Gene Summary

Gene:IL21R; interleukin 21 receptor
Aliases: NILR, CD360
Summary:The protein encoded by this gene is a cytokine receptor for interleukin 21 (IL21). It belongs to the type I cytokine receptors, and has been shown to form a heterodimeric receptor complex with the common gamma-chain, a receptor subunit also shared by the receptors for interleukin 2, 4, 7, 9, and 15. This receptor transduces the growth promoting signal of IL21, and is important for the proliferation and differentiation of T cells, B cells, and natural killer (NK) cells. The ligand binding of this receptor leads to the activation of multiple downstream signaling molecules, including JAK1, JAK3, STAT1, and STAT3. Knockout studies of a similar gene in mouse suggest a role for this gene in regulating immunoglobulin production. Three alternatively spliced transcript variants have been described. [provided by RefSeq, Jul 2010]
Databases:VEGA, OMIM, HGNC, Ensembl, GeneCard, Gene
Protein:interleukin-21 receptor
Source:NCBIAccessed: 11 March, 2017


What does this gene/protein do?
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Pathways:What pathways are this gene/protein implicaed in?
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Cancer Overview

Research Indicators

Publications Per Year (1992-2017)
Graph generated 11 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.

  • Genetic Therapy
  • Cell Survival
  • Cultured Cells
  • Up-Regulation
  • siRNA
  • Signal Transduction
  • Gene Expression
  • Cancer Stem Cells
  • Janus Kinase 3
  • Base Sequence
  • Chromosome 16
  • Natural Killer Cells
  • Interleukin-21 Receptor alpha Subunit
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Interleukin Receptor Common gamma Subunit
  • Acute Myeloid Leukaemia
  • Gene Expression Profiling
  • DNA-Binding Proteins
  • Apoptosis
  • Cell Differentiation
  • Flow Cytometry
  • Mice, Inbred NOD
  • Cancer Gene Expression Regulation
  • Receptors, Interleukin-21
  • Immunophenotyping
  • Urinary Bladder
  • RNA Interference
  • Western Blotting
  • Messenger RNA
  • Oligonucleotide Array Sequence Analysis
  • Leukaemia
  • Interleukins
  • Mice, Transgenic
  • Cell Line
  • Cell Proliferation
  • fms-Like Tyrosine Kinase 3
  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Mutation
  • Knockout Mice
  • Cancer DNA
Tag cloud generated 11 March, 2017 using data from PubMed, MeSH and CancerIndex

Specific Cancers (2)

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: IL21R (cancer-related)

Willerslev-Olsen A, Krejsgaard T, Lindahl LM, et al.
Staphylococcal enterotoxin A (SEA) stimulates STAT3 activation and IL-17 expression in cutaneous T-cell lymphoma.
Blood. 2016; 127(10):1287-96 [PubMed] Free Access to Full Article Related Publications
Cutaneous T-cell lymphoma (CTCL) is characterized by proliferation of malignant T cells in a chronic inflammatory environment. With disease progression, bacteria colonize the compromised skin barrier and half of CTCL patients die of infection rather than from direct organ involvement by the malignancy. Clinical data indicate that bacteria play a direct role in disease progression, but little is known about the mechanisms involved. Here, we demonstrate that bacterial isolates containing staphylococcal enterotoxin A (SEA) from the affected skin of CTCL patients, as well as recombinant SEA, stimulate activation of signal transducer and activator of transcription 3 (STAT3) and upregulation of interleukin (IL)-17 in immortalized and primary patient-derived malignant and nonmalignant T cells. Importantly, SEA induces STAT3 activation and IL-17 expression in malignant T cells when cocultured with nonmalignant T cells, indicating an indirect mode of action. In accordance, malignant T cells expressing an SEA-nonresponsive T-cell receptor variable region β chain are nonresponsive to SEA in monoculture but display strong STAT3 activation and IL-17 expression in cocultures with SEA-responsive nonmalignant T cells. The response is induced via IL-2 receptor common γ chain cytokines and a Janus kinase 3 (JAK3)-dependent pathway in malignant T cells, and blocked by tofacitinib, a clinical-grade JAK3 inhibitor. In conclusion, we demonstrate that SEA induces cell cross talk-dependent activation of STAT3 and expression of IL-17 in malignant T cells, suggesting a mechanism whereby SEA-producing bacteria promote activation of an established oncogenic pathway previously implicated in carcinogenesis.

Hopkins TG, Mura M, Al-Ashtal HA, et al.
The RNA-binding protein LARP1 is a post-transcriptional regulator of survival and tumorigenesis in ovarian cancer.
Nucleic Acids Res. 2016; 44(3):1227-46 [PubMed] Free Access to Full Article Related Publications
RNA-binding proteins (RBPs) are increasingly identified as post-transcriptional drivers of cancer progression. The RBP LARP1 is an mRNA stability regulator, and elevated expression of the protein in hepatocellular and lung cancers is correlated with adverse prognosis. LARP1 associates with an mRNA interactome that is enriched for oncogenic transcripts. Here we explore the role of LARP1 in epithelial ovarian cancer, a disease characterized by the rapid acquisition of resistance to chemotherapy through the induction of pro-survival signalling. We show, using ovarian cell lines and xenografts, that LARP1 is required for cancer cell survival and chemotherapy resistance. LARP1 promotes tumour formation in vivo and maintains cancer stem cell-like populations. Using transcriptomic analysis following LARP1 knockdown, cross-referenced against the LARP1 interactome, we identify BCL2 and BIK as LARP1 mRNA targets. We demonstrate that, through an interaction with the 3' untranslated regions (3' UTRs) of BCL2 and BIK, LARP1 stabilizes BCL2 but destabilizes BIK with the net effect of resisting apoptosis. Together, our data indicate that by differentially regulating the stability of a selection of mRNAs, LARP1 promotes ovarian cancer progression and chemotherapy resistance.

