High mobility group A1 protein modulates autophagy in cancer cells.
ABSTRACT: High Mobility Group A1 (HMGA1) is an architectural chromatin protein whose overexpression is a feature of malignant neoplasias with a causal role in cancer initiation and progression. HMGA1 promotes tumor growth by several mechanisms, including increase of cell proliferation and survival, impairment of DNA repair and induction of chromosome instability. Autophagy is a self-degradative process that, by providing energy sources and removing damaged organelles and misfolded proteins, allows cell survival under stress conditions. On the other hand, hyper-activated autophagy can lead to non-apoptotic programmed cell death. Autophagy deregulation is a common feature of cancer cells in which has a complex role, showing either an oncogenic or tumor suppressor activity, depending on cellular context and tumor stage. Here, we report that depletion of HMGA1 perturbs autophagy by different mechanisms. HMGA1-knockdown increases autophagosome formation by constraining the activity of the mTOR pathway, a major regulator of autophagy, and transcriptionally upregulating the autophagy-initiating kinase Unc-51-like kinase 1 (ULK1). Consistently, functional experiments demonstrate that HMGA1 binds ULK1 promoter region and negatively regulates its transcription. On the other hand, the increase in autophagosomes is not associated to a proportionate increase in their maturation. Overall, the effects of HMGA1 depletion on autophagy are associated to a decrease in cell proliferation and ultimately impact on cancer cells viability. Importantly, silencing of ULK1 prevents the effects of HMGA1-knockdown on cellular proliferation, viability and autophagic activity, highlighting how these effects are, at least in part, mediated by ULK1. Interestingly, this phenomenon is not restricted to skin cancer cells, as similar results have been observed also in HeLa cells silenced for HMGA1. Taken together, these results clearly indicate HMGA1 as a key regulator of the autophagic pathway in cancer cells, thus suggesting a novel mechanism through which HMGA1 can contribute to cancer progression.
Project description:EEF2K (eukaryotic elongation factor-2 kinase), also known as Ca (2+)/calmodulin-dependent protein kinase III, functions in downregulating peptide chain elongation through inactivation of EEF2 (eukaryotic translation elongation factor 2). Currently, there is a limited amount of information on the promotion of autophagic survival by EEF2K in breast and glioblastoma cell lines. However, the precise role of EEF2K in carcinogenesis as well as the underlying mechanism involved is still poorly understood. In this study, contrary to the reported autophagy-promoting activity of EEF2K in certain cancer cells, EEF2K is shown to negatively regulate autophagy in human colon cancer cells as indicated by the increase of LC3-II levels, the accumulation of LC3 dots per cell, and the promotion of autophagic flux in EEF2K knockdown cells. EEF2K negatively regulates cell viability, clonogenicity, cell proliferation, and cell size in colon cancer cells. Autophagy induced by EEF2K silencing promotes cell survival and does not potentiate the anticancer efficacy of the AKT inhibitor MK-2206. In addition, autophagy induced by silencing of EEF2K is attributed to induction of protein synthesis and activation of the AMPK-ULK1 pathway, independent of the suppression of MTOR activity and ROS generation. Knockdown of AMPK or ULK1 significantly abrogates EEF2K silencing-induced increase of LC3-II levels, accumulation of LC3 dots per cell as well as cell proliferation in colon cancer cells. In conclusion, silencing of EEF2K promotes autophagic survival via activation of the AMPK-ULK1 pathway in colon cancer cells. This finding suggests that upregulation of EEF2K activity may constitute a novel approach for the treatment of human colon cancer.
