New Co-author publications in Cancers and JCI

Its been a big month for publications, with 2 new co-author papers coming out.

The first entitled “Trp53 and Rb1 regulate autophagy and ligand-dependent Hedgehog signaling” was published in the prestigious Journal of Clinical Investigation (JCI). [Link]

Ligand-dependent activation of Hedgehog (Hh) signaling in cancer occurs without mutations in canonical pathway genes. Consequently, the genetic basis of Hh pathway activation in adult solid tumors, such as small-cell lung cancer (SCLC), is unknown. Here we show that combined inactivation of Trp53 and Rb1, a defining genetic feature of SCLC, leads to hypersensitivity to Hh ligand in vitro, and during neural tube development in vivo. This response is associated with the aberrant formation of primary cilia, an organelle essential for canonical Hh signaling through smoothened, a transmembrane protein targeted by small-molecule Hh inhibitors. We further show that loss of both Trp53 and Rb1 disables transcription of genes in the autophagic machinery necessary for the degradation of primary cilia. In turn, we also demonstrate a requirement for Kif3a, a gene essential for the formation of primary cilia, in a mouse model of SCLC induced by conditional deletion of both Trp53 and Rb1 in the adult airway. Our results provide a mechanistic framework for therapeutic targeting of ligand-dependent Hh signaling in human cancers with somatic mutations in both TP53 and RB1.

The second paper is an excellent piece of work driven by long time collaborator Dr Liz Caldon, entitled “Cyclin E2 Promotes Whole Genome Doubling in Breast Cancer”, published in the journal Cancers. [Link]

Genome doubling is an underlying cause of cancer cell aneuploidy and genomic instability, but few drivers have been identified for this process. Due to their physiological roles in the genome reduplication of normal cells, we hypothesised that the oncogenes cyclins E1 and E2 may be drivers of genome doubling in cancer. We show that both cyclin E1 (CCNE1) and cyclin E2 (CCNE2) mRNA are significantly associated with high genome ploidy in breast cancers. By live cell imaging and flow cytometry, we show that cyclin E2 overexpression promotes aberrant mitosis without causing mitotic slippage, and it increases ploidy with negative feedback on the replication licensing protein, Cdt1. We demonstrate that cyclin E2 localises with core preRC (pre-replication complex) proteins (MCM2, MCM7) on the chromatin of cancer cells. Low CCNE2 is associated with improved overall survival in breast cancers, and we demonstrate that low cyclin E2 protects from excess genome rereplication. This occurs regardless of p53 status, consistent with the association of high cyclin E2 with genome doubling in both p53 null/mutant and p53 wildtype cancers. In contrast, while cyclin E1 can localise to the preRC, its downregulation does not prevent rereplication, and overexpression promotes polyploidy via mitotic slippage. Thus, in breast cancer, cyclin E2 has a strong association with genome doubling, and likely contributes to highly proliferative and genomically unstable breast cancers. 

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