bims-cagime Biomed News
on Cancer, aging and metabolism
Issue of 2021‒07‒04
thirty-one papers selected by
Kıvanç Görgülü
Technical University of Munich

  1. J Clin Med. 2021 Jun 19. pii: 2711. [Epub ahead of print]10(12):
      Pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC) is the most common form of pancreatic cancer and carries a dismal prognosis. Resectable patients are treated predominantly with surgery while borderline resectable patients may receive neoadjuvant treatment (NAT) to downstage their disease prior to possible resection. PDAC tissue is stiffer than healthy pancreas, and tissue stiffness is associated with cancer progression. Another feature of PDAC is increased tissue heterogeneity. We postulate that tumour stiffness and heterogeneity may be used alongside currently employed diagnostics to better predict prognosis and response to treatment. In this review we summarise the biomechanical changes observed in PDAC, explore the factors behind these changes and describe the clinical consequences. We identify methods available for assessing PDAC biomechanics ex vivo and in vivo, outlining the relative merits of each. Finally, we discuss the potential use of radiological imaging for prognostic use.
    Keywords:  biomechanics; elastography; endoscopic ultrasound; extracellular matrix (ECM); magnetic resonance elastography; neoadjuvant therapy; pancreatic cancer; pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC); tissue mechanics; tumour microenvironment
  2. Nat Commun. 2021 Jun 29. 12(1): 4019
      The vast majority of human tumors with p53 mutations undergo loss of the remaining wildtype p53 allele (loss-of-heterozygosity, p53LOH). p53LOH has watershed significance in promoting tumor progression. However, driving forces for p53LOH are poorly understood. Here we identify the repressive WTp53-HSF1 axis as one driver of p53LOH. We find that the WTp53 allele in AOM/DSS chemically-induced colorectal tumors (CRC) of p53R248Q/+ mice retains partial activity and represses heat-shock factor 1 (HSF1), the master regulator of the proteotoxic stress response (HSR) that is ubiquitously activated in cancer. HSR is critical for stabilizing oncogenic proteins including mutp53. WTp53-retaining CRC tumors, tumor-derived organoids and human CRC cells all suppress the tumor-promoting HSF1 program. Mechanistically, retained WTp53 activates CDKN1A/p21, causing cell cycle inhibition and suppression of E2F target MLK3. MLK3 links cell cycle with the MAPK stress pathway to activate the HSR response. In p53R248Q/+ tumors WTp53 activation by constitutive stress represses MLK3, thereby weakening the MAPK-HSF1 response necessary for tumor survival. This creates selection pressure for p53LOH which eliminates the repressive WTp53-MAPK-HSF1 axis and unleashes tumor-promoting HSF1 functions, inducing mutp53 stabilization enabling invasion.
  3. Cancers (Basel). 2021 Jun 22. pii: 3119. [Epub ahead of print]13(13):
      Tumor mutational burden (TMB) is a numeric index that expresses the number of mutations per megabase (muts/Mb) harbored by tumor cells in a neoplasm. TMB can be determined using different approaches based on next-generation sequencing. In the case of high values, it indicates a potential response to immunotherapy. In this systematic review, we assessed the potential predictive role of high-TMB in pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC), as well as the histo-molecular features of high-TMB PDAC. High-TMB appeared as a rare but not-negligible molecular feature in PDAC, being present in about 1.1% of cases. This genetic condition was closely associated with mucinous/colloid and medullary histology (p < 0.01). PDAC with high-TMB frequently harbored other actionable alterations, with microsatellite instability/defective mismatch repair as the most common. Immunotherapy has shown promising results in high-TMB PDAC, but the sample size of high-TMB PDAC treated so far is quite small. This study highlights interesting peculiarities of PDAC harboring high-TMB and may represent a reliable starting point for the assessment of TMB in the clinical management of patients affected by pancreatic cancer.
    Keywords:  PD-1; PD-L1; TMB; TML; immunotherapy; pancreatic cancer; tumor mutation burden
  4. Metabolites. 2021 Jun 17. pii: 394. [Epub ahead of print]11(6):
      Studies in humans and model systems have established an important role of short telomeres in predisposing to liver fibrosis through pathways that are incompletely understood. Recent studies have shown that telomere dysfunction impairs cellular metabolism, but whether and how these metabolic alterations contribute to liver fibrosis is not well understood. Here, we investigated whether short telomeres change the hepatic response to metabolic stress induced by fructose, a sugar that is highly implicated in non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. We find that telomere shortening in telomerase knockout mice (TKO) imparts a pronounced susceptibility to fructose as reflected in the activation of p53, increased apoptosis, and senescence, despite lower hepatic fat accumulation in TKO mice compared to wild type mice with long telomeres. The decreased fat accumulation in TKO is mediated by p53 and deletion of p53 normalizes hepatic fat content but also causes polyploidy, polynuclearization, dysplasia, cell death, and liver damage. Together, these studies suggest that liver tissue with short telomers are highly susceptible to fructose and respond with p53 activation and liver damage that is further exacerbated when p53 is lost resulting in dysplastic changes.