Project description:BACKGROUND:Although both circular RNAs (circRNAs) and autophagy are associated with the function of breast cancer (BC), whether circRNAs regulate BC progression via autophagy remains unknown. In this study, we aim to explore the regulatory mechanisms and the clinical significance of autophagy-associated circRNAs in BC. METHODS:Autophagy associated circRNAs were screened by circRNAs deep sequencing and validated by qRT-PCR in BC tissues with high- and low- autophagic level. The biological function of autophagy associated circRNAs were assessed by plate colony formation, cell viability, transwells, flow cytometry and orthotopic animal models. For mechanistic study, RNA immunoprecipitation, circRNAs pull-down, Dual luciferase report assay, Western Blot, Immunofluorescence and Immunohistochemical staining were performed. RESULTS:An autophagy associated circRNA circCDYL was elevated by 3.2 folds in BC tissues as compared with the adjacent non-cancerous tissues, and circCDYL promoted autophagic level in BC cells via the miR-1275-ATG7/ULK1 axis; Moreover, circCDYL enhanced the malignant progression of BC cells in vitro and in vivo. Clinically, increased circCDYL in the tumor tissues and serum of BC patients was associated with higher tumor burden, shorter survival and poorer clinical response to therapy. CONCLUSIONS:circCDYL promotes BC progression via the miR-1275-ATG7/ULK1-autophagic axis and circCDYL could act as a potential prognostic and predictive molecule for breast cancer patients.
Project description:6-Phosphofructo-2-kinase/fructose-2,6-bisphosphatase isoform 3 (PFKFB3), a glycolytic enzyme highly expressed in cancer cells, has been reported to participate in regulating metabolism, angiogenesis, and autophagy. Although anti-cancer drug oxaliplatin (Oxa) effectively inhibits cell proliferation and induces apoptosis, the growing resistance and side-effects make it urgent to improve the therapeutic strategy of Oxa. Although Oxa induces the autophagy process, the role of PFKFB3 in this process remains unknown. In addition, whether PFKFB3 affects the cytotoxicity of Oxa has not been investigated. Here, we show that Oxa-inhibited cell proliferation and migration concomitant with the induction of apoptosis and autophagy in SW480 cells. Both inhibition of autophagy by small molecule inhibitors and siRNA modification decreased the cell viability loss and apoptosis induced by Oxa. Utilizing quantitative PCR and immunoblotting, we observed that Oxa increased PFKFB3 expression in a time- and dose-dependent manner. Meanwhile, suppression of PFKFB3 attenuated both the basal and Oxa-induced autophagy, by monitoring the autophagic flux and phosphorylated-Ulk1, which play essential roles in autophagy initiation. Moreover, PFKFB3 inhibition further inhibited the cell proliferation/migration, and cell viability decreased by Oxa. Collectively, the presented data demonstrated that PFKFB3 inhibition attenuated Oxa-induced autophagy and enhanced its cytotoxicity in colorectal cancer cells.
Project description:In response to stress, cancer cells generate nutrients and energy through a cellular recycling process called autophagy, which can promote survival and tumor progression. Accordingly, autophagy inhibition has emerged as a potential cancer treatment strategy. Inhibitors targeting ULK1, an essential and early autophagy regulator, have provided proof of concept for targeting this kinase to inhibit autophagy; however, these are limited individually in their potency, selectivity, or cellular activity. In this study, we report two small molecule ULK1 inhibitors, ULK-100 and ULK-101, and establish superior potency and selectivity over a noteworthy published inhibitor. Moreover, we show that ULK-101 suppresses autophagy induction and autophagic flux in response to different stimuli. Finally, we use ULK-101 to demonstrate that ULK1 inhibition sensitizes KRAS mutant lung cancer cells to nutrient stress. ULK-101 represents a powerful molecular tool to study the role of autophagy in cancer cells and to evaluate the therapeutic potential of autophagy inhibition.
Project description:As current classical Hodgkin lymphoma (cHL) treatment strategies have pronounced side-effects, specific inhibition of signaling pathways may offer novel strategies in cHL therapy. Basal autophagy, a regulated catabolic pathway to degrade cell's own components, is in cancer linked with both, tumor suppression or promotion. The finding that basal autophagy enhances tumor cell survival would thus lead to immediately testable strategies for novel therapies. Thus, we studied its contribution in cHL.We found constitutive activation of autophagy in cHL cell lines and primary tissue. The expression of key autophagy-relevant proteins (e.g. Beclin-1, ULK1) and LC3 processing was increased in cHL cells, even in lymphoma cases. Consistently, cHL cells exhibited elevated numbers of autophagic vacuoles and intact autophagic flux. Autophagy inhibition with chloroquine or inactivation of ATG5 induced apoptosis and reduced proliferation of cHL cells. Chloroquine-mediated inhibition of basal autophagy significantly impaired HL growth in-vivo in NOD SCID ?c-/- (NSG) mice. We found that basal autophagy plays a pivotal role in sustaining mitochondrial function.We conclude that cHL cells require basal autophagy for growth, survival and sustained metabolism making them sensitive to autophagy inhibition. This suggests basal autophagy as useful target for new strategies in cHL treatment.
