Targeted Inhibition of the Dual Specificity Phosphatases DUSP1 and DUSP6 Suppress MPNST Growth via JNK.
ABSTRACT: PURPOSE:In neurofibromatosis type 1 (NF1) and in highly aggressive malignant peripheral nerve sheath tumors (MPNSTs), constitutively active RAS-GTP and increased MAPK signaling are important in tumorigenesis. Dual specificity phosphatases (DUSPs) are negative regulators of MAPK signaling that dephosphorylate p38, JNK, and ERK in different settings. Although often acting as tumor suppressors, DUSPs may also act as oncogenes, helping tumor cells adapt to high levels of MAPK signaling. We hypothesized that inhibiting DUSPs might be selectively toxic to cells from NF1-driven tumors. EXPERIMENTAL DESIGN:We examined DUSP gene and protein expression in neurofibroma and MPNSTs. We used small hairpin RNA (shRNA) to knock down DUSP1 and DUSP6 to evaluate cell growth, downstream MAPK signaling, and mechanisms of action. We evaluated the DUSP inhibitor, (E)-2-benzylidene-3-(cyclohexylamino)-2,3-dihydro-1H-inden-1-one (BCI), in MPNST cell lines and in cell-line and patient-derived MPNST xenografts. RESULTS:DUSP1 and DUSP6 are expressed in NF1-deleted tumors. Knockdown of DUSP1 and DUSP6, alone or in combination, reduced MPNST cell growth and led to ERK and JNK hyperactivation increasing downstream TP53 and p-ATM. The DUSP inhibitor, BCI, diminished the survival of NF1-deleted Schwann cells and MPNST cell lines through activation of JNK. In vivo, treatment of an established cell-line xenograft or a novel patient-derived xenograft (PDX) of MPNSTs with BCI increased ERK and JNK activation, caused tumor necrosis and fibrosis, and reduced tumor volume in one model. CONCLUSIONS:Targeting DUSP1 and DUSP6 genetically or with BCI effectively inhibits MPNST cell growth and promotes cell death, in vitro and in xenograft models. The data support further investigation of DUSP inhibition in MPNSTs.
Project description:The dual specificity phosphatases (DUSPs) constitute a family of stress-induced enzymes that provide feedback inhibition on mitogen-activated protein kinases (MAPKs) critical in key aspects of oncogenic signaling. While described in other tumor types, the landscape of DUSP mRNA expression in glioblastoma (GB) remains largely unexplored. Interrogation of the REpository for Molecular BRAin Neoplasia DaTa (REMBRANDT) revealed induction (DUSP4, DUSP6), repression (DUSP2, DUSP7-9), or mixed (DUSP1, DUSP5, DUSP10, DUSP15) DUSP transcription of select DUSPs in bulk tumor specimens. To resolve features specific to the tumor microenvironment, we searched the Ivy Glioblastoma Atlas Project (Ivy GAP) repository, which highlight DUSP1, DUSP5, and DUSP6 as the predominant family members induced within pseudopalisading and perinecrotic regions. The inducibility of DUSP1 in response to hypoxia, dexamethasone, or the chemotherapeutic agent camptothecin was confirmed in GB cell lines and tumor-derived stem cells (TSCs). Moreover, we show that loss of DUSP1 expression is a characteristic of TSCs and correlates with expression of tumor stem cell markers in situ (ABCG2, PROM1, L1CAM, NANOG, SOX2). This work reveals a dynamic pattern of DUSP expression within the tumor microenvironment that reflects the cumulative effects of factors including regional ischemia, chemotherapeutic exposure among others. Moreover, our observation regarding DUSP1 dysregulation within the stem cell niche argue for its importance in the survival and proliferation of this therapeutically resistant population.
