Integrated genomic analyses identify WEE1 as a critical mediator of cell fate and a novel therapeutic target in acute myeloid leukemia.
ABSTRACT: Acute myeloid leukemia (AML) remains a therapeutic challenge despite increasing knowledge about the molecular origins of the disease, as the mechanisms of AML cell escape from chemotherapy remain poorly defined. We hypothesized that AML cells are addicted to molecular pathways in the context of chemotherapy and used complementary approaches to identify these addictions. Using novel molecular and computational approaches, we performed genome-wide short-hairpin RNA screens to identify proteins that mediate AML cell fate after cytarabine exposure; gene expression profiling of AML cells exposed to cytarabine to identify genes with induced expression in this context; and examination of existing gene expression data from primary patient samples. Integration of these independent analyses strongly implicates cell-cycle checkpoint proteins, particularly WEE1, as critical mediators of AML cell survival after cytarabine exposure. Knockdown of WEE1 in a secondary screen confirmed its role in AML cell survival. Pharmacologic inhibition of WEE1 in AML cell lines and primary cells is synergistic with cytarabine. Further experiments demonstrate that inhibition of WEE1 prevents S-phase arrest induced by cytarabine, broadening the functions of WEE1 that may be exploited therapeutically. These data highlight the power of integrating functional and descriptive genomics, and identify WEE1 as a potential therapeutic target in AML.
Project description:Inhibition of Wee1 is emerging as a novel therapeutic strategy for cancer, and some data suggest that cells with dysfunctional p53 are more sensitive to Wee1 inhibition combined with conventional chemotherapy than those with functional p53. We and others found that Wee1 inhibition sensitizes leukemia cells to cytarabine. Thus, we sought to determine whether chemosensitization by Wee1 inhibition is dependent on p53 dysfunction and whether combining Wee1 inhibition is tolerable and effective in vivo. Synergistic inhibition of proliferation with a Wee1 inhibitor in clinical development, MK1775, and cytarabine was observed in all acute myelogenous leukemia (AML) cell lines tested, regardless of p53 functionality. Mechanistic studies indicate that inhibition of Wee1 abrogates the S-phase checkpoint and augments apoptosis induced by cytarabine. In AML and lung cancer cell lines, genetic disruption of p53 did not alter the cells' enhanced sensitivity to antimetabolites with Wee1 inhibition. Finally, mice with AML were treated with cytarabine and/or MK1775. The combination of MK1775 and cytarabine was well tolerated in mice and enhanced the antileukemia effects of cytarabine, including survival. Thus, inhibition of Wee1 sensitizes hematologic and solid tumor cell lines to antimetabolite chemotherapeutics, whether p53 is functional or not, suggesting that the use of p53 mutation as a predictive biomarker for response to Wee1 inhibition may be restricted to certain cancers and/or chemotherapeutics. These data provide preclinical justification for testing MK1775 and cytarabine in patients with leukemia.
Project description:Inhibition of WEE1 is emerging as a promising chemosensitization strategy in many cancers including acute leukemia. Our lab and others have demonstrated that a small-molecule inhibitor of WEE1, AZD1775, sensitizes acute leukemia cells to cytarabine; however, a mechanism of combinatorial activity has remained elusive. Thus, we sought to determine the relative contribution of WEE1 targets CDK1 and CDK2 to the combinatorial activity of AZD1775 and cytarabine. To accomplish this, we expressed "WEE1 resistant" CDK1 (CDK1-AF) and CDK2 (CDK2-AF) constructs in a T-ALL cell line. Expression of CDK1/2-AF together, but neither alone, enhanced the anti-proliferative effects, DNA damage and apoptosis induced by cytarabine. Furthermore, pharmacologic inhibition of CDK1 alone or CDK1 and CDK2 together reduced the combinatorial activity of AZD1775 and cytarabine. Thus, increased activity of both CDK1 and CDK2 in response to WEE1 inhibition is necessary for the combinatorial activity of AZD1775 and cytarabine. This suggests the role of WEE1 in cells with accumulated DNA damage extends beyond regulation of CDK1 and the G2/M checkpoint and highlights the importance of WEE1 in mediating progression through the cell cycle.
