[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Cell fusion, a process that merges two or more cells into one, is required for normal development and has been explored as a tool for stem cell therapy. It has also been proposed that cell fusion causes cancer and contributes to its progression. These functions rely on a poorly understood ability of cell fusion to create new cell types. We suggest that this ability can be understood by considering cells as attractor networks whose basic property is to adopt a set of distinct, stable, self-maintaining states called attractors. According to this view, fusion of two cell types is a collision of two networks that have adopted distinct attractors. To learn how these networks reach a consensus, we model cell fusion computationally. To do so, we simulate patterns of gene activities using a formalism developed to simulate patterns of memory in neural networks. We find that the hybrid networks can assume attractors that are unrelated to parental attractors, implying that cell fusion can create new cell types by nearly instantaneously moving cells between attractors. We also show that hybrid networks are prone to assume spurious attractors, which are emergent and sporadic network states. This finding means that cell fusion can produce abnormal cell types, including cancerous types, by placing cells into normally inaccessible spurious states. Finally, we suggest that the problem of colliding networks has general significance in many processes represented by attractor networks, including biological, social, and political phenomena.
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Complex systems, ranging from living cells to human societies, can be
represented as attractor networks, whose basic property is to exist in one of
allowed states, or attractors. We noted that merging two systems that are in
distinct attractors creates uncertainty, as the hybrid system cannot assume two
attractors at once. As a prototype of this problem, we explore cell fusion,
whose ability to combine distinct cells into hybrids was proposed to cause
cancer. By simulating cell types as attractors, we find that hybrids are prone
to assume spurious attractors, which are emergent and sporadic states of
networks, and propose that cell fusion can make a cell cancerous by placing it
into normally inaccessible spurious states. We define basic features of hybrid
networks and suggest that the problem of colliding networks has general
significance in processes represented by attractor networks, including
biological, social, and political phenomena.
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Cell-to-cell fusion (cell fusion) is a fundamental biological process that also has been used as a versatile experimental tool to dissect a variety of cellular mechanisms, including the consequences of cell fusion itself, and to produce cells with desired properties, such as hybridomas and reprogrammed progenitors. However, current methods of cell fusion are not satisfactory because of their toxicity, inefficiency, or lack of flexibility. We describe a simple, versatile, scalable, and nontoxic approach that we call V-fusion, as it is based on the ability of the vesicular stomatitis virus G protein (VSV-G), a viral fusogen of broad tropism, to become rapidly and reversibly activated. We suggest that this approach will benefit a broad array of studies that investigate consequences of cell fusion or use cell fusion as an experimental tool.
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The seminal article by Douglas Hanahan and Robert Weinberg on the hallmarks of cancer is 10 years old this year and its contribution to how we see cancer has been substantial. But, in embracing this view, have we lost sight of what makes cancer cancer?
Nature Reviews Cancer 04/2010; 10(4):232-3. · 29.54 Impact Factor
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The ability to fuse cells is shared by many viruses, including common human pathogens and several endogenous viruses. Here we will discuss how cell fusion can link viruses to cancer, what types of cancers it can affect, how the existence of this link can be tested and how the hypotheses that we propose might affect the search for human oncogenic viruses. In particular, we will focus on the ability of cell fusion that is caused by viruses to induce chromosomal instability, a common affliction of cancer cells that has been thought to underlie the malignant properties of cancerous tumours.
