[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Successful embryo implantation requires functional luminal epithelia to establish uterine receptivity and blastocyst-uterine adhesion. During the configuration of uterine receptivity from prereceptive phase, the luminal epithelium undergoes dynamic membrane reorganization and depolarization. This timely regulated epithelial membrane maturation and precisely maintained epithelial integrity are critical for embryo implantation in both humans and mice. However, it remained largely unexplored with respect to potential signaling cascades governing this functional epithelial transformation prior to implantation. Using multiple genetic and cellular approaches combined with uterine conditional Rac1 deletion mouse model, we demonstrated herein that Rac1, a small GTPase, is spatiotemporally expressed in the periimplantation uterus, and uterine depletion of Rac1 induces premature decrease of epithelial apical-basal polarity and defective junction remodeling, leading to disrupted uterine receptivity and implantation failure. Further investigations identified Pak1-ERM as a downstream signaling cascade upon Rac1 activation in the luminal epithelium necessary for uterine receptivity. In addition, we also demonstrated that Rac1 via P38 MAPK signaling ensures timely epithelial apoptotic death at postimplantation. Besides uncovering a potentially important molecule machinery governing uterine luminal integrity for embryo implantation, our finding has high clinical relevance, because Rac1 is essential for normal endometrial functions in women.Cell Death and Differentiation advance online publication, 17 July 2015; doi:10.1038/cdd.2015.98.
Cell death and differentiation 07/2015; DOI:10.1038/cdd.2015.98 · 8.39 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Unlike cancers of related exocrine tissues such as the mammary and prostate gland, diagnosis and treatment of aggressive salivary gland malignancies have not markedly advanced in decades. Effective clinical management of malignant salivary gland cancers is undercut by our limited knowledge concerning the key molecular signals that underpin the etiopathogenesis of this rare and heterogeneous head and neck cancer. Without knowledge of the critical signals that drive salivary gland tumorigenesis, tumor vulnerabilities cannot be exploited that allow for targeted molecular therapies. This knowledge insufficiency is further exacerbated by a paucity of preclinical mouse models (as compared to other cancer fields) with which to both study salivary gland pathobiology and test novel intervention strategies. Using a mouse transgenic approach, we demonstrate that deregulation of the Receptor Activator of NFkB Ligand (RANKL)/RANK signaling axis results in rapid tumor development in all three major salivary glands. In line with its established role in other exocrine gland cancers (i.e., breast cancer), the RANKL/RANK signaling axis elicits an aggressive salivary gland tumor phenotype both at the histologic and molecular level. Despite the ability of this cytokine signaling axis to drive advanced stage disease within a short latency period, early blockade of RANKL/RANK signaling markedly attenuates the development of malignant salivary gland neoplasms. Together, our findings have uncovered a tumorigenic role for RANKL/RANK in the salivary gland and suggest that targeting this pathway may represent a novel therapeutic intervention approach in the prevention and/or treatment of this understudied head and neck cancer.
PLoS ONE 06/2015; 10(6):e0128467. DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.0128467 · 3.23 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Progesterone (P4) and the synthetic glucocorticoid dexamethasone (Dex) inhibit luminal epithelial (LE) proliferation in neonatal mouse uteri. This study determined the roles of progesterone receptor and estrogen receptor 1 (PR and ESR1, respectively) in P4- and Dex-induced inhibition of LE proliferation using PR knockout (PRKO) and Esr1 knockout (Esr1KO) mice. Wild-type (WT), heterozygous and homozygous PRKO female pups were injected with vehicle, P4 (40 μg/g BW) or Dex (4 or 40 μg/g BW) on Postnatal Day 5, then 24 h later immunostained for markers of cell proliferation. In WT and heterozygous mice, P4 sharply reduced LE proliferation, and Dex produced dose-responsive decreases equaling those of P4 at the higher dose. Critically, although both doses of Dex similarly decreased proliferation compared to vehicle-treated PRKOs, treatment of PRKO pups with the high Dex dose (40 μg/g) did not inhibit LE as much as this Dex dose or P4 in WT mice. Stromal proliferation was stimulated by P4 in WT but not PRKO mice, and Dex did not alter stromal proliferation. Uteri of all genotypes strongly expressed glucocorticoid receptor (GR), demonstrating that impaired Dex effects in PRKOs did not reflect GR deficiency. Furthermore, inhibition of LE proliferation by Dex (40 μg/g) in Esr1KO mice was normal, so this process does not involve ESR1. In summary, inhibitory Dex effects on LE proliferation occur partially through non-PR mediated mechanisms, presumably GR, as indicated by Dex inhibition of LE proliferation in PRKOs. However, maximal inhibitory Dex effects on uterine LE proliferation are not seen in PRKO mice with even high Dex, indicating that maximal Dex effects in WT mice also involve PR.
