Modeling a human hepatocellular carcinoma subset in mice through coexpression of met and point-mutant ?-catenin.
ABSTRACT: Hepatocellular cancer (HCC) remains a significant therapeutic challenge due to its poorly understood molecular basis. In the current study, we investigated two independent cohorts of 249 and 194 HCC cases for any combinatorial molecular aberrations. Specifically we assessed for simultaneous HMET expression or hMet activation and catenin ?1 gene (CTNNB1) mutations to address any concomitant Met and Wnt signaling. To investigate cooperation in tumorigenesis, we coexpressed hMet and ?-catenin point mutants (S33Y or S45Y) in hepatocytes using sleeping beauty transposon/transposase and hydrodynamic tail vein injection and characterized tumors for growth, signaling, gene signatures, and similarity to human HCC. Missense mutations in exon 3 of CTNNB1 were identified in subsets of HCC patients. Irrespective of amino acid affected, all exon 3 mutations induced similar changes in gene expression. Concomitant HMET overexpression or hMet activation and CTNNB1 mutations were evident in 9%-12.5% of HCCs. Coexpression of hMet and mutant-?-catenin led to notable HCC in mice. Tumors showed active Wnt and hMet signaling with evidence of glutamine synthetase and cyclin D1 positivity and mitogen-activated protein kinase/extracellular signal-regulated kinase, AKT/Ras/mammalian target of rapamycin activation. Introduction of dominant-negative T-cell factor 4 prevented tumorigenesis. The gene expression of mouse tumors in hMet-mutant ?-catenin showed high correlation, with subsets of human HCC displaying concomitant hMet activation signature and CTNNB1 mutations.We have identified cooperation of hMet and ?-catenin activation in a subset of HCC patients and modeled this human disease in mice with a significant transcriptomic intersection; this model will provide novel insight into the biology of this tumor and allow us to evaluate novel therapies as a step toward precision medicine. (Hepatology 2016;64:1587-1605).
Project description:The thyromimetic agent GC-1 induces hepatocyte proliferation via Wnt/?-catenin signaling and may promote regeneration in both acute and chronic liver insufficiencies. However, ?-catenin activation due to mutations in CTNNB1 is seen in a subset of hepatocellular carcinomas (HCC). Thus, it is critical to address any effect of GC-1 on HCC growth and development before its use can be advocated to stimulate regeneration in chronic liver diseases. In this study, we first examined the effect of GC-1 on ?-catenin-T cell factor 4 activity in HCC cell lines harboring wild-type or mutated-CTNNB1. Next, we assessed the effect of GC-1 on HCC in FVB mice generated by hydrodynamic tail vein injection of hMet-S45Y-?-catenin, using the sleeping beauty transposon-transposase. Four weeks following injection, mice were fed 5 mg/kg GC-1 or basal diet for 10 or 21 days. GC-1 treatment showed no effect on ?-catenin-T cell factor 4 activity in HCC cells, irrespective of CTNNB1 mutations. Treatment with GC-1 for 10 or 21 days led to a significant reduction in tumor burden, associated with decreased tumor cell proliferation and dramatic decreases in phospho-(p-)Met (Y1234/1235), p-extracellular signal-related kinase, and p-STAT3 without affecting ?-catenin and its downstream targets. GC-1 exerts a notable antitumoral effect on hMet-S45Y-?-catenin HCC by inactivating Met signaling. GC-1 does not promote ?-catenin activation in HCC. Thus, GC-1 may be safe for use in inducing regeneration during chronic hepatic insufficiency.
