Tamara Utermark

Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Boston, Massachusetts, United States

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Publications (9)50.12 Total impact

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    ABSTRACT: Schwannomas that occur spontaneously or in patients with neurofibromatosis Type 2, lack both alleles for the tumor suppressor and plasma membrane-cytoskeleton linker merlin. We have shown that human primary schwannoma cells display activation of the RhoGTPases Rac1 and Cdc42 which results in highly dynamic and ongoing protrusive activity like ruffling. Ruffling is an initial and temporally limited step in the formation of intercellular contacts like adherens junctions that are based on the cadherin-catenin system. We tested if there is a connection between Rac1-induced ongoing ruffling and the maintenance, stabilization and functionality of adherens junctions and if this is of relevance in human, merlin-deficient schwannoma cells. We show intense ongoing ruffling is not limited to membranes of single human primary schwannoma cells, but occurs also in membranes of contacting cells, even when confluent. Live cell imaging shows that newly formed contacts are released after a short time, suggesting disturbed formation or stabilization of adherens junctions. Morphology, high phospho-tyrosine levels and cortactin staining indicate that adherens junctions are immature in human primary schwannoma cells, whereas they display characteristics of mature adherens junctions in human primary Schwann cells. When merlin is reintroduced, human primary schwannoma cells show only initial ruffling in contacting cells and adherens junctions appear more mature. We therefore propose that ongoing Rac-induced ruffling causes immature adherens junctions and leads to impaired, nonfunctional intercellular adhesion in aggregation assays in merlin-deficient schwannoma cells that could be an explanation for increased proliferation rates due to loss of contact inhibition or tumor development in general.
    Glia 05/2008; 56(5):506-15. · 5.07 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: The NF2 gene encodes the tumour suppressor protein merlin. The mutation of a single allele of this gene causes the autosomal dominantly inherited disease neurofibromatosis type 2 (NF2), which is characterized mainly by vestibular schwannoma carrying a second hit mutation. Complete lack of merlin is also found in spontaneous schwannomas and meningiomas. As the events leading to schwannoma development are largely unknown we investigated the differences in gene expression between schwannoma cells from NF2 patients and normal human primary Schwann cells by cDNA array analysis. We identified 41 genes whose expression levels differed by more than factor 2. Most of these clones were corroborated by real-time reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction analysis. By this method a total of seven genes with increased and seven genes with decreased mRNA levels in schwannoma compared with normal Schwann cells could be identified. Regulated clones, some of which not been described in Schwann cells earlier, included matrix metalloproteinase's, growth factors, growth factor receptors and tyrosine kinases.
    Neuropathology and Applied Neurobiology 01/2007; 32(6):605-14. · 4.84 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Merlin and ezrin are homologous proteins with opposite effects on neoplastic growth. Merlin is a tumor suppressor inactivated in the neurofibromatosis 2 disease, whereas upregulated ezrin expression is associated with increased malignancy. Merlin's tumor suppressor mechanism is not known, although participation in cell cycle regulation has been suggested. To characterize merlin's biological activities, we screened for molecules that would interact with merlin but not ezrin. We identified the cyclin B-binding protein and cell cycle regulator HEI10 as a novel merlin-binding partner. The interaction is mediated by the alpha-helical domain in merlin and the coiled-coil domain in HEI10 and requires conformational opening of merlin. The two proteins show partial subcellular colocalization, which depends on cell cycle stage and cell adhesion. Comparison of Schwann cells and schwannoma cultures demonstrated that the distribution of HEI10 depends on merlin expression. In transfected cells, a constitutively open merlin construct affected HEI10 protein integrity. These results link merlin to the cell cycle control machinery and may help to understand its tumor suppressor function.
    Oncogene 08/2006; 25(32):4389-98. · 8.56 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Schwannomas, tumors originating from Schwann cells, represent a frequent neurological tumor and can occur both in a genetic disorder called neurofibromatosis type 2 (NF2) and sporadically. In both cases the genetic background is identical as all schwannomas are caused by biallelic mutations in the tumor suppressor gene NF2 coding for merlin. Mutations in this gene have also been found to be responsible for 50% to 60% of spontaneous and 100% of the NF2 associated meningiomas. The NF2 gene product, merlin, links transmembrane proteins to the cytoskeleton and is involved in intracellular signaling processes. It has previously been shown that reexpression of wild-type merlin in primary human schwannoma cells leads to an increase in the number of apoptotic cells. Here, we report in vivo and in vitro evidence that the basal apoptosis rate of primary human schwannoma cells is reduced in comparison to that of normal Schwann cells, supporting the idea that in this benign tumor type, apoptosis has a role in tumorigenesis.
    Brain Pathology 02/2005; 15(1):17-22. · 4.74 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Loss of the tumor suppressor protein merlin causes a variety of benign tumors such as schwannomas, meningiomas, and gliomas in man. We previously reported primary human schwannoma cells to show enhanced integrin-dependent adhesion and a hyperactivation of the small RhoGTPase Rac1. Here we show that the main intermediate filament protein of Schwann cells, the glial fibrillary acidic protein, is collapsed to the perinuclear region instead of being well-spread from the nucleus to the cell periphery. This cytoskeletal reorganization is accompanied by changes in cell shape and increased cell motility. Moreover, we report tyrosine phosphorylation to be enhanced in schwannoma cells, already described earlier in intermediate filament breakdown. Thus, we believe that Rac activation via tyrosine kinase stimulation leads to GFAP collapse in human schwannoma cells, and suggest that this process plays an important role in vivo where schwannoma cells become motile, unspecifically ensheathing extracellular matrix and forming pseudomesaxons.