Copyright 2015 by The Society for the Study of Reproduction.
Biology of Reproduction 04/2015; 92(5). DOI:10.1095/biolreprod.114.123463 · 3.45 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Intrauterine growth restriction (IUGR) affects up to 10% of pregnancies in Western societies. IUGR is a strong predictor of reduced short-term neonatal survival and impairs long-term health in children. Placental insufficiency is often associated with IUGR; however, the molecular mechanisms involved in the pathogenesis of placental insufficiency and IUGR are largely unknown. Here, we developed a mouse model of fetal-growth restriction and placental insufficiency that is induced by a midgestational stress challenge. Compared with control animals, pregnant dams subjected to gestational stress exhibited reduced progesterone levels and placental heme oxygenase 1 (Hmox1) expression and increased methylation at distinct regions of the placental Hmox1 promoter. These stress-triggered changes were accompanied by an altered CD8+ T cell response, as evidenced by a reduction of tolerogenic CD8+CD122+ T cells and an increase of cytotoxic CD8+ T cells. Using progesterone receptor- or Hmox1-deficient mice, we identified progesterone as an upstream modulator of placental Hmox1 expression. Supplementation of progesterone or depletion of CD8+ T cells revealed that progesterone suppresses CD8+ T cell cytotoxicity, whereas the generation of CD8+CD122+ T cells is supported by Hmox1 and ameliorates fetal-growth restriction in Hmox1 deficiency. These observations in mice could promote the identification of pregnancies at risk for IUGR and the generation of clinical interventional strategies.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Rates of the most common gynecologic cancer, endometrioid adenocarcinoma (EAC), continue to rise, mirroring the global epidemic of obesity, a well-known EAC risk factor. Thus, identifying novel molecular targets to prevent and/or mitigate EAC is imperative. The prevalent Type 1 EAC commonly harbors loss of the tumor suppressor, Pten, leading to AKT activation. The major endoplasmic reticulum (ER) chaperone, GRP78, is a potent pro-survival protein to maintain ER homeostasis, and as a cell surface protein, is known to regulate the phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase (PI3K)/AKT pathway. To determine whether targeting GRP78 could suppress EAC development, we created a conditional knockout mouse model using progesterone receptor-Cre-recombinase to achieve Pten and Grp78 (cPten(f/f)Grp78(f/f)) deletion in the endometrial epithelium. Mice with a single Pten (cPten(f/f)) deletion developed well-differentiated EAC by 4 weeks. In contrast, no cPten(f/f)Grp78(f/f) mice developed EAC, even after more than 8 months of observation. Histologic examination of uteri from cPten(f/f)Grp78(f/f) mice also revealed no complex atypical hyperplasia, a well-established EAC precursor. These histologic observations among the cPten(f/f)Grp78(f/f) murine uteri also corresponded to abrogation of AKT activation within the endometrium. We further observed that GRP78 co-localized with activated AKT on the surface of EAC, thus providing an opportunity for therapeutic targeting. Consistent with previous findings that cell surface GRP78 is an upstream regulator of PI3K/AKT signaling, we show here that in vivo short-term systemic treatment with a highly specific monoclonal antibody against GRP78 suppressed AKT activation and increased apoptosis in the cPten(f/f) tumors. Collectively, these findings present GRP78-targeting therapy as an efficacious therapeutic option for EAC.Oncogene advance online publication, 16 February 2015; doi:10.1038/onc.2015.4.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Despite increasing evidence pointing to the essential involvement of transforming growth factor beta (TGFB) superfamily in reproduction, a definitive role of TGFB signaling in the uterus remains to be unveiled. In this study, we generated a gain-of-function mouse model harboring a constitutively active (CA) TGFB receptor 1 (TGFBR1), the expression of which was conditionally induced by the progesterone receptor (Pgr)-Cre recombinase. Overactivation of TGFB signaling was verified by enhanced phosphorylation of SMAD2 and increased expression of TGFB target genes in the uterus. TGFBR1 Pgr-Cre CA mice were sterile. Histological, cellular, and molecular analyses demonstrated that constitutive activation of TGFBR1 in the mouse uterus promoted formation of hypermuscled uteri. Accompanying this phenotype is the upregulation of a battery of smooth muscle genes in the uterus. Furthermore, TGFB ligands activated SMAD2/3 and stimulated the expression of a smooth muscle maker gene, alpha smooth muscle actin (ACTA2), in human uterine smooth muscle cells. Immunofluorescence microscopy identified a marked reduction of uterine glands in TGFBR1 Pgr-Cre CA mice within the endometrial compartment that contained myofibroblast-like cells. Thus, constitutively active TGFBR1 in the mouse uterus caused defects in uterine morphology and function, evidenced by abnormal myometrial structure, dramatically reduced uterine glands, and impaired uterine decidualization. These results underscore the importance of a precisely controlled TGFB signaling system in establishing a uterine microenvironment conducive to normal development and function.