Project description:Chemotherapeutic agents, e.g., cytarabine and doxorubicin, cause DNA damage. However, it remains unknown whether such agents differentially regulate cell cycle arrest in distinct types of B-cell lymphomas, and whether this phenotype can be exploited for developing new therapies. We treated various types of B cells, including primary and B lymphoma cells, with cytarabine or doxorubicin, and determined DNA damage responses, cell cycle regulation and sensitivity to a Wee1 inhibitor. We found that cyclin A2/B1 upregulation appears to be an intrinsic programmed response to DNA damage; however, different types of B cells arrest in distinct phases of the cell cycle. The Wee1 inhibitor significantly enhanced the apoptosis of G2 phase-arrested B-cell lymphomas by inducing premature entry into mitosis and mitotic catastrophe, whereas it did not affect G1/S-phase-arrested lymphomas. Cytarabine-induced G1-arrest can be converted to G2-arrest by doxorubicin treatment in certain B-cell lymphomas, which correlates with newly acquired sensitivity to the Wee1 inhibitor. Consequently, the Wee1 inhibitor together with cytarabine or doxorubicin inhibited tumor growth <i>in vitro</i> and <i>in vivo</i> more effectively, providing a potential new therapy for treating B-cell lymphomas. We propose that the differential cell cycle arrest can be exploited to enhance the chemosensitivity of B-cell lymphomas.
Project description:Most Down syndrome children with acute myeloid leukemia (DS-AML) have an overall excellent prognosis, however, patients who suffer an induction failure or relapse, have an extremely poor prognosis. Hence, new therapies need to be developed for this subgroup of DS-AML patients. One new therapeutic approach is preventing cell cycle checkpoint activation by inhibiting the upstream kinase wee1 with the first-in-class inhibitor MK-1775 in combination with the standard genotoxic agent cytarabine (AraC).Using the clinically relevant DS-AML cell lines CMK and CMY, as well as ex vivo primary DS-AML patient samples, the ability of MK-1775 to enhance the cytotoxicity of AraC was investigated with MTT assays. The mechanism by which MK-1775 enhanced AraC cytotoxicity was investigated in the cell lines using Western blots to probe CDK1 and H2AX phosphorylation and flow cytometry to determine apoptosis, cell cycle arrest, DNA damage, and aberrant mitotic entry.MK-1775 alone had modest single-agent activity, however, MK-1775 was able to synergize with AraC in causing proliferation arrest in both cell lines and primary patient samples, and enhance AraC-induced apoptosis. MK-1775 was able to decrease inhibitory CDK1(Y15) phosphorylation at the relatively low concentration of 100?nM after only 4?hours. Furthermore, it was able to enhance DNA damage induced by AraC and partially abrogate cell cycle arrest. Importantly, the DNA damage enhancement appeared in early S-phase.MK-1775 is able to enhance the cytotoxicity of AraC in DS-AML cells and presents a promising new treatment approach for DS-AML.
Project description:Inhibition of the WEE1 tyrosine kinase enhances anticancer chemotherapy efficacy. Accordingly, the WEE1 inhibitor AZD1775 (previously MK-1775) is currently under evaluation in clinical trials for cancer in combination with chemotherapy. AZD1775 has been reported to display high selectivity and is therefore used in many studies as a probe to interrogate WEE1 biology. However, AZD1775 also exhibits anticancer activity as a single agent although the underlying mechanism is not fully understood. Using a chemical proteomics approach, we here describe a proteome-wide survey of AZD1775 targets in lung cancer cells and identify several previously unknown targets in addition to WEE1. In particular, we observed polo-like kinase 1 (PLK1) as a new target of AZD1775. Importantly, in vitro kinase assays showed PLK1 and WEE1 to be inhibited by AZD1775 with similar potency. Subsequent loss-of-function experiments using RNAi for WEE1 and PLK1 suggested that targeting PLK1 enhances the pro-apoptotic and antiproliferative effects observed with WEE1 knockdown. Combination of RNAi with AZD1775 treatment suggested WEE1 and PLK1 to be the most relevant targets for mediating AZD1775's anticancer effects. Furthermore, disruption of WEE1 by CRISPR-Cas9 sensitized H322 lung cancer cells to AZD1775 to a similar extent as the potent PLK1 inhibitor BI-2536 suggesting a complex crosstalk between PLK1 and WEE1. In summary, we show that AZD1775 is a potent dual WEE1 and PLK1 inhibitor, which limits its use as a specific molecular probe for WEE1. However, PLK1 inhibition makes important contributions to the single agent mechanism of action of AZD1775 and enhances its anticancer effects.
Project description:Neuroblastoma is uniquely sensitive to single-agent inhibition of the DNA damage checkpoint kinase Chk1, leading us to examine downstream effectors of this pathway and identify mitotic regulator Wee1 as an additional therapeutic target in this disease. Wee1 was overexpressed in both neuroblastoma cell lines and high-risk patient tumors. Genetic or pharmacologic abrogation of Wee1 signaling results in marked cytotoxicity in 10 of 11 neuroblastoma cell lines with a median IC(50) of 300 nmol/L for the Wee1-selective small-molecule inhibitor MK-1775. Murine tumor lines derived from mice that were either heterozygous or homozygous for MycN were particularly sensitive to single-agent inhibition of Wee1 (IC(50)s of 160 and 62 nmol/L, respectively). Simultaneous pharmacologic inhibition of Chk1 and Wee1 acted in a synergistic fashion to further impede neuroblastoma cell growth in vitro, in a manner greater than the individual inhibitors either alone or combined with chemotherapy. Combination Chk1 and Wee1 inhibition also revealed in vivo efficacy in neuroblastoma xenografts. Taken together, our results show that neuroblastoma cells depend on Wee1 activity for growth and that inhibition of this kinase may serve as a therapeutic for patients with neuroblastoma.