Valletta S, Dolatshad H, Bartenstein M, et al.
ASXL1 mutation correction by CRISPR/Cas9 restores gene function in leukemia cells and increases survival in mouse xenografts.
Oncotarget. 2015; 6(42):44061-71 [PubMed] Free Access to Full Article Related Publications
Recurrent somatic mutations of the epigenetic modifier and tumor suppressor ASXL1 are common in myeloid malignancies, including chronic myeloid leukemia (CML), and are associated with poor clinical outcome. CRISPR/Cas9 has recently emerged as a powerful and versatile genome editing tool for genome engineering in various species. We have used the CRISPR/Cas9 system to correct the ASXL1 homozygous nonsense mutation present in the CML cell line KBM5, which lacks ASXL1 protein expression. CRISPR/Cas9-mediated ASXL1 homozygous correction resulted in protein re-expression with restored normal function, including down-regulation of Polycomb repressive complex 2 target genes. Significantly reduced cell growth and increased myeloid differentiation were observed in ASXL1 mutation-corrected cells, providing new insights into the role of ASXL1 in human myeloid cell differentiation. Mice xenografted with mutation-corrected KBM5 cells showed significantly longer survival than uncorrected xenografts. These results show that the sole correction of a driver mutation in leukemia cells increases survival in vivo in mice. This study provides proof-of-concept for driver gene mutation correction via CRISPR/Cas9 technology in human leukemia cells and presents a strategy to illuminate the impact of oncogenic mutations on cellular function and survival.

Pham LV, Lu G, Tamayo AT, et al.
Establishment and characterization of a novel MYC/BCL2 "double-hit" diffuse large B cell lymphoma cell line, RC.
J Hematol Oncol. 2015; 8:121 [PubMed] Free Access to Full Article Related Publications
BACKGROUND: Diffuse large B cell lymphoma (DLBCL) is the most common type of lymphoid malignancy worldwide. Approximately 5 % of cases of DLBCL are so-called double-hit lymphomas (DHL), defined by a chromosomal translocation or rearrangement involving MYC/8q24.2 in combination with another recurrent breakpoint, usually BCL2/18q21.3. Patients with MYC/BCL2 DHL are resistant to standard front-line therapy, and currently, there is no consensus for a therapeutic strategy to treat these patients. Lack of clinically relevant or validated human experimental DHL models of any type that would improve our understanding of the biologic basis of MYC/BCL2 DHL pathophysiology continues to hamper identification of valid therapeutic targets. We describe a unique MYC/BCL2 DHL cell line with morphologic features of DLBCL that we have established, designated as RC.
METHODS: We used tissue culture techniques to establish the RC cell line from primary DLBCL cells. We also utilized molecular and cellular biological techniques including flow cytometry, polymerase chain reaction (PCR), DNA fingerprinting, reverse-phase protein array, conventional cytogenetics, and fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH) analysis to characterize the RC cell line. NSG-severe combined immunodeficiency (SCID) mice were utilized as a model for xeno-transplantation of RC cells.
RESULTS: RC cells had the following immunophenotype: positive for CD10, CD19, CD20, CD22, CD38, CD43, CD44, and CD79b and negative for CD3, CD4, CD5, CD8, CD11c, CD14, CD30, CD56, and CD200, which was identical to the primary tumor cells. Conventional cytogenetic analysis showed a t(2;8)(p12;q24.2) and t(14;18)(q32;q21.3), corresponding to MYC and BCL2 gene rearrangements, respectively. DNA fingerprinting authenticated the RC cell line to be of the same clone as the primary tumor cells. In addition, RC cells were established in SCID mice as an in vivo model for translational therapeutics studies. Proteomic analysis showed activation of the mTOR signaling pathway in RC cells that can be targeted with an mTOR inhibitor.
CONCLUSION: The data presented confirm the validity of the RC cell line as a representative model of MYC/BCL2 DHL that will be useful for both in vitro and in vivo studies of DHL pathogenesis and therapeutics.

Sharma N, Nanta R, Sharma J, et al.
PI3K/AKT/mTOR and sonic hedgehog pathways cooperate together to inhibit human pancreatic cancer stem cell characteristics and tumor growth.
Oncotarget. 2015; 6(31):32039-60 [PubMed] Free Access to Full Article Related Publications
Cancer stem cells (CSCs) play major roles in cancer initiation, progression, and metastasis. It is evident from growing reports that PI3K/Akt/mTOR and Sonic Hedgehog (Shh) signaling pathways are aberrantly reactivated in pancreatic CSCs. Here, we examined the efficacy of combining NVP-LDE-225 (PI3K/mTOR inhibitor) and NVP-BEZ-235 (Smoothened inhibitor) on pancreatic CSCs characteristics, microRNA regulatory network, and tumor growth. NVP-LDE-225 co-operated with NVP-BEZ-235 in inhibiting pancreatic CSC's characteristics and tumor growth in mice by acting at the level of Gli. Combination of NVP-LDE-225 and NVP-BEZ-235 inhibited self-renewal capacity of CSCs by suppressing the expression of pluripotency maintaining factors Nanog, Oct-4, Sox-2 and c-Myc, and transcription of Gli. NVP-LDE-225 co-operated with NVP-BEZ-235 to inhibit Lin28/Let7a/Kras axis in pancreatic CSCs. Furthermore, a superior interaction of these drugs was observed on spheroid formation by pancreatic CSCs isolated from Pankras/p53 mice. The combination of these drugs also showed superior effects on the expression of proteins involved in cell proliferation, survival and apoptosis. In addition, NVP-LDE-225 co-operated with NVP-BEZ-235 in inhibiting EMT through modulation of cadherin, vimentin and transcription factors Snail, Slug and Zeb1. In conclusion, these data suggest that the combined inhibition of PI3K/Akt/mTOR and Shh pathways may be beneficial for the treatment of pancreatic cancer.

