Gene Summary

Gene:CDK7; cyclin dependent kinase 7
Aliases: CAK, CAK1, HCAK, MO15, STK1, CDKN7, p39MO15
Summary:The protein encoded by this gene is a member of the cyclin-dependent protein kinase (CDK) family. CDK family members are highly similar to the gene products of Saccharomyces cerevisiae cdc28, and Schizosaccharomyces pombe cdc2, and are known to be important regulators of cell cycle progression. This protein forms a trimeric complex with cyclin H and MAT1, which functions as a Cdk-activating kinase (CAK). It is an essential component of the transcription factor TFIIH, that is involved in transcription initiation and DNA repair. This protein is thought to serve as a direct link between the regulation of transcription and the cell cycle. [provided by RefSeq, Jul 2008]
Databases:VEGA, OMIM, HGNC, Ensembl, GeneCard, Gene
Protein:cyclin-dependent kinase 7
Source:NCBIAccessed: 16 March, 2017


What does this gene/protein do?
Show (44)
Pathways:What pathways are this gene/protein implicaed in?
Show (5)

Cancer Overview

Research Indicators

Publications Per Year (1992-2017)
Graph generated 16 March 2017 using data from PubMed using criteria.

Literature Analysis

Mouse over the terms for more detail; many indicate links which you can click for dedicated pages about the topic.

  • Single Nucleotide Polymorphism
  • Cell Cycle
  • RB1
  • Protein-Serine-Threonine Kinases
  • Phosphorylation
  • Neuroblastoma
  • DNA Repair
  • Up-Regulation
  • Transcriptional Activation
  • DNA-Binding Proteins
  • Transcription Factors
  • Apoptosis
  • Breast Cancer
  • Cell Proliferation
  • Protein Kinase Inhibitors
  • Purines
  • Cyclin D1
  • Lung Cancer
  • Genetic Predisposition
  • Nuclear Proteins
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Gene Expression Profiling
  • Messenger RNA
  • Cancer Gene Expression Regulation
  • Genotype
  • Western Blotting
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Squamous Cell Carcinoma
  • siRNA
  • Signal Transduction
  • Triple Negative Breast Cancer
  • Transcription Factor TFIIH
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • BCL2 protein
  • Xeroderma Pigmentosum
  • Proportional Hazards Models
  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • DNA Damage
  • Chromosome 5
  • Cyclin-Dependent Kinases
Tag cloud generated 16 March, 2017 using data from PubMed, MeSH and CancerIndex

Specific Cancers (4)

Data table showing topics related to specific cancers and associated disorders. Scope includes mutations and abnormal protein expression.

Note: list is not exhaustive. Number of papers are based on searches of PubMed (click on topic title for arbitrary criteria used).

Latest Publications: CDK7 (cancer-related)

Pelish HE, Liau BB, Nitulescu II, et al.
Mediator kinase inhibition further activates super-enhancer-associated genes in AML.
Nature. 2015; 526(7572):273-6 [PubMed] Free Access to Full Article Related Publications
Super-enhancers (SEs), which are composed of large clusters of enhancers densely loaded with the Mediator complex, transcription factors and chromatin regulators, drive high expression of genes implicated in cell identity and disease, such as lineage-controlling transcription factors and oncogenes. BRD4 and CDK7 are positive regulators of SE-mediated transcription. By contrast, negative regulators of SE-associated genes have not been well described. Here we show that the Mediator-associated kinases cyclin-dependent kinase 8 (CDK8) and CDK19 restrain increased activation of key SE-associated genes in acute myeloid leukaemia (AML) cells. We report that the natural product cortistatin A (CA) selectively inhibits Mediator kinases, has anti-leukaemic activity in vitro and in vivo, and disproportionately induces upregulation of SE-associated genes in CA-sensitive AML cell lines but not in CA-insensitive cell lines. In AML cells, CA upregulated SE-associated genes with tumour suppressor and lineage-controlling functions, including the transcription factors CEBPA, IRF8, IRF1 and ETV6 (refs 6-8). The BRD4 inhibitor I-BET151 downregulated these SE-associated genes, yet also has anti-leukaemic activity. Individually increasing or decreasing the expression of these transcription factors suppressed AML cell growth, providing evidence that leukaemia cells are sensitive to the dosage of SE-associated genes. Our results demonstrate that Mediator kinases can negatively regulate SE-associated gene expression in specific cell types, and can be pharmacologically targeted as a therapeutic approach to AML.

Wang Y, Zhang T, Kwiatkowski N, et al.
CDK7-dependent transcriptional addiction in triple-negative breast cancer.
Cell. 2015; 163(1):174-86 [PubMed] Free Access to Full Article Related Publications
Triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC) is a highly aggressive form of breast cancer that exhibits extremely high levels of genetic complexity and yet a relatively uniform transcriptional program. We postulate that TNBC might be highly dependent on uninterrupted transcription of a key set of genes within this gene expression program and might therefore be exceptionally sensitive to inhibitors of transcription. Utilizing kinase inhibitors and CRISPR/Cas9-mediated gene editing, we show here that triple-negative but not hormone receptor-positive breast cancer cells are exceptionally dependent on CDK7, a transcriptional cyclin-dependent kinase. TNBC cells are unique in their dependence on this transcriptional CDK and suffer apoptotic cell death upon CDK7 inhibition. An "Achilles cluster" of TNBC-specific genes is especially sensitive to CDK7 inhibition and frequently associated with super-enhancers. We conclude that CDK7 mediates transcriptional addiction to a vital cluster of genes in TNBC and CDK7 inhibition may be a useful therapy for this challenging cancer.

Franco HL, Kraus WL
No driver behind the wheel? Targeting transcription in cancer.
Cell. 2015; 163(1):28-30 [PubMed] Related Publications
Exploiting the dependence of cancer cells on transcription can be used as an effective strategy for targeting aggressive and therapeutically recalcitrant tumors. Wang et al. show that inhibiting transcription using THZ1, a small-molecule inhibitor of cyclin-dependent kinase CDK7, induces apoptotic cell death in triple-negative breast cancers.

