Induction of autophagy promotes the growth of early preneoplastic rat liver nodules.
ABSTRACT: Although inhibition of autophagy has been implicated in the onset and progression of cancer cells, it is still unclear whether its dysregulation at early stages of tumorigenesis plays an oncogenic or a tumor suppressor role. To address this question, we employed the Resistant-Hepatocyte rat model to study the very early stages of hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) development. We detected a different autophagy-related gene expression and changes in the ultrastructural profile comparing the most aggressive preneoplastic lesions, namely those positive for the putative progenitor cell marker cytokeratin-19 (KRT-19) with the negative ones. The ultrastructural and immunohistochemical analyses of KRT-19-positive preneoplastic hepatocytes showed the presence of autophagic vacuoles which was associated with p62, Ambra1 and Beclin1 protein accumulation suggesting that a differential modulation of autophagy occurs at early stages of the oncogenesis in KRT-19-positive vs negative lesions. We observed an overall decrease of the autophagy-related genes transcripts and a strong up-regulation of miR-224 in the KRT-19-positive nodules. Interestingly, the treatment with the autophagy inducer, Amiodarone, caused a marked increase in the proliferation of KRT-19 positive preneoplastic lesions associated with a strong increase of their size; by contrast, Chloroquine, an inhibitor of the autophagic process, led to their reduction. These results show that autophagy modulation is a very early event in hepatocarcinogenesis and is restricted to a hepatocytes subset in the most aggressive preneoplastic lesions. Our findings highlight the induction of autophagy as a permissive condition favouring cancer progression indicating in its inhibition a therapeutic goal to interfere with the development of HCC.
Project description:T3 induces a global shift of the expression profile of KRT-19+ lesions towards that of fully differentiated hepatocytes Overall design: 8 controls, 10 CK-19-negative preneoplastic nodules, 10 CK-19-positive preneoplastic nodule, 10 CK-19-positive preneoplastic nodule +T3 2 d,10 CK-19-positive preneoplastic nodule +T3 4 d.
Project description:Autophagy is a catabolic process that preserves cellular homeostasis. Its exact role during carcinogenesis is not completely defined. Specifically in head and neck cancer, such information from clinical settings that comprise the whole spectrum of human carcinogenesis is very limited. Towards this direction, we examined the in situ status of the autophagy-related factors, Beclin-1, microtubule-associated protein 1 light chain 3, member B (LC3B) and sequestosome 1/p62 (p62) in clinical material covering all histopathological stages of human head and neck carcinogenesis. This material is unique as each panel of lesions is derived from the same patient and moreover we have previously assessed it for the DNA damage response (DDR) activation status. Since Beclin-1, LC3B and p62 reflect the nucleation, elongation and degradation stages of autophagy, respectively, their combined immunohistochemical (IHC) expression profiles could grossly mirror the autophagic flux. This experimental approach was further corroborated by ultrastructural analysis, applying transmission electron microscopy (TEM). The observed Beclin-1/LC3B/p62 IHC patterns, obtained from serial sections analysis, along with TEM findings are suggestive of a declined authophagic activity in preneoplastic lesions that was restored in full blown cancers. Correlating these findings with DDR status in the same pathological stages are indicative of: (i) an antitumor function of autophagy in support to that of DDR, possibly through energy deprivation in preneoplastic stages, thus preventing incipient cancer cells from evolving; and (ii) a tumor-supporting role in the cancerous stage.
Project description:Although the expression of the stem/progenitor cell marker cytokeratin-19 (CK-19) has been associated with the worst clinical prognosis among all HCC subclasses, it is yet unknown whether its presence in HCC is the result of clonal expansion of hepatic progenitor cells (HPCs) or of de-differentiation of mature hepatocytes towards a progenitor-like cell phenotype. We addressed this question by using two rat models of hepatocarcinogenesis: the Resistant-Hepatocyte (R-H) and the Choline-methionine deficient (CMD) models. Our data indicate that the expression of CK-19 is not the result of a clonal expansion of HPCs (oval cells in rodents), but rather of a further step of preneoplastic hepatocytes towards a less differentiated phenotype and a more aggressive behavior. Indeed, although HCCs were positive for CK-19, very early preneoplastic foci (EPFs) were completely negative for this marker. While a few weeks later the vast majority of preneoplastic nodules remained CK-19 negative, a minority became positive, suggesting that CK-19 expression is the result of de-differentiation of a subset of EPFs, rather than a marker of stem/progenitor cells. Moreover, the gene expression profile of CK-19-negative EPFs clustered together with CK-19-positive nodules, but was clearly distinct from CK-19 negative nodules and oval cells.i) CK-19-positive cells are not involved in the early clonal expansion observed in rat hepatocarcinogenesis; ii) CK-19 expression arises in preneoplastic hepatocyte lesions undergoing malignant transformation; iii) CK-19 positivity in HCCs does not necessarily reflect the cell of origin of the tumor, but rather the plasticity of preneoplastic cells during the tumorigenic process.
