Single-cell transcriptomics reveals opposing roles of Shp2 in Myc-driven liver tumor cells and microenvironment.
ABSTRACT: The mechanisms of Myc-driven liver tumorigenesis are inadequately understood. Herein we show that Myc-driven hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is dramatically aggravated in mice with hepatocyte-specific Ptpn11/Shp2 deletion. However, Myc-induced tumors develop selectively from the rare Shp2-positive hepatocytes in Shp2-deficent liver, and Myc-driven oncogenesis depends on an intact Ras-Erk signaling promoted by Shp2 to sustain Myc stability. Despite a stringent requirement of Shp2 cell autonomously, Shp2 deletion induces an immunosuppressive environment, resulting in defective clearance of tumor-initiating cells and aggressive tumor progression. The basal Wnt/β-catenin signaling is upregulated in Shp2-deficient liver, which is further augmented by Myc transfection. Ablating Ctnnb1 suppresses Myc-induced HCC in Shp2-deficient livers, revealing an essential role of β-catenin. Consistently, Myc overexpression and CTNNB1 mutations are frequently co-detected in HCC patients with poor prognosis. These data elucidate complex mechanisms of liver tumorigenesis driven by cell-intrinsic oncogenic signaling in cooperation with a tumor-promoting microenvironment generated by disrupting the specific oncogenic pathway.
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:Both activating and inactivating mutations in catenin ?1 (ctnnb1), which encodes ?-catenin, have been implicated in liver tumorigenesis in humans and mice, although the underlying mechanisms are not fully understood. Herein, we show that deletion of endogenous ?-catenin in hepatocytes aggravated hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) development driven by an oncogenic version of ?-catenin (CAT) in combination with the hepatocyte growth factor receptor MET proto-oncogene receptor tyrosine kinase (MET). Although the mitogenic signaling and cell cycle progression was modestly impaired after CAT/MET transfection, the ?-catenin-deficient livers displayed changes in transcriptomes, increased DNA damage response, expanded Sox9+ cells, and up-regulation of protumorigenic cytokines, including interleukin-6 and transforming growth factor ?1. These events eventually exacerbated CAT/MET-driven hepatocarcinogenesis in ?-catenin-deficient livers, featured by up-regulation of extracellular signal-regulated kinase (Erk), protein kinase B (Akt), and Wnt/?-catenin signaling and cyclin D1 expression. The resultant mouse tumors showed similar transcriptomes to human HCC samples with concomitant CTNNB1 mutations and MET overexpression. CONCLUSION:These data argue that while dominantly activating mutants of ?-catenin are oncogenic, inhibiting the oncogenic signaling pathway generates a pro-oncogenic microenvironment that may facilitate HCC recurrence following a targeted therapy of the primary tumor. An effective therapeutic strategy must require disruption of the oncogenic signaling in tumor cells and suppression of the secondary tumor-promoting stromal effects in the liver microenvironment. (Hepatology 2018;67:1807-1822).
Project description:PD-1 immune checkpoint inhibitors have produced encouraging results in patients with hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). However, what determines resistance to anti-PD-1 therapies is unclear. We created a novel genetically engineered mouse model of HCC that enables interrogation of how different genetic alterations affect immune surveillance and response to immunotherapies. Expression of exogenous antigens in MYC;Trp53 -/- HCCs led to T cell-mediated immune surveillance, which was accompanied by decreased tumor formation and increased survival. Some antigen-expressing MYC;Trp53 -/- HCCs escaped the immune system by upregulating the ?-catenin (CTNNB1) pathway. Accordingly, expression of exogenous antigens in MYC;CTNNB1 HCCs had no effect, demonstrating that ?-catenin promoted immune escape, which involved defective recruitment of dendritic cells and consequently impaired T-cell activity. Expression of chemokine CCL5 in antigen-expressing MYC;CTNNB1 HCCs restored immune surveillance. Finally, ?-catenin-driven tumors were resistant to anti-PD-1. In summary, ?-catenin activation promotes immune escape and resistance to anti-PD-1 and could represent a novel biomarker for HCC patient exclusion. SIGNIFICANCE: Determinants of response to anti-PD-1 immunotherapies in HCC are poorly understood. Using a novel mouse model of HCC, we show that ?-catenin activation promotes immune evasion and resistance to anti-PD-1 therapy and could potentially represent a novel biomarker for HCC patient exclusion.See related commentary by Berraondo et al., p. 1003.This article is highlighted in the In This Issue feature, p. 983.
