Targeting Forward and Reverse EphB4/EFNB2 Signaling by a Peptide with Dual Functions.
ABSTRACT: The tyrosine kinase receptor EphB4 is frequently overexpressed in ovarian and other solid tumors and is involved in interactions between tumor cells and the tumor microenvironment, contributing to metastasis. Trans-interaction between EphB4 and its membrane-bound ligand ephrin B2 (EFNB2) mediates bi-directional signaling: forward EFNB2-to-EphB4 signaling suppresses tumor cell proliferation, while reverse EphB4-to-EFNB2 signaling stimulates the invasive and angiogenic properties of endothelial cells. Currently, no small molecule-based, dual-function, EphB4-binding peptides are available. Here, we report our discovery of a bi-directional ephrin agonist peptide, BIDEN-AP which, when selectively internalized via receptor-mediated endocytosis, suppressed invasion and epithelial-mesenchymal transition of ovarian cancer cells. BIDEN-AP also inhibited endothelial migration and tube formation. In vivo, BIDEN-AP and its nanoconjugate CCPM-BIDEN-AP significantly reduced growth of orthotopic ovarian tumors, with CCPM-BIDEN-AP displaying greater antitumor potency than BIDEN-AP. Both BIDEN-AP and CCPM-BIDEN-AP compromised angiogenesis by downregulating epithelial-mesenchymal transition and angiogenic pathways. Thus, we report a novel EphB4-based therapeutic approach against ovarian cancer.
Project description:The tyrosine kinase receptor EphB4 and its ligand ephrin‑B2 interact through cell‑to‑cell contacts. Upon interaction, EphB4 transmits bidirectional signals. A forward signal inside EphB4‑expressing cells is believed to suppress tumor growth, while inside the ephrin‑expressing cells, an oncogenic reverse signal arises. In breast cancer cells with a high EphB4 receptor expression the forward signal is low, in part due to the low expression of the ligand ephrin‑B2. Therefore, we hypothesized that by re‑introducing the ligand in EphB4‑positive cells, tumor suppression could be induced by the stimulation of the forward signal. This question was addressed in vitro by the stable lentiviral infection of breast cancer cells with either wild‑type EFNB2 or with a mutant EFNB2‑5F, unable to transmit reverse signaling. Furthermore, we investigated ephrin‑B and EphB4 protein expression in 216 paraffin‑embedded tumors using immunohistochemistry. The in vitro results indicated that ephrin‑B2 expression was associated with a lower cell proliferation, migration and motility compared with the control cells. These effects were more pronounced when the cells lacked the ability to transmit the reverse signal (B2‑5F). In clinical material, ephrin‑B protein expression was associated with a positive estrogen receptor (ER) status, a low HER‑2 expression and was negatively associated with Nottingham histologic grade (NHG) III. Ephrin‑B expression indicated a good prognosis, whereas EphB4 expression was associated with a shorter metastasis‑free survival in univariate and multivariate analysis. Furthermore, the prognostic value of EFNB2 and EPHB4 was confirmed at the gene expression level in public datasets. Thus, on the whole, the findings of this study suggest that ephrin‑B2 expression is associated with less proliferation and lower motility of breast cancer cells and with a longer patient survival in breast cancer.
Project description:Presenilin-1 (PS1) gene encodes the catalytic component of ?-secretase, which proteolytically processes several type I transmembrane proteins. We here present evidence that the cytosolic peptide efnB2/CTF2 produced by the PS1/?-secretase cleavage of efnB2 ligand promotes EphB4 receptor-dependent angiogenesis in vitro. EfnB2/CTF2 increases endothelial cell sprouting and tube formation, stimulates the formation of angiogenic complexes that include VE-cadherin, Raf-1 and Rok-?, and increases MLC2 phosphorylation. These functions are mediated by the PDZ-binding domain of efnB2. Acute downregulation of PS1 or inhibition of ?-secretase inhibits the angiogenic functions of EphB4 while absence of PS1 decreases the VE-cadherin angiogenic complexes of mouse brain. Our data reveal a mechanism by which PS1/?-secretase regulates efnB2/EphB4 mediated angiogenesis.
