Computational and Mathematical Biology Research Group

Barcelona, Spain

Computational and Mathematical Biology Research Group

Barcelona, Spain
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Menendez J.A.,Catalan Institute of Nanoscience and Nanotechnology | Menendez J.A.,Girona Biomedical Research Institute IDIBGI | Alarcon T.,Catalan Institution for Research and Advanced Studies | Alarcon T.,Computational and Mathematical Biology Research Group | Alarcon T.,Autonomous University of Barcelona
Frontiers in Cell and Developmental Biology | Year: 2017

The inability of adult tissues to transitorily generate cells with functional stem cell-like properties is a major obstacle to tissue self-repair. Nuclear reprogramming-like phenomena that induce a transient acquisition of epigenetic plasticity and phenotype malleability may constitute a reparative route through which human tissues respond to injury, stress, and disease. However, tissue rejuvenation should involve not only the transient epigenetic reprogramming of differentiated cells, but also the committed re-acquisition of the original or alternative committed cell fate. Chronic or unrestrained epigenetic plasticity would drive aging phenotypes by impairing the repair or the replacement of damaged cells; such uncontrolled phenomena of in vivo reprogramming might also generate cancer-like cellular states. We herein propose that the ability of senescence-associated inflammatory signaling to regulate in vivo reprogramming cycles of tissue repair outlines a threshold model of aging and cancer. The degree of senescence/inflammation-associated deviation from the homeostatic state may delineate a type of thresholding algorithm distinguishing beneficial from deleterious effects of in vivo reprogramming. First, transient activation of NF-κB-related innate immunity and senescence-associated inflammatory components (e.g., IL-6) might facilitate reparative cellular reprogramming in response to acute inflammatory events. Second, para-inflammation switches might promote long-lasting but reversible refractoriness to reparative cellular reprogramming. Third, chronic senescence-associated inflammatory signaling might lock cells in highly plastic epigenetic states disabled for reparative differentiation. The consideration of a cellular reprogramming-centered view of epigenetic plasticity as a fundamental element of a tissue's capacity to undergo successful repair, aging degeneration or malignant transformation should provide challenging stochastic insights into the current deterministic genetic paradigm for most chronic diseases, thereby increasing the spectrum of therapeutic approaches for physiological aging and cancer. © 2017 Menendez and Alarcón.


Menendez J.A.,Catalan Institute of Nanoscience and Nanotechnology | Menendez J.A.,Girona Biomedical Research Institute IDIBGI | Alarcon T.,Computational and Mathematical Biology Research Group | Corominas-Faja B.,Catalan Institute of Nanoscience and Nanotechnology | And 6 more authors.
Cell Cycle | Year: 2014

In the science-fiction thriller film Minority Report, a specialized police department called "PreCrime" apprehends criminals identified in advance based on foreknowledge provided by 3 genetically altered humans called "PreCogs". We propose that Yamanaka stem cell technology can be similarly used to (epi)genetically reprogram tumor cells obtained directly from cancer patients and create self-evolving personalized translational platforms to foresee the evolutionary trajectory of individual tumors. This strategy yields a large stem cell population and captures the cancer genome of an affected individual, i.e., the PreCog-induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cancer cells, which are immediately available for experimental manipulation, including pharmacological screening for personalized "stemotoxic" cancer drugs. The PreCog-iPS cancer cells will re-differentiate upon orthotopic injection into the corresponding target tissues of immunodeficient mice (i.e., the PreCrime-iPS mouse avatars), and this in vivo model will run through specific cancer stages to directly explore their biological properties for drug screening, diagnosis, and personalized treatment in individual patients. The PreCog/PreCrime-iPS approach can perform sets of comparisons to directly observe changes in the cancer-iPS cell line vs. a normal iPS cell line derived from the same human genetic background. Genome editing of PreCog-iPS cells could create translational platforms to directly investigate the link between genomic expression changes and cellular malignization that is largely free from genetic and epigenetic noise and provide proof-of-principle evidence for cutting-edge "chromosome therapies" aimed against cancer aneuploidy. We might infer the epigenetic marks that correct the tumorigenic nature of the reprogrammed cancer cell population and normalize the malignant phenotype in vivo. Genetically engineered models of conditionally reprogrammable mice to transiently express the Yamanaka stemness factors following the activation of phenotypic copies of specific cancer diseases might crucially evaluate a "reprogramming cure" for cancer. A new era of xenopatients 2.0 generated via nuclear reprogramming of the epigenetic landscapes of patient-derived cancer genomes might revolutionize the current personalized translational platforms in cancer research. © 2014 Landes Bioscience.