Zhang J, Zhu J, Yang L, et al.
Interaction with CCNH/CDK7 facilitates CtBP2 promoting esophageal squamous cell carcinoma (ESCC) metastasis via upregulating epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT) progression.
Tumour Biol. 2015; 36(9):6701-14 [PubMed] Related Publications
CtBP2, as a transcriptional corepressor of epithelial-specific genes, has been reported to promote tumor due to upregulating epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT) in cancer cells. CtBP2 was also demonstrated to contribute to the proliferation of esophageal squamous cell carcinoma (ESCC) cells through a negative transcriptional regulation of p16(INK4A). In this study, for the first time, we reported that CtBP2 expression, along with CCNH/CDK7, was higher in ESCC tissues with lymph node metastases than in those without lymph node metastases. Moreover, both CtBP2 and CCNH/CDK7 were positively correlated with E-cadherin, tumor grade, and tumor metastasis. However, the concrete mechanism of CtBP2's role in enhancing ESCC migration remains incompletely understood. We confirmed that CCNH/CDK7 could directly interact with CtBP2 in ESCC cells in vivo and in vitro. Furthermore, our data demonstrate for the first time that CtBP2 enhanced the migration of ESCC cells in a CCNH/CDK7-dependent manner. Our results indicated that CCNH/CDK7-CtBP2 axis may augment ESCC cell migration, and targeting the interaction of both may provide a novel therapeutic target of ESCC.

Christensen CL, Kwiatkowski N, Abraham BJ, et al.
Targeting transcriptional addictions in small cell lung cancer with a covalent CDK7 inhibitor.
Cancer Cell. 2014; 26(6):909-22 [PubMed] Free Access to Full Article Related Publications
Small cell lung cancer (SCLC) is an aggressive disease with high mortality, and the identification of effective pharmacological strategies to target SCLC biology represents an urgent need. Using a high-throughput cellular screen of a diverse chemical library, we observe that SCLC is sensitive to transcription-targeting drugs, in particular to THZ1, a recently identified covalent inhibitor of cyclin-dependent kinase 7. We find that expression of super-enhancer-associated transcription factor genes, including MYC family proto-oncogenes and neuroendocrine lineage-specific factors, is highly vulnerability to THZ1 treatment. We propose that downregulation of these transcription factors contributes, in part, to SCLC sensitivity to transcriptional inhibitors and that THZ1 represents a prototype drug for tailored SCLC therapy.

Augert A, MacPherson D
Treating transcriptional addiction in small cell lung cancer.
Cancer Cell. 2014; 26(6):783-4 [PubMed] Related Publications
Small cell lung cancer (SCLC) is a devastating tumor type with great therapeutic need. In this issue of Cancer Cell, Christensen and colleagues identify THZ1, a CDK7 inhibitor, as a potential therapy for SCLC. Using cells and mouse models, the authors show exquisite sensitivity of SCLC to transcriptional inhibition.

Ding XF, Zhou J, Hu QY, et al.
The tumor suppressor pVHL down-regulates never-in-mitosis A-related kinase 8 via hypoxia-inducible factors to maintain cilia in human renal cancer cells.
J Biol Chem. 2015; 290(3):1389-94 [PubMed] Free Access to Full Article Related Publications
NEK8 (never in mitosis gene A (NIMA)-related kinase 8) is involved in cytoskeleton, cilia, and DNA damage response/repair. Abnormal expression and/or dysfunction of NEK8 are related to cancer development and progression. However, the mechanisms that regulate NEK8 are not well declared. We demonstrated here that pVHL may be involved in regulating NEK8. We found that CAK-I cells with wild-type vhl expressed a lower level of NEK8 than the cells loss of vhl, such as 786-O, 769-P, and A-498 cells. Moreover, pVHL overexpression down-regulated the NEK8 protein in 786-O cells, whereas pVHL knockdown up-regulated NEK8 in CAK-I cells. In addition, we found that the positive hypoxia response elements (HREs) are located in the promoter of the nek8 sequence and hypoxia could induce nek8 expression in different cell types. Consistent with this, down-regulation of hypoxia-inducible factors α (HIF-1α or HIF-2α) by isoform-specific siRNA reduced the ability of hypoxia inducing nek8 expression. In vivo, NEK8 and HIF-1α expression were increased in kidneys of rats subjected to an experimental hypoxia model of ischemia and reperfusion. Furthermore, NEK8 siRNA transfection significantly blocked pVHL-knockdown-induced cilia disassembling, through impairing the pVHL-knockdown-up-regulated NEK8 expression. These results support that nek8 may be a novel hypoxia-inducible gene. In conclusion, our findings show that nek8 may be a new HIF target gene and pVHL can down-regulate NEK8 via HIFs to maintain the primary cilia structure in human renal cancer cells.

Stettler K, Li X, Sandrock B, et al.
A Drosophila XPD model links cell cycle coordination with neuro-development and suggests links to cancer.
Dis Model Mech. 2015; 8(1):81-91 [PubMed] Free Access to Full Article Related Publications
XPD functions in transcription, DNA repair and in cell cycle control. Mutations in human XPD (also known as ERCC2) mainly cause three clinical phenotypes: xeroderma pigmentosum (XP), Cockayne syndrome (XP/CS) and trichothiodystrophy (TTD), and only XP patients have a high predisposition to developing cancer. Hence, we developed a fly model to obtain novel insights into the defects caused by individual hypomorphic alleles identified in human XP-D patients. This model revealed that the mutations that displayed the greatest in vivo UV sensitivity in Drosophila did not correlate with those that led to tumor formation in humans. Immunoprecipitations followed by targeted quantitative MS/MS analysis showed how different xpd mutations affected the formation or stability of different transcription factor IIH (TFIIH) subcomplexes. The XP mutants most clearly linked to high cancer risk, Xpd R683W and R601L, showed a reduced interaction with the core TFIIH and also an abnormal interaction with the Cdk-activating kinase (CAK) complex. Interestingly, these two XP alleles additionally displayed high levels of chromatin loss and free centrosomes during the rapid nuclear division phase of the Drosophila embryo. Finally, the xpd mutations showing defects in the coordination of cell cycle timing during the Drosophila embryonic divisions correlated with those human mutations that cause the neurodevelopmental abnormalities and developmental growth defects observed in XP/CS and TTD patients.

