To model human neural-cell-fate specification and to provide cells for regenerative therapies, we have developed a method to generate human neural progenitors and neurons from human embryonic stem cells, which recapitulates human fetal brain development. Through the addition of a small molecule that activates canonical WNT signaling, we induced rapid and efficient dose-dependent specification of regionally defined neural progenitors ranging from telencephalic forebrain to posterior hindbrain fates. Ten days after initiation of differentiation, the progenitors could be transplanted to the adult rat striatum, where they formed neuron-rich and tumor-free grafts with maintained regional specification. Cells patterned toward a ventral midbrain (VM) identity generated a high proportion of authentic dopaminergic neurons after transplantation. The dopamine neurons showed morphology, projection pattern, and protein expression identical to that of human fetal VM cells grafted in parallel. VM-patterned but not forebrain-patterned neurons released dopamine and reversed motor deficits in an animal model of Parkinson's disease. ► A rapid and defined protocol for region-specific neuralization of hESCs is presented ► Caudalization is obtained by graded chemical activation of WNT signaling ► Neuron-rich and tumor-free grafts are obtained after only 10 days of predifferentiation ► VM-specific grafts reverse motor deficits and release dopamine in an animal model of Parkinson's disease A gradient of WNTs controls the rostrocaudal specification of progenitor cells in the developing neural tube, responsible for later regional brain diversity. Through chemical activation of the WNT pathway, Parmar and colleagues show that this patterning system can also be applied to human embryonic stem cells, enabling dose-dependent control of the rostrocaudal identity of the cells. The authors demonstrate that this method can be used to generate functional neurons with therapeutic effects in a Parkinson's disease model.
Elevated lactate dehydrogenase A (LDHA) expression is associated with poor outcome in tumor patients. Here we show that LDHA-associated lactic acid accumulation in melanomas inhibits tumor surveillance by T and NK cells. In immunocompetent C57BL/6 mice, tumors with reduced lactic acid production (Ldha ) developed significantly slower than control tumors and showed increased infiltration with IFN-γ-producing T and NK cells. However, in mice, lacking lymphocytes and NK cells, and in mice, Ldha and control cells formed tumors at similar rates. Pathophysiological concentrations of lactic acid prevented upregulation of nuclear factor of activated T cells (NFAT) in T and NK cells, resulting in diminished IFN-γ production. Database analyses revealed negative correlations between expression and T cell activation markers in human melanoma patients. Our results demonstrate that lactic acid is a potent inhibitor of function and survival of T and NK cells leading to tumor immune escape. Brand et al. link altered tumor glucose metabolism and immune escape and show that increased lactic acid production by LDHA in cancer cells impairs cytokine production, in particular IFN-γ, in tumor-infiltrating T cells and NK cells, thereby inhibiting tumor immunosurveillance and promoting tumor growth.
► The phosphorylated or activated form of STAT3 was expressed in colon cancer stem-like cells. ► STAT3 inhibitor, FLLL32 inhibits P-STAT3 and STAT3 target genes in colon cancer stem-like cells. ► Inhibition of STAT3 resulted in decreased cell viability and reduced numbers of tumorspheres. ► STAT3 is required for survival and tumorsphere forming capacity in colon cancer stem-like cells. ► Targeting STAT3 in cancer stem-like cells may offer a novel treatment approach for colon cancer. Persistent activation of Signal Transducers and Activators of Transcription 3 (STAT3) is frequently detected in colon cancer. Increasing evidence suggests the existence of a small population of colon cancer stem or cancer-initiating cells may be responsible for tumor initiation, metastasis, and resistance to chemotherapy and radiation. Whether STAT3 plays a role in colon cancer-initiating cells and the effect of STAT3 inhibition is still unknown. Flow cytometry was used to isolate colon cancer stem-like cells from three independent human colon cancer cell lines characterized by both aldehyde dehydrogenase (ALDH)-positive and CD133-positive subpopulation (ALDH /CD133 ). The effects of STAT3 inhibition in colon cancer stem-like cells were examined. The phosphorylated or activated form of STAT3 was expressed in colon cancer stem-like cells and was reduced by a STAT3-selective small molecular inhibitor, FLLL32. FLLL32 also inhibited the expression of potential STAT3 downstream target genes in colon cancer stem-like cells including survivin, Bcl-XL, as well as Notch-1, -3, and -4, which may be involved in stem cell function. Furthermore, FLLL32 inhibited cell viability and tumorsphere formation as well as induced cleaved caspase-3 in colon cancer stem-like cells. FLLL32 is more potent than curcumin as evidenced with lower IC50 in colon cancer stem-like cells. In summary, our results indicate that STAT3 is a novel therapeutic target in colon cancer stem-like cells and inhibition of STAT3 in cancer stem-like cells may offer a potential treatment for colorectal cancer.
