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Concept: P53


The tumour suppressor BRCA1 is mutated in familial breast and ovarian cancer but its role in protecting other tissues from DNA damage has not been explored. Here we show a new role for BRCA1 as a gatekeeper of cardiac function and survival. In mice, loss of BRCA1 in cardiomyocytes results in adverse cardiac remodelling, poor ventricular function and higher mortality in response to ischaemic or genotoxic stress. Mechanistically, loss of cardiomyocyte BRCA1 results in impaired DNA double-strand break repair and activated p53-mediated pro-apoptotic signalling culminating in increased cardiomyocyte apoptosis, whereas deletion of the p53 gene rescues BRCA1-deficient mice from cardiac failure. In human adult and fetal cardiac tissues, ischaemia induces double-strand breaks and upregulates BRCA1 expression. These data reveal BRCA1 as a novel and essential adaptive response molecule shielding cardiomyocytes from DNA damage, apoptosis and heart dysfunction. BRCA1 mutation carriers, in addition to risk of breast and ovarian cancer, may be at a previously unrecognized risk of cardiac failure.

Concepts: DNA, Cancer, Mutation, Heart, DNA repair, BRCA2, P53, BRCA1


Etiology of aberrant social behavior consistently points to a strong polygenetic component involved in fundamental developmental pathways, with the potential of being enhanced by defects in bioenergetics. To this end, the occurrence of social deficits and mitochondrial outcomes were evaluated in conditional Pten (Phosphatase and tensin homolog) haplo-insufficient mice, in which only one allele was selectively knocked-out in neural tissues. Pten mutations have been linked to Alzheimer’s disease and syndromic autism spectrum disorders, among others. By 4-6 weeks of age, Pten insufficiency resulted in the increase of several mitochondrial Complex activities (II-III, IV and V) not accompanied by increases in mitochondrial mass, consistent with an activation of the PI3K/Akt pathway, of which Pten is a negative modulator. At 8-13 weeks of age, Pten haplo-insufficient mice did not show significant behavioral abnormalities or changes in mitochondrial outcomes, but by 20-29 weeks, they displayed aberrant social behavior (social avoidance, failure to recognize familiar mouse, and repetitive self-grooming), macrocephaly, increased oxidative stress, decreased cytochrome c oxidase (CCO) activity (50%) and increased mtDNA deletions in cerebellum and hippocampus. Mitochondrial dysfunction was the result of a downregulation of p53-signaling pathway evaluated by lower protein expression of p21 (65% of controls) and the CCO chaperone SCO2 (47% of controls), two p53-downstream targets. This mechanism was confirmed in Pten-deficient striatal neurons and, HCT 116 cells with different p53 gene dosage. These results suggest a unique pathogenic mechanism of the Pten-p53 axis in mice with aberrant social behavior: loss of Pten (via p53) impairs mitochondrial function elicited by an early defective assembly of CCO and later enhanced by the accumulation of mtDNA deletions. Consistent with our results, (i) SCO2 deficiency and/or CCO activity defects have been reported in patients with learning disabilities including autism and (ii) mutated proteins in ASD have been found associated with p53-signaling pathways.

Concepts: Gene, Mitochondrion, Oxidative phosphorylation, Autism, P53, Electron transport chain, Cytochrome c, PTEN


OBJECTIVE: Human papillomavirus (HPV) infections remain a leading cause of mortality worldwide. In the U.S. strategies via screening and vaccination prevent HPV-associated cervical neoplasms, but consumes immense healthcare costs. The spice component curcumin has potent anticancer and antiviral properties, which have been difficult to harness as a treatment, due to its poor systemic bioavailability. This project tests the possibility of developing a curcumin-based therapy for cervical cancer. METHODS: Using four HPV(+) cervical cancer cell lines and normal fibroblasts we first tested the selectivity and potency of curcumin in eliminating HPV(+) cells. Subsequently, we developed a curcumin-based cervical cream and tested its efficacy in eliminating apposed HPV(+) cells and also its possible side effects on the vaginal epithelium of healthy mice. RESULTS: Curcumin selectively eliminates a variety of HPV(+) cervical cancer cells (HeLa, ME-180, SiHa, and SW756), suppresses the transforming antigen E6, dramatically inhibits the expression of the pro-cancer protein epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR), and concomitantly induces p53. Additionally, Vacurin, a uniform colloidal solution of curcumin in a clinically used amphipathic vaginal cream, eliminates apposed HeLa cells while suppressing the expression of EGFR. In mice, daily intravaginal application of Vacurin for three weeks produced no change in body weight and when the mice were sacrificed, the vaginal tract epithelium showed no Vacurin-evoked adverse effects. CONCLUSION: We have developed a curcumin-based vaginal cream, which effectively eradicates HPV(+) cancer cells and does not affect non-cancerous tissue. Our preclinical data support a novel approach for the treatment of cervical HPV infection.

