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S Corbetta, L Vicentini, S Ferrero, A Lania, G Mantovani, D Cordella, P Beck-Peccoz and A Spada

Previous studies indicate that nuclear factor kappaB (NF-κB) transcription factor is deregulated and overexpressed in several human neoplasias. The aim of this study was to test the hypothesis that the NF-κB pathway may be involved in parathyroid tumorigenesis. For this purpose, we determined the level of NF-κB activity, evaluated as phosphorylation of the transcription subunit p65, its modulation by specific and non-specific agents and its impact on cyclin D1 expression. Phosphorylated p65 levels present in parathyroid neoplasias (n = 13) were significantly lower than those found in normal tissues (n = 3; mean optical density (OD) 0.19 ± 0.1 vs 0.4 ± 0.1, P = 0.007), but there was no significant difference between adenomas and secondary and multiple endocrine neoplasia type 1 (MEN1)-related hyperplasia. Conversely, MEN2A (Cys634Arg)-related parathyroid samples showed extremely high levels of phosphorylated p65 that exhibited a nuclear localization at immunohistochemistry (n = 3). Phosphorylated p65 levels negatively correlated with menin expression (r 2 = 0.42, P = 0.05). Tumor necrosis factor-α (TNFα) caused a significant increase in phosphorylated p65 levels (183 ± 13.8% of basal) while calcium sensing receptor (CaR) agonists exerted a significant inhibition (19.2 ± 3.3% of basal). Although TNFα was poorly effective in increasing cyclin D1 expression, NF-κB blockade by the specific inhibitor BAY11-7082 reduced FCS-stimulated cyclin D1 by about 60%. Finally, the inhibitory effects of CaR and BAY11-7082 on cyclin D1 expression were not additive – by blocking NF-κB CaR activation did not induce a further reduction in cyclin D1 levels. In conclusion, the study demonstrated that in parathyroid tumors: (1) p65 phosphorylation was dramatically increased by RET constitutive activation and was negatively correlated with menin expression, (2) p65 phosphorylation was increased and reduced by TNFα and CaR agonists respectively, and (3) blockade of the NF-κB pathway caused a significant decrease in cyclin D1 expression.

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G Mantovani, D Treppiedi, E Giardino, R Catalano, F Mangili, P Vercesi, M Arosio, A Spada and E Peverelli

Although generally benign, pituitary tumors are frequently locally invasive, with reduced success of neurosurgery and unresponsive to pharmacological treatment with somatostatin or dopamine analogues. The molecular basis of the different biological behavior of pituitary tumors are still poorly identified, but a body of work now suggests that the activity of specific cytoskeleton proteins is a key factor regulating both the invasiveness and drug resistance of these tumors. This review recapitulates the experimental evidence supporting a role for the actin-binding protein filamin A (FLNA) in the regulation of somatostatin and dopamine receptors expression and signaling in pituitary tumors, thus in determining the responsiveness to currently used drugs, somatostatin analogues and dopamine receptor type 2 agonists. Regarding the regulation of invasive behavior of pituitary tumoral cells, we bring evidence to the role of the actin-severing protein cofilin, whose activation status may be modulated by dopaminergic and somatostatinergic drugs, through FLNA involvement. Molecular mechanisms involved in the regulation of FLNA expression and function in pituitary tumors will also be discussed.

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E Ferrante, C Pellegrini, S Bondioni, E Peverelli, M Locatelli, P Gelmini, P Luciani, A Peri, G Mantovani, S Bosari, P Beck-Peccoz, A Spada and A Lania

Somatostatin analogs currently used in the treatment of acromegaly and other neuroendocrine tumors inhibit hormone secretion and cell proliferation by binding to somatostatin receptor type (SST) 2 and 5. The antiproliferative pathways coupled to these receptors have been only partially characterized. The aim of this study was to evaluate the effect of octreotide and super selective SST2 (BIM23120) and SST5 (BIM23206) analogs on apoptotic activity and apoptotic gene expression in human somatotroph tumor cells. Eight somatotroph tumors expressing similar levels of SST2 and SST5 evaluated by real-time PCR and western blot analyses were included in the study. In cultured cells obtained from these tumors, octreotide induced a dose-dependent increase of caspase-3 activity (160 ± 20% vs basal at 10 nM) and cleaved cytokeratin 18 levels (172 ± 25% vs basal) at concentrations higher than 0.1 nM. This effect was due to SST2 activation since BIM23120 elicited comparable responses, while BIM23206 was ineffective. BIM23120-stimulated apoptosis was dependent on phosphatases, since it was abrogated by the inhibitor orthovanadate, and independent from the induction of apoptosis-related genes, such as p53, p63, p73, Bcl-2, Bax, BID, BIK, TNFSF8, and FADD. In somatotroph tumors, both BIM23120 and BIM2306 caused growth arrest as indicated by the increase in p27 and decrease in cyclin D1 expression. In conclusion, the present study showed that octreotide-induced apoptosis in human somatotroph tumor cells by activating SST2. This effect, together with the cytostatic action exerted by both SST2 and SST5 analogs, might account for the tumor shrinkage observed in acromegalic patients treated with long-acting somatostatin analogs.

