Bromo- and extraterminal domain protein inhibition improves immunotherapy efficacy in hepatocellular carcinoma.
ABSTRACT: Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) represents the majority of liver cancer and is the fourth most common cause of cancer-related death. Although advances in molecular targeted therapy have shown promise, none of these agents has yet demonstrated significant clinical benefit. Bromo- and extraterminal domain (BET) protein inhibitors have been considered potential therapeutic drugs for HCC but the biological activity remains unclear. This study found that BET protein inhibition did not effectively suppress the progression of HCC, using a transgenic HCC mouse model. Mechanistically, the BET protein inhibitor JQ1 upregulated the expression of programmed cell death-ligand 1 (PD-L1) on the plasma membrane in vivo and in vitro. Moreover, JQ1 enhanced the expression of Rab8A, which upregulated the expression of PD-L1 on the plasma membrane. This study also showed that JQ1 combined with anti-PD-L1 Ab effectively suppressed HCC progression, and this benefit was obtained by enhancing the activation and cytotoxic capabilities of CD8 T cells. These results revealed the crucial role and regulation of BET protein inhibition on the expression of PD-L1 in HCC. Thus, combining BET protein inhibition with immune checkpoint blockade offers an efficient therapeutic approach for HCC.
Project description:Bromodomain and extraterminal (BET) proteins recruit key components of basic transcriptional machinery to promote gene expression. Aberrant expression and mutations in BET genes have been identified in many malignancies. Small molecule inhibitors of BET proteins such as JQ1 have shown efficacy in preclinical cancer models, including affecting growth of hepatocellular carcinoma. BET proteins also regulate cell proliferation in nontumor settings. We recently showed that BET proteins regulate cholangiocyte-driven liver regeneration. Here, we studied the role of BET proteins in hepatocyte-driven liver regeneration in partial hepatectomy (PHx) and acetaminophen-induced liver injury models in mice and zebrafish. JQ1 was injected 2 or 16 hours after PHx in mice to determine effect on hepatic injury, regeneration, and signaling. Mice treated with JQ1 after PHx displayed increased liver injury and a near-complete inhibition of hepatocyte proliferation. Levels of Ccnd1 mRNA and Cyclin D1 protein were reduced in animals injected with JQ1 16 hours after PHx and were even further reduced in animals injected with JQ1 2 hours after PHx. JQ1-treated zebrafish larvae after acetaminophen-induced injury also displayed notably impaired hepatocyte proliferation. In both models, Wnt signaling was prominently suppressed by JQ1. Our results show that BET proteins regulate hepatocyte proliferation-driven liver regeneration, and Wnt signaling is particularly sensitive to BET protein inhibition.
Project description:BACKGROUND:Prostate cancer responds poorly to current immunotherapies. Epigenetic therapies such as BET Bromodomain inhibition can change the transcriptome of tumor cells, possibly making them more immunogenic and thus susceptible to immune targeting. METHODS:We characterized the effects of BET bromodomain inhibition using JQ1 on PD-L1 and HLA-ABC expression in two human prostate cell lines, DU145 and PC3. RNA-Seq was performed to assess changes on a genome-wide level. A cytotoxic T cell killing assay was performed in MC38-OVA cells treated with JQ1 to demonstrate increased immunogenicity. In vivo experiments in the Myc-Cap model were conducted to show the effects of JQ1 administration in concert with anti-CTLA-4 checkpoint blockade. RESULTS:Here, we show that targeting BET bromodomains using the small molecule inhibitor JQ1 decreased PD-L1 expression and mitigated tumor progression in prostate cancer models. Mechanistically, BET bromodomain inhibition increased MHC I expression and increased the immunogenicity of tumor cells. Transcriptional profiling showed that BET bromodomain inhibition regulates distinct networks of antigen processing and immune checkpoint molecules. In murine models, treatment with JQ1 was additive with anti-CTLA-4 immunotherapy, resulting in an increased CD8/Treg ratio. CONCLUSIONS:BET Bromodomain inhibition can mediate changes in expression at a genome wide level in prostate cancer cells, resulting in an increased susceptibility to CD8 T cell targeting. These data suggest that combining BET bromodomain inhibition with immune checkpoint blockade may have clinical activity in prostate cancer patients.
Project description:Restoration of anti-tumor immunity by blocking PD-L1 signaling through the use of antibodies has proven to be beneficial in cancer therapy. Here, we show that BET bromodomain inhibition suppresses PD-L1 expression and limits tumor progression in ovarian cancer. CD274 (encoding PD-L1) is a direct target of BRD4-mediated gene transcription. In mouse models, treatment with the BET inhibitor JQ1 significantly reduced PD-L1 expression on tumor cells and tumor-associated dendritic cells and macrophages, which correlated with an increase in the activity of anti-tumor cytotoxic T cells. The BET inhibitor limited tumor progression in a cytotoxic T-cell-dependent manner. Together, these data demonstrate a small-molecule approach to block PD-L1 signaling. Given the fact that BET inhibitors have been proven to be safe with manageable reversible toxicity in clinical trials, our findings indicate that pharmacological BET inhibitors represent a treatment strategy for targeting PD-L1 expression.
