[Show abstract][Hide abstract]ABSTRACT: Rhabdomyosarcoma (RMS) is the most common soft tissue sarcoma of childhood and remains refractory to combined-modality therapy in patients with high risk disease. In skeletal myogenesis, Notch signaling prevents muscle differentiation and promotes proliferation of satellite cell progeny. Given its physiologic role in myogenesis and oncogenic role in other human cancers, we hypothesized that aberrant Notch signaling may contribute to RMS tumorigenesis and present novel therapeutic opportunities.
Human RMS cell lines and tumors were evaluated by immunoblot, IHC, and RT-PCR to measure Notch ligand, receptor, and target gene expression. Manipulation of Notch signaling was accomplished using genetic and pharmacologic approaches. In vitro cell growth, proliferation, and differentiation were assessed using colorimetric MTT and BrdU assays, and biochemical/morphologic changes after incubation in differentiation-promoting media, respectively. In vivo tumorigenesis was assessed using xenograft formation in SCID/beige mice.
Notch signaling is upregulated in human RMS cell lines and tumors compared with primary skeletal muscle, especially in the embryonal (eRMS) subtype. Inhibition of Notch signaling using Notch1 RNAi or γ-secretase inhibitors reduced eRMS cell proliferation in vitro. Hey1 RNAi phenocopied Notch1 loss and permitted modest myogenic differentiation, while overexpression of an activated Notch moiety, ICN1, promoted eRMS cell proliferation and rescued pharmacologic inhibition. Finally, Notch inhibition using RNAi or γ-secretase inhibitors blocked tumorigenesis in vivo.
Aberrant Notch-Hey1 signaling contributes to eRMS by impeding differentiation and promoting proliferation. The efficacy of Notch pathway inhibition in vivo supports the development of Notch-Hey1 axis inhibitors in the treatment of eRMS.
Full-text Article · Sep 2011 · Clinical Cancer Research
[Show abstract][Hide abstract]ABSTRACT: Rhabdomyosarcoma (RMS) is the most common soft tissue sarcoma of childhood and adolescence. Despite advances in therapy, patients with a histologic variant of RMS known as alveolar (aRMS) have a 5-year survival rate of <30%. aRMS tissues exhibit a number of genetic changes, including loss-of-function of the p53 and Rb tumor suppressor pathways, amplification of MYCN, stabilization of telomeres, and most characteristically, reciprocal translocation of loci involving the PAX and FKHR genes, generating the PAX7-FKHR or PAX3-FKHR fusion proteins. We previously showed that PAX3-FKHR expression in primary human myoblasts, cells that can give rise to RMS, cooperated with loss of p16INK4A to promote extended proliferation. To better understand the genetic events required for aRMS formation, we then stepwise converted these cells to their transformed counterpart. PAX3-FKHR, the catalytic unit of telomerase hTERT, and MycN, in cooperation with down-regulation of p16INK4A/p14ARF expression, were necessary and sufficient to convert normal human myoblasts into tumorigenic cells that gave rise to aRMS tumors. However, the order of expression of these transgenes was critical, as only those cells expressing PAX3-FKHR early could form tumors. We therefore suggest that the translocation of PAX3 to FKHR drives proliferation of myoblasts, and a selection for loss of p16INK4A/p14ARF. These early steps, coupled with MycN amplification and telomere stabilization, then drive the cells to a fully tumorigenic state.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract]ABSTRACT: Rhabdomyosarcoma is the most common soft tissue sarcoma of childhood and adolescence. Despite advances in therapy, patients with a histologic variant of rhabdomyosarcoma known as alveolar rhabdomyosarcoma (ARMS) have a 5-year survival of <30%. ARMS is characterized by a chromosomal translocation generating the PAX3-FKHR fusion gene. However, ectopic expression of PAX3-FKHR often induces inhibition of cell proliferation, or cell death, when expressed in nonmuscle cells. This prompted us to explore the effect of expressing PAX3-FKHR in more relevant cells, specifically primary human skeletal muscle cells because these cells can be converted to a tumorigenic state that mimics rhabdomyosarcoma. PAX3-FKHR expression promoted both fetal and postnatal primary human skeletal muscle cell precursors to bypass the senescence growth arrest checkpoint. This bypass was accompanied by epigenetic DNA methylation of the p16(INK4A) promoter and correspondingly a loss of expression of this tumor suppressor. Knockdown of p16(INK4A) cooperated with PAX3-FKHR to drive proliferation past senescence, whereas reintroduction of wild-type p16(INK4A) in post-senescent cells caused growth arrest. Thus, PAX3-FKHR acts in concert with loss of p16(INK4A) to promote inappropriate proliferation of skeletal muscle cells. This association between PAX3-FKHR expression and p16(INK4A) loss was seen in human ARMS tumor tissue, as both human rhabdomyosarcoma cell lines and tissue microarrays showed a trend toward down-regulation of p16(INK4A) protein in alveolar subsets. We surmise that the generation of the PAX3-FKHR fusion protein may require loss of p16(INK4A) to promote malignant proliferation of skeletal muscle cells as an early step in ARMS tumorigenesis.