Agustin Chicas

Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, New York City, New York, United States

Are you Agustin Chicas?

Claim your profile

Publications (20)246.52 Total impact

  • Source
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Oncogene-induced senescence is an anti-proliferative stress response program that acts as a fail-safe mechanism to limit oncogenic transformation and is regulated by the retinoblastoma protein (RB) and p53 tumor suppressor pathways. We identify the atypical E2F family member E2F7 as the only E2F transcription factor potently up-regulated during oncogene-induced senescence, a setting where it acts in response to p53 as a direct transcriptional target. Once induced, E2F7 binds and represses a series of E2F target genes and cooperates with RB to efficiently promote cell cycle arrest and limit oncogenic transformation. Disruption of RB triggers a further increase in E2F7, which induces a second cell cycle checkpoint that prevents unconstrained cell division despite aberrant DNA replication. Mechanistically, E2F7 compensates for the loss of RB in repressing mitotic E2F target genes. Together, our results identify a causal role for E2F7 in cellular senescence and uncover a novel link between the RB and p53 pathways.
    Genes & development 07/2012; 26(14):1546-57. · 12.08 Impact Factor
  • Source
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: The expansion of repressive epigenetic marks has been implicated in heterochromatin formation during embryonic development, but the general applicability of this mechanism is unclear. Here we show that nuclear rearrangement of repressive histone marks H3K9me3 and H3K27me3 into nonoverlapping structural layers characterizes senescence-associated heterochromatic foci (SAHF) formation in human fibroblasts. However, the global landscape of these repressive marks remains unchanged upon SAHF formation, suggesting that in somatic cells, heterochromatin can be formed through the spatial repositioning of pre-existing repressively marked histones. This model is reinforced by the correlation of presenescent replication timing with both the subsequent layered structure of SAHFs and the global landscape of the repressive marks, allowing us to integrate microscopic and genomic information. Furthermore, modulation of SAHF structure does not affect the occupancy of these repressive marks, nor vice versa. These experiments reveal that high-order heterochromatin formation and epigenetic remodeling of the genome can be discrete events.
    Molecular cell 07/2012; 47(2):203-14. · 14.61 Impact Factor
  • Source
    Molecular Cell 07/2012; · 15.28 Impact Factor
  • Source
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Cellular senescence is a tumor-suppressive program that involves chromatin reorganization and specific changes in gene expression that trigger an irreversible cell-cycle arrest. Here we combine quantitative mass spectrometry, ChIP deep-sequencing, and functional studies to determine the role of histone modifications on chromatin structure and gene-expression alterations associated with senescence in primary human cells. We uncover distinct senescence-associated changes in histone-modification patterns consistent with a repressive chromatin environment and link the establishment of one of these patterns--loss of H3K4 methylation--to the retinoblastoma tumor suppressor and the H3K4 demethylases Jarid1a and Jarid1b. Our results show that Jarid1a/b-mediated H3K4 demethylation contributes to silencing of retinoblastoma target genes in senescent cells, suggesting a mechanism by which retinoblastoma triggers gene silencing. Therefore, we link the Jarid1a and Jarid1b demethylases to a tumor-suppressor network controlling cellular senescence.
    Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 05/2012; 109(23):8971-6. · 9.81 Impact Factor
  • Source
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: RB family proteins pRb, p107 and p130 have similar structures and overlapping functions, enabling cell cycle arrest and cellular senescence. pRb, but not p107 or p130, is frequently mutated in human malignancies. In human fibroblasts acutely exposed to oncogenic ras, pRb has a specific role in suppressing DNA replication, and p107 or p130 cannot compensate for the loss of this function; however, a second p53/p21-dependent checkpoint prevents escape from growth arrest. This model of oncogene-induced senescence requires the additional loss of p53/p21 to explain selection for preferential loss of pRb function in human malignancies. We asked whether similar rules apply to the role of pRb in growth arrest of human epithelial cells, the source of most cancers. In two malignant human breast cancer cell lines, we found that individual RB family proteins were sufficient for the establishment of p16-initiated senescence, and that growth arrest in G 1 was not dependent on the presence of functional pRb or p53. However, senescence induction by endogenous p16 was delayed in primary normal human mammary epithelial cells with reduced pRb but not with reduced p107 or p130. Thus, under these circumstances, despite the presence of functional p53, p107 and p130 were unable to completely compensate for pRb in mediating senescence induction. We propose that early inactivation of pRb in pre-malignant breast cells can, by itself, extend proliferative lifespan, allowing acquisition of additional changes necessary for malignant transformation.