Project description:Recently, we have shown that coexpression of hMet and mutant-?-catenin using sleeping beauty transposon/transposase leads to hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) in mice that corresponds to around 10% of human HCC. In the current study, we investigate whether Ras activation, which can occur downstream of Met signaling, is sufficient to cause HCC in association with mutant-?-catenin. We also tested therapeutic efficacy of targeting ?-catenin in an HCC model. We show that mutant-K-Ras (G12D), which leads to Ras activation, cooperates with ?-catenin mutants (S33Y, S45Y) to yield HCC in mice. Affymetrix microarray showed?>?90% similarity in gene expression in mutant-K-Ras-?-catenin and Met-?-catenin HCC. K-Ras-?-catenin tumors showed up-regulation of ?-catenin targets like glutamine synthetase (GS), leukocyte cell-derived chemotaxin 2, Regucalcin, and Cyclin-D1 and of K-Ras effectors, including phosphorylated extracellular signal-regulated kinase, phosphorylated protein kinase B, phosphorylated mammalian target of rapamycin, phosphorylated eukaryotic translation initiation factor 4E, phosphorylated 4E-binding protein 1, and p-S6 ribosomal protein. Inclusion of dominant-negative transcription factor 4 at the time of K-Ras-?-catenin injection prevented HCC and downstream ?-catenin and Ras signaling. To address whether targeting ?-catenin has any benefit postestablishment of HCC, we administered K-Ras-?-catenin mice with EnCore lipid nanoparticles (LNP) loaded with a Dicer substrate small interfering RNA targeting catenin beta 1 (CTNNB1; CTNNB1-LNP), scrambled sequence (Scr-LNP), or phosphate-buffered saline for multiple cycles. A significant decrease in tumor burden was evident in the CTNNB1-LNP group versus all controls, which was associated with dramatic decreases in ?-catenin targets and some K-Ras effectors, leading to reduced tumor cell proliferation and viability. Intriguingly, in relatively few mice, non-GS-positive tumors, which were evident as a small subset of overall tumor burden, were not affected by ?-catenin suppression.Ras activation downstream of c-Met is sufficient to induce clinically relevant HCC in cooperation with mutant ?-catenin. ?-catenin suppression by a clinically relevant modality is effective in treatment of ?-catenin-positive, GS-positive HCCs. (Hepatology 2017;65:1581-1599).
Project description:CTNNB1 (catenin beta 1)-mutated hepatocellular carcinomas (HCCs) account for a large proportion of human HCCs. They display high levels of respiratory chain activity. As metabolism and redox balance are closely linked, tumor cells must maintain their redox status during these metabolic alterations. We investigated the redox balance of these HCCs and the feasibility of targeting this balance as an avenue for targeted therapy. We assessed the expression of the nuclear erythroid 2 p45-related factor 2 (NRF2) detoxification pathway in an annotated human HCC data set and reported an enrichment of the NRF2 program in human HCCs with CTNNB1 mutations, largely independent of NFE2L2 (nuclear factor, erythroid 2 like 2) or KEAP1 (Kelch-like ECH-associated protein 1) mutations. We then used mice with hepatocyte-specific oncogenic β-catenin activation to evaluate the redox status associated with β-catenin activation in preneoplastic livers and tumors. We challenged them with various oxidative stressors and observed that the β-catenin pathway activation increased transcription of Nfe2l2, which protects β-catenin-activated hepatocytes from oxidative damage and supports tumor development. Moreover, outside of its effects on reactive oxygen species scavenging, we found out that Nrf2 itself contributes to the metabolic activity of β-catenin-activated cells. We then challenged β-catenin activated tumors pharmacologically to create a redox imbalance and found that pharmacological inactivation of Nrf2 was sufficient to considerably decrease the progression of β-catenin-dependent HCC development. Conclusion: These results demonstrate cooperation between oncogenic β-catenin signaling and the NRF2 pathway in CTNNB1-mediated HCC tumorigenesis, and we provide evidence for the relevance of redox balance targeting as a therapeutic strategy in CTNNB1-mutated HCC.
Project description:Up to 41% of hepatocellular carcinomas (HCCs) result from activating mutations in the CTNNB1 gene encoding ?-catenin. HCC-associated CTNNB1 mutations stabilize the ?-catenin protein, leading to nuclear and/or cytoplasmic localization of ?-catenin and downstream activation of Wnt target genes. In patient HCC samples, ?-catenin nuclear and cytoplasmic localization are typically patchy, even among HCC with highly active CTNNB1 mutations. The functional and clinical relevance of this heterogeneity in ?-catenin activation are not well understood. To define mechanisms of ?-catenin-driven HCC initiation, we generated a Cre-lox system that enabled switching on activated ?-catenin in (1) a small number of hepatocytes in early development; or (2) the majority of hepatocytes in later development or adulthood. We discovered that switching on activated ?-catenin in a subset of larval hepatocytes was sufficient to drive HCC initiation. To determine the role of Wnt/?-catenin signaling heterogeneity later in hepatocarcinogenesis, we performed RNA-seq analysis of zebrafish ?-catenin-driven HCC. At the single-cell level, 2.9% to 15.2% of hepatocytes from zebrafish ?-catenin-driven HCC expressed two or more of the Wnt target genes axin2, mtor, glula, myca and wif1, indicating focal activation of Wnt signaling in established tumors. Thus, heterogeneous ?-catenin activation drives HCC initiation and persists throughout hepatocarcinogenesis.