Chipumuro E, Marco E, Christensen CL, et al.
CDK7 inhibition suppresses super-enhancer-linked oncogenic transcription in MYCN-driven cancer.
Cell. 2014; 159(5):1126-39 [PubMed] Free Access to Full Article Related Publications
The MYC oncoproteins are thought to stimulate tumor cell growth and proliferation through amplification of gene transcription, a mechanism that has thwarted most efforts to inhibit MYC function as potential cancer therapy. Using a covalent inhibitor of cyclin-dependent kinase 7 (CDK7) to disrupt the transcription of amplified MYCN in neuroblastoma cells, we demonstrate downregulation of the oncoprotein with consequent massive suppression of MYCN-driven global transcriptional amplification. This response translated to significant tumor regression in a mouse model of high-risk neuroblastoma, without the introduction of systemic toxicity. The striking treatment selectivity of MYCN-overexpressing cells correlated with preferential downregulation of super-enhancer-associated genes, including MYCN and other known oncogenic drivers in neuroblastoma. These results indicate that CDK7 inhibition, by selectively targeting the mechanisms that promote global transcriptional amplification in tumor cells, may be useful therapy for cancers that are driven by MYC family oncoproteins.

Liu WX, Liu XY, Yu H, et al.
Effect of cyclin-dependent kinase 7 silencing on cisplatin sensitivity in endometrial carcinoma cells.
Mol Med Rep. 2015; 11(3):1745-51 [PubMed] Free Access to Full Article Related Publications
The aim of the present study was to determine the effect of cyclin‑dependent kinase 7 (CDK7) silencing on the sensitivity of the HEC‑1‑A endometrial carcinoma cell line to cisplatin [cis‑dichlorodiammineplatinum (II), or DDP]. Four CDK7 siRNA fragments were designed and synthesized based on the gene sequence of CDK7 and transfected into HEC‑1‑A cells. The RNA interference of the fragments was confirmed by semi‑quantitative polymerase chain reaction (PCR) and western blot analyses. The CDK7‑423 siRNA fragment exhibited the most marked silencing of CDK‑7 (>70%), and was chosen for the subsequent experiments in HEC‑1‑A endometrial carcinoma cells. The sensitivity of the cells to a chemotherapeutic agent (cisplatin) was determined before and after transfection of the siRNA, using a MTT cytotoxicity assay, flow cytometry and Hoechst/propidium iodide (PI) double‑staining immunofluorescence microscopy. The results of the MTT cytotoxicity assay showed that the half maximal inhibitory concentration of cisplatin was reduced from 45.12 µg/ml to 3.200 µg/ml following the inhibition of CDK7 expression levels, indicating a significantly increased cytotoxicity in the treated cells (P<0.05). The flow cytometry analysis showed that the mean rate of apoptosis in the CDK7 low‑expression group was 37.57%, which was significantly higher than the rate in the parental cells (11.66%) (P<0.05). Hoechst/PI co‑immunofluorescence microscopy revealed that the number of apoptotic bodies in the CDK7 low‑expression HEC‑1‑A cells was significantly increased as compared with the parental cells. Downregulation of CDK7 expression levels in HEC‑1‑A endometrial carcinoma cells via the transfection of CDK7 siRNA may significantly enhance cancer cell sensitivity to cisplatin chemotherapy and increasing apoptosis. CDK7 is a novel promising treatment for endometrial carcinoma that requires further in‑depth study.

Kokontis JM, Lin HP, Jiang SS, et al.
Androgen suppresses the proliferation of androgen receptor-positive castration-resistant prostate cancer cells via inhibition of Cdk2, CyclinA, and Skp2.
PLoS One. 2014; 9(10):e109170 [PubMed] Free Access to Full Article Related Publications
The majority of prostate cancer (PCa) patient receiving androgen ablation therapy eventually develop castration-resistant prostate cancer (CRPC). We previously reported that androgen treatment suppresses Skp2 and c-Myc through androgen receptor (AR) and induced G1 cell cycle arrest in androgen-independent LNCaP 104-R2 cells, a late stage CRPC cell line model. However, the mechanism of androgenic regulation of Skp2 in CRPC cells was not fully understood. In this study, we investigated the androgenic regulation of Skp2 in two AR-positive CRPC cell line models, the LNCaP 104-R1 and PC-3AR Cells. The former one is an early stage androgen-independent LNCaP cells, while the later one is PC-3 cells re-expressing either wild type AR or mutant LNCaP AR. Proliferation of LNCaP 104-R1 and PC-3AR cells is not dependent on but is suppressed by androgen. We observed in this study that androgen treatment reduced protein expression of Cdk2, Cdk7, Cyclin A, cyclin H, Skp2, c-Myc, and E2F-1; lessened phosphorylation of Thr14, Tyr15, and Thr160 on Cdk2; decreased activity of Cdk2; induced protein level of p27(Kip1); and caused G1 cell cycle arrest in LNCaP 104-R1 cells and PC-3AR cells. Overexpression of Skp2 protein in LNCaP 104-R1 or PC-3AR cells partially blocked accumulation of p27(Kip1) and increased Cdk2 activity under androgen treatment, which partially blocked the androgenic suppressive effects on proliferation and cell cycle. Analyzing on-line gene array data of 214 normal and PCa samples indicated that gene expression of Skp2, Cdk2, and cyclin A positively correlates to each other, while Cdk7 negatively correlates to these genes. These observations suggested that androgen suppresses the proliferation of CRPC cells partially through inhibition of Cyclin A, Cdk2, and Skp2.

Cao K, Shilatifard A
Inhibit globally, act locally: CDK7 inhibitors in cancer therapy.
Cancer Cell. 2014; 26(2):158-9 [PubMed] Related Publications
Cyclin-dependent kinases (CDKs) are involved in temporal control of the cell cycle and transcription and play central roles in cancer development and metastasis. Recently, Kwiatkowski and colleagues identified a novel CDK7-specific inhibitor, THZ1, that hinders proliferation in cancer cell lines and dampens global transcription in T cell leukemia.

