Persistent ERK/MAPK activation promotes lactotrope differentiation and diminishes tumorigenic phenotype.
ABSTRACT: The signaling pathways that govern the lactotrope-specific differentiated phenotype, and those that control lactotrope proliferation in both physiological and pathological lactotrope expansion, are poorly understood. Moreover, the specific role of MAPK signaling in lactotrope proliferation vs differentiation, whether activated phosphorylated MAPK is sufficient for prolactinoma tumor formation remain unknown. Given that oncogenic Ras mutations and persistently activated phosphorylated MAPK are found in human tumors, including prolactinomas and other pituitary tumors, a better understanding of the role of MAPK in lactotrope biology is required. Here we directly examined the role of persistent Ras/MAPK signaling in differentiation, proliferation, and tumorigenesis of rat pituitary somatolactotrope GH4 cells. We stimulated Ras/MAPK signaling in a persistent, long-term manner (over 6 d) in GH4 cells using two distinct approaches: 1) a doxycycline-inducible, oncogenic V12Ras expression system; and 2) continuous addition of exogenous epidermal growth factor. We find that long-term activation of the Ras/MAPK pathway over 6 days promotes differentiation of the bihormonal somatolactotrope GH4 precursor cell into a prolactin-secreting, lactotrope cell phenotype in vitro and in vivo with GH4 cell xenograft tumors. Furthermore, we show that persistent activation of the Ras/MAPK pathway not only fails to promote cell proliferation, but also diminishes tumorigenic characteristics in GH4 cells in vitro and in vivo. These data demonstrate that activated MAPK promotes differentiation and is not sufficient to drive tumorigenesis, suggesting that pituitary lactotrope tumor cells have the ability to evade the tumorigenic fate that is often associated with Ras/MAPK activation.
Project description:Distinct cell types have been shown to respond to activated Ras signaling in a cell-specific manner. In contrast to its pro-tumorigenic role in some human epithelial cancers, oncogenic Ras triggers differentiation of pheochromocytoma cells and medullary thyroid carcinoma cells. Furthermore, we have previously demonstrated that in pituitary somatolactotropes, activated Ras promotes differentiation and is not sufficient to drive tumorigenesis. These findings demonstrate that lactotrope cells have the ability to evade the tumorigenic fate that is often associated with persistent activation of Ras/ERK signaling, and suggest that there may be differential expression of inhibitory signaling molecules or negative cell cycle regulators that act as a brake to prevent the tumorigenic effects of sustained Ras signaling. Here we aim to gain further insight into the mechanisms that allow GH4T2 cells to evade an oncogenic response to Ras. We show that Ral, but likely not menin, plays a key role in directing Ras-mediated differentiation of somatolactotropes, which may allow these cells to escape the tumorigenic fate that is often associated with activated Ras signaling. We also show that dominant negative Ras expression results in reduced GH4T2 cell proliferation and transformation, but does not influence differentiation. Taken together, the data presented here begin to shed light on the mechanisms by which pituitary somatolactotropes evade an oncogenic response to persistently activated Ras signaling and suggest that the architecture of the Ras signaling cascade in some endocrine cell types may be distinct from that of cells that respond to Ras in an oncogenic manner.
Project description:Rathke's pouch contains progenitor cells that differentiate into the endocrine cells of the pituitary gland. It gives rise to gonadotrope, thyrotrope, somatotrope, corticotrope and lactotrope cells in the anterior lobe and the intermediate lobe melanotropes. Pituitary precursor cells express many members of the Notch signaling pathway including the downstream effector gene Hes1. We hypothesized that Hes1 regulates the timing of precursor differentiation and cell fate determination. To test this idea, we expressed Hes1 in differentiating pituitary cells and found that it can inhibit gonadotrope and thyrotrope differentiation. Pituitaries of Hes1 deficient mice have anterior lobe hypoplasia. All cells in the anterior lobe are specified and differentiate, but an early period of increased cell death and reduced proliferation causes reduced growth, evident as early as e14.5. In addition, cells within the intermediate lobe differentiate into somatotropes instead of melanotropes. Thus, the Hes1 repressor is essential for melanotrope specification. These results demonstrate that Notch signaling plays multiple roles in pituitary development, influencing precursor number, organ size, cell differentiation and ultimately cell fate.
