Posts Tagged ‘shRNA’

The Delicate Connection:  IDO (Indolamine 2, 3 dehydrogenase) and Cancer Immunology

Author and Curator: Demet Sag, PhD, CRA, GCP      

Table of Contents:

  1. Abstract
  2. Dual role for IDO
  3. Immune System and IDO
  4. Autoimmune disorders and IDO
  5. Cancer and Ido
  6. Clinical Interventions
  7. Clinical Trials
  8. Future Actions for Molecular Dx and Targeted Therapies:
  9. Conclusion
  10. References

TABLE 1- IDO Clinical Trials

TABLE 2- Kyn induced Genes

TABLE 3 Possible biomarkers and molecular diagnostics targets

TABLE 4: Current Interventions ______________________________________________________________________________________________________________


Overall purpose is to find a method to manipulate IDO for clinical applications, mainly the focus of this review is is cancer prevention and treatment.  The first study proving the connection between IDO and immune response came from, a very natural event, a protection of pregnancy in human. This led to discover that high IDO expression is a common factor in cancer tumors. Thus, attention promoted investigations on IDO’s role in various disease states, immune disorders, transplantation, inflammation, women health, mood disorders.
Many approaches, vaccines and adjuvants are underway to find new immunotherapies by combining the power of DCs in immune response regulation and specific direction of siRNA.  As a result, with this unique qualities of IDO, DCs and siRNA, we orchestrated a novel intervention for immunomodulation of IDO by inhibiting with small interference RNA, called siRNA-IDO-DCvax.  Proven that our DCvax created a delay and regression of tumor growth without changing the natural structure and characterization of DCs in melanoma and breast cancers in vivo. (** The shRNA IDO- DCvax is developed by Regen BioPhrama, San Diego, CA ,  Thomas Ichim, Ph.D, CSO. and David Koos, CEO)


Double-Edged Sword of IDO: The Good and The Bad for Clinical intervention and Developments

IDO almost has a dual role. There is a positive side of high expression of IDO during pregnancy (29; 28; 114), transplants (115; 116; 117; 118; 119), infectious diseases (96) and but this tolerance is negative during autoimmune-disorders (120; 121; 122), tumors of cancer (123; 124; 117; 121; 125; 126; 127) (127), and mood disorders (46). The increased IDO expression has a double-edged sword in human physiology provides a positive role during protection of fetus and grafts after transplantations but becomes a negative factor during autoimmune disorders, cancer, sepsis and mood disorders.

Prevention of allogeneic fetal rejection is possible by tryptophan metabolism (26) rejecting with lack of IDO but allocating if IDO present (29; 28; 114). These studies lead to find “the natural regulation mechanism” for protecting the transplants from graft versus host disease GVHD (128) and getting rid of tumors.

The plasticity of  mammary and uterus during reproduction may hold some more answers to prevent GVHD and tumors of cancer with good understanding of IDO and tryptophan mechanism (129; 130). After allogeneic bone marrow transplants the risk of solid tumor development increased about 80% among 19,229 patients even with a greater risk among patients under 18 years old (117).  The adaptation of tolerance against host mechanism is connected to the IDO expression (131). During implantation and early pregnancy IDO has a role by making CD4+CD25+Foxp3+ regulatory T cells (Tregs) and expressing in DCs and  MQs  (114; 132; 133).

Clonal deletion mechanism prevents mother to react with paternal products since female mice accepted the paternal MHC antigen-expressing tumor graft during pregnancy and rejected three weeks after delivery (134). CTLA-4Ig gene therapy alleviates abortion through regulation of apoptosis and inhibition of spleen lymphocytes (135).  

 Immune System and IDO DCs are the orchestrator of the immune response (56; 57; 58) with list of functions in uptake, processing, and presentation of antigens; activation of effector cells, such as T-cells and NK-cells; and secretion of cytokines and other immune-modulating molecules to direct the immune response. The differential regulation of IDO in distinct DC subsets is widely studied to delineate and correct immune homeostasis during autoimmunity, infection and cancer and the associated immunological outcomes. Genesis of antigen presenting cells (APCs), eventually the immune system, require migration of monocytes (MOs), which is originated in bone marrow. Then, these MOs move from bloodstream to other tissues to become macrophages and DCs (59; 60).

Initiation of immune response requires APCs to link resting helper T-cell with the matching antigen to protect body. DCs are superior to MQs and MOs in their immune action model. When DCs are first described (61) and classified, their role is determined as a highly potent antigen-presenting cell (APC) subset with 100 to 1000-times more effective than macrophages and B-cells in priming T-cells. Both MQs and monocytes phagocytize the pathogen, and their cell structure contains very large nucleus and many internal vesicles. However, there is a nuance between MQ and DCs, since DCs has a wider capacity of stimulation, because MQs activates only memory T cells, yet DCs can activate both naïve and memory T cells.

DCs are potent activators of T cells and they also have well controlled regulatory roles. DC properties determine the regulation regardless of their origin or the subset of the DCs. DCs reacts after identification of the signals or influencers for their inhibitory, stimulatory or regulatory roles, before they express a complex repertoire of positive and negative cytokines, transmembrane proteins and other molecules. Thus, “two signal theory” gains support with a defined rule.  The combination of two signals, their interaction with types of cells and time are critical.

In short, specificity and time are matter for a proper response. When IDO mRNA expression is activated with CTL40 ligand and IFNgamma, IDO results inhibition of T cell production (4).  However, if DCs are inhibited by 1MT, an inhibitor of IDO, the response stop but IgG has no affect (10).  In addition, if the stimulation is started by a tryptophan metabolite, which is downstream of IDO, such as 3-hydroxyantranilic or quinolinic acids, it only inhibits Th1 but not Th2 subset of T cells (62).

Furthermore, inclusion of signal molecules, such as Fas Ligand, cytochrome c, and pathways also differ in the T cell differentiation mechanisms due to combination, time and specificity of two-signals.  The co-culture experiments are great tool to identify specific stimuli in disease specific microenvironment (63; 12; 64) for discovering the mechanism and interactions between molecules in gene regulation, biochemical mechanism and physiological function during cell differentiation.

As a result, the simplest differential cell development from the early development of DCs impact the outcome of the data. For example, collection of MOs from peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) with IL4 and GM-CSF leads to immature DCs (iDCs). On next step, treatment of iDCs with tumor necrosis factor (TNF) or other plausible cytokines (TGFb1, IFNgamma, IFNalpha,  IFNbeta, IL6 etc.) based on the desired outcome differentiate iDCs  into mature DCs (mDCs). DCs live only up to a week but MOs and generated MQs can live up to a month in the given tissue. B cells inhibit T cell dependent immune responses in tumors (65).

AutoImmune Disorders:

The Circadian Clock Circuitry and the AHR

The balance of IDO expression becomes necessary to prevent overactive immune response self-destruction, so modulation in tryptophan and NDA metabolisms maybe essential.  When splenic IDO-expressing CD11b (+) DCs from tolerized animals applied, they suppressed the development of arthritis, increased the Treg/Th17 cell ratio, and decreased the production of inflammatory cytokines in the spleen (136).

The role of Nicotinamide prevention on type 1 diabetes and ameliorates multiple sclerosis in animal model presented with activities of  NDAs stimulating GPCR109a to produce prostaglandins to induce IDO expression, then these PGEs and PGDs converted to the anti-inflammatory prostaglandin, 15d-PGJ(2) (137; 138; 139).  Thus, these events promotes endogenous signaling mechanisms involving the GPCRs EP2, EP4, and DP1 along with PPARgamma. (137).

Modulating the immune response at non-canonical at canonocal pathway while keeping the non-canonical Nf-KB intact may help to mend immune disorders. As a result, the targeted blocking in canonical at associated kinase IKKβ and leaving non-canonocal Nf-kB pathway intact, DCs tips the balance towards immune supression. Hence, noncanonical NF-κB pathway for regulatory functions in DCs required effective IDO induction, directly or indirectly by endogenous ligand Kyn and negative regulation of proinflammatory cytokine production. As a result, this may help to treat autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, type 1 diabetes, inflammatory bowel disease, and multiple sclerosis, or allergy or transplant rejection.

While the opposite action needs to be taken during prevention of tumors, that is inhibition of non-canonical pathway.  Inflammation induces not only relaxation of veins and lowering blood pressure but also stimulate coagulopathies that worsen the microenvironment and decrease survival rate of patients after radio or chemotherapies.Cancer Generating tumor vaccines and using adjuvants underway (140).

