Bachelor of Science, Fudan University (2011)
Doctor of Philosophy, University of Miami (2017)
In the autoimmune disease rheumatoid arthritis (RA), CD4+ Tcells promote pro-inflammatory effector functions by shunting glucose away from glycolysis and ATP production. Underlying mechanisms remain unknown, and here we implicate the DNA repair nuclease MRE11A in the cells' bioenergetic failure. MRE11A deficiency in RA Tcells disrupted mitochondrial oxygen consumption and suppressed ATP generation. Also, MRE11A loss of function caused leakage of mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) into the cytosol, triggering inflammasome assembly, caspase-1 activation, and pyroptotic cell death. Caspase-1 activation was frequent in lymph-node-residing Tcells in RA patients. Invivo, pharmacologic and genetic inhibition of MRE11A resulted in tissuedeposition of mtDNA, caspase-1 proteolysis, andaggressive tissue inflammation. Conversely, MRE11A overexpression restored mitochondrial fitness and shielded tissue from inflammatory attack. Thus, the nuclease MRE11A regulates a mitochondrial protection program, and MRE11A deficiency leads to DNA repair defects, energy production, and failure and loss of tissue homeostasis.
View details for DOI 10.1016/j.cmet.2019.06.016
View details for PubMedID 31327667
N-myristoyltransferase (NMT) attaches the fatty acid myristate to the N-terminal glycine of proteins to sort them into soluble and membrane-bound fractions. Function of the energy-sensing AMP-activated protein kinase, AMPK, is myristoylation dependent. In rheumatoid arthritis (RA), pathogenic T cells shift glucose away from adenosine tri-phosphate production toward synthetic and proliferative programs, promoting proliferation, cytokine production, and tissue invasion. We found that RA T cells had a defect in NMT1 function, which prevented AMPK activation and enabled unopposed mTORC1 signaling. Lack of the myristate lipid tail disrupted the lysosomal translocation and activation of AMPK. Instead, myristoylation-incompetent RA T cells hyperactivated the mTORC1 pathway and differentiated into pro-inflammatory TH1 and TH17 helper T cells. In vivo, NMT1 loss caused robust synovial tissue inflammation, whereas forced NMT1 overexpression rescued AMPK activation and suppressed synovitis. Thus, NMT1 has tissue-protective functions by facilitating lysosomal recruitment of AMPK and dampening mTORC1 signaling.
View details for PubMedID 30718913
It is well established that Notch functions as a transcriptional activator through the formation of a ternary complex that comprises Notch, Maml, and CSL. This ternary complex then serves to recruit additional transcriptional cofactors that link to higher order transcriptional complexes. The mechanistic details of these events remain unclear. This report reveals that the Notch ternary complex can direct the formation of a repressor complex to terminate gene expression of select target genes. Herein, it is demonstrated that p19(Arf) and Klf4 are transcriptionally repressed in a Notch-dependent manner. Furthermore, results indicate that Notch recruits Polycomb Repressor Complex 2 (PRC2) and Lysine Demethylase 1 (KDM1A/LSD1) to these promoters, which leads to changes in the epigenetic landscape and repression of transcription. The demethylase activity of LSD1 is a prerequisite for Notch-mediated transcriptional repression. In addition, a stable Notch transcriptional repressor complex was identified containing LSD1, PRC2, and the Notch ternary complex. These findings demonstrate a novel function of Notch and provide further insight into the mechanisms of Notch-mediated tumorigenesis.Implications: This study provides rationale for the targeting of epigenetic enzymes to inhibit Notch activity or use in combinatorial therapy to provide a more profound therapeutic response. Mol Cancer Res; 15(9); 1173-83. ©2017 AACR.
View details for DOI 10.1158/1541-7786.MCR-17-0241
View details for PubMedID 28584023
View details for PubMedCentralID PMC5581691
In many cancers, aberrant Notch activity has been demonstrated to play a role in the initiation and maintenance of the neoplastic phenotype and in cancer stem cells, which may allude to its additional involvement in metastasis and resistance to therapy. Therefore, Notch is an exceedingly attractive therapeutic target in cancer, but the full range of potential targets within the pathway has been underexplored. To date, there are no small-molecule inhibitors that directly target the intracellular Notch pathway or the assembly of the transcriptional activation complex. Here, we describe an in vitro assay that quantitatively measures the assembly of the Notch transcriptional complex on DNA. Integrating this approach with computer-aided drug design, we explored potential ligand-binding sites and screened for compounds that could disrupt the assembly of the Notch transcriptional activation complex. We identified a small-molecule inhibitor, termed Inhibitor of Mastermind Recruitment-1 (IMR-1), that disrupted the recruitment of Mastermind-like 1 to the Notch transcriptional activation complex on chromatin, thereby attenuating Notch target gene transcription. Furthermore, IMR-1 inhibited the growth of Notch-dependent cell lines and significantly abrogated the growth of patient-derived tumor xenografts. Taken together, our findings suggest that a novel class of Notch inhibitors targeting the transcriptional activation complex may represent a new paradigm for Notch-based anticancer therapeutics, warranting further preclinical characterization. Cancer Res; 76(12); 3593-603. ©2016 AACR.