Menendez J.A.,Catalan Institute of Nanoscience and Nanotechnology | Menendez J.A.,Girona Biomedical Research Institute IDIBGI | Folguera-Blasco N.,Computational and Mathematical Biology Research Group | Cuyas E.,Catalan Institute of Nanoscience and Nanotechnology | And 6 more authors.
Oncotarget | Year: 2016

The geroncogenesis hypothesis postulates that the decline in metabolic cellular health that occurs naturally with aging drives a "field effect" predisposing normal tissues for cancer development. We propose that mutations in the cancer susceptibility genes BRCA1/2 might trigger "accelerated geroncogenesis" in breast and ovarian epithelia. By speeding up the rate at which the metabolic threshold becomes "permissive" with survival and expansion of genomically unstable pre-tumoral epithelial cells, BRCA haploinsufficiency-driven metabolic reprogramming would operate as a bona fide oncogenic event enabling malignant transformation and tumor formation in BRCA carriers. The metabolic facet of BRCA1 one-hit might involve tissue-specific alterations in acetyl-CoA, a-ketoglutarate, NAD+, FAD, or S-adenosylmethionine, critical factors for de/methylation or de/acetylation dynamics in the nuclear epigenome. This in turn might induce faulty epigenetic reprogramming at the "install phase" that directs cell-specific differentiation of breast/ovarian epithelial cells, which can ultimately determine the penetrance of BRCA defects during developmental windows of susceptibility. This model offers a framework to study whether metabolic drugs that prevent or revert metabolic reprogramming induced by BRCA haploinsufficiency might displace the "geroncogenic risk" of BRCA carriers to the age typical for those without the mutation. The identification of the key nodes that directly communicate changes in cellular metabolism to the chromatin in BRCA haploinsufficient cells may allow the epigenetic targeting of genomic instability using exclusively metabolic means. The validation of accelerated geroncogenesis as an inherited "one-hit" metabolic "field effect" might offer new strategies to therapeutically revisit the apparently irreversible genetic-hereditary fate of women with hereditary breast-ovarian cancer syndrome.


Menendez J.A.,Catalan Institute of Nanoscience and Nanotechnology | Menendez J.A.,Girona Biomedical Research Institute IDIBGI | Alarcon T.,Computational and Mathematical Biology Research Group | Joven J.,Rovira i Virgili University
Cell Cycle | Year: 2014

Oncometabolites are defined as small-molecule components (or enantiomers) of normal metabolism whose accumulation causes signaling dysregulation to establish a milieu that initiates carcinogenesis. In a similar manner, we propose the term "gerometabolites" to refer to small-molecule components of normal metabolism whose depletion causes signaling dysregulation to establish a milieu that drives aging. In an investigation of the pathogenic activities of the currently recognized oncometabolites R(-)-2-hydroxyglutarate (2-HG), fumarate, and succinate, which accumulate due to mutations in isocitrate dehydrogenases (IDH), fumarate hydratase (FH), and succinate dehydrogenase (SDH), respectively, we illustrate the fact that metabolic pseudohypoxia, the accumulation of hypoxia-inducible factor (HIFα) under normoxic conditions, and the subsequent Warburg-like reprogramming that shifts glucose metabolism from the oxidative pathway to aerobic glycolysis are the same mechanisms through which the decline of the "gerometabolite" nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD)+ reversibly disrupts nuclear-mitochondrial communication and contributes to the decline in mitochondrial function with age. From an evolutionary perspective, it is reasonable to view NAD +-driven mitochondrial homeostasis as a conserved response to changes in energy supplies and oxygen levels. Similarly, the natural ability of 2-HG to significantly alter epigenetics might reflect an evolutionarily ancient role of certain metabolites to signal for elevated glutamine/glutamate metabolism and/or oxygen deficiency. However, when chronically altered, these responses become conserved causes of aging and cancer. Because HIFα-driven pseudohypoxia might drive the overproduction of 2-HG, the intriguing possibility exists that the decline of gerometabolites such as NAD+ could promote the chronic accumulation of oncometabolites in normal cells during aging. If the sole activation of a Warburg-like metabolic reprogramming in normal tissues might be able to significantly increase the endogenous production of bona fide etiological determinants in cancer, such as oncometabolites, this undesirable trade-off between mitochondrial dysfunction and activation of oncometabolites production might then pave the way for the epigenetic initiation of carcinogenesis in a strictly metabolic-dependent manner. Perhaps it is time to definitely adopt the view that aging and aging diseases including cancer are governed by a pivotal regulatory role of metabolic reprogramming in cell fate decisions. © 2014 Landes Bioscience.


