Ah receptor antagonism represses head and neck tumor cell aggressive phenotype.
ABSTRACT: The aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AhR) has been shown to play a role in an increasing number of cellular processes. Recent reports have linked the AhR to cell proliferation, cytoskeletal arrangement, and tumor invasiveness in various tumor cell types. The AhR plays a role in the de-repression of the interleukin (IL)6 promoter in certain tumor cell lines, allowing for increased transcriptional activation by cytokines. Here, we show that there is a significant level of constitutive activation of the AhR in cells isolated from patients with head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC). Constitutive activation of the AhR in HNSCCs was blocked by antagonist treatment, leading to a reduction in IL6 expression. In addition, the AhR exhibits a high level of expression in HNSCCs than in normal keratinocytes. These findings led to the hypothesis that the basal AhR activity in HNSCCs plays a role in the aggressive phenotype of these tumors and that antagonist treatment could mitigate this phenotype. This study provides evidence that antagonism of the AhR in HNSCC tumor cells, in the absence of exogenous receptor ligands, has a significant effect on tumor cell phenotype. Treatment of these cell lines with the AhR antagonists 6, 2', 4'-trimethoxyflavone, or the more potent GNF351, decreased migration and invasion of HNSCC cells and prevented benzo[a]pyrene-mediated induction of the chemotherapy efflux protein ABCG2. Thus, an AhR antagonist treatment has been shown to have therapeutic potential in HNSCCs through a reduction in aggressive cell phenotype.
Project description:Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a chronic autoimmune disease with high morbidity and mortality. Within the inflammatory milieu, resident fibroblast-like synoviocytes (FLS) in the synovial tissue undergo hyperplasia, which leads to joint destruction. Epidemiologic studies and our previous research suggest that activation of the aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AHR) pathway plays an instrumental role in the inflammatory and destructive RA phenotype. In addition, our recent studies implicate the AHR in the regulation of the expression of several growth factors in established tumor cell lines. Thus, under inflammatory conditions, we hypothesized that the AHR is involved in the constitutive and inducible expression of several growth factors, FLS proliferation and migration, along with protease-dependent invasion in FLS from patients with RA (RA-FLS). Treatment with the AHR antagonist GNF351 inhibits cytokine-induced expression of vascular endothelial growth factor-A (VEGF-A), epiregulin, amphiregulin, and basic fibroblast growth factor mRNA through an AHR-dependent mechanism in both RA-FLS and FLS. Secretion of VEGF-A and epiregulin from RA-FLS was also inhibited upon GNF351 treatment. RA-FLS cell migration, along with cytokine-induced RA-FLS cell proliferation, was significantly attenuated by GNF351 exposure. Treatment of RA-FLS with GNF351 mitigated cytokine-mediated expression of matrix metalloproteinase-2 and -9 mRNA and diminished the RA-FLS invasive phenotype. These findings indicate that inhibition of AHR activity may be a viable therapeutic target in amelioration of disease progression in RA by attenuating growth factor release; FLS proliferation, migration, and invasion; and inflammatory activity.
Project description:Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) is a chronic inflammatory disease of unclear aetiology, which is associated with inflamed human fibroblast-like synoviocytes (HFLS). Epidemiological studies have identified a positive correlation between tobacco smoking (a rich source of aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AHR) agonists) and aggressive RA phenotype. Thus, we hypothesise that antagonism of AHR activity by a potent AHR antagonist GNF351 can attenuate the inflammatory phenotype of HFLS-RA cells.Quantitative PCR was used to examine IL1B-induced mRNA expression in primary HFLS-RA cells. A structurally diverse AHR antagonist CH223191 and transient AHR repression using AHR small interfering RNA (siRNA) in primary HFLS-RA cells were used to demonstrate that effects observed by GNF351 are AHR-mediated. The levels of PTGS2 were determined by western blot and secretory cytokines such as IL1B and IL6 by ELISA. Chromatin-immunoprecipitation was used to assess occupancy of the AHR on the promoters of IL1B and IL6.Many of the chemokine and cytokine genes induced by IL1B in HFLS-RA cells are repressed by co-treatment with GNF351 at both the mRNA and protein level. Pretreatment of HLFS-RA cells with CH223191 or transient gene ablation of AHR by siRNA confirmed that the effects of GNF351 are AHR-mediated. GNF351 inhibited the recruitment of AHR to the promoters of IL1B and IL6 confirming occupancy of AHR at these promoters is required for enhanced inflammatory signalling.These data suggest that AHR antagonism may represent a viable adjuvant therapeutic strategy for the amelioration of inflammation associated with RA.
