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Maes C.,Catholic University of Leuven | Goossens S.,Ghent University | Goossens S.,Vascular Cell Biology Unit | Bartunkova S.,Ghent University | And 27 more authors.
EMBO Journal | Year: 2010

Vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) and Β-catenin both act broadly in embryogenesis and adulthood, including in the skeletal and vascular systems. Increased or deregulated activity of these molecules has been linked to cancer and bone-related pathologies. By using novel mouse models to locally increase VEGF levels in the skeleton, we found that embryonic VEGF over-expression in osteo-chondroprogenitors and their progeny largely pheno-copied constitutive Β-catenin activation. Adult induction of VEGF in these cell populations dramatically increased bone mass, associated with aberrant vascularization, bone marrow fibrosis and haematological anomalies. Genetic and pharmacological interventions showed that VEGF increased bone mass through a VEGF receptor 2-and phosphatidyl inositol 3-kinase-mediated pathway inducing Β-catenin transcriptional activity in endothelial and osteoblastic cells, likely through modulation of glycogen synthase kinase 3-Β phosphorylation. These insights into the actions of VEGF in the bone and marrow environment underscore its power as pleiotropic bone anabolic agent but also warn for caution in its therapeutic use. Moreover, the finding that VEGF can modulate Β-catenin activity may have widespread physiological and clinical ramifications. © 2010 European Molecular Biology Organization.


Denecker G.,Inflammation Research Center | Denecker G.,Ghent University | Vandamme N.,Inflammation Research Center | Vandamme N.,Ghent University | And 28 more authors.
Cell Death and Differentiation | Year: 2014

Deregulation of signaling pathways that control differentiation, expansion and migration of neural crest-derived melanoblasts during normal development contributes also to melanoma progression and metastasis. Although several epithelial-to-mesenchymal (EMT) transcription factors, such as zinc finger E-box binding protein 1 (ZEB1) and ZEB2, have been implicated in neural crest cell biology, little is known about their role in melanocyte homeostasis and melanoma. Here we show that mice lacking Zeb2 in the melanocyte lineage exhibit a melanoblast migration defect and, unexpectedly, a severe melanocyte differentiation defect. Loss of Zeb2 in the melanocyte lineage results in a downregulation of the Microphthalmia-associated transcription factor (Mitf) and melanocyte differentiation markers concomitant with an upregulation of Zeb1. We identify a transcriptional signaling network in which the EMT transcription factor ZEB2 regulates MITF levels to control melanocyte differentiation. Moreover, our data are also relevant for human melanomagenesis as loss of ZEB2 expression is associated with reduced patient survival. © 2014 Macmillan Publishers Limited All rights reserved.


Gembarska A.,Center for the Biology of Disease | Gembarska A.,Catholic University of Leuven | Luciani F.,Center for the Biology of Disease | Luciani F.,Catholic University of Leuven | And 29 more authors.
Nature Medicine | Year: 2012

The inactivation of the p53 tumor suppressor pathway, which often occurs through mutations in TP53 (encoding tumor protein 53) is a common step in human cancer. However, in melanoma-A highly chemotherapy-resistant disease-TP53 mutations are rare, raising the possibility that this cancer uses alternative ways to overcome p53-mediated tumor suppression. Here we show that Mdm4 p53 binding protein homolog (MDM4), a negative regulator of p53, is upregulated in a substantial proportion (∼65%) of stage I-IV human melanomas and that melanocyte-specific Mdm4 overexpression enhanced tumorigenesis in a mouse model of melanoma induced by the oncogene Nras. MDM4 promotes the survival of human metastatic melanoma by antagonizing p53 proapoptotic function. Notably, inhibition of the MDM4-p53 interaction restored p53 function in melanoma cells, resulting in increased sensitivity to cytotoxic chemotherapy and to inhibitors of the BRAF (V600E) oncogene. Our results identify MDM4 as a key determinant of impaired p53 function in human melanoma and designate MDM4 as a promising target for antimelanoma combination therapy. © 2012 Nature America, Inc. All rights reserved.


Farhang Ghahremani M.,Vascular Cell Biology Unit | Farhang Ghahremani M.,Ghent University | Goossens S.,Vascular Cell Biology Unit | Goossens S.,Ghent University | And 22 more authors.
Cell Death and Differentiation | Year: 2013

There is growing evidence that the p53 tumour suppressor downregulates vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) expression, although the underlying mechanisms remain unclear and controversial. Here we provide insights from in vitro experiments and in vivo xenotransplantation assays that highlight a dual role for p53 in regulating VEGF during hypoxia. Unexpectedly, and for the first time, we demonstrate that p53 rapidly induces VEGF transcription upon hypoxia exposure by binding, in an HIF-1α-dependent manner, to a highly conserved and functional p53-binding site within the VEGF promoter. However, during sustained hypoxia, p53 indirectly downregulates VEGF expression via the retinoblastoma (Rb) pathway in a p21-dependent manner, which is distinct from its role in cell-cycle regulation. Our findings have important implications for cancer therapy, especially for tumours that harbour wild-type TP53 and a dysfunctional Rb pathway. © 2013 Macmillan Publishers Limited.