Project description:Dual-specificity phosphatases (DUSPs) dephosphorylate threonine/serine and tyrosine residues on their substrates. Here we show that DUSP1, DUSP4, and DUSP6 are involved in epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition (EMT) and breast cancer stem cell (CSC) regulation. DUSP1, DUSP4, and DUSP6 are induced during EMT in a PKC pathway signal-mediated EMT model. We show for the first time that the key chromatin-associated kinase PKC-? directly regulates a subset of DUSP family members. DUSP1, DUSP4, and DUSP6 globally but differentially co-exist with enhancer and permissive active histone post-translational modifications, suggesting that they play distinct roles in gene regulation in EMT/CSCs. We show that nuclear DUSP4 associates with the key acetyltransferase p300 in the context of the chromatin template and dynamically regulates the interplay between two key phosphorylation marks: the 1834 (active) and 89 (inhibitory) residues central to p300's acetyltransferase activity. Furthermore, knockdown with small-interfering RNAs (siRNAs) shows that DUSP4 is required for maintaining H3K27ac, a mark mediated by p300. DUSP1, DUSP4, and DUSP6 knockdown with siRNAs shows that they participate in the formation of CD44hi/CD24lo/EpCAM+ breast CSCs: DUSP1 knockdown reduces CSC formation, while DUSP4 and DUSP6 knockdown enhance CSC formation. Moreover, DUSP6 is overexpressed in patient-derived HER2+ breast carcinomas compared to benign mammary tissue. Taken together, these findings illustrate novel pleiotropic roles for DUSP family members in EMT and CSC regulation in breast cancer.
Project description:Patients with neurofibromatosis type 1 (NF1) carry approximately a 10% lifetime risk of developing a malignant peripheral nerve sheath tumor (MPNST). Although the molecular mechanisms underlying NF1 to MPNST malignant transformation remain unclear, alterations of both the RAS/RAF/MAPK and PI3K/AKT/mTOR signaling pathways have been implicated. In a series of genetically engineered murine models, we perturbed RAS/RAF/MAPK or/and PTEN/PI3K/AKT pathway, individually or simultaneously, via conditional activation of K-ras oncogene or deletion of Nf1 or Pten tumor suppressor genes. Only K-Ras activation in combination with a single Pten allele deletion led to 100% penetrable development of NF lesions and subsequent progression to MPNST. Importantly, loss or decrease in PTEN expression was found in all murine MPNSTs and a majority of human NF1-associated MPNST lesions, suggesting that PTEN dosage and its controlled signaling pathways are critical for transformation of NFs to MPNST. Using noninvasive in vivo PET-CT imaging, we demonstrated that FDG can be used to identify the malignant transformation in both murine and human MPNSTs. Our data suggest that combined inhibition of RAS/RAF/MAPK and PTEN/PI3K/AKT pathways may be beneficial for patients with MPNST.
Project description:Dual specificity phosphatase 6 (DUSP6) functions as a feedback attenuator of fibroblast growth factor signaling during development. In vitro high throughput chemical screening attempts to discover DUSP6 inhibitors have yielded limited success. However, in vivo whole-organism screens of zebrafish identified compound 1 (BCI) as an allosteric inhibitor of DUSP6. Here we designed and synthesized a panel of analogues to define the structure-activity relationship (SAR) of DUSP6 inhibition. In vivo high-content analysis in transgenic zebrafish, coupled with cell-based chemical complementation assays, identified structural features of the pharmacophore of 1 that were essential for biological activity. In vitro assays of DUSP hyperactivation corroborated the results from in vivo and cellular SAR. The results reinforce the notion that DUSPs are druggable through allosteric mechanisms and illustrate the utility of zebrafish as a model organism for in vivo SAR analyses.
