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Characterizing the Mechanism of Action of a Potential Targeted Therapy, Triptolide, in Small Cell Carcinoma of the Ovary

Description

Small cell carcinoma of the ovary (SCCOHT) is a rare ovarian cancer affecting young women and characterized by mutation in SMARCA4 and silencing of SMARCA2, two tumor suppressors that function as ATPases in the SWItch/Sucrose Non-Fermentable (SWI/SNF) chromatin remodeling complex.

Small cell carcinoma of the ovary (SCCOHT) is a rare ovarian cancer affecting young women and characterized by mutation in SMARCA4 and silencing of SMARCA2, two tumor suppressors that function as ATPases in the SWItch/Sucrose Non-Fermentable (SWI/SNF) chromatin remodeling complex. SCCOHT patients face a 5-year survival rate of only 26%, but recently we have identified sensitivity of SCCOHT models to a natural product, triptolide. This study aims to ascertain the mechanism of action of triptolide. Previous SCCOHT epigenetic drug research has shown that some drugs reverse SMARCA2 epigenetic silencing to inhibit tumor growth, therefore it is hypothesized that triptolide acts the same and restores SWI/SNF function. Cells treated with triptolide have no change in SMARCA2 expression, suggesting that re-expression of epigenetically silenced tumor suppressor gene does not underlie its mechanism of action. Growth rates following triptolide treatment were observed in the presence and absence of SMARCA4, but no difference in sensitivity was observed. Thus, it is not likely that triptolide acts by restoring SWI/SNF. Others have observed that triptolide acts on xeroderma pigmentosa type B protein (XPB), a component of super-enhancers, which are DNA regions with high levels of transcription that regulate genes responsible for cell identity and oncogenes driving tumorigenesis. Both SCCOHT-1 and BIN67 cell lines treated with triptolide displayed lower expression of the super-enhancer associated MYC oncogene compared to untreated cells, supporting the theory that triptolide could be inhibiting super-enhancers regulating oncogenes.. A western blot confirmed reduced protein levels of RNA polymerase II and bromodomain 4 (BRD4), two essential components found at high levels at super-enhancers, in BIN67 cells treated with triptolide. ChIP-sequencing of Histone H3 Lysine-27 Acetylation (H3K27ac) marks in BIN67 and SCCOHT-1 cell lines identified super-enhancers in SCCOHT using tools CREAM and ROSE, which were mapped to neighboring genes associated genes and compared with the COSMIC database to identify oncogenes, of which the top 11 were examined by qRT-PCR to ascertain whether triptolide reduces their expression. It has been found that 6 out of 11 of the oncogenes examined (SALL4, MYC, SGK1, HIST1H3B, HMGA2, and CALR) decreased in expression when treated with triptolide. Thus, there is reason to believe that triptolide’s mechanism of action is via inhibition of super-enhancers that regulate oncogene expression.

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2020-05

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Whole cell proteomics: understanding sperm composition and maturation

Description

Infertility has become an increasing problem in developed countries and in many cases can be attributed to compromised sperm quality. Assessment of male fertility typically utilizes semen analysis which mainly examines sperm morphology, however many males whose sperm appear normal

Infertility has become an increasing problem in developed countries and in many cases can be attributed to compromised sperm quality. Assessment of male fertility typically utilizes semen analysis which mainly examines sperm morphology, however many males whose sperm appear normal are sub- or infertile, suggesting that sperm from these males may be deficient in a protein or suite of proteins. To date, very little is known about the composition of sperm or the complex maturation process that confers motility and fertilization competency to sperm. Chapter 1 discusses the use of whole cell mass spectrometry to identify 1247 proteins comprising the Rhesus macaque (Macaca mulatta) sperm proteome, a commonly used model of human reproduction. This study provides a more robust proxy of human sperm composition than was previously available and facilitates studies of sperm using the rhesus macaque as a model. Chapters 2 & 3 provide a systems level overview of changes in sperm proteome composition that occurs during epididymal transit. Chapter 2 reports the proteomes of sperm collected from the caput, corpus and cauda segments of the mouse epididymis, identifying 1536, 1720 and 1234 proteins respectively. Chapter 3 reports the sperm proteome from four distinct segments of the Rhesus macaque epididymis, including the caput, proximal corpus, distal corpus and cauda, identifying 1951, 2014, 1764 and 1423 proteins respectively. These studies identify a number of proteins that are added and removed from sperm during epididymal transit which likely play an important role in the sperm maturation process. To date no comparative evolutionary studies of sperm proteomes have been undertaken. Chapter 4 compares four mammalian sperm proteomes including the human, macaque, mouse and rat. This study identified 98 proteins common to all four sperm proteomes, 82 primate and 90 rodent lineage-specific proteins and 494, 467, 566, and 193 species specific proteins in the human, macaque, mouse and rat sperm proteomes respectively and discusses how differences in sperm composition may ultimately lead to functional differences across species. Finally, chapter 5 uses sperm proteome data to inform the preliminary design of a rodent contraceptive vaccine delivered orally using recombinant attenuated Salmonella vaccine vectors.

