by stress-inducible cell cycle inhibitor p21 was shown to be mediated by a p21-stimulated transcription-regulating kinase CDK8. CDK8 and its paralog CDK19, associated with the transcriptional Mediator complex, act as coregulators of several transcription factors implicated in cancer; CDK8/19 inhibitors are entering clinical development. Here we show that CDK8/19 inhibition by different small-molecule kinase inhibitors or shRNAs suppresses the elongation of NF?B-induced transcription when such transcription is activated by p21-independent canonical inducers, such as TNF?. On NF?B activation, CDK8/19 are corecruited with NF?B to the promoters of the responsive genes. Inhibition of CDK8/19 kinase activity suppresses the RNA polymerase II C-terminal domain phosphorylation required for transcriptional elongation, in a gene-specific manner. Genes coregulated by CDK8/19 and NF?B include IL8, CXCL1, and CXCL2, which encode tumor-promoting proinflammatory cytokines. Although it suppressed newly induced NF?B-driven transcription, CDK8/19 inhibition in most cases had no effect on the basal expression of NF?B-regulated genes or promoters; the same selective regulation of newly induced transcription was observed with other transcription signals potentiated by CDK8/19. This selective role of CDK8/19 identifies these kinases as mediators of transcriptional reprogramming, a key aspect of development and differentiation as well as pathological processes.
Project description:Transcriptional responses to external stimuli remain poorly understood. Using global nuclear run-on followed by sequencing (GRO-seq) and precision nuclear run-on sequencing (PRO-seq), we show that CDK8 kinase activity promotes RNA polymerase II pause release in response to interferon-? (IFN-?), a universal cytokine involved in immunity and tumor surveillance. The Mediator kinase module contains CDK8 or CDK19, which are presumed to be functionally redundant. We implemented cortistatin A, chemical genetics, transcriptomics, and other methods to decouple their function while assessing enzymatic versus structural roles. Unexpectedly, CDK8 and CDK19 regulated different gene sets via distinct mechanisms. CDK8-dependent regulation required its kinase activity, whereas CDK19 governed IFN-? responses through its scaffolding function (i.e., it was kinase independent). Accordingly, CDK8, not CDK19, phosphorylates the STAT1 transcription factor (TF) during IFN-? stimulation, and CDK8 kinase inhibition blocked activation of JAK-STAT pathway TFs. Cytokines such as IFN-? rapidly mobilize TFs to "reprogram" cellular transcription; our results implicate CDK8 and CDK19 as essential for this transcriptional reprogramming.
Project description:CDK8/19 kinases, which mediate transcriptional reprogramming, have become an active target for cancer drug discovery. Several small-molecule CDK8/19 inhibitors showed in vivo efficacy and two have entered clinical trials, with no significant toxicities reported. However, Clarke et al. (eLife 2016; 5; e20722) found severe systemic toxicity associated with two potent CDK8/19 inhibitors, Cmpd3 (CCT251921) and Cmpd4 (MSC2530818), and suggested that their toxicity was due to on-target effects. Here, we compared five CDK8/19 inhibitors: Cmpd3, Cmpd4, Senexin B, 16-didehydro-cortistatin A (dCA) and 15w, in different assays. Only Cmpd4 showed striking toxicity in developing zebrafish. In cell-based assays for CDK8 and CDK19 inhibition, Cmpd3, Cmpd4, dCA and 15w showed similar low-nanomolar potency and efficacy against CDK8 and CDK19, while Senexin B was less potent. Only dCA produced sustained inhibition of CDK8/19-dependent gene expression. While toxicity of different compounds did not correlate with their effects on CDK8 and CDK19, kinome profiling identified several off-target kinases for both Cmpd3 and Cmpd4, which could be responsible for their toxicity. Off-target activities could have been achieved in the study of Clarke et al. due to high in vivo doses of Cmpd3 and Cmpd4, chosen for the ability to inhibit STAT1 S727 phosphorylation in tumor xenografts. We show here that STAT1 S727 phosphorylation is induced by various cytokines and stress stimuli in CDK8/19-independent manner, indicating that it is not a reliable pharmacodynamic marker of CDK8/19 activity. These results illustrate the need for careful off-target analysis and dose selection in the development of CDK8/19 inhibitors.
Project description:Invasive bladder cancer has high morbidity and nearly uniform mortality when metastatic, with no therapeutic improvement in many years. Although chemotherapy combined with Chk1 inhibition has been investigated in several cancer types in which TP53 mutation is seen, this combination treatment approach has not been studied in bladder cancer. Recently, cancer genome sequencing efforts have identified CDKN1A (p21) mutations at 14% frequency in invasive bladder cancer, co-occurring half the time with TP53 mutations. We hypothesized that combined CDKN1A-TP53 loss would make bladder cancer sensitive to combined treatment with gemcitabine and Chk1 inhibitor. Here, we show that TP53-CDKN1A double-mutant bladder cancer cell lines, 647V and RT-112, have a remarkable increase in p-Chk1 levels and G2-M arrest in response to gemcitabine treatment, with a heightened sensitivity to combination treatment with gemcitabine and either Chk1 inhibitor PF477736 or AZD7762, in comparison with other bladder cancer cell lines (either TP53 or p21 deficient). In addition, CDKN1A restoration in p21-deficient bladder cancer cells significantly reduced their sensitivity to combined treatment by protecting them from DNA damage and apoptosis. Furthermore, xenograft studies using RT-112 showed a significant synergistic effect of combined gemcitabine-PF477736 treatment on tumor growth. Our findings suggest that TP53/CDKN1A double-mutant bladder cancer cells have a unique dependence on Chk1 activity for the G2-M cell-cycle checkpoint in response to chemotherapy-induced DNA damage. This combination or others involving genotoxic agents and Chk kinase inhibitors is a promising therapeutic approach for bladder cancer with these mutations.
