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Ciarapica R.,Laboratory of Angiogenesis | De Salvo M.,Laboratory of Angiogenesis | Carcarino E.,IRCCS | Bracaglia G.,Laboratory of Angiogenesis | And 29 more authors.
Oncogene | Year: 2014

The Polycomb group (PcG) proteins regulate stem cell differentiation via the repression of gene transcription, and their deregulation has been widely implicated in cancer development. The PcG protein Enhancer of Zeste Homolog 2 (EZH2) works as a catalytic subunit of the Polycomb Repressive Complex 2 (PRC2) by methylating lysine 27 on histone H3 (H3K27me3), a hallmark of PRC2-mediated gene repression. In skeletal muscle progenitors, EZH2 prevents an unscheduled differentiation by repressing muscle-specific gene expression and is downregulated during the course of differentiation. In rhabdomyosarcoma (RMS), a pediatric soft-tissue sarcoma thought to arise from myogenic precursors, EZH2 is abnormally expressed and its downregulation in vitro leads to muscle-like differentiation of RMS cells of the embryonal variant. However, the role of EZH2 in the clinically aggressive subgroup of alveolar RMS, characterized by the expression of PAX3-FOXO1 oncoprotein, remains unknown. We show here that EZH2 depletion in these cells leads to programmed cell death. Transcriptional derepression of F-box protein 32 (FBXO32) (Atrogin1/MAFbx), a gene associated with muscle homeostasis, was evidenced in PAX3-FOXO1 RMS cells silenced for EZH2. This phenomenon was associated with reduced EZH2 occupancy and H3K27me3 levels at the FBXO32 promoter. Simultaneous knockdown of FBXO32 and EZH2 in PAX3-FOXO1 RMS cells impaired the pro-apoptotic response, whereas the overexpression of FBXO32 facilitated programmed cell death in EZH2-depleted cells. Pharmacological inhibition of EZH2 by either 3-Deazaneplanocin A or a catalytic EZH2 inhibitor mirrored the phenotypic and molecular effects of EZH2 knockdown in vitro and prevented tumor growth in vivo. Collectively, these results indicate that EZH2 is a key factor in the proliferation and survival of PAX3-FOXO1 alveolar RMS cells working, at least in part, by repressing FBXO32. They also suggest that the reducing activity of EZH2 could represent a novel adjuvant strategy to eradicate high-risk PAX3-FOXO1 alveolar RMS. © 2014 Macmillan Publishers Limited.


Conti B.,Laboratory of Angiogenesis | Slemmons K.K.,Duke University | Rota R.,Laboratory of Angiogenesis | Linardic C.M.,Duke University
Current Drug Targets | Year: 2016

The Notch signaling pathway is an evolutionarily conserved developmental network critical for embryonic and postnatal regulation of tissue growth, homeostasis, and repair. Signaling is initiated when transmembrane Notch ligands bind to transmembrane Notch receptors on nearby cells. Sequential proteolytic steps generate an activated Notch fragment that translocates to the nucleus, where it drives activation of canonical Notch target genes. In skeletal muscle, Notch signaling governs myogenic cell fate and stem cell maintenance. In the human soft tissue sarcoma rhabdomyosarcoma, which bears markers of skeletal muscle commitment and so is thought to be related to the skeletal muscle lineage, Notch signaling is also found to be upregulated and dysregulated. This review provides an overview of Notch signaling during normal embryonic and postnatal myogenesis, information on the recently discovered aberrant Notch signaling occurring in muscular dystrophies, the upregulation and mechanism of Notch signaling in the embryonal variant of rhabdomyosarcoma and related soft tissue sarcomas, and Notch cross-talk with other metazoan developmental pathways including Hippo, Hedgehog, Wnt, and TGF-β. The review concludes with updates on current promising efforts to target and inhibit Notch signaling in human sarcomas including rhabdomyosarcoma. © 2016 Bentham Science Publishers.


Ciarapica R.,Laboratory of Angiogenesis | Carcarino E.,IRCCS Fondazione Santa Lucia | Adesso L.,Laboratory of Angiogenesis | De Salvo M.,Laboratory of Angiogenesis | And 18 more authors.
BMC Cancer | Year: 2014