    Cell cycle (Georgetown, Tex.) 03/2012; 11(5):1008-13. · 5.24 Impact Factor
  • Source
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: p53 is a frequent target for mutation in human tumors, and mutant p53 proteins can actively contribute to tumorigenesis. We employed a three-dimensional culture model in which nonmalignant breast epithelial cells form spheroids reminiscent of acinar structures found in vivo, whereas breast cancer cells display highly disorganized morphology. We found that mutant p53 depletion is sufficient to phenotypically revert breast cancer cells to a more acinar-like morphology. Genome-wide expression analysis identified the mevalonate pathway as significantly upregulated by mutant p53. Statins and sterol biosynthesis intermediates reveal that this pathway is both necessary and sufficient for the phenotypic effects of mutant p53 on breast tissue architecture. Mutant p53 associates with sterol gene promoters at least partly via SREBP transcription factors. Finally, p53 mutation correlates with highly expressed sterol biosynthesis genes in human breast tumors. These findings implicate the mevalonate pathway as a therapeutic target for tumors bearing mutations in p53.
    Cell 01/2012; 148(1-2):244-58. · 31.96 Impact Factor
  • Cell. 01/2012; 148(1-2):244-58.
  • Source
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Cellular senescence acts as a potent barrier to tumorigenesis and contributes to the anti-tumor activity of certain chemotherapeutic agents. Senescent cells undergo a stable cell cycle arrest controlled by RB and p53 and, in addition, display a senescence-associated secretory phenotype (SASP) involving the production of factors that reinforce the senescence arrest, alter the microenvironment, and trigger immune surveillance of the senescent cells. Through a proteomics analysis of senescent chromatin, we identified the nuclear factor-κB (NF-κB) subunit p65 as a major transcription factor that accumulates on chromatin of senescent cells. We found that NF-κB acts as a master regulator of the SASP, influencing the expression of more genes than RB and p53 combined. In cultured fibroblasts, NF-κB suppression causes escape from immune recognition by natural killer (NK) cells and cooperates with p53 inactivation to bypass senescence. In a mouse lymphoma model, NF-κB inhibition bypasses treatment-induced senescence, producing drug resistance, early relapse, and reduced survival. Our results demonstrate that NF-κB controls both cell-autonomous and non-cell-autonomous aspects of the senescence program and identify a tumor-suppressive function of NF-κB that contributes to the outcome of cancer therapy.
    Genes & development 10/2011; 25(20):2125-36. · 12.08 Impact Factor
  • Source
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Epigenetic pathways can regulate gene expression by controlling and interpreting chromatin modifications. Cancer cells are characterized by altered epigenetic landscapes, and commonly exploit the chromatin regulatory machinery to enforce oncogenic gene expression programs. Although chromatin alterations are, in principle, reversible and often amenable to drug intervention, the promise of targeting such pathways therapeutically has been limited by an incomplete understanding of cancer-specific dependencies on epigenetic regulators. Here we describe a non-biased approach to probe epigenetic vulnerabilities in acute myeloid leukaemia (AML), an aggressive haematopoietic malignancy that is often associated with aberrant chromatin states. By screening a custom library of small hairpin RNAs (shRNAs) targeting known chromatin regulators in a genetically defined AML mouse model, we identify the protein bromodomain-containing 4 (Brd4) as being critically required for disease maintenance. Suppression of Brd4 using shRNAs or the small-molecule inhibitor JQ1 led to robust antileukaemic effects in vitro and in vivo, accompanied by terminal myeloid differentiation and elimination of leukaemia stem cells. Similar sensitivities were observed in a variety of human AML cell lines and primary patient samples, revealing that JQ1 has broad activity in diverse AML subtypes. The effects of Brd4 suppression are, at least in part, due to its role in sustaining Myc expression to promote aberrant self-renewal, which implicates JQ1 as a pharmacological means to suppress MYC in cancer. Our results establish small-molecule inhibition of Brd4 as a promising therapeutic strategy in AML and, potentially, other cancers, and highlight the utility of RNA interference (RNAi) screening for revealing epigenetic vulnerabilities that can be exploited for direct pharmacological intervention.