Nguyen A.H.T.,McGill University | Tremblay M.,McGill University | Haigh K.,Ghent University | Haigh K.,Vascular Cell Biology Unit | And 8 more authors.
Human Molecular Genetics | Year: 2013

Loss of the tumor suppressor PTEN is a common occurrence in prostate cancer. This aberration leads to the ectopic activation of the PI3K-Akt pathway, which promotes tumor growth. Here, we show that the transcription factor Gata3 is progressively lost in Pten-deficient mouse prostate tumors as a result of both transcriptional down-regulation and increased proteasomal degradation. To determine the significance of this loss, we used conditional loss- and gain-of-function approaches to manipulate Gata3 expression levels in prostate tumors. Our results show that Gata3 inactivation in Pten-deficient prostates accelerates tumor invasion. Conversely, enforced expression of GATA3 in Pten-deficient tissues markedly delays tumor progression. In Pten-deficient prostatic ducts, enforced GATA3 prevented Akt activation, which correlated with the down-regulation of Pik3cg and Pik3c2a mRNAs, encoding respectively class I and II PI3K subunits. Remarkably, the majority of human prostate tumors similarly show loss of active GATA3 as they progress to the aggressive castrate-resistant stage. In addition, GATA3 expression levels in hormone-sensitive tumors holds predictive value for tumor recurrence. Together, these data establish Gata3 as an important regulator of prostate cancer progression.© 2013. Published by Oxford University Press. All rights reserved.


Maes C.,Catholic University of Leuven | Araldi E.,Harvard University | Haigh K.,Vascular Cell Biology Unit | Haigh K.,Ghent University | And 7 more authors.
Journal of Bone and Mineral Research | Year: 2012

Fetal growth plate cartilage is nonvascularized, and chondrocytes largely develop in hypoxic conditions. We previously found that mice lacking the hypoxia-inducible transcription factor HIF-1α in cartilage show massive death of centrally located, hypoxic chondrocytes. A similar phenotype was observed in mice with genetic ablation of either all or specifically the diffusible isoforms of vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF), a prime angiogenic target of HIF-1α. Here, we assessed whether VEGF is a critical downstream component of the HIF-1α-dependent survival pathway in chondrocytes. We used a genetic approach to conditionally overexpress VEGF164 in chondrocytes lacking HIF-1α, evaluating potential rescuing effects. The effectiveness of the strategy was validated by showing that transgenic expression of VEGF164 in Col2-Cre;VEGF f/ f mice stimulated angiogenesis in the perichondrium, fully corrected the excessive hypoxia of VEGF-deficient chondrocytes, and completely prevented chondrocyte death. Yet, similarly crossed double-mutant embryos lacking HIF-1α and overexpressing VEGF164 in the growth plate cartilage still displayed a central cell death phenotype, albeit slightly delayed and less severe compared with mice exclusively lacking HIF-1α. Transgenic VEGF164 induced massive angiogenesis in the perichondrium, yet this only partially relieved the aberrant hypoxia present in HIF-1α-deficient cartilage and thereby likely inflicted only a partial rescue effect. In fact, excessive hypoxia and failure to upregulate phosphoglycerate-kinase 1 (PGK1), a key enzyme of anaerobic glycolytic metabolism, were among the earliest manifestations of HIF-1α deficiency in cartilaginous bone templates, and reduced PGK1 expression was irrespective of transgenic VEGF164. These findings suggest that HIF-1α activates VEGF-independent cell-autonomous mechanisms to sustain oxygen levels in the challenged avascular cartilage by reducing oxygen consumption. Hence, regulation of the metabolic pathways by HIF-1α and VEGF-dependent regulation of angiogenesis coordinately act to maintain physiological cartilage oxygenation. We conclude that VEGF and HIF-1α are critical preservers of chondrocyte survival by ensuring an adequate balance between availability and handling of oxygen in developing growth cartilage. Copyright © 2012 American Society for Bone and Mineral Research.