Project description:CTNNB1 (catenin beta 1)-mutated hepatocellular carcinomas (HCCs) account for a large proportion of human HCCs. They display high levels of respiratory chain activity. As metabolism and redox balance are closely linked, tumor cells must maintain their redox status during these metabolic alterations. We investigated the redox balance of these HCCs and the feasibility of targeting this balance as an avenue for targeted therapy. We assessed the expression of the nuclear erythroid 2 p45-related factor 2 (NRF2) detoxification pathway in an annotated human HCC data set and reported an enrichment of the NRF2 program in human HCCs with CTNNB1 mutations, largely independent of NFE2L2 (nuclear factor, erythroid 2 like 2) or KEAP1 (Kelch-like ECH-associated protein 1) mutations. We then used mice with hepatocyte-specific oncogenic β-catenin activation to evaluate the redox status associated with β-catenin activation in preneoplastic livers and tumors. We challenged them with various oxidative stressors and observed that the β-catenin pathway activation increased transcription of Nfe2l2, which protects β-catenin-activated hepatocytes from oxidative damage and supports tumor development. Moreover, outside of its effects on reactive oxygen species scavenging, we found out that Nrf2 itself contributes to the metabolic activity of β-catenin-activated cells. We then challenged β-catenin activated tumors pharmacologically to create a redox imbalance and found that pharmacological inactivation of Nrf2 was sufficient to considerably decrease the progression of β-catenin-dependent HCC development. Conclusion: These results demonstrate cooperation between oncogenic β-catenin signaling and the NRF2 pathway in CTNNB1-mediated HCC tumorigenesis, and we provide evidence for the relevance of redox balance targeting as a therapeutic strategy in CTNNB1-mutated HCC.
Project description:<h4>Background & aims</h4>Gain of function (GOF) mutations in the CTNNB1 gene are one of the most frequent genetic events in hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). T-box transcription factor 3 (TBX3) is a liver-specific target of the Wnt/β-catenin pathway and thought to be an oncogene mediating activated β-catenin-driven HCC formation.<h4>Methods</h4>We evaluated the expression pattern of TBX3 in human HCC specimens. Tbx3 was conditionally knocked out in murine HCC models by hydrodynamic tail vein injection of Cre together with c-Met and ΔN90-β-catenin (c-Met/β-catenin) in Tbx3<sup>flox/flox</sup> mice. TBX3 was overexpressed in human HCC cell lines to investigate the functions of TBX3 in vitro.<h4>Results</h4>A bimodal expression pattern of TBX3 in human HCC samples was detected: high expression of TBX3 in GOF CTNNB1 HCC and downregulation of TBX3 in non-CTNNB1 mutant tumors. High expression of TBX3 was associated with increased differentiation and decreased expression signatures of tumor growth. Using Tbx3<sup>flox/flox</sup> mice, we found that ablation of Tbx3 significantly accelerates c-Met/β-catenin-driven HCC formation. Moreover, Tbx3(-) HCC demonstrated increased YAP/TAZ activity. The accelerated tumor growth induced by loss of TBX3 in c-Met/β-catenin mouse HCC was successfully prevented by overexpression of LATS2, which inhibited YAP/TAZ activity. In human HCC cell lines, overexpression of TBX3 inhibited HCC cell growth as well as YAP/TAZ activation. A negative correlation between TBX3 and YAP/TAZ target genes was observed in human HCC samples. Mechanistically, phospholipase D1 (PLD1), a known positive regulator of YAP/TAZ, was identified as a novel transcriptional target repressed by TBX3.<h4>Conclusion</h4>Our study suggests that TBX3 is induced by GOF CTNNB1 mutants and suppresses HCC growth by inactivating PLD1, thus leading to the inhibition of YAP/TAZ oncogenes.<h4>Lay summary</h4>TBX3 is a liver-specific target of the Wnt/β-catenin pathway and thought to be an oncogene in promoting liver cancer development. Herein, we demonstrate that TBX3 is in fact a tumor suppressor gene that restricts liver tumor growth. Strategies which increase TBX3 expression and/or activities may be effective for HCC treatment.
