Axis inhibition protein 1 (Axin1) Deletion-Induced Hepatocarcinogenesis Requires Intact ?-Catenin but Not Notch Cascade in Mice.
ABSTRACT: 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:<h4>Background</h4>Activation of the Wnt/?-catenin signaling pathway plays a crucial role in hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). Low-density lipoprotein (LDL) receptor-related protein-6 (LRP6) is one of the co-receptors of the Wnt/?-catenin pathway and forms a signaling complex with Wnt ligand and Frizzled receptor to activate downstream signaling. However, the role of LRP6 in hepatocarcinogenesis is unclear. In this study, we examined its expression and roles in human HCC.<h4>Methodology/principal findings</h4>Using real-time quantitative RT-PCR, we found that LRP6 was frequently (45%) overexpressed in human HCCs (P = 0.003). In vitro studies showed that ectopic expression of LRP6 increased the protein level of ?-catenin. Moreover, overexpression of the full-length and constitutively active LRP6, respectively, activated the WNT/?-catenin signaling pathway, as shown by the TCF/?-catenin reporter assay. With regard to the effects of LRP6 overexpression in HCC cells, stable overexpression of the constitutively active LRP6 in BEL-7402 HCC cells enhanced cell proliferation, cell migration, and invasion in vitro as well as tumorigenicity in nude mice.<h4>Conclusions/significance</h4>Our findings indicate that overexpression of LRP6 contributes to the hyperactivation of the Wnt/?-catenin signaling pathway in human HCCs and suggest it may play a role in hepatocarcinogenesis.
Project description:BACKGROUND & AIMS:Shp2 is an SH2-tyrosine phosphatase acting downstream of receptor tyrosine kinases (RTKs). Most recent data demonstrated a liver tumor-suppressing role for Shp2, as ablating Shp2 in hepatocytes aggravated hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) induced by chemical carcinogens or Pten loss. We further investigated the effect of Shp2 deficiency on liver tumorigenesis driven by classical oncoproteins c-Met (receptor for HGF), ?-catenin and PIK3CA. METHODS:We performed hydrodynamic tail vein injection of two pairs of plasmids expressing c-Met and ?N90-?-catenin (MET/CAT), or c-Met and PIK3CAH1047R (MET/PIK), into WT and Shp2hep-/- mice. We compared liver tumor loads and investigated the pathogenesis and molecular mechanisms involved using multidisciplinary approaches. RESULTS:Despite the induction of oxidative and metabolic stresses, Shp2 deletion in hepatocytes suppressed hepatocarcinogenesis driven by overexpression of oncoproteins MET/CAT or MET/PIK. Shp2 loss inhibited proliferative signaling from c-Met, Wnt/?-catenin, Ras/Erk and PI3K/Akt pathways, but triggered cell senescence following exogenous expression of the oncogenes. CONCLUSIONS:Shp2, acting downstream of RTKs, is positively required for hepatocyte-intrinsic tumorigenic signaling from these oncoproteins, even if Shp2 deficiency induces a tumor-promoting hepatic microenvironment. These data suggest a new and more effective therapeutic strategy for HCCs driven by oncogenic RTKs and other upstream molecules, by inhibiting Shp2 and also suppressing any tumor-enhancing stromal factors produced because of Shp2 inhibition. LAY SUMMARY:Primary liver cancer is a malignant disease with poor prognosis, largely because there are limited systemic therapies available. We show here that a cytoplasmic tyrosine phosphatase Shp2 is required for liver tumorigenesis. This tumorigenesis is driven by two oncoproteins that are implicated in human liver cancer. This, together with our previous studies, uncovers the complexity of liver tumorigenesis, by elucidating the pro- and anti-tumor effects of Shp2 in mouse models. This data can be used to guide new therapies.
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:Mounting evidence indicates that S-Phase Kinase-Associated Protein 2 (SKP2) is overexpressed in human hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). However, the role of SKP2 in hepatocarcinogenesis remains poorly delineated. To elucidate the function(s) of SKP2 in HCC, we stably overexpressed the SKP2 gene in the mouse liver, either alone or in combination with activated forms of N-Ras (N-RasV12), AKT1 (myr-AKT1), or ?-catenin (?N90-?-catenin) protooncogenes, via hydrodynamic gene delivery. We found that forced overexpression of SKP2, N-RasV12 or ?N90-?-catenin alone as well as co-expression of SKP2 and ?N90-?-catenin did not induce liver tumor development. Overexpression of myr-AKT1 alone led to liver tumor development after long latency. In contrast, co-expression of SKP2 with N-RasV12 or myr-AKT1 resulted in early development of multiple hepatocellular tumors in all SKP2/N-RasV12 and SKP2/myr-AKT1 mice. At the molecular level, preneoplastic and neoplastic liver lesions from SKP2/N-RasV12 and SKP2/myr-AKT1 mice exhibited a strong induction of AKT/mTOR and Ras/MAPK pathways. Noticeably, the tumor suppressor proteins whose levels have been shown to be downregulated by SKP2-dependent degradation in various tumor types, including p27, p57, Dusp1, and Rassf1A were not decreased in liver lesions from SKP2/N-RasV12 and SKP2/myr-AKT1 mice. In human HCC specimens, nuclear translocation of SKP2 was associated with activation of the AKT/mTOR and Ras/MAPK pathways, but not with ?-catenin mutation or activation. Altogether, the present data indicate that SKP2 cooperates with N-Ras and AKT proto-oncogenes to promote hepatocarcinogenesis in vivo.