Concepts: Immune system, Cancer, Human papillomavirus, Cervical cancer, HPV vaccine, Lung cancer, Epidermal growth factor receptor, P53


Unexplained intrauterine growth restriction (IUGR) may be a consequence of placental insufficiency; however, its etiology is not fully understood. We surmised that defective placentation in IUGR dysregulates cellular bioenergic homeostasis, leading to increased autophagy in the villous trophoblast. The aims of this work were (1) to compare the differences in autophagy, p53 expression, and apoptosis between placentas of women with normal or IUGR pregnancies; (2) to study the effects of hypoxia and the role of p53 in regulating trophoblast autophagy; and (3) to investigate the relationship between autophagy and apoptosis in hypoxic trophoblasts.

Concepts: Cancer, Apoptosis, Obstetrics, Transcription factor, P53, Placenta, Programmed cell death, Fundal height


Novel strategies are necessary to improve chemotherapy response in advanced and recurrent endometrial cancer. Here, we demonstrate that terpenoids present in the Steam Distilled Extract of Ginger (SDGE) are potent inhibitors of proliferation of endometrial cancer cells. SDGE, isolated from six different batches of ginger rhizomes, consistently inhibited proliferation of the endometrial cancer cell lines Ishikawa and ECC-1 at IC(50) of 1.25 µg/ml. SDGE also enhanced the anti-proliferative effect of radiation and cisplatin. Decreased proliferation of Ishikawa and ECC-1 cells was a direct result of SDGE-induced apoptosis as demonstrated by FITC-Annexin V staining and expression of cleaved caspase 3. GC/MS analysis identified a total of 22 different terpenoid compounds in SDGE, with the isomers neral and geranial constituting 30-40%. Citral, a mixture of neral and geranial inhibited the proliferation of Ishikawa and ECC-1 cells at an IC(50) 10 µM (2.3 µg/ml). Phenolic compounds such as gingerol and shogaol were not detected in SDGE and 6-gingerol was a weaker inhibitor of the proliferation of the endometrial cancer cells. SDGE was more effective in inducing cancer cell death than citral, suggesting that other terpenes present in SDGE were also contributing to endometrial cancer cell death. SDGE treatment resulted in a rapid and strong increase in intracellular calcium and a 20-40% decrease in the mitochondrial membrane potential. Ser-15 of p53 was phosphorylated after 15 min treatment of the cancer cells with SDGE. This increase in p53 was associated with 90% decrease in Bcl2 whereas no effect was observed on Bax. Inhibitor of p53, pifithrin-α, attenuated the anti-cancer effects of SDGE and apoptosis was also not observed in the p53(neg) SKOV-3 cells. Our studies demonstrate that terpenoids from SDGE mediate apoptosis by activating p53 and should be therefore be investigated as agents for the treatment of endometrial cancer.

Concepts: Cancer, Oncology, Cell biology, Apoptosis, Chemotherapy, P53, Endometrial cancer, Ginger


Sesquiterpene lactones (SLs) are plant-derived compounds that display anti-cancer effects. Some SLs derivatives have a marked killing effect on cancer cells and have therefore reached clinical trials. Little is known regarding the mechanism of action of SLs. We studied the responses of human cancer cells exposed to various concentrations of dehydroleucodine (DhL), a SL of the guaianolide group isolated and purified from Artemisia douglasiana (Besser), a medicinal herb that is commonly used in Argentina. We demonstrate for the first time that treatment of cancer cells with DhL, promotes the accumulation of DNA damage markers such as phosphorylation of ATM and focal organization of γH2AX and 53BP1. This accumulation triggers cell senescence or apoptosis depending on the concentration of the DhL delivered to cells. Transient DhL treatment also induces marked accumulation of senescent cells. Our findings help elucidate the mechanism whereby DhL triggers cell cycle arrest and cell death and provide a basis for further exploration of the effects of DhL in in vivo cancer treatment models.

Concepts: Cancer, Senescence, Cell division, Apoptosis, DNA repair, DNA replication, P53, Sesquiterpene lactone


Upon activation, ataxia telangiectasia mutated (ATM) kinase rapidly phosphorylates hundreds of proteins, setting off chaotic signaling storms from areas of damaged chromatin. Recent work by Kaidi and Jackson and Floyd et al. advance our knowledge of the mechanisms that initiate or limit ATM kinase signaling storms at chromatin.