Copyright 2014 by The Society for the Study of Reproduction.
Biology of Reproduction 12/2014; 92(2). DOI:10.1095/biolreprod.114.125146 · 3.45 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: PTEN mutations are the most common genetic alterations in endometrial cancer. Loss of PTEN and subsequent AKT activation stimulate ERα-dependent pathways that play an important role in endometrial tumorigenesis. The major pathologic phenomenon of endometrial cancer is the loss of ovarian steroid hormone control over uterine epithelial cell proliferation and apoptosis. However, the precise mechanism of PTEN/AKT signaling in endometrial cancer remains poorly understood. The progesterone signaling mediator MIG-6 suppresses estrogen signaling and it has been implicated previously as a tumor suppressor in endometrial cancer. In this study, we show that MIG-6 also acts as a tumor suppressor in endometrial cancers associated with PTEN deficiency. Transgenic mice where Mig-6 was overexpressed in PR-expressing cells exhibited a relative reduction in uterine tumorigenesis caused by Pten deficiency. ERK1/2 was phosphorylated in uterine tumors and administration of an ERK1/2 inhibitor suppressed cancer progression in PRcre/+Ptenf/f mice. In clinical specimens of endometrial cancer, MIG-6 expression correlated inversely with ERK1/2 phosphorylation during progression. Taken together, our findings suggest that Mig-6 regulates ERK1/2 phosphorylation and that it is crucial for progression of PTEN-mutant endometrial cancers, providing a mechanistic rationale for the evaluation of ERK1/2 inhibitors as a therapeutic treatment in human endometrial cancer.
Cancer Research 11/2014; 74(24). DOI:10.1158/0008-5472.CAN-14-0794 · 9.28 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Progesterone receptors (PRs) are phosphorylated on multiple sites, and a variety of roles for phosphorylation have been suggested by cell-based studies. Previous studies using PR null mice have shown that PR plays an important role in female fertility, regulation of uterine growth, the uterine decidualization response, and proliferation as well as ductal side branching and alveologenesis in the mammary gland. To study the role of PR phosphorylation in vivo, a mouse was engineered with homozygous replacement of PR with a PR serine-to-alanine mutation at amino acid 191. No overt phenotypes were observed in the mammary glands or uteri of PR S191A treated with progesterone (P4). In contrast, although PR S191A mice were fertile, litters were 19 smaller than wild type and the estrous cycle was lengthened slightly. Moreover, P4-dependent gene regulation in primary mammary epithelial cells (MECs) was altered in a gene-selective manner. MECs derived from wild-type and PR S191A mice were grown in a three-dimensional culture. Both formed acinar structures that were morphologically similar, and proliferation was stimulated equally by P4. However, P4 induction of receptor activator of nuclear factor-κB ligand and calcitonin was selectively reduced in S191A cultures. These differences were confirmed in freshly isolated MECs. Chromatin immunoprecipitation analysis showed that the binding of S191A PR to some of the receptor activator of nuclear factor-κB ligand enhancers and a calcitonin enhancer was substantially reduced. Thus, the elimination of a single phosphorylation site is sufficient to modulate PR activity in vivo. PR contains many phosphorylation sites, and the coordinate regulation of multiple sites is a potential mechanism for selective modulation of PR function.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The p160/steroid receptor coactivator (SRC) family comprises three pleiotropic coregulators (SRC-1, -2, and -3; otherwise known as NCOA1, NCOA2, NCOA3), which modulate a wide spectrum of physiological responses and clinicopathologies. Such pleiotropy is achieved through their inherent structural complexity, which allows this coregulator class to control both nuclear receptor (NR) and non-NR signaling. As observed in other physiologic systems, members of the SRC family have recently been shown to play pivotal roles in uterine biology and pathobiology. In the murine uterus, SRC-1 is required to launch a full steroid hormone response, without which endometrial decidualization is markedly attenuated. From "dove-tailing" clinical and mouse studies, an isoform of SRC-1 was recently identified which promotes endometriosis by reprogramming endometrial cells to evade apoptosis and colonize as endometriotic lesions within the peritoneal cavity. The endometrium fails to decidualize without SRC-2, which accounts for the infertility phenotype exhibited by mice devoid of this coregulator. In related studies on human endometrial stromal cells (ESCs), SRC-2 was shown to act as a molecular "pace maker" of the glycolytic flux. This finding is significant as acceleration of the glycolytic flux provides the necessary bioenergy and biomolecules for ESCs to switch from quiescence to a proliferative