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Brendan M Finnerty, Maureen D Moore, Akanksha Verma, Anna Aronova, Shixia Huang, Dean P Edwards, Zhengming Chen, Marco Seandel, Theresa Scognamiglio, Yi-Chieh Nancy Du, Olivier Elemento, Rasa Zarnegar, Irene M Min, and Thomas J Fahey III

Loss of ubiquitin carboxyl-terminal hydrolase L1 (UCHL1) expression by CpG promoter hypermethylation is associated with metastasis in gastroenteropancreatic neuroendocrine tumors; however, the mechanism of how UCHL1 loss contributes to metastatic potential remains unclear. In this study, we first confirmed that the loss of UCHL1 expression on immunohistochemistry was significantly associated with metastatic tumors in a translational pancreatic neuroendocrine tumor (PNET) cohort, with a sensitivity and specificity of 78% and 89%, respectively. To study the mechanism driving this aggressive phenotype, BON and QGP-1 metastatic PNET cell lines, which do not produce UCHL1, were stably transfected to re-express UCHL1. In vitro assays, RNA sequencing and reverse phase protein array (RPPA) analyses were performed comparing empty-vector negative controls and UCHL1-expressing cell lines. UCHL1 re-expression is associated with lower anchorage-independent colony growth in BON cells, lower colony formation in QGP cells and a higher percentage of cells in the G0/G1 cell-cycle phase in BON and QGP cells. On RPPA proteomic analysis, there was an upregulation of cell-cycle regulatory proteins CHK2 (1.2-fold change, P = 0.004) and P21 (1.2-fold change, P = 0.023) in BON cells expressing UCHL1; western blot confirmed upregulation of phosphorylated CHK2 and P21. There were no transcriptomic differences detected on RNA sequencing between empty-vector negative controls and UCHL1-expressing cell lines. In conclusion, UCHL1 loss correlates with metastatic potential in PNETs and its re-expression induces a less aggressive phenotype in vitro, in part by inducing cell-cycle arrest through posttranslational regulation of phosphorylated CHK2. UCHL1 expression should be considered as a functional biomarker in detecting PNETs capable of metastasis.

Open access

Salma Kaochar, Aleksandra Rusin, Christopher Foley, Kimal Rajapakshe, Matthew Robertson, Darlene Skapura, Cammy Mason, Karen Berman De Ruiz, Alexey Mikhailovich Tyryshkin, Jenny Deng, Jin Na Shin, Warren Fiskus, Jianrong Dong, Shixia Huang, Nora M Navone, Christel M Davis, Erik A Ehli, Cristian Coarfa, and Nicholas Mitsiades

Castration-resistant prostate cancer (CRPC) remains highly lethal and in need of novel, actionable therapeutic targets. The pioneer factor GATA2 is a significant prostate cancer (PC) driver and is linked to poor prognosis. GATA2 directly promotes androgen receptor (AR) gene expression (both full-length and splice-variant) and facilitates AR binding to chromatin, recruitment of coregulators, and target gene transcription. Unfortunately, there is no clinically applicable GATA2 inhibitor available at the moment. Using a bioinformatics algorithm, we screened in silico 2650 clinically relevant drugs for a potential GATA2 inhibitor. Validation studies used cytotoxicity and proliferation assays, global gene expression analysis, RT-qPCR, reporter assay, reverse phase protein array analysis (RPPA), and immunoblotting. We examined target engagement via cellular thermal shift assay (CETSA), ChIP-qPCR, and GATA2 DNA-binding assay. We identified the vasodilator dilazep as a potential GATA2 inhibitor and confirmed on-target activity via CETSA. Dilazep exerted anticancer activity across a broad panel of GATA2-dependent PC cell lines in vitro and in a PDX model in vivo. Dilazep inhibited GATA2 recruitment to chromatin and suppressed the cell-cycle program, transcriptional programs driven by GATA2, AR, and c-MYC, and the expression of several oncogenic drivers, including AR, c-MYC, FOXM1, CENPF, EZH2, UBE2C, and RRM2, as well as of several mediators of metastasis, DNA damage repair, and stemness. In conclusion, we provide, via an extensive compendium of methodologies, proof-of-principle that a small molecule can inhibit GATA2 function and suppress its downstream AR, c-MYC, and other PC-driving effectors. We propose GATA2 as a therapeutic target in CRPC.