The recent discovery of cancer stem cells (CSCs) has played a pivotal role in changing our view of carcinogenesis and chemotherapy. Based on this concept, CSCs are responsible for the formation and growth of neoplastic tissue and are naturally resistant to chemotherapy, explaining why traditional chemotherapies can initially shrinka tumor but fails to eradicate it in full, allowing eventual recurrence. Recently, we identified a CSC population in hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) characterized by their CD133 phenotype. However, the molecular mechanism by which it escapes conventional therapies remains unknown. Here, we examined the sensitivity of these cells to chemotherapeutic agents (doxorubicin and fluorouracil) and the possible mechanistic pathway by which resistance may be regulated. Purified CD133(+) HCC cells isolated from human HCC cell line and xenograft mouse models survived chemotherapy in increased proportions relative to most tumor cells which lack the CD133 phenotype; the underlying mechanism of which required the preferential expression of survival proteins involved in the Akt/PKB and Bcl-2 pathway. Treatment of CD133(+) HCC cells with an AKT1 inhibitor, specific to the Akt/PKB pathway, significantly reduced the expression of the survival proteins that was normally expressed endogenously. In addition, treatment of unsorted HCC cells with both anticancer drugs in vitro significantly enriched the CD133(+) subpopulation. In conclusion, our results show that CD133(+) HCC cells contribute to chemoresistance through preferential activation of Akt/PKB and Bcl-2 cell survival response. Targeting of this specific survival signaling pathway in CD133(+) HCC CSCs may provide a novel therapeutic model for the disease.
Cancer-associated fibroblasts (CAFs) comprise the majority of the tumor bulk of pancreatic ductal adenocarcinomas (PDACs). Current efforts to eradicate these tumors focus predominantly on targeting the proliferation of rapidly growing cancer epithelial cells. We know that this is largely ineffective with resistance arising in most tumors following exposure to chemotherapy. Despite the long-standing recognition of the prominence of CAFs in PDAC, the effect of chemotherapy on CAFs and how they may contribute to drug resistance in neighboring cancer cells is not well characterized. Here, we show that CAFs exposed to chemotherapy have an active role in regulating the survival and proliferation of cancer cells. We found that CAFs are intrinsically resistant to gemcitabine, the chemotherapeutic standard of care for PDAC. Further, CAFs exposed to gemcitabine significantly increase the release of extracellular vesicles called exosomes. These exosomes increased chemoresistance-inducing factor, Snail, in recipient epithelial cells and promote proliferation and drug resistance. Finally, treatment of gemcitabine-exposed CAFs with an inhibitor of exosome release, GW4869, significantly reduces survival in co-cultured epithelial cells, signifying an important role of CAF exosomes in chemotherapeutic drug resistance. Collectively, these findings show the potential for exosome inhibitors as treatment options alongside chemotherapy for overcoming PDAC chemoresistance.
D-type cyclins (D1, D2 and D3) and their associated cyclin-dependent kinases (CDK4 and CDK6) are components of the core cell cycle machinery that drives cell proliferation(1,2). Inhibitors of CDK4 and CDK6 are currently being tested in clinical trials for patients with several cancer types, with promising results(2). Here, using human cancer cells and patient-derived xenografts in mice, we show that the cyclin D3-CDK6 kinase phosphorylates and inhibits the catalytic activity of two key enzymes in the glycolytic pathway, 6-phosphofructokinase and pyruvate kinase M2. This re-directs the glycolytic intermediates into the pentose phosphate (PPP) and serine pathways. Inhibition of cyclin D3-CDK6 in tumour cells reduces flow through the PPP and serine pathways, thereby depleting the antioxidants NADPH and glutathione. This, in turn, increases the levels of reactive oxygen species and causes apoptosis of tumour cells. The pro-survival function of cyclin D-associated kinase operates in tumours expressing high levels of cyclin D3-CDK6 complexes. We propose that measuring the levels of cyclin D3-CDK6 in human cancers might help to identify tumour subsets that undergo cell death and tumour regression upon inhibition of CDK4 and CDK6. Cyclin D3-CDK6, through its ability to link cell cycle and cell metabolism, represents a particularly powerful oncoprotein that affects cancer cells at several levels, and this property can be exploited for anti-cancer therapy.