Project description:5-Hydroxytryptamine (5-HT), a neurotransmitter and vasoactive factor, has been reported to promote proliferation of serum-deprived hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) cells but the detailed intracellular mechanism is unknown. As Wnt/β-catenin signalling is highly dysregulated in a majority of HCC, this study explored the regulation of Wnt/β-catenin signalling by 5-HT. The expression of various 5-HT receptors was studied by quantitative real-time polymerase chain reaction (qPCR) in HCC cell lines as well as in 33 pairs of HCC tumours and corresponding adjacent non-tumour tissues. Receptors 5-HT1D (21/33, 63.6%), 5-HT2B (12/33, 36.4%) and 5-HT7 (15/33, 45.4%) were overexpressed whereas receptors 5-HT2A (17/33, 51.5%) and 5-HT5 (30/33, 90.1%) were reduced in HCC tumour tissues. In vitro data suggests 5-HT increased total β-catenin, active β-catenin and decreased phosphorylated β-catenin protein levels in serum deprived HuH-7 and HepG2 cells compared to control cells under serum free medium without 5-HT. Activation of Wnt/β-catenin signalling was evidenced by increased expression of β-catenin downstream target genes, Axin2, cyclin D1, dickoppf-1 (DKK1) and glutamine synthetase (GS) by qPCR in serum-deprived HCC cell lines treated with 5-HT. Additionally, biochemical analysis revealed 5-HT disrupted Axin1/β-catenin interaction, a critical step in β-catenin phosphorylation. Increased Wnt/β-catenin activity was attenuated by antagonist of receptor 5-HT7 (SB-258719) in HCC cell lines and patient-derived primary tumour tissues in the presence of 5-HT. SB-258719 also reduced tumour growth in vivo. This study provides evidence of Wnt/β-catenin signalling activation by 5-HT and may represent a potential therapeutic target for hepatocarcinogenesis.
Project description:AXIN1 mutations are observed in 8-10% of hepatocellular carcinomas (HCCs) and originally were considered to support tumor growth by aberrantly enhancing β-catenin signaling. This view has however been challenged by reports showing neither a clear nuclear β-catenin accumulation nor clearly enhanced expression of β-catenin target genes. Here, using nine HCC lines, we show that AXIN1 mutation or siRNA mediated knockdown contributes to enhanced β-catenin signaling in all AXIN1-mutant and non-mutant lines, also confirmed by reduced signaling in AXIN1-repaired SNU449 cells. Both AXIN1 and AXIN2 work synergistically to control β-catenin signaling. While in the AXIN1-mutant lines, AXIN2 is solely responsible for keeping signaling in check, in the non-mutant lines both AXIN proteins contribute to β-catenin regulation to varying levels. The AXIN proteins have gained substantial interest in cancer research for a second reason. Their activity in the β-catenin destruction complex can be increased by tankyrase inhibitors, which thus may serve as a therapeutic option to reduce the growth of β-catenin-dependent cancers. At concentrations that inhibit tankyrase activity, some lines (e.g. HepG2, SNU398) were clearly affected in colony formation, but in most cases apparently independent from effects on β-catenin signaling. Overall, our analyses show that AXIN1 inactivation leads to enhanced β-catenin signaling in HCC cell lines, questioning the strong statements that have been made in this regard. Enhancing AXIN activity by tankyrase monotherapy provides however no effective treatment to affect their growth exclusively through reducing β-catenin signaling.
Project description:Accumulating evidence demonstrates that dysregulation of ubiquitin-mediated degradation of oncogene or suppressors plays an important role in several diseases. However, the function and molecular mechanisms of ubiquitin ligases underlying hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) remain elusive. In the current study, we show that overexpression of TRIM54 was associated with HCC progression. TRIM54 overexpression facilitates proliferation and lung metastasis; however, inhibition of TRIM54 significantly suppressed HCC progression both <i>in vitro</i> and <i>in vivo</i>. Mechanically, we demonstrated that TRIM54 directly interacts with Axis inhibition proteins 1 (Axin1) and induces E3 ligase-dependent proteasomal turnover of Axin1 and substantially induces sustained activation of wnt/β-catenin in HCC cell lines. Furthermore, we showed that inhibition of the wnt/β-catenin signaling pathway <i>via</i> small molecule inhibitors significantly suppressed TRIM54-induced proliferation. Our data suggest that TRIM54 might function as an oncogenic gene and targeting the TRIM54/Axin1/β-catenin axis signaling may be a promising prognostic factor and a valuable therapeutic target for HCC.
