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Open access

K E Lines, P Filippakopoulos, M Stevenson, S Müller, H E Lockstone, B Wright, S Knapp, D Buck, C Bountra, and R V Thakker

Medical treatments for corticotrophinomas are limited, and we therefore investigated the effects of epigenetic modulators, a new class of anti-tumour drugs, on the murine adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH)-secreting corticotrophinoma cell line AtT20. We found that AtT20 cells express members of the bromo and extra-terminal (BET) protein family, which bind acetylated histones, and therefore, studied the anti-proliferative and pro-apoptotic effects of two BET inhibitors, referred to as (+)-JQ1 (JQ1) and PFI-1, using CellTiter Blue and Caspase Glo assays, respectively. JQ1 and PFI-1 significantly decreased proliferation by 95% (P < 0.0005) and 43% (P < 0.0005), respectively, but only JQ1 significantly increased apoptosis by >50-fold (P < 0.0005), when compared to untreated control cells. The anti-proliferative effects of JQ1 and PFI-1 remained for 96 h after removal of the respective compound. JQ1, but not PFI-1, affected the cell cycle, as assessed by propidium iodide staining and flow cytometry, and resulted in a higher number of AtT20 cells in the sub G1 phase. RNA-sequence analysis, which was confirmed by qRT-PCR and Western blot analyses, revealed that JQ1 treatment significantly altered expression of genes involved in apoptosis, such as NFκB, and the somatostatin receptor 2 (SSTR2) anti-proliferative signalling pathway, including SSTR2. JQ1 treatment also significantly reduced transcription and protein expression of the ACTH precursor pro-opiomelanocortin (POMC) and ACTH secretion by AtT20 cells. Thus, JQ1 treatment has anti-proliferative and pro-apoptotic effects on AtT20 cells and reduces ACTH secretion, thereby indicating that BET inhibition may provide a novel approach for treatment of corticotrophinomas.

Open access

Paula Sommer, Rachel L Cowen, Andrew Berry, Ann Cookson, Brian A Telfer, Kaye J Williams, Ian J Stratford, Paul Kay, Anne White, and David W Ray

Small cell lung cancer (SCLC) is an aggressive tumor, associated with ectopic ACTH syndrome. We have shown that SCLC cells are glucocorticoid receptor (GR) deficient, and that restoration of GR expression confers glucocorticoid sensitivity and induces apoptosis in vitro. To determine the effects of GR expression in vivo, we characterized a mouse SCLC xenograft model that secretes ACTH precursor peptides, and so drives high circulating corticosterone concentrations (analogous to the ectopic ACTH syndrome). Infection of SCLC xenografts with GR-expressing adenovirus significantly slowed tumor growth compared with control virus infection. Time to fourfold initial tumor volume increased from a median of 9 days to 16 days (P=0.05; n=7 per group). Post-mortem analysis of GR-expressing tumors revealed a threefold increase in apoptotic (TUNEL positive) cells (P<0.01). Infection with the GR-expressing adenovirus caused a significant reduction in Bcl-2 and Bcl-xL transcripts. Furthermore, in both the GR-expressing adenovirus-infected cells and tumors, a significant number of uninfected cells underwent apoptosis, supporting a bystander cell killing effect. Therefore, GR expression is pro-apoptotic for human SCLCs in vivo, as well as in vitro, suggesting that loss of GR confers a survival advantage to SCLCs.

Open access

Laura C Hernández-Ramírez, Ryhem Gam, Nuria Valdés, Maya B Lodish, Nathan Pankratz, Aurelio Balsalobre, Yves Gauthier, Fabio R Faucz, Giampaolo Trivellin, Prashant Chittiboina, John Lane, Denise M Kay, Aggeliki Dimopoulos, Stephan Gaillard, Mario Neou, Jérôme Bertherat, Guillaume Assié, Chiara Villa, James L Mills, Jacques Drouin, and Constantine A Stratakis