Clinical correlation and genetic responses also compared in several studies to diagnose and target the system for cancer therapies (127; 141; 131).  The recent surveys on IDO expression and human cancers showed that IDO targeting is a candidate for cancer therapy since IDO expression recruiting Tregs, downregulates MHC class I and creating negative immune microenvironment for protection of development of tumors (125; 27; 142).  Inhibition of IDO expression can make advances in immunotherapy and chemotherapy fields (143; 125; 131; 144).

IDO has a great importance on prevention of cancer development (126). There are many approaches to create the homeostasis of immune response by Immunotherapy.  However, given the complexity of immune regulations, immunomodulation is a better approach to correct and relieve the system from the disease.  Some of the current IDO targeted immunotherapy or immmunomodulations with RNA technology for cancer prevention (145; 146; 147; 148; 149; 150) or applied on human or animals  (75; 151; 12; 115; 152; 9; 125) or chemical, (153; 154) or  radiological (155).  The targeted cell type in immune system generally DCs, monocytes (94)T cells (110; 156)and neutrophils (146; 157). On this paper, we will concentrate on DCvax on cancer treatments.

 T-reg, regulatory T cells; Th, T helper; CTLA-4, cytotoxic T lymphocyte-associated antigen 4; TCR, T cell receptor; IDO, indoleamine 2,3-dioxygenase. (refernece:

T-reg, regulatory T cells; Th, T helper; CTLA-4, cytotoxic T lymphocyte-associated antigen 4; TCR, T cell receptor; IDO, indoleamine 2,3-dioxygenase. (refernece:

IDO and the downstream enzymes in tryptophan pathway produce a series of immunosuppressive tryptophan metabolites that may lead into Tregs proliferation or increase in T cell apoptosis (62; 16; 27; 158), and some can affect NK cell function (159).

The interesting part of the mechanism is even without presence of IDO itself, downstream enzymes of IDO in the kynurenine tryptophan degradation still show immunosuppressive outcome (160; 73) due to not only Kyn but also TGFbeta stimulated long term responses. DC vaccination with IDO plausible (161) due to its power in immune response changes and longevity in the bloodstream for reversing the system for Th17 production (162).

Clinical Interventions are taking advantage of the DC’s central role and combining with enhancing molecules for induction of immunity may overcome tolerogenic DCs in tumors of cancers (163; 164).

The first successful application of DC vaccine used against advanced melanoma after loading DCs with tumor peptides or autologous cell lysate in presence of adjuvants keyhole limpet hematocyanin (KLH) (165).  Previous animal and clinical studies show use of DCs against tumors created success (165; 166; 167) as well as some problems due to heterogeneity of DC populations in one study supporting tumor growth rather than diminishing (168).

DC vaccination applied onto over four thousand clinical trial but none of them used siRNA-IDO DC vaccination method. Clinical trials evaluating DCs loaded ex vivo with purified TAAs as an anticancer immunotherapeutic interventions also did not include IDO (Table from (169). This table presented the data from 30 clinical trials, 3 of which discontinued, evaluating DCs loaded ex vivo with TAAs as an anticancer immunotherapy for 12 types of cancer [(AML(1), Breast cancer (4), glioblastoma (1), glioma (2), hepatocellular carcinoma (1), hematological malignancies (1), melanoma (6), neuroblastoma sarcoma (2), NSCLC (1), ovarian cancer (3), pancreatic cancer (3), prostate cancer (10)] at phase I, II or I/II.

Tipping the balance between Treg and Th17 ratio has a therapeutic advantage for restoring the health that is also shown in ovarian cancer by DC vaccination with adjuvants (161).  This rebalancing of the immune system towards immunogenicity may restore Treg/Th17 ratio (162; 170) but it is complicated. The stimulation of IL10 and IL12 induce Treg produce less Th17 and inhibiting CTL activation and its function (76; 171; 172) while animals treated with anti-TGFb before vaccination increase the plasma levels of IL-15 for tumor specific T cell survival in vivo (173; 174) ovarian cancer studies after human papilloma virus infection present an increase of IL12 (175).

Opposing signal mechanism downregulates the TGFb to activate CTL and Th1 population with IL12 and IL15 expression (162; 173).  The effects of IL17 on antitumor properties observed by unique subset of CD4+ T cells (176) called also CD8+ T cells secrete even more IL17 (177).

Using cytokines as adjuvants during vaccination may improve the efficacy of vaccination since cancer vaccines unlike infections vaccines applied after the infection or disease started against the established adoptive immune response.  Adjuvants are used to improve the responses of the given therapies commonly in immunotherapy applications as a combination therapy (178).

Enhancing cancer vaccine efficacy via modulation of the microenvironment is a plausible solution if only know who are the players.  Several molecules can be used to initiate and lengthen the activity of intervention to stimulate IDO expression without compromising the mechanism (179).  The system is complicated so generally induction is completed ex-vivo stimulation of DCs in cell lysates, whole tumor lysates, to create the microenvironment and natural stimulatory agents. Introduction of molecules as an adjuvants on genetic regulation on modulation of DCs are critical, because order and time of the signals, specific location/ tissue, and heterogeneity of personal needs (174; 138; 180). These studies demonstrated that IL15 with low TGFb stimulates CTL and Th1, whereas elevated TGFb with IL10 increases Th17 and Tregs in cancer microenvironments.

IDO and signaling gene regulation

For example Ret-peptide antitumor vaccine contains an extracellular fragment of Ret protein and Th1 polarized immunoregulator CpG oligonucleotide (1826), with 1MT, a potent inhibitor of IDO, brought a powerful as well as specific cellular and humoral immune responses in mice (152).

The main idea of choosing Ret to produce vaccine in ret related carcinomas fall in two criterion, first choosing patients self-antigens for cancer therapy with a non-mutated gene, second, there is no evidence of genetic mutations in Ret amino acids 64-269. Demonstration of proliferating hemangiomas, benign endothelial tumors and often referred as hemangiomas of infancy appearing at head or neck, express IDO and slowly regressed as a result of immune mediated process.

After large scale of genomic analysis show insulin like growth factor 2 as the key regulator of hematoma growth (Ritter et al. 2003). We set out to develop new technology with our previous expertise in immunotherapy and immunomodulation (181; 182; 183; 184), correcting Th17/Th1 ratio (185), and siRNA technology (186; 187).  We developed siRNA-IDO-DCvax. Patented two technologies “Immunomodulation using Altered DCs (Patent No: US2006/0165665 A1) and Method of Cancer Treatments using siRNA Silencing (Patent No: US2009/0220582 A1).

In melanoma cancer DCs were preconditioned with whole tumor lysate but in breast cancer model pretreatment completed with tumor cell lysate before siRNA-IDO-DCvax applied. Both of these studies was a success without modifying the autanticity of DCs but decreasing the IDO expression to restore immunegenity by delaying tumor growth in breast cancer (147) and in melanoma (188).  Thus, our DCvax specifically interfere with Ido without disturbing natural structure and content of the DCs in vivo showed that it is possible to carry on this technology to clinical applications.

Furthermore, our method of intervention is more sophisticated since it has a direct interaction mechanism with ex-vivo DC modulation without creating long term metabolism imbalance in Trp/Kyn metabolite mechanisms since the action is corrective and non-invasive.

There were several reasons.

First, prevention of tumor development studies targeting non-enzymatic pathway initiated by pDCs conditioned with TGFbeta is specific to IDO1 (189).

Second, IDO upregulation in antigen presenting cells allowing metastasis show that most human tumors express IDO at high levels (123; 124).

Third, tolerogenic DCs secretes several molecules some of them are transforming growth factor beta (TGFb), interleukin IL10), human leukocyte antigen G (HLA-G), and leukemia inhibitory factor (LIF), and non-secreted program cell death ligand 1 (PD-1 L) and IDO, indolamine 2.3-dioxygenase, which promote tumor tolerance. Thus, we took advantage of DCs properties and Ido specificity to prevent the tolerogenicity with siRNA-IDO DC vaccine in both melanoma and breast cancer.