Kuramitsu S, Ohno M, Ohka F, et al.
Lenalidomide enhances the function of chimeric antigen receptor T cells against the epidermal growth factor receptor variant III by enhancing immune synapses.
Cancer Gene Ther. 2015; 22(10):487-95 [PubMed] Related Publications
The epidermal growth factor receptor variant III (EGFRvIII) is exclusively expressed on the cell surface in ~50% of glioblastoma multiforme (GBM). This variant strongly and persistently activates the phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase-Akt signaling pathway in a ligand-independent manner resulting in enhanced tumorigenicity, cellular motility and resistance to chemoradiotherapy. Our group generated a recombinant single-chain variable fragment (scFv) antibody specific to the EGFRvIII, referred to as 3C10-scFv. In the current study, we constructed a lentiviral vector transducing the chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) that consisted of 3C10-scFv, CD3ζ, CD28 and 4-1BB (3C10-CAR). The 3C10-CAR-transduced peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) and CD3(+) T cells specifically lysed the glioma cells that express EGFRvIII. Moreover, we demonstrated that CAR CD3(+) T cells migrated to the intracranial xenograft of GBM in the mice treated with 3C10-CAR PBMCs. An important and novel finding of our study was that a thalidomide derivative lenalidomide induced 3C10-CAR PBMC proliferation and enhanced the persistent antitumor effect of the cells in vivo. Lenalidomide also exhibited enhanced immunological synapses between the effector cells and the target cells as determined by CD11a and F-actin polymerization. Collectively, lentiviral-mediated transduction of CAR effectors targeting the EGFRvIII showed specific efficacy, and lenalidomide even intensified CAR cell therapy by enhanced formation of immunological synapses.

Wang LN, Cui YX, Ruge F, Jiang WG
Interleukin 21 and Its Receptor Play a Role in Proliferation, Migration and Invasion of Breast Cancer Cells.
Cancer Genomics Proteomics. 2015 Sep-Oct; 12(5):211-21 [PubMed] Related Publications
Interleukin 21 (IL21) is a cytokine produced predominantly by cluster of differentiation 4 (CD4+) T-cells and natural killer T-cells. There exists evidence that IL21 is implicated in various immunological processes through its specific receptor (IL21R). However, the participation of IL21 in the pathogenesis of solid tumors is not fully conclusive. In the present study, we demonstrated that there was differential expression of IL21R in breast cancer cells using reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR), western blotting and sequence analysis. The expression of IL21R was stronger in MDA-231 cells, weaker in MCF7 but negative in ZR-75.1 cells. The invasion and migratory capacity of IL21R+ MDA-231 cells was enhanced by IL21 in a dose-dependent manner. After IL21R was knocked-down by siRNA gene silencing, the response of MDA-231 to treatment with IL21 was attenuated. We found that siRNA silencing of IL21R also spontaneously suppressed cell proliferation. However, IL21 had no additional effect on the proliferation of MDA-231 cells. We also found that IL21R was involved in signaling pathways of matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs), that are crucial for spreading and migration of metastatic MDA231 cells. In conclusion, we unveiled the roles of IL21R in breast cancer cells, which enhances our knowledge on immunological regulation of cancer cells through the axis of IL21 and its receptor.

Park H, Cho SY, Kim H, et al.
Genomic alterations in BCL2L1 and DLC1 contribute to drug sensitivity in gastric cancer.
Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2015; 112(40):12492-7 [PubMed] Free Access to Full Article Related Publications
Gastric cancer (GC) is the third leading cause of cancer-related deaths worldwide. Recent high-throughput analyses of genomic alterations revealed several driver genes and altered pathways in GC. However, therapeutic applications from genomic data are limited, largely as a result of the lack of druggable molecular targets and preclinical models for drug selection. To identify new therapeutic targets for GC, we performed array comparative genomic hybridization (aCGH) of DNA from 103 patients with GC for copy number alteration (CNA) analysis, and whole-exome sequencing from 55 GCs from the same patients for mutation profiling. Pathway analysis showed recurrent alterations in the Wnt signaling [APC, CTNNB1, and DLC1 (deleted in liver cancer 1)], ErbB signaling (ERBB2, PIK3CA, and KRAS), and p53 signaling/apoptosis [TP53 and BCL2L1 (BCL2-like 1)] pathways. In 18.4% of GC cases (19/103), amplification of the antiapoptotic gene BCL2L1 was observed, and subsequently a BCL2L1 inhibitor was shown to markedly decrease cell viability in BCL2L1-amplified cell lines and in similarly altered patient-derived GC xenografts, especially when combined with other chemotherapeutic agents. In 10.9% of cases (6/55), mutations in DLC1 were found and were also shown to confer a growth advantage for these cells via activation of Rho-ROCK signaling, rendering these cells more susceptible to a ROCK inhibitor. Taken together, our study implicates BCL2L1 and DLC1 as potential druggable targets for specific subsets of GC cases.

Zhang M, Mathews Griner LA, Ju W, et al.
Selective targeting of JAK/STAT signaling is potentiated by Bcl-xL blockade in IL-2-dependent adult T-cell leukemia.
Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2015; 112(40):12480-5 [PubMed] Free Access to Full Article Related Publications
Adult T-cell leukemia (ATL) develops in individuals infected with human T-cell lymphotropic virus-1 (HTLV-1). Presently there is no curative therapy for ATL. HTLV-1-encoded protein Tax (transactivator from the X-gene region) up-regulates Bcl-xL (B-cell lymphoma-extra large) expression and activates interleukin-2 (IL-2), IL-9, and IL-15 autocrine/paracrine systems, resulting in amplified JAK/STAT signaling. Inhibition of JAK signaling reduces cytokine-dependent ex vivo proliferation of peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) from ATL patients in smoldering/chronic stages. Currently, two JAK inhibitors are approved for human use. In this study, we examined activity of multiple JAK inhibitors in ATL cell lines. The selective JAK inhibitor ruxolitinib was examined in a high-throughput matrix screen combined with >450 potential therapeutic agents, and Bcl-2/Bcl-xL inhibitor navitoclax was identified as a strong candidate for multicomponent therapy. The combination was noted to strongly activate BAX (Bcl-2-associated X protein), effect mitochondrial depolarization, and increase caspase 3/7 activities that lead to cleavage of PARP (poly ADP ribose polymerase) and Mcl-1 (myeloid cell leukemia 1). Ruxolitinib and navitoclax independently demonstrated modest antitumor efficacy, whereas the combination dramatically lowered tumor burden and prolonged survival in an ATL murine model. This combination strongly blocked ex vivo proliferation of five ATL patients' PBMCs. These studies provide support for a therapeutic trial in patients with smoldering/chronic ATL using a drug combination that inhibits JAK signaling and antiapoptotic protein Bcl-xL.