The CABLES1 cell cycle regulator participates in the adrenal–pituitary negative feedback, and its expression is reduced in corticotropinomas, pituitary tumors with a largely unexplained genetic basis. We investigated the presence of CABLES1 mutations/copy number variations (CNVs) and their associated clinical, histopathological and molecular features in patients with Cushing’s disease (CD). Samples from 146 pediatric (118 germline DNA only/28 germline and tumor DNA) and 35 adult (tumor DNA) CD patients were screened for CABLES1 mutations. CNVs were assessed in 116 pediatric CD patients (87 germline DNA only/29 germline and tumor DNA). Four potentially pathogenic missense variants in CABLES1 were identified, two in young adults (c.532G > A, p.E178K and c.718C > T, p.L240F) and two in children (c.935G > A, p.G312D and c.1388A > G, and p.D463G) with CD; no CNVs were found. The four variants affected residues within or close to the predicted cyclin-dependent kinase-3 (CDK3)-binding region of the CABLES1 protein and impaired its ability to block cell growth in a mouse corticotropinoma cell line (AtT20/D16v-F2). The four patients had macroadenomas. We provide evidence for a role of CABLES1 as a novel pituitary tumor-predisposing gene. Its function might link two of the main molecular mechanisms altered in corticotropinomas: the cyclin-dependent kinase/cyclin group of cell cycle regulators and the epidermal growth factor receptor signaling pathway. Further studies are needed to assess the prevalence of CABLES1 mutations among patients with other types of pituitary adenomas and to elucidate the pituitary-specific functions of this gene.

Open access

Tiantian Liu, Taylor C Brown, C Christofer Juhlin, Adam Andreasson, Na Wang, Martin Bäckdahl, James M Healy, Manju L Prasad, Reju Korah, Tobias Carling, Dawei Xu, and Catharina Larsson

The telomerase reverse transcriptase gene (TERT) encodes the reverse transcriptase component of the telomerase complex, which is essential for telomere stabilization and cell immortalization. Recent studies have demonstrated a transcriptional activation role for the TERT promoter mutations C228T and C250T in many human cancers, as well as a role in aggressive disease with potential clinical applications. Although telomerase activation is known in adrenal tumors, the underlying mechanisms are not established. We assessed C228T and C250T TERT mutations by direct Sanger sequencing in tumors of the adrenal gland, and further evaluated potential associations with clinical parameters and telomerase activation. A total of 199 tumors were evaluated, including 34 adrenocortical carcinomas (ACC), 47 adrenocortical adenomas (ACA), 105 pheochromocytomas (PCC; ten malignant and 95 benign), and 13 abdominal paragangliomas (PGL; nine malignant and four benign). TERT expression levels were determined by quantitative RT-PCR. The C228T mutation was detected in 4/34 ACCs (12%), but not in any ACA (P=0.028). C228T was also observed in one benign PCC and in one metastatic PGL. The C250T mutation was not observed in any case. In the ACC and PGL groups, TERT mutation-positive cases exhibited TERT expression, indicating telomerase activation; however, since expression was also revealed in TERT WT cases, this could denote additional mechanisms of TERT activation. To conclude, the TERT promoter mutation C228T is a recurrent event associated with TERT expression in ACCs, but rarely occurs in PGL and PCC. The involvement of the TERT gene in ACC represents a novel mutated gene in this entity.

Open access

Stefano Caramuta, Linkiat Lee, Deniz M Özata, Pinar Akçakaya, Hong Xie, Anders Höög, Jan Zedenius, Martin Bäckdahl, Catharina Larsson, and Weng-Onn Lui

Deregulation of microRNA (miRNA) expression in adrenocortical carcinomas (ACCs) has been documented to have diagnostic, prognostic, as well as functional implications. Here, we evaluated the mRNA expression of DROSHA, DGCR8, DICER (DICER1), TARBP2, and PRKRA, the core components in the miRNA biogenesis pathway, in a cohort of 73 adrenocortical tumors (including 43 adenomas and 30 carcinomas) and nine normal adrenal cortices using a RT-qPCR approach. Our results show a significant over-expression of TARBP2, DICER, and DROSHA in the carcinomas compared with adenomas or adrenal cortices (P<0.001 for all comparisons). Using western blot and immunohistochemistry analyses, we confirmed the higher expression of TARBP2, DICER, and DROSHA at the protein level in carcinoma cases. Furthermore, we demonstrate that mRNA expression of TARBP2, but not DICER or DROSHA, is a strong molecular predictor to discriminate between adenomas and carcinomas. Functionally, we showed that inhibition of TARBP2 expression in human NCI-H295R ACC cells resulted in a decreased cell proliferation and induction of apoptosis. TARBP2 over-expression was not related to gene mutations; however, copy number gain of the TARBP2 gene was observed in 57% of the carcinomas analyzed. In addition, we identified that miR-195 and miR-497 could directly regulate TARBP2 and DICER expression in ACC cells. This is the first study to demonstrate the deregulation of miRNA-processing factors in adrenocortical tumors and to show the clinical and biological impact of TARBP2 over-expression in this tumor type.