Nature Reviews Cancer 01/2008; 7(12):968-76. · 29.54 Impact Factor
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: We proposed to test a hypothesis that cell fusion between tumor cells and between tumor and normal cells contributes to metastasis. This contribution can be implemented by two mechanisms, by generating cells with diverse genetic and epigenetic properties, and by providing tumor cells with qualities of normal cells that are required to reside in normal tissues. This hypothesis might explain why cells tumor cells can grow at distant sites, why they express proteins that are normally expressed by cells of the metastasized tissue, and why only a minute fraction of cells released by the primary tumors form metastases. The funded research focuses on two specific aims, to determine the mechanism of gene transfer between prostate cancer cells (Aim 1); and to determine whether cell fusion affects metastatic properties of prostate cancer cells (Aim 2). During this reporting period, we identified the mechanism of gene transfer, thus completing Aim 1. The unexpected finding that the transfer was carried out by a virus prompted us to initiate a new line of research the first step of which will be to identify the virus. This finding also prompted us to develop a new approach for cell fusion, which will serve as the main technique for the experiments proposed in Aim 2. Accomplishing this Aim will be the main focus of our research for the remaining funding period.
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The idea that conversion of glucose to ATP is an attractive target for cancer therapy has been supported in part by the observation that glucose deprivation induces apoptosis in rodent cells transduced with the proto-oncogene MYC, but not in the parental line. Here, we found that depletion of glucose killed normal human cells irrespective of induced MYC activity and by a mechanism different from apoptosis. However, depletion of glutamine, another major nutrient consumed by cancer cells, induced apoptosis depending on MYC activity. This apoptosis was preceded by depletion of the Krebs cycle intermediates, was prevented by two Krebs cycle substrates, but was unrelated to ATP synthesis or several other reported consequences of glutamine starvation. Our results suggest that the fate of normal human cells should be considered in evaluating nutrient deprivation as a strategy for cancer therapy, and that understanding how glutamine metabolism is linked to cell viability might provide new approaches for treatment of cancer.
The Journal of Cell Biology 08/2007; 178(1):93-105. · 10.82 Impact Factor
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Chromosomal instability (CIN) underlies malignant properties of many solid cancers and their ability to escape therapy, and it might itself cause cancer [1, 2]. CIN is sustained by deficiencies in proteins, such as the tumor suppressor p53 [3-5], that police genome integrity, but the primary cause of CIN in sporadic cancers remains uncertain [6, 7]. The primary suspects are mutations that deregulate telomere maintenance, or mitosis, yet such mutations have not been identified in the majority of sporadic cancers . Alternatively, CIN could be caused by a transient event that destabilizes the genome without permanently affecting mechanisms of mitosis or proliferation [5, 8]. Here, we show that an otherwise harmless virus rapidly causes massive chromosomal instability by fusing cells whose cell cycle is deregulated by oncogenes. This synergy between fusion and oncogenes "randomizes" normal diploid human fibroblasts so extensively that each analyzed cell has a unique karyotype, and some produce aggressive, highly aneuploid, heterogeneous, and transplantable epithelial cancers in mice. Because many viruses are fusogenic, this study suggests that viruses, including those that have not been linked to carcinogenesis, can cause chromosomal instability and, consequently, cancer by fusing cells.
Current Biology 04/2007; 17(5):431-7. · 9.49 Impact Factor
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Amodel that explains both the origin and sporadic nature of cancer argues that cancer cells are a chance result of events that cause genomic and epigenetic variability. The prevailing view is that these events are mutations that affect chromosome segregation or stability. However, genomic and epigenetic variability is also triggered by cell fusion, which is often caused by viruses. Yet, cells fused by viruses are considered harmless because they die. We provide evidence that a primate virus uses both viral and exosomal proteins involved in cell fusion to produce transformed proliferating human cells. Although normal cells indeed fail to proliferate after fusion, expression of an oncogene or a mutated tumor suppressor p53 in just one of the fusion partners is sufficient to produce heterogeneous progeny. We also show that this virus can produce viable oncogenically transformed cells by fusing cells that are otherwise destined to die. Therefore, we argue that viruses can contribute to carcinogenesis by fusing cells.