    Keywords:  fructose; liver fibrosis; p53; telomeres; triglyceride
  5. Autophagy. 2021 Jun 28. 1-3
      Macroautophagy/autophagy can selectively degrade misfolded proteins, damaged organelles and other cargoes. It is conceivable that alteration of the degradation processes could disrupt normal cellular signaling and contribute to human diseases such as cancer. To explore the link between aberrant autophagy selectivity and human cancer, we have developed a pipeline called "inference of cancer-associated LC3-interacting region-containing proteins" (iCAL), which integrates a sequence-based predictor, a model-based computational method, publicly available cancer mutations, and multiple experimental approaches. Using iCAL, we have identified 222 LIR motif-associated mutations (LAMs) in 148 LIR-containing proteins (LIRCPs), and validated that LAMs in ATG4B, STBD1, EHMT2 and BRAF impair their interactions with LC3 and/or autophagy activities. Moreover, we uncovered that STBD1, a previously poorly-characterized protein, inhibits tumor growth via metabolism reprogramming in cancer cells. A patient-derived mutation in STBD1 (W203C) disrupts the interaction with LC3 and promotes tumor growth. Taken together, iCAL provides an exciting new avenue to discover novel autophagy pathways that contribute to carcinogenesis.
    Keywords:  Autophagy; LIR; STBD1; cancer; cancer mutation; glycophagy; selective autophagy
  6. Nat Genet. 2021 Jul 01.
      Central to tumor evolution is the generation of genetic diversity. However, the extent and patterns by which de novo karyotype alterations emerge and propagate within human tumors are not well understood, especially at single-cell resolution. Here, we present 3D Live-Seq-a protocol that integrates live-cell imaging of tumor organoid outgrowth and whole-genome sequencing of each imaged cell to reconstruct evolving tumor cell karyotypes across consecutive cell generations. Using patient-derived colorectal cancer organoids and fresh tumor biopsies, we demonstrate that karyotype alterations of varying complexity are prevalent and can arise within a few cell generations. Sub-chromosomal acentric fragments were prone to replication and collective missegregation across consecutive cell divisions. In contrast, gross genome-wide karyotype alterations were generated in a single erroneous cell division, providing support that aneuploid tumor genomes can evolve via punctuated evolution. Mapping the temporal dynamics and patterns of karyotype diversification in cancer enables reconstructions of evolutionary paths to malignant fitness.
  7. Cell Rep. 2021 Jun 29. pii: S2211-1247(21)00697-5. [Epub ahead of print]35(13): 109321
      The major cap-binding protein eukaryotic translation initiation factor 4E (eIF4E), an ancient protein required for translation of all eukaryotic genomes, is a surprising yet potent oncogenic driver. The genetic interactions that maintain the oncogenic activity of this key translation factor remain unknown. In this study, we carry out a genome-wide CRISPRi screen wherein we identify more than 600 genetic interactions that sustain eIF4E oncogenic activity. Our data show that eIF4E controls the translation of Tfeb, a key executer of the autophagy response. This autophagy survival response is triggered by mitochondrial proteotoxic stress, which allows cancer cell survival. Our screen also reveals a functional interaction between eIF4E and a single anti-apoptotic factor, Bcl-xL, in tumor growth. Furthermore, we show that eIF4E and the exon-junction complex (EJC), which is involved in many steps of RNA metabolism, interact to control the migratory properties of cancer cells. Overall, we uncover several cancer-specific vulnerabilities that provide further resolution of the cancer translatome.
    Keywords:  Bcl-xL; CRISPRi; EJC; Tfeb; UPR(mt)-like stress response; autophagy; cancer; eIF4E; mitochondria; translation control
  8. Cell Mol Life Sci. 2021 Jul 01.
      Cancer cachexia afflicts many advanced cancer patients with many progressing to death. While there have been many advancements in understanding the molecular mechanisms that contribute to the development of cancer cachexia, substantial gaps still exist. Chemotherapy drugs often target ribosome biogenesis to slow or blunt tumor cell growth and proliferation. Some of the most frequent side-effects of chemotherapy are loss of skeletal muscle mass, muscular strength and an increase in fatigue. Given that ribosome biogenesis has emerged as a main mechanism regulating muscle hypertrophy, and more recently, also implicated in muscle atrophy, we propose that some chemotherapy drugs can cause further muscle wasting via its effect on skeletal muscle cells. Many chemotherapy drugs, including the most prescribed drugs such as doxorubicin and cisplatin, affect ribosomal DNA transcription, or other pathways related to ribosome biogenesis. Furthermore, middle-aged and older individuals are the most affected population with cancer, and advanced cancer patients often show reduced levels of physical inactivity. Thus, aging and inactivity can themselves affect muscle ribosome biogenesis, which can further worsen the effect of chemotherapy on skeletal muscle ribosome biogenesis and, ultimately, muscle mass and function. We propose that chemotherapy can accelerate the onset or worsen cancer cachexia via its inhibitory effects on skeletal muscle ribosome biogenesis. We end our review by providing recommendations that could be used to ameliorate the negative effects of chemotherapy on skeletal muscle ribosome biogenesis.