Jain S, Chen J, Nicolae A, et al.
IL-21-driven neoplasms in SJL mice mimic some key features of human angioimmunoblastic T-cell lymphoma.
Am J Pathol. 2015; 185(11):3102-14 [PubMed] Free Access to Full Article Related Publications
SJL/J mice exhibit a high incidence of mature B-cell lymphomas that require CD4(+) T cells for their development. We found that their spleens and lymph nodes contained increased numbers of germinal centers and T follicular helper (TFH) cells. Microarray analyses revealed high levels of transcripts encoding IL-21 associated with high levels of serum IL-21. We developed IL-21 receptor (IL21R)-deficient Swiss Jim Lambart (SJL) mice to determine the role of IL-21 in disease. These mice had reduced numbers of TFH cells, lower serum levels of IL-21, and few germinal center B cells, and they did not develop B-cell tumors, suggesting IL-21-dependent B-cell lymphomagenesis. We also noted a series of features common to SJL disease and human angioimmunoblastic T-cell lymphoma (AITL), a malignancy of TFH cells. Gene expression analyses of AITL showed that essentially all cases expressed elevated levels of transcripts for IL21, IL21R, and a series of genes associated with TFH cell development and function. These results identify a mouse model with features of AITL and suggest that patients with the disease might benefit from therapeutic interventions that interrupt IL-21 signaling.

Ramsdale R, Jorissen RN, Li FZ, et al.
The transcription cofactor c-JUN mediates phenotype switching and BRAF inhibitor resistance in melanoma.
Sci Signal. 2015; 8(390):ra82 [PubMed] Related Publications
Most patients with BRAF-mutant metastatic melanoma display remarkable but incomplete and short-lived responses to inhibitors of the BRAF kinase or the mitogen-activated protein kinase kinase (MEK), collectively BRAF/MEK inhibitors. We found that inherent resistance to these agents in BRAF(V600)-mutant melanoma cell lines was associated with high abundance of c-JUN and characteristics of a mesenchymal-like phenotype. Early drug adaptation in drug-sensitive cell lines grown in culture or as xenografts, and in patient samples during therapy, was consistently characterized by down-regulation of SPROUTY4 (a negative feedback regulator of receptor tyrosine kinases and the BRAF-MEK signaling pathway), increased expression of JUN and reduced expression of LEF1. This coincided with a switch in phenotype that resembled an epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT). In cultured cells, these BRAF inhibitor-induced changes were reversed upon removal of the drug. Knockdown of SPROUTY4 was sufficient to increase the abundance of c-JUN in the absence of drug treatment. Overexpressing c-JUN in drug-naïve melanoma cells induced similar EMT-like phenotypic changes to BRAF inhibitor treatment, whereas knocking down JUN abrogated the BRAF inhibitor-induced early adaptive changes associated with resistance and enhanced cell death. Combining the BRAF inhibitor with an inhibitor of c-JUN amino-terminal kinase (JNK) reduced c-JUN phosphorylation, decreased cell migration, and increased cell death in melanoma cells. Gene expression data from a panel of melanoma cell lines and a patient cohort showed that JUN expression correlated with a mesenchymal gene signature, implicating c-JUN as a key mediator of the mesenchymal-like phenotype associated with drug resistance.

Wong SH, Goode DL, Iwasaki M, et al.
The H3K4-Methyl Epigenome Regulates Leukemia Stem Cell Oncogenic Potential.
Cancer Cell. 2015; 28(2):198-209 [PubMed] Free Access to Full Article Related Publications
The genetic programs that maintain leukemia stem cell (LSC) self-renewal and oncogenic potential have been well defined; however, the comprehensive epigenetic landscape that sustains LSC cellular identity and functionality is less well established. We report that LSCs in MLL-associated leukemia reside in an epigenetic state of relative genome-wide high-level H3K4me3 and low-level H3K79me2. LSC differentiation is associated with reversal of these broad epigenetic profiles, with concomitant downregulation of crucial MLL target genes and the LSC maintenance transcriptional program that is driven by the loss of H3K4me3, but not H3K79me2. The H3K4-specific demethylase KDM5B negatively regulates leukemogenesis in murine and human MLL-rearranged AML cells, demonstrating a crucial role for the H3K4 global methylome in determining LSC fate.

Sanmamed MF, Rodriguez I, Schalper KA, et al.
Nivolumab and Urelumab Enhance Antitumor Activity of Human T Lymphocytes Engrafted in Rag2-/-IL2Rγnull Immunodeficient Mice.
Cancer Res. 2015; 75(17):3466-78 [PubMed] Related Publications
A current pressing need in cancer immunology is the development of preclinical model systems that are immunocompetent for the study of human tumors. Here, we report the development of a humanized murine model that can be used to analyze the pharmacodynamics and antitumor properties of immunostimulatory monoclonal antibodies (mAb) in settings where the receptors targeted by the mAbs are expressed. Human lymphocytes transferred into immunodeficient mice underwent activation and redistribution to murine organs, where they exhibited cell-surface expression of hCD137 and hPD-1. Systemic lymphocyte infiltrations resulted in a lethal CD4(+) T cell-mediated disease (xenograft-versus-host disease), which was aggravated when murine subjects were administered clinical-grade anti-hCD137 (urelumab) and anti-hPD-1 (nivolumab). In mice engrafted with human colorectal HT-29 carcinoma cells and allogeneic human peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC), or with a patient-derived gastric carcinoma and PBMCs from the same patient, we found that coadministration of urelumab and nivolumab was sufficient to significantly slow tumor growth. Correlated with this result were increased numbers of activated human T lymphocytes producing IFNγ and decreased numbers of human regulatory T lymphocytes in the tumor xenografts, possibly explaining the efficacy of the therapeutic regimen. Our results offer a proof of concept for the use of humanized mouse models for surrogate efficacy and histology investigations of immune checkpoint drugs and their combinations.