Open access

Roland Pfoh, Ira Kay Lacdao, and Vivian Saridakis

Deubiquitinases (DUBs) play important roles and therefore are potential drug targets in various diseases including cancer and neurodegeneration. In this review, we recapitulate structure–function studies of the most studied DUBs including USP7, USP22, CYLD, UCHL1, BAP1, A20, as well as ataxin 3 and connect them to regulatory mechanisms and their growing protein interaction networks. We then describe DUBs that have been associated with endocrine carcinogenesis with a focus on prostate, ovarian, and thyroid cancer, pheochromocytoma, and adrenocortical carcinoma. The goal is enhancing our understanding of the connection between dysregulated DUBs and cancer to permit the design of therapeutics and to establish biomarkers that could be used in diagnosis and prognosis.

Open access

Kate M Warde, Erik Schoenmakers, Eduardo Ribes Martinez, Yi Jan Lim, Maeve Leonard, Sarah J Lawless, Paula O’Shea, Krishna V Chatterjee, Mark Gurnell, Constanze Hantel, and Michael Conall Dennedy

Adrenocortical carcinoma (ACC) is a rare aggressive malignancy with a poor outcome largely due to limited treatment options. Here, we propose a novel therapeutic approach through modulating intracellular free cholesterol via the liver X receptor alpha (LXRα) in combination with current first-line pharmacotherapy, mitotane. H295R and MUC-1 ACC cell lines were pretreated with LXRα inhibitors in combination with mitotane. In H295R, mitotane (20, 40 and 50 µM) induced dose-dependent cell death; however, in MUC-1, this only occurred at a supratherapeutic concentration (200 µM). LXRα inhibition potentiated mitotane-induced cytotoxicity in both cell lines. This was confirmed through use of the CompuSyn model which showed moderate pharmacological synergism and was indicative of apoptotic cell death via an increase in annexinV and cleaved-caspase 3 expression. Inhibition of LXRα was confirmed through downregulation of cholesterol efflux pumps ABCA1 and ABCG1; however, combination treatment with mitotane attenuated this effect. Intracellular free-cholesterol levels were associated with increased cytotoxicity in H295R (r2 = 0.5210) and MUC-1 (r2 = 0.9299) cells. While both cell lines exhibited similar levels of free cholesterol at baseline, H295R were cholesterol ester rich, whereas MUC-1 were cholesterol ester poor. We highlight the importance of LXRα mediated cholesterol metabolism in the management of ACC, drawing attention to its role in the therapeutics of mitotane sensitive tumours. We also demonstrate significant differences in cholesterol storage between mitotane sensitive and resistant disease.

Open access

Milena Doroszko, Marcin Chrusciel, Joanna Stelmaszewska, Tomasz Slezak, Slawomir Anisimowicz, Ursula Plöckinger, Marcus Quinkler, Marco Bonomi, Slawomir Wolczynski, Ilpo Huhtaniemi, Jorma Toppari, and Nafis A Rahman

Aberrantly expressed G protein-coupled receptors in tumors are considered as potential therapeutic targets. We analyzed the expressions of receptors of gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GNRHR), luteinizing hormone/chorionic gonadotropin (LHCGR) and follicle-stimulating hormone (FSHR) in human adrenocortical carcinomas and assessed their response to GnRH antagonist therapy. We further studied the effects of the GnRH antagonist cetrorelix acetate (CTX) on cultured adrenocortical tumor (ACT) cells (mouse Cα1 and Y-1, and human H295R), and in vivo in transgenic mice (SV40 T-antigen expression under inhibin α promoter) bearing Lhcgr and Gnrhr in ACT. Both models were treated with control (CT), CTX, human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) or CTX+hCG, and their growth and transcriptional changes were analyzed. In situ hybridization and qPCR analysis of human adrenocortical carcinomas (n = 11–13) showed expression of GNRHR in 54/73%, LHCGR in 77/100% and FSHR in 0%, respectively. CTX treatment in vitro decreased cell viability and proliferation, and increased caspase 3/7 activity in all treated cells. In vivo, CTX and CTX+hCG (but not hCG alone) decreased ACT weights and serum LH and progesterone concentrations. CTX treatment downregulated the tumor markers Lhcgr and Gata4. Upregulated genes included Grb10, Rerg, Nfatc and Gnas, all recently found to be abundantly expressed in healthy adrenal vs ACT. Our data suggest that CTX treatment may improve the therapy of human adrenocortical carcinomas by direct action on GNRHR-positive cancer cells inducing apoptosis and/or reducing gonadotropin release, directing tumor cells towards a healthy adrenal gene expression profile.