Fourth, IDO expression in DCs make them even more potent against tumor antigens and create more T cells against tumors. IDOs are expressed at different levels by both in broad range of tumor cells and many subtypes of DCs including monocyte-derived DCs (10), plasmacytoid DCs (142), CD8a+ DCs (190), IDO compotent DCs (17), IFNgamma-activated DCs used in DC vaccination.  These DCs suppress immune responses through several mechanisms for induction of apoptosis towards activated T cells (156) to mediate antigen-specific T cell anergy in vivo (142) and for enhancement of Treg cells production at sites of vaccination with IDO-positive DCs+ in human patients (142; 191; 192; 168; 193; 194). If DCs are preconditioned with tumor lysate with 1MT vaccination they increase DCvax effectiveness unlike DCs originated from “normal”, healthy lysate with 1MT in pancreatic cancer (195).  As a result, we concluded that the immunesupressive effect of IDO can be reversed by siRNA because Treg cells enhances DC vaccine-mediated anti-tumor-immunity in cancer patients.

Gene silencing is a promising technology regardless of advantages simplicity for finding gene interaction mechanisms in vitro and disadvantages of the technology is utilizing the system with specificity in vivo (186; 196).  siRNA technology is one of the newest solution for the treatment of diseases as human genomics is only producing about 25,000 genes by representing 1% of its genome. Thus, utilizing the RNA open the doors for more comprehensive and less invasive effects on interventions. Thus this technology is still improving and using adjuvants. Silencing of K-Ras inhibit the growth of tumors in human pancreatic cancers (197), silencing of beta-catenin in colon cancers causes tumor regression in mouse models (198), silencing of vascular endothelial growth factor (VGEF) decreased angiogenesis and inhibit tumor growth (199).

Combining siRNA IDO and DCvax from adult stem cell is a novel technology for regression of tumors in melanoma and breast cancers in vivo. Our data showed that IDO-siRNA reduced tumor derived T cell apoptosis and tumor derived inhibition of T cell proliferation.  In addition, silencing IDO made DCs more potent against tumors since treated or pretreated animals showed a delay or decreased the tumor growth (188; 147)


Clinical Trials:

First FDA approved DC-based cancer therapies for treatment of hormone-refractory prostate cancer as autologous cellular immunotherapy (163; 164).  However, there are many probabilities to iron out for a predictive outcome in patients.

Table 2 demonstrates the current summary of clinical trials report.  This table shows 38 total studies specifically Ido related function on cancer (16), eye (3), surgery (2), women health (4), obesity (1), Cardiovascular (2), brain (1), kidney (1), bladder (1), sepsis shock (1), transplant (1),  nervous system and behavioral studies (4), HIV (1) (Table 4).  Among these only 22 of which active, recruiting or not yet started to recruit, and 17 completed and one terminated.

Most of these studies concentrated on cancer by the industry, Teva GTC ( Phase I traumatic brain injury) Astra Zeneca (Phase IV on efficacy of CRESTOR 5mg for cardiovascular health concern), Incyte corporation (Phase II ovarian cancer) NewLink Genetics Corporation Phase I breast/lung/melanoma/pancreatic solid tumors that is terminated; Phase II malignant melanoma recruiting, Phase II active, not recruiting metastatic breast cancer, Phase I/II metastatic melanoma, Phase I advanced malignancies) , HIV (Phase IV enrolling by invitation supported by Salix Corp-UC, San Francisco and HIV/AIDS Research Programs).

Many studies based on chemotherapy but there are few that use biological methods completed study with  IDO vaccine peptide vaccination for Stage III-IV non-small-cell lung cancer patients (NCT01219348), observational study on effect of biological therapy on biomarkers in patients with untreated hepatitis C, metastasis melanoma, or Crohn disease by IFNalpha and chemical (ribavirin, ticilimumab (NCT00897312), polymorphisms of patients after 1MT drug application in treating patients with metastatic or unmovable refractory solid tumors by surgery (NCT00758537), IDO expression analysis on MSCs (NCT01668576), and not yet recruiting intervention with adenovirus-p53 transduced dendric cell vaccine , 1MT , radiation, Carbon C 11 aplha-methyltryptophan- (NCT01302821).

Among the registered clinical trials some of them are not interventional but  observational and evaluation studies on Trp/Kyn ratio (NCT01042847), Kyn/Trp ratio (NCT01219348), Kyn levels (NCT00897312, NCT00573300),  RT-PCR analysis for Kyn metabolism (NCT00573300, NCT00684736, NCT00758537), and intrinsic IDO expression of mesenchymal stem cells in lung transplant with percent inhibition of CD4+ and CD8+ T cell proliferation toward donor cells (NCT01668576), determining polymorphisms (NCT00426894). These clinical trials/studies are immensely valuable to understand the mechanism and route of intervention development with the data collected from human populations   

Future Actions for Molecular Dx and Targeted Therapies:

Viable tumor environment. Tumor survival is dependent upon an exquisite interplay between the critical functions of stromal development and angiogenesis, local immune suppression and tumor tolerance, and paradoxical inflammation. TEMs: TIE-2 expressing monocytes; “M2” TAMs: tolerogenic tumor-associated macrophages; MDSCs: myeloid-derived suppressor cells; pDCs: plasmacytoid dendritic cells; co-stim.: co-stimulation; IDO: indoleamine 2,3-dioxygenase; VEGF: vascular endothelial growth factor; EGF: epidermal growth factor; MMP: matrix metaloprotease; IL: interleukin; TGF-β: transforming growth factor-beta; TLRs: toll-like receptors.  (reference:

Viable tumor environment. Tumor survival is dependent upon an exquisite interplay between the critical functions of stromal development and angiogenesis, local immune suppression and tumor tolerance, and paradoxical inflammation. TEMs: TIE-2 expressing monocytes; “M2” TAMs: tolerogenic tumor-associated macrophages; MDSCs: myeloid-derived suppressor cells; pDCs: plasmacytoid dendritic cells; co-stim.: co-stimulation; IDO: indoleamine 2,3-dioxygenase; VEGF: vascular endothelial growth factor; EGF: epidermal growth factor; MMP: matrix metaloprotease; IL: interleukin; TGF-β: transforming growth factor-beta; TLRs: toll-like receptors. (reference:

Current survival or response rate is around 40 to 50 % range.  By using specific cell type, selected inhibition/activation sequence based on patient’s genomic profile may improve the efficacy of clinical interventions on cancer treatments. Targeted therapies for specific gene regulation through signal transduction is necessary but there are few studies with genomics based approach.

On the other hand, there are surveys, observational or evaluations (listed in clinical trials section) registered with that will provide a valuable short-list of molecules.  Preventing stimulation of Ido1 as well as Tgfb-1gene expression by modulating receptor mediated phosphorylation between TGFb/SMAD either at Mad-Homology 1 (MH1) or Mad-Homology 1 (MH2) domains maybe possible (79; 82; 80). Within Smads are the conserved Mad-Homology 1 (MH1) domain, which is a DNA binding module contains tightly bound Zinc atom.

Smad MH2 domain is well conserved and one the most diverse protein-signal interacting molecule during signal transduction due to two important Serine residues located extreme distal C-termini at Ser-Val-Ser in Smad 2 or at pSer-X-PSer in RSmads (80). Kyn activated orphan G protein–coupled receptor, GPR35 with unknown function with a distinct expression pattern that collides with IDO sites since its expression at high levels of the immune system and the gut (63) (200; 63).  

The first study to connect IDO with cancer shows that group (75).  The directly targeting to regulate IDO expression is another method through modulating ISREs in its promoter with RNA-peptide combination technology. Indirectly, IDO can be regulated through Bin1 gene expression control over IDO since Bin1 is a negative regulator of IDO and prevents IDO expression.  IDO is under negative genetic control of Bin1, BAR adapter–encoding gene Bin1 (also known as Amphiphysin2). Bin1 functions in cancer suppression since attenuation of Bin1 observed in many human malignancies (141; 201; 202; 203; 204; 205; 206) .  Null Bin-/- mice showed that when there is lack of Bin1, upregulation of IDO through STAT1- and NF-kB-dependent expression of IDO makes tumor cells to escape from T cell–dependent antitumor immunity.

This pathway lies in non-enzymatic signal transducer function of IDO after stimulation of DCs by TGFb1.  The detail study on Bin1 gene by alternative spicing also provided that Bin1 is a tumor suppressor.  Its activities also depends on these spliced outcome, such as  Exon 10, in muscle, in turn Exon 13 in mice has importance in role for regulating growth when Bin1 is deleted or mutated C2C12 myoblasts interrupted due to its missing Myc, cyclinD1, or growth factor inhibiting genes like p21WAF1 (207; 208).