The Journal of Cell Biology 12/2005; 171(3):493-503. · 10.82 Impact Factor
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: In Drosophila, activation of the apical caspase DRONC requires the apoptotic protease-activating factor homologue, DARK. However, unlike caspase activation in mammals, DRONC activation is not accompanied by the release of cytochrome c from mitochondria. Drosophila encodes two cytochrome c proteins, Cytc-p (DC4) the predominantly expressed species, and Cytc-d (DC3), which is implicated in caspase activation during spermatogenesis. Here, we report that silencing expression of either or both DC3 and DC4 had no effect on apoptosis or activation of DRONC and DRICE in Drosophila cells. We find that loss of function mutations in dc3 and dc4, do not affect caspase activation during Drosophila development and that ectopic expression of DC3 or DC4 in Drosophila cells does not induce caspase activation. In cell-free studies, recombinant DC3 or DC4 failed to activate caspases in Drosophila cell lysates, but remarkably induced caspase activation in extracts from human cells. Overall, our results argue that DARK-mediated DRONC activation occurs independently of cytochrome c.
The Journal of Cell Biology 12/2004; 167(3):405-10. · 10.82 Impact Factor
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: According to some studies, susceptibility of cells to anticancer drug-induced apoptosis is markedly inhibited by targeted deletion of genes encoding apoptotic protease activating factor 1 (Apaf-1) or certain caspases. Information about levels of these polypeptides in common cancer cell types and any possible correlation with drug sensitivity in the absence of gene deletion is currently fragmentary.
Immunoblotting was used to estimate levels of Apaf-1 as well as procaspase-2, -3, -6, -7, -8, and -9 in the 60-cell-line panel used for drug screening by the National Cancer Institute. Sensitivity of the same lines to >80,000 compounds was determined with 48-hour sulforhodamine B binding assays. Additional 6-day assays were performed for selected agents.
Levels of Apaf-1 and procaspases varied widely. Apaf-1 and procaspase-9, which are implicated in caspase activation after treatment of cells with various anticancer drugs, were detectable in all of the cell lines, with levels of Apaf-1 ranging from approximately 1 x 10(5) to 2 x 10(6) molecules per cell and procaspase-9 from approximately 5 x 10(3) to approximately 1.6 x 10(5) molecules per cell. Procaspase-8 levels ranged from 1.7 x 10(5) to 8 x 10(6) molecules per cell. Procaspase-3, a major effector caspase, varied from undetectable to approximately 1.6 x 10(6) molecules per cell. Correlations between levels of these polypeptides and sensitivity to any of a variety of experimental or conventional antineoplastic agents in either 2-day or 6-day cytotoxicity assays were weak at best.
With the exception of caspase-3, all of the components of the core cell-death machinery are expressed in all of the cell lines examined. Despite variations in expression, levels of any one component are not a major determinant of drug sensitivity in these cells in vitro.
Clinical Cancer Research 10/2004; 10(20):6807-20. · 7.84 Impact Factor
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: We have continued to systematically investigate several possibilities regarding the identity of caspase-P. Our systematic approach to chemotherapy induced apoptosis helped us to advance the understanding of this process and to develop new tools to analyze mechanisms of cell death in tumor cells.
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: We collaborate in a research program aimed at creating a rigorous framework, experimental infrastructure, and computational environment for understanding, experimenting with, manipulating, and modifying a diverse set of fundamental biological processes at multiple scales and spatio-temporal modes. The novelty of our research is based on an approach that (i) requires coevolu- # The work reported in this paper was supported by grants from NSF's Qubic program, DARPA, HHMI biomedical support research grant, the US Department of Energy, the US Air Force, National Institutes of Health, and New York State O#ce of Science, Technology & Academic Research.