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Date Created
2013

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Developing engineered polymerases for practical applications in synthetic biology

Description

Advances in chemical synthesis have enabled new lines of research with unnatural genetic polymers whose modified bases or sugar-phosphate backbones have potential therapeutic and biotechnological applications. Maximizing the potential of these synthetic genetic systems requires inventing new molecular biology tools

Advances in chemical synthesis have enabled new lines of research with unnatural genetic polymers whose modified bases or sugar-phosphate backbones have potential therapeutic and biotechnological applications. Maximizing the potential of these synthetic genetic systems requires inventing new molecular biology tools that can both generate and faithfully replicate unnatural polymers of significant length. Threose nucleic acid (TNA) has received significant attention as a complete replication system has been developed by engineering natural polymerases to broaden their substrate specificity. The system, however, suffers from a high mutational load reducing its utility. This thesis will cover the development of two new polymerases capable of transcribing and reverse transcribing TNA polymers with high efficiency and fidelity. The polymerases are identified using a new strategy wherein gain-of-function mutations are sampled in homologous protein architectures leading to subtle optimization of protein function. The new replication system has a fidelity that supports the propagation of genetic information enabling in vitro selection of functional TNA molecules. TNA aptamers to human alpha-thrombin are identified and demonstrated to have superior stability compared to DNA and RNA in biologically relevant conditions. This is the first demonstration that functional TNA molecules have potential in biotechnology and molecular medicine.

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2015

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Addicted to autophagy: Ph+ B-ALL may acquire iImatinib-resistance and enhanced malignancy through a highly-active autophagy pathway

Description

The majority of chronic myeloid leukemia (CML) and some of acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL) cases are associated with possessing the BCR-Abl fusion protein from an oncogenic translocation, resulting in a constantly active form of Abl and rapid proliferation. CML and

The majority of chronic myeloid leukemia (CML) and some of acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL) cases are associated with possessing the BCR-Abl fusion protein from an oncogenic translocation, resulting in a constantly active form of Abl and rapid proliferation. CML and ALL cells that possess the BCR-Abl fusion protein are known as Philadelphia chromosome positive (Ph+). Currently, Imatinib (selective Abl inhibitor) is used as therapy against CML and ALL. However, some patients may have malignancies which show resistance to Imatinib. Previous work displays that the transformation of progenitor B cells with the v-Abl oncogene of Abelson murine leukemia virus results in cell cycle progression, rapid proliferation, and potentially malignant transformation while preventing any further differentiation. Progenitor B cells transformed with the temperature-sensitive form of the v-Abl oncogene have served as a model to study cellular response to Imatinib treatment. After some manipulation, very few cells were forced to progress to malignancy, forming tumor in vivo. These cells were no long sensitive to v-Abl inactivation, resembling the Imatinib resistant ALL. Autophagy is the process by which proteins and organelles are broken-down and recycled within the eukaryotic cell and has been hypothesized to play a part in cancer cell survival and drug-resistance. LC3 processing is a widely accepted marker of autophagy induction and progression. It has also been shown that Imatinib treatment of Ph+ leukemia can induce autophagy. In this study, we examined the autophagy induction in response to v-Abl inactivation in a Ph+-B-ALL cell model that shows resistance to Imatinib. In particular, we wonder whether the tumor cell line resistant to v-Abl inactivation may acquire a high level of autophagy to become resistant to apoptosis induced by v-Abl inactivation, and thus become addicted to autophagy. Indeed, this tumor cell line displays a high basal levels of LC3 I and II expression, regardless of v-Abl activity. We further demonstrated that inhibition of the autophagy pathway enhances the tumor line's sensitivity to Imatinib, resulting in cell cycle arrest and massive apoptosis. The combination of autophagy and Abl inhibitions may serve as an effective therapy for BCR-Abl positive CML.

