MicroRNAs (mirs) are small non-coding RNA molecules (~22 nucleotides) that regulate post-transcriptional gene expression. Currently, there has not been a comprehensive study of their role in primary HNSCC. To determine the role of mirs in head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC), we screened for altered microRNA expression in HNSCC primary tissue and cell lines. We then further tested the functional impact of alterations of specific mirs. An initial screening of 4 primary HNSCC, 4 normal mucosal controls and 4 HNSCC cell lines were analyzed for mature microRNA expression by microarray. Significance was determined using Significance Analysis of Microarrays (SAM). Nine microRNAs were found by SAM to be up-regulated or down-regulated in tumor tissue including mir-21,let-7,18,29c,142-3p,155,146b(over-expressed) and 494(under-expressed). Mir-21 was validated by qRT-PCR. Functional validation by growth assays was performed, further validating mir-21. Transfection of mir-21 into JHU-011 and JHU-012 cell lines showed a 39% increase in cell growth at 72 hrs relative to controls (p<.05). Transfection of the inhibitor into JHU-O12 cell lines showed a 92% decrease in cell growth relative to controls at 72hrs (p<.05). In addition, flow cytometry analysis of JHU-012 cells 48 hrs after mir-21 inhibitor transfection showed a statistically significantly increase in cytochrome c release and increased apoptosis. These differentially expressed microRNAs may be of interest as potential novel oncogenes and tumor suppressor genes in HNSCC. Mir-21 is a putative oncogenic microRNA in head and neck cancer.
BackgroundEpigenetic alterations have been implicated in the pathogenesis of solid tumors, however, proto-oncogenes activated by promoter demethylation have been sporadically reported. We used an integrative method to analyze expression in primary head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC) and pharmacologically demethylated cell lines to identify aberrantly demethylated and expressed candidate proto-oncogenes and cancer testes antigens in HNSCC.Methodology/Principal FindingsWe noted coordinated promoter demethylation and simultaneous transcriptional upregulation of proto-oncogene candidates with promoter homology, and phylogenetic footprinting of these promoters demonstrated potential recognition sites for the transcription factor BORIS. Aberrant BORIS expression correlated with upregulation of candidate proto-oncogenes in multiple human malignancies including primary non-small cell lung cancers and HNSCC, induced coordinated proto-oncogene specific promoter demethylation and expression in non-tumorigenic cells, and transformed NIH3T3 cells.Conclusions/SignificanceCoordinated, epigenetic unmasking of multiple genes with growth promoting activity occurs in aerodigestive cancers, and BORIS is implicated in the coordinated promoter demethylation and reactivation of epigenetically silenced genes in human cancers.
Human papillomavirus (HPV) 16 is present in up to 60% of patients with head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC) and confers a favorable prognosis in terms of recurrence and mortality. Previous reports demonstrated that HPV-16 DNA can be detected in the initial salivary rinses from these patients. In this study, we assessed the feasibility of post-treatment HPV DNA shed from the oral mucosa as a prognostic marker for persistent/recurrent head and neck cancer. Fresh tumor samples and pre-and post-treatment salivary rinses were collected from 59 patients with HNSCC. HPV-16 E6 and E7 DNA copy number in these samples were quantified by real time PCR. Twenty of 59 patients (33.9%) were HPV-16 positive in their tumors before treatment. Four of 20 HPV tumor positive patients ultimately developed recurrence, and 2 of these 4 patients were HPV-16 positive in surveillance salivary rinses (sensitivity = 50%). Of the 39 (66.1%) HPV-16 negative patients on initial clinical presentation and the 16 HPV-16 positive patients who did not recur, none were HPV-16 positive in salivary rinses after treatment (specificity = 100%). HPV-16 presence in follow-up salivary rinses preceded clinical detection of disease recurrence by an average of 3.5 months. Patients with presence of HPV-16 DNA in surveillance salivary rinses are at significant risk for recurrence. Quantitative measurement of salivary HPV-16 DNA has promise for surveillance and early detection of recurrence.