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: We collaborate in a research program aimed at creating a rigorous framework, experimental infrastructure, and computational environment for understanding, experimenting with, manipulating, and modifying a diverse set of fundamental biological processes at multiple scales and spatio-temporal modes. The novelty of our research is based on an approach that (i) requires coevolution of experimental science and theoretical techniques and (ii) exploits a certain universality in biology guided by a parsimonious model of evolutionary mechanisms operating at the genomic level and manifesting at the proteomic, transcriptomic, phylogenic, and other higher levels. Our current program in "systems biology" endeavors to marry large-scale biological experiments with the tools to ponder and reason about large, complex, and subtle natural systems. To achieve this ambitious goal, ideas and concepts are combined from many different fields: biological experimentation, applied mathematical modeling, computational reasoning schemes, and large-scale numerical and symbolic simulations. From a biological viewpoint, the basic issues are many: (i) understanding common and shared structural motifs among biological processes; (ii) modeling biological noise due to interactions among a small number of key molecules or loss of synchrony; (iii) explaining the robustness of these systems in spite of such noise; and (iv) cataloging multistatic behavior and adaptation exhibited by many biological processes.
Omics A Journal of Integrative Biology 02/2003; 7(3):253-68. · 2.73 Impact Factor
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Cells respond to poliovirus infection by switching on the apoptotic program, implementation of which is usually suppressed by viral antiapoptotic functions. We show here that poliovirus infection of HeLa cells or derivatives of MCF-7 cells was accompanied by the efflux of cytochrome c from mitochondria. This efflux occurred during both abortive infection (e.g., interrupted by guanidine-HCl and ending with apoptosis) and productive infection (leading to cytopathic effect). The former type of infection, but not the latter, was accompanied by truncation of the proapoptotic protein Bid. The virus-triggered cytochrome c efflux was suppressed by overexpression of Bcl-2. Both abortive and productive infections also resulted in a decreased level of procaspase-9, as revealed by Western blotting. In the former case, this decrease was accompanied by the accumulation of a protein with the electrophoretic mobility of active caspase-9. In contrast, in the productively infected cells, the latter protein was absent but caspase-9-related polypeptides with altered mobility could be detected. Both caspase-9 and caspase-3 were shown to be essential for the development of such hallmarks of virus-induced apoptosis as chromatin condensation, DNA degradation, and nuclear fragmentation. These and some other results suggest the following scenario. Poliovirus infection activates the apoptotic pathway, involving mitochondrial damage, cytochrome c efflux, and consecutive activation of caspase-9 and caspase-3. The apoptotic signal appears to be amplified by a loop which includes secondary processing of Bid. The implementation of the apoptotic program in productively infected cells may be suppressed, however, by the viral antiapoptotic functions, which act at a step(s) downstream of the cytochrome c efflux. The suppression appears to be caused, at least in part, by aberrant processing and degradation of procaspase-9.
Journal of Virology 02/2003; 77(1):45-56. · 5.08 Impact Factor
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Unrestrained E2F activity forces S phase entry and promotes apoptosis through p53-dependent and -independent mechanisms. Here, we show that deregulation of E2F by adenovirus E1A, loss of Rb or enforced E2F-1 expression results in the accumulation of caspase proenzymes through a direct transcriptional mechanism. Increased caspase levels seem to potentiate cell death in the presence of p53-generated signals that trigger caspase activation. Our results demonstrate that mitogenic oncogenes engage a tumour suppressor network that functions at multiple levels to efficiently induce cell death. The data also underscore how cell cycle progression can be coupled to the apoptotic machinery.
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: This article by Yu. Lazebnik, “Can a Biologist Fix a Radio? — or, What I Learned while Studying Apoptosis” has already been published in English (Cancer Cell, 2002, 2, 179–182) and in Russian (Uspekhi Gerontologii, 2003, No. 12, 166–171). Nevertheless, we have undertaken its secondary publication in our journal for two reasons: first, our journal has different readers, and, second, the great significance of this manifest of Yuri Lazebnik. The author in bright and clever form shows the emerging necessity to create formalized language designed to describe complicated systems of regulation of biochemical processes in living cells. The article is published with permission of Cancer Cell and Uspekhi Gerontologii.
Cancer Cell 10/2002; 2(3):179-82. · 24.76 Impact Factor