Project description:Congenital diaphragmatic hernia (CDH) is a common congenital malformation associated with high mortality rates, mainly due to pulmonary hypoplasia and persistent pulmonary hypertension following birth. The present study aimed to investigate abnormal lung development in a rat CDH model, and examine temporal and spatial changes in the expression of ephrin type?B receptor 4 (EPHB4) and ephrin?B2 (EFNB2) during fetal lung development, to elucidate the role of these factors during lung morphogenesis. Pregnant rats received nitrofen on embryonic day (E) 8.5 to induce CDH, and fetal lungs were collected on E13.5, E15.5, E17.5, E19.5, and E21.5. The mean linear intercept (MLI) and mean alveolar number (MAN) were observed in fetal lung tissue at E21.5 following hematoxylin and eosin staining. E13.5 fetal lungs were cultured for 96 h in serum?free medium and branch development was observed under a microscope. The gene and protein expression levels of EPHB4 and EFNB2 were assessed by reverse transcription?quantitative polymerase chain reaction analysis, and immunoblotting and immunohistochemistry, respectively. The fetal rat lungs were treated with EFNB2 and the activity of key signaling pathways was assessed. The lung index (lung weight/body weight) at E21.5 was significantly lower in the CDH rats, compared with that in the control fetal rats. The MLI and MAN were also lower in the CDH group. The number of lung terminal buds at E13.5 (embryonic stage), and the lung?explant perimeter and surface were all smaller in the CDH group rats than in the control group at the same age. Pulmonary hypoplasia was observed following 96 h of in vitro culture. No significant differences were found in the expression levels of EFNB2 and EPHB4 between the CDH and control groups at E13.5 (embryonic stage) or E15.5 (pseudoglandular stage), however, EFNB2 and EPHB4 were significantly upregulated at E17.5 (canalicular stage), and at E19.5 and E21.5 (saccular/alveolar stages). EFNB2 stimulated pulmonary branching and EFNB2 supplementation decreased the activity of p38, c?Jun NH2?terminal kinase, extracellular signal?regulated kinase, and signal transducer and activator of transcription. The CDH fetal rats developed pulmonary dysplasia at an early stage of fetal pulmonary development. Upregulated expression of EFNB2 and EPHB4 was observed in the rat lung of nitrofen?induced CDH, and the increased expression of EFNB2 promoted rat lung development in the nitrofen?induced CDH model.
Project description:Ephrin-B2, a member of the Eph/ephrin family of cell signaling molecules, has been implicated in the guidance of cranial and trunk neural crest cells (NCC) and development of the branchial arches(BA), but detailed examination in mice has been hindered by embryonic lethality of Efnb2 null loss of function due to a requirement in angiogenic remodeling. To elucidate the developmental roles for Efnb2, we generated a conditional rescue knock-in allele that allows rescue of ephrin-B2 specifically in the vascular endothelium (VE), but is otherwise ephrin-B2 deficient. Restoration of ephrin-B2 expression specifically to the VE completely circumvents angiogenic phenotypes, indicating that the requirement of ephrin-B2 in angiogenesis is limited to the VE. Surprisingly, we find that expression of ephrin-B2 specifically in the VE is also sufficient for normal NCC migration and that conversely, embryos in which ephrin-B2 is absent specifically from the VE exhibit NCC migration and survival defects. Disruption of vascular development independent of loss of ephrin-B2 function also leads to defects in NCC and BA development. Together, these data indicate that direct ephrin-B2 signaling to NCCs is not required for NCC guidance, which instead depends on proper organization of the embryonic vasculature.
Project description:Ephrin B2 (EFNB2) is a ligand for erythropoietin-producing hepatocellular kinases (EPH), the largest family of receptor tyrosine kinases. It has critical functions in many biological systems, but is not known to regulate blood pressure. We generated mice with a smooth muscle cell (SMC)-specific deletion of EFNB2 and investigated its roles in blood pressure regulation and vascular SMC (VSMC) contractility. Male Efnb2 knockout (KO) mice presented reduced blood pressure, whereas female KO mice had no such reduction. Both forward signaling from EFNB2 to EPHs and reverse signaling from EPHs to EFNB2 were involved in regulating VSMC contractility, with EPHB4 serving as a critical molecule for forward signaling, based on crosslinking studies. We also found that a region from aa 313 to aa 331 in the intracellular tail of EFNB2 was essential for reverse signaling regulating VSMC contractility, based on deletion mutation studies. In a human genetic study, we identified five SNPs in the 3' region of the EFNB2 gene, which were in linkage disequilibrium and were significantly associated with hypertension for male but not female subjects, consistent with our findings in mice. The coding (minor) alleles of these five SNPs were protective in males. We have thus discovered a previously unknown blood pressure-lowering mechanism mediated by EFNB2 and identified EFNB2 as a gene associated with hypertension risk in humans.
Project description:Endothelial progenitor cell (EPC) transplantation has beneficial effects for therapeutic neovascularization; however, only a small proportion of injected cells home to the lesion and incorporate into the neocapillaries. Consequently, this type of cell therapy requires substantial improvement to be of clinical value. Erythropoietin-producing human hepatocellular carcinoma (Eph) receptors and their ephrin ligands are key regulators of vascular development. We postulated that activation of the EphB4/ephrin-B2 system may enhance EPC proangiogenic potential. In this report, we demonstrate in a nude mouse model of hind limb ischemia that EphB4 activation with an ephrin-B2-Fc chimeric protein increases the angiogenic potential of human EPCs. This effect was abolished by EphB4 siRNA, confirming that it is mediated by EphB4. EphB4 activation enhanced P selectin glycoprotein ligand-1 (PSGL-1) expression and EPC adhesion. Inhibition of PSGL-1 by siRNA reversed the proangiogenic and adhesive effects of EphB4 activation. Moreover, neutralizing antibodies to E selectin and P selectin blocked ephrin-B2-Fc-stimulated EPC adhesion properties. Thus, activation of EphB4 enhances EPC proangiogenic capacity through induction of PSGL-1 expression and adhesion to E selectin and P selectin. Therefore, activation of EphB4 is an innovative and potentially valuable therapeutic strategy for improving the recruitment of EPCs to sites of neovascularization and thereby the efficiency of cell-based proangiogenic therapy.