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Date Created
2011

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Gene annotation using the proteome

Description

While the entire human genome has been sequenced, the understanding of its functional elements remains unclear. The Encyclopedia of DNA Elements (ENCODE) project analyzed 1% of the human genome and found that the majority of the human genome is transcribed,

While the entire human genome has been sequenced, the understanding of its functional elements remains unclear. The Encyclopedia of DNA Elements (ENCODE) project analyzed 1% of the human genome and found that the majority of the human genome is transcribed, including non-protein coding regions. The hypothesis is that some of the "non-coding" sequences are translated into peptides and small proteins. Using mass spectrometry numerous peptides derived from the ENCODE transcriptome were identified. Peptides and small proteins were also found from non-coding regions of the 1% of the human genome that the ENCODE did not find transcripts for. A large portion of these peptides mapped to the intronic regions of known genes, thus it is suspected that they may be undiscovered exons present in alternative spliceoforms of certain genes. Further studies proved the existence of polyadenylated RNAs coding for these peptides. Although their functional significance has not been determined, I anticipate the findings will lead to the discovery of new splice variants of known genes and possibly new transcriptional and translational mechanisms.

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Date Created
2010

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Immunogenic subviral particles displaying domain III of dengue 2 envelope protein vectored by measles virus

Description

Vaccines against the arthropod-borne dengue virus (DENV) are still commercially nonexistent. A subunit immunization strategy may be of value, especially if a safe viral vector acts as a biologically active adjuvant. The DENV envelope protein (E), the main target for

Vaccines against the arthropod-borne dengue virus (DENV) are still commercially nonexistent. A subunit immunization strategy may be of value, especially if a safe viral vector acts as a biologically active adjuvant. The DENV envelope protein (E), the main target for neutralizing immune responses, has three conformational domains. The immunoglobulin-like and independently folding domain III (DIII) contains epitopes that elicit highly specific neutralizing antibodies. The hepatitis B small surface antigen (HBsAg, S) was used as a scaffold to display DENV 2 DIII on a virus-like particle (VLP). A measles virus (MV) was engineered to vector HBsAg and the hybrid glycoprotein DIII-HBsAg in two different loci (DIII-S). Despite the relatively deleterious effect on replication caused by the insertion of two transcription cassettes, the recombinant virus MVvac2(DIII-S,S)P induced the secretion of DIII-S hybrid VLP with a similar sucrose density as HBsAg particles (1.10-1.12g/ml) and peaked at 48 h post-infection producing 1.3x106 TCID50/ml infectious MV units in vitro. A second recombinant virus, MVvac2(DIII-S)N, was engineered to vector only the hybrid DIII-S. However, it did not induce the secretion of hybrid HBsAg particles in the supernatant of infected cells. The immunogenicity of the recombinant viruses was tested in a MV-susceptible small animal model, the experimental group which received two 105 TCID50 I.P. doses of MVvac2(DIII-S,S)P in a 28 day interval developed a robust immune response against MV (1:1280), HBsAg (787 mIU/ml) and DENV2 (Log10 neutralization index of 1.2) on average. In summary, it is possible to display DENV E DIII on hybrid HBsAg particles vectored by MV that elicit an immune response. This forms the basis for a potential vaccine platform against DENV.

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Date Created
2015

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Increasing T cell immunity to metastatic osteosarcoma via modulation of inhibitory T cell receptors

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Osteosarcoma is the most common bone cancer in children and adolescents. Patients with metastatic osteosarcoma are typically refractory to treatment. Numerous lines of evidence suggest that cytotoxic T-lymphocytes (CTL) limit the development of metastatic osteosarcoma. I have investigated the role

Osteosarcoma is the most common bone cancer in children and adolescents. Patients with metastatic osteosarcoma are typically refractory to treatment. Numerous lines of evidence suggest that cytotoxic T-lymphocytes (CTL) limit the development of metastatic osteosarcoma. I have investigated the role of Programmed Death Receptor-1 (PD-1) in limiting the efficacy of immune mediated control of metastatic osteosarcoma. I show that human metastatic, but not primary, osteosarcoma tumors express the ligand for PD-1 (PD-L1) and that tumor infiltrating CTL express PD-1, suggesting this pathway may limit CTL control of metastatic osteosarcoma in patients. PD-L1 is also expressed on the K7M2 osteosarcoma tumor cell line that establishes metastases in mice, and PD-1 is expressed on tumor infiltrating CTL during disease progression. Blockade of PD-1/PD-L1 interactions dramatically improves the function of osteosarcoma-reactive CTL in vitro and in vivo, and results in decreased tumor burden and increased survival in the K7M2 mouse model of metastatic osteosarcoma. My results suggest that blockade of PD-1/PD-L1 interactions in patients with metastatic osteosarcoma should be pursued as a therapeutic strategy. However, PD-1/PD-L1 blockade treated mice still succumb to disease due to selection of PD-L1 mAb resistant tumor cells via up-regulation of other co-inhibitory T cell receptors. Combinational α-CTLA-4 and α-PD-L1 blockade treated mice were able to completely eradicate metastatic osteosarcoma, and generate immunity to disease. These results suggest that blockade of PD-1/PD-L1 interactions in patients with metastatic osteosarcoma, although improves survival, may lead to tumor resistance, requiring combinational immunotherapies to combat and eradicate disease.