View details for DOI 10.1158/0008-5472.CAN-16-0061
View details for Web of Science ID 000378063200017
View details for PubMedID 27197169
View details for PubMedCentralID PMC4911243
The metalloid arsenic is a worldwide environmental toxicant, exposure to which is associated with many adverse outcomes. Arsenic is also an effective therapeutic agent in certain disease settings. Arsenic was recently shown to regulate the activity of the Hedgehog (HH) signal transduction pathway, and this regulation of HH signaling was proposed to be responsible for a subset of arsenic's biologic effects. Surprisingly, these separate reports proposed contradictory activities for arsenic, as either an agonist or antagonist of HH signaling. Here we provide in vitro and in vivo evidence that arsenic acts as a modulator of the activity of the HH effector protein glioma-associated oncogene family zinc finger (GLI), activating or inhibiting GLI activity in a context-dependent manner. This arsenic-induced modulation of HH signaling is observed in cultured cells, patients with colorectal cancer who have received arsenic-based therapy, and a mouse colorectal cancer xenograft model. Our results show that arsenic activates GLI signaling when the intrinsic GLI activity is low but inhibits signaling in the presence of high-level GLI activity. Furthermore, we show that this modulation occurs downstream of primary cilia, evidenced by experiments in suppressor of fused homolog (SUFU) deficient cells. Combining our findings with previous reports, we present an inclusive model in which arsenic plays dual roles in GLI signaling modulation: when GLIs are primarily in their repressor form, arsenic antagonizes their repression capacity, leading to low-level GLI activation, but when GLIs are primarily in their activator form, arsenic attenuates their activity.
View details for DOI 10.1124/mol.115.100867
View details for Web of Science ID 000369305700002
View details for PubMedID 26573582
View details for PubMedCentralID PMC4727125
Esophageal adenocarcinoma ranks sixth in cancer mortality in the world and its incidence has risen dramatically in the Western population over the last decades. Data presented herein strongly suggest that Notch signaling is critical for esophageal adenocarcinoma and underlies resistance to chemotherapy. We present evidence that Notch signaling drives a cancer stem cell phenotype by regulating genes that establish stemness. Using patient-derived xenograft models, we demonstrate that inhibition of Notch by gamma-secretase inhibitors (GSI) is efficacious in downsizing tumor growth. Moreover, we demonstrate that Notch activity in a patient's ultrasound-assisted endoscopic-derived biopsy might predict outcome to chemotherapy. Therefore, this study provides a proof of concept that inhibition of Notch activity will have efficacy in treating esophageal adenocarcinoma, offering a rationale to lay the foundation for a clinical trial to evaluate the efficacy of GSI in esophageal adenocarcinoma treatment.
View details for DOI 10.1158/0008-5472.CAN-14-2051
View details for Web of Science ID 000344756800040
View details for PubMedID 25164006
View details for PubMedCentralID PMC4527315
The Notch signaling pathway governs many distinct cellular processes by regulating transcriptional programs. The transcriptional response initiated by Notch is highly cell context dependent, indicating that multiple factors influence Notch target gene selection and activity. However, the mechanism by which Notch drives target gene transcription is not well understood. Herein, we identify and characterize a novel Notch-interacting protein, Notch activation complex kinase (NACK), which acts as a Notch transcriptional coactivator. We show that NACK associates with the Notch transcriptional activation complex on DNA, mediates Notch transcriptional activity, and is required for Notch-mediated tumorigenesis. We demonstrate that Notch1 and NACK are coexpressed during mouse development and that homozygous loss of NACK is embryonic lethal. Finally, we show that NACK is also a Notch target gene, establishing a feed-forward loop. Thus, our data indicate that NACK is a key component of the Notch transcriptional complex and is an essential regulator of Notch-mediated tumorigenesis and development.
View details for DOI 10.1158/0008-5472.CAN-14-1547
View details for Web of Science ID 000341833300018
View details for PubMedID 25038227
View details for PubMedCentralID PMC4154994