    Keywords:  Cachexia; Protein synthesis; Ribophagy; Ribosome biogenesis; Skeletal muscle
  9. Front Oncol. 2021 ;11 642603
      Missense p53 mutations (mutp53) occur in approx. 70% of pancreatic ductal adenocarcinomas (PDAC). Typically, mutp53 proteins are aberrantly stabilized by Hsp90/Hsp70/Hsp40 chaperone complexes. Notably, stabilization is a precondition for specific mutp53 alleles to acquire powerful neomorphic oncogenic gain-of-functions (GOFs) that promote tumor progression in solid cancers mainly by increasing invasion and metastasis. In colorectal cancer (CRC), we recently established that the common hotspot mutants mutp53R248Q and mutp53R248W exert GOF activities by constitutively binding to and hyperactivating STAT3. This results in increased proliferation and invasion in an autochthonous CRC mouse model and correlates with poor survival in patients. Comparing a panel of p53 missense mutations in a series of homozygous human PDAC cell lines, we show here that, similar to CRC, the mutp53R248W protein again undergoes a strong Hsp90-mediated stabilization and selectively promotes migration. Highly stabilized mutp53 is degradable by the Hsp90 inhibitors Onalespib and Ganetespib, and correlates with growth suppression, possibly suggesting therapeutic vulnerabilities to target GOF mutp53 proteins in PDAC. In response to mutp53 depletion, only mutp53R248W harboring PDAC cells show STAT3 de-phosphorylation and reduced migration, again suggesting an allele-specific GOF in this cancer entity, similar to CRC. Moreover, mutp53R248W also exhibits the strongest constitutive complex formation with phosphorylated STAT3. The selective mutp53R248W GOF signals through enhancing the STAT3 axis, which was confirmed since targeting STAT3 by knockdown or pharmacological inhibition phenocopied mutp53 depletion and reduced cell viability and migration preferentially in mutp53R248W-containing PDAC cells. Our results confirm that mutp53 GOF activities are allele specific and can span across tumor entities.
    Keywords:  GOF; Hsp90; PDAC; STAT3; missense p53 mutant; mutant p53; selectivity; specificity
  10. Nat Commun. 2021 06 10. 12(1): 3516
      Profiling studies have revealed considerable phenotypic heterogeneity in cancer-associated fibroblasts (CAFs) present within the tumour microenvironment, however, functional characterisation of different CAF subsets is hampered by the lack of specific markers defining these populations. Here we show that genetic deletion of the Endo180 (MRC2) receptor, predominantly expressed by a population of matrix-remodelling CAFs, profoundly limits tumour growth and metastasis; effects that can be recapitulated in 3D co-culture assays. This impairment results from a CAF-intrinsic contractility defect and reduced CAF viability, which coupled with the lack of phenotype in the normal mouse, demonstrates that upregulated Endo180 expression by a specific, potentially targetable CAF subset is required to generate a supportive tumour microenvironment. Further, characterisation of a tumour subline selected via serial in vivo passage for its ability to overcome these stromal defects provides important insight into, how tumour cells adapt to a non-activated stroma in the early stages of metastatic colonisation.
  11. JCSM Rapid Commun. 2021 Jan-Jun;4(1):4(1): 40-56
      Background: During cancer cachexia, cytokines released from tumour cells can alter body's metabolism, which can lead to onset of this disease process. Biological basis of cachexia is multifactorial; hence, it is important to identify and modulate multiple targets to curtail the process of cachexia. Previously, we reported that the nuclear sirtuin, SIRT6, blocks expression of myostatin, a negative regulator of muscle growth, through modulation of the NF-κB signalling. This study was undertaken to test whether muscle-specific over-expression of SIRT6 can block the cancer-associated muscle wasting in vivo and to identify additional relevant targets of SIRT6, which can explain its ability to maintain muscle health.Methods: We generated a skeletal muscle-specific SIRT6 over-expressing transgenic mouse line (Sk.T6Tg) expressing SIRT6 at a moderate (two-fold to four-fold) level, compared with its control littermates. To generate a cancer-cachexia model, B16F10 mouse melanoma cells were injected subcutaneously in the flanks of mice. Gastrocnemius muscle tissues from non-tumour and tumour controls and Sk.T6Tg mice (n = 5-20) were analysed by histology, immunoblotting, and RT-qPCR. Plasma samples of mice were evaluated using cytokine arrays and ELISA in both non-tumour and tumour conditions.