    Nature 08/2011; 478(7370):524-8. · 38.60 Impact Factor
  • Source
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: The cyclin-dependent kinase inhibitor p16(INK4a) (CDKN2A) is an important tumor suppressor gene frequently inactivated in human tumors. p16 suppresses the development of cancer by triggering an irreversible arrest of cell proliferation termed cellular senescence. Here, we describe another anti-oncogenic function of p16 in addition to its ability to halt cell cycle progression. We show that transient expression of p16 stably represses the hTERT gene, encoding the catalytic subunit of telomerase, in both normal and malignant breast epithelial cells. Short-term p16 expression increases the amount of histone H3 trimethylated on lysine 27 (H3K27) bound to the hTERT promoter, resulting in transcriptional silencing, likely mediated by polycomb complexes. Our results indicate that transient p16 exposure may prevent malignant progression in dividing cells by irreversible repression of genes, such as hTERT, whose activity is necessary for extensive self-renewal.
    Aging cell 10/2010; 9(5):736-46. · 7.55 Impact Factor
  • Source
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: The RB protein family (RB, p107, and p130) has overlapping and compensatory functions in cell-cycle control. However, cancer-associated mutations are almost exclusively found in RB, implying that RB has a nonredundant role in tumor suppression. We demonstrate that RB preferentially associates with E2F target genes involved in DNA replication and is uniquely required to repress these genes during senescence but not other growth states. Consequently, RB loss leads to inappropriate DNA synthesis following a senescence trigger and, together with disruption of a p21-mediated cell-cycle checkpoint, enables extensive proliferation and rampant genomic instability. Our results identify a nonredundant RB effector function that may contribute to tumor suppression and reveal how loss of RB and p53 cooperate to bypass senescence.
    Cancer cell 04/2010; 17(4):376-87. · 25.29 Impact Factor
  • [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Activated Ras signaling can induce a permanent growth arrest in osteosarcoma cells. Here, we report that a senescence-like growth inhibition is also achieved in human carcinoma cells upon the transduction of H-Ras(V12). Ras-induced tumor senescence can be recapitulated by the transduction of activated, but not wild-type, MEK. The ability for H-Ras(V12) to suppress tumor cell growth is drastically compromised in cells that harbor endogenous activating ras mutations. Notably, growth inhibition of tumor cells containing ras mutations can be achieved through the introduction of activated MEK. Tumor senescence induced by Ras signaling can occur in the absence of p16 or Rb and is not interrupted by the inactivation of Rb, p107, or p130 via short hairpin RNA or the transduction with HPV16 E7. In contrast, inactivation of p21 via short hairpin RNA disrupts Ras-induced tumor senescence. In summary, this study uncovers a senescence-like program activated by Ras signaling to inhibit cancer cell growth. This program appears to be intact in cancer cells that do not harbor ras mutations. Moreover, cancer cells that carry ras mutations remain susceptible to tumor senescence induced by activated MEK. These novel findings can potentially lead to the development of innovative cancer intervention.
    Journal of Biological Chemistry 02/2007; 282(4):2666-75. · 4.65 Impact Factor
  • Source
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Cellular senescence is a stable state of proliferative arrest that provides a barrier to malignant transformation and contributes to the antitumor activity of certain chemotherapies. Senescent cells can accumulate senescence-associated heterochromatic foci (SAHFs), which may provide a chromatin buffer that prevents activation of proliferation-associated genes by mitogenic transcription factors. Surprisingly, we show that the High-Mobility Group A (HMGA) proteins, which can promote tumorigenesis, accumulate on the chromatin of senescent fibroblasts and are essential structural components of SAHFs. HMGA proteins cooperate with the p16(INK4a) tumor suppressor to promote SAHF formation and proliferative arrest and stabilize senescence by contributing to the repression of proliferation-associated genes. These antiproliferative activities are canceled by coexpression of the HDM2 and CDK4 oncogenes, which are often coamplified with HMGA2 in human cancers. Our results identify a component of the senescence machinery that contributes to heterochromatin formation and imply that HMGA proteins also act in tumor suppressor networks.
    Cell 09/2006; 126(3):503-14. · 31.96 Impact Factor