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2015

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Small molecule inhibition of quiescin sulfhydryl oxidase 1 (QSOX1), a dynamic pro-tumorigenic regulator of the extracellular matrix

Description

Quiescin sulfhydryl oxidase 1 (QSOX1) is a highly conserved disulfide bond-generating enzyme that represents the ancient fusion of two major thiol-disulfide oxidoreductase gene families: thioredoxin and ERV. QSOX1 was first linked with cancer after being identified as overexpressed in pancreatic

Quiescin sulfhydryl oxidase 1 (QSOX1) is a highly conserved disulfide bond-generating enzyme that represents the ancient fusion of two major thiol-disulfide oxidoreductase gene families: thioredoxin and ERV. QSOX1 was first linked with cancer after being identified as overexpressed in pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (but not in adjacent normal ductal epithelia, infiltrating lymphocytes, or chronic pancreatitis). QSOX1 overexpression has been confirmed in a number of other histological tumor types, such as breast, lung, kidney, prostate, and others. Expression of QSOX1 supports a proliferative and invasive phenotype in tumor cells, and its enzymatic activity is critical for promoting an invasive phenotype. An in vivo tumor growth study utilizing the pancreatic tumor cell line MIAPaCa-2 containing a QSOX1-silencing shRNA construct revealed that QSOX1 expression supports a proliferative phenotype. These preliminary studies suggest that suppressing the enzymatic activity of QSOX1 could represent a novel therapeutic strategy to inhibit proliferation and invasion of malignant neoplasms.

The goal of this research was to identify and characterize biologically active small molecule inhibitors for QSOX1. Chemical inhibition of QSOX1 enzymatic activity was hypothesized to reduce growth and invasion of tumor cells. Recombinant QSOX1 was screened against libraries of small molecules using an enzymatic activity assay to identify potential QSOX1 inhibitors. Two lead QSOX1 inhibitors were confirmed, 2-phenyl-1, 2-benzisoselenazol-3-one (ebselen), and 3-methoxy-n-[4-(1 pyrrolidinyl)phenyl]benzamide. The biological activity of these compounds is consistent with QSOX1 knockdown in tumor cell lines, reducing growth and invasion in vitro. Treatment of tumor cells with these compounds also resulted in specific ECM defects, a phenotype associated with QSOX1 knockdown. Additionally, these compounds were shown to be active in pancreatic and renal cancer xenografts, reducing tumor growth with daily treatment. For ebselen, the molecular mechanism of inhibition was determined using a combination of biochemical and mass spectrometric techniques. The results obtained in these studies provide proof-of-principle that targeting QSOX1 enzymatic activity with chemical compounds represents a novel potential therapeutic avenue worthy of further investigation in cancer. Additionally, the utility of these small molecules as chemical probes will yield future insight into the general biology of QSOX1, including the identification of novel substrates of QSOX1.

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Date Created
2015

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Characterization of small cell carcinoma of the ovary, hypercalcemic type (SCCOHT)

Description

Small Cell Carcinoma of the Ovary Hypercalcemic Type (SCCOHT) is a rare and highly aggressive ovarian cancer that affects children and young women at a mean age of 24 years. Most SCCOHT patients are diagnosed at an advanced stage and

