RhoC Impacts the Metastatic Potential and Abundance of Breast Cancer Stem Cells

Division of Hematology and Oncology, Department of Internal Medicine, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan, United States of America.
PLoS ONE (Impact Factor: 3.23). 07/2012; 7(7):e40979. DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0040979
Source: PubMed


Cancer stem cells (CSCs) have been shown to promote tumorigenesis of many tumor types, including breast, although their relevance to cancer metastasis remains unclear. While subpopulations of CSCs required for metastasis have been identified, to date there are no known molecular regulators of breast CSC (BCSC) metastasis. Here we identify RhoC GTPase as an important regulator of BCSC metastasis, and present evidence suggesting that RhoC also modulates the frequency of BCSCs within a population. Using an orthotopic xenograft model of spontaneous metastasis we discover that RhoC is both necessary and sufficient to promote SUM149 and MCF-10A BCSC metastasis--often independent from primary tumor formation--and can even induce metastasis of non-BCSCs within these cell lines. The relationship between RhoC and BCSCs persists in breast cancer patients, as expression of RhoC and the BCSC marker ALDH1 are highly correlated in clinical specimens. These results suggest new avenues to combating the deadliest cells driving the most lethal stage of breast cancer progression.

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    • "A better explanation for the lack of impact of PFIs on MCF10A cells is that RhoA and RhoC are dispensable for acinar formation and cell growth control in non-malignant cells such as MCF10A. In support of the concept that Rho proteins are needed for the malignant transformation of MCF10A cells, a recent study demonstrated that overexpression of constitutively active RhoC G14V in MCF10A cells increased lung metastasis in mice [49]. "
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    ABSTRACT: Dysregulation of Ras and Rho family small GTPases drives the invasion and metastasis of multiple cancers. For their biological functions, these GTPases require proper subcellular localization to cellular membranes, which is regulated by a series of post-translational modifications that result in either farnesylation or geranylgeranylation of the C-terminal CAAX motif. This concept provided the rationale for targeting farnesyltransferase (FTase) and geranylgeranyltransferases (GGTase) for cancer treatment. However, the resulting prenyl transferase inhibitors have not performed well in the clinic due to issues with alternative prenylation and toxicity. As an alternative, we have developed a unique class of potential anti-cancer therapeutics called Prenyl Function Inhibitors (PFIs), which are farnesol or geranyl-geraniol analogs that act as alternate substrates for FTase or GGTase. Here, we test the ability of our lead PFIs, anilinogeraniol (AGOH) and anilinofarnesol (AFOH), to block the invasion of breast cancer cells. We found that AGOH treatment effectively decreased invasion of MDA-MB-231 cells in a two-dimensional (2D) invasion assay at 100 µM while it blocked invasive growth in three-dimensional (3D) culture model at as little as 20 µM. Notably, the effect of AGOH on 3D invasive growth was phenocopied by electroporation of cells with C3 exotransferase. To determine if RhoA and RhoC were direct targets of AGOH, we performed Rho activity assays in MDA-MB-231 and MDA-MB-468 cells and found that AGOH blocked RhoA and RhoC activation in response to LPA and EGF stimulation. Notably, the geranylgeraniol analog AFOH was more potent than AGOH in inhibiting RhoA and RhoC activation and invasive growth. Interestingly, neither AGOH nor AFOH impacted 3D growth of MCF10A cells. Collectively, this study demonstrates that AGOH and AFOH dramatically inhibit breast cancer invasion, at least in part by blocking Rho function, thus, suggesting that targeting prenylation by using PFIs may offer a promising mechanism for treatment of invasive breast cancer.
    Full-text · Article · Mar 2014 · PLoS ONE
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    • "These results are in agreement with a similar study in which ALDH positive cells in invasive breast carcinoma line show a higher expression of RhoC GTPase compared to non-ALDH expressing cells. In addition, the same study showed that the cells exhibited higher frequency of metastasis to lungs compared to ALDH negative RhoC knockdown cell lines in the mouse model [27]. "
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    ABSTRACT: In this study we investigated the correlation between RhoC expression and cancer stem cells (CSCs) formation in head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC). The inhibition of RhoC function was achieved using shRNA. The expression of stem cell surface markers, ALDH and CD44 were significantly low in two RhoC depleted HNSCC cell carcinoma cell lines. Furthermore, a striking reduction in tumorsphere formation was achieved in RhoC knockdown lines. The mRNA expression of RhoC in RhoC knockdown adherent and tumorspheres are dramatically down regulated as compared with the scrambled control. The mRNA expression of stem cell transcription factors; nanog, oct3/4 (Pouf1), and sox2 were significantly depleted in RhoC knockdown clones. Further, the phosphorylation of STAT3(ser727), and STAT3(tyr705) were significantly down regulated in RhoC knockdown clones. The overexpression of STAT3 in RhoC knockdown did not show any change in expression patterns of either-STAT3(tyr705) or stem cell transcription factors, signifying the role of RhoC in STAT3 activation and thus the expression of nanog, oct3/4 and sox2 in HNSCC. The expression of Inter leukin-6 (IL-6) in RhoC knockdown HNSCC cell lines was dramatically low as compared to the scrambled control. Further, we have shown a rescue in STAT3 phosphorylation by IL-6 stimulation in RhoC knockdown lines. This study is the first of its kind to establish the involvement of RhoC in STAT3 phosphorylation and hence in promoting the activation of core cancer stem cells (CSCs) transcription factors. These findings suggest that RhoC may be a novel target for HNSCC therapy.
    Full-text · Article · Feb 2014 · PLoS ONE
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    ABSTRACT: There is increasing evidence that cancer stem cells (CSCs) play a critical role in breast cancer initiation, progression, metastasis and drug resistance. It is thought that they are either generated from normal mammary stem/progenitor cells or from mammary epithelial cells by epithelial-mesenchymal transition. Breast CSCs are characterized by the activation of stemness-related pathways, such as the Notch and Wnt pathways, and by the expression of certain stem cell markers, such as CD44, EpCAM and ALDH1. CSCs form a minor population, whose proportion depends on various factors, including environmental conditions. Since CSCs are highly resistant to chemotherapy, additional treatment of breast cancer patients with CSC-specific drugs, such as salinomycin and gamma-secretase inhibitors which target the Wnt or Notch pathway, respectively, will be required. Interestingly, an equilibrium seems to exist between CSCs and non-stem cancer cells, and there are indications that CSCs can be recruited from non-stem cancer cells. As a consequence, it may be necessary to combine a therapy targeting CSCs with common chemotherapy that targets the bulk tumor to avoid the regeneration of CSCs.
    No preview · Article · Mar 2013 · Histology and histopathology
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