Project description:<h4>Background and aims</h4>4-phenylbutyric acid (4-PBA) is a low molecular weight fatty acid that is used in clinical practice to treat inherited urea cycle disorders. In previous reports, it acted as a chemical chaperone inhibiting endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stress and unfolded protein response signaling. A few studies have suggested its function against hepatic fibrosis in mice models. However, its role in hepatocarcinogenesis remained unknown.<h4>Methods</h4>4-PBA was administered alone or in combination with diethylnitrosamine to investigate its long-term effect on liver tumorigenesis. The role of 4-PBA in oncogene-induced hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) mice model using sleeping beauty system co-expressed with hMet and β-catenin point mutation (S45Y) was also observed. RNA-seq and PCR array were used to screen the pathways and genes involved. In vitro and in vivo studies were conducted to explore the effect of 4-PBA on liver and validate the underlying mechanism.<h4>Results</h4>4-PBA alone didn't cause liver tumor in long term. However, it promoted liver tumorigenesis in HCC mice models via initiation of liver cancer stem cells (LCSCs) through Wnt5b-Fzd5 mediating β-catenin signaling. Peroxisome proliferator-activated receptors (PPAR)-α induced by 4-PBA was responsible for the activation of β-catenin signaling. Thus, intervention of PPAR-α reversed 4-PBA-induced initiation of LCSCs and HCC development in vivo. Further study revealed that 4-PBA could not only upregulate the expression of PPAR-α transcriptionally but also enhance its stabilization via protecting it from proteolysis. Moreover, high PPAR-α expression predicted poor prognosis in HCC patients.<h4>Conclusions</h4>4-PBA could upregulate PPAR-α to initiate LCSCs by activating β-catenin signaling pathway, promoting HCC at early stage. Therefore, more discretion should be taken to monitor the potential tumor-promoting effect of 4-PBA under HCC-inducing environment.
Project description:Hepatocellular cancer (HCC) remains a disease of poor prognosis, highlighting the relevance of elucidating key molecular aberrations that may be targeted for novel therapies. Wnt signalling activation, chiefly due to mutations in CTNNB1, have been identified in a major subset of HCC patients. While several in vitro proof of concept studies show the relevance of suppressing Wnt/?-catenin signalling in HCC cells or tumour xenograft models, no study has addressed the impact of ?-catenin inhibition in a relevant murine HCC model driven by Ctnnb1 mutations.We studied the in vivo impact of ?-catenin suppression by locked nucleic acid (LNA) antisense treatment, after establishing Ctnnb1 mutation-driven HCC by diethylnitrosamine and phenobarbital (DEN/PB) administration.The efficacy of LNA directed against ?-catenin vs. scrambled on Wnt signalling was demonstrated in vitro in HCC cells and in vivo in normal mice. The DEN/PB model leads to HCC with Ctnnb1 mutations. A complete therapeutic response in the form of abrogation of HCC was observed after ten treatments of tumour-bearing mice with ?-catenin LNA every 48h as compared to the scrambled control. A decrease in ?-catenin activity, cell proliferation and increased cell death was evident after ?-catenin suppression. No effect of ?-catenin suppression was evident in non-Ctnnb1 mutated HCC, observed after DEN-only administration.Thus, we provide the in vivo proof of concept that ?-catenin suppression in HCC will be of significant therapeutic benefit, provided the tumours display Wnt activation via mechanisms like CTNNB1 mutations.
Project description:The mechanisms of Myc-driven liver tumorigenesis are inadequately understood. Herein we show that Myc-driven hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is dramatically aggravated in mice with hepatocyte-specific Ptpn11/Shp2 deletion. However, Myc-induced tumors develop selectively from the rare Shp2-positive hepatocytes in Shp2-deficent liver, and Myc-driven oncogenesis depends on an intact Ras-Erk signaling promoted by Shp2 to sustain Myc stability. Despite a stringent requirement of Shp2 cell autonomously, Shp2 deletion induces an immunosuppressive environment, resulting in defective clearance of tumor-initiating cells and aggressive tumor progression. The basal Wnt/β-catenin signaling is upregulated in Shp2-deficient liver, which is further augmented by Myc transfection. Ablating Ctnnb1 suppresses Myc-induced HCC in Shp2-deficient livers, revealing an essential role of β-catenin. Consistently, Myc overexpression and CTNNB1 mutations are frequently co-detected in HCC patients with poor prognosis. These data elucidate complex mechanisms of liver tumorigenesis driven by cell-intrinsic oncogenic signaling in cooperation with a tumor-promoting microenvironment generated by disrupting the specific oncogenic pathway.