Chandran SS, Paria BC, Srivastava AK, et al.
Tumor-Specific Effector CD8+ T Cells That Can Establish Immunological Memory in Humans after Adoptive Transfer Are Marked by Expression of IL7 Receptor and c-myc.
Cancer Res. 2015; 75(16):3216-26 [PubMed] Free Access to Full Article Related Publications
The optimal T-cell attributes for adoptive cancer immunotherapy are unclear. Recent clinical trials of ex vivo-expanded tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes indicated that differentiated T effector cells can elicit durable antitumor responses in some patients with cancer, with their antitumor activity tightly correlated with their persistence in the host. Thus, there is great interest in the definition of intrinsic biomarkers that can predict the conversion of short-lived tumor antigen-specific T effector cells into long-lived T memory cells. Long-term persistence of ex vivo-expanded tumor-specific CD8+ T effector clones has been reported in refractory metastatic melanoma patients after adoptive T-cell transfer. By using highly homogeneous clone populations from these preparations, we performed a comparative transcriptional profiling to define preinfusion molecular attributes that can be ascribed to an effector-to-memory transition. Through this route, we discovered that preinfusion T-cell clones that expressed the IL7 receptor (IL7R) and c-myc were more likely to persist longer after adoptive transfer to patients. The predictive value of these two biomarkers was strengthened by using IL7R protein, IL7-induced pSTAT5, and c-myc mRNA expression to prospectively identify human tumor-specific T effector clones capable of engraftment into immunodeficient mice. Overall, our findings reveal IL7R and c-myc expression as intrinsic biomarkers that can predict the fate of CD8+ T effector cells after adoptive transfer.

Furlow PW, Zhang S, Soong TD, et al.
Mechanosensitive pannexin-1 channels mediate microvascular metastatic cell survival.
Nat Cell Biol. 2015; 17(7):943-52 [PubMed] Free Access to Full Article Related Publications
During metastatic progression, circulating cancer cells become lodged within the microvasculature of end organs, where most die from mechanical deformation. Although this phenomenon was first described over a half-century ago, the mechanisms enabling certain cells to survive this metastasis-suppressive barrier remain unknown. By applying whole-transcriptome RNA-sequencing technology to isogenic cancer cells of differing metastatic capacities, we identified a mutation encoding a truncated form of the pannexin-1 (PANX1) channel, PANX1(1-89), as recurrently enriched in highly metastatic breast cancer cells. PANX1(1-89) functions to permit metastatic cell survival during traumatic deformation in the microvasculature by augmenting ATP release from mechanosensitive PANX1 channels activated by membrane stretch. PANX1-mediated ATP release acts as an autocrine suppressor of deformation-induced apoptosis through P2Y-purinergic receptors. Finally, small-molecule therapeutic inhibition of PANX1 channels is found to reduce the efficiency of breast cancer metastasis. These data suggest a molecular basis for metastatic cell survival on microvasculature-induced biomechanical trauma.

Lamhamedi-Cherradi SE, Menegaz BA, Ramamoorthy V, et al.
An Oral Formulation of YK-4-279: Preclinical Efficacy and Acquired Resistance Patterns in Ewing Sarcoma.
Mol Cancer Ther. 2015; 14(7):1591-604 [PubMed] Related Publications
Ewing sarcoma is a transcription factor-mediated pediatric bone tumor caused by a chromosomal translocation of the EWSR1 gene and one of several genes in the ETS family of transcription factors, typically FLI1 or ERG. Full activity of the resulting oncogenic fusion protein occurs only after binding RNA helicase A (RHA), and novel biologically targeted small molecules designed to interfere with that interaction have shown early promise in the preclinical setting. Herein, we demonstrate marked preclinical antineoplastic activity of an orally bioavailable formulation of YK-4-279 and identify mechanisms of acquired chemotherapy resistance that may be exploited to induce collateral sensitivity. Daily enteral administration of YK-4-279 led to significant delay in Ewing sarcoma tumor growth within a murine model. In advance of anticipated early-phase human clinical trials, we investigated both de novo and acquired mechanism(s) by which Ewing sarcoma cells evade YK-4-279-mediated cell death. Drug-resistant clones, formed by chronic in vitro exposure to steadily increased levels of YK-4-279, overexpressed c-Kit, cyclin D1, pStat3(Y705), and PKC isoforms. Interestingly, cross-resistance to imatinib and enzastaurin (selective inhibitors of c-Kit and PKC-β, respectively), was observed and the use of YK-4-279 with enzastaurin in vitro led to marked drug synergy, suggesting a potential role for combination therapies in the future. By advancing an oral formulation of YK-4-279 and identifying prominent mechanisms of resistance, this preclinical research takes us one step closer to a shared goal of curing adolescents and young adults afflicted by Ewing sarcoma.

Alonso S, Su M, Jones JW, et al.
Human bone marrow niche chemoprotection mediated by cytochrome P450 enzymes.
Oncotarget. 2015; 6(17):14905-12 [PubMed] Free Access to Full Article Related Publications
Substantial evidence now demonstrates that interactions between the tumor microenvironment and malignant cells are a critical component of clinical drug resistance. However, the mechanisms responsible for microenvironment-mediated chemoprotection remain unclear. We showed that bone marrow (BM) stromal cytochrome P450 (CYP)26 enzymes protect normal hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs) from the pro-differentiation effects of retinoic acid. Here, we investigated if stromal expression of CYPs is a general mechanism of chemoprotection. We found that similar to human hepatocytes, human BM-derived stromal cells expressed a variety of drug-metabolizing enzymes. CYP3A4, the liver's major drug-metabolizing enzyme, was at least partially responsible for BM stroma's ability to protect multiple myeloma (MM) and leukemia cells from bortezomib and etoposide, respectively, both in vitro and in vivo. Moreover, clarithromycin overcame stromal-mediated MM resistance to dexamethasone, suggesting that CYP3A4 inhibition plays a role in its ability to augment the activity of lenalidomide and dexamethasone as part of the BiRd regimen. We uncovered a novel mechanism of microenvironment-mediated drug resistance, whereby the BM niche creates a sanctuary site from drugs. Targeting these sanctuaries holds promise for eliminating minimal residual tumor and improving cancer outcomes.