Project description:Long noncoding RNAs (lncRNAs) have emerged as a major regulator of cell physiology, but many of which have no known function. CDKN1A/p21 is an important inhibitor of the cell-cycle, regulator of the DNA damage response and effector of the tumor suppressor p53, playing a crucial role in tumor development and prevention. In order to identify a regulator for tumor progression, we performed an siRNA screen of human lncRNAs required for cell proliferation, and identified a novel lncRNA, APTR, that acts in trans to repress the CDKN1A/p21 promoter independent of p53 to promote cell proliferation. APTR associates with the promoter of CDKN1A/p21 and this association requires a complementary-Alu sequence encoded in APTR. A different module of APTR associates with and recruits the Polycomb repressive complex 2 (PRC2) to epigenetically repress the p21 promoter. A decrease in APTR is necessary for the induction of p21 after heat stress and DNA damage by doxorubicin, and the levels of APTR and p21 are anti-correlated in human glioblastomas. Our data identify a new regulator of the cell-cycle inhibitor CDKN1A/p21 that acts as a proliferative factor in cancer cell lines and in glioblastomas and demonstrate that Alu elements present in lncRNAs can contribute to targeting regulatory lncRNAs to promoters.
Project description:There is unmet need for chemical tools to explore the role of the Mediator complex in human pathologies ranging from cancer to cardiovascular disease. Here we determine that CCT251545, a small-molecule inhibitor of the WNT pathway discovered through cell-based screening, is a potent and selective chemical probe for the human Mediator complex-associated protein kinases CDK8 and CDK19 with >100-fold selectivity over 291 other kinases. X-ray crystallography demonstrates a type 1 binding mode involving insertion of the CDK8 C terminus into the ligand binding site. In contrast to type II inhibitors of CDK8 and CDK19, CCT251545 displays potent cell-based activity. We show that CCT251545 and close analogs alter WNT pathway-regulated gene expression and other on-target effects of modulating CDK8 and CDK19, including expression of genes regulated by STAT1. Consistent with this, we find that phosphorylation of STAT1(SER727) is a biomarker of CDK8 kinase activity in vitro and in vivo. Finally, we demonstrate in vivo activity of CCT251545 in WNT-dependent tumors.
Project description:We identified three unrelated individuals with de novo missense variants in CDK19, encoding a cyclin-dependent kinase protein family member that predominantly regulates gene transcription. These individuals presented with hypotonia, global developmental delay, epileptic encephalopathy, and dysmorphic features. CDK19 is conserved between vertebrate and invertebrate model organisms, but currently abnormalities in CDK19 are not known to be associated with a human disorder. Loss of Cdk8, the fly homolog of CDK19, causes larval lethality, which is suppressed by expression of human CDK19 reference cDNA. In contrast, the CDK19 p.Tyr32His and p.Thr196Ala variants identified in the affected individuals fail to rescue the loss of Cdk8 and behave as null alleles. Additionally, neuronal RNAi-mediated knockdown of Cdk8 in flies results in semi-lethality. The few eclosing flies exhibit severe seizures and a reduced lifespan. Both phenotypes are fully suppressed by moderate expression of the CDK19 reference cDNA but not by expression of the two variants. Finally, loss of Cdk8 causes an obvious loss of boutons and synapses at larval neuromuscular junctions (NMJs). Together, our findings demonstrate that human CDK19 fully replaces the function of Cdk8 in the fly, the human disease-associated CDK19 variants behave as strong loss-of-function variants, and deleterious CDK19 variants underlie a syndromic neurodevelopmental disorder.
Project description:Cell-based assays for CDK8/19 inhibition are not easily defined, since there are no known cellular functions unique to these kinases. To solve this problem, we generated derivatives of 293 cells with CRISPR knockout of one or both of CDK8 and CDK19. Double knockout (dKO) of CDK8 and CDK19 together (but not individually) decreased the induction of transcription by NF?B (a CDK8/19-potentiated transcription factor) and abrogated the effect of CDK8/19 inhibitors on such induction. We generated wild type (WT) and dKO cell lines expressing luciferase from an NF?B-dependent promoter. Inhibitors selective for CDK8/19 over other CDKs decreased TNF?-induced luciferase expression in WT cells by ~80% with no effect on luciferase induction in dKO cells. In contrast, non-selective CDK inhibitors flavopiridol and dinaciclib and a CDK7/12/13 inhibitor THZ1 (but not CDK4/6 inhibitor palbociclib) suppressed luciferase induction in both WT and dKO cells, indicating a distinct role for other CDKs in the NF?B pathway. We used this assay to characterize a series of thienopyridines with in vitro bone anabolic activity, one of which was identified as a selective CDK8/19 inhibitor. Thienopyridines inhibited luciferase induction in the WT but not dKO cells and their IC50 values in the WT reporter assay showed near-perfect correlation (R2 = 0.98) with their reported activities in a bone anabolic activity assay, confirming that the latter function is mediated by CDK8/19 and validating our assay as a robust and quantitative method for CDK8/19 inhibition.