Project description:Hepatitis B virus (HBV), along with Hepatitis C virus chronic infection, represents a major risk factor for hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) development. However, molecular mechanisms involved in the development of HCC are not yet completely understood. Recent studies have indicated that mutations in CTNNB1 gene encoding for ?-catenin protein lead to aberrant activation of the Wnt/ ?-catenin pathway. The mutations in turn activate several downstream genes, including c-Myc, promoting the neoplastic process. The present study evaluated the mutational profile of the CTNNB1 gene and expression levels of CTNNB1 and c-Myc genes in HBV-related HCC, as well as in cirrhotic and control tissues. Mutational analysis of the ?-catenin gene and HBV genotyping were conducted by direct sequencing. Expression of ?-catenin and c-Myc genes was assessed using real-time PCR. Among the HCC cases, 18.1% showed missense point mutation in exon 3 of CTNNB1, more frequently in codons 32, 33, 38 and 45. The frequency of mutation in the hotspots of exon 3 was significantly higher in non-viral HCCs (29.4%) rather than HBV-related cases (12.7%, P?=?0.021). The expression of ?-catenin and c-Myc genes was found upregulated in cirrhotic tissues in association with HBV infection. Mutations at both phosphorylation and neighboring sites were associated with increased activity of the Wnt pathway. The results demonstrated that mutated ?-catenin caused activation of the Wnt pathway, but the rate of CTNNB1 gene mutations was not related to HBV infection. HBV factors may deregulate the Wnt pathway by causing epigenetic alterations in the HBV-related HCC.
Project description:Adenomatous polyposis coli (APC) inactivating mutations are present in most human colorectal cancers and some other cancers. The APC protein regulates the ?-catenin protein pool that functions as a co-activator of T cell factor (TCF)-regulated transcription in Wnt pathway signaling. We studied effects of reduced dosage of the Ctnnb1 gene encoding ?-catenin in Apc-mutation-induced colon and ovarian mouse tumorigenesis and cell culture models. Concurrent somatic inactivation of one Ctnnb1 allele, dramatically inhibited Apc mutation-induced colon polyposis and greatly extended Apc-mutant mouse survival. Ctnnb1 hemizygous dose markedly inhibited increases in ?-catenin levels in the cytoplasm and nucleus following Apc inactivation in colon epithelium, with attenuated expression of key ?-catenin/TCF-regulated target genes, including those encoding the EphB2/B3 receptors, the stem cell marker Lgr5, and Myc, leading to maintenance of crypt compartmentalization and restriction of stem and proliferating cells to the crypt base. A critical threshold for ?-catenin levels in TCF-regulated transcription was uncovered for Apc mutation-induced effects in colon epithelium, along with evidence of a feed-forward role for ?-catenin in Ctnnb1 gene expression and CTNNB1 transcription. The active ?-catenin protein pool was highly sensitive to CTNNB1 transcript levels in colon cancer cells. In mouse ovarian endometrioid adenocarcinomas (OEAs) arising from Apc- and Pten-inactivation, while Ctnnb1 hemizygous dose affected ?-catenin levels and some ?-catenin/TCF target genes, Myc induction was retained and OEAs arose in a fashion akin to that seen with intact Ctnnb1 gene dose. Our findings indicate Ctnnb1 gene dose exerts tissue-specific differences in Apc mutation-instigated tumorigenesis. Differential expression of selected ?-catenin/TCF-regulated genes, such as Myc, likely underlies context-dependent effects of Ctnnb1 gene dosage in tumorigenesis.