PubMed | Computational and Mathematical Biology Research Group, Mayo Medical School, Catalan Institute of Nanoscience and Nanotechnology, University of Mississippi Medical Center and University of Michigan
Type: Journal Article | Journal: Oncotarget | Year: 2016

The correction of specific signaling defects can reverse the oncogenic phenotype of tumor cells by acting in a dominant manner over the cancer genome. Unfortunately, there have been very few successful attempts at identifying the primary cues that could redirect malignant tissues to a normal phenotype. Here we show that suppression of the lipogenic enzyme fatty acid synthase (FASN) leads to stable reversion of the malignant phenotype and normalizes differentiation in a model of breast cancer (BC) progression. FASN knockdown dramatically reduced tumorigenicity of BC cells and restored tissue architecture, which was reminiscent of normal ductal-like structures in the mammary gland. Loss of FASN signaling was sufficient to direct tumors to a reversed phenotype that was near normal when considering the development of polarized growth-arrested acinar-like structure similar to those formed by nonmalignant breast cells in a 3D reconstituted basement membrane in vitro. This process, in vivo, resulted in a low proliferation index, mesenchymal-epithelial transition, and shut-off of the angiogenic switch in FASN-depleted BC cells orthotopically implanted into mammary fat pads. The role of FASN as a negative regulator of correct breast tissue architecture and terminal epithelial cell differentiation was dominant over the malignant phenotype of tumor cells possessing multiple cancer-driving genetic lesions as it remained stable during the course of serial in vivo passage of orthotopic tumor-derived cells. Transient knockdown of FASN suppressed hallmark structural and cytosolic/secretive proteins (vimentin, N-cadherin, fibronectin) in a model of EMT-induced cancer stem cells (CSC). Indirect pharmacological inhibition of FASN promoted a phenotypic switch from basal- to luminal-like tumorsphere architectures with reduced intrasphere heterogeneity. The fact that sole correction of exacerbated lipogenesis can stably reprogram cancer cells back to normal-like tissue architectures might open a new avenue to chronically restrain BC progression by using FASN-based differentiation therapies.


Menendez J.A.,Catalan Institute of Oncology Girona ICO Girona | Menendez J.A.,Girona Biomedical Research Institute IDIBGI | Alarco n T.,Computational and Mathematical Biology Research Group
Frontiers in Oncology | Year: 2014