Project description:Although many stimuli activate extracellular signal-regulated kinases 1 and 2 (ERK1/2), the kinetics and compartmentalization of ERK1/2 signals are stimulus-dependent and dictate physiological consequences. ERKs can be inactivated by dual specificity phosphatases (DUSPs), notably the MAPK phosphatases (MKPs) and atypical DUSPs, that can both dephosphorylate and scaffold ERK1/2. Using a cell imaging model (based on knockdown of endogenous ERKs and add-back of wild-type or mutated ERK2-GFP reporters), we explored possible effects of DUSPs on responses to transient or sustained ERK2 activators (epidermal growth factor and phorbol 12,13-dibutyrate, respectively). For both stimuli, a D319N mutation (which impairs DUSP binding) increased ERK2 activity and reduced nuclear accumulation. These stimuli also increased mRNA levels for eight DUSPs. In a short inhibitory RNA screen, 12 of 16 DUSPs influenced ERK2 responses. These effects were evident among nuclear inducible MKP, cytoplasmic ERK MKP, JNK/p38 MKP, and atypical DUSP subtypes and, with the exception of the nuclear inducible MKPs, were paralleled by corresponding changes in Egr-1 luciferase activation. Simultaneous removal of all JNK/p38 MKPs or nuclear inducible MKPs revealed them as positive and negative regulators of ERK2 signaling, respectively. The effects of JNK/p38 MKP short inhibitory RNAs were not dependent on protein neosynthesis but were reversed in the presence of JNK and p38 kinase inhibitors, indicating DUSP-mediated cross-talk between MAPK pathways. Overall, our data reveal that a large number of DUSPs influence ERK2 signaling. Together with the known tissue-specific expression of DUSPs and the importance of ERK1/2 in cell regulation, our data support the potential value of DUSPs as targets for drug therapy.
Project description:Dual specificity phosphatases (DUSPs) modulate the duration and magnitude of phospho-activation of Erk1/2, p38 and JNK1/2, the terminal kinases (TKs) of the mitogen activated protein kinase (MAPK) cascades. Three DUSPs, DUSP1, DUSP5, and DUSP6, are overexpressed in ocular surface side population stem cells (SPSCs). Our objective was to identify the impact of these enzymes on TK phosphorylation and proliferation of corneal epithelial cells.SV40 immortalized (sv) and expanded fresh human corneal epithelial cells (efHCECs) were transduced with lentivectors to elicit expression of shRNAmir against DUSP1, DUSP5, and JNK1 to thereby create the DUSP1i, DUSP5i and JNKi cell sublines, or overexpress DUSP6 (henceforth DUSP6(+)), respectively. TK phosphorylation status and proliferation rates were determined by immunoblotting and (3)H thymidine uptake.In both ef and svHCECs, EGF supplementation after a 24 h serum starvation caused a rapid 5-15 min spike in the phosphorylation of all three TK types. This was followed by gradual decreases to low phosphorylation levels within one h. These declines coincided with dramatic increases in DUSP1 and DUSP5 protein expression. In DUSP1i, the DUSP1 increase was abolished. All 3 TKs maintained high phosphorylation levels for at least 90 min and proliferation rates were unchanged from non-transduced cells. In DUSP5i, the DUSP5 protein increase was prevented, the post peak phosphorylation decrease occurred only on Erk1/2 and the proliferation rate increased by 50%-60%. In JNK1i, JNK1 was essentially knocked out and proliferation rates were also markedly elevated. At steady-state, DUSP1i maintained high levels of pJNK1/2 expression. In DUSP6(+) Erk1/2 phosphorylation was prevented and proliferation rates decreased to less than 50%.DUSP5 and DUSP6 selectively control ERK pathway activity and proliferation. The lack of an effect of DUSP1 knockdown on proliferation can be attributed to its pan-MAPK effect. The expected augmented proliferative response due to enhanced and prolonged phosphorylation of Erk1/2 following DUSP1 knockdown does not occur because a pJNK1/2 antiproliferative effect is simultaneously unleashed.
Project description:Mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) pathway signaling plays an important role in the majority of non-small-cell lung cancers (NSCLCs). In a prior microarray analysis of epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) inhibition in NSCLC cell lines, we noted that several dual specificity phosphatases (DUSPs) were among the most highly and immediately regulated genes. DUSPs act as natural terminators of MAPK signal transduction and therefore, we hypothesized a tumor suppressive role via feedback mechanisms. In the current study, we focus on the assessment of DUSP6, a cytoplasmic DUSP with high specificity for extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK). We demonstrate that DUSP6 expression tracks in tandem with ERK inhibition and that regulation of DUSP6 is mediated at the promoter level by ETS1, a well-known nuclear target of activated ERK. Small interfering RNA knockdown in DUSP6-high H441 lung cancer cells significantly increased ERK activation and cellular proliferation, whereas plasmid-driven overexpression in DUSP6-low H1975 lung cancer cells significantly reduced ERK activation and cellular proliferation and promoted apoptosis. Also, DUSP6 overexpression synergized with EGFR inhibitor treatment in EGFR-mutant HCC827 cells. Our results indicate that DUSP6 expression is regulated by ERK signaling and that DUSP6 exerts antitumor effects via negative feedback regulation, pointing to an important feedback loop in NSCLC. Further studies assessing the tumor suppressive role of DUSP6 and strategies aimed at modulation of its activity are warranted.