    Results: Our results demonstrate dual benefits of muscle-specific moderate over-expression of SIRT6 in a mouse model of cancer-cachexia. In tumour-bearing mice, SIRT6 over-expression preserved muscle weight (P < 0.001) and fibre size (P < 0.005) as well as suppressed tumour growth (P < 0.05). SIRT6 over-expression significantly reduced myostatin expression and plasma free fatty acids levels but maintained plasma insulin levels in tumour-bearing mice. These positive effects of SIRT6 were associated with downregulation of the circulatory chemokine, CXCL10, and the myokine, WNT4. SIRT6 also upregulated expression of GLUT4, the major glucose transporter in the skeletal muscle. These results for the first time demonstrate that SIRT6 regulates multiple targets to limit tumour growth and cancer-associated muscle atrophy.
    Conclusion: Given the multifactorial nature of cachexia, SIRT6, which concurrently controls multiple pathways, can be a valuable therapeutic target to overcome this debilitating syndrome.
    Keywords:  Cachexia; Muscle wasting; SIRT6; Sirtuins; Skeletal muscle
  12. Nat Metab. 2021 Jul 01.
      Altered metabolic activity contributes to the pathogenesis of a number of diseases, including diabetes, heart failure, cancer, fibrosis and neurodegeneration. These diseases, and organismal metabolism more generally, are only partially recapitulated by cell culture models. Accordingly, it is important to measure metabolism in vivo. Over the past century, researchers studying glucose homeostasis have developed strategies for the measurement of tissue-specific and whole-body metabolic activity (pathway fluxes). The power of these strategies has been augmented by recent advances in metabolomics technologies. Here, we review techniques for measuring metabolic fluxes in intact mammals and discuss how to analyse and interpret the results. In tandem, we describe important findings from these techniques, and suggest promising avenues for their future application. Given the broad importance of metabolism to health and disease, more widespread application of these methods holds the potential to accelerate biomedical progress.
  13. Science. 2021 07 02. pii: eabe9383. [Epub ahead of print]373(6550):
      The mechanisms by which macrophages regulate energy storage remain poorly understood. We identify in a genetic screen a platelet-derived growth factor (PDGF)/vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF)-family ortholog, Pvf3, that is produced by macrophages and is required for lipid storage in fat-body cells of Drosophila larvae. Genetic and pharmacological experiments indicate that the mouse Pvf3 ortholog PDGFcc, produced by adipose tissue-resident macrophages, controls lipid storage in adipocytes in a leptin receptor- and C-C chemokine receptor type 2-independent manner. PDGFcc production is regulated by diet and acts in a paracrine manner to control lipid storage in adipose tissues of newborn and adult mice. At the organismal level upon PDGFcc blockade, excess lipids are redirected toward thermogenesis in brown fat. These data identify a macrophage-dependent mechanism, conducive to the design of pharmacological interventions, that controls energy storage in metazoans.
  14. Sci Adv. 2021 Jul;pii: eabg1969. [Epub ahead of print]7(27):
      The plasma membrane shapes and protects the eukaryotic cell from its surroundings and is crucial for cell life. Although initial repair mechanisms to reseal injured membranes are well established, less is known about how cells restructure damaged membranes in the aftermath to restore homeostasis. Here, we show that cells respond to plasma membrane injury by activating proteins associated with macropinocytosis specifically at the damaged membrane. Subsequent to membrane resealing, cells form large macropinosomes originating from the repair site, which eventually become positive for autophagy-related LC3B protein. This process occurs independent of ULK1, ATG13, and WIPI2 but dependent on ATG7, p62, and Rubicon. Internalized macropinosomes shrink in the cytoplasm, likely by osmotic draining, and eventually fuse with lysosomes. We propose that a form of macropinocytosis coupled to noncanonical autophagy, which we term LC3-associated macropinocytosis (LAM) functions to remove damaged material from the plasma membrane and restore membrane integrity upon injury.
  15. Cell Rep. 2021 Jun 29. pii: S2211-1247(21)00662-8. [Epub ahead of print]35(13): 109291
      To identify therapeutic targets for KRAS mutant pancreatic cancer, we conduct a druggable genome small interfering RNA (siRNA) screen and determine that suppression of BCAR1 sensitizes pancreatic cancer cells to ERK inhibition. Integrative analysis of genome-scale CRISPR-Cas9 screens also identify BCAR1 as a top synthetic lethal interactor with mutant KRAS. BCAR1 encodes the SRC substrate p130Cas. We determine that SRC-inhibitor-mediated suppression of p130Cas phosphorylation impairs MYC transcription through a DOCK1-RAC1-β-catenin-dependent mechanism. Additionally, genetic suppression of TUBB3, encoding the βIII-tubulin subunit of microtubules, or pharmacological inhibition of microtubule function decreases levels of MYC protein in a calpain-dependent manner and potently sensitizes pancreatic cancer cells to ERK inhibition. Accordingly, the combination of a dual SRC/tubulin inhibitor with an ERK inhibitor cooperates to reduce MYC protein and synergistically suppress the growth of KRAS mutant pancreatic cancer. Thus, we demonstrate that mechanistically diverse combinations with ERK inhibition suppress MYC to impair pancreatic cancer proliferation.