Background: Embryonal Rhabdomyosarcoma (RMS) is a pediatric soft-tissue sarcoma derived from myogenic precursors that is characterized by a good prognosis in patients with localized disease. Conversely, metastatic tumors often relapse, leading to a dismal outcome. The histone methyltransferase EZH2 epigenetically suppresses skeletal muscle differentiation by repressing the transcription of myogenic genes. Moreover, de-regulated EZH2 expression has been extensively implied in human cancers. We have previously shown that EZH2 is aberrantly over-expressed in RMS primary tumors and cell lines. Moreover, it has been recently reported that EZH2 silencing in RD cells, a recurrence-derived embryonal RMS cell line, favors myofiber-like structures formation in a pro-differentiation context. Here we evaluate whether similar effects can be obtained also in the presence of growth factor-supplemented medium (GM), that mimics a pro-proliferative microenvironment, and by pharmacological targeting of EZH2 in RD cells and in RD tumor xenografts.Methods: Embryonal RMS RD cells were cultured in GM and silenced for EZH2 or treated with either the S-adenosylhomocysteine hydrolase inhibitor 3-deazaneplanocin A (DZNep) that induces EZH2 degradation, or with a new class of catalytic EZH2 inhibitors, MC1948 and MC1945, which block the catalytic activity of EZH2. RD cell proliferation and myogenic differentiation were evaluated both in vitro and in vivo.Results: Here we show that EZH2 protein was abnormally expressed in 19 out of 19 (100%) embryonal RMS primary tumors and cell lines compared to their normal counterparts. Genetic down-regulation of EZH2 by silencing in GM condition reduced RD cell proliferation up-regulating p21Cip1. It also resulted in myogenic-like differentiation testified by the up-regulation of myogenic markers Myogenin, MCK and MHC. These effects were reverted by enforced over-expression of a murine Ezh2, highlighting an EZH2-specific effect. Pharmacological inhibition of EZH2 using either DZNep or MC inhibitors phenocopied the genetic knockdown of EZH2 preventing cell proliferation and restoring myogenic differentiation both in vitro and in vivo.Conclusions: These results provide evidence that EZH2 function can be counteracted by pharmacological inhibition in embryonal RMS blocking proliferation even in a pro-proliferative context. They also suggest that this approach could be exploited as a differentiation therapy in adjuvant therapeutic intervention for embryonal RMS. © 2014 Ciarapica et al.; licensee BioMed Central Ltd.


Vella S.,Laboratory of Angiogenesis | Pomella S.,Instituto Dermopatico Dellimmacolata | Leoncini P.P.,Laboratory of Angiogenesis | Colletti M.,Laboratory of Angiogenesis | And 10 more authors.
Clinical Epigenetics | Year: 2015

Background: Rhabdomyosarcoma (RMS) is a pediatric soft tissue sarcoma arising from myogenic precursors that have lost their capability to differentiate into skeletal muscle. The polycomb-group protein EZH2 is a Lys27 histone H3 methyltransferase that regulates the balance between cell proliferation and differentiation by epigenetically silencing muscle-specific genes. EZH2 is often over-expressed in several human cancers acting as an oncogene. We previously reported that EZH2 inhibition induces cell cycle arrest followed by myogenic differentiation of RMS cells of the embryonal subtype (eRMS). MiR-101 is a microRNA involved in a negative feedback circuit with EZH2 in different normal and tumor tissues. To that, miR-101 can behave as a tumor suppressor in several cancers by repressing EZH2 expression. We, therefore, evaluated whether miR-101 is de-regulated in eRMS and investigated its interplaying with EZH2 as well as its role in the in vitro tumorigenic potential of these tumor cells. Results: Herein, we report that miR-101 is down-regulated in eRMS patients and in tumor cell lines compared to their controls showing an inverse pattern of expression with EZH2. We also show that miR-101 is up-regulated in eRMS cells following both genetic and pharmacological inhibition of EZH2. In turn, miR-101 forced expression reduces EZH2 levels as well as restrains the migratory potential of eRMS cells and impairs their clonogenic and anchorage-independent growth capabilities. Finally, EZH2 recruitment to regulatory region of miR-101-2 gene decreases in EZH2-silenced eRMS cells. This phenomenon is associated to reduced H3K27me3 levels at the same regulatory locus, indicating that EZH2 directly targets miR-101 for repression in eRMS cells. Conclusions: Altogether, our data show that, in human eRMS, miR-101 is involved in a negative feedback loop with EZH2, whose targeting has been previously shown to halt eRMS tumorigenicity. They also demonstrate that the re-induction of miR-101 hampers the tumor features of eRMS cells. In this scenario, epigenetic dysregulations confirm their crucial role in the pathogenesis of this soft tissue sarcoma. © 2015, Vella et al.