Project description:Receptor tyrosine kinases of the Eph family become tyrosine phosphorylated and initiate signalling events upon binding of their ligands, the ephrins. Eph receptors such as EphA2 and EphB4 are highly expressed but poorly tyrosine phosphorylated in many types of cancer cells, suggesting a limited interaction with ephrin ligands. Nevertheless, decreasing the expression of these receptors affects the malignant properties of cancer cells, suggesting that Eph receptors may influence cancer cells independently of ephrin stimulation. Ligand-independent activities of Eph receptors in cancer, however, have not been demonstrated. By using siRNA (small interfering RNA) to downregulate EphB4 in MCF7 and MDA-MB-435 cancer cells, we found that EphB4 inhibits integrin-mediated cell substrate adhesion, spreading and migration, and reduces beta1-integrin protein levels. Low expression of the EphB4 preferred ligand, ephrin-B2, and minimal contact between cells in these assays suggest that cell contact-dependent stimulation of EphB4 by the transmembrane ephrin-B2 ligand does not play a role in these effects. Indeed, inhibitors of ephrin-B2 binding to endogenous EphB4 did not influence cell substrate adhesion. Increasing EphB4 expression by transient transfection inhibited cell substrate adhesion, and this effect was also independent of ephrin stimulation because it was not affected by single amino acid mutations in EphB4 that impair ephrin binding. The overexpressed EphB4 was tyrosine phosphorylated, and we found that EphB4 kinase activity is important for inhibition of integrin-mediated adhesion, although several EphB4 tyrosine phosphorylation sites are dispensable. These findings demonstrate that EphB4 can affect cancer cell behaviour in an ephrin-independent manner.
Project description:EphB4 is a member of the large Eph receptor tyrosine kinase family. By interacting with its preferred ligand ephrin-B2, which is also a transmembrane protein, EphB4 plays a role in a variety of physiological and pathological processes ranging from bone remodeling to cancer malignancy. EphB4-ephrin-B2 binding occurs at sites of contact between cells. Ephrin-B2 causes EphB4 clustering and increased kinase activity to generate downstream signals that affect cell behavior. Previous work identified a high-affinity antagonistic peptide that targets EphB4, named TNYL-RAW. This peptide is 15 amino acid long, has a molecular weight of ~1700 Da and binds to the ephrin-binding pocket of EphB4. Here we report the structure-based design and chemical synthesis of two novel small molecules of ~600-700 Da, which were designed starting from the small and functionally critical C-terminal portion of the TNYL-RAW peptide. These compounds inhibit ephrin-B2 binding to EphB4 at low micromolar concentrations. Additionally, although the ephrin-B2 ligand can interacts with multiple other Eph receptors besides EphB4, the two compounds retain the high selectivity of the TNYL-RAW peptide in targeting EphB4. TNYL-RAW peptide displacement experiments using the more potent of the two compounds, compound 5, suggest a competitive mode of inhibition. These EphB4 antagonistic compounds can serve as promising templates for the further development of small molecule drugs targeting EphB4.
Project description:Genetic studies in the mouse have implicated ephrin-B2 (encoded by the gene Efnb2) in blood vessel formation, cardiac development and remodeling of the lymphatic vasculature. Here we report that loss of ephrin-B2 leads to defects in populations of cranial and trunk neural crest cells (NCC) and to defective somite development. In addition, we show that Efnb1/Efnb2 double heterozygous embryos exhibit phenotypes in a number of NCC derivatives. Expression of one copy of a mutant version of Efnb2 that lacks tyrosine phosphorylation sites was sufficient to rescue the embryonic phenotypes associated with loss of Efnb2. Our results uncover an important role for ephrin-B2 in NCC and somites during embryogenesis and suggest that ephrin-B2 exerts many of its embryonic function via activation of forward signaling.
Project description:EPH kinases are the largest family of receptor tyrosine kinases, and their ligands, ephrins (EFNs), are also cell surface molecules. This work presents evidence that EPHB4 on vascular smooth muscle cells (VSMCs) is involved in blood pressure regulation. We generated gene KO mice with smooth muscle cell-specific deletion of EPHB4. Male KO mice, but not female KO mice, were hypotensive. VSMCs from male KO mice showed reduced contractility when compared with their WT counterparts. Signaling both from EFNBs to EPHB4 (forward signaling) and from EPHB4 to EFNB2 (reverse signaling) modulated VSMC contractility. At the molecular level, the absence of EPHB4 in VSMCs resulted in compromised signaling from Ca(2+)/calmodulin-dependent protein kinase II (CaMKII) to myosin light chain kinase (MLCK) to myosin light chain, the last of which controls the contraction force of motor molecule myosin. Near the cell membrane, an adaptor protein GRIP1, which can associate with EFNB2, was found to be essential in mediating EPHB4-to-EFNB reverse signaling, which regulated VSMC contractility, based on siRNA gene knockdown studies. Our research indicates that EPHB4 plays an essential role in regulating small artery contractility and blood pressure.