Open access

Deniz M Özata, Stefano Caramuta, David Velázquez-Fernández, Pinar Akçakaya, Hong Xie, Anders Höög, Jan Zedenius, Martin Bäckdahl, Catharina Larsson, and Weng-Onn Lui

Adrenocortical carcinoma (ACC) is an aggressive tumor showing frequent metastatic spread and poor survival. Although recent genome-wide studies of ACC have contributed to our understanding of the disease, major challenges remain for both diagnostic and prognostic assessments. The aim of this study was to identify specific microRNAs (miRNAs) associated with malignancy and survival of ACC patients. miRNA expression profiles were determined in a series of ACC, adenoma, and normal cortices using microarray. A subset of miRNAs showed distinct expression patterns in the ACC compared with adrenal cortices and adenomas. Among others, miR-483-3p, miR-483-5p, miR-210, and miR-21 were found overexpressed, while miR-195, miR-497, and miR-1974 were underexpressed in ACC. Inhibition of miR-483-3p or miR-483-5p and overexpression of miR-195 or miR-497 reduced cell proliferation in human NCI-H295R ACC cells. In addition, downregulation of miR-483-3p, but not miR-483-5p, and increased expression of miR-195 or miR-497 led to significant induction of cell death. Protein expression of p53 upregulated modulator of apoptosis (PUMA), a potential target of miR-483-3p, was significantly decreased in ACC, and inversely correlated with miR-483-3p expression. In addition, high expression of miR-503, miR-1202, and miR-1275 were found significantly associated with shorter overall survival among patients with ACC (P values: 0.006, 0.005, and 0.042 respectively). In summary, we identified additional miRNAs associated with ACC, elucidated the functional role of four miRNAs in the pathogenesis of ACC cells, demonstrated the potential involvement of the pro-apoptotic factor PUMA (a miR-483-3p target) in adrenocortical tumors, and found novel miRNAs associated with survival in ACC.

Open access

Helene Myrtue Nielsen, Alexandre How-Kit, Carole Guerin, Frederic Castinetti, Hans Kristian Moen Vollan, Catherine De Micco, Antoine Daunay, David Taieb, Peter Van Loo, Celine Besse, Vessela N Kristensen, Lise Lotte Hansen, Anne Barlier, Frederic Sebag, and Jörg Tost

Overexpression of insulin growth factor 2 (IGF2) is a hallmark of adrenocortical carcinomas and pheochromocytomas. Previous studies investigating the IGF2/H19 locus have mainly focused on a single molecular level such as genomic alterations or altered DNA methylation levels and the causal changes underlying IGF2 overexpression are still not fully established. In the current study, we analyzed 62 tumors of the adrenal gland from patients with Conn's adenoma (CA, n=12), pheochromocytomas (PCC, n=10), adrenocortical benign tumors (ACBT, n=20), and adrenocortical carcinomas (ACC, n=20). Gene expression, somatic copy number variation of chr11p15.5, and DNA methylation status of three differential methylated regions of the IGF2/H19 locus including the H19 imprinting control region were integratively analyzed. IGF2 overexpression was found in 85% of the ACCs and 100% of the PCCs compared to 23% observed in CAs and ACBTs. Copy number aberrations of chr11p15.5 were abundant in both PCCs and ACCs but while PCCs retained a diploid state, ACCs were frequently tetraploid (7/19). Loss of either a single allele or loss of two alleles of the same parental origin in tetraploid samples resulted in a uniparental disomy-like genotype. These copy number changes correlated with hypermethylation of the H19 ICR suggesting that the lost alleles were the unmethylated maternal alleles. Our data provide conclusive evidence that loss of the maternal allele correlates with IGF2 overexpression in adrenal tumors and that hypermethylation of the H19 ICR is a consequence thereof.