Project description:Activating alternative cell death pathways, including autophagic cell death, is a promising direction to overcome the apoptosis resistance observed in various cancers. Yet, whether autophagy acts as a death mechanism by over consumption of intracellular components is still controversial and remains undefined at the ultrastructural and the mechanistic levels. Here we identified conditions under which resveratrol-treated A549 lung cancer cells die by a mechanism that fulfills the previous definition of autophagic cell death. The cells displayed a strong and sustained induction of autophagic flux, cell death was prevented by knocking down autophagic genes and death occurred in the absence of apoptotic or necroptotic pathway activation. Detailed ultrastructural characterization revealed additional critical events, including a continuous increase over time in the number of autophagic vacuoles, in particular autolysosomes, occupying most of the cytoplasm at terminal stages. This was followed by loss of organelles, disruption of intracellular membranes including the swelling of perinuclear space and, occasionally, a unique type of nuclear shedding. A signalome-wide shRNA-based viability screen was applied to identify positive mediators of this type of autophagic cell death. One top hit was GBA1, the Gaucher disease-associated gene, which encodes glucocerebrosidase, an enzyme that metabolizes glucosylceramide to ceramide and glucose. Interestingly, glucocerebrosidase expression levels and activity were elevated, concomitantly with increased intracellular ceramide levels, both of which correlated in time with the appearance of the unique death characteristics. Transfection with siGBA1 attenuated the increase in glucocerebrosidase activity and the intracellular ceramide levels. Most importantly, GBA1 knockdown prevented the strong increase in LC3 lipidation, and many of the ultrastructural changes characteristic of this type of autophagic cell death, including a significant decrease in cytoplasmic area occupied by autophagic vacuoles. Together, these findings highlight the critical role of GBA1 in mediating enhanced self-consumption of intracellular components and endomembranes, leading to autophagic cell death.
Project description:Analysis of early changes in the R-H model of carcinogenesis in order to investigate the relationship between oval cell proliferation and preneoplastic foci 5 controls, 5 CK-19-negative preneoplastic nodules, 5 CK-19-positive preneoplastic nodule, 5 Preneoplastic foci
Project description:Studies on gene and/or microRNA (miRNA) dysregulation in the early stages of hepatocarcinogenesis are hampered by the difficulty of diagnosing early lesions in humans. Experimental models recapitulating human hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) are then entailed to perform this analysis. We performed miRNA and gene expression profiling to characterize the molecular events involved in the multistep process of hepatocarcinogenesis in the Resistant-Hepatocyte rat model. A high percentage of dysregulated miRNAs/genes in HCC were similarly altered in early preneoplastic lesions positive for the stem/progenitor cell marker cytokeratin-19, indicating that several HCC-associated alterations occur from the very beginning of the carcinogenic process. Our analysis also identified miRNA/gene-target networks aberrantly activated at the initial stage of hepatocarcinogenesis. Activation of the NRF2 pathway and up-regulation of the miR-200 family were among the most prominent changes. The relevance of these alterations in the development of HCC was confirmed by the observation that NRF2 silencing impaired while miR-200a overexpression promoted HCC cell proliferation in vitro. Moreover, T3-induced in vivo inhibition of the NRF2 pathway accompanied the regression of cytokeratin-19 positive nodules, suggesting that activation of this transcription factor contributes to the onset and progression of preneoplastic lesions towards malignancy. The finding that 78% of genes and 57% of dysregulated miRNAs in rat HCC have been previously associated to human HCC as well underlines the translational value of our results. Conclusions: this study indicates that most of the molecular changes found in HCC occur in the very early stages of hepatocarcinogenesis. Among these, the NRF2 pathway plays a relevant role and may represent a new therapeutic target. 20 nodules (10 weeks after initiation with DENA), 4 adenomas (10 months), 5 eHCCs (10 months) and 9 aHCCs (14 months) were dissected. 10 controls also included.