On the other hand alternative spliced Exon12A contributing brain cell differentiation (209; 210). Myc as a target at the junction between IDO gene interaction and Trp metabolism.  Bin1 interacts with Myc either early-dependent on Myc or late-independent on Myc, when Myc is not present. This gene regulation also interfered by the long term signaling mechanism related to Kynurenine (Kyn) acting as an endogenous ligand to AHR in Trp metabolite and TGFb1 and/or IFNalpha and IFNbeta up regulation of DCs to induce IDO in noncanonical pathway for NF-kB and myc gene activations (73; 74).  Hence, Trp/Kyn, Kyn/Trp, Th1/Th17 ratios are important to be observed in patients peripheral blood. These direct and indirect gene interactions place Bin1 to function in cell differentiation (211; 212; 205).

Regulatory T-cel generation via reverse and non-canonical signaliing to pDCs

Table 3 contains the microarray analysis for Kyn affect showed that there are 25 genes affected by Kyn, two of which are upregulated and 23 of them downregulated (100). This list of genes and additional knowledge based on studies creating the diagnostics panel with these genes as a biomarker may help to analyze the outcomes of given interventions and therapies. Some of these molecules are great candidate to seek as an adjuvant or co-stimulation agents.  These are myc, NfKB at IKKA, C2CD2, CREB3L2, GPR115, IL2, IL8, IL6, and IL1B, mir-376 RNA, NFKB3, TGFb, RelA, and SH3RF1. In addition, Lip, Fox3P, CTLA-4, Bin1, and IMPACT should be monitored.

In addition, Table 4 presents the other possible mechanisms. The highlights of possible target/biomarkers are specific TLRs, conserved sequences of IDO across its homologous structures, CCR6, CCR5, RORgammat, ISREs of IDO, Jak, STAT, IRFs, MH1 and MH2 domains of Smads. Endothelial cell coagulation activation mechanism and pDC maturation or immigration from lymph nodes to bloodstream should marry to control not only IDO expression but also genesis of preferred DC subsets. Stromal mesenchymal cells are also activated by these modulation at vascular system and interferes with metastasis of cancer. First, thrombin (human factor II) is a well regulated protein in coagulation hemostasis has a role in cell differentiation and angiogenesis.

Protein kinase activated receptors (PARs), type of GPCRs, moderate the actions. Second, during hematopoietic response endothelial cells produce hematopoietic growth factors (213; 214). Third, components of bone marrow stroma cells include monocytes, adipocytes, and mesenchymal stem cells (215). As a result, addressing this issue will prevent occurrence of coagulapathologies, namely DIC, bleeding, thrombosis, so that patients may also improve response rate towards therapies. Personal genomic profiles are powerful tool to improve efficacy in immunotherapies since there is an influence of age (young vs. adult), state of immune system (innate vs. adopted or acquired immunity). Table 5 includes some of the current studies directly with IDO and indirectly effecting its mechanisms via gene therapy, DNA vaccine, gene silencing and adjuvant applications as an intervention method to prevent various cancer types.


IDO has a confined function in immune system through complex interactions to maintain hemostasis of immune responses. The genesis of IDO stem from duplication of bacterial IDO-like genes.  Inhibition of microbial infection and invasion by depleting tryptophan limits and kills the invader but during starvation of trp the host may pass the twilight zone since trp required by host’s T cells.  Thus, the host cells in these small pockets adopt to new microenvironment with depleted trp and oxygen poor conditions. Hence, the cell metabolism differentiate to generate new cellular structure like nodules and tumors under the protection of constitutively expressed IDO in tumors, DCs and inhibited T cell proliferation.

On the other hand, having a dichotomy in IDO function can be a potential limiting factor that means is that IDOs impact on biological system could be variable based on several issues such as target cells, IDO’s capacity, pathologic state of the disease and conditions of the microenvironment. Thus, close monitoring is necessary to analyze the outcome to prevent conspiracies since previous studies generated paradoxical results.

Current therapies through chemotherapies, radiotherapies are costly and effectiveness shown that the clinical interventions require immunotherapies as well as coagulation and vascular biology manipulations for a higher efficacy and survival rate in cancer patients. Our siRNA and DC technologies based on stem cell modulation will provide at least prevention of cancer development and hopefully prevention in cancer.

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177. Type17 CD8+ T cells dispplay enhanced antitumor immunity. Hinrichs, C.S., Kaiser, A., Paulos, C.M., et al. 2008, Blood., pp. 112:362-373.

178. Marying Immunotherapy with Chemotherapy: Why Say IDO? Muller, AJ, and Prendergrast, GC. 2005, Cancer Research, pp. 65: 8065-8068.

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180. Systemic inhibition of transforming growth factor beta 1 in glioma bearing mice improves the therapeutic efficacy of glioma-associated antigen peptide vaccines. Ueda, R., Fujita, M., Zhu, X., et al. 2009, Clin. Cancer res., pp. 15: 6551-9.

181. Immune modulation by silencing IL-12 productionin dendritic cells using smal interfering RNA. Hill, JA, Ichim, TE, Kusznieruk, KP, et al. 2003, J. Immunol, pp. 171:809-813.

182. Immune modulation and tolerance induction by RelB-silenced dentritic cells through RNA interference. Li, M. Zang, X, Zheng, X, et al. 2007, J. Immunol, pp. 178: 5480-7.

183. RNAi mediated CD40-CD54 interruption promotes tolerance in autoimmune arthritis. . Zheng, X., Suzuki, M., Zhang, X., et al. 2010, Arthritis Res. Ther., p. 12:R13.

184. Dendritic cells genetically engineered to express Fas ligand induce donor-specific hyporesponsiveness and prolong allograft survival. Min, WP. Gorczynki, R., huang, XY et al. 2000, J. Immunol., pp. 164:161-167.

185. LF15-0195 generates tolerogenic dendritic cells by supressionof NF-kappaB signaling through inhibitionof IKK activity. . Yang, J., Bernier, SM, Ichim, TE, et al. 2003, J Leukoc. Biol., pp. 74: 438-447.

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187. A novel in vivo siRNA delivery system specifically targeting dendritic cells and silencing CD40 genes for immunomodulation. Zheng, X., Vladau, C., Zhang, X. et al. 2009, Blood, pp. 113:2646-2654.

188. Reinstalling Antitumor Immunity by Inhibiting Tumor derived ImmunoSupressive Molecule IDO through RNA interference. Zheng, X et al. 2006, Int. Journal of Immunology., pp. 177:5639-5646.

189. Roles of TGFbeta in metastasis. Padua, D., Massague, J. 2009, Cell Res., pp. 19;89-102.

190. Functional expression of indolamine2,3-dioxygenase by murine CDalpha+dendritic cells. Fallarino, F., Vacca, C, Orabona, C et al. 2002, Int Immunol., pp. 14:65-8.

191. Indolamine2,3-dioxygenase controls conversion of Fox3+ Tregs to TH17-like cells in tumor draining lymph nodes. Sharma, MD, Hou, DY, Liu, Y et al. 2009, Blood, pp.113: 6102-11.

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194. Enhancement of vaccine-mediated antitumor immunity in cancer patients after depletionof regulatory T cells. Dannull, J., Farrand, KJ, Mathews, SA, et al. 2005, J Clin Invest, pp. 115: 3623-33.

195. 1-MT enhances potency of tumor cell lysate pulled dentritic cells against pancreatic adenocarcinoma by downregulating percentage of Tregs. Li, Y, Xu, J, Zhou, H. et al. 2010, J Huazhong Univ Sci Technol Med Sci , pp. 30: 344-8.

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CRACKING THE CODE OF HUMAN LIFE: Milestones along the Way – Part IIA

Curator: Larry H Bernstein, MD, FCAP

Introduction and purpose

This material goes beyond the Initiation Phase of Molecular Biology, Part I.
Part II reviews the Human Genome Project and the decade beyond.

In a three part series:
Part IIA.  CRACKING THE CODE OF HUMAN LIFE: Milestones along the Way
Part IIB.  CRACKING THE CODE OF HUMAN LIFE: The Birth of BioInformatics & Computational Genomics
Part IIC.  CRACKING THE CODE OF HUMAN LIFE: Recent Advances in Genomic Analysis and Disease

Part III will conclude with Ubiquitin, it’s Role in Signaling and Regulatory Control.
Part I reviewed the huge expansion of the biological research enterprise after the Second World War. It concentrated on the

  • discovery of cellular structures,
  • metabolic function, and
  • creation of a new science of Molecular Biology.

Part II follows the race to delineation of the Human Genome, discovery methods and fundamental genomic patterns that are ancient in both animal and plant speciation. But it explores both the complexity and the systems view of the architecture that underlies and understanding of the genome.