Cisplatin is among the most widely used cytotoxic anti-cancer agents in solid tumors, however, the development of secondary resistance remains a major obstacle to clinical efficacy. Treatment-related DNA hypermethylation may play a role in creating drug resistant phenotypes by inactivating genes that are required for cytotoxicity. We applied a pharmacologic unmasking approach to detect hypermethylated genes whose inactivation contributes to cisplatin resistance. Utilizing three pairs of isogeneic, cisplatin-sensitive and -resistant cell lines derived from two parental cell lines (KB-3-1 and SCC25), we identified several hundred genes that were down-regulated in each resistant cell line and re-activated by the DNA methyltransferase inhibitor 5-Aza-2'-deoxycytidine (5-Aza-dC). Among them, 30 genes were common to ≥ 2 cell lines, and/or reported to be down-regulated in previous studies. Bisulfite sequencing confirmed that 14 genes were hypermethylated in resistant cell lines, but not in the sensitive parental cell lines. Six of 14 genes (SAT, C8orf4, LAMB3, TUBB, G0S2, MCAM) were cisplatin-inducible in sensitive, but not in resistant cell lines. siRNA knockdown of two genes, SAT and S100P, increased cell viability with cisplatin treatment in sensitive parental cell lines. S100P knockdown significantly decreased the S-phase fraction (SPF) of parental sensitive cell lines and slowed cell proliferation, which was associated with decreased sensitivity to cisplatin. Based on these findings, we conclude that DNA methylation is a frequent event in cells that are chronically exposed to cisplatin, and that methylation-induced gene silencing may play a role in the development of resistance to cytotoxic chemotherapeutic agents.
BackgroundCancer/testis antigens (CTAs) were first discovered as immunogenic targets normally expressed in germline cells, but differentially expressed in a variety of human cancers. In this study, we used an integrative epigenetic screening approach to identify coordinately expressed genes in human non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) whose transcription is driven by promoter demethylation.Methodology/Principal FindingsOur screening approach found 290 significant genes from the over 47,000 transcripts incorporated in the Affymetrix Human Genome U133 Plus 2.0 expression array. Of the top 55 candidates, 10 showed both differential overexpression and promoter region hypomethylation in NSCLC. Surprisingly, 6 of the 10 genes discovered by this approach were CTAs. Using a separate cohort of primary tumor and normal tissue, we validated NSCLC promoter hypomethylation and increased expression by quantitative RT-PCR for all 10 genes. We noted significant, coordinated coexpression of multiple target genes, as well as coordinated promoter demethylation, in a large set of individual tumors that was associated with the SCC subtype of NSCLC. In addition, we identified 2 novel target genes that exhibited growth-promoting effects in multiple cell lines.Conclusions/SignificanceCoordinated promoter demethylation in NSCLC is associated with aberrant expression of CTAs and potential, novel candidate protooncogenes that can be identified using integrative discovery techniques. These findings have significant implications for discovery of novel CTAs and CT antigen directed immunotherapy.