Project description:Autophagy has a key role in metabolism and impacts on tumorigenesis. Our previous study found that halofuginone (HF) exerts anticancer activity in colorectal cancer (CRC) by downregulating Akt/mTORC1 (mechanistic target of rapamycin complex 1) signaling pathway. But whether and how HF regulates autophagy and metabolism to inhibit cancer growth remains an open question. Here, we unveil that HF activates ULK1 by downregulation of its phosphorylation site at Ser757 through Akt/mTORC1 signaling pathway, resulting in induction of autophagic flux under nutrient-rich condition. On the other hand, HF inactivates ULK1 by downregulation of its phosphorylation sites at Ser317 and Ser777 through LKB1/AMPK signaling pathway, resulting in autophagic inhibition under nutrient-poor condition. Furthermore, Atg7-dependent autophagosome formation is also induced under nutrient-rich condition or blocked in nutrient-poor environment, respectively, upon HF treatment. More interestingly, we also found that HF inhibits glycolysis under nutrient-rich condition, whereas inhibits gluconeogenesis under nutrient-poor condition in an Atg7-dependent manner, suggesting that autophagy has a pivotal role of glucose metabolism upon HF treatment. Subsequent studies showed that HF treatment retarded tumor growth in xenograft mice fed with either standard chow diet or caloric restriction through dual regulation of autophagy in vivo. Together, HF has a dual role in autophagic modulation depending on nutritional conditions for anti-CRC.
Project description:Although the transition metal copper (Cu) is an essential nutrient that is conventionally viewed as a static cofactor within enzyme active sites, a non-traditional role for Cu as a modulator of kinase signalling is emerging. Here, we found that Cu is required for the activity of the autophagic kinases ULK1 and ULK2 (ULK1/2) through a direct Cu-ULK1/2 interaction. Genetic loss of the Cu transporter Ctr1 or mutations in ULK1 that disrupt the binding of Cu reduced ULK1/2-dependent signalling and the formation of autophagosome complexes. Increased levels of intracellular Cu are associated with starvation-induced autophagy and are sufficient to enhance ULK1 kinase activity and, in turn, autophagic flux. The growth and survival of lung tumours driven by KRASG12D is diminished in the absence of Ctr1, is dependent on ULK1 Cu binding and is associated with reduced levels of autophagy and signalling. These findings suggest a molecular basis for exploiting Cu-chelation therapy to prevent autophagy signalling to limit proliferation and improve patient survival in cancer.
Project description:Reactive intermediates such as reactive nitrogen species play essential roles in the cell as signaling molecules but, in excess, constitute a major source of cellular damage. We found that nitrosative stress induced by steady-state nitric oxide (NO) caused rapid activation of an ATM damage-response pathway leading to downstream signaling by this stress kinase to LKB1 and AMPK kinases, and activation of the TSC tumor suppressor. As a result, in an ATM-, LKB1-, TSC-dependent fashion, mTORC1 was repressed, as evidenced by decreased phosphorylation of S6K, 4E-BP1, and ULK1, direct targets of the mTORC1 kinase. Decreased ULK1 phosphorylation by mTORC1 at S757 and activation of AMPK to phosphorylate ULK1 at S317 in response to nitrosative stress resulted in increased autophagy: the LC3-II/LC3-I ratio increased as did GFP-LC3 puncta and acidic vesicles; p62 levels decreased in a lysosome-dependent manner, confirming an NO-induced increase in autophagic flux. Induction of autophagy by NO correlated with loss of cell viability, suggesting that, in this setting, autophagy was functioning primarily as a cytotoxic response to excess nitrosative stress. These data identify a nitrosative-stress signaling pathway that engages ATM and the LKB1 and TSC2 tumor suppressors to repress mTORC1 and regulate autophagy. As cancer cells are particularly sensitive to nitrosative stress, these data open another path for therapies capitalizing on the ability of reactive nitrogen species to induce autophagy-mediated cell death.