Verner J, Trbusek M, Chovancova J, et al.
NOD/SCID IL2Rγ-null mouse xenograft model of human p53-mutated chronic lymphocytic leukemia and ATM-mutated mantle cell lymphoma using permanent cell lines.
Leuk Lymphoma. 2015; 56(11):3198-206 [PubMed] Related Publications
Xenograft models represent a promising tool to study the pathogenesis of hematological malignancies. To establish a reliable and appropriate in vivo model of aggressive human B-cell leukemia and lymphoma we xenotransplanted four p53-mutated cell lines and one ATM-mutated cell line into immunodeficient NOD/SCID IL2Rγ-null mice. The cell lines MEC-1, SU-DHL-4, JEKO-1, REC-1, and GRANTA-519 were transplanted intraperitoneally or subcutaneously and the engraftment was investigated using immunohistochemistry and flow cytometry. We found significant differences in engraftment efficiency. MEC-1, JEKO-1 and GRANTA-519 cell lines engrafted most efficiently, while SU-DHL-4 cells did not engraft at all. MEC-1 and GRANTA-519 massively infiltrated organs and the whole intraperitoneal cavity showing very aggressive growth. In addition, GRANTA-519 cells massively migrated to the bone marrow regardless of the transplantation route. The MEC-1 and GRANTA-519 cells can be especially recommended for in vivo study of p53-mutated chronic lymphocytic leukemia and ATM-mutated mantle cell lymphoma, respectively.

Cheah MT, Chen JY, Sahoo D, et al.
CD14-expressing cancer cells establish the inflammatory and proliferative tumor microenvironment in bladder cancer.
Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2015; 112(15):4725-30 [PubMed] Free Access to Full Article Related Publications
Nonresolving chronic inflammation at the neoplastic site is consistently associated with promoting tumor progression and poor patient outcomes. However, many aspects behind the mechanisms that establish this tumor-promoting inflammatory microenvironment remain undefined. Using bladder cancer (BC) as a model, we found that CD14-high cancer cells express higher levels of numerous inflammation mediators and form larger tumors compared with CD14-low cells. CD14 antigen is a glycosyl-phosphatidylinositol (GPI)-linked glycoprotein and has been shown to be critically important in the signaling pathways of Toll-like receptor (TLR). CD14 expression in this BC subpopulation of cancer cells is required for increased cytokine production and increased tumor growth. Furthermore, tumors formed by CD14-high cells are more highly vascularized with higher myeloid cell infiltration. Inflammatory factors produced by CD14-high BC cells recruit and polarize monocytes and macrophages to acquire immune-suppressive characteristics. In contrast, CD14-low BC cells have a higher baseline cell division rate than CD14-high cells. Importantly, CD14-high cells produce factors that further increase the proliferation of CD14-low cells. Collectively, we demonstrate that CD14-high BC cells may orchestrate tumor-promoting inflammation and drive tumor cell proliferation to promote tumor growth.

Davis MR, Zhu Z, Hansen DM, et al.
The role of IL-21 in immunity and cancer.
Cancer Lett. 2015; 358(2):107-14 [PubMed] Related Publications
Interleukin-21 (IL-21), produced predominantly by CD4+ T cells and natural killer T (NKT) cells, is a newly discovered member of the common γ-chain family of cytokines. It has been implicated in many immunological processes and has been linked to autoimmune diseases, allergies and other inflammatory diseases. In recent years, the role for IL-21 in the pathogenesis of cancer has also been extensively studied. In this review, we will discuss recent advances concerning the role of IL-21 in immunological processes and the pathogenesis of cancer.

Fogal V, Babic I, Chao Y, et al.
Mitochondrial p32 is upregulated in Myc expressing brain cancers and mediates glutamine addiction.
Oncotarget. 2015; 6(2):1157-70 [PubMed] Free Access to Full Article Related Publications
Metabolic reprogramming is a key feature of tumorigenesis that is controlled by oncogenes. Enhanced utilization of glucose and glutamine are the best-established hallmarks of tumor metabolism. The oncogene c-Myc is one of the major players responsible for this metabolic alteration. However, the molecular mechanisms involved in Myc-induced metabolic reprogramming are not well defined. Here we identify p32, a mitochondrial protein known to play a role in the expression of mitochondrial respiratory chain complexes, as a critical player in Myc-induced glutamine addiction. We show that p32 is a direct transcriptional target of Myc and that high level of Myc in malignant brain cancers correlates with high expression of p32. Attenuation of p32 expression reduced growth rate of glioma cells expressing Myc and impaired tumor formation in vivo. Loss of p32 in glutamine addicted glioma cells induced resistance to glutamine deprivation and imparted sensitivity to glucose withdrawal. Finally, we provide evidence that p32 expression contributes to Myc-induced glutamine addiction of cancer cells. Our findings suggest that Myc promotes the expression of p32, which is required to maintain sufficient respiratory capacity to sustain glutamine metabolism in Myc transformed cells.

O'Hear C, Heiber JF, Schubert I, et al.
Anti-CD33 chimeric antigen receptor targeting of acute myeloid leukemia.
Haematologica. 2015; 100(3):336-44 [PubMed] Free Access to Full Article Related Publications
Current therapies for acute myeloid leukemia are associated with high failure and relapse rates. Adoptive immunotherapies, which have shown promise in the treatment of hematologic malignancies, have the potential to target acute myeloid leukemia through pathways that are distinct and complementary to current approaches. Here, we describe the development of a novel adoptive immunotherapy specific for this disease. We generated a second generation CD33-specific chimeric antigen receptor capable of redirecting cytolytic effector T cells against leukemic cells. CD33 is expressed in approximately 90% of acute myeloid leukemia cases and has demonstrated utility as a target of therapeutic antibodies. Chimeric antigen receptor-modified T cells efficiently killed leukemia cell lines and primary tumor cells in vitro. The anti-leukemia effect was CD33-specific, mediated through T-cell effector functions, and displayed tumor lysis at effector:target ratios as low as 1:20. Furthermore, the CD33-redirected T cells were effective in vivo, preventing the development of leukemia after prophylactic administration and delaying the progression of established disease in mice. These data provide pre-clinical validation of the effectiveness of a second-generation anti-CD33 chimeric antigen receptor therapy for acute myeloid leukemia, and support its continued development as a clinical therapeutic.