Kelso TW, Baumgart K, Eickhoff J, et al.
Cyclin-dependent kinase 7 controls mRNA synthesis by affecting stability of preinitiation complexes, leading to altered gene expression, cell cycle progression, and survival of tumor cells.
Mol Cell Biol. 2014; 34(19):3675-88 [PubMed] Free Access to Full Article Related Publications
Cyclin-dependent kinase 7 (CDK7) activates cell cycle CDKs and is a member of the general transcription factor TFIIH. Although there is substantial evidence for an active role of CDK7 in mRNA synthesis and associated processes, the degree of its influence on global and gene-specific transcription in mammalian species is unclear. In the current study, we utilize two novel inhibitors with high specificity for CDK7 to demonstrate a restricted but robust impact of CDK7 on gene transcription in vivo and in in vitro-reconstituted reactions. We distinguish between relative low- and high-dose responses and relate them to distinct molecular mechanisms and altered physiological responses. Low inhibitor doses cause rapid clearance of paused RNA polymerase II (RNAPII) molecules and sufficed to cause genome-wide alterations in gene expression, delays in cell cycle progression at both the G1/S and G2/M checkpoints, and diminished survival of human tumor cells. Higher doses and prolonged inhibition led to strong reductions in RNAPII carboxyl-terminal domain (CTD) phosphorylation, eventual activation of the p53 program, and increased cell death. Together, our data reason for a quantitative contribution of CDK7 to mRNA synthesis, which is critical for cellular homeostasis.

Kwiatkowski N, Zhang T, Rahl PB, et al.
Targeting transcription regulation in cancer with a covalent CDK7 inhibitor.
Nature. 2014; 511(7511):616-20 [PubMed] Free Access to Full Article Related Publications
Tumour oncogenes include transcription factors that co-opt the general transcriptional machinery to sustain the oncogenic state, but direct pharmacological inhibition of transcription factors has so far proven difficult. However, the transcriptional machinery contains various enzymatic cofactors that can be targeted for the development of new therapeutic candidates, including cyclin-dependent kinases (CDKs). Here we present the discovery and characterization of a covalent CDK7 inhibitor, THZ1, which has the unprecedented ability to target a remote cysteine residue located outside of the canonical kinase domain, providing an unanticipated means of achieving selectivity for CDK7. Cancer cell-line profiling indicates that a subset of cancer cell lines, including human T-cell acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (T-ALL), have exceptional sensitivity to THZ1. Genome-wide analysis in Jurkat T-ALL cells shows that THZ1 disproportionally affects transcription of RUNX1 and suggests that sensitivity to THZ1 may be due to vulnerability conferred by the RUNX1 super-enhancer and the key role of RUNX1 in the core transcriptional regulatory circuitry of these tumour cells. Pharmacological modulation of CDK7 kinase activity may thus provide an approach to identify and treat tumour types that are dependent on transcription for maintenance of the oncogenic state.

Efroni S, Meerzaman D, Schaefer CF, et al.
Systems analysis utilising pathway interactions identifies sonic hedgehog pathway as a primary biomarker and oncogenic target in hepatocellular carcinoma.
IET Syst Biol. 2013; 7(6):243-51 [PubMed] Related Publications
The development and progression of cancer is associated with disruption of biological networks. Historically studies have identified sets of signature genes involved in events ultimately leading to the development of cancer. Identification of such sets does not indicate which biologic processes are oncogenic drivers and makes it difficult to identify key networks to target for interventions. Using a comprehensive, integrated computational approach, the authors identify the sonic hedgehog (SHH) pathway as the gene network that most significantly distinguishes tumour and tumour-adjacent samples in human hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). The analysis reveals that the SHH pathway is commonly activated in the tumour samples and its activity most significantly differentiates tumour from the non-tumour samples. The authors experimentally validate these in silico findings in the same biologic material using Western blot analysis. This analysis reveals that the expression levels of SHH, phosphorylated cyclin B1, and CDK7 levels are much higher in most tumour tissues as compared to normal tissue. It is also shown that siRNA-mediated silencing of SHH gene expression resulted in a significant reduction of cell proliferation in a liver cancer cell line, SNU449 indicating that SHH plays a major role in promoting cell proliferation in liver cancer. The SHH pathway is a key network underpinning HCC aetiology which may guide the development of interventions for this most common form of human liver cancer.

Bretones G, Delgado MD, León J
Myc and cell cycle control.
Biochim Biophys Acta. 2015; 1849(5):506-16 [PubMed] Related Publications
Soon after the discovery of the Myc gene (c-Myc), it became clear that Myc expression levels tightly correlate to cell proliferation. The entry in cell cycle of quiescent cells upon Myc enforced expression has been described in many models. Also, the downregulation or inactivation of Myc results in the impairment of cell cycle progression. Given the frequent deregulation of Myc oncogene in human cancer it is important to dissect out the mechanisms underlying the role of Myc on cell cycle control. Several parallel mechanisms account for Myc-mediated stimulation of the cell cycle. First, most of the critical positive cell cycle regulators are encoded by genes induced by Myc. These Myc target genes include Cdks, cyclins and E2F transcription factors. Apart from its direct effects on the transcription, Myc is able to hyperactivate cyclin/Cdk complexes through the induction of Cdk activating kinase (CAK) and Cdc25 phosphatases. Moreover, Myc antagonizes the activity of cell cycle inhibitors as p21 and p27 through different mechanisms. Thus, Myc is able to block p21 transcription or to induce Skp2, a protein involved in p27 degradation. Finally, Myc induces DNA replication by binding to replication origins and by upregulating genes encoding proteins required for replication initiation. Myc also regulates genes involved in the mitotic control. A promising approach to treat tumors with deregulated Myc is the synthetic lethality based on the inhibition of Cdks. Thus, the knowledge of the Myc-dependent cell cycle regulatory mechanisms will help to discover new therapeutic approaches directed against malignancies with deregulated Myc. This article is part of a Special Issue entitled: Myc proteins in cell biology and pathology.