These articles review a web-like connectivity between inter-connected scientific discoveries, as significant findings have led to novel hypotheses and many expectations over the last 75 years. This largely post WWII revolution has driven our understanding of biological and medical processes at an exponential pace owing to successive discoveries of

  • chemical structure,
  • the basic building blocks of DNA  and proteins,
  • nucleotide and protein-protein interactions,
  • protein folding, allostericity,
  • genomic structure,
  • DNA replication,
  • nuclear polyribosome interaction, and
  • metabolic control.

In addition, the emergence of methods for

  • copying,
  • removal,
  • insertion,
  • improvements in structural analysis
  • developments in applied mathematics that have transformed the research framework.

Part IIA:


Milestones along the Way

A NOVA interview with Francis Collins (NHGRI) (FC), J. Craig Venter (CELERA)(JCV), and Eric Lander (EL).
RK: For the past ten years, scientists all over the world have been painstakingly trying to read the tiny instructions buried inside our DNA. And now, finally, the “Human Genome” has been decoded.
EL: The genome is a storybook that’s been edited for a couple billion years.
The following will address the odd similarity of genes between man and yeast

EL: In the nucleus of your cell the DNA molecule resides that is about 10 angstroms wide curled up, but the amount of curling is limited by the negative charges that repel one another, but there are folds upon folds. If the DNA is stretched the length of the DNA would be thousands of feet.
EL: We have known for 2000 years that your kids look a lot like you. Well it’s because you must pass them instructions that give them the eyes, the hair color, and the nose shape they have. RK: Cracking the code of those minuscule differences in DNA that influence health and illness is what the Human Genome Project is all about. Since 1990, scientists all over the world have been involved in the effort to read all three billion As, Ts, Gs, and Cs of human DNA.  It took 10 years to find the one genetic mistake that causes cystic fibrosis. Another 10 years to find the gene for Huntington’s disease. Fifteen years to find one of the genes that increase the risk for breast cancer. One letter at a time, painfully slowly…     And then came the revolution. In the last ten years the entire process has been computerized. The computations can do a thousand every second and that has made all the difference. EL: This is basically a parts list with a lot of parts. If you take an airplane, a Boeing 777, I think it has like 100,000 parts. If I gave you a parts list for the Boeing 777 in one sense you’d know 100,000 components, screws and wires and rudders and things like that.  But you wouldn’t know how to put it together, or why it flies. We now have a parts list, and that’s not enough to understand why it flies.

The Human Genome

The Human Genome (Photo credit: dullhunk)

A Quest For Clarity

Tracy Vence is a senior editor of Genome Technology
Tracy Vence @GenomeTechMag
Projects supported by the US National Institutes of Health will have produced 68,000 total human genomes — around 18,000 of those whole human genomes — through the end of this year, National Human Genome Research Institute estimates indicate. And in his book, The Creative Destruction of Medicine, the Scripps Research Institute’s Eric Topol projects that 1 million human genomes will have been sequenced by 2013 and 5 million by 2014.
Daniel MacArthur, a group leader in Massachusetts General Hospital’s Analytic and Translational Genetics Unit estimates that “From a capacity perspective … millions of genomes are not that far off. If you look at the rate that we’re scaling, we can certainly achieve that.”    The prospect of so many genomes has brought clinical interpretation into focus. But there is an important distinction to be made between the interpretation of an apparently healthy person’s genome and that of an individual who is already affected by a disease.
In an April Science Translational Medicine paper, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine‘s Nicholas Roberts and his colleagues reported that personal genome sequences for healthy monozygotic twin pairs are not predictive of significant risk for 24 different diseases in those individuals. The researchers concluded that whole-genome sequencing was not likely to be clinically useful. Ambiguities have clouded even the most targeted interpretation efforts.

  • Technological challenges,
  • meager sample sizes,
  • a need for increased,
  • fail-safe automation and most important
  • a lack of community-wide standards for the task.

have hampered researchers’ attempts to reliably interpret the clinical significance of genomic variation.

How signals from the cell surface affect transcription of genes in the nucleus.

James Darnell, Jr., MD, Astor Professor, Rockefeller
After graduation from Washington University School of Medicine he worked with Francois Jacob at the Pasteur Institute in Paris and served as Vice President for Academic Affairs at Rockefeller in 1990-91. He is the coauthor with S.E. Luria of General Virology and the founding author with Harvey Lodish and David Baltimore of Molecular Cell Biology, now in its sixth edition. His book RNA, Life’s Indispensable Molecule was published in July 2011 by Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press. A member of the National Academy of Sciences since 1973, recipient of  numerous awards, including the 2003 National Medal of Science, the 2002 Albert Lasker Award.
Using interferon as a model cytokine, the Darnell group discovered that cell transcription was quickly changed by binding of cytokines to the cell surface. The bound interferon led to the tyrosine phosphorylation of latent cytoplasmic proteins now called STATs (signal transducers and activators of transcription) that dimerize by

  • reciprocal phosphotyrosine-SH2 interchange.
  • accumulate in the nucleus,
  • bind DNA and drive transcription.

This pathway has proved to be of wide importance with seven STATs now known in mammals that take part in a wide variety of developmental and homeostatic events in all multicellular animals. Crystallographic analysis defined functional domains in the STATs, and current attention is focused on two areas:

  • how the STATs complete their cycle of  activation and inactivation, which requires regulated tyrosine dephosphorylation; and how
  • persistent activation of STAT3 that occurs in a high proportion of many human cancers contributes to blocking apoptosis in cancer cells.

Current efforts are devoted to inhibiting STAT3 with modified peptides that can enter cells.

Cell cycle regulation and the cellular response to genotoxic stress

Stephen J Elledge, PhD, Gregor Mendel Professor of Genetics and Medicine, Investigator, Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Harvard Medical School
As a postdoctoral fellow at Stanford working on eukaryotic homologous recombination, he serendipitously found a family of genes known as ribonucleotide reductases. He subsequently showed that

  • these genes are activated by DNA damage and
  • could serve as tools to help scientists dissect the signaling pathways
  • through which cells sense and respond to DNA damage and replication stress.

At Baylor College of Medicine he made a second major breakthrough with the discovery of the cyclin-dependent kinase 2 gene (Cdk2), which

  • controls the G1-to-S cell cycle transition,
  • an entry checkpoint for the cell proliferation cycle and
  • a critical regulatory step in tumorigenesis.

From there, using a novel “two-hybrid” cloning method he developed, Elledge and Wade Harper, PhD, proceeded to

  • isolate several members of the Cdk2-inhibitory family.

Their discoveries included the p21 and p57 genes, mutations in the latter (responsible for Beckwith-Wiedemann syndrome), characterized by somatic overgrowth and increased cancer risk. Elledge is also recognized for his work in understanding

  • proteome remodeling through ubiquitin-mediated proteolysis.
  • they identified F-box proteins that regulate protein degradation in the cell by
  1. binding to specific target protein sequences and then
  2. marking them with ubiquitin for destruction by the cell’s proteasome machinery.

This breakthrough resulted in

  • the elucidation of the cullin ubiquitin ligase family,
  • which controls regulated protein stability in eukaryotes.

nature10774-f5.2  nature10774-f3.2   ubiquitin structures  Rn1  Rn2

Elledge’s recent research has focused on the cellular mechanisms underlying DNA damage detection and cancer using genetic technologies. In collaboration with Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory researcher Gregory Hannon, PhD, Elledge has generated complete human and mouse short hairpin RNA (shRNA) libraries for genome-wide loss-of-function studies. Their efforts have led to

  • the identification of a number of tumor suppressor proteins
  • genes upon which cancer cells uniquely depend for survival.

This work led to the development of the “non-oncogene addiction” concept. This is noted as follows:

  • proteome remodeling through ubiquitin-mediated proteolysis
  • F-box proteins regulate protein degradation in the cell by binding to specific target protein sequences
  • and then marking them with ubiquitin for destruction by the cell’s proteasome machinery
  • elucidation of the cullin ubiquitin ligase family, which controls regulated protein stability in eukaryotes

Playing the dual roles of inventor and investigator, Elledge developed original techniques to define

  • what drives the cell cycle and
  • how cells respond to DNA damage.

By using these tools, he and his colleagues have identified multiple genes involved in cell-cycle regulation.

