Targeting ?-catenin in hepatocellular cancers induced by coexpression of mutant ?-catenin and K-Ras in mice.
ABSTRACT: 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: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:<h4>Background & aims</h4>Gain of function (GOF) mutations in the CTNNB1 gene are one of the most frequent genetic events in hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). T-box transcription factor 3 (TBX3) is a liver-specific target of the Wnt/β-catenin pathway and thought to be an oncogene mediating activated β-catenin-driven HCC formation.<h4>Methods</h4>We evaluated the expression pattern of TBX3 in human HCC specimens. Tbx3 was conditionally knocked out in murine HCC models by hydrodynamic tail vein injection of Cre together with c-Met and ΔN90-β-catenin (c-Met/β-catenin) in Tbx3<sup>flox/flox</sup> mice. TBX3 was overexpressed in human HCC cell lines to investigate the functions of TBX3 in vitro.<h4>Results</h4>A bimodal expression pattern of TBX3 in human HCC samples was detected: high expression of TBX3 in GOF CTNNB1 HCC and downregulation of TBX3 in non-CTNNB1 mutant tumors. High expression of TBX3 was associated with increased differentiation and decreased expression signatures of tumor growth. Using Tbx3<sup>flox/flox</sup> mice, we found that ablation of Tbx3 significantly accelerates c-Met/β-catenin-driven HCC formation. Moreover, Tbx3(-) HCC demonstrated increased YAP/TAZ activity. The accelerated tumor growth induced by loss of TBX3 in c-Met/β-catenin mouse HCC was successfully prevented by overexpression of LATS2, which inhibited YAP/TAZ activity. In human HCC cell lines, overexpression of TBX3 inhibited HCC cell growth as well as YAP/TAZ activation. A negative correlation between TBX3 and YAP/TAZ target genes was observed in human HCC samples. Mechanistically, phospholipase D1 (PLD1), a known positive regulator of YAP/TAZ, was identified as a novel transcriptional target repressed by TBX3.<h4>Conclusion</h4>Our study suggests that TBX3 is induced by GOF CTNNB1 mutants and suppresses HCC growth by inactivating PLD1, thus leading to the inhibition of YAP/TAZ oncogenes.<h4>Lay summary</h4>TBX3 is a liver-specific target of the Wnt/β-catenin pathway and thought to be an oncogene in promoting liver cancer development. Herein, we demonstrate that TBX3 is in fact a tumor suppressor gene that restricts liver tumor growth. Strategies which increase TBX3 expression and/or activities may be effective for HCC treatment.
Project description:BACKGROUND: A subset of human hepatocellular carcinomas (HCC) exhibit mutations of ?-catenin gene CTNNB1 and overexpress Glutamine synthetase (GS). The CTNNB1-mutated HCC cell line HepG2 is sensitive to glutamine starvation induced in vitro with the antileukemic drug Crisantaspase and the GS inhibitor methionine-L-sulfoximine (MSO). METHODS: Immunodeficient mice with subcutaneous xenografts of the CTNNB1-mutated HCC cell lines HepG2 and HC-AFW1 were treated with Crisantaspase and/or MSO, and tumour growth was monitored. At the end of treatment, tumour weight and histology were assessed. Serum and tissue amino acids were determined by HPLC. Gene and protein expression were estimated with RT-PCR and western blot and GS activity with a colorimetric method. mTOR activity was evaluated from the phosphorylation of p70S6K1. RESULTS: Crisantaspase and MSO depleted serum glutamine, lowered glutamine in liver and tumour tissue, and inhibited liver GS activity. HepG2 tumour growth was significantly reduced by either Crisantaspase or MSO, and completely suppressed by the combined treatment. The combined treatment was also effective against xenografts of the HC-AFW1 cell line, which is Crisantaspase resistant in vitro. CONCLUSIONS: The combination of Crisantaspase and MSO reduces glutamine supply to CTNNB1-mutated HCC xenografts and hinders their growth.
Project description:Inactivating mutations of axis inhibition protein 1 (AXIN1), a negative regulator of the Wnt/?-Catenin cascade, are among the common genetic events in human hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), affecting approximately 10% of cases. In the present manuscript, we sought to define the genetic crosstalk between Axin1 mutants and Wnt/?-catenin as well as Notch signaling cascades along hepatocarcinogenesis. We discovered that c-MET activation and AXIN1 mutations occur concomitantly in ~3%-5% of human HCC samples. Subsequently, we generated a murine HCC model by means of CRISPR/Cas9-based gene deletion of Axin1 (sgAxin1) in combination with transposon-based expression of c-Met in the mouse liver (c-Met/sgAxin1). Global gene expression analysis of mouse normal liver, HCCs induced by c-Met/sgAxin1, and HCCs induced by c-Met/?N90-?-Catenin revealed activation of the Wnt/?-Catenin and Notch signaling in c-Met/sgAxin1 HCCs. However, only a few of the canonical Wnt/?-Catenin target genes were induced in c-Met/sgAxin1 HCC when compared with corresponding lesions from c-Met/?N90-?-Catenin mice. To study whether endogenous ?-Catenin is required for c-Met/sgAxin1-driven HCC development, we expressed c-Met/sgAxin1 in liver-specific Ctnnb1 null mice, which completely prevented HCC development. Consistently, in AXIN1 mutant or null human HCC cell lines, silencing of ?-Catenin strongly inhibited cell proliferation. In striking contrast, blocking the Notch cascade through expression of either the dominant negative form of the recombinant signal-binding protein for immunoglobulin kappa J region (RBP-J) or the ablation of Notch2 did not significantly affect c-Met/sgAxin1-driven hepatocarcinogenesis. Conclusion: We demonstrated here that loss of Axin1 cooperates with c-Met to induce HCC in mice, in a ?-Catenin signaling-dependent but Notch cascade-independent way.