Project description:Wnt/?-catenin signaling activity is maintained in homeostasis by an expanding list of molecular determinants. However, the molecular components and the regulatory mechanisms involved in its fine-tuning remain to be determined. Here, we identified C9orf140, a tumor-specific protein, as a novel Axin1-interacting protein by tandem-affinity purification and mass spectrometry. We further showed that C9orf140 is a negative regulator of Wnt/?-catenin signaling in cultured cells as well as in zebrafish embryos. It functions upstream of ?-catenin, outcompetes PP2A for binding to Axin1, influences the balance between phosphorylation and de-phosphorylation of ?-catenin, and ultimately compromises Wnt3A-induced ?-catenin accumulation. Interestingly, Wnt-induced C9orf140 expression via ?-catenin. We propose that C9orf140 mediates a negative feedback loop of Wnt/?-catenin signaling by interacting with Axin1. Our results advance the current understanding of the exquisite control of Wnt/?-catenin signaling cascade, and provide evidence of the new role of C9orf140.
Project description:The Wnt/?-catenin signalling pathway regulates genes involved in cell proliferation, survival, migration and invasion through regulation by T-cell factor (TCF)-4 transcription factor proteins. However, the role of TCF-4 isoforms generated by alternative splicing events in hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is unknown.Here, we investigated TCF-4 isoforms (TCF-4J and K)-responsive target genes that are important in hepatic oncogenesis and tumour development.Gene expression microarray was performed on HCC cells overexpressing TCF-4J and K isoforms. Expression level of selected target genes was evaluated and correlations were made between their expression level and that of TCF-4 isoform in 47 pairs of human HCC tumours.Comparison by gene expression microarray revealed that 447 genes were upregulated and 343 downregulated more than 2.0-fold in TCF-4J compared with TCF-4K expressing cells. We validated expression of 18 selected target genes involved in Wnt/?-catenin, insulin/IGF-1/IRS1 and Notch signalling pathways in 47 pairs of human HCCs and adjacent uninvolved liver tissues. It was observed that 13 genes (CLDN2, STK17B, SPP1, AXIN2, WISP2, MMP7, IRS1, ANXA1, CAMK2N1, ASPH, GPR56, CD24 and JAG1) activated by TCF-4J isoform in HCC cells, were also upregulated in HCC tumours compared with adjacent peritumour tissue; more importantly, 10 genes exhibited a significant correlation with the TCF-4J expression level in tumour.TCF-4 isoforms (TCF-4J and K) activated different downstream target genes in HCC. The biological consequence of TCF-4J isoform expression was upregulation of genes associated with tripartite Wnt/?-catenin, insulin/IGF-1/IRS1 and Notch signal transduction pathway activation, which contribute to the pathogenesis of HCC.
Project description:Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is a heterogeneous cancer with active Wnt signaling. Underlying biologic mechanisms remain unclear and no drug targeting this pathway has been approved to date. We aimed to characterize Wnt-pathway aberrations in HCC patients, and to investigate sorafenib as a potential Wnt modulator in experimental models of liver cancer.The Wnt-pathway was assessed using mRNA (642 HCCs and 21 liver cancer cell lines) and miRNA expression data (89 HCCs), immunohistochemistry (108 HCCs), and CTNNB1-mutation data (91 HCCs). Effects of sorafenib on Wnt signaling were evaluated in four liver cancer cell lines with active Wnt signaling and a tumor xenograft model.Evidence for Wnt activation was observed for 315 (49.1%) cases, and was further classified as CTNNB1 class (138 cases [21.5%]) or Wnt-TGF? class (177 cases [27.6%]). CTNNB1 class was characterized by upregulation of liver-specific Wnt-targets, nuclear ?-catenin and glutamine-synthetase immunostaining, and enrichment of CTNNB1-mutation-signature, whereas Wnt-TGF? class was characterized by dysregulation of classical Wnt-targets and the absence of nuclear ?-catenin. Sorafenib decreased Wnt signaling and ?-catenin protein in HepG2 (CTNNB1 class), SNU387 (Wnt-TGF? class), SNU398 (CTNNB1-mutation), and Huh7 (lithium-chloride-pathway activation) cell lines. In addition, sorafenib attenuated expression of liver-related Wnt-targets GLUL, LGR5, and TBX3. The suppressive effect on CTNNB1 class-specific Wnt-pathway activation was validated in vivo using HepG2 xenografts in nude mice, accompanied by decreased tumor volume and increased survival of treated animals.Distinct dysregulation of Wnt-pathway constituents characterize two different Wnt-related molecular classes (CTNNB1 and Wnt-TGF?), accounting for half of all HCC patients. Sorafenib modulates ?-catenin/Wnt signaling in experimental models that harbor the CTNNB1 class signature.