Project description:Previous studies in head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC) cell lines have revealed that the Ah receptor (AHR) plays a significant role in mediating the "aggressive" phenotype of these cells, which includes enhanced inflammatory signaling (e.g., IL6) and migratory potential. Here we sought to identify putative novel targets of the AHR associated with enhanced tumor invasiveness. Global gene expression analysis identified a number of genes that are repressed upon treatment of OSC-19 or HN30 cells with an AHR antagonist. Three growth factors were targets of AHR activity; amphiregulin (AREG), epiregulin (EREG), and platelet-derived growth factor A (PDGFA) were repressed by an AHR antagonist and further examined. Quantitative PCR analysis, ELISA, and siRNA-mediated knock down of AHR revealed an attenuation of basal and/or induced levels of expression of these growth factors in two HNSCC lines, following AHR antagonism. In silico analysis revealed that these growth factors possess dioxin-like response elements. Two other AHR ligands, 6-formylindolo[3,2-b]carbazole and benzo(a)pyrene (BP) also elicited similar responses. In conclusion, this study identified AREG, EREG, and PDGFA as growth factor targets of AHR activity associated with metastatic phenotype of HNSCC cells, suggesting that attenuation of AHR activity may be a therapeutic strategy.
Project description:The biological functions of the aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AHR) can be delineated into dioxin response element (DRE)-dependent or -independent activities. Ligands exhibiting either full or partial agonist activity, e.g., 2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin and ?-naphthoflavone, have been demonstrated to potentiate both DRE-dependent and -independent AHR function. In contrast, the recently identified selective AHR modulators (SAhRMs), e.g., 1-allyl-3-(3,4-dimethoxyphenyl)-7-(trifluoromethyl)-1H-indazole (SGA360), bias AHR toward DRE-independent functionality while displaying antagonism with regard to ligand-induced DRE-dependent transcription. Recent studies have expanded the physiological role of AHR to include modulation of hematopoietic progenitor expansion and immunoregulation. It remains to be established whether such physiological roles are mediated through DRE-dependent or -independent pathways. Here, we present evidence for a third class of AHR ligand, "pure" or complete antagonists with the capacity to suppress both DRE-dependent and -independent AHR functions, which may facilitate dissection of physiological AHR function with regard to DRE or non-DRE-mediated signaling. Competitive ligand binding assays together with in silico modeling identify N-(2-(1H-indol-3-yl)ethyl)-9-isopropyl-2-(5-methylpyridin-3-yl)-9H-purin-6-amine (GNF351) as a high-affinity AHR ligand. DRE-dependent reporter assays, in conjunction with quantitative polymerase chain reaction analysis of AHR targets, reveal GNF351 as a potent AHR antagonist that demonstrates efficacy in the nanomolar range. Furthermore, unlike many currently used AHR antagonists, e.g., ?-naphthoflavone, GNF351 is devoid of partial agonist potential. It is noteworthy that in a model of AHR-mediated DRE-independent function, i.e., suppression of cytokine-induced acute-phase gene expression, GNF351 has the capacity to antagonize agonist and SAhRM-mediated suppression of SAA1. Such data indicate that GNF351 is a pure antagonist with the capacity to inhibit both DRE-dependent and -independent activity.
Project description:The aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AHR) is a ligand-activated transcription factor that regulates the expression of a diverse group of genes. Exogenous AHR ligands include the environmental contaminant 2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin (TCDD), which is a potent agonist, and the synthetic AHR antagonist N-2-(1H-indol-3yl)ethyl)-9-isopropyl-2- (5-methylpyridin-3-yl)-9H-purin-6-amine (GNF351). As no experimentally determined structure of the ligand binding domain exists, homology models have been utilized for virtual ligand screening (VLS) to search for novel ligands. Here, we have developed an "agonist-optimized" homology model of the human AHR ligand binding domain, and this model aided in the discovery of two human AHR agonists by VLS. In addition, we performed molecular dynamics simulations of an agonist TCDD-bound and antagonist GNF351-bound version of this model in order to gain insights into the mechanics of the AHR ligand-binding pocket. These simulations identified residues 307-329 as a flexible segment of the AHR ligand pocket that adopts discrete conformations upon agonist or antagonist binding. This flexible segment of the AHR may act as a structural switch that determines the agonist or antagonist activity of a given AHR ligand.