Project description:Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) represents a serious public health challenge with few therapeutic options available to cancer patients.Wnt/β-catenin pathway is thought to play a significant role in HCC pathogenesis. In this study, we confirmed high frequency of CTNNB1 (β-catenin) mutations in two independent cohorts of HCC patients and demonstrated significant upregulation of β-catenin protein in the overwhelming majority of HCC patient samples, patient-derived xenografts (PDX) and established cell lines. Using genetic tools validated for target specificity through phenotypic rescue experiments, we went on to investigate oncogenic dependency on β-catenin in an extensive collection of human HCC cells lines. Our results demonstrate that dependency on β-catenin generally tracks with its activation status. HCC cell lines that harbored activating mutations in CTNNB1 or displayed elevated levels of non-phosphorylated (active) β-catenin were significantly more sensitive to β-catenin siRNA treatment than cell lines with wild-type CTNNB1 and lower active β-catenin. Finally, significant therapeutic benefit of β-catenin knock-down was demonstrated in established HCC tumor xenografts using doxycycline-inducible shRNA system. β-catenin downregulation and tumor growth inhibition was associated with reduction in AXIN2, direct transcriptional target of β-catenin, and decreased cancer cell proliferation as measured by Ki67 staining. Taken together, our data highlight fundamental importance of aberrant β-catenin signaling in the maintenance of oncogenic phenotype in HCC.
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: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:<h4>Aim</h4>?-catenin signaling is a major oncogenic pathway in hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). Since ?-catenin phosphorylation by glycogen synthase kinase 3? (GSK3?) and casein kinase 1? (CK1?) results in its degradation, mutations affecting these phosphorylation sites cause ?-catenin stabilization. However, the relevance of missense mutations in non-phosphorylation sites in exon 3 remains unclear. The current study explores significance of such mutations in addition to addressing the clinical and biological implications of ?-catenin activation in human HCC.<h4>Methods</h4>Gene alteration in exon3 of CTNNB1, gene expression of ?-catenin targets such as glutamate synthetase (GS), axin2, lect2 and regucalcin (RGN), and protein expression of ?-catenin were examined in 125 human HCC tissues.<h4>Results</h4>Sixteen patients (12.8%) showed conventional missense mutations affecting codons 33, 37, 41, and 45. Fifteen additional patients (12.0%) had other missense mutations in codon 32, 34, and 35. Induction of exon3 mutation caused described ?-catenin target gene upregulation in HCC cell line. Interestingly, conventional and non-phosphorylation site mutations were equally associated with upregulation of ?-catenin target genes. Nuclear localization of ?-catenin was associated with poor overall survival (p = 0.0461). Of these patients with nuclear ?-catenin localization, loss of described ?-catenin target gene upregulation showed significant poorer overall survival than others (p = 0.0001).<h4>Conclusion</h4>This study suggests that both conventional and other missense mutations in exon 3 of CTNNB1 lead to ?-catenin activation in human HCC. Additionally, the mechanism of nuclear ?-catenin localization without upregulation of described ?-catenin target genes might be of clinical importance depending on distinct mechanism.
Project description:?-Catenin signaling is implicated in hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), although its role in inflammation, fibrosis, and proliferation is unclear. Commercially available HCC tissue microarray (TMA) of 89 cases was assessed for ?-catenin, one of its transcriptional targets glutamine synthetase (GS), proliferation (PCNA), inflammation (CD45), and fibrosis (Sirius Red). HCC cells transfected with wild-type (WT) or mutant-?-catenin were evaluated for ?-catenin-T cell factor transactivation by TOPFlash reporter activity and expression of certain targets. Hepatocyte-specific-serine-45-mutated ?-catenin transgenic mice (TG) and controls (Con) were used to study thioacetamide (TAA)-induced hepatic fibrosis and tumorigenesis. Sustained ?-catenin activation was only observed in mutant-, not WT-?-catenin transfected HCC cells. Aberrant intratumoral ?-catenin stabilization was evident in 33% cases with 9% showing predominant nuclear with some cytoplasmic (N/C) localization and 24% displaying predominant cytoplasmic with occasional nuclear (C/N) localization. N/C ?-catenin was associated with reduced fibrosis (p=0.017) and tumor-wide GS staining (p<0.001) while C/N correlated with increased intratumoral inflammation (p=0.064) and proliferation (p=0.029). A small subset of HCC patients (15.5%) lacked ?-catenin staining and exhibited low inflammation and fibrosis (p<0.05). TG and Con mice exposed to TAA showed comparable development of fibrosis and progression to cirrhosis and HCC. Taken together the data suggests a complex relationship of ?-catenin, inflammation, fibrosis and HCC. GS staining is highly sensitive in identifying HCC with nuclear ?-catenin, which may in turn represent ?-catenin mutations, and does so with high negative predictive value. Also, ?-catenin mutations and cirrhosis do not appear to cooperate in HCC pathogenesis in mice and men.
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.