The acquisition of and departure from stemness in cancer tissues might not only be hardwired by genetic controllers, but also by the pivotal regulatory role of the cellular metabotype, which may act as a "starter dough" for cancer stemness traits. We have coined the term metabostemness to refer to the metabolic parameters causally controlling or functionally substituting the epitranscriptional orchestration of the genetic reprogramming that redirects normal and tumor cells toward less-differentiated CSC cellular states. Certain metabotypic alterations might operate as pivotal molecular events rendering a cell of origin susceptible to epigenetic rewiring required for the acquisition of aberrant stemness and, concurrently, of refractoriness to differentiation. The metabostemness attribute can remove, diminish, or modify the nature of molecular barriers present in Waddington's epigenetic landscapes, thus allowing differentiated cells to more easily (re)-enter into CSC cellular macrostates. Activation of the metabostemness trait can poise cells with chromatin states competent for rapid dedifferentiation while concomitantly setting the idoneous metabolic stage for later reprogramming stimuli to finish the journey from non-cancerous into tumor-initiating cells. Because only a few permitted metabotypes will be compatible with the operational properties owned by CSC cellular states, the metabostemness property provides a new framework through which to pharmacologically resolve the apparently impossible problem of discovering drugs aimed to target the molecular biology of the cancer stemness itself. We are embarking on one of the cancer field's biggest challenges, namely the discovery of the key metabolic features and the elite metabolites that influence chromatin structure and epigenetic circuits in charge of CSC reprogramming and the incorporation of novel metaboloepigenetic strategies that can effectively hamper cancer initiation and progression at the stem cell level. © 2014 Menendez and Alarco´n.


Corominas-Faja B.,Catalan Institute of Oncology Girona ICO Girona | Corominas-Faja B.,Girona Biomedical Research Institute IDIBGI | Cufi S.,Catalan Institute of Oncology Girona ICO Girona | Cufi S.,Girona Biomedical Research Institute IDIBGI | And 15 more authors.
Cell Cycle | Year: 2013

Energy metabolism plasticity enables stemness programs during the reprogramming of somatic cells to an induced pluripotent stem cell (iPSC) state. This relationship may introduce a new era in the understanding of Warburg's theory on the metabolic origin of cancer at the level of cancer stem cells (CSCs). Here, we used Yamanaka's stem cell technology in an attempt to create stable CSC research lines in which to dissect the transcriptional control of mTO R - the master switch of cellular catabolism and anabolism - in CSC-like states. The rare colonies with iPSC-like morphology, obtained following the viral transduction of the Oct4, Sox2, Klf4, and c-Myc (OSKM) stemness factors into MCF-7 luminal-like breast cancer cells (MCF-7/Rep), demonstrated an intermediate state between cancer cells and bona fide iPSCs. MCF-7/Rep cells notably overexpressed SOX2 and stage-specific embryonic antigen (SSEA)-4 proteins; however, other stemness-related markers (OCT4, NANOG, SSEA-1, TRA-1-60, and TRA-1-81) were found at low to moderate levels. The transcriptional analyses of OSKM factors confirmed the strong but unique reactivation of the endogenous Sox2 stemness gene accompanied by the silencing of the exogenous Sox2 transgene in MCF-7/Rep cells. Some but not all MCF-7/Rep cells acquired strong alkaline phosphatase (AP) activity compared with MCF-7 parental cells. SOX2-overexpressing MCF-7/Rep cells contained drastically higher percentages of CD44+ and ALDEFLUOR-stained ALDHbright cells than MCF-7 parental cells. The overlap between differentially expressed mTO R signaling-related genes in 3 different SOX2-overexpressing CSC-like cell lines revealed a notable downregulation of 3 genes, PRKAA1 (which codes for the catalytic α 1 subunit of AMPK), DDIT4/REDD1 (a stress response gene that operates as a negative regulator of mTO R), and DEPTOR (a naturally occurring endogenous inhibitor of mTO R activity). The insulin-receptor gene (INSR) was differentially upregulated in MCF-7/Rep cells. Consistent with the downregulation of AMPK expression, immunoblotting procedures confirmed upregulation of p70S6K and increased phosphorylation of mTO R in Sox2-overexpressing CSC-like cell populations. Using an in vitro model of the de novo generation of CSC-like states through the nuclear reprogramming of an established breast cancer cell line, we reveal that the transcriptional suppression of mTO R repressors is an intrinsic process occurring during the acquisition of CSC-like properties by differentiated populations of luminal-like breast cancer cells. This approach may provide a new path for obtaining information about preventing the appearance of CSCs through the modulation of the AMPK/mTO R pathway. © 2013 Landes Bioscience.