PubMed | Laboratory of Angiogenesis
Type: | Journal: BMC cancer | Year: 2014

Embryonal Rhabdomyosarcoma (RMS) is a pediatric soft-tissue sarcoma derived from myogenic precursors that is characterized by a good prognosis in patients with localized disease. Conversely, metastatic tumors often relapse, leading to a dismal outcome. The histone methyltransferase EZH2 epigenetically suppresses skeletal muscle differentiation by repressing the transcription of myogenic genes. Moreover, de-regulated EZH2 expression has been extensively implied in human cancers. We have previously shown that EZH2 is aberrantly over-expressed in RMS primary tumors and cell lines. Moreover, it has been recently reported that EZH2 silencing in RD cells, a recurrence-derived embryonal RMS cell line, favors myofiber-like structures formation in a pro-differentiation context. Here we evaluate whether similar effects can be obtained also in the presence of growth factor-supplemented medium (GM), that mimics a pro-proliferative microenvironment, and by pharmacological targeting of EZH2 in RD cells and in RD tumor xenografts.Embryonal RMS RD cells were cultured in GM and silenced for EZH2 or treated with either the S-adenosylhomocysteine hydrolase inhibitor 3-deazaneplanocin A (DZNep) that induces EZH2 degradation, or with a new class of catalytic EZH2 inhibitors, MC1948 and MC1945, which block the catalytic activity of EZH2. RD cell proliferation and myogenic differentiation were evaluated both in vitro and in vivo.Here we show that EZH2 protein was abnormally expressed in 19 out of 19 (100%) embryonal RMS primary tumors and cell lines compared to their normal counterparts. Genetic down-regulation of EZH2 by silencing in GM condition reduced RD cell proliferation up-regulating p21Cip1. It also resulted in myogenic-like differentiation testified by the up-regulation of myogenic markers Myogenin, MCK and MHC. These effects were reverted by enforced over-expression of a murine Ezh2, highlighting an EZH2-specific effect. Pharmacological inhibition of EZH2 using either DZNep or MC inhibitors phenocopied the genetic knockdown of EZH2 preventing cell proliferation and restoring myogenic differentiation both in vitro and in vivo.These results provide evidence that EZH2 function can be counteracted by pharmacological inhibition in embryonal RMS blocking proliferation even in a pro-proliferative context. They also suggest that this approach could be exploited as a differentiation therapy in adjuvant therapeutic intervention for embryonal RMS.


PubMed | Autonomous University of Barcelona, Instituto Dermopatico dellImmacolata, Laboratory of Angiogenesis, University of Bologna and 2 more.
Type: | Journal: Clinical epigenetics | Year: 2015

Rhabdomyosarcoma (RMS) is a pediatric soft tissue sarcoma arising from myogenic precursors that have lost their capability to differentiate into skeletal muscle. The polycomb-group protein EZH2 is a Lys27 histone H3 methyltransferase that regulates the balance between cell proliferation and differentiation by epigenetically silencing muscle-specific genes. EZH2 is often over-expressed in several human cancers acting as an oncogene. We previously reported that EZH2 inhibition induces cell cycle arrest followed by myogenic differentiation of RMS cells of the embryonal subtype (eRMS). MiR-101 is a microRNA involved in a negative feedback circuit with EZH2 in different normal and tumor tissues. To that, miR-101 can behave as a tumor suppressor in several cancers by repressing EZH2 expression. We, therefore, evaluated whether miR-101 is de-regulated in eRMS and investigated its interplaying with EZH2 as well as its role in the in vitro tumorigenic potential of these tumor cells.Herein, we report that miR-101 is down-regulated in eRMS patients and in tumor cell lines compared to their controls showing an inverse pattern of expression with EZH2. We also show that miR-101 is up-regulated in eRMS cells following both genetic and pharmacological inhibition of EZH2. In turn, miR-101 forced expression reduces EZH2 levels as well as restrains the migratory potential of eRMS cells and impairs their clonogenic and anchorage-independent growth capabilities. Finally, EZH2 recruitment to regulatory region of miR-101-2 gene decreases in EZH2-silenced eRMS cells. This phenomenon is associated to reduced H3K27me3 levels at the same regulatory locus, indicating that EZH2 directly targets miR-101 for repression in eRMS cells.Altogether, our data show that, in human eRMS, miR-101 is involved in a negative feedback loop with EZH2, whose targeting has been previously shown to halt eRMS tumorigenicity. They also demonstrate that the re-induction of miR-101 hampers the tumor features of eRMS cells. In this scenario, epigenetic dysregulations confirm their crucial role in the pathogenesis of this soft tissue sarcoma.


PubMed | Laboratory of Angiogenesis and Duke University
Type: Journal Article | Journal: Current drug targets | Year: 2016

The Notch signaling pathway is an evolutionarily conserved developmental network critical for embryonic and postnatal regulation of tissue growth, homeostasis, and repair. Signaling is initiated when transmembrane Notch ligands bind to transmembrane Notch receptors on nearby cells. Sequential proteolytic steps generate an activated Notch fragment that translocates to the nucleus, where it drives activation of canonical Notch target genes. In skeletal muscle, Notch signaling governs myogenic cell fate and stem cell maintenance. In the human soft tissue sarcoma rhabdomyosarcoma, which bears markers of skeletal muscle commitment and so is thought to be related to the skeletal muscle lineage, Notch signaling is also found to be upregulated and dysregulated. This review provides an overview of Notch signaling during normal embryonic and postnatal myogenesis, information on the recently discovered aberrant Notch signaling occurring in muscular dystrophies, the upregulation and mechanism of Notch signaling in the embryonal variant of rhabdomyosarcoma and related soft tissue sarcomas, and Notch cross-talk with other metazoan developmental pathways including Hippo, Hedgehog, Wnt, and TGF-β. The review concludes with updates on current promising efforts to target and inhibit Notch signaling in human sarcomas including rhabdomyosarcoma.

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