Xmrk, kras and myc transgenic zebrafish liver cancer models share molecular signatures with subsets of human hepatocellular carcinoma.
ABSTRACT: Previously three oncogene transgenic zebrafish lines with inducible expression of xmrk, kras or Myc in the liver have been generated and these transgenic lines develop oncogene-addicted liver tumors upon chemical induction. In the current study, comparative transcriptomic approaches were used to examine the correlation of the three induced transgenic liver cancers with human liver cancers. RNA profiles from the three zebrafish tumors indicated relatively small overlaps of significantly deregulated genes and biological pathways. Nevertheless, the three transgenic tumor signatures all showed significant correlation with advanced or very advanced human hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). Interestingly, molecular signature from each oncogene-induced zebrafish liver tumor correlated with only a small subset of human HCC samples (24-29%) and there were conserved up-regulated pathways between the zebrafish and correlated human HCC subgroup. The three zebrafish liver cancer models together represented nearly half (47.2%) of human HCCs while some human HCCs showed significant correlation with more than one signature defined from the three oncogene-addicted zebrafish tumors. In contrast, commonly deregulated genes (21 up and 16 down) in the three zebrafish tumor models generally showed accordant deregulation in the majority of human HCCs, suggesting that these genes might be more consistently deregulated in a broad range of human HCCs with different molecular mechanisms and thus serve as common diagnosis markers and therapeutic targets. Thus, these transgenic zebrafish models with well-defined oncogene-induced tumors are valuable tools for molecular classification of human HCCs and for understanding of molecular drivers in hepatocarcinogenesis in each human HCC subgroup.
Project description:Tumors are frequently dependent on primary oncogenes to maintain their malignant properties (known as 'oncogene addiction'). We have previously established several inducible hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) models in zebrafish by transgenic expression of an oncogene. These tumor models are strongly oncogene addicted, as the induced and histologically proven liver tumors regress after suppression of oncogene expression by removal of a chemical inducer. However, the question of whether the liver tumor cells are eliminated or revert to normal cells remains unanswered. In the present study, we generated a novel Cre/<i>loxP</i> transgenic zebrafish line, <i>Tg(fabp10: loxP-EGFP-stop-loxP-DsRed; TRE: CreERT2)</i> (abbreviated to <i>CreER</i>), in order to trace tumor cell lineage during tumor regression after crossing with the <i>xmrk</i> (activated <i>EGFR</i> homolog) oncogene transgenic line, <i>Tg(fabp10: rtTA; TRE: xmrk; krt4: EGFP)</i> We found that, during HCC regression, restored normal liver contained both reverted tumor hepatocytes (RFP+) and newly differentiated hepatocytes (GFP+). RNA sequencing (RNA-seq) analyses of the RFP+ and GFP+ hepatocyte populations after tumor regression confirmed the conversion of tumor cells to normal hepatocytes, as most of the genes and pathways that were deregulated in the tumor stages were found to have normal regulation in the tumor-reverted hepatocytes. Thus, our lineage-tracing studies demonstrated the potential for transformed tumor cells to revert to normal cells after suppression of expression of a primary oncogene. This observation may provide a basis for the development of a therapeutic approach targeting addicted oncogenes or oncogenic pathways.
Project description:To compare the characteristics and mechanisms of Myc and xmrk induced zebrafish liver tumor, next generation sequencing-based SAGE analyses were used to examine the transcriptomes of tumor and control samples. The results indicated that relatively small overlaps of significantly deregulated genes and biological pathways among different zebrafish liver tumor models.Nevertheless, they all significantly correlate with advanced or very advanced human hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). Molecular signature from each oncogene-induced zebrafish liver tumor correlated with only a small subset of human HCC samples, and they share conserved up-regulated pathways. A short list of commonly deregulated genes among different zebrafish liver tumors showed accordant deregulation in the majority of human HCCs, suggesting that they may serve as common diagnosis markers and therapeutic targets.Thus, these transgenic zebrafish models with well-defined oncogene-induced tumors are valuable tools for molecular classification of human HCCs and for understanding of molecular drivers in hepatocarcinogenesis in each human HCC subgroup. Transcriptome profiling of Myc tumor sample (X-M+D+) and control samples (X-M-D-, X-M+D-, X-M-D+), xmrk tumor sample (X+M-D+) and control samples (X-M-D-, X+M-D-, X-M-D+), were generated by deep sequencing, using 3' RNA-SAGE on SOLiD system
Project description:Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is associated with poor survival for patients and few effective treatment options, raising the need for novel therapeutic strategies. MicroRNAs (miRNAs) play important roles in tumor development and show deregulated patterns of expression in HCC. Because of the liver's unique affinity for small nucleic acids, miRNA-based therapy has been proposed in the treatment of liver disease. Thus, there is an urgent need to identify and characterize aberrantly expressed miRNAs in HCC. In our study, we profiled miRNA expression changes in de novo liver tumors driven by MYC and/or RAS, two canonical oncogenes activated in a majority of human HCCs. We identified an up-regulated miRNA megacluster comprised of 53 miRNAs on mouse chromosome 12qF1 (human homolog 14q32). This miRNA megacluster is up-regulated in all three transgenic liver models and in a subset of human HCCs. An unbiased functional analysis of all miRNAs within this cluster was performed. We found that miR-494 is overexpressed in human HCC and aids in transformation by regulating the G1 /S cell cycle transition through targeting of the Mutated in Colorectal Cancer tumor suppressor. miR-494 inhibition in human HCC cell lines decreases cellular transformation, and anti-miR-494 treatment of primary MYC-driven liver tumor formation significantly diminishes tumor size.Our findings identify a new therapeutic target (miR-494) for the treatment of HCC.