phenotype, a critical underpinning in the decidual progression program. Though studies on uterine SRC-3 function are in their early stages, clinical studies provide tantalizing support for the proposal that SRC-3 is causally linked to endometrial hyperplasia as well as with endometrial pathologies in patients diagnosed with polycystic ovary syndrome. This proposal is now driving the development and application of innovative technologies particularly in the mouse to further understand the functional role of this elusive uterine coregulator in normal and abnormal physiologic contexts. Because dysregulation of this coregulator triad potentially presents a triple threat for increased risk of subfecundity, infertility, or endometrial disease, a clearer understanding of the individual and combinatorial roles of these coregulators in uterine function is urgently required. This minireview summarizes our current understanding of uterine SRC function, with a particular emphasis on the next critical questions that need to be addressed to ensure significant expansion of our knowledge of this underexplored field of uterine biology.
Biology of Reproduction 10/2014; 91(5). DOI:10.1095/biolreprod.114.125021 · 3.45 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Type II endometrial carcinomas (ECs) are estrogen independent, poorly differentiated tumors that behave in an aggressive manner. As TP53 mutation and CDH1 inactivation occur in 80% of human endometrial type II carcinomas, we hypothesized that mouse uteri lacking both Trp53 and Cdh1 would exhibit a phenotype indicative of neoplastic transformation. Mice with conditional ablation of Cdh1 and Trp53 (Cdh1(d/d)Trp53(d/d)) clearly demonstrate architectural features characteristic of type II ECs, including focal areas of papillary differentiation, protruding cytoplasm into the lumen (hobnailing) and severe nuclear atypia at 6 months of age. Further, Cdh1(d/d)Trp53(d/d) tumors in 12-month-old mice were highly aggressive, and metastasized to nearby and distant organs within the peritoneal cavity, such as abdominal lymph nodes, mesentery and peri-intestinal adipose tissues, demonstrating that tumorigenesis in this model proceeds through the universally recognized morphological intermediates associated with type II endometrial neoplasia. We also observed abundant cell proliferation and complex angiogenesis in the uteri of Cdh1(d/d)Trp53(d/d) mice. Our microarray analysis found that most of the genes differentially regulated in the uteri of Cdh1(d/d)Trp53(d/d) mice were involved in inflammatory responses. CD163 and Arg1, markers for tumor-associated macrophages, were also detected and increased in the uteri of Cdh1(d/d)Trp53(d/d) mice, suggesting that an inflammatory tumor microenvironment with immune cell recruitment is augmenting tumor development in Cdh1(d/d)Trp53(d/d) uteri. Further, inflammatory mediators secreted from CDH1-negative, TP53 mutant endometrial cancer cells induced normal macrophages to express inflammatory-related genes through activation of nuclear factor-κB signaling. These results indicate that absence of CDH1 and TP53 in endometrial cells initiates chronic inflammation, promotes tumor microenvironment development following the recruitment of macrophages and promotes aggressive ECs.Oncogene advance online publication, 7 July 2014; doi:10.1038/onc.2014.193.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Coordinated uterine-embryonic axis formation and decidual remodeling are hallmarks of mammalian post-implantation embryo development. Embryonic-uterine orientation is determined at initial implantation and synchronized with decidual development. However, the molecular mechanisms controlling these events remain elusive despite its discovery a long time ago. In the present study, we found that uterine-specific deletion of Rbpj, the nuclear transducer of Notch signaling, resulted in abnormal embryonic-uterine orientation and decidual patterning at post-implantation stages, leading to substantial embryo loss. We further revealed that prior to embryo attachment, Rbpj confers on-time uterine lumen shape transformation via physically interacting with uterine estrogen receptor (ERα) in a Notch pathway-independent manner, which is essential for the initial establishment of embryo orientation in alignment with uterine axis. While at post-implantation stages, Rbpj directly regulates the expression of uterine matrix metalloproteinase in a Notch pathway-dependent manner, which is required for normal post-implantation decidual remodeling. These results demonstrate that uterine Rbpj is essential for normal embryo development via instructing the initial embryonic-uterine orientation and ensuring normal decidual patterning in a stage-specific manner. Our data also substantiate the concept that normal mammalian embryonic-uterine orientation requires proper guidance from developmentally controlled uterine signaling.Cell Research advance online publication 27 June 2014; doi:10.1038/cr.2014.82.