Project description:Renal inflammation has a key role in the onset and progression of immune- and nonimmune-mediated renal diseases. Therefore, the search for novel anti-inflammatory pharmacologic targets is of great interest in renal pathology. JQ1, a small molecule inhibitor of bromodomain and extraterminal (BET) proteins, was previously found to preserve renal function in experimental polycystic kidney disease. We report here that JQ1-induced BET inhibition modulated the in vitro expression of genes involved in several biologic processes, including inflammation and immune responses. Gene silencing of BRD4, an important BET protein, and chromatin immunoprecipitation assays showed that JQ1 alters the direct association of BRD4 with acetylated histone-packaged promoters and reduces the transcription of proinflammatory genes (IL-6, CCL-2, and CCL-5). In vivo, JQ1 abrogated experimental renal inflammation in murine models of unilateral ureteral obstruction, antimembrane basal GN, and infusion of Angiotensin II. Notably, JQ1 downregulated the expression of several genes controlled by the NF-κB pathway, a key inflammatory signaling pathway. The RelA NF-κB subunit is activated by acetylation of lysine 310. In damaged kidneys and cytokine-stimulated renal cells, JQ1 reduced the nuclear levels of RelA NF-κB. Additionally, JQ1 dampened the activation of the Th17 immune response in experimental renal damage. Our results show that inhibition of BET proteins reduces renal inflammation by several mechanisms: chromatin remodeling in promoter regions of specific genes, blockade of NF-κB pathway activation, and modulation of the Th17 immune response. These results suggest that inhibitors of BET proteins could have important therapeutic applications in inflammatory renal diseases.
Project description:During liver regeneration, hepatocytes are derived from pre-existing hepatocytes. However, if hepatocyte proliferation is compromised, biliary epithelial cells (BECs) become the source of new hepatocytes. We recently reported on a zebrafish liver regeneration model in which BECs extensively contribute to hepatocytes. Using this model, we performed a targeted chemical screen to identify important factors that regulate BEC-driven liver regeneration, the mechanisms of which remain largely unknown.Using Tg(fabp10a:CFP-NTR) zebrafish, we examined the effects of 44 selected compounds on BEC-driven liver regeneration. Liver size was assessed by fabp10a:DsRed expression; liver marker expression was analyzed by immunostaining, in situ hybridization and quantitative PCR. Proliferation and apoptosis were also examined. Moreover, we used a mouse liver injury model, choline-deficient, ethionine-supplemented (CDE) diet.We identified 10 compounds that affected regenerating liver size. Among them, only bromodomain and extraterminal domain (BET) inhibitors, JQ1 and iBET151, blocked both Prox1 and Hnf4a induction in BECs. BET inhibition during hepatocyte ablation blocked BEC dedifferentiation into hepatoblast-like cells (HB-LCs). Intriguingly, after JQ1 washout, liver regeneration resumed, indicating temporal, but not permanent, perturbation of liver regeneration by BET inhibition. BET inhibition after hepatocyte ablation suppressed the proliferation of newly generated hepatocytes and delayed hepatocyte maturation. Importantly, Myca overexpression, in part, rescued the proliferation defect. Furthermore, oval cell numbers in mice fed CDE diet were greatly reduced upon JQ1 administration, supporting the zebrafish findings.BET proteins regulate BEC-driven liver regeneration at multiple steps: BEC dedifferentiation, HB-LC proliferation, the proliferation of newly generated hepatocytes, and hepatocyte maturation.