Gao X, Wang H, Cai S, et al.
Phosphorylation of NMDA 2B at S1303 in human glioma peritumoral tissue: implications for glioma epileptogenesis.
Neurosurg Focus. 2014; 37(6):E17 [PubMed] Related Publications
OBJECT: Peritumoral seizures are an early symptom of a glioma. To gain a better understanding of the molecular mechanism underlying tumor-induced epileptogenesis, the authors studied modulation of the N-methyl-d-aspartate (NMDA) receptor in peritumoral tissue.
METHODS: To study the possible etiology of peritumoral seizures, NMDA receptor expression, posttranslational modification, and function were analyzed in an orthotopic mouse model of human gliomas and primary patient glioma tissue in which the peritumoral border (tumor-brain interface) was preserved in a tissue block during surgery.
RESULTS: The authors found that the NMDA receptor containing the 2B subunit (NR2B), a predominantly extrasynaptic receptor, is highly phosphorylated at S1013 in the neurons located in the periglioma area of the mouse brain. NR2B is also highly phosphorylated at S1013 in the neurons located in the peritumoral area from human brain tissue containing a glioma. The phosphorylation of the extrasynaptic NMDA receptor increases its permeability for Ca(2+) influx and subsequently mediates neuronal overexcitation and seizure activity.
CONCLUSIONS: These data suggest that overexcitation of the extrasynaptic NMDA receptors in the peritumoral neurons may contribute to the development of peritumoral seizures and that the phosphorylated NR2B may be a therapeutic target for blocking primary brain tumor-induced peritumoral seizures.

Klinghammer K, Raguse JD, Plath T, et al.
A comprehensively characterized large panel of head and neck cancer patient-derived xenografts identifies the mTOR inhibitor everolimus as potential new treatment option.
Int J Cancer. 2015; 136(12):2940-8 [PubMed] Related Publications
Patient-derived xenograft (PDX) models have shown to reflect original patient tumors better than any other preclinical model. We embarked in a study establishing a large panel of head and neck squamous cell carcinomas PDX for biomarker analysis and evaluation of established and novel compounds. Out of 115 transplanted specimens 52 models were established of which 29 were characterized for response to docetaxel, cetuximab, methotrexate, carboplatin, 5-fluorouracil and everolimus. Further, tumors were subjected to sequencing analysis and gene expression profiling of selected mTOR pathway members. Most frequent response was observed for docetaxel and cetuximab. Responses to carboplatin, 5-fluorouracil and methotrexate were moderate. Everolimus revealed activity in the majority of PDX. Mutational profiling and gene expression analysis did not reveal a predictive biomarker for everolimus even though by trend RPS6KB1 mRNA expression was associated with response. In conclusion we demonstrate a comprehensively characterized panel of head and neck cancer PDX models, which represent a valuable and renewable tissue resource for evaluation of novel compounds and associated biomarkers.

Brun SN, Markant SL, Esparza LA, et al.
Survivin as a therapeutic target in Sonic hedgehog-driven medulloblastoma.
Oncogene. 2015; 34(29):3770-9 [PubMed] Free Access to Full Article Related Publications
Medulloblastoma (MB) is a highly malignant brain tumor that occurs primarily in children. Although surgery, radiation and high-dose chemotherapy have led to increased survival, many MB patients still die from their disease, and patients who survive suffer severe long-term side effects as a consequence of treatment. Thus, more effective and less toxic therapies for MB are critically important. Development of such therapies depends in part on identification of genes that are necessary for growth and survival of tumor cells. Survivin is an inhibitor of apoptosis protein that regulates cell cycle progression and resistance to apoptosis, is frequently expressed in human MB and when expressed at high levels predicts poor clinical outcome. Therefore, we hypothesized that Survivin may have a critical role in growth and survival of MB cells and that targeting it may enhance MB therapy. Here we show that Survivin is overexpressed in tumors from patched (Ptch) mutant mice, a model of Sonic hedgehog (SHH)-driven MB. Genetic deletion of survivin in Ptch mutant tumor cells significantly inhibits proliferation and causes cell cycle arrest. Treatment with small-molecule antagonists of Survivin impairs proliferation and survival of both murine and human MB cells. Finally, Survivin antagonists impede growth of MB cells in vivo. These studies highlight the importance of Survivin in SHH-driven MB, and suggest that it may represent a novel therapeutic target in patients with this disease.

Chakrabarti R, Wei Y, Hwang J, et al.
ΔNp63 promotes stem cell activity in mammary gland development and basal-like breast cancer by enhancing Fzd7 expression and Wnt signalling.
Nat Cell Biol. 2014; 16(10):1004-15, 1-13 [PubMed] Free Access to Full Article Related Publications
Emerging evidence suggests that cancer is populated and maintained by tumour-initiating cells (TICs) with stem-like properties similar to those of adult tissue stem cells. Despite recent advances, the molecular regulatory mechanisms that may be shared between normal and malignant stem cells remain poorly understood. Here we show that the ΔNp63 isoform of the Trp63 transcription factor promotes normal mammary stem cell (MaSC) activity by increasing the expression of the Wnt receptor Fzd7, thereby enhancing Wnt signalling. Importantly, Fzd7-dependent enhancement of Wnt signalling by ΔNp63 also governs tumour-initiating activity of the basal subtype of breast cancer. These findings establish ΔNp63 as a key regulator of stem cells in both normal and malignant mammary tissues and provide direct evidence that breast cancer TICs and normal MaSCs share common regulatory mechanisms.

Zhao L, Teklemariam T, Hantash BM
Heterelogous expression of mutated HLA-G decreases immunogenicity of human embryonic stem cells and their epidermal derivatives.
Stem Cell Res. 2014; 13(2):342-54 [PubMed] Related Publications
Human embryonic stem cells (hESCs) are capable of extensive self-renewal and expansion and can differentiate into any somatic tissue, making them useful for regenerative medicine applications. Allogeneic transplantation of hESC-derived tissues from results in immunological rejection absent adjunctive immunosuppression. The goal of our study was to generate a universal pluripotent stem cell source by nucleofecting a mutated human leukocyte antigen G (mHLA-G) gene into hESCs using the PiggyBac transposon. We successfully generated stable mHLA-G(EF1α)-hESC lines using chEF1α promoter system that stably expressed mHLA-G protein during prolonged undifferentiated proliferation andin differentiated embryoid bodies as well as teratomas. Morphology, karyotype, and telomerase activity of mHLA-G expressing hESC were normal. Immunofluorescence staining and flow cytometry analysis revealed persistent expression of pluripotent markers, OCT-3/4 and SSEA-4, in undifferentiated mHLA-G(EF1α)-hESC. Nucleofected hESC formed teratomas and when directed to differentiate into epidermal precursors, expressed high levels of mHLA-G and keratinocyte markers K14 and CD29. Natural killer cell cytotoxicity assays demonstrated a significant decrease in lysis of mHLA-G(EF1a)-hESC targets relative to control cells. Similar results were obtained with mHLA-G(EF1α)-hESC-derived epidermal progenitors (hEEP). One way mixed T lymphocyte reactions unveiled that mHLA-G(EF1a)-hESC and -hEEP restrained the proliferative activity of mixed T lymphocytes. We conclude that heterologous expression of mHLA-G decreases immunogenicity of hESCs and their epidermal differentiated derivatives.