Cell Research 06/2014; DOI:10.1038/cr.2014.82 · 11.98 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: As pleiotropic coregulators, members of the p160/steroid receptor coactivator (SRC) family control a broad spectrum of transcriptional responses that underpin a diverse array of physiological and pathophysiological processes. Because of their potent coregulator properties, strict controls on SRC expression levels are required to maintain normal tissue functionality. Accordingly, an unwarranted increase in the cellular levels of SRC members has been causally linked to the initiation and/or progression of a number of clinical disorders. Although knockout mouse models have underscored the critical non-redundant roles for each SRC member in vivo, there are surprisingly few mouse models that have been engineered to overexpress SRCs. This deficiency is significant since SRC involvement in many of these disorders is based on unscheduled increases in the levels (rather than the absence) of SRC expression. To address this deficiency, we used recent mouse technology that allows for the targeted expression of human SRC-2 in cells which express the progesterone receptor. Through cre-loxP recombination driven by the endogenous progesterone receptor promoter, a marked elevation in expression levels of human SRC-2 was achieved in endometrial cells that are positive for the progesterone receptor. As a result of this increase in coregulator expression, female mice are severely subfertile due to a dysfunctional uterus, which exhibits a hypersensitivity to estrogen exposure. Our findings strongly support the proposal from clinical observations that increased levels of SRC-2 are causal for a number of endometrial disorders which compromise fertility. Future studies will use this mouse model to decipher the molecular mechanisms that underpin the endometrial defect. We believe such mechanistic insight may provide new molecular descriptors for diagnosis, prognosis, and/or therapy in the clinical management of female infertility.
PLoS ONE 06/2014; 9(6):e98664. DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.0098664 · 3.23 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Infertility and adverse gynecological outcomes such as preeclampsia and miscarriage represent significant female reproductive health concerns. The spatiotemporal expression of growth factors indicates that they play an important role in pregnancy. The goal of this study is to define the role of the ERBB family of growth factor receptors in endometrial function. Using conditional ablation in mice and siRNA in primary human endometrial stromal cells, we identified the epidermal growth factor receptor (Egfr) to be critical for endometrial function during early pregnancy. While ablation of Her2 or Erbb3 led to only a modest reduction in litter size, mice lacking Egfr expression are severely subfertile. Pregnancy demise occurred shortly after blastocyst implantation due to defects in decidualization including decreased proliferation, cell survival, differentiation and target gene expression. To place Egfr in a genetic regulatory hierarchy, transcriptome analyses was used to compare the gene signatures from mice with conditional ablation of Egfr, wingless-related MMTV integration site 4 (Wnt4) or boneless morphogenic protein 2 (Bmp2); revealing that not only are Bmp2 and Wnt4 key downstream effectors of Egfr, but they also regulate distinct physiological functions. In primary human endometrial stromal cells, marker gene expression, a novel high content image-based approach and phosphokinase array analysis were used to demonstrate that EGFR is a critical regulator of human decidualization. Furthermore, inhibition of EGFR signaling intermediaries WNK1 and AKT1S1, members identified in the kinase array and previously unreported to play a role in the endometrium, also attenuate decidualization. These results demonstrate that EGFR plays an integral role in establishing the cellular context necessary for successful pregnancy via the activation of intricate signaling and transcriptional networks, thereby providing valuable insight into potential therapeutic targets.