Small Cell Carcinoma of the Ovary Hypercalcemic Type (SCCOHT) is a rare and highly aggressive ovarian cancer that affects children and young women at a mean age of 24 years. Most SCCOHT patients are diagnosed at an advanced stage and do not respond to chemotherapy. As a result, more than 75% of patients succumb to their disease within 1-2 years. To provide insights into the biological, diagnostic, and therapeutic vulnerabilities of this deadly cancer, a comprehensive characterization of 22 SCCOHT cases and 2 SCCOHT cell lines using microarray and next-generation sequencing technologies was performed. Following histological examination, tumor DNA and RNA were extracted and used for array comparative genomic hybridization and gene expression microarray analyses. In agreement with previous reports, SCCOHT presented consistently diploid profiles with few copy number aberrations. Gene expression analysis showed SCCOHT tumors have a unique gene expression profile unlike that of most common epithelial ovarian carcinomas. Dysregulated cell cycle control, DNA repair, DNA damage-response, nucleosome assembly, neurogenesis and nervous system development were all characteristic of SCCOHT tumors. Sequencing of DNA from SCCOHT patients and cell lines revealed germline and somatic inactivating mutations in the SWI/SNF chromatin-remodeling gene SMARCA4 in 79% (19/24) of SCCOHT patients in addition to SMARCA4 protein loss in 84% (16/19) of SCCOHT tumors, but in only 0.4% (2/485) of other primary ovarian tumors. Ongoing studies are now focusing on identifying treatments for SCCOHT based on therapeutic vulnerabilities conferred by ubiquitous inactivating mutations in SMARCA4 in addition to gene and protein expression data. Our characterization of the molecular landscape of SCCOHT and the breakthrough identification of inactivating SMARCA4 mutations in almost all cases of SCCOHT offers the first significant insight into the molecular pathogenesis of this disease. The loss of SMARCA4 protein is a highly sensitive and specific marker of the disease, highlighting its potential role as a diagnostic marker, and offers the opportunity for genetic testing of family members at risk. Outstanding questions remain about the role of SMARCA4 loss in the biology, histogenesis, diagnosis, and treatment of SCCOHT.

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Date Created
2014

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Large-Scale Kinetic Analyses of Protein-Protein Interactions: Advancing the Understanding of Post Translational Modifications in Biological Regulation

Description

Signal transduction networks comprising protein-protein interactions (PPIs) mediate homeostatic, diseased, and therapeutic cellular responses. Mapping these networks has primarily focused on identifying interactors, but less is known about the interaction affinity, rates of interaction or their regulation. To better understand

Signal transduction networks comprising protein-protein interactions (PPIs) mediate homeostatic, diseased, and therapeutic cellular responses. Mapping these networks has primarily focused on identifying interactors, but less is known about the interaction affinity, rates of interaction or their regulation. To better understand the extent of the annotated human interactome, I first examined > 2500 protein interactions within the B cell receptor (BCR) signaling pathway using a current, cutting-edge bioluminescence-based platform called “NanoBRET” that is capable of analyzing transient and stable interactions in high throughput. Eighty-three percent (83%) of the detected interactions have not been previously reported, indicating that much of the BCR pathway is still unexplored. Unfortunately, NanoBRET, as with all other high throughput methods, cannot determine binding kinetics or affinities. To address this shortcoming, I developed a hybrid platform that characterizes > 400 PPIs quantitatively and simultaneously in < 1 hour by combining the high throughput and flexible nature of nucleic programmable protein arrays (NAPPA) with the quantitative abilities of surface plasmon resonance imaging (SPRi). NAPPA-SPRi was then used to study the kinetics and affinities of > 12,000 PPIs in the BCR signaling pathway, revealing unique kinetic mechanisms that are employed by proteins, phosphorylation and activation states to regulate PPIs. In one example, activation of the GTPase RAC1 with nonhydrolyzable GTP-γS minimally affected its binding affinities with phosphorylated proteins but increased, on average, its on- and off-rates by 4 orders of magnitude for one-third of its interactions. In contrast, this phenomenon occurred with virtually all unphosphorylated proteins. The majority of the interactions (85%) were novel, sharing 40% of the same interactions as NanoBRET as well as detecting 55% more interactions than NanoBRET. In addition, I further validated four novel interactions identified by NAPPA-SPRi using SDS-PAGE migration and Western blot analyses. In one case, we have the first evidence of a direct enzyme-substrate interaction between two well-known proto-oncogenes that are abnormally regulated in > 30% of cancers, PI3K and MYC. Herein, PI3K is demonstrated to phosphorylate MYC at serine 62, a phosphosite that increases the stability of MYC. This study provides valuable insight into how PPIs, phosphorylation, and GTPase activation regulate the BCR signal transduction pathway. In addition, these methods could be applied toward understanding other signaling pathways, pathogen-host interactions, and the effect of protein mutations on protein interactions.

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Date Created
2018