    Keywords:  BCAR1; ERK; KRAS; MYC; TUBB3; calpain; microtubules; p130Cas; pancreatic cancer; β-catenin
  16. Cells. 2021 Jun 05. pii: 1393. [Epub ahead of print]10(6):
      Cancer cells exhibit common hallmarks consisting of specific competencies acquired during the tumorigenesis process, including stimulation of cancer cell proliferation, insensitivity to growth signal inhibition, apoptosis evasion, enhancement of replicative potential, induction of angiogenesis, and tissue invasion and metastasis [...].
  17. Redox Biol. 2021 Jun 17. pii: S2213-2317(21)00206-8. [Epub ahead of print]45 102047
      The contribution of the Ubiquitin-Proteasome System (UPS) to mitophagy has been largely attributed to the E3 ubiquitin ligase Parkin. Here we show that in response to the oxidative stress associated with hypoxia or the hypoxia mimic CoCl2, the damaged and fragmented mitochondria are removed by Parkin-independent mitophagy. Mitochondria isolated from hypoxia or CoCl2-treated cells exhibited extensive ubiquitination, predominantly Lysine 48-linked and involves the degradation of key mitochondrial proteins such as the mitofusins MFN1/2, or the import channel component TOM20. Reflecting the critical role of mitochondrial protein degradation, proteasome inhibition blocked CoCl2-induced mitophagy. The five conserved ubiquitin-binding autophagy receptors (p62, NDP52, Optineurin, NBR1, TAX1BP1) were dispensable for the ensuing mitophagy, suggesting that the mitophagy step itself was independent of ubiquitination. Instead, the expression of two ubiquitin-independent mitophagy receptor proteins BNIP3 and NIX was induced by hypoxia or CoCl2-treatment followed by their recruitment to the oxidation-damaged mitochondria. By employing BNIP3/NIX double knockout and DRP1-null cell lines, we confirmed that mitochondrial clearance relies on DRP1-dependent mitochondrial fragmentation and BNIP3/NIX-mediated mitophagy. General antioxidants such as N-Acetyl Cysteine (NAC) or the mitochondria-specific Mitoquinone prevented HIF-1α stabilization, ameliorated hypoxia-related mitochondrial oxidative stress, and suppressed mitophagy. We conclude that the UPS and receptor-mediated autophagy converge to eliminate oxidation-damaged mitochondria.
    Keywords:  HIF-1α; Hypoxia; Mitochondria; Mitophagy; Oxidative stress; Proteasome; Ubiquitin
  18. Mol Biol Cell. 2021 Jun 30. mbcE21030104
      Aneuploid yeast cells are in a chronic state of proteotoxicity yet do not constitutively induce the cytosolic unfolded protein response (HSR) by Heat shock factor 1 (Hsf1). Here, we demonstrate that an active environmental stress response (ESR), a hallmark of aneuploidy across different models, suppresses Hsf1 induction in models of single chromosome gain. Furthermore, engineered activation of the ESR in the absence of stress was sufficient to suppress Hsf1 activation in euploid cells by subsequent heat shock while increasing thermotolerance and blocking formation of heat-induced protein aggregates. Suppression of the ESR in aneuploid cells resulted in longer cell doubling times and decreased viability in the presence of additional proteotoxicity. Lastly, we show that in euploids Hsf1 induction by heat shock is curbed by the ESR. Strikingly, we found a similar relationship between the ESR and the HSR using an inducible model of aneuploidy. Our work explains a long-standing paradox in the field and provides new insights into conserved mechanisms of proteostasis with potential relevance to cancers associated with aneuploidy.
  19. Elife. 2021 Jul 01. pii: e69099. [Epub ahead of print]10
      The voltage-gated potassium channel Kv1.3 plays an apparent dual physiological role by participating in activation and proliferation of leukocytes as well as promoting apoptosis in several types of tumor cells. Therefore, Kv1.3 is considered a potential pharmacological target for immunodeficiency and cancer. Different cellular locations of Kv1.3, at the plasma membrane or the mitochondria, could be responsible for such duality. While plasma membrane Kv1.3 facilitates proliferation, the mitochondrial channel modulates apoptotic signaling. Several molecular determinants of Kv1.3 drive the channel to the cell surface, but no information is available about its mitochondrial targeting. Caveolins, which are able to modulate cell survival, participate in the plasma membrane targeting of Kv1.3. The channel, via a caveolin-binding domain (CDB), associates with caveolin 1 (Cav1), which localizes Kv1.3 to lipid raft membrane microdomains. The aim of our study was to understand the role of such interactions not only for channel targeting but also for cell survival in mammalian cells. By using a caveolin association-deficient channel (Kv1.3 CDBless), we demonstrate here that while the Kv1.3-Cav1 interaction is responsible for the channel localization in the plasma membrane, a lack of such interaction accumulates Kv1.3 in the mitochondria. Kv1.3 CDBless severely affects mitochondrial physiology and cell survival, indicating that a functional link of Kv1.3 with Cav1 within the mitochondria modulates the pro-apoptotic effects of the channel. Therefore, the balance exerted by these two complementary mechanisms fine-tune the physiological role of Kv1.3 during cell survival or apoptosis. Our data highlight an unexpected role for the mitochondrial caveolin-Kv1.3 axis during cell survival and apoptosis.