Elledge’s work has earned him many awards, including a 2001 Paul Marks Prize for Cancer Research and a 2003 election to the National Academy of Sciences. In his Inaugural Article (1), published in this issue of PNAS, Elledge and his colleagues describe the function of Fbw7, a protein involved in controlling cell proliferation (see below). Elledge studied the error-prone DNA repair mechanism in E-Coli (Escherichia coli) called SOS mutagenesis for his PhD thesis at MIT. His work identified  and described

  • the regulation of a group of enzymes now known as error-prone polymerases,
  • the first members of which were the umuCD genes in E. coli.

It was then that he developed a new cloning tool. Elledge invented a technique that allowed him to approach future cloning problems of this type with great rapidity. With the new technique, “you could make large libraries in lambda that behave like plasmids. We called them `phasmid’ vectors, like plasmid and phage together”. The phasmid cloning method was an early cornerstone for molecular biology research.

Elledge began working on homologous recombination in postdoctoral fellowship at Stanford University, an important niche in the field of eukaryotic genetics. Working with the yeast genome, Elledge searched for rec A, a gene that allows DNA to recombine homologously. Although he never located rec A, he discovered a family of genes known as ribonucleotide reductases (RNRs), which are involved in DNA production. Rec A and RNRs share the same last 4 amino acids, which caused an antibody crossreaction in one of Elledge’s experiments. Initially disappointed with the false positives in his hunt for rec A, Elledge was later delighted with his luck. He found that

  • RNRs are turned  on by DNA damage, and
  • these genes are regulated by the cell cycle.

Prior to leaving Stanford, Elledge attended a talk at the University of California, San Francisco, by Paul Nurse, a leader in cell-cycle research who would later win the 2001 Nobel Prize in medicine. Nurse described his success in isolating the homolog of a key human cell-cycle kinase gene, Cdc2, by using a mutant strain of yeast (8). Although Nurse’s methods were primitive, Elledge was struck by the message he carried: that

  • cell-cycle regulation was functionally conserved, and
  • many human genes could be isolated by looking for complimentary genes in yeast.

Elledge then took advantage of his past successes in building phasmid vectors to build a versatile human cDNA library that could be expressed in yeast. After setting up a laboratory at Baylor, he introduced this library into yeast, screening for complimentary cell-cycle genes.  He quickly identified the same Cdc2 gene isolated by Nurse. However, Elledge also discovered a related gene known as Cdk2. Elledge subsequently found that

  • Cdk2 controlled the G1 to S cell-cycle transition, a step that often goes awry in cancer. These results were published in the EMBO Journal in 1991.

He then continued to use

  • RNRs to perform genetic screens to
  • identify genes involved in sensing and responding to DNA damage.

He subsequently worked out the

  • signal transduction pathways in both yeast and humans that recognize damaged DNA and replication problems.

These “checkpoint” pathways are central to the

  • prevention of genomic instability and a key to understanding tumorigenesis.

This contribution is part of the special series of Inaugural Articles by members of the National Academy of Sciences elected on April 29, 2003.

Defective cardiovascular development and elevated cyclin E and Notch proteins in mice lacking the Fbw7 F-box protein.

Tetzlaff MT, Yu W, Li M, Zhang P, Finegold M, Mahon K , Harper JW, Schwartz RJ, and SJ Elledge. PNAS 2004; 101(10): 3338-3345. cgi doi 10.1073.  pnas.0307875101

The mammalian F-box protein Fbw7 and its Caenorhabditis elegans counterpart Sel-10 have been implicated in

  • the ubiquitin-mediated turnover of cyclin E
  • as well as the Notch Lin-12 family of transcriptional activators. Both unregulated
  1. Notch and cyclin E
  2. promote tumorigenesis, and
  3. inactivate mutations in human

Fbw7 studies suggest that it may be a tumor suppressor. To generate an in vivo system to assess the consequences of such unregulated signaling, we generated mice deficient for Fbw7.  Fbw7-null mice die around 10.5 days post coitus because of a combination of deficiencies in hematopoietic and vascular development and heart chamber mutations. The absence of Fbw7 results in elevated levels of cyclin E, concurrent with inappropriate DNA replication in placental giant trophoblast cells. Moreover, the levels of both Notch 1 and Notch 4 intracellular domains were elevated, leading to stimulation of downstream transcriptional pathways involving Hes1, Herp1, and Herp2. These data suggest essential functions for Fbw7 in controlling cyclin E and Notch signaling pathways in the mouse.

Science as an Adventure


Prof. Avram Hershko – Science as an Adventure
Prof. Avram Hershko shared the 2004 Nobel Prize in Chemistry with Aaron Ciechanover and Irwin Rose for “for the discovery of ubiquitin-mediated protein degradation.”

Gene Switches

Nipam Patel is a professor in the Departments of Molecular and Cell Biology and Integrative Biology at UC Berkeley and runs a research laboratory that studies the role, during embryonic development, of homeotic genes (the genetic switches described in this feature). “Ghost in Your Genes” focuses on epigenetic “switches” that turn genes “on” or “off.” But not all switches are epigenetic; some are genetic. That is, other genes within the chromosome turn genes on or off. In an animal’s embryonic stage, these gene switches play a predominant role in laying out the animal’s basic body plan and perform other early functions;

  • the epigenome begins to take over during the later stages of embryogenesis.

Beginning as a fertilized single egg that egg becomes many different kinds of cells.  Altogether, multicellular organisms like humans have thousands of differentiated cells. Each is optimized for use in the brain, the liver, the skin, and so on. Remarkably, the DNA inside all these cells is exactly the same. What makes the cells differ from one another is that different genes in that DNA are either turned on or off in each type of cell.

Take a typical cell, such as a red blood cell. Each gene within that cell has a coding region that encodes the information used to make a particular protein. (Hemoglobin shuttles oxygen to the tissues and carbon dioxide back out to the lungs—or gills, if you’re a fish.) But another region of the gene, called “regulatory DNA,” determines whether and when the gene will be expressed, or turned on, in a particular kind of cell. This precise transcribing of genes is handled by proteins known as transcription factors, which bind to the regulatory DNA, thereby generating instructions for the coding region.

One important class of transcription factors is encoded by the so called homeotic, or Hox, genes. Found in all animals, Hox genes act to “regionalize” the body along the embryo’s anterior-to-posterior (head-to-tail) axis. In a fruit fly, for example, Hox genes lay out the various main body segments—the head, thorax, and abdomen. Amazingly, all animals, from fruit flies to mice to people, rely on the same basic Hox-gene complex. Using different-colored antibody stains, we can see exactly where and to what degree Hox genes are expressed. Each Hox gene is expressed in a specific region along the anterior-to-posterior axis of the embryo.

A fly’s body has three main divisions: head, thorax, and abdomen. We’ll focus on the thorax, which itself has three main segments. In a normal adult fly, the second thoracic segment features a pair of wings, while the third thoracic segment has a pair of small, balloon-shaped structures called halteres. A modified second wing, the haltere serves as a flight stabilizer. In order for the pair of wings and the pair of halteres (as well as all other parts of the fly) to develop properly, the fly’s suite of

  • Hox genes must be expressed in a precise way and at precise times.

During development, the fly’s two wings grow from a structure in the larva known as the wing imaginal disk. (An imago is an insect in its final, adult state.) The haltere grows from the larval haltere imaginal disk. Remember the Ubx Hox gene? Using staining again, we can detect the gene product of Ubx. This reveals that

  • the Ubx gene is naturally “off” in the wing disk—
  • and is “on” in the haltere disk.
  • Now you’ll see what happens when the Ubx gene—just one of a large number of Hox genes—is turned off in the haltere disk. What if a genetic mutation caused the Ubx gene to be turned off, during the larval stage, in the third thoracic segment, the segment that normally produces the haltere? Instead of a pair of halteres, the fly has a second set of wings. With the switch of that single Hox gene, Ubx, from on to off, the third thoracic segment becomes an additional second thoracic segment and the pair of halteres became a second pair of wings. This illustrates the remarkable ability of transcription factors like Ubx to control patterning as well as cell type during development.


A. Data Suggests “Gene” Redefinition

As part of a huge collaborative effort called ENCODE (Encyclopedia of DNA Elements), a research team led by Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (CSHL) Professor Thomas Gingeras, PhD, publishes a genome-wide analysis of RNA messages, called transcripts, produced within human cells.
Their analysis—one component of a massive release of research results by ENCODE teams from 32 institutes in 5 countries, with 30 papers appearing in 3 different high-level scientific journals—shows that three-quarters of the genome is capable of being transcribed.  This indicates that nearly all of our genome is dynamic and active.  It stands in marked contrast to consensus views prior to ENCODE’s comprehensive research efforts, which suggested that

  • only the small protein-encoding fraction of the genome was transcribed.