Delehouzé C, Godl K, Loaëc N, et al.
CDK/CK1 inhibitors roscovitine and CR8 downregulate amplified MYCN in neuroblastoma cells.
Oncogene. 2014; 33(50):5675-87 [PubMed] Free Access to Full Article Related Publications
To understand the mechanisms of action of (R)-roscovitine and (S)-CR8, two related pharmacological inhibitors of cyclin-dependent kinases (CDKs), we applied a variety of '-omics' techniques to the human neuroblastoma SH-SY5Y and IMR32 cell lines: (1) kinase interaction assays, (2) affinity competition on immobilized broad-spectrum kinase inhibitors, (3) affinity chromatography on immobilized (R)-roscovitine and (S)-CR8, (4) whole genome transcriptomics analysis and specific quantitative PCR studies, (5) global quantitative proteomics approach and western blot analysis of selected proteins. Altogether, the results show that the major direct targets of these two molecules belong to the CDKs (1,2,5,7,9,12), DYRKs, CLKs and CK1s families. By inhibiting CDK7, CDK9 and CDK12, these inhibitors transiently reduce RNA polymerase 2 activity, which results in downregulation of a large set of genes. Global transcriptomics and proteomics analysis converge to a central role of MYC transcription factors downregulation. Indeed, CDK inhibitors trigger rapid and massive downregulation of MYCN expression in MYCN-amplified neuroblastoma cells as well as in nude mice xenografted IMR32 cells. Inhibition of casein kinase 1 may also contribute to the antitumoral activity of (R)-roscovitine and (S)-CR8. This dual mechanism of action may be crucial in the use of these kinase inhibitors for the treatment of MYC-dependent cancers, in particular neuroblastoma where MYCN amplification is a strong predictor factor for high-risk disease.

An JS, Huang MN, Song YM, et al.
A preliminary study of genes related to concomitant chemoradiotherapy resistance in advanced uterine cervical squamous cell carcinoma.
Chin Med J (Engl). 2013; 126(21):4109-15 [PubMed] Related Publications
BACKGROUND: Tumor intrinsic chemoradiotherapy resistance is the primary factor in concomitant chemoradiotherapy failure in advanced uterine cervical squamous cell carcinoma. This study aims to identify a set of genes and molecular pathways related to this condition.
METHODS: Forty patients with uterine cervical squamous cell carcinoma in International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics stage IIb or IIIb, treated with platinum-based concomitant chemoradiotherapy between May 2007 and December 2012, were enrolled in this trial. Patients included chemoradiotherapy resistant (n = 20) and sensitive (n = 20) groups. Total RNA was extracted from fresh tumor tissues obtained by biopsy before treatment and microarray analysis was performed to identify genes differentially expressed between the two groups.
RESULTS: Microarray analysis identified 108 genes differentially expressed between concomitant chemoradiotherapy resistant and sensitive patients. Functional pathway cluster analysis of these genes revealed that DNA damage repair, apoptosis, cell cycle, Map kinase signal transduction, anaerobic glycolysis and glutathione metabolism were the most relevant pathways. Platelet-derived growth factor receptor alpha (PDGFRA) and protein kinase A type 1A (PRKAR1A) were significantly upregulated in the chemoradiosensitive group, while lactate dehydrogenase A (LDHA), bcl2 antagonist/killer 1 (BAK1), bcl2/adenovirus E1B 19 kDa interacting protein 3 (BNIP3), single-strand-selective monofunctional uracil-DNA glycosylase 1 (SMUG1), and cyclin-dependent kinase 7 (CDK7) were upregulated in the chemoradiotherapy resistant group.
CONCLUSION: We have identified seven genes that are differentially expressed in concomitant chemoradiotherapy resistant and sensitive uterine cervical squamous cell carcinomas, which may represent primary predictors for this condition.

Santos LS, Gomes BC, Gouveia R, et al.
The role of CCNH Val270Ala (rs2230641) and other nucleotide excision repair polymorphisms in individual susceptibility to well-differentiated thyroid cancer.
Oncol Rep. 2013; 30(5):2458-66 [PubMed] Related Publications
Well-differentiated thyroid cancer (DTC) is the most common form of thyroid cancer (TC); however, with the exception of radiation exposure, its etiology remains largely unknown. Several single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) have previously been implicated in DTC risk. Nucleotide excision repair (NER) polymorphisms, despite having been associated with cancer risk at other locations, have received little attention in the context of thyroid carcinogenesis. In order to evaluate the role of NER pathway SNPs in DTC susceptibility, we performed a case-control study in 106 Caucasian Portuguese DTC patients and 212 matched controls. rs2230641 (CCNH), rs2972388 (CDK7), rs1805329 (RAD23B), rs3212986 (ERCC1), rs1800067 (ERCC4), rs17655, rs2227869 (ERCC5), rs4253211 and rs2228529 (ERCC6) were genotyped using TaqMan® methodology, while conventional PCR-RFLP was employed for rs2228000 and rs2228001 (XPC). When considering all DTC cases, only rs2230641 (CCNH) was associated with DTC risk; a consistent increase in overall DTC risk was observed for both the heterozygous genotype (OR=1.89, 95% CI=1.14-3.14) and the variant allele carriers (OR=1.79, 95% CI=1.09-2.93). Histological stratification analysis confirmed an identical effect on follicular TC (OR=2.72, 95% CI=1.19-6.22, for heterozygous; OR=2.44, 95% CI=1.07‑5.55, for variant allele carriers). Considering papillary TC, the rs2228001 (XPC) variant genotype was associated with increased risk (OR=2.33, 95% CI=1.05-5.16), while a protective effect was observed for rs2227869 (ERCC5) (OR=0.26, 95% CI=0.08‑0.90, for heterozygous; OR=0.25, 95% CI=0.07-0.86, for variant allele carriers). No further significant results were observed. Our results suggest that NER polymorphisms such as rs2230641 (CCNH) and, possibly, rs2227869 (ERCC5) and rs2228001 (XPC), may influence DTC susceptibility. However, larger studies are required to confirm these results.