Project description:BACKGROUND:The bromodomain and extra-terminal domain (BET) inhibitor is a type of anti-tumor agent, currently being evaluated in phase I and II clinical trials for cancer therapy. It can decrease MYC expression levels and cause effective anti-tumor effects in diverse human cancers. However, its cytotoxic effect and related mechanisms of drug resistance are poorly understood in hepatocellular carcinomas (HCC). Here, we investigated the anti-tumor effects of BET inhibitor on HCC and the molecular mechanisms involved in its associated drug resistance. METHODS:We assessed the cytotoxicity of BET inhibitor on HCC cells compared with sorafenib by cell viability assay, metastasis assay and reproduced the anti-tumor effect in xenograft mouse model. In addition, the molecular mechanisms involved in drug resistance on JQ1-resistant HCC cells were revealed by western blotting, qRT-PCR, whole exome-sequencing and gene-editing technology. Finally, with specific inhibition of EGFR or ERK activity by interference RNAs or inhibitors, the efficacy of the synergistic treatment was investigated using cell viability assay, colony formation, apoptosis and xenograft mouse model. RESULTS:We found that JQ1, a commonly used BET bromo-domain inhibitor, offered a better anti-tumor response than sorafenib in MYC-positive HCC cells by inducing apoptosis in vitro and in vivo. Unlike sorafenib, JQ1 treatment significantly impaired mitochondrial respiration and glycolysis in HCC cells. Importantly, we revealed that MAPK activation by a previously undescribed activating mutation of EGFR-I645L, was critical for JQ1 sensitivity through stabilizing oncogenic MYC protein in JQ1-resistant HCC cells. Inhibition of either EGFR or ERK activity overcame the JQ1 resistance and significantly decreased MYC protein level in vitro and in vivo. CONCLUSION:Since MYC amplification is frequently identified in HCC, co-occurring with EGFR amplification, our findings suggest that targeting EGFR signaling might be essential for JQ1 therapy in advanced HCC.
Project description:Lytic infection by the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) poses numerous health risks, such as infectious mononucleosis and lymphoproliferative disorder. Proteins in the bromodomain and extraterminal (BET) family regulate multiple stages of viral life cycles and provide promising intervention targets. Synthetic small molecules can bind to the bromodomains and disrupt function by preventing recognition of acetylated lysine substrates. We demonstrate that JQ1 and other BET inhibitors block two different steps in the sequential cascade of the EBV lytic cycle. BET inhibitors prevent expression of the viral immediate-early protein BZLF1. JQ1 alters transcription of genes controlled by the host protein BACH1, and BACH1 knockdown reduces BZLF1 expression. BET proteins also localize to the lytic origin of replication (OriLyt) genetic elements, and BET inhibitors prevent viral late gene expression. There JQ1 reduces BRD4 recruitment during reactivation to preclude replication initiation. This represents a rarely observed dual mode of action for drugs.
Project description:Epigenetic regulators have emerged as exciting targets for cancer therapy. Additionally, restoration of antitumor immunity by blocking the PD-L1 signaling using antibodies has proven to be beneficial in cancer therapy. Here we show that BET bromodomain inhibition suppresses PD-L1 expression and restores antitumor immunity in ovarian cancer. CD274 (encoding PD-L1) is a direct target of BRD4-mediated gene transcription. In mouse models, treatment with the BET inhibitor JQ1 significantly reduced PD-L1 expression on tumor cells and tumor-associated dendritic cells and macrophages, which correlated with an increase in the activity of antitumor cytotoxic T cells. Together, these data demonstrate an epigenetic approach to block PD-L1 signaling to restore antitumor immunity. Given the fact that BET inhibitors have been proven safe with manageable reversible toxicity in clinical trials, our findings indicate that pharmacological BET inhibitors represent a novel treatment strategy for targeting PD-L1 expression. Overall design: RNA-seq for JQ1 treated and shBRD4 knockdown cells with controls
Project description:Oxidative stress, a pathogenetic factor in many conditions, including chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, arises due to accumulation of reactive oxygen species and defective antioxidant defenses in the lungs. The latter is due, at least in part, to impaired activation of NF-E2-related factor 2 (Nrf2), a transcription factor involved in the activation of antioxidant and cytoprotective genes. The bromodomain and extraterminal (BET) proteins, Brd2, Brd3, Brd4, and BrdT, bind to acetylated lysine residues on histone or nonhistone proteins recruiting transcriptional regulators and thus activating or repressing gene transcription. We investigated whether BET proteins modulate the regulation of Nrf2-dependent gene expression in primary human airway smooth muscle cells and the human monocytic cell line, THP-1. Inhibition of BET protein bromodomains using the inhibitor JQ1+ or attenuation of Brd2 and Brd4 expression using small interfering RNA led to activation of Nrf2-dependent transcription and expression of the antioxidant proteins heme oxygenase-1, NADPH quinone oxidoreductase 1, and glutamate-cysteine ligase catalytic subunit. Also, JQ1+ prevented H2O2-induced intracellular reactive oxygen species production. By coimmunoprecipitation, BET proteins were found to be complexed with Nrf2, whereas chromatin-immunoprecipitation studies indicated recruitment of Brd2 and Brd4 to Nrf2-binding sites on the promoters of heme oxygenase-1 and NADPH quinone oxidoreductase 1. BET proteins, particularly Brd2 and Brd4, may play a key role in the regulation of Nrf2-dependent antioxidant gene transcription and are hence an important target for augmenting antioxidant responses in oxidative stress-mediated diseases.