  • [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: In cancer cells, the function of the tumor suppressor protein p53 is usually blocked. Impairment of the p53 pathway results in tumor cells with endogenous overexpression of Mdm2 via a naturally occurring single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) in the mdm2 gene at position 309. Here we report that in mdm2 SNP309 cells, inactivation of p53 results in a chromatin-associated Mdm2-p53 complex without clearance of p53 by protein degradation. Nuclear accumulation of p53 protein in mdm2 SNP309 cells results after 6 h of camptothecin, etoposide, or mitomycin C treatment, with the p53 protein phosphorylated at Ser15. Chromatin immunoprecipitation demonstrated p53 and Mdm2 bound to p53 responsive elements. Interestingly, although the p53 protein was able to bind to DNA, quantitative PCR showed compromised transcription of endogenous target genes. Additionally, exogenously introduced p53 was incapable of activating transcription from p53 responsive elements in SNP309 cells, confirming the trans-acting nature of the inhibitor. Inhibition of Mdm2 by siRNA resulted in transcriptional activation of these p53 targets. Our data suggest that overproduction of Mdm2, resulting from a naturally occurring SNP, inhibits chromatin-bound p53 from activating the transcription of its target genes.
    Journal of Biological Chemistry 08/2005; 280(29):26776-87. · 4.65 Impact Factor
  • Source
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: In Neurospora crassa, the introduction of a transgene can lead to small interfering RNA (siRNA)-mediated posttranscriptional gene silencing (PTGS) of homologous genes. siRNAs can also guide locus-specific methylation of Lys9 of histone H3 (Lys9H3) in Schizosaccharomyces pombe. Here we tested the hypothesis that transgenically derived siRNAs may contemporaneously both activate the PTGS mechanism and induce chromatin modifications at the transgene and the homologous endogenous gene. We carried out chromatin immunoprecipitation using a previously characterized albino-1 (al-1) silenced strain but detected no alterations in the pattern of histone modifications at the endogenous al-1 locus, suggesting that siRNAs produced from the transgenic locus do not trigger modifications in trans of those histones tested. Instead, we found that the transgenic locus was hypermethylated at Lys9H3 in our silenced strain and remained hypermethylated in the quelling defective mutants (qde), further demonstrating that the PTGS machinery is dispensable for Lys9H3 methylation. However, we found that a mutant in the histone Lys9H3 methyltransferase dim-5 was unable to maintain PTGS, with transgenic copies being rapidly lost, resulting in reversion of the silenced phenotype. These results indicate that the defect in PTGS of the Deltadim-5 strain is due to the inability to maintain the transgene in tandem, suggesting a role for DIM-5 in stabilizing such repeated sequences. We conclude that in Neurospora, siRNAs produced from the transgenic locus are used in the RNA-induced silencing complex-mediated PTGS pathway and do not communicate with an RNAi-induced initiation of transcriptional gene silencing complex to effect chromatin-based silencing.
    Molecular and Cellular Biology 06/2005; 25(9):3793-801. · 5.04 Impact Factor
  • Source
    Agustin Chicas, Carlo Cogoni, Giuseppe Macino
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: RNA interference (RNAi) can silence genes at the transcriptional level by targeting locus-specific Lys9H3 methylation or at the post-transcriptional level by targeting mRNA degradation. Here we have cloned and sequenced genomic regions methylated in Lys9H3 in Neurospora crassa to test the requirements for components of the RNAi pathway in this modification. We find that 90% of clones map to repeated sequences and relics of transposons that have undergone repeat-induced point mutations (RIP). We find siRNAs derived from transposon relics indicating that the RNAi machinery targets these regions. This is confirmed by the fact that the presence of these siRNAs depends on components of the RNAi pathway such as the RdRP (QDE-1), the putative RecQ helicase (QDE-3) and the two Dicer enzymes. We show that Lys9H3 methylation of RIP sequences is not affected in mutants of the RNAi pathway indicating that the RNAi machinery is not involved in transcriptional gene silencing in Neurospora. We find that RIP regions are transcribed and that the transcript level increases in the mutants of the RNAi pathway. These data suggest that the biological function of the Neurospora RNAi machinery is to control transposon relics and repeated sequences by targeting degradation of transcripts derived from these regions.
    Nucleic Acids Research 02/2004; 32(14):4237-43. · 8.81 Impact Factor
  • Source
    Agustin Chicas, Giuseppe Macino