Thomas D, Powell JA, Vergez F, et al.
Targeting acute myeloid leukemia by dual inhibition of PI3K signaling and Cdk9-mediated Mcl-1 transcription.
Blood. 2013; 122(5):738-48 [PubMed] Related Publications
Resistance to cell death is a hallmark of cancer and renders transformed cells resistant to multiple apoptotic triggers. The Bcl-2 family member, Mcl-1, is a key driver of cell survival in diverse cancers, including acute myeloid leukemia (AML). A screen for compounds that downregulate Mcl-1 identified the kinase inhibitor, PIK-75, which demonstrates marked proapoptotic activity against a panel of cytogenetically diverse primary human AML patient samples. We show that PIK-75 transiently blocks Cdk7/9, leading to transcriptional suppression of MCL-1, rapid loss of Mcl-1 protein, and alleviation of its inhibition of proapoptotic Bak. PIK-75 also targets the p110α isoform of PI3K, which leads to a loss of association between Bcl-xL and Bak. The simultaneous loss of Mcl-1 and Bcl-xL association with Bak leads to rapid apoptosis of AML cells. Concordantly, low Bak expression in AML confers resistance to PIK-75-mediated killing. On the other hand, the induction of apoptosis by PIK-75 did not require the expression of the BH3 proteins Bim, Bid, Bad, Noxa, or Puma. PIK-75 significantly reduced leukemia burden and increased the survival of mice engrafted with human AML without inducing overt toxicity. Future efforts to cotarget PI3K and Cdk9 with drugs such as PIK-75 in AML are warranted.

Lou S, Liu G, Shimada H, et al.
The lost intrinsic fragmentation of MAT1 protein during granulopoiesis promotes the growth and metastasis of leukemic myeloblasts.
Stem Cells. 2013; 31(9):1942-53 [PubMed] Free Access to Full Article Related Publications
MAT1, an assembly factor and targeting subunit of both cyclin-dependent kinase-activating kinase (CAK) and general transcription factor IIH (TFIIH) kinase, regulates cell cycle and transcription. Previous studies show that expression of intact MAT1 protein is associated with expansion of human hematopoietic stem cells (HSC), whereas intrinsically programmed or retinoic acid (RA)-induced MAT1 fragmentation accompanies granulocytic differentiation of HSC or leukemic myeloblasts. Here we determined that, in humanized mouse microenvironment, MAT1 overexpression resisted intrinsic MAT1 fragmentation to sustain hematopoietic CD34+ cell expansion while preventing granulopoiesis. Conversely, we mimicked MAT1 fragmentation in vitro and in a mouse model by overexpressing a fragmented 81-aa MAT1 polypeptide (pM9) that retains the domain for assembling CAK but cannot affix CAK to TFIIH-core. Our results showed that pM9 formed ΔCAK by competing with MAT1 for CAK assembly to mimic MAT1 fragmentation-depletion of CAK. This resulting ΔCAK acted as a dominant negative to inhibit the growth and metastasis of different leukemic myeloblasts, with or without RA resistance, by concurrently suppressing CAK and TFIIH kinase activities to inhibit cell cycle and gene transcription. These findings suggest that the intrinsically programmed MAT1 expression and fragmentation regulate granulopoiesis by inversely coordinating CAK and TFIIH activities, whereas pM9 shares a mechanistic resemblance with MAT1 fragmentation in suppressing myeloid leukemogenesis.

Sun M, Jiang R, Wang G, et al.
Cyclin-dependent kinase 2-associated protein 1 suppresses growth and tumorigenesis of lung cancer.
Int J Oncol. 2013; 42(4):1376-82 [PubMed] Related Publications
Cyclin-dependent kinase 2-associated protein 1 (CDK2AP1), a growth suppressor that negatively regulates CDK2 activity, has been implicated in various types of cancer; yet its role in lung cancer remains unclear. In the present study, a lentivirus-based system was used to specifically downregulate or upregulate CDK2AP1 expression. A549 lung cancer cells were treated with RNAi (RNA interference) or lentiviral vectors for overexpression. Ectopic overexpression of CDK2AP1 in A549 cells in vitro greatly impaired their proliferation and colony-forming ability and enhanced their chemosensitivity to cisplatin and paclitaxel and caused cell cycle arrest at G1/S transition accompanied by the reduction of expression of CDK4 and CDK7. Injection of the ectopically CDK2AP1-overexpressing A549 cells into nude mice resulted in growth arrest of solid lung cancer tumors in vivo. Knockdown of CDK2AP1 in A549 cells, however, gave rise to the opposite effects including promoting cell proliferation/growth, cell cycling in vitro and enhancing tumorigenesis in vivo. These results suggest that CDK2AP1 plays an important role in modulating the growth and tumorigenesis of lung cancer cells and also has significant effects on the chemosensitivity of pulmonary malignancies to chemotherapeutics. Hence, this study extends our knowledge on the relationship between CDK2AP1 and oncogenesis of lung cancer, indicating that CDK2AP1 may serve as a new molecular target for future lung cancer therapy.

Wang Y, Liu F, Mao F, et al.
Interaction with cyclin H/cyclin-dependent kinase 7 (CCNH/CDK7) stabilizes C-terminal binding protein 2 (CtBP2) and promotes cancer cell migration.
J Biol Chem. 2013; 288(13):9028-34 [PubMed] Free Access to Full Article Related Publications
CtBP2 has been demonstrated to possess tumor-promoting capacities by virtue of up-regulating epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT) and down-regulating apoptosis in cancer cells. As a result, cellular CtBP2 levels are considered a key factor determining the outcome of oncogenic transformation. How pro-tumorigenic and anti-tumorigenic factors compete for fine-tuning CtBP2 levels is incompletely understood. Here we report that the cyclin H/cyclin-dependent kinase 7 (CCNH/CDK7) complex interacted with CtBP2 in vivo and in vitro. Depletion of either CCNH or CDK7 decreased CtBP2 protein levels by accelerating proteasome-dependent CtBP2 clearance. Further analysis revealed that CCNH/CDK7 competed with the tumor repressor HIPK2 for CtBP2 binding and consequently inhibited phosphorylation and dimerization of CtBP2. Phosphorylation-defective CtBP2 interacted more strongly with CCNH/CDK7 and was more resistant to degradation. Finally, overexpression of CtBP2 increased whereas depletion of CtBP2 dampened the invasive and migratory potential of breast cancer cells. CtBP2 promoted the invasion and migration of breast cancer cells in a CCNH-dependent manner. Taken together, our data have delineated a novel pathway that regulates CtBP2 stability, suggesting that targeting the CCNH/CDK7-CtBP2 axis may yield a viable anti-tumor strategy.