Project description:Both activating and inactivating mutations in catenin ?1 (ctnnb1), which encodes ?-catenin, have been implicated in liver tumorigenesis in humans and mice, although the underlying mechanisms are not fully understood. Herein, we show that deletion of endogenous ?-catenin in hepatocytes aggravated hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) development driven by an oncogenic version of ?-catenin (CAT) in combination with the hepatocyte growth factor receptor MET proto-oncogene receptor tyrosine kinase (MET). Although the mitogenic signaling and cell cycle progression was modestly impaired after CAT/MET transfection, the ?-catenin-deficient livers displayed changes in transcriptomes, increased DNA damage response, expanded Sox9+ cells, and up-regulation of protumorigenic cytokines, including interleukin-6 and transforming growth factor ?1. These events eventually exacerbated CAT/MET-driven hepatocarcinogenesis in ?-catenin-deficient livers, featured by up-regulation of extracellular signal-regulated kinase (Erk), protein kinase B (Akt), and Wnt/?-catenin signaling and cyclin D1 expression. The resultant mouse tumors showed similar transcriptomes to human HCC samples with concomitant CTNNB1 mutations and MET overexpression. CONCLUSION:These data argue that while dominantly activating mutants of ?-catenin are oncogenic, inhibiting the oncogenic signaling pathway generates a pro-oncogenic microenvironment that may facilitate HCC recurrence following a targeted therapy of the primary tumor. An effective therapeutic strategy must require disruption of the oncogenic signaling in tumor cells and suppression of the secondary tumor-promoting stromal effects in the liver microenvironment. (Hepatology 2018;67:1807-1822).
Project description:Comprehensive analysis of clinical samples has recently identified molecular and immunological classification of hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), and the CTNNB1 (β-catenin)-mutated subtype exhibits distinctive characteristics of immunosuppressive tumor microenvironment. For clarifying the molecular mechanisms, we first established human and mouse HCC cells with exon 3 skipping of β-catenin, which promoted nuclear translocation and activated the Wnt/β-catenin signaling pathway, by using newly developed multiplex CRISPR/Cas9-based genome engineering system. Gene set enrichment analysis indicated downregulation of immune-associated gene sets in the HCC cells with activated β-catenin signaling. Comparative analysis of gene expression profiles between HCC cells harboring wild-type and exon 3 skipping β-catenin elucidated that the expression levels of four cytokines were commonly decreased in human and mouse β-catenin-mutated HCC cells. Public exome and transcriptome data of 373 human HCC samples showed significant downregulation of two candidate cytokine genes, CCL20 and CXCL2, in HCC tumors with β-catenin hotspot mutations. T cell killing assays and immunohistochemical analysis of grafted tumor tissues demonstrated that the mouse Ctnnb1<sup>Δex3</sup> HCC cells evaded immunosurveillance. Taken together, this study discovered that cytokine controlled by β-catenin signaling activation could contribute to immune evasion, and provided novel insights into cancer immunotherapy for the β-catenin-mutated HCC subtype.
Project description:Hepatitis B virus (HBV), along with Hepatitis C virus chronic infection, represents a major risk factor for hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) development. However, molecular mechanisms involved in the development of HCC are not yet completely understood. Recent studies have indicated that mutations in CTNNB1 gene encoding for ?-catenin protein lead to aberrant activation of the Wnt/ ?-catenin pathway. The mutations in turn activate several downstream genes, including c-Myc, promoting the neoplastic process. The present study evaluated the mutational profile of the CTNNB1 gene and expression levels of CTNNB1 and c-Myc genes in HBV-related HCC, as well as in cirrhotic and control tissues. Mutational analysis of the ?-catenin gene and HBV genotyping were conducted by direct sequencing. Expression of ?-catenin and c-Myc genes was assessed using real-time PCR. Among the HCC cases, 18.1% showed missense point mutation in exon 3 of CTNNB1, more frequently in codons 32, 33, 38 and 45. The frequency of mutation in the hotspots of exon 3 was significantly higher in non-viral HCCs (29.4%) rather than HBV-related cases (12.7%, P?=?0.021). The expression of ?-catenin and c-Myc genes was found upregulated in cirrhotic tissues in association with HBV infection. Mutations at both phosphorylation and neighboring sites were associated with increased activity of the Wnt pathway. The results demonstrated that mutated ?-catenin caused activation of the Wnt pathway, but the rate of CTNNB1 gene mutations was not related to HBV infection. HBV factors may deregulate the Wnt pathway by causing epigenetic alterations in the HBV-related HCC.