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: A number of gene silencing phenomena that inactivate genes at the post-transcriptional level have been identified. Due to its potential for studying gene function, post-transcriptional gene silencing (PTGS) has become an intense area of research. In this review we describe the different means of inducing PTGS and discuss the possible biological roles of these artificially induced phenomena. We also discuss other features of PTGS such as the mechanism of mRNA degradation, the nature of the silencing signal and the mechanism of PTGS inhibition by viral proteins.
    EMBO Reports 12/2001; 2(11):992-6. · 7.19 Impact Factor
  • Source
    Agustin Chicas, Patricia Molina, Jill Bargonetti
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Many mutants of p53 activate HIV-LTR driven transcription and promote HIV replication. The region of the HIV-LTR containing Sp1-binding sites is important for this effect. In this study we test the hypothesis that mutant p53 interacts with DNA-bound Sp1 and in this way can increase transcription from Sp1-dependent promoters. We have used the breast cancer cell line MDA-MB-468 that expresses endogenous mutant p53(His273) as our source of p53 protein. First, we demonstrated that this mutant p53 participates in activating transcription from the HIV-LTR by showing that HIV-LTR-directed transcription in MDA-MB-468 cells is inhibited in a dominant-negative manner by p53(Val135). Using HIV-LTR DNA affinity chromatography, we detected coelution of p53(His273) and Sp1. We also demonstrated that this mutant p53 binds sequence specifically to the super consensus sequence (SCS) and that Sp1 coeluted with p53(His273) from a column containing this site. These data indicate that p53(His273) can associate with DNA-bound Sp1 suggesting that activated HIV-LTR transcription associated with mutant p53 occurs through a DNA driven multi-protein complex.
    Biochemical and Biophysical Research Communications 01/2001; 279(2):383-90. · 2.28 Impact Factor
  • Source
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: We provide direct evidence that overexpression of p53 is not sufficient for robust p53-dependent activation of the endogenous gadd45 gene. When p53 was induced in TR9-7 cells in the absence of DNA damage, waf1/p21 and mdm2 mRNA levels were increased, but a change in gadd45 mRNA was barely detectable. Activation of the gadd45 gene was observed when camptothecin was added to cells containing p53 in the absence of a further increase in the p53 level. Phosphorylation of p53 at serine 15 and acetylation at lysine 382 were detected after drug treatment. It has been suggested that p53 posttranslational modification is critical during activation. However, inhibition of these modifications by wortmannin was not sufficient to block the transactivation of gadd45. Interestingly, after camptothecin treatment, increased DNase I sensitivity was detected at the gadd45 promoter, suggesting that an undetermined DNA damage signal is involved in inducing chromatin remodeling at the gadd45 promoter while cooperating with p53 to activate gadd45 transcription.
    Cancer Research 04/2000; 60(6):1711-9. · 8.65 Impact Factor
  • [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: The HIV-LTR region contains binding sites for, and is regulated by, a number of transcription factors including Sp1 and NF-kB. The wild-type p53 tumor suppressor protein represses transcription from the HIV-LTR promoter while oncogenic mutant forms of p53 stimulate expression from the HIV-LTR. We have shown previously that wild-type p53 is a site specific DNA binding protein that binds to a region of the SV40 virus which contains GC-box DNA binding sites for the ubiquitously expressed transcription factor Sp1. In this study using DNase I footprinting, we have shown that purified p53 is able to protect the Sp1 binding sites and the adjacent NF-kB site of the HIV-LTR. Furthermore we have demonstrated that when p53 and Sp1 are mixed together both proteins change each other's interaction with DNA. Interestingly, we noted that oncogenic mutant p53 is also able to change the interaction of Sp1 with DNA. We confirmed p53 dependent repression of HIV-LTR driven transcription by comparing the expression from an HIV-LTR reporter construct in the presence and absence of p53. EMSA of an oligonucleotide sequence derived from the HIV-LTR sequence demonstrated a slight decrease in Sp1 DNA binding activity with nuclear extract derived from the cell line expressing a high level of wild-type p53. These data suggest that the influence of p53 on the transcription of promoters with Sp1 binding sites may be partially due to a change in the DNA binding ability of Sp1.
    Cellular and molecular biology 12/1997; 43(7):935-49. · 0.81 Impact Factor

Publication Stats

1k Citations
246.52 Total Impact Points

Institutions

  • 2012
    • Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center
      New York City, New York, United States
  • 2006–2012
    • Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory
      Cold Spring Harbor, New York, United States
  • 2001–2005
    • Sapienza University of Rome
      • Department of Cellular Biotechnology and Hematology BCE
      Roma, Latium, Italy