Angstadt AY, Thayanithy V, Subramanian S, et al.
A genome-wide approach to comparative oncology: high-resolution oligonucleotide aCGH of canine and human osteosarcoma pinpoints shared microaberrations.
Cancer Genet. 2012; 205(11):572-87 [PubMed] Related Publications
Molecular cytogenetic evaluation of human osteosarcoma (OS) has revealed the characteristically high degree of genomic reorganization that is the hallmark of this cancer. The extent of genomic disorder in OS has hindered identification of the genomic aberrations driving disease progression. With pathophysiological similarities to its human counterpart, canine OS represents an ideal model for comparison of conserved regions of genomic instability that may be disease-associated rather than genomic passengers. This study used high-resolution oligonucleotide array comparative genomic hybridization and a variety of informatics tools to aid in the identification of disease-associated genome-wide DNA copy number aberrations in canine and human OS. Our findings support and build upon the high level of cytogenetic complexity, through the identification of shared regions of microaberration (<500 kb) and functional analysis of possible orthologous OS-associated genes to pinpoint the cellular processes most commonly affected by aberration in human and canine OS. Aberrant regions contained previously reported genes such as CDC5L, MYC, RUNX2, and CDKN2A/CDKN2B, while expanding the gene of interest list to include ADAM15, CTC1, MEN1, CDK7, and others. Such regions of instability may thus have functional significance in the etiology of OS, the most common primary bone tumor in both species.

Manzo SG, Zhou ZL, Wang YQ, et al.
Natural product triptolide mediates cancer cell death by triggering CDK7-dependent degradation of RNA polymerase II.
Cancer Res. 2012; 72(20):5363-73 [PubMed] Related Publications
Triptolide is a bioactive ingredient in traditional Chinese medicine that exhibits diverse biologic properties, including anticancer properties. Among its many putative targets, this compound has been reported to bind to XPB, the largest subunit of general transcription factor TFIIH, and to cause degradation of the largest subunit Rpb1 of RNA polymerase II (RNAPII). In this study, we clarify multiple important questions concerning the significance and basis for triptolide action at this core target. Triptolide decreased Rpb1 levels in cancer cells in a manner that was correlated tightly with its cytotoxic activity. Compound exposure blocked RNAPII at promoters and decreased chromatin-bound RNAPII, both upstream and within all genes that were examined, also leading to Ser-5 hyperphosphorylation and increased ubiqutination within the Rbp1 carboxy-terminal domain. Notably, cotreatment with inhibitors of the proteasome or the cyclin-dependent kinase CDK7 inhibitors abolished the ability of triptolide to ablate Rpb1. Together, our results show that triptolide triggers a CDK7-mediated degradation of RNAPII that may offer an explanation to many of its therapeutic properties, including its robust and promising anticancer properties.

Wu Y, Chen C, Sun X, et al.
Cyclin-dependent kinase 7/9 inhibitor SNS-032 abrogates FIP1-like-1 platelet-derived growth factor receptor α and bcr-abl oncogene addiction in malignant hematologic cells.
Clin Cancer Res. 2012; 18(7):1966-78 [PubMed] Related Publications
PURPOSE: The "gate-keeper" mutations T674I platelet-derived growth factor receptor α (PDGFRα) in hypereosinophilic syndrome (HES) and T315I Bcr-Abl in chronic myeloid leukemia (CML) are resistant to imatinib and the second-generation small-molecule tyrosine kinase inhibitors (TKI). However, to combat acquired resistance to imatinib, an alternative approach is to decrease the expression of the addicted gene to efficiently kill resistant malignant hematologic cells. The purpose of this study was to evaluate the strategy of shutting down the transcription and expression of FIP1-like-1 (FIP1L1)-PDGFRα and Bcr-Abl with SNS-032, an inhibitor of cyclin-dependent kinase 7 (CDK7) and CDK9 in phase I clinical trials.
EXPERIMENTAL DESIGN: The effects of SNS-032 on PDGFRα and Bcr-Abl signaling pathways, apoptosis, and cell cycling were analyzed in TKI-resistant cells of HES and CML. The in vivo antitumor activity of SNS-032 was assessed with xenografted BaF3-T674I FIP1L1-PDGFRα and KBM5-T315I Bcr-Abl cells in nude mouse models.
RESULTS: SNS-032 inhibited the phosphorylation on Ser5 and Ser2 of RNA polymerase II. SNS-032 decreased both the mRNA and protein levels of FIP1L1-PDGFRα and Bcr-Abl and inhibited the proliferation of malignant cells expressing FIP1L1-PDGFRα or Bcr-Abl. It also decreased the phosphorylation of downstream molecules. It induced apoptosis by triggering both the mitochondrial pathway and the death receptor pathway.
CONCLUSIONS: This CDK7/9 inhibitor potently inhibits FIP1L1-PDGFRα-positive HES cells and Bcr-Abl-positive CML cells regardless of their sensitivity to imatinib. SNS-032 may have potential in treating hematologic malignancy by abrogating oncogene addiction.