Jeitany M, Pineda JR, Liu Q, et al.
A preclinical mouse model of glioma with an alternative mechanism of telomere maintenance (ALT).
Int J Cancer. 2015; 136(7):1546-58 [PubMed] Free Access to Full Article Related Publications
Glioblastoma multiforme is the most aggressive primary tumor of the central nervous system. Glioma stem cells (GSCs), a small population of tumor cells with stem-like properties, are supposedly responsible for glioblastoma multiforme relapse after current therapies. In approximately thirty percent of glioblastoma multiforme tumors, telomeres are not maintained by telomerase but through an alternative mechanism, termed alternative lengthening of telomere (ALT), suggesting potential interest in developing specific therapeutic strategies. However, no preclinical model of ALT glioma was available until the isolation of TG20 cells from a human ALT glioma. Herein, we show that TG20 cells exhibit a high level of telomeric recombination but a stable karyotype, indicating that their telomeres retain their protective function against chromosomal instability. TG20 cells possess all of the characteristic features of GSCs: the expression of neural stem cell markers, the generation of intracerebral tumors in NOD-SCID-IL2Rγ (NSG) mice as well as in nude mice, and the ability to sustain serial intracerebral transplantations without expressing telomerase, demonstrating the stability of the ALT phenotype in vivo. Furthermore, we also demonstrate that 360B, a G-quadruplex ligand of the pyridine derivative series that impairs telomere replication and mitotic progression in cancer cells, prevents the development of TG20 tumors. Together, our results show that intracerebral grafts of TG20 cells in immunodeficient mice constitute an efficient preclinical model of ALT glioblastoma multiforme and that G-quadruplex ligands are a potential therapy for this specific type of tumor.

Yang CH, Yue J, Pfeffer SR, et al.
MicroRNA-21 promotes glioblastoma tumorigenesis by down-regulating insulin-like growth factor-binding protein-3 (IGFBP3).
J Biol Chem. 2014; 289(36):25079-87 [PubMed] Free Access to Full Article Related Publications
Despite advances in surgery, imaging, chemotherapy, and radiation, patients with glioblastoma multiforme (GBM), the most common histological subtype of glioma, have an especially dismal prognosis; >70% of GBM patients die within 2 years of diagnosis. In many human cancers, the microRNA miR-21 is overexpressed, and accumulating evidence indicates that it functions as an oncogene. Here, we report that miR-21 is overexpressed in human GBM cell lines and tumor tissue. Moreover, miR-21 expression in GBM patient samples is inversely correlated with patient survival. Knockdown of miR-21 in GBM cells inhibited cell proliferation in vitro and markedly inhibited tumor formation in vivo. A number of known miR-21 targets have been identified previously. By microarray analysis, we identified and validated insulin-like growth factor (IGF)-binding protein-3 (IGFBP3) as a novel miR-21 target gene. Overexpression of IGFBP3 in glioma cells inhibited cell proliferation in vitro and inhibited tumor formation of glioma xenografts in vivo. The critical role that IGFBP3 plays in miR-21-mediated actions was demonstrated by a rescue experiment, in which IGFBP3 knockdown in miR-21KD glioblastoma cells restored tumorigenesis. Examination of tumors from GBM patients showed that there was an inverse relationship between IGFBP3 and miR-21 expression and that increased IGFBP3 expression correlated with better patient survival. Our results identify IGFBP3 as a novel miR-21 target gene in glioblastoma and suggest that the oncogenic miRNA miR-21 down-regulates the expression of IGFBP3, which acts as a tumor suppressor in human glioblastoma.

Klanova M, Soukup T, Jaksa R, et al.
Mouse models of mantle cell lymphoma, complex changes in gene expression and phenotype of engrafted MCL cells: implications for preclinical research.
Lab Invest. 2014; 94(7):806-17 [PubMed] Related Publications
Mantle cell lymphoma (MCL) is an aggressive type of B-cell non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL) associated with poor prognosis. Animal models of MCL are scarce. We established and characterized various in vivo models of metastatic human MCL by tail vein injection of either primary cells isolated from patients with MCL or established MCL cell lines (Jeko-1, Mino, Rec-1, Hbl-2, and Granta-519) into immunodeficient NOD.Cg-Prkdc(scid) Il2rg(tm1Wjl)/SzJ mice. MCL infiltration was assessed with immunohistochemistry (tissues) and flow cytometry (peripheral blood). Engraftment of primary MCL cells was observed in 7 out of 12 patient samples. The pattern of engraftment of primary MCL cells varied from isolated involvement of the spleen to multiorgan infiltration. On the other hand, tumor engraftment was achieved in all five MCL cell lines used and lymphoma involvement of murine bone marrow, spleen, liver, and brain was observed. Overall survival of xenografted mice ranged from 22 ± 1 to 54 ± 3 days depending on the cell line used. Subsequently, we compared the gene expression profile (GEP) and phenotype of the engrafted MCL cells compared with the original in vitro growing cell lines (controls). We demonstrated that engrafted MCL cells displayed complex changes of GEP, protein expression, and sensitivity to cytotoxic agents when compared with controls. We further demonstrated that our MCL mouse models could be used to test the therapeutic activity of systemic chemotherapy, monoclonal antibodies, or angiogenesis inhibitors. The characterization of MCL murine models is likely to aid in improving our knowledge in the disease biology and to assist scientists in the preclinical and clinical development of novel agents in relapsed/refractory MCL patients.

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