The vast amount of data generated with advanced technologies by Gingeras’ group and others in the ENCODE project changes the prevailing understanding of what defines a gene. The current outstanding question concerns

  • the nature and range of those functions.  It is thought that these
  • “non-coding” RNA transcripts act something like components of a giant, complex switchboard, controlling a network of  many events in the cell by
  1. regulating the processes of
  2. replication,
  3. transcription
  4. and translation

– that is, the copying of DNA and the making of proteins is based on information carried by messenger RNAs.  With the understanding that so much of our DNA can be transcribed into RNA comes the realization that there is much less space between what we previously thought of as genes, Gingeras points out.

The full ENCODE Consortium data sets can be freely accessed through

  • the ENCODE project portal as well as at the University of California at Santa Cruz genome browser,
  • the National Center for Biotechnology Information, and
  • the European Bioinformatics Institute.

Topic threads that run through several different papers can be explored via the ENCODE microsite page at    Date: September 5, 2012   Source: Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory

1000 Genomes Project Team Reports on Variation Patterns

(from Phase I Data) October 31, 2012 GenomeWeb

In a study appearing online today in Nature, members of the 1000 Genomes Project Consortium presented an integrated haplotype map representing the genomic variation present in more than 1,000 individuals from 14 human populations.  Using data on 1,092 individuals tested by

  • low-coverage whole-genome sequencing,
  • deep exome sequencing, and/or
  • dense genotyping,

the team looked at the nature and extent of the rare and common variation present in the genomes of individuals within these populations. In addition to population-specific differences in common variant profiles, for example, the researchers found distinct rare variant patterns within populations from different parts of the world — information that is expected to be important in interpreting future disease studies. They also encountered a surprising number of the variants that are expected to impact gene function, such as

  • non-synonymous changes,
  • loss-of-function variants, and, in some cases,
  • potentially damaging mutations.

ENCODE was designed to pick up where the Human Genome Project left off.
Although that massive effort revealed the blue­print of human biology, it quickly became clear that the instruction manual for reading the blueprint was sketchy at best. Researchers could identify in its 3 billion letters many of the regions that code for proteins, but they make up little more than 1% of the genome, contained in around 20,000 genes. ENCODE, which started in 2003, is a massive data-collection effort designed to catalogue the

  • ‘functional’ DNA sequences,
  • learn when and in which cells they are active and
  • trace their effects on how the genome is
  1. packaged,
  2. regulated and
  3. read.

After an initial pilot phase, ENCODE scientists started applying their methods to the entire genome in 2007. That phase came to a close with the publication of 30 papers, in Nature, Genome Research and Genome Biology. The consortium has assigned some sort of function to roughly 80% of the genome, including

  • more than 70,000 ‘promoter’ regions — the sites, just upstream of genes, where proteins bind to control gene expression —
  • and nearly 400,000 ‘enhancer’ regions that regulate expression of  distant genes (see page 57)1. But the job is far from done.

Junk DNA? What Junk DNA?

New data reveals that at least 80% of the human genome encodes elements that have some sort of biological function. [© Gernot Krautberger –] Far from containing vast amounts of junk DNA between its protein-coding genes, at least 80% of the human genome encodes elements that have some sort of biological function, according to newly released data from the Encyclopedia of DNA Elements (Encode) project, a five-year initiative that aims to delineate all functional elements within human DNA. The massive international project, data from which are published in 30 different papers in Nature, Genome Research, Genome Biology, the Journal of Biological Chemistry, Science, and Cell, has identified four million gene switches, effectively

  • regulatory regions in the genome where
  • proteins interact with the DNA to control gene expression.

Overall, the Encode data define regulatory switches that are scattered all over the three billion nucleotides of the genome. In fact, the data suggests,

  • the regions that lie between gene-coding sequences contain a wealth of previously unrecognized functional elements,Including
  • nonprotein-coding RNA transcribed sequences,
  • transcription factor binding sites,
  • chromatin structural elements, and
  • DNA methylation sites.

The combined results suggest that 95% of the genome lies within 8 kb of a DNA-protein interaction, and 99% lies within 1.7 kb of at least one of the biochemical events, the researchers say. Importantly, given the complex three-dimensional nature of DNA, it’s also apparent that

  • a regulatory element for one gene may be located quite some ‘linear’ distance from the gene itself.

“The information processing and the intelligence of the genome reside in the regulatory elements,” explains Jim Kent, director of the University of California, Santa Cruz Genome Browser project and head of the Encode Data Coordination Center. “With this project, we probably went from understanding less than 5% to now around 75% of them.”
The ENCODE results also identified SNPs within regulatory regions that are associated with a range of diseases, providing new insights into the roles that

  • noncoding DNA plays in disease development.

“As much as nine out of 10 times, disease-linked genetic variants are not in protein-coding regions,” comments Mike Pazin, Encode program director at the National Human Genome Research Institute.  “Far from being junk DNA, this regulatory DNA clearly makes important contributions to human disease.”

Other Related Articles on this Open Access Online Scientific Journal, include the following: 

Big Data in Genomic Medicine LHB

BRCA1 a tumour suppressor in breast and ovarian cancer – functions in transcription, ubiquitination and DNA repair S Saha

Computational Genomics Center: New Unification of Computational Technologies at Stanford A Lev-Ari

Personalized medicine gearing up to tackle cancer ritu saxena

Differentiation Therapy – Epigenetics Tackles Solid Tumors sj Williams

Mechanism involved in Breast Cancer Cell Growth: Function in Early Detection & Treatment A Lev-Ari

The Molecular pathology of Breast Cancer Progression tilde barliya`

Paradigm Shift in Human Genomics – Predictive Biomarkers and Personalized Medicine – Part 1 ( A Lev-Ari

LEADERS in Genome Sequencing of Genetic Mutations for Therapeutic Drug Selection in Cancer Personalized Treatment: Part 2 A Lev-Ari

Personalized Medicine: An Institute Profile – Coriell Institute for Medical Research: Part 3 A Lev-Ari

Harnessing Personalized Medicine for Cancer Management, Prospects of Prevention and Cure: Opinions of Cancer Scientific Leaders @ ALA Personalized Medicine for Cancer Management, Prospects of Prevention and Cure: Opinions of Cancer Scientific Leaders/

GSK for Personalized Medicine using Cancer Drugs needs Alacris systems biology model to determine the in silico effect of the inhibitor in its “virtual clinical trial” A Lev-Ari

Recurrent somatic mutations in chromatin-remodeling and ubiquitin ligase complex genes in serous endometrial tumors S Saha

Personalized medicine-based cure for cancer might not be far away ritu saxena

Human Variome Project: encyclopedic catalog of sequence variants indexed to the human genome sequence A Lev-Ari

Prostate Cancer Cells: Histone Deacetylase Inhibitors Induce Epithelial-to-Mesenchymal Transition sjwilliams

Inspiration From Dr. Maureen Cronin’s Achievements in Applying Genomic Sequencing to Cancer Diagnostics A Lev-Ari

The “Cancer establishments” examined by James Watson, co-discoverer of DNA w/Crick, 4/1953 A Lev-Ari

Directions for genomics in personalized medicine lhb

How mobile elements in “Junk” DNA promote cancer. Part 1: Transposon-mediated tumorigenesis. SJwilliams

Mitochondria: More than just the “powerhouse of the cell” eritu saxena

Mitochondrial fission and fusion: potential therapeutic targets? Ritu saxena

Mitochondrial mutation analysis might be “1-step” away ritu saxena

mRNA interference with cancer expression lhb

Expanding the Genetic Alphabet and linking the genome to the metabolome LHB

Breast Cancer, drug resistance, and biopharmaceutical targets lhb

Breast Cancer: Genomic profiling to predict Survival: Combination of Histopathology and Gene Expression Analysis A Lev-Ari

Gastric Cancer: Whole-genome reconstruction and mutational signatures A Lev-Ari

Ubiquinin-Proteosome pathway, autophagy, the mitochondrion, proteolysis and cell apoptosis lhb

Genomic Analysis: FLUIDIGM Technology in the Life Science and Agricultural Biotechnology A Lev-Ari

Reveals from ENCODE project will invite high synergistic collaborations to discover specific targets A. Sarkar

ENCODE: the key to unlocking the secrets of complex genetic diseases R. Saxena

Impact of evolutionary selection on functional regions: The imprint of evolutionary selection on ENCODE regulatory elements is manifested between species and within human populations s Saha

ENCODE Findings as Consortium A Lev-Ari

Genomics Orientations for Personalized Medicine SJH, ALA, LHB

2013 Genomics: The Era Beyond the Sequencing of the Human Genome: Francis Collins, Craig Venter, Eric Lander, et al.

 Related Articles

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Latest research efforts reported in the San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium, 2012

Curator: Ritu Saxena, Ph.D.