Project description:BACKGROUND: Pediatric acute myeloid leukemia (AML) remains a challenging disease to treat even with intensified cytarabine-based chemotherapy. Histone deacetylases (HDACs) have been reported to be promising therapeutic targets for treating AML. However, HDAC family members that are involved in chemotherapy sensitivities remain unknown. In this study, we sought to identify members of the HDAC family that are involved in cytarabine sensitivities, and to select the optimal HDACI that is most efficacious when combined with cytarabine for treating children with AML. METHODOLOGY: Expression profiles of classes I, II, and IV HDACs in 4 pediatric AML cell lines were determined by Western blotting. Inhibition of class I HDACs by different HDACIs was measured post immnunoprecipitation. Individual down-regulation of HDACs in pediatric AML cells was performed with lentiviral shRNA. The effects of cytarabine and HDACIs on apoptosis were determined by flow cytometry analysis. RESULTS: Treatments with structurally diverse HDACIs and HDAC shRNA knockdown experiments revealed that down-regulation of both HDACs 1 and 6 is critical in enhancing cytarabine-induced apoptosis in pediatric AML, at least partly mediated by Bim. However, down-regulation of HDAC2 may negatively impact cytarabine sensitivities in the disease. At clinically achievable concentrations, HDACIs that simultaneously inhibited both HDACs 1 and 6 showed the best anti-leukemic activities and significantly enhanced cytarabine-induced apoptosis. CONCLUSION: Our results further confirm that HDACs are bona fide therapeutic targets for treating pediatric AML and suggest that pan-HDACIs may be more beneficial than isoform-specific drugs.
Project description:Medulloblastoma is the most common type of malignant brain tumor that afflicts children. Although recent advances in chemotherapy and radiation have improved outcomes, high-risk patients do poorly with significant morbidity.To identify new molecular targets, we performed an integrated genomic analysis using structural and functional methods. Gene expression profiling in 16 medulloblastoma patient samples and subsequent gene set enrichment analysis indicated that cell cycle-related kinases were associated with disease development. In addition a kinome-wide small interfering RNA (siRNA) screen was performed to identify kinases that, when inhibited, could prevent cell proliferation. The two genome-scale analyses were combined to identify key vulnerabilities in medulloblastoma. The inhibition of one of the identified targets was further investigated using RNAi and a small molecule inhibitor.Combining the two analyses revealed that mitosis-related kinases were critical determinants of medulloblastoma cell proliferation. RNA interference (RNAi)-mediated knockdown of WEE1 kinase and other mitotic kinases was sufficient to reduce medulloblastoma cell proliferation. These data prompted us to examine the effects of inhibiting WEE1 by RNAi and by a small molecule inhibitor of WEE1, MK-1775, in medulloblastoma cell lines. MK-1775 inhibited the growth of medulloblastoma cell lines, induced apoptosis and increased DNA damage at nanomolar concentrations. Further, MK-1775 was synergistic with cisplatin in reducing medulloblastoma cell proliferation and resulted in an associated increase in cell death. In vivo MK-1775 suppressed medulloblastoma tumor growth as a single agent.Taken together, these findings highlight mitotic kinases and, in particular, WEE1 as a rational therapeutic target for medulloblastoma.
Project description:WEE1 kinase regulates the G2 /M cell-cycle checkpoint, a critical mechanism for DNA repair in cancer cells that can confer resistance to DNA-damaging agents. We previously reported a series of pyrazolopyrimidinones based on AZD1775, a known WEE1 inhibitor, as an initial investigation into the structural requirements for WEE1 inhibition. Our lead inhibitor demonstrated WEE1 inhibition in the same nanomolar range as AZD1775, and potentiated the effects of cisplatin in medulloblastoma cells, but had reduced single-agent cytotoxicity. These results prompted the development of a more comprehensive series of WEE1 inhibitors. Herein we report a series of pyrazolopyrimidinones and identify a more potent WEE1 inhibitor than AZD1775 and additional compounds that demonstrate that WEE1 inhibition can be achieved with reduced single-agent cytotoxicity. These studies support that WEE1 inhibition can be uncoupled from the potent cytotoxic effects observed with AZD1775, and this may have important ramifications in the clinical setting where WEE1 inhibitors are used as chemosensitizers for DNA-targeted chemotherapy.