Project description:Hepatocellular cancer (HCC) remains a disease of poor prognosis, highlighting the relevance of elucidating key molecular aberrations that may be targeted for novel therapies. Wnt signalling activation, chiefly due to mutations in CTNNB1, have been identified in a major subset of HCC patients. While several in vitro proof of concept studies show the relevance of suppressing Wnt/?-catenin signalling in HCC cells or tumour xenograft models, no study has addressed the impact of ?-catenin inhibition in a relevant murine HCC model driven by Ctnnb1 mutations.We studied the in vivo impact of ?-catenin suppression by locked nucleic acid (LNA) antisense treatment, after establishing Ctnnb1 mutation-driven HCC by diethylnitrosamine and phenobarbital (DEN/PB) administration.The efficacy of LNA directed against ?-catenin vs. scrambled on Wnt signalling was demonstrated in vitro in HCC cells and in vivo in normal mice. The DEN/PB model leads to HCC with Ctnnb1 mutations. A complete therapeutic response in the form of abrogation of HCC was observed after ten treatments of tumour-bearing mice with ?-catenin LNA every 48h as compared to the scrambled control. A decrease in ?-catenin activity, cell proliferation and increased cell death was evident after ?-catenin suppression. No effect of ?-catenin suppression was evident in non-Ctnnb1 mutated HCC, observed after DEN-only administration.Thus, we provide the in vivo proof of concept that ?-catenin suppression in HCC will be of significant therapeutic benefit, provided the tumours display Wnt activation via mechanisms like CTNNB1 mutations.
Project description:Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) represents a serious public health challenge with few therapeutic options available to cancer patients.Wnt/β-catenin pathway is thought to play a significant role in HCC pathogenesis. In this study, we confirmed high frequency of CTNNB1 (β-catenin) mutations in two independent cohorts of HCC patients and demonstrated significant upregulation of β-catenin protein in the overwhelming majority of HCC patient samples, patient-derived xenografts (PDX) and established cell lines. Using genetic tools validated for target specificity through phenotypic rescue experiments, we went on to investigate oncogenic dependency on β-catenin in an extensive collection of human HCC cells lines. Our results demonstrate that dependency on β-catenin generally tracks with its activation status. HCC cell lines that harbored activating mutations in CTNNB1 or displayed elevated levels of non-phosphorylated (active) β-catenin were significantly more sensitive to β-catenin siRNA treatment than cell lines with wild-type CTNNB1 and lower active β-catenin. Finally, significant therapeutic benefit of β-catenin knock-down was demonstrated in established HCC tumor xenografts using doxycycline-inducible shRNA system. β-catenin downregulation and tumor growth inhibition was associated with reduction in AXIN2, direct transcriptional target of β-catenin, and decreased cancer cell proliferation as measured by Ki67 staining. Taken together, our data highlight fundamental importance of aberrant β-catenin signaling in the maintenance of oncogenic phenotype in HCC.
Project description:Human liver cancer is one of the deadliest cancers worldwide, with hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) being the most common type. Aberrant Ras signaling has been implicated in the development and progression of human HCC, but a complete understanding of the molecular mechanisms of this protein in hepatocarcinogenesis remains elusive. In this study, a stable in vivo liver cancer model using transgenic zebrafish was generated to elucidate Ras-driven tumorigenesis in HCC. Using the liver-specific fabp10 (fatty acid binding protein 10) promoter, we overexpressed oncogenic kras(V12) specifically in the transgenic zebrafish liver. Only a high level of kras(V12) expression initiated liver tumorigenesis, which progressed from hyperplasia to benign and malignant tumors with activation of the Ras-Raf-MEK-ERK and Wnt-?-catenin pathways. Histological diagnosis of zebrafish tumors identified HCC as the main lesion. The tumors were invasive and transplantable, indicating malignancy of these HCC cells. Oncogenic kras(V12) was also found to trigger p53-dependent senescence as a tumor suppressive barrier in the pre-neoplastic stage. Microarray analysis of zebrafish liver hyperplasia and HCC uncovered the deregulation of several stage-specific and common biological processes and signaling pathways responsible for kras(V12)-driven liver tumorigenesis that recapitulated the molecular hallmarks of human liver cancer. Cross-species comparisons of cancer transcriptomes further defined a HCC-specific gene signature as well as a liver cancer progression gene signature that are evolutionarily conserved between human and zebrafish. Collectively, our study presents a comprehensive portrait of molecular mechanisms during progressive Ras-induced HCC. These observations indicate the validity of our transgenic zebrafish to model human liver cancer, and this model might act as a useful platform for drug screening and identifying new therapeutic targets.