Project description:TP63 is frequently amplified or overexpressed in primary head and neck squamous cell carcinomas (HNSCC). Nevertheless, the role of TP63 in the initiation and progression of HNSCCs is not known. Using archival HNSCC tissue sections, we found that TP63 expression is often downregulated in late-stage human HNSCCs. To establish a causal link between TP63 loss and HNSCC tumorigenesis, we developed a genetically engineered mouse model in which Trp63 (the mouse homolog of human TP63) was ablated from head and neck epithelia. Upon exposure of the mice to a chemical carcinogen, we found that Trp63 ablation accelerated HNSCC initiation and progression. To determine whether these findings are relevant for human HNSCCs, we generated TP63 knockdown HNSCC cell lines. These cells were implanted into the tongue of athymic nude mice to generate orthotopic xenografts. We found that loss of TP63 promoted HNSCC progression and metastasis. Furthermore, we determined that tumor metastasis is dependent on MAPK activation in TP63 knockdown HNSCCs. The significance of these findings is underscored by our finding that pharmacologic inhibition of MAPK activity by trametinib drastically impaired HNSCC metastasis mediated by TP63 loss. In conclusion, our data provide novel mechanistic insights into the role of TP63 loss in HNSCC initiation and progression, and provide a rationale for the development of new therapeutic approaches specifically targeting TP63-dependent tumor pathways. IMPLICATIONS: Our findings uncover a novel functional role for TP63 loss in HNSCC metastasis and identify MAPK signaling as a potential therapeutic target for treating HNSCCs with low TP63 expression.
Project description:BACKGROUND:Despite the high prevalence of epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) overexpression in head and neck squamous cell carcinomas (HNSCCs), incorporation of the EGFR inhibitor cetuximab into the clinical management of HNSCC has not led to significant changes in long-term survival outcomes. Therefore, the identification of novel therapeutic approaches to enhance the clinical efficacy of cetuximab could lead to improved long-term survival for HNSCC patients. Our previous work suggests that EGFR inhibition activates the interleukin-1 (IL-1) pathway via tumor release of IL-1 alpha (IL-1α), although the clinical implications of activating this pathway are unclear in the context of cetuximab therapy. Given the role of IL-1 signaling in anti-tumor immune response, we hypothesized that increases in IL-1α levels would enhance tumor response to cetuximab. METHODS:Parental and stable myeloid differentiation primary response gene 88 (MyD88) and IL-1 receptor 1 (IL-1R1) knockdown HNSCC cell lines, an IL-1R antagonist (IL-1RA), neutralizing antibodies to IL-1α and IL-1β, and recombinant IL-1α and IL-1β were used to determine cytokine production (using ELISA) in response to cetuximab in vitro. IL-1 pathway modulation in mouse models was accomplished by administration of IL-1RA, stable overexpression of IL-1α in SQ20B cells, administration of rIL-1α, and administration of a polyanhydride nanoparticle formulation of IL-1α. CD4+ and CD8+ T cell-depleting antibodies were used to understand the contribution of T cell-dependent anti-tumor immune responses. Baseline serum levels of IL-1α were measured using ELISA from HNSCC patients treated with cetuximab-based therapy and analyzed for association with progression free survival (PFS). RESULTS:Cetuximab induced pro-inflammatory cytokine secretion from HNSCC cells in vitro which was mediated by an IL-1α/IL-1R1/MyD88-dependent signaling pathway. IL-1 signaling blockade did not affect the anti-tumor efficacy of cetuximab, while increased IL-1α expression using polyanhydride nanoparticles in combination with cetuximab safely and effectively induced a T cell-dependent anti-tumor immune response. Detectable baseline serum levels of IL-1α were associated with a favorable PFS in cetuximab-based therapy-treated HNSCC patients compared to HNSCC patients with undetectable levels. CONCLUSIONS:Altogether, these results suggest that IL-1α in combination with cetuximab can induce a T cell-dependent anti-tumor immune response and may represent a novel immunotherapeutic strategy for EGFR-positive HNSCCs.