Project description:Chemoresistance is a major obstacle that limits the benefits of 5-Fluorouracil (5-Fu)-based chemotherapy for colon cancer patients. Autophagy is an important cellular mechanism underlying chemoresistance. Recent research advances have given new insights into the use of natural bioactive compounds to overcome chemoresistance in colon cancer chemotherapy. As one of the multitargeted and safer phytomedicines, curcumin has been reported to work as cancer-specific chemosensitizer, presumably via induction of autophagic signaling pathways. The precise therapeutic effect of curcumin on autophagy in determining tumorous cells' fate, however, remains unclear. This study was conducted to investigate the differential modulations of the treatments either with 5-Fu alone or 5-Fu combined with curcumin on cellular autophagic responses and viabilities in the human colon cancer cells HCT116 and HT29, and explore molecular signaling transductions underlying the curcumin-mediated autophagic changes and potentiation of 5-Fu's cytotoxicity in vitro and in vivo.Cell proliferation assay and morphology observation were used to identify the cytotoxicity of different combinations of curcumin and 5-Fu in HCT116 and HT29 cells. Cell immunofluorescence assay, Flow cytometry and Western blot were employed to detect changes of autophagy and the autophagy-related signaling pathways in the colon cancer cells and/or xenograft mice.Curcumin could significantly augment the cytotoxicity of 5-Fu to the tumorous cells, and the pre-treatment with curcumin followed by 5-Fu (pre-Cur) proved to be the most effective one compared to other two combinations. The chemosensitizing role of curcumin might attribute to the autophagy turnover from being activated in 5-Fu mono-treatment to being inhibited in the pre-Cur treatment as indicated by the changes in expression of beclin-1, p62 and LC3II/LC3I and the intensity of Cyto-ID Green staining. The autophagic alterations appeared to be contributed by down-regulation of not only the phospho-Akt and phospho-mTOR expressions but the phospho-AMPK and phospho-ULK1 levels as well. The cellular activation of AMPK by addition of A-769662 to the pre-Cur combination resulted in reversed changes in expressions of the autophagy protein markers and apoptotic status compared to those of the pre-Cur combination treatment. The findings were validated in the xenograft mice, in which the tumor growth was significantly suppressed in the mice with 25-day combination treatment, and meanwhile expressions of the autophagy markers, P-AMPK and P-ULK1 were all reversely altered in line with those observed in HCT116 cells.Pre-treatment with curcumin followed by 5-Fu may mediate autophagy turnover both in vitro and in vivo via AMPK/ULK1-dependent autophagy inhibition and AKT modulation, which may account for the increased susceptibility of the colon cancer cells/xenograft to the cytotoxicity of 5-Fu.
Project description:Targeting macroautophagy/autophagy is a novel strategy in cancer immunotherapy. In the present study, we showed that the natural product rocaglamide (RocA) enhanced natural killer (NK) cell-mediated lysis of non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) cells in vitro and tumor regression in vivo. Moreover, this effect was not related to the NK cell recognition of target cells or expressions of death receptors. Instead, RocA inhibited autophagy and restored the level of NK cell-derived GZMB (granzyme B) in NSCLC cells, therefore increasing their susceptibility to NK cell-mediated killing. In addition, we further identified that the target of RocA was ULK1 (unc-51 like autophagy activating kinase 1) that is required for autophagy initiation. Using firefly luciferase containing the 5´ untranslated region of ULK1, we found that RocA inhibited the protein translation of ULK1 in a sequence-specific manner. Taken together, RocA could block autophagic immune resistance to NK cell-mediated killing, and our data suggested that RocA was a promising therapeutic candidate in NK cell-based cancer immunotherapy.