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S Corbetta, V Vaira, V Guarnieri, A Scillitani, C Eller-Vainicher, S Ferrero, L Vicentini, I Chiodini, M Bisceglia, P Beck-Peccoz, S Bosari and A Spada

Parathyroid carcinoma (PaC) is a rare cause of primary hyperparathyroidism. Though the loss of the oncosuppressor CDC73/HRPT2 gene product, parafibromin, has been involved in the hyperparathyroidism–jaw tumor syndrome and in a consistent set of sporadic PaCs, parathyroid carcinogenesis remains obscure. MicroRNAs are a new class of small, non-coding RNAs implicated in development of cancer, since their deregulation can induce aberrant expression of several target genes. The aim of the present study was to identify differentially expressed microRNAs in parathyroid cancers compared with normal tissues. We performed a TaqMan low-density array profiling of four parathyroid cancers harboring CDC73 inactivating mutations and negative for parafibromin immunostaining. Their microRNA profiling was compared with that of two normal parathyroid biopsies. Out of 362 human microRNAs assayed, 279 (77%) were successfully amplified. Fourteen and three microRNAs were significantly down- and over-expressed in parathyroid cancers respectively. Of these, miR-296 and miR-139 were down-regulated, and miR-503 and miR-222 were over-expressed with a null false discovery rate. Carcinomas could be discriminated from parathyroid adenomas by a computed score based on the expression levels of miR-296, miR-222, and miR-503 as miR-139 was similarly down-regulated in both cancers and adenomas. Finally, miR-296 and miR-222 levels negatively correlated with mRNA levels of the hepatocyte growth factor receptor-regulated tyrosine kinase substrate and p27/kip1 levels respectively. These results suggest the existence of an altered microRNA expression pattern in PaCs together with a potential role of miR-296 as novel oncosuppressor gene in these neoplasia.

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C Verdelli, L Avagliano, P Creo, V Guarnieri, A Scillitani, L Vicentini, G B Steffano, E Beretta, L Soldati, E Costa, A Spada, G P Bulfamante and S Corbetta

Components of the tumour microenvironment initiate and promote cancer development. In this study, we investigated the stromal component of parathyroid neoplasia. Immunohistochemistry for alpha-smooth muscle actin (α-SMA) showed an abundant periacinar distribution of α-SMA+ cells in normal parathyroid glands (n=3). This pattern was progressively lost in parathyroid adenomas (PAds; n=6) where α-SMA+cells were found to surround new microvessels, as observed in foetal parathyroid glands (n=2). Moreover, in atypical adenomas (n=5) and carcinomas (n=4), α-SMA+ cells disappeared from the parenchyma and accumulated in the capsula and fibrous bands. At variance with normal glands, parathyroid tumours (n=37) expressed high levels of fibroblast-activation protein (FAP) transcripts, a marker of tumour-associated fibroblasts. We analysed the ability of PAd-derived cells to activate fibroblasts using human bone-marrow mesenchymal stem cells (hBM-MSCs). PAd-derived cells induced a significant increase in FAP and vascular endothelial growth factor A (VEGFA) mRNA levels in co-cultured hBM-MSCs. Furthermore, the role of the calcium-sensing receptor (CASR) and of the CXCL12/CXCR4 pathway in the PAd-induced activation of hBM-MSCs was investigated. Treatment of co-cultures of hBM-MSCs and PAd-derived cells with the CXCR4 inhibitor AMD3100 reduced the stimulated VEGFA levels, while CASR activation by the R568 agonist was ineffective. PAd-derived cells co-expressing parathyroid hormone (PTH)/CXCR4 and PTH/CXCL12 were identified by FACS, suggesting a paracrine/autocrine signalling. Finally, CXCR4 blockade by AMD3100 reduced PTH gene expression levels in PAd-derived cells. In conclusion, i) PAd-derived cells activated cells of mesenchymal origin; ii) PAd-associated fibroblasts were involved in tumuor neoangiogenesis and iii) CXCL12/CXCR4 pathway was expressed and active in PAd cells, likely contributing to parathyroid tumour neoangiogenesis and PTH synthesis modulation.