Project description:PURPOSE:EGF receptor variant III (EGFRvIII) has been detected in several cancers in which tumors expressing this truncated growth factor receptor show more aggressive behavior. The molecular mechanisms that contribute to EGFRvIII-mediated tumor progression that are amenable to targeted therapy are incompletely understood. The present study aimed to better define the role of Src family kinases (SFKs) in EGFRvIII-mediated cell motility and tumor growth of head and neck squamous cell carcinomas (HNSCC). EXPERIMENTAL DESIGN:HNSCC models expressing EGFRvIII were treated with dasatinib, a pharmacologic inhibitor of SFKs. RESULTS:SFK inhibition significantly decreased cell proliferation, migration, and invasion of EGFRvIII-expressing HNSCC cells. Administration of dasatinib to mice bearing EGFRvIII-expressing HNSCC xenografts resulted in a significant reduction of tumor volume compared with controls. Immunoprecipitation with anti-c-Src, Lyn, Fyn, and Yes antibodies followed by immunoblotting for phosphorylation of the SFK activation site (Y416) showed specific activation of Lyn kinase in EGFRvIII-expressing HNSCC cell lines and human HNSCC tumor specimens. Selective inhibition of Lyn using siRNA decreased cell migration and invasion of EGFRvIII-expressing HNSCCs compared with vector control cells. CONCLUSIONS:These findings show that Lyn mediates tumor progression of EGFRvIII-expressing HNSCCs in which strategies to inhibit SFK may represent an effective therapeutic strategy.
Project description:PURPOSE:Human papillomavirus (HPV) is linked with a subset of head and neck squamous cell carcinomas (HNSCC). HPV-positive HNSCCs show a better prognosis than HPV-negative HNSCCs, which may be explained by sensitivity of the HPV-positive HNSCCs to ionizing radiation (IR). Although the molecular mechanism behind sensitivity to IR in HPV-positive HNSCCs is unresolved, DNA damage response (DDR) might be a significant determinant of IR sensitivity. An important player in the DDR, SMG-1 (suppressor with morphogenetic effect on genitalia), is a potential tumor suppressor and may therefore be deregulated in cancer. No studies have yet been conducted linking defects in SMG-1 expression with cancer. We investigated whether deregulation of SMG-1 could be responsible for defects in the DDR in oropharyngeal HNSCC. EXPERIMENTAL DESIGN:Expression and promoter methylation status of SMG-1 were investigated in HNSCCs. To identify a functional link between HPV infection and SMG-1, we transfected the HPV-negative cells with an E6/E7 expression construct. SMG-1 short hairpin RNAs were expressed in HPV-negative cells to estimate survival upon IR. RESULTS:Forced E6/E7 expression in HPV-negative cells resulted in SMG-1 promoter hypermethylation and decreased SMG-1 expression. Due to promoter hypermethylation, HPV-positive HNSCC cells and tumors express SMG-1 at lower levels than HPV-negative SCCs. Depletion of SMG-1 in HPV-negative HNSCC cells resulted in increased radiation sensitivity, whereas SMG-1 overexpression protected HPV-positive tumor cells from irradiation. CONCLUSIONS:Levels of SMG-1 expression negatively correlated with HPV status in cancer cell lines and tumors. Diminished SMG-1 expression may contribute to the enhanced response to therapy exhibited by HPV-positive HNSCCs.
Project description:Although immunotherapy has emerged as an effective therapeutic strategy for various cancers including head and neck squamous cell carcinomas (HNSCCs), only a subset of patients can benefit from such therapy. Hence, it is pressing to discover predictive biomarkers for cancer immunotherapy response. TP53 and HRAS mutations frequently occur in HNSCC and correlate with a worse prognosis in HNSCC. We extensively characterized the associations of TP53 mutations and HRAS mutations with HNSCC immunity based on multiple cancer genomics datasets. We compared the enrichment levels of 20 immune signatures between TP53-mutated and TP53-wildtype HNSCCs, and between HRAS-mutated and HRAS-wildtype HNSCCs, and found that TP53 mutations were associated with depressed immune signatures while HRAS mutations were associated with enhanced immune signatures in HNSCC. Moreover, we found multiple p53- and RAS-mediated pathways showing significant correlations with HNSCC immunity. Furthermore, we demonstrated that the association between TP53 mutation and tumor immunity was independent of the human papillomavirus (HPV) infection and smoking status in HNSCC. These data suggest that p53 and RAS may play important roles in regulating HNSCC immunity and that the TP53 and HRAS mutation status could be useful biomarkers for stratifying HNSCC patients responsive to immunotherapy.