Project description:BACKGROUND:Despite recent advances in colorectal cancer (CRC) diagnosis and population screening programs, the identification of patients with preneoplastic lesions or with early CRC stages remains challenging and is important for reducing CRC incidence and increasing patient's survival. METHODS:We analysed 76 colorectal tissue samples originated from early CRC stages, normal or inflamed mucosa by label-free proteomics. The characterisation of three selected biomarker candidates was performed by immunohistochemistry on an independent set of precancerous and cancerous lesions harbouring increasing CRC stages. RESULTS:Out of 5258 proteins identified, we obtained 561 proteins with a significant differential distribution among groups of patients and controls. KNG1, OLFM4 and Sec24C distributions were validated in tissues and showed different expression levels especially in the two early CRC stages compared to normal and preneoplastic tissues. CONCLUSION:We highlighted three proteins that require further investigations to better characterise their role in early CRC carcinogenesis and their potential as early CRC markers.
Project description:Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is a heterogeneous disease in which tumor subtypes can be identified based on the presence of adult liver progenitor cells. Having previously identified the mTOR pathway as critical to progenitor cell proliferation in a model of liver injury, we investigated the temporal activation of mTOR signaling in a rat model of hepatic carcinogenesis. The model employed chemical carcinogens and partial hepatectomy to induce progenitor marker-positive HCC. Immunohistochemical staining for phosphorylated ribosomal protein S6 indicated robust mTOR complex 1 (mTORC1) activity in early preneoplastic lesions that peaked during the first week and waned over the subsequent 10 days. Continuous administration of rapamycin by subcutaneous pellet for 70 days markedly reduced the development of focal lesions, but resulted in activation of the PI3K signaling pathway. To test the hypothesis that early mTORC1 activation was critical to the development and progression of preneoplastic foci, we limited rapamycin administration to the 3-week period at the start of the protocol. Focal lesion burden was reduced to a degree indistinguishable from that seen with continuous administration. Short-term rapamycin did not result in the activation of PI3K or mTORC2 pathways. Microarray analysis revealed a persistent effect of short-term mTORC1 inhibition on gene expression that resulted in a genetic signature reminiscent of normal liver. We conclude that mTORC1 activation during the early stages of hepatic carcinogenesis may be critical due to the development of preneoplastic focal lesions in progenitor marker-positive HCC. mTORC1 inhibition may represent an effective chemopreventive strategy for this form of liver cancer.
Project description:Metabolic changes are associated with cancer, but whether they are just bystander effects of deregulated oncogenic signaling pathways or characterize early phases of tumorigenesis remains unclear. Here we show in a rat model of hepatocarcinogenesis that early preneoplastic foci and nodules that progress towards hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) are characterized both by inhibition of oxidative phosphorylation (OXPHOS) and by enhanced glucose utilization to fuel the pentose phosphate pathway (PPP). These changes respectively require increased expression of the mitochondrial chaperone TRAP1 and of the transcription factor NRF2 that induces the expression of the rate-limiting PPP enzyme glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase (G6PD), following miR-1 inhibition. Such metabolic rewiring exclusively identifies a subset of aggressive cytokeratin-19 positive preneoplastic hepatocytes and not slowly growing lesions. No such metabolic changes were observed during non-neoplastic liver regeneration occurring after two/third partial hepatectomy. TRAP1 silencing inhibited the colony forming ability of HCC cells while NRF2 silencing decreased G6PD expression and concomitantly increased miR-1; conversely, transfection with miR-1 mimic abolished G6PD expression. Finally, in human HCC patients increased G6PD expression levels correlates with grading, metastasis and poor prognosis. Our results demonstrate that the metabolic deregulation orchestrated by TRAP1 and NRF2 is an early event restricted to the more aggressive preneoplastic lesions.
Project description:Autophagy, a regulated nutrient recycling program can affect both cell survival and cell death. Here, we show that Ormeloxifene (ORM), a selective estrogen receptor modulator approved for oral contraceptive use induces autophagic flux in ovarian cancer cells, which is activated by an ER stress response upstream of autophagy. The ER stress response is characterized by activation of IRE1?, PERK and ATF6 and is under regulation of JNK. Pharmacological inhibition of either autophagy or ER stress increased cell survival, as did silencing of autophagy proteins LC3 and Beclin 1, implying that ORM-induced autophagy is pro-death in nature. Ultrastructural observations of treated cells confirmed stages of autophagic maturation. Caspase-dependent apoptosis succeeded these events and was characterized by generation of reactive oxygen species and disruption of mitochondrial membrane potential. A concomitant inhibition of the Akt/mTOR axis was also observed with possible regulation of Akt by ORM. ORM inhibited tumor growth in ovarian xenograft model and displayed autophagic activity. In summary, in vitro and in vivo results reveal that ORM induces autophagy-associated cell death to attenuate proliferation of ovarian cancer cells. Our results demonstrate that using ORM in combination with ER stress and autophagy modulators could offer better therapeutic outcome in ovarian cancer.