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The calcineurin (Cn)–nuclear factor of activated T cells signaling pathway is critically involved in many aspects of normal T-cell physiology; however, its direct implication in leukemogenesis is still ill-defined. Glycogen synthase kinase-3β (GSK-3β) has recently been reported to interact with Cn in neuronal cells and is implicated in MLL leukemia. Our biochemical studies clearly demonstrated that Cn was able to interact with GSK-3β in T-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia (T-ALL) cells, and that this interaction was direct, leading to an increased catalytic activity of GSK-3β, possibly through autophosphorylation of Y216. Sensitivity to GSK-3 inhibitor treatment correlated with altered GSK-3β phosphorylation and was more prominent in T-ALL with Pre/Pro immunophenotype. In addition, dual Cn and GSK-3 inhibitor treatment in T-ALL cells promoted sensitization to apoptosis through proteasomal degradation of X-linked inhibitor of apoptosis protein (XIAP). Consistently, resistance to drug treatments in primary samples was strongly associated with higher XIAP protein levels. Finally, we showed that dual Cn and GSK-3 inhibitor treatment in vitro and in vivo is effective against available models of T-ALL, indicating an insofar untapped therapeutic opportunity.Leukemia advance online publication, 8 January 2016; doi:10.1038/leu.2015.335. © 2015 Macmillan Publishers Limited

Rampazzo E.,University of Padua | Persano L.,University of Padua | Pistollato F.,University of Padua | Moro E.,University of Padua | And 10 more authors.
Cell Death and Disease | Year: 2013

One of the biggest challenges in tumour research is the possibility to reprogram cancer cells towards less aggressive phenotypes. In this study, we reprogrammed primary Glioblastoma multiforme (GBM)-derived cells towards a more differentiated and less oncogenic phenotype by activating the Wnt pathway in a hypoxic microenvironment. Hypoxia usually correlates with malignant behaviours in cancer cells, but it has been recently involved, together with Wnt signalling, in the differentiation of embryonic and neural stem cells. Here, we demonstrate that treatment with Wnt ligands, or overexpression of β-catenin, mediate neuronal differentiation and halt proliferation in primary GBM cells. An hypoxic environment cooperates with Wnt-induced differentiation, in line with our finding that hypoxia inducible factor-1α (HIF-1α) is instrumental and required to sustain the expression of β-catenin transcriptional partners TCF-1 and LEF-1. In addition, we also found that Wnt-induced GBM cell differentiation inhibits Notch signalling, and thus gain of Wnt and loss of Notch cooperate in the activation of a pro-neuronal differentiation program. Intriguingly, the GBM sub-population enriched of cancer stem cells (CD133 + fraction) is the primary target of the pro-differentiating effects mediated by the crosstalk between HIF-1α, Wnt, and Notch signalling. By using zebrafish transgenics and mutants as model systems to visualize and manipulate in vivo the Wnt pathway, we confirm that Wnt pathway activation is able to promote neuronal differentiation and inhibit Notch signalling of primary human GBM cells also in this in vivo set-up. In conclusion, these findings shed light on an unsuspected crosstalk between hypoxia, Wnt and Notch signalling in GBM, and suggest the potential to manipulate these microenvironmental signals to blunt GBM malignancy. © 2013 Macmillan Publishers Limited All rights reserved.

Piovan E.,Columbia University | Piovan E.,University of Padua | Yu J.,Columbia University | Tosello V.,Columbia University | And 20 more authors.
Cancer Cell | Year: 2013

Glucocorticoid resistance is a major driver of therapeutic failure in Tcell acute lymphoblastic leukemia (T-ALL). Here, we identify the AKT1 kinase as a major negative regulator of the NR3C1 glucocorticoid receptor protein activity driving glucocorticoid resistance in T-ALL. Mechanistically, AKT1 impairs glucocorticoid-induced gene expression by direct phosphorylation of NR3C1 at position S134 and blocking glucocorticoid-induced NR3C1 translocation to the nucleus. Moreover, we demonstrate that loss of PTEN and consequent AKT1 activation can effectively block glucocorticoid-induced apoptosis and induce resistance to glucocorticoid therapy. Conversely, pharmacologic inhibition of AKT with MK2206 effectively restores glucocorticoid-induced NR3C1 translocation to the nucleus, increases the response of T-ALL cells to glucocorticoid therapy, and effectively reverses glucocorticoid resistance invitro and invivo. © 2013 Elsevier Inc.

Agnusdei V.,UOC Immunologia e Diagnostica Molecolare Oncologica | Minuzzo S.,University of Padua | Frasson C.,University of Padua | Grassi A.,UOC Immunologia e Diagnostica Molecolare Oncologica | And 11 more authors.
Leukemia | Year: 2014

T-acute lymphoblastic leukemia (T-ALL) is characterized by several genetic alterations and poor prognosis in about 20-25% of patients. Notably, about 60% of T-ALL shows increased Notch1 activity, due to activating NOTCH1 mutations or alterations in the FBW7 gene, which confer to the cell a strong growth advantage. Therapeutic targeting of Notch signaling could be clinically relevant, especially for chemotherapy refractory patients. This study investigated the therapeutic efficacy of a novel anti-Notch1 monoclonal antibody by taking advantage of a collection of pediatric T-ALL engrafted systemically in NOD/SCID mice and genetically characterized with respect to NOTCH1/FBW7 mutations. Anti-Notch1 treatment greatly delayed engraftment of T-ALL cells bearing Notch1 mutations, including samples derived from poor responders or relapsed patients. Notably, the therapeutic efficacy of anti-Notch1 therapy was significantly enhanced in combination with dexamethasone. Anti-Notch1 treatment increased T-ALL cell apoptosis, decreased proliferation and caused strong inhibitory effects on Notch-target genes expression along with complex modulations of gene expression profiles involving cell metabolism. Serial transplantation experiments suggested that anti-Notch1 therapy could compromise leukemia-initiating cell functions. These results show therapeutic efficacy of Notch1 blockade for T-ALL, highlight the potential of combination with dexamethasone and identify surrogate biomarkers of the therapeutic response. © 2014 Macmillan Publishers Limited.

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