Objective: FTY720, a sphingosine-1-phosphate (S1P) receptor agonist that crosses the blood-brain barrier, is a potential immuno-therapy for multiple sclerosis. Our objective was to assess the effect of FTY720 on process extension, differentiation, and survival of human oligodendrocyte progenitor cells (OPCs), and link the functional effects with SIP receptor expression and signaling. Methods: Functional assays and receptor expression studies were conducted on A2B5+ OPCs derived from the human fetal central nervous system. Cells were treated with physiologically relevant concentrations of the active phosphorylated form of FTY720. S1P receptor/signaling modulators were used to elucidate the basis of the FTY720-induced functional responses. Results: Short-term (1 day) FTY720 treatment caused initial process retraction that was reversed by uncoupling S1P3 and 5 from their G protein using suramin, and with a Rho-kinase inhibitor H1152. Retraction was associated with RhoA-mediated cytoskeletal signaling and with inhibition of OPC differentiation into more mature phenotypes. Continued FTY720 treatment (2 days) induced process extension and enhanced cell survival associated with increased extracellular signal-regulated kinases 1 and 2 phosphorylation, mimicked with the S1P1-specific agonist SEW2871, but not reversed with suramin. Quantitative real-time polymerase chain reaction showed that FTY720 induced reciprocal and cyclic modulation of S1P1 and S1P5 messenger RNA levels. The observed initial downregulation of S1P5 and subsequently of S1P1 messenger RNA supports functional responses being mediated sequentially by S1P5- and later S1P1-associated signaling. Interpretation: FTY720 induces time-dependent modulation of S1P receptors on human OPCs with consequent functional responses that are directly relevant for the remyelination process.
Drug resistance invariably limits the clinical efficacy of targeted therapy with kinase inhibitors against cancer(1,2). Here we show that targeted therapy with BRAF, ALK or EGFR kinase inhibitors induces a complex network of secreted signals in drug-stressed human and mouse melanoma and human lung adenocarcinoma cells. This therapy-induced secretome stimulates the outgrowth, dissemination and metastasis of drug-resistant cancer cell clones and supports the survival of drug-sensitive cancer cells, contributing to incomplete tumour regression. The tumour-promoting secretome of melanoma cells treated with the kinase inhibitor vemurafenib is driven by down-regulation of the transcription factor FRA1. In situ transcriptome analysis of drug-resistant melanoma cells responding to the regressing tumour microenvironment revealed hyperactivation of several signalling pathways, most prominently the AKT pathway. Dual inhibition of RAF and the PI(3) K/AKT/mTOR intracellular signalling pathways blunted the outgrowth of the drug-resistant cell population in BRAF mutant human melanoma, suggesting this combination therapy as a strategy against tumour relapse. Thus, therapeutic inhibition of oncogenic drivers induces vast secretome changes in drug-sensitive cancer cells, paradoxically establishing a tumour microenvironment that supports the expansion of drug-resistant clones, but is susceptible to combination therapy.
The microenvironment, or niche, surrounding a stem cell largely governs its cellular fate. Two anatomical niches for hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs) have been reported in the bone marrow, but a distinct function for each of these niches remains unclear. Here we report a new role for the adhesion molecule E-selectin expressed exclusively by bone marrow endothelial cells in the vascular HSC niche. HSC quiescence was enhanced and self-renewal potential was increased in E-selectin knockout (Sele(-/-)) mice or after administration of an E-selectin antagonist, demonstrating that E-selectin promotes HSC proliferation and is a crucial component of the vascular niche. These effects are not mediated by canonical E-selectin ligands. Deletion or blockade of E-selectin enhances HSC survival threefold to sixfold after treatment of mice with chemotherapeutic agents or irradiation and accelerates blood neutrophil recovery. As bone marrow suppression is a severe side effect of high-dose chemotherapy, transient blockade of E-selectin is potentially a promising treatment for the protection of HSCs during chemotherapy or irradiation.
Although mechanisms of acquired resistance of epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR)-mutant non -small -cell lung cancers to EGFR inhibitors have been identified, little is known about how resistant clones evolve during drug therapy. Here we observe that acquired resistance caused by the EGFR(T79OM) gatekeeper mutation can occur either by selectiori of pre-existing EGFR(T79M)-positive clones or via genetic evolution of initially EGFR(T790M)-negative drug -tolerant cells. The path to resistance impacts the biology of the resistant clone, as those that evolved from drug -tolerant cells had a diminished apoptotic response to third generation EGFR inhibitors that target EGFR(T790M); treatment with navitoclax, an inhibitor of the anti-apoptotic factors BCL-xL and BCL-2 restored sensitivity. We corroborated these findings using cultures derived directly from EGFR inhibitor -resistant patient tumors. These findings provide evidence that clinically relevant drug -resistant cancer cells can both pre-exist and evolve from drug -tolerant cells, and they point to therapeutic opportunities to prevent or overcome resistance in the clinic.