Menendez J.A.,Catalan Institute of Oncology ICO | Menendez J.A.,Girona Biomedical Research Institute IDIBGI | Corominas-Faja B.,Catalan Institute of Oncology ICO | Corominas-Faja B.,Girona Biomedical Research Institute IDIBGI | And 4 more authors.
Oncoscience | Year: 2014

Cancer researchers are currently embarking on one of their field's biggest challenges, namely the understanding of how cellular metabolism or certain classes of elite metabolites (e.g., oncometabolites) can directly influence chromatin structure and the functioning of epi-transcriptional circuits to causally drive tumour formation. We here propose that refining the inherent cell attractor nature of nuclear reprogramming phenomena by adding the under-appreciated capacity of metabolism to naturally reshape the Waddingtonian landscape's topography provides a new integrative metabolo-epigenetic model of the cancer stem cell (CSC) theory.


PubMed | Computational and Mathematical Biology Research Group, Rovira i Virgili University, Catalan Institute of Oncology ICO and University of Girona
Type: Journal Article | Journal: Oncoscience | Year: 2016

Generation of induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells and cancer biogenesis share similar metabolic switches. Most studies have focused on how the establishment of a cancer-like glycolytic phenotype is necessary for the optimal routing of somatic cells for achieving stemness. However, relatively little effort has been dedicated towards elucidating how one-carbon (1C) metabolism is retuned during acquisition of stem cell identity. Here we used ultra-high pressure liquid chromatography coupled to an electrospray ionization source and a triple-quadrupole mass spectrometer [UHPLC-ESI-QqQ-MS/MS] to quantitatively examine the methionine/folate bi-cyclic 1C metabolome during nuclear reprogramming of somatic cells into iPS cells. iPS cells optimize the synthesis of the universal methyl donor S-adenosylmethionine (SAM), apparently augment the ability of the redox balance regulator NADPH in SAM biosynthesis, and greatly increase their methylation potential by triggering a high SAM:S-adenosylhomocysteine (SAH) ratio. Activation of the methylation cycle in iPS cells efficiently prevents the elevation of homocysteine (Hcy), which could alter global DNA methylation and induce mitochondrial toxicity, oxidative stress and inflammation. In this regard, the methyl donor choline is also strikingly accumulated in iPS cells, suggesting perhaps an overactive intersection of the de novo synthesis of choline with the methionine-Hcy cycle. Activation of methylogenesis and maintenance of an optimal SAM:Hcy ratio might represent an essential function of 1C metabolism to provide a labile pool of methyl groups and NADPH-dependent redox products required for successfully establishing and maintaining an embryonic-like DNA methylation imprint in stem cell states.


PubMed | Computational and Mathematical Biology Research Group and Catalan Institute of Oncology Girona ICO Girona
Type: | Journal: Frontiers in oncology | Year: 2014

The acquisition of and departure from stemness in cancer tissues might not only be hardwired by genetic controllers, but also by the pivotal regulatory role of the cellular metabotype, which may act as a starter dough for cancer stemness traits. We have coined the term metabostemness to refer to the metabolic parameters causally controlling or functionally substituting the epitranscriptional orchestration of the genetic reprograming that redirects normal and tumor cells toward less-differentiated cancer stem cell (CSC) cellular states. Certain metabotypic alterations might operate as pivotal molecular events rendering a cell of origin susceptible to epigenetic rewiring required for the acquisition of aberrant stemness and, concurrently, of refractoriness to differentiation. The metabostemness attribute can remove, diminish, or modify the nature of molecular barriers present in Waddingtons epigenetic landscapes, thus allowing differentiated cells to more easily (re)-enter into CSC cellular macrostates. Activation of the metabostemness trait can poise cells with chromatin states competent for rapid dedifferentiation while concomitantly setting the idoneous metabolic stage for later reprograming stimuli to finish the journey from non-cancerous into tumor-initiating cells. Because only a few permitted metabotypes will be compatible with the operational properties owned by CSC cellular states, the metabostemness property provides a new framework through which to pharmacologically resolve the apparently impossible problem of discovering drugs aimed to target the molecular biology of the cancer stemness itself. The metabostemness cancer hallmark generates a shifting oncology theory that should guide a new era of metabolo-epigenetic cancer precision medicine.

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