Concepts: DNA repair, P53


Cell cycle dysregulation leads to uncontrolled cell proliferation and tumorigenesis. Understanding the molecular mechanisms underlying cell cycle progression can provide clues leading to the identification of key proteins involved in cancer development. In this study, we performed proteomics analysis to identify novel regulators of the cell cycle. We found that potassium channel tetramerization domain containing 12 (KCTD12) was significantly upregulated in M phase compared with S phase. We also found that KCTD12 overexpression not only facilitated the G2/M transition and induced cancer cell proliferation, but also promoted the growth of subcutaneous tumors and Ki-67 proliferation index in mice. Regarding the mechanism underlying these phenomena, cyclin-dependent kinase 1 (CDK1) was identified as an interacting partner of KCTD12 by immunoprecipitation and mass spectrometry analysis, which showed that KCTD12 activated CDK1 and Aurora kinase A (Aurora A) and that the effects of KCTD12 on CDK1 phosphorylation and cell proliferation were abrogated by cell division cycle 25B (CDC25B) silencing. In addition, Aurora A phosphorylated KCTD12 at serine 243, thereby initiating a positive feedback loop necessary for KCTD12 to exert its cancer-promoting effects. Furthermore, we analyzed the expression levels of various genes and the correlations between the expression of these genes and survival using tumor tissue microarray and Gene Expression Omnibus (GEO) data sets. The data showed that KCTD12 expression was significantly upregulated in cervical and lung cancers. More importantly, high KCTD12 expression was associated with larger tumor sizes, higher pathological stages and poor patient survival. Collectively, our study demonstrate that KCTD12 binds to CDC25B and activates CDK1 and Aurora A to facilitate the G2/M transition and promote tumorigenesis and that Aurora A phosphorylates KCTD12 at serine 243 to trigger a positive feedback loop, thereby potentiating the effects of KCTD12. Thus, the KCTD12-CDC25B-CDK1-Aurora A axis has important implications for cancer diagnoses and prognoses.Oncogene advance online publication, 4 September 2017; doi:10.1038/onc.2017.287.

Concepts: Gene, Cell nucleus, Gene expression, Cancer, Cell division, Cell cycle, P53, Mitosis


Background: Insulin-like growth factor-binding protein 7 (IGFBP7) has been found to be a tumor suppressor in several human cancers, but the role of IGFBP7 in gastric cancer has not yet been fully investigated. Herein, we examined the epigenetic downregulation of IGFBP7 expression in gastric cancer. Methods: Expression and methylation of IGFBP7 in gastric cancer cells and primary gastric cancer patients were determined using qRT-PCR, western blot, immunohistochemistry, and methylation specific-PCR, respectively. The effects of IGFBP7 on gastric cancer cells were investigated by various experimental conditions, such as proliferation, colony formation, apoptosis, invasion, and migration assay. Results: IGFBP7 methylation was inversely correlated with IGFBP7 expression in gastric cancer. Univariate and multivariate analysis showed that IGFBP7 expression and tumor stage were independent prognostic factors. IGFBP7 knockdown increased gastric cancer cell growth, invasion, and migration, whereas IGFBP7 overexpression in gastric cancer cells induced cell growth inhibition and apoptosis. Conclusion: Our data suggest that IGFBP7 functions as a tumor suppressor in gastric cancer via an epigenetic pathway.

Concepts: Gene expression, Cancer, Breast cancer, Oncology, Lung cancer, Cancer staging, Cell division, P53


Malignant mesothelioma (MM) is a primary tumor arising from the serous membranes. The resistance of MM patients to conventional therapies, and the poor patients' survival, encouraged the identification of molecular targets for MM treatment. Curcumin (CUR) is a “multifunctional drug”. We explored the in vitro effects of CUR on cell proliferation, cell cycle regulation, pro-survival signaling pathways, apoptosis, autophagy of human (MM-B1, H-Meso-1, MM-F1), and mouse (#40a) MM cells. In addition, we evaluated the in vivo anti-tumor activities of CUR in C57BL/6 mice intraperitoneally transplanted with #40a cells forming ascites.CUR in vitro inhibited MM cells survival in a dose- and time-dependent manner and increased reactive oxygen species'intracellular production and induced DNA damage. CUR triggered autophagic flux, but the process was then blocked and was coincident with caspase 8 activation which activates apoptosis. CUR-mediated apoptosis was supported by the increase of Bax/Bcl-2 ratio, increase of p53 expression, activation of caspase 9, cleavage of PARP-1, increase of the percentage of cells in the sub G1 phase which was reduced (MM-F1 and #40a) or abolished (MM-B1 and H-Meso-1) after MM cells incubation with the apoptosis inhibitor Z-VAD-FMK. CUR treatment stimulated the phosphorylation of ERK1/2 and p38 MAPK, inhibited that of p54 JNK and AKT, increased c-Jun expression and phosphorylation and prevented NF-κB nuclear translocation. Intraperitoneal administration of CUR increased the median survival of C57BL/6 mice intraperitoneally transplanted with #40a cells and reduced the risk of developing tumors. Our findings may have important implications for the design of MM treatment using CUR.

Concepts: Gene, Cancer, Signal transduction, Cell biology, Apoptosis, Cell cycle, P53, Programmed cell death