    Keywords:  apoptosis; cancer biology; cell biology; human; ion channels; leukocytes; mouse; xenopus
  20. Cancers (Basel). 2021 Jun 23. pii: 3145. [Epub ahead of print]13(13):
      To assess the role of telomerase activity and telomere length in pancreatic CSCs we used different CSC enrichment methods (CD133, ALDH, sphere formation) in primary patient-derived pancreatic cancer cells. We show that CSCs have higher telomerase activity and longer telomeres than bulk tumor cells. Inhibition of telomerase activity, using genetic knockdown or pharmacological inhibitor (BIBR1532), resulted in CSC marker depletion, abrogation of sphere formation in vitro and reduced tumorigenicity in vivo. Furthermore, we identify a positive feedback loop between stemness factors (NANOG, OCT3/4, SOX2, KLF4) and telomerase, which is essential for the self-renewal of CSCs. Disruption of the balance between telomerase activity and stemness factors eliminates CSCs via induction of DNA damage and apoptosis in primary patient-derived pancreatic cancer samples, opening future perspectives to avoid CSC-driven tumor relapse. In the present study, we demonstrate that telomerase regulation is critical for the "stemness" maintenance in pancreatic CSCs and examine the effects of telomerase inhibition as a potential treatment option of pancreatic cancer. This may significantly promote our understanding of PDAC tumor biology and may result in improved treatment for pancreatic cancer patients.
    Keywords:  cancer stem cells; pancreatic cancer; self-renewal; stemness; telomerase; telomere length
  21. Sci Adv. 2021 Jul;pii: eabf9394. [Epub ahead of print]7(27):
      Targeting of the most aggressive tumor cell subpopulations is key for effective management of most solid malignancies. However, the metastable nature of tumor heterogeneity, which allows cells to transition between strong and weak tumorigenic phenotypes, and the lack of reliable markers of tumor-promoting properties hamper identification of the most relevant cells. To overcome these obstacles, we designed a functional microRNA (miR)-based live-cell reporter assay to identify highly tumorigenic cells in xenotransplants of primary Ewing sarcoma (EwS) 3D cultures. Leveraging the inverse relationship between cell pluripotency and miR-145 expression, we successfully separated highly tumorigenic, metastasis-prone (miR-145low) cells from poorly tumorigenic, nonmetastatic (miR-145high) counterparts. Gene expression and functional studies of the two cell populations identified the EPHB2 receptor as a prognostic biomarker in patients with EwS and a major promoter of metastasis. Our study provides a simple and powerful means to identify and isolate tumor cells that display aggressive behavior.
  22. Aging Cell. 2021 Jun 29. e13426
      Cellular senescence plays an important role in different biological and pathological conditions. Senescent cells communicate with their microenvironment through a plethora of soluble factors, metalloproteases and extracellular vesicles (EV). Although much is known about the role that soluble factors play in senescence, the downstream signalling pathways activated by EV in senescence is unknown. To address this, we performed a small molecule inhibitor screen and have identified the IκB kinases IKKε, IKKα and IKKβ as essential for senescence mediated by EV (evSASP). By using pharmacological inhibitors of IKKε, IKKα and IKKβ, in addition to CRISPR/Cas9 targeting their respective genes, we find these pathways are important in mediating senescence. In addition, we find that senescence activation is dependent on canonical NF-κB transcription factors where siRNA targeting p65 prevent senescence. Importantly, these IKK pathways are also relevant to ageing as knockout of IKKA, IKKB and IKKE avoid the activation of senescence. Altogether, these findings open a new potential line of investigation in the field of senescence by targeting the negative effects of the evSASP independent of particular EV contents.
    Keywords:  IκB kinase (IKK); NF-κB; SASP; ageing; extracellular vesicles (EV); senescence
  23. Adv Ther. 2021 Jun 26.
      INTRODUCTION: Pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC) is one of the most lethal malignancies. Larger tumor size is widely acknowledged to be associated with increased lymph node (LN) metastatic potential. However, the quantitative relationships between tumor size and LN metastasis or survival remain unclear. This study aims to quantify the objective relationship between tumor size and the prevalence of LN metastases across a spectrum primary tumor size.METHODS: The Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER) database was used to identify 9958 patients with resected PDAC without distant metastasis. The prevalence of LN metastases, LN ratio (LNR), and N2/N1 ratio were assessed amongst different tumor sizes, and the relationships were displayed by matched curves.