Project description:Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is one of the most lethal human cancers. The search for targeted treatments has been hampered by the lack of relevant animal models for the genetically diverse subsets of HCC, including the 20-40% of HCCs that are defined by activating mutations in the gene encoding ?-catenin. To address this chemotherapeutic challenge, we created and characterized transgenic zebrafish expressing hepatocyte-specific activated ?-catenin. By 2 months post fertilization (mpf), 33% of transgenic zebrafish developed HCC in their livers, and 78% and 80% of transgenic zebrafish showed HCC at 6 and 12 mpf, respectively. As expected for a malignant process, transgenic zebrafish showed significantly decreased mean adult survival compared to non-transgenic control siblings. Using this novel transgenic model, we screened for druggable pathways that mediate ?-catenin-induced liver growth and identified two c-Jun N-terminal kinase (JNK) inhibitors and two antidepressants (one tricyclic antidepressant, amitriptyline, and one selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor) that suppressed this phenotype. We further found that activated ?-catenin was associated with JNK pathway hyperactivation in zebrafish and in human HCC. In zebrafish larvae, JNK inhibition decreased liver size specifically in the presence of activated ?-catenin. The ?-catenin-specific growth-inhibitory effect of targeting JNK was conserved in human liver cancer cells. Our other class of hits, antidepressants, has been used in patient treatment for decades, raising the exciting possibility that these drugs could potentially be repurposed for cancer treatment. In support of this proposal, we found that amitriptyline decreased tumor burden in a mouse HCC model. Our studies implicate JNK inhibitors and antidepressants as potential therapeutics for ?-catenin-induced liver tumors.
Project description:Ubiquitin-like with PHD and RING finger domains 1 (UHRF1) is an essential regulator of DNA methylation that is highly expressed in many cancers. Here, we use transgenic zebrafish, cultured cells, and human tumors to demonstrate that UHRF1 is an oncogene. UHRF1 overexpression in zebrafish hepatocytes destabilizes and delocalizes Dnmt1 and causes DNA hypomethylation and Tp53-mediated senescence. Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) emerges when senescence is bypassed. tp53 mutation both alleviates senescence and accelerates tumor onset. Human HCCs recapitulate this paradigm, as UHRF1 overexpression defines a subclass of aggressive HCCs characterized by genomic instability, TP53 mutation, and abrogation of the TP53-mediated senescence program. We propose that UHRF1 overexpression is a mechanism underlying DNA hypomethylation in cancer cells and that senescence is a primary means of restricting tumorigenesis due to epigenetic disruption.
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 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: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:In several transgenic zebrafish models of hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), hepatomegaly can be observed during early larval stages. Quantifying larval liver size in zebrafish HCC models provides a means to rapidly assess the effects of drugs and other manipulations on an oncogene-related phenotype. Here we show how to fix zebrafish larvae, dissect the tissues surrounding the liver, photograph livers using bright-field microscopy, measure liver area, and analyze results. This protocol enables rapid, precise quantification of liver size. As this method involves measuring liver area, it may underestimate differences in liver volume, and complementary methodologies are required to differentiate between changes in cell size and changes in cell number. The dissection technique described herein is an excellent tool to visualize the liver, gut, and pancreas in their natural positions for myriad downstream applications including immunofluorescence staining and in situ hybridization. The described strategy for quantifying larval liver size is applicable to many aspects of liver development and regeneration.
Project description:Previously we have generated inducible liver tumor models by transgenic expression of Myc or xmrk (activated EGFR homolog) oncogenes in zebrafish. To investigate the interaction of the two oncogenes, we crossed the two transgenic lines and observed more severe and faster hepatocarcinogenesis in Myc/xmrk double transgenic zebrafish than either single transgenic fish. RNA-Seq analyses revealed distinct changes in many molecular pathways among the three types of liver tumors. In particular, we found dramatic alteration of cancer metabolism based on the uniquely enriched pathways in the Myc/xmrk tumors. Critical glycolytic genes including hk2, pkm and ldha were significantly up-regulated in Myc/xmrk tumors but not in either single oncogene-induced tumors, suggesting a potential Warburg effect. In RT-qPCR analyses, the specific pkm2 isoformin Warburg effect was found to be highly enriched in the Myc/xmrk tumors but not in Myc or xmrk tumors, consistent with the observations in many human cancers with Warburg effect. Moreover, the splicing factor genes (hnrnpa1, ptbp1a, ptbp1b and sfrs3b) responsible for generating the pkm isoform were also greatly up-regulated in the Myc/xmrk tumors. As Pkm2 isoform is generally inactive and causes incomplete glycolysis to favor anabolism and tumor growth, by treatment with a Pkm2-specific activator, TEPP-46, we further demonstrated that activation of Pkm2 suppressed the growth of oncogenic liver as well as proliferation of liver cells. Collectively, our Myc/xmrk zebrafish model suggests synergetic effect of EGFR and MYC in triggering Warburg effect in the HCC formation and may provide a promising in vivo model for Warburg effect.