Project description:The anterior pituitary harbours five distinct hormone-producing cell types, and their cellular differentiation is a highly regulated and coordinated process. Here we show that ZBTB20 is essential for anterior pituitary development and lactotrope specification in mice. In anterior pituitary, ZBTB20 is highly expressed by all the mature endocrine cell types, and to some less extent by somatolactotropes, the precursors of prolactin (PRL)-producing lactotropes. Disruption of Zbtb20 leads to anterior pituitary hypoplasia, hypopituitary dwarfism and a complete loss of mature lactotropes. In ZBTB20-null mice, although lactotrope lineage commitment is normally initiated, somatolactotropes exhibit profound defects in lineage specification and expansion. Furthermore, endogenous ZBTB20 protein binds to Prl promoter, and its knockdown decreases PRL expression and secretion in a lactotrope cell line MMQ. In addition, ZBTB20 overexpression enhances the transcriptional activity of Prl promoter in vitro. In conclusion, our findings point to ZBTB20 as a critical regulator of anterior pituitary development and lactotrope specification.
Project description:In epidermis, Ras can influence proliferation and differentiation; however, regulators of epidermal Ras function are not fully characterized, and Ras effects on growth and differentiation are controversial. EGF induced Ras activation in epidermal cells along with phosphorylation of the multisubstrate docking protein Gab1 and its binding to SHP-2. Expression of mutant Gab1Y627F deficient in SHP-2 binding or dominant-negative SHP-2C459S reduced basal levels of active Ras and downstream MAPK proteins and initiated differentiation. Differentiation triggered by both Gab1Y627F and SHP-2C459S could be blocked by coexpression of active Ras, consistent with Gab1 and SHP-2 action upstream of Ras in this process. To study the role of Gab1 and SHP-2 in tissue, we generated human epidermis overexpressing active Gab1 and SHP-2. Both proteins stimulated proliferation. In contrast, Gab1Y627F and SHP-2C459S inhibited epidermal proliferation and enhanced differentiation. Consistent with a role for Gab1 and SHP-2 in sustaining epidermal Ras/MAPK activity, Gab1-/- murine epidermis displayed lower levels of active Ras and MAPK with postnatal Gab1-/- epidermis, demonstrating the hypoplasia and enhanced differentiation seen previously with transgenic epidermal Ras blockade. These data provide support for a Ras role in promoting epidermal proliferation and opposing differentiation and indicate that Gab1 and SHP-2 promote the undifferentiated epidermal cell state by facilitating Ras/MAPK signaling.
Project description:Hotspot mutations of Ras drive cell transformation and tumorigenesis. Less frequent mutations in Ras are poorly characterized for their oncogenic potential. Yet insight into their mechanism of action may point to novel opportunities to target Ras. Here, we show that several cancer-associated mutations in the switch III region moderately increase Ras activity in all isoforms. Mutants are biochemically inconspicuous, while their clustering into nanoscale signaling complexes on the plasma membrane, termed nanocluster, is augmented. Nanoclustering dictates downstream effector recruitment, MAPK-activity, and tumorigenic cell proliferation. Our results describe an unprecedented mechanism of signaling protein activation in cancer.
Project description:Prolactin-secreting adenomas, or prolactinomas, cause hypogonadism, osteoporosis, and infertility. Although dopamine agonists (DAs) are used clinically to treat prolactinoma and reduce prolactin secretion via cAMP inhibition, the precise mechanism by which DAs inhibit lactotrope proliferation has not been defined. In this study, we report that phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase (PI3K) signals through AKT and mTOR to drive proliferation of pituitary somatolactotrope GH4T2 cells. We demonstrate that the DA cabergoline reduces activity of the mTOR effector s6K and diminishes GH4T2 cell proliferation primarily via activation of the long isoform of the dopamine D2 receptor (D2R). Dysfunctional D2R-mediated signaling and/or downregulated D2R expression is thought be the primary mechanism of DA resistance, which is observed in 10% to 20% of prolactinoma tumors. Dopamine-mediated D2R activation results in ERK stimulation and PI3K inhibition, suggesting that these two pathways act in an inverse manner to maintain lactotrope homeostasis. In this study, we found that ERK1/2-mediated prolactin transcription is inhibited by PI3K/CDK4-driven cell cycle progression, emphasizing that the ERK and PI3K signaling pathways oppose one another in lactotrope cells under homeostatic conditions. Lastly, we show that both ERK1/2 and AKT are activated in prolactinoma, demonstrating that the balance of ERK and AKT is dysregulated in human prolactinoma. Our findings reveal a potential use for dual pharmacological inhibitors of ERK and AKT as an alternative treatment strategy for DA-resistant prolactinomas.