Caracciolo V, Laurenti G, Romano G, et al.
Flavopiridol induces phosphorylation of AKT in a human glioblastoma cell line, in contrast to siRNA-mediated silencing of Cdk9: Implications for drug design and development.
Cell Cycle. 2012; 11(6):1202-16 [PubMed] Related Publications
Cdk9 and Cdk7 are cdc2-like serine/threonine kinases that stabilize RNA transcript elongation through RNA polII carboxyl terminal domain (CTD) phosphorylation and are considered suitable targets for cancer therapy. The effects of flavopiridol and of siRNA-mediated inhibition of Cdk9 and/or Cdk7 were analyzed in human glioblastoma and human prostate cancer cell lines. One finding revealed that Cdk9 and Cdk7 could substitute each other in RNA polII CTD phosphorylation in contrast to the in vitro system. Thus, a simultaneous inhibition of Cdk9 and Cdk7 might be required both for targeting malignant cells and developing a platform for microarray analysis. However, these two pathways are not redundant, as indicated by differential effects observed in cell cycle regulation following siRNA-mediated inhibition of Cdk9 and/or Cdk7 in human PC3 prostate cancer cell line. Specifically, siRNA-mediated inhibition of Cdk9 caused a shift from G 0/G 1 to G 2/M phase in human PC3 prostate cancer cell line. Another finding showed that flavopiridol treatment induced a substantial AKT-Ser473 phosphorylation in human glioblastoma T98G cell line in contrast to siRNA-mediated inhibition of Cdk9 and Cdk9 combined with Cdk7, whereas siRNA-mediated silencing of Cdk7 caused a minor increase in AKT-Ser473 phosphorylation. AKT-Ser473 is a hallmark of AKT pathway activation and may protect cells from apoptosis. This finding also shows that Cdk9 and Cdk7 pathways are not redundant and may have important implications in drug development and for studying the mechanism of chemoresistance in malignant cells.

Moslehi R, Kumar A, Mills JL, et al.
Phenotype-specific adverse effects of XPD mutations on human prenatal development implicate impairment of TFIIH-mediated functions in placenta.
Eur J Hum Genet. 2012; 20(6):626-31 [PubMed] Free Access to Full Article Related Publications
Mutations in XPD (ERCC2), XPB (ERCC3), and TTD-A (GTF2H5), genes involved in nucleotide excision repair and transcription, can cause several disorders including trichothiodystrophy (TTD) and xeroderma pigmentosum (XP). In this study, we tested the hypothesis that mutations in the XPD gene affect placental development in a phenotype-specific manner. To test our hypothesis and decipher potential biologic mechanisms, we compared all XPD-associated TTD (n=43) and XP (n=37) cases reported in the literature with respect to frequencies of gestational complications. Our genetic epidemiologic investigations of TTD and XP revealed that the exact genetic abnormality was relevant to the mechanism leading to gestational complications such as preeclampsia. Through structural mapping, we localized the preeclampsia-associated mutations to a C-terminal motif and the helicase surfaces of XPD, most likely affecting XPD's binding to cdk-activating kinase (CAK) and p44 subunits of transcription factor (TF) IIH. Our results suggested a link between TTD- but not XP-associated XPD mutations, placental maldevelopment and risk of pregnancy complications, possibly due to impairment of TFIIH-mediated functions in placenta. Our findings highlight the importance of the fetal genotype in development of gestational complications, such as preeclampsia. Therefore, future studies of genetic associations of preeclampsia and other placental vascular complications may benefit from focusing on genetic variants within the fetal DNA.

Barry KH, Koutros S, Andreotti G, et al.
Genetic variation in nucleotide excision repair pathway genes, pesticide exposure and prostate cancer risk.
Carcinogenesis. 2012; 33(2):331-7 [PubMed] Free Access to Full Article Related Publications
Previous research demonstrates increased prostate cancer risk for pesticide applicators and pesticide manufacturing workers. Although underlying mechanisms are unknown, human biomonitoring studies indicate increased genetic damage (e.g. chromosomal aberrations) with pesticide exposure. Given that the nucleotide excision repair (NER) pathway repairs a broad range of DNA damage, we evaluated interactions between pesticide exposure and 324 single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) tagging 27 NER genes among 776 prostate cancer cases and 1444 male controls in a nested case-control study of white Agricultural Health Study pesticide applicators. We determined interaction P values using likelihood ratio tests from logistic regression models and three-level pesticide variables (none/low/high) based on lifetime days of use weighted to an intensity score. We adjusted for multiple comparisons using the false discovery rate (FDR) method. Of the 17 interactions that met FDR <0.2, 3 displayed a monotonic increase in prostate cancer risk with increasing exposure in one genotype group and no significant association in the other group. Men carrying the variant A allele at ERCC1 rs2298881 exhibited increased prostate cancer risk with high versus no fonofos use [odds ratio (OR) 2.98; 95% confidence interval (CI) 1.65-5.39; P(interact) = 3.6 × 10(-4); FDR-adjusted P = 0.11]. Men carrying the homozygous wild-type TT genotype at two correlated CDK7 SNPs, rs11744596 and rs2932778 (r(2) = 1.0), exhibited increased risk with high versus no carbofuran use (OR 2.01; 95% CI 1.31-3.10 for rs11744596; P(interact) = 7.2 × 10(-4); FDR-adjusted P = 0.09). In contrast, we did not observe associations among men with other genotypes at these loci. While requiring replication, our findings suggest a role for NER genetic variation in pesticide-associated prostate cancer risk.

Morisaki T, Onishi H, Koya N, et al.
Combinatorial cytotoxicity of gemcitabine and cytokine-activated killer cells in hepatocellular carcinoma via the NKG2D-MICA/B system.
Anticancer Res. 2011; 31(7):2505-10 [PubMed] Related Publications
AIM: Natural-killer group 2, member D (NKG2D) is an activating receptor on natural killer cells and activated T-cells, designated cytokine-activated killer (CAK) cells here. The MHC class I chain-related A and B (MICA and MICB, respectively) are ligands of NKG2D and are expressed on various human tumor cells, including hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) cells. Here, we investigate whether gemcitabine, a chemotherapeutic agent, affects MICA/B expression in HCC.
MATERIALS AND METHODS: We used ELISA, RT-PCR and adherent target detachment assays to determine expression of MICA/B in HepG2 HCC cells and the level of cellular cytotoxicity generated by treatment with gemcitabine and/or CAK cells.
RESULTS: Surface expression of MICA/B was evident after gemcitabine treatment, and MICB-specific mRNA was up-regulated. Pre-treatment with gemcitabine and subsequent exposure to CAK cells induced greater cytotoxicity than either treatment alone. Inclusion of soluble MICB significantly reduced cytotoxicity.
CONCLUSION: Gemcitabine induced MICA/B expression in HepG2 cells, resulting in synergistic enhancement of the cytotoxic effects of NKG2D-high CAK cells. The combination of gemcitabine and CAK cells may have clinical therapeutic significance for HCC.

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