Goossens S.,Vascular Cell Biology Unit | Goossens S.,Ghent University | Janzen V.,University of Bonn | Bartunkova S.,Vascular Cell Biology Unit | And 20 more authors.
Blood | Year: 2011

Zeb2 (Sip1/Zfhx1b) is a member of the zinc-finger E-box - binding (ZEB) family of transcriptional repressors previously demonstrated to regulate epithelial-tomesenchymal transition (EMT) processes during embryogenesis and tumor progression. We found high Zeb2 mRNA expression levels in HSCs and hematopoietic progenitor cells (HPCs), and examined Zeb2 function in hematopoiesis through a conditional deletion approach using the Tie2-Cre and Vav-iCre recombination mouse lines. Detailed cellular analysis demonstrated that Zeb2 is dispensable for hematopoietic cluster and HSC formation in the aorta-gonadomesonephros region of the embryo, but is essential for normal HSC/HPC differentiation. In addition, Zeb2-deficient HSCs/HPCs fail to properly colonize the fetal liver and/or bone marrow and show enhanced adhesive properties associated with increased β1 integrin and Cxcr4 expression. Moreover, deletion of Zeb2 resulted in embryonic (Tie2-Cre) and perinatal (Vav-icre) lethality due to severe cephalic hemorrhaging and decreased levels of angiopoietin-1 and, subsequently, improper pericyte coverage of the cephalic vasculature. These results reveal essential roles for Zeb2 in embryonic hematopoiesis and are suggestive of a role for Zeb2 in hematopoietic-related pathologies in the adult. © 2011 by The American Society of Hematology.


Lucitti J.L.,University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill | MacKey J.K.,University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill | Morrison J.C.,University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill | Haigh J.J.,Vascular Cell Biology Unit | And 3 more authors.
Circulation Research | Year: 2012

RATIONALE: The density of native (preexisting) collaterals varies widely and is a significant determinant of variation in severity of stroke, myocardial infarction, and peripheral artery disease. However, little is known about mechanisms responsible for formation of the collateral circulation in healthy tissues. OBJECTIVE: We previously found that variation in vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) expression causes differences in collateral density of newborn and adult mice. Herein, we sought to determine mechanisms of collaterogenesis in the embryo and the role of VEGF in this process. METHODS AND RESULTS: Pial collaterals begin forming between embryonic day 13.5 and 14.5 as sprout-like extensions from arterioles of existing cerebral artery trees. Global VEGF-A overexpressing mice (Vegf) formed more, and Vegf formed fewer, collaterals during embryogenesis, in association with differences in vascular patterning. Conditional global reduction of Vegf or Flk1 only during collaterogenesis significantly reduced collateral formation, but now without affecting vascular patterning, and the effects remained in adulthood. Endothelial-specific Vegf reduction had no effect on collaterogenesis. Endothelial-specific reduction of a disintegrin-and-metalloprotease-domain-10 (Adam10) and inhibition of γ-secretase increased collateral formation, consistent with their roles in VEGF-induced Notch1 activation and suppression of prosprouting signals. Endothelial-specific knockdown of Adam17 reduced collateral formation, consistent with its roles in endothelial cell migration and embryonic vascular stabilization, but not in activation of ligand-bound Notch1. These effects also remained in adulthood. CONCLUSIONS: Formation of pial collaterals occurs during a narrow developmental window via a sprouting angiogenesis-like mechanism, requires paracrine VEGF stimulation of fetal liver kinase 1-Notch signaling, and adult collateral number is dependent on embryonic collaterogenesis. © 2012 American Heart Association, Inc.


Davies C.C.,Cancer Research UK Research Institute | Chakraborty A.,Cancer Research UK Research Institute | Cipriani F.,Cancer Research UK Research Institute | Haigh K.,Vascular Cell Biology Unit | And 4 more authors.
Nature Cell Biology | Year: 2010

The AP-1 transcription factor c-Jun is essential for cellular proliferation in many cell types, but the molecular link between growth factors and c-Jun activation has been enigmatic. In this study we identify a previously uncharacterized RING-domain-containing protein, RACO-1 (RING domain AP-1 co-activator-1), as a c-Jun co-activator that is regulated by growth factor signalling. RACO-1 interacted with c-Jun independently of amino-terminal phosphorylation, and was both necessary and sufficient for c-Jun/AP-1 activation. Growth factor-mediated stimulation of AP-1 was attributable to MEK/ERK-dependent stabilization of RACO-1 protein. Stimulation of the MEK/ERK pathway strongly promoted Lys 63-linked ubiquitylation of RACO-1, which antagonized Lys 48-linked degradative auto-ubiquitylation of the same Lys residues. RACO-1 depletion reduced cellular proliferation and decreased expression of several growth-associated AP-1 target genes, such as cdc2, cyclinD1 and hb-egf. Moreover, transgenic overexpression of RACO-1 augmented intestinal tumour formation triggered by aberrant Wnt signalling and cooperated with oncogenic Ras in colonic hyperproliferation. Thus RACO-1 is a co-activator that links c-Jun to growth factor signalling and is essential for AP-1 function in proliferation. © 2010 Macmillan Publishers Limited. All rights reserved.

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