    RESULTS: In the enrolled cohort, age, tumor site, grade, American Joint Committee on Cancer (AJCC) 8th node staging, tumor size, chemotherapy, and radiotherapy were identified as significant independent predictors for overall survival (OS) and cancer-specific survival (CSS). For tumors within 1-40 mm in size, the prevalence of node-positive disease is closely modelled using a logarithmic formula [0.249 × ln (size) + 0.452] × 100%. The prevalence plateaued between 70% and 80% beyond 40 mm. The mean LNR increased in a stepwise manner as tumor size increased from 1-5 mm (LNR = 0.024) to 41-45 mm (LNR = 0.177); then, beyond 45 mm, it plateaued near 0.170. N2/N1 ratio gradually increased along with tumor size from 1-5 mm (N2/N1 = 0.286) to 41-45 mm (N2/N1 = 1.016), and when tumor size reached to 41-45 mm or more, the ratio stabilized around 1.000. In addition, significant survival prediction by AJCC N staging was observed when tumors ranging between 16 and 45 mm in size.
    CONCLUSION: Regional LN involvement demonstrated a logarithmic growth with increasing tumor sizes in patients with resected PDAC . The probability of metastasis in each regional LN for resected PDAC with tumors greater than 40 mm in size was near 17.0% and their overall prevalence of LN metastasis was 70-80%. Among which, 50% of patients had an N2 stage. Such prediction may be a potential and promising tool for guiding lymphadenectomy in PDAC surgery.
    Keywords:  Lymph node; Matched curve; Pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma; Pancreatic neoplasms; Survival; Tumor size
  24. iScience. 2021 Jul 23. 24(7): 102697
      Redox couples coordinate cellular function, but the consequences of their imbalances are unclear. This is somewhat associated with the limitations of their experimental quantification. Here we circumvent these difficulties by presenting an approach that characterizes fitness-based tolerance profiles to redox couple imbalances using an in silico representation of metabolism. Focusing on the NADH/NAD+ redox couple in yeast, we demonstrate that reductive disequilibria generate metabolic syndromes comparable to those observed in cancer cells. The tolerance of yeast mutants to redox disequilibrium can also explain 30% of the variability in their experimentally measured chronological lifespan. Moreover, by predicting the significance of some metabolites to help stand imbalances, we correctly identify nutrients underlying mechanisms of pathology, lifespan-protecting molecules, or caloric restriction mimetics. Tolerance to redox imbalances becomes, in this way, a sound framework to recognize properties of the aging phenotype while providing a consistent biological rationale to assess anti-aging interventions.
    Keywords:  In silico biology; Metabolic flux analysis; Microbial metabolism; Systems biology
  25. Int J Mol Sci. 2021 Jun 08. pii: 6173. [Epub ahead of print]22(12):
      Cancer is a disorder of cell growth and proliferation, characterized by different metabolic pathways within normal cells. The Warburg effect is a major metabolic process in cancer cells that affects the cellular responses, such as proliferation and apoptosis. Various signaling factors down/upregulate factors of the glycolysis pathway in cancer cells, and these signaling factors are ubiquitinated/deubiquitinated via the ubiquitin-proteasome system (UPS). Depending on the target protein, DUBs act as both an oncoprotein and a tumor suppressor. Since the degradation of tumor suppressors and stabilization of oncoproteins by either negative regulation by E3 ligases or positive regulation of DUBs, respectively, promote tumorigenesis, it is necessary to suppress these DUBs by applying appropriate inhibitors or small molecules. Therefore, we propose that the DUBs and their inhibitors related to the Warburg effect are potential anticancer targets.
    Keywords:  anaerobic glycolysis; anticancer; hypoxia; small molecules; ubiquitin–proteasome system (UPS)
  26. Sci Signal. 2021 Jan 19. pii: eaaz4382. [Epub ahead of print]14(666):
      Cells receive a wide range of dynamic signaling inputs during immune regulation, but how gene regulatory networks measure such dynamic inputs is not well understood. Here, we used microfluidic single-cell analysis and mathematical modeling to study how the NF-κB pathway responds to immune inputs that vary over time such as increasing, decreasing, or fluctuating cytokine signals. We found that NF-κB activity responded to the absolute difference in cytokine concentration and not to the concentration itself. Our analyses revealed that negative feedback by the regulatory proteins A20 and IκBα enabled differential responses to changes in cytokine dose by providing a short-term memory of previous cytokine concentrations and by continuously resetting kinase cycling and receptor abundance. Investigation of NF-κB target gene expression showed that cells exhibited distinct transcriptional responses under different dynamic cytokine profiles. Our results demonstrate how cells use simple network motifs and transcription factor dynamics to efficiently extract information from complex signaling environments.