    Neurobiology of Disease 01/2005; 19(1-2):1-9. · 5.62 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Neurofibromatosis type 2 is a group of tumors caused by loss-of-function mutations of a tumor suppressor gene encoding NF2/merlin. Development of chemotherapeutics for this disease, which often threatens the life of young children, has been hampered by a limited information on the signaling function of NF2. NF2 can inhibit Ras-induced malignant transformation. However, the primary (signaling) target of NF2 in the oncogenic pathway has not been previously identified. Here, using a series of NF2 constructs, we show that NF2 inhibits directly the Rac/CDC42-dependent Ser/Thr kinase PAK1, which is essential for both Ras transformation and neurofibromatosis type 1 (NF1), through two separate domains. A mutant of NF2, that lacks the PAK1-inhibiting domain of 78 amino acids (NF78C, residues 447-524), fails to suppress Ras transformation. Furthermore, PAK1-specific inhibitors CEP-1347 and WR-PAK18 selectively inhibit the growth of NF2-deficient cancer cells, but not NF2-positive cells. These results suggest that PAK1 is essential for the malignant growth of NF2-deficient cells, and that PAK1-blocking drugs could be potentially useful forthe treatment of neurofibromatosis types 2, in addition to Ras-induced cancers and neurofibromatosis type 1.
    The Cancer Journal 01/2004; 10(1):20-6. · 3.66 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Mutations in the tumor suppressor gene coding for merlin cause Neurofibromatosis type 2 (NF2), all spontaneous schwannomas, and a majority of meningiomas. Merlin links transmembrane proteins to the cytoskeleton. Accordingly, primary human schwannoma cells lacking merlin show an increased number of lamellipodia and filopodia as well as increased cell spreading. We show enhanced adhesion in primary human schwannoma cells and present evidence that this is dependent on the integrin chains alpha6beta1 and alpha6beta4. We further demonstrate that the integrin chains beta1 and beta4 are upregulated in schwannomas using different complementary methods, and report higher expression of these integrins per schwannoma cell by fluorescence assisted cell sorting (FACS). Finally we report clustering of the integrin chains alpha6, beta1, and beta4 on schwannoma cells. Our findings fit well into recent data on the role of merlin in signaling cascades connected to integrins and help explain pathological ensheathment of extracellular matrix or pseudomesaxon formation which is a hallmark of schwannoma histopathology.
    Brain Pathology 08/2003; 13(3):352-63. · 4.74 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Schwann cells lacking the tumor-suppressor-protein merlin tend in man to build benign tumors (schwannoma). We observed that characteristic features of these cells which are relevant to tumorigenicity resemble those described in cells with high Rac activity. Moreover this small GTPase also phosphorylates merlin via PAK activation. We hypothesized that merlin deficiency might cause an activation of Rac and its dependent signaling pathways, in particular the pro-tumorigenic JNK pathway. We show an enhanced activation of Rac1 in primary human schwannoma cells, find both Rac and its effector PAK at the membrane where they colocalize, and describe increased levels of phosphorylated JNK in the nucleus of these cells. Further we describe regulation at post-transcriptional level with upregulated protein, but not mRNA levels for Rac1, and JNK1/2. We conclude that merlin regulates Rac activation, and suggest that this is important for human schwannoma cell dedifferentiation.
    Human Molecular Genetics 07/2003; 12(11):1211-21. · 7.69 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Human malignant mesotheliomas (HMMs) are aggressive tumors that arise from the mesothelium. They respond poorly to conventional tumor treatment and outcome is often fatal. Inactivating mutations of the neurofibromatosis type 2 (NF2) tumor suppressor gene merlin have been described in nearly 60% of primary malignant mesothelioma and in approximately 20% of the mesothelioma cell lines. Studies regarding human NF2 schwannoma cells revealed a higher proliferation and a larger noninactivating K(+) outward current compared with controls. The enhanced proliferation of merlin-deficient NF2 schwannoma cells could be reduced in the presence of quinidine, a K(+) channel blocker, whereas the proliferation of normal Schwann cells is not affected. The current study was undertaken to evaluate the effect of quinidine on the proliferation of HMM cell lines in relation to their NF2 status. Proliferation analyses using bromodeoxyuridine incorporation was performed by immunocytochemical staining and fluorescence assisted cell sorting. The patch-clamp technique was applied for electrophysiologic characterization of the HMM cell lines. The cytochrome P450 2D6 locus, known to be mutated at high frequencies in NF2 patients and to be specifically inhibited by quinidine, was screened for mutations by cycle sequencing. Quinidine selectively reduces the proliferation of merlin-deficient HMM cell lines by causing a G(0)/G(1) arrest, whereas the proliferation rates of merlin-expressing HMM cell lines remain unchanged. The effect of quinidine on the proliferation of HMM cell lines appears to be correlated with the NF2 gene status but not with the K(+) outward current. No relation to cytochrome P450 2D6 mutations was detected. Quinidine or quinidine analogs are of potential therapeutic interest for the subset of merlin-deficient mesothelioma tumors.
    Cancer 05/2003; 97(8):1955-62. · 5.20 Impact Factor

Publication Stats

247 Citations
50.12 Total Impact Points

Institutions

  • 2007–2008
    • Dana-Farber Cancer Institute
      • Department of Cancer Biology
      Boston, Massachusetts, United States
  • 2003–2006
    • Universität Ulm
      • • Division of Neurophysiology
      • • Clinic of Neurology
      Ulm, Baden-Württemberg, Germany