Project description:Malignant Peripheral Nerve Sheath Tumors (MPNSTs) are aggressive soft tissue sarcomas that can occur sporadically or in the setting of the Neurofibromatosis type 1 (NF1) cancer predisposition syndrome. These tumors carry a dismal overall survival. Previous work in our lab had identified ATRX chromatin remodeler (ATRX), previously termed, Alpha Thalassemia/Mental Retardation Syndrome X Linked as a gene mutated in a subset of MPNSTs. Given the great need for novel biomarkers and therapeutic targets for MPNSTs, we sought to determine the expression of ATRX in a larger subset of sporadic and NF1 associated MPNSTs (NF1-MPNSTs). We performed immunohistochemistry (IHC) on 74 MPNSTs (43 NF1-associated and 31 sporadic), 21 plexiform neurofibromas, and 9 atypical neurofibromas. Using this approach, we have demonstrated that 58% (43/74) of MPNSTs have aberrant ATRX expression (<80% nuclear expression) compared to only 7% (2/30) of benign (plexiform and atypical) neurofibromas. Second, we demonstrated that 65% (28/43) of NF1-MPNSTs displayed aberrant ATRX expression as did 48% (15/31) of sporadic MPNSTs. Finally, we show that aberrant ATRX expression was associated with a significantly decreased overall survival for patients with NF1-MPNST (median OS of 17.9 months for aberrant expression and median OS not met (>120 months) for intact expression, p = 0.0276). In summary, we demonstrate that ATRX is aberrantly expressed in the majority of NF1-MPNSTs, but not plexiform or atypical neurofibromas. Additionally, aberrant ATRX expression is associated with decreased overall survival in NF1-MPNST, but not sporadic MPNST and may serve as a prognostic marker for patients with NF1-MPNST.
Project description:Neurofibromatosis type 1 (NF1) caused by NF1 gene mutation is a commonly inherited autosomal dominant disorder. Malignant peripheral nerve sheath tumors (MPNSTs), a type of aggressive sarcoma, are a major cause of mortality in NF1 patients. The malignant transformation of benign plexiform neurofibromas (PNs) to MPNSTs is a marked peculiarity in NF1 patients, yet the pathogenesis remains poorly understood. We found that an actin-associated protein transgelin (SM22) was highly expressed in NF1-deficient MPNST tissues compared to NF1-deficient PN tissues using immunohistological staining and primary cultured MPNST cells in western blot analysis. We further found that this transgelin upregulation was caused by increased transcriptional expression of the TAGLN gene encoding transgelin. Comparison of DNA methylation values in the promoter and subpromoter regions of the TAGLN gene in three types of NF1-deficient primary-cultured cells, derived from an NF1 patient's normal phenotype, a benign PN and MPNST tissues, revealed that the TAGLN gene was hypomethylated in the MPNST cells. Next, to determine the functional role of transgelin in MPNST pathogenesis, we manipulated the TAGLN gene expression and investigated the alteration of the RAS-mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) signaling pathway in the normal-phenotypic and malignant tumor cells. The downregulation of TAGLN expression in NF1-deficient MPNST tumor cells through the treatment of the small interfering RNA resulted in a decrease in the RAS activation (GTP-RAS) and the downstream ERK1/2 activation (phosphorylated ERK1/2), while the overexpression of TAGLN in normal-phenotypic NF1-deficient cells caused an increase in RAS and ERK1/2 activation. These results indicate that upregulation of transgelin caused by hypomethylation of the TAGLN gene is closely involved in tumor progression in NF1.