  27. Semin Cancer Biol. 2021 Jun 24. pii: S1044-579X(21)00189-9. [Epub ahead of print]
      Precision diagnostics is one of the two pillars of precision medicine. Sequencing efforts in the past decade have firmly established cancer as a primarily genetically driven disease. This concept is supported by therapeutic successes aimed at particular pathways that are perturbed by specific driver mutations in protein-coding domains and reflected in three recent FDA tissue agnostic cancer drug approvals. In addition, there is increasing evidence from studies that interrogate the entire genome by whole-genome sequencing that acquired global and complex genomic aberrations including those in non-coding regions of the genome might also reflect clinical outcome. After addressing technical, logistical, financial and ethical challenges, national initiatives now aim to introduce clinical whole-genome sequencing into real-world diagnostics as a rational and potentially cost-effective tool for response prediction in cancer and to identify patients who would benefit most from 'expensive' targeted therapies and recruitment into clinical trials. However, so far, this has not been accompanied by a systematic and prospective evaluation of the clinical utility of whole-genome sequencing within clinical trials of uniformly treated patients of defined clinical outcome. This approach would also greatly facilitate novel predictive biomarker discovery and validation, ultimately reducing size and duration of clinical trials and cost of drug development. This manuscript is the third in a series of three to review and critically appraise the potential and challenges of clinical whole-genome sequencing in solid tumors and hematological malignancies.
    Keywords:  clinical utility; genomics; precision cancer medicine; risk stratification; whole-genome sequencing
  28. Int J Mol Sci. 2021 Jun 07. pii: 6161. [Epub ahead of print]22(11):
      The interaction of tumor cells with blood vessels is one of the key steps during cancer metastasis. Metastatic cancer cells exhibit phenotypic state changes during this interaction: (1) they form tunneling nanotubes (TNTs) with endothelial cells, which act as a conduit for intercellular communication; and (2) metastatic cancer cells change in order to acquire an elongated phenotype, instead of the classical cellular aggregates or mammosphere-like structures, which it forms in three-dimensional cultures. Here, we demonstrate mechanistically that a siRNA-based knockdown of the exocyst complex protein Sec3 inhibits TNT formation. Furthermore, a set of pharmacological inhibitors for Rho GTPase-exocyst complex-mediated cytoskeletal remodeling is introduced, which inhibits TNT formation, and induces the reversal of the more invasive phenotype of cancer cell (spindle-like) into a less invasive phenotype (cellular aggregates or mammosphere). Our results offer mechanistic insights into this nanoscale communication and shift of phenotypic state during cancer-endothelial interactions.
    Keywords:  3D culture; RhoGTPase inhibitor; actin remodeling; cellular aggregates; exocyst complex; mammosphere; metastasis; phenotypic plasticity; tunneling nanotube (TNT)
  29. Sci Immunol. 2021 Jul 02. pii: eabi7083. [Epub ahead of print]6(61):
      Immunotherapy is revolutionizing cancer treatment but is often restricted by toxicities. What distinguishes adverse events from concomitant antitumor reactions is poorly understood. Here, using anti-CD40 treatment in mice as a model of TH1-promoting immunotherapy, we showed that liver macrophages promoted local immune-related adverse events. Mechanistically, tissue-resident Kupffer cells mediated liver toxicity by sensing lymphocyte-derived IFN-γ and subsequently producing IL-12. Conversely, dendritic cells were dispensable for toxicity but drove tumor control. IL-12 and IFN-γ were not toxic themselves but prompted a neutrophil response that determined the severity of tissue damage. We observed activation of similar inflammatory pathways after anti-PD-1 and anti-CTLA-4 immunotherapies in mice and humans. These findings implicated macrophages and neutrophils as mediators and effectors of aberrant inflammation in TH1-promoting immunotherapy, suggesting distinct mechanisms of toxicity and antitumor immunity.
  30. Nature. 2021 Jul;595(7865): 58-65
      The natural world provides many examples of multiphase transport and reaction processes that have been optimized by evolution. These phenomena take place at multiple length and time scales and typically include gas-liquid-solid interfaces and capillary phenomena in porous media1,2. Many biological and living systems have evolved to optimize fluidic transport. However, living things are exceptionally complex and very difficult to replicate3-5, and human-made microfluidic devices (which are typically planar and enclosed) are highly limited for multiphase process engineering6-8. Here we introduce the concept of cellular fluidics: a platform of unit-cell-based, three-dimensional structures-enabled by emerging 3D printing methods9,10-for the deterministic control of multiphase flow, transport and reaction processes. We show that flow in these structures can be 'programmed' through architected design of cell type, size and relative density. We demonstrate gas-liquid transport processes such as transpiration and absorption, using evaporative cooling and CO2 capture as examples. We design and demonstrate preferential liquid and gas transport pathways in three-dimensional cellular fluidic devices with capillary-driven and actively pumped liquid flow, and present examples of selective metallization of pre-programmed patterns. Our results show that the design and fabrication of architected cellular materials, coupled with analytical and numerical predictions of steady-state and dynamic behaviour of multiphase interfaces, provide deterministic control of fluidic transport in three dimensions. Cellular fluidics may transform the design space for spatial and temporal control of multiphase transport and reaction processes.