Purpose: Mitochondrial mutations have been identified in head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC), but the pathways by which phenotypic effects of these mutations are exerted remain unclear. Previously, we found that mitochondrial ND2 mutations in primary HNSCC increased reactive oxygen species (ROS) and conferred an aerobic, glycolytic phenotype with HIF1aaccumulation and increased cell growth. The purpose of the present study was to examine the pathways relating these alterations. Experimental Design: Mitochondrial mutant and wild-type ND2 constructs were transfected into oral keratinocyte immortal cell line OKF6 and head and neck cancer cell line JHU-O19 and established transfectants. The protein levels of HIF1a, pyruvate dehydrogenease (PDH), phosphorylated PDH, and pyruvate dehydrogenease kinase 2 (PDK2), together with ROS generation, were compared between the mutant and the wild type. Meanwhile, the effects of small molecule inhibitors targeting PDK2 and mitochondria-targeted catalase were evaluated on the ND2 mutant transfectants. Results: We determined that ND2 mutant down-regulated PDH expression via up-regulated PDK2, with an increase in phosphorylated PDH. Inhibition of PDK2 with dichloroacetate decreased HIF1a accumulation and reduced cell growth. Extracellular treatment with hydrogen peroxide, a ROS mimic, increased PDK2 expression and HIF1a expression, and introduction of mitochondria-targeted catalase decreased mitochondrial mutation-mediated PDK2 and HIF1a expression and suppressed cell growth. Conclusions: Our findings suggest that mitochondrial ND2 mutation contributes to HIF1a accumulation via increased ROS production, up-regulation of PDK2, attenuating PDH activity, thereby increasing pyruvate, resulting in HIF1a stabilization. This may provide insight into a potential mechanism, by which mitochondrial mutations contribute to HNSCC development.Human mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) is a circular doublestranded DNA f16.6 kb in size. It encodes 13 polypeptides, which includes seven subunits (ND1-ND6, ND4L) of respiratory chain complex I, one subunit (CYTB) of complex III, three subunits (COI-COIII) of complex IV, and two subunits (ATP6 and ATP8) of complex V, 22 tRNAs, and 2 rRNAs (1). Human mtDNA is more susceptible to damage than nuclear DNA, as the mtDNA molecule is not protected by histones, is exposed to reactive oxygen species (ROS) generated during oxidative phosphorylation, and is replicated by DNA polymerase g, which copies with low fidelity due to the absence of a proofreading function (2).Somatic mtDNA mutations have been increasingly observed in primary human cancers (3). In head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC), studies have shown a frequency of mitochondrial mutations ranging from 21% to 51%. Of note, our recent study found a nonrandom distribution of mitochondrial mutation throughout the mitochondrial enzyme complex components (4), and the majority of mitochondrial mutations occur during or after the transition of preneoplastic epithelium to cancer in HNSCC, indica...
Purpose Hypermethylation of tumor suppressor gene promoters has been found in head and neck squamous carcinoma (HNSCC) and other solid tumors. We evaluated these alterations in pretreatment salivary rinses from HNSCC patients by using real-time quantitative methylation-specific PCR (Q-MSP). Experimental Design Pretreatment saliva DNA samples from HNSCC patients were evaluated for patterns of hypermethylation by using Q-MSP. Target tumor suppressor gene promoter regions were selected based on a previous study describing a screening panel for HNSCC in a high-risk population subjects. The selected genes were: DAPK, DCC, MINT-31, TIMP-3, p16, MGMT, CCNA1. Results We analyzed the panel in a cohort of 61 HNSCC patients. Thirty-three of the analyzed patients (54.1%) showed methylation of at least one of the selected genes in the saliva DNA. Pretreatment methylated saliva DNA was not significantly associated with tumor site (P = 0.209) nor clinical stage (P = 0.299). However, local disease control and overall survival were significantly lower in patients presenting hypermethylation in saliva rinses (P = 0.010 and P = 0.015, respectively). Multivariate analysis confirmed that this hypermethylation pattern remained as an independent prognostic factor for local recurrence (HR = 12.2; 95% CI = 1.8–80.6; P = 0.010) and overall survival (HR = 2.8; 95% CI = 1.2–6.5; P = 0.016). Conclusions We were able to confirm an elevated rate of promoter hypermethylation in HNSCC saliva of patients by using a panel of gene promoters previously described as methylated specifically in HNSCC. Detection of hypermethylation in pretreatment saliva DNA seems to be predictive of local recurrence and overall survival. This finding has potential to influence treatment and surveillance of HNSCC patients.
It is well known that cellular DNA alterations can lead to the formation of cancer, and there has been much discovery in the pathways involved in the development of head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC). With novel genome-wide molecular assays, our ability to detect these abnormalities has increased. We now have a better understanding of the molecular complexity of HNSCC, but there is still much research to be done. In this review, we discuss the well described genetic alterations and touch on the newer findings, as well as some of the future directions of head and neck cancer research.
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