Justin H Berger

Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA, United States

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Publications (3)25.93 Total impact

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    ABSTRACT: Lkb1 is a central regulator of cell polarity and energy metabolism through its capacity to activate the AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK)-related family of protein kinases. Germ line-inactivating mutation of Lkb1 leads to Peutz-Jeghers syndrome, which is characterized by benign hamartomas and a susceptibility to malignant epithelial tumors. Mutations in Lkb1 are also found in sporadic carcinomas, most frequently in lung cancers associated with tobacco carcinogen exposure. The basis for Lkb1-dependent tumor suppression is not defined. Here, we uncover a marked sensitivity of Lkb1 mutant mice to the chemical carcinogen 7,12-dimethylbenz(a)anthracene (DMBA). Lkb1(+/-) mice are highly prone to DMBA-induced squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) of the skin and lung. Confirming a cell autonomous tumor suppressor role of Lkb1, mice with epidermal-specific Lkb1 deletion are also susceptible to DMBA-induced SCC and develop spontaneous SCC with long latency. Restoration of wild-type Lkb1 causes senescence in tumor-derived cell lines, a process that can be partially bypassed by inactivation of the Rb pathway, but not by inactivation of p53 or AMPK. Our data indicate that Lkb1 is a potent suppressor of carcinogen-induced skin and lung cancers and that downstream targets beyond the AMPK-mTOR pathway are likely mediators of Lkb1-dependent tumor suppression.
    Cancer Research 02/2008; 68(1):55-63. · 9.28 Impact Factor
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    Justin H Berger, Nabeel Bardeesy
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    ABSTRACT: The INK4/ARF locus encodes the p15(INK4B), p16(INK4A) and p14(ARF) tumor suppressor proteins whose loss of function is associated with the pathogenesis of many human cancers. Dissecting the relative contribution of these genes to growth control in vivo is complicated by their physical contiguity and the frequency of homozygous deletions that inactivate all three components of this locus. While genetically engineered mouse models provide a rigorous system for elucidating cancer gene function, there is some evidence to suggest there are cross-species differences in regulating tumor biology. Given the prevalence of mouse models in cancer research and the potential contribution of such models to preclinical studies, it is important determine to what degree the function of these critical tumor suppressors is conserved between organisms. In this review, we assess the relative biological roles of INK4A, INK4B and ARF in mice and humans with the aim of determining the faithfulness of mouse models and also of obtaining insights into the pattern of specific tumor types that are associated with germline and somatic mutations at components of this locus. We will discuss 1) the contribution of INK4A, INK4B and ARF to growth control in vitro in a series of cell types, 2) the in vivo phenotypes associated with germline loss of function of this locus and 3) the study of Ink4a and Arf in different cancer-specific mouse models.
    Current Molecular Medicine 03/2007; 7(1):63-75. · 4.20 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: SMAD4 is inactivated in the majority of pancreatic ductal adenocarcinomas (PDAC) with concurrent mutational inactivation of the INK4A/ARF tumor suppressor locus and activation of the KRAS oncogene. Here, using genetically engineered mice, we determined the impact of SMAD4 deficiency on the development of the pancreas and on the initiation and/or progression of PDAC-alone or in combination with PDAC--relevant mutations. Selective SMAD4 deletion in the pancreatic epithelium had no discernable impact on pancreatic development or physiology. However, when combined with the activated KRAS(G12D) allele, SMAD4 deficiency enabled rapid progression of KRAS(G12D)-initiated neoplasms. While KRAS(G12D) alone elicited premalignant pancreatic intraepithelial neoplasia (PanIN) that progressed slowly to carcinoma, the combination of KRAS(G12D) and SMAD4 deficiency resulted in the rapid development of tumors resembling intraductal papillary mucinous neoplasia (IPMN), a precursor to PDAC in humans. SMAD4 deficiency also accelerated PDAC development of KRAS(G12D) INK4A/ARF heterozygous mice and altered the tumor phenotype; while tumors with intact SMAD4 frequently exhibited epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition (EMT), PDAC null for SMAD4 retained a differentiated histopathology with increased expression of epithelial markers. SMAD4 status in PDAC cell lines was associated with differential responses to transforming growth factor-beta (TGF-beta) in vitro with a subset of SMAD4 wild-type lines showing prominent TGF-beta-induced proliferation and migration. These results provide genetic confirmation that SMAD4 is a PDAC tumor suppressor, functioning to block the progression of KRAS(G12D)-initiated neoplasms, whereas in a subset of advanced tumors, intact SMAD4 facilitates EMT and TGF-beta-dependent growth.
    Genes & Development 12/2006; 20(22):3130-46. · 12.44 Impact Factor