Project description:The hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis is an important regulator of energy balance, immune function and the body's response to stress. Signaling networks governing the initial specification of corticotropes, a major component of this axis, are not fully understood. Loss of function studies indicate that Notch signaling may be necessary to repress premature differentiation of corticotropes and to promote proliferation of pituitary progenitors. To elucidate whether Notch signaling must be suppressed in order for corticotrope differentiation to proceed and whether Notch signaling is sufficient to promote corticotrope proliferation, we examined the effects of persistent Notch expression in Pomc lineage cells. We show that constitutive activation of the Notch cascade inhibits the differentiation of both corticotropes and melanotropes and results in the suppression of transcription factors required for Pomc expression. Furthermore, persistent Notch signaling traps cells in the intermediate lobe of the pituitary in a progenitor state, but has no effect on pituitary proliferation. Undifferentiated cells are eliminated in the first two postnatal weeks in these mice, resulting in a modest increase in CRH expression in the paraventricular nucleus, hypoplastic adrenal glands and decreased stress-induced corticosterone levels. Taken together, these findings show that Notch signaling is sufficient to prevent corticotrope and melanotrope differentiation, resulting in dysregulation of the HPA axis.
Project description:The differentiation of the hormone-producing cell lineages of the anterior pituitary represents an informative model of mammalian cell fate determination. The generation and maintenance of two of these lineages, the GH-producing somatotropes and prolactin (PRL)-producing lactotropes, are dependent on the pituitary-specific transcription factor POU1F1. Whereas POU1F1 is expressed in both cell types, and plays a direct role in the activation of both the Gh and Prl genes, GH expression is restricted to somatotropes and PRL expression is restricted to lactotropes. These observations imply the existence of additional, cell type-enriched factors that contribute to the somatotrope and lactotrope cell identities. In this study, we use transgenic mouse models to facilitate sorting of somatotrope and lactotrope populations based on the expression of fluorescent markers expressed under Gh and Prl gene transcriptional controls. The transcriptomic analyses reveal a concordance of gene expression profiles in the two populations. The limited number of divergent mRNAs between the two populations includes a set of transcription factors that may have roles in pituitary lineage divergence and/or in regulating expression of cell type-specific genes after differentiation. Four of these factors were validated for lineage enrichment at the level of protein expression, two somatotrope enriched and two lactotrope enriched. Three of these four factors were shown to have corresponding activities in appropriate enhancement or repression of landmark genes in a cell culture model system. These studies identify novel regulators of the somatotropes and lactotropes, and they establish a useful database for further study of these lineages in the anterior pituitary.
Project description:The Ras/MAPK-signaling pathway plays pivotal roles during development of metazoans by controlling cell proliferation and cell differentiation elicited, in several instances, by receptor tyrosine kinases (RTKs). While the internal mechanism of RTK-driven Ras/MAPK signaling is well understood, far less is known regarding its interplay with other co-required signaling events involved in developmental decisions. In a genetic screen designed to identify new regulators of RTK/Ras/MAPK signaling during Drosophila eye development, we identified the small GTPase Rap1, PDZ-GEF, and Canoe as components contributing to Ras/MAPK-mediated R7 cell differentiation. Rap1 signaling has recently been found to participate in assembling cadherin-based adherens junctions in various fly epithelial tissues. Here, we show that Rap1 activity is required for the integrity of the apical domains of developing photoreceptor cells and that reduced Rap1 signaling hampers the apical accumulation of the Sevenless RTK in presumptive R7 cells. It thus appears that, in addition to its role in cell-cell adhesion, Rap1 signaling controls the partitioning of the epithelial cell membrane, which in turn influences signaling events that rely on apico-basal cell polarity.
Project description:We compared the transformation efficiencies of mutant NRAS and KRAS in immortal, non-transformed Ink4a/Arf-deficient melanocytes. NRAS mutation leads to increased cellular proliferation and is potently tumorigenic. In contrast, KRAS mutation does not enhance melanocyte proliferation and is only weakly tumorigenic on its own. While both NRAS and KRAS activate MAPK signaling, only NRAS enhances MYC activity in these cells. Our data suggests that the activity of specific RAS isoforms is context dependent and provides a possible explanation for the prevalence of NRAS mutations in melanoma.In addition, understanding this mechanism will have important implications for cancer therapies targeting RAS pathways. Keywords: RAS isoforms Common Reference