‘Triple negative breast cancer’ or TNBC, as the name suggests, is a classification of breast cancers lacking the expression of estrogen receptor (ER) and progesterone receptor expression as well as amplification of the human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (HER2).

Unlike other breast cancer types, treating TNBC is a challenge mainly because of the absence of well-defined molecular targets and because of disease heterogeneity. Currently, neoadjuvant chemotherapies are in use to treat TNBC patients. Some, around 30%, patients respond completely to neoadjuvant chemotherapy and have good outcomes after surgery. However, if there is a residual disease after therapy, outcomes are poor.

Therefore, current focus of the field is to first understand the complexity of the disease, both at genomic and molecular level and look for targets. Also, several combination chemotherapies are currently under trial to determine the efficacy, overall response rate, progression-free survival and other relevant factors for patients suffering with different forms of TNBC.

Recently, in the San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium (SABCS 2012), several abstarcts related to TNBC research, both clinical and pre-clinical. Here is a compilation of some of the abstracts and their relevance in the field of TNBC research:

Triple Negative Breast Cancer: Subtypes, Molecular Targets, and Therapeutic Approaches, Pietenpol JA, Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center; Vanderbilt University School of Medicine (Nashville, TN), Abstract no. ES2-2.

In order to better understand the complexity of TNBC, an integrative and comprehensive genomic and molecular analysis is required. The analysis would give important cues to developing and administering effective therapeutic agents. The group has compiled an extensive number of TNBC gene expression profiles and initiated molecular subtyping of the disease. Differential GE was used to designate 25 TNBC cell line models representative of the following subtypes:

  •  two basel-like TNBC subtypes with cell cycle and DDR gene expression signatures (BL1 and BL2);
  • two mesenchymal subtypes with high expression of genes involved in differentiation and growth factor pathways (M and MSL);
  • an immunomodulatory (IM) type;
  • a luminal subtype driven by androgen signaling (LAR)

The pharmacological drugs were chosen on the basis of the genetic pathways active in the cell lines with the abovementioned TNBC subtypes. It was observed that BL1 and BL2 subtype cell lines respond to cisplatin. Mesenchymal, basal, and luminal subtype lines with aberrations in PI3K signaling and have the greatest sensitivity to PI3K inhibitors.

The LAR subtype cell lines express AR and are uniquely sensitive to bicalutamide (AR antagonist). The experiment was a proof-of-concept that the best therapy could be based on TNBC subtypes.

The group has also developed a web-based subtyping tool referred to as “TNBCtype,” for candidate TNBC tumor samples using our gene expression metadata and classification methods. The approach would enable alignment of TNBC patients to appropriate targeted therapies.

The Clonal and Mutational Composition of Triple Negative Breast Cancers: Aparicio S, University of British Columbia (Vancouver, BC), Canada. Abstract no. ES2-3.

The abstract is on the same lines, TNBC heterogeneity that is. The concept of clonal heterogeneity in cancers, the spatial and temporal variation in clonal composition, is the focal point of the discussion. The group has developed next generation sequencing approaches and applied them to the understanding of mutational and clonal composition of primary TNBC. They have demonstrated that both mutational composition and clonal structure of primary TNBC is in fact a complete spectrum, a notion that is far from the previous one that stated TNBC to be a distinct disease. The authors add “clonal analysis suggests a means by which the genetic complexity might be reduced by following patient evolution over time and space.” The specific implications of the mutational and transcriptome landscapes of TNBC in relation to possible disease biologies were discussed in the symposium.

Profiling of triple-negative breast cancers after neoadjuvant chemotherapy identifies targetable molecular alterations in the treatment-refractory residual disease:

Balko JM, etal, Vanderbilt University (Nashville, TN); Foundation Medicine, (Cambridge, MA); Instituto Nacional de Enfermedades Neoplásicas, Lima, Peru

In the absence of hormone receptors and hence lack of targets, Neoadjuvant chemotherapy (NAC) is increasingly used in patients with TNBC. NAC can induce a pathologic complete response (pCR) in ∼30% of patients which portends a favorable prognosis. In contrast, patients with residual disease (RD) in the breast at surgical resection exhibit worse outcomes. The authors hypothesize that “profiling residual TNBC after NAC would identify molecularly targetable lesions in the chemotherapy resistant component of the tumor and that the persistent tumor cells would mirror micro-metastases which ultimately recur in such patients.” The researchers utilized targeted next generation sequencing (NGS) for 182 oncogenes and tumor suppressors in a CLIA certified lab (Foundation Medicine, Cambridge, MA) and gene expression profiling (NanoString) of the RD after NAC in 102 patients with TNBC. The RD was stained for Ki67, which has been reported to predict outcome after NAC in unselected breast cancers. Out of the 89 evaluable post-NAC tumors, 57 (64%) were basal-like; 19% HER2-enriched; 6% luminal A; 6% luminal B and 5% normal-like. Of 81 tumors evaluated by NGS, 89% demonstrated mutations in TP53, 27% were MCL1-amplified, and 21% were MYC-amplified.

Several pathways were found to be altered:

  • PI3K/mTOR pathway (AKT1-3, PIK3CA, PIK3R1, RAPTOR, PTEN, and TSC1)
  • Cell cycle genes (amplifications of CDK2, CDK4, and CDK6, CCND1-3, and CCNE1); loss of RB
  • DNA repair pathway (BRCA1/2, ATM)
  • Ras/MAPK pathway (KRAS, RAF1, NF1)
  • Sporadic growth factor receptor (amplifications occurred in EGFR, KIT, PDGFRA, PDGFRB, MET, FGFR1, FGFR2, and IGF1R.

NGS identified 7 patients with ERBB2 gene amplification. NGS could assist in the identification of ERBB2-overexpressing tumors misclassified at the time of diagnosis.

Amplifications of MYC were independently associated with poor recurrence-free survival (RFS) and overall survival (OS). In contrast to the earlier notion, high post-NAC Ki67 score did not predict poor RFS or OS in this predominantly TNBC cohort.

The authors concluded that “the diversity of lesions in residual TNBCs after NAC underscores the need for powerful and broad molecular approaches to identify actionable molecular alterations and, in turn, better inform personalized therapy of this aggressive disease.”

Identification of Novel Synthetic-Lethal Targets for MYC-Driven Triple-Negative Breast Cancer: Goga A, etal, UCSF (San Francisco, CA), Abstract No. S3-8

Reiterating the greatest challenge of the TNBC treatment, no targeted agents currently exist against TNBC. The group at UCSF has discovered that TNBC frequently express high levels of the MYC proto-oncogene. The discovery has led them to identify new “synthetic-lethal” strategies to selectively kill TNBC with MYC overexpression. “Synthetic lethality arises when a combination of mutations in two or more genes leads to cell death, whereas a mutation in only one of these genes has little effect. Using this strategy, we can take advantage of the elevated MYC signaling in TNBC to selectively kill them, while sparing normal tissues in which MYC is expressed at much lower levels”

The researchers performed a shRNA synthetic-lethal screen in the human mammary epithelial cells (HMEC), to identify new molecules, such as cell cycle kinases, which when inhibited can preferentially kill TNBC cells. A high-throughput screen of ∼2000 shRNAs, that target the human kinome (∼ 600 kinases) when performed, led to the identification of 13 kinases whose inhibition by >1 shRNAs gave rise to >50% inhibition of cell growth. ARK5 and GSK3A were the two other kinases that were shown to have a synthetic-lethal interaction with MYC. Since these two kinases have been identified in other studies, it gives validity to the ability to the methods of Goga etal in identifying synthetic-lethal targets. The group is currently characterizing and validating the 11 novel targets identified in this screen, using human cancer cell lines as well as mouse cancer models to determine the impact of inhibiting these targets on triple-negative breast cancer development and proliferation.


Dent R, etal.  Triple-negative breast cancer: clinical features and patterns of recurrence (2007) Clin Cancer Res 13, 4429-4434.

Lehmann BD, etal. Identification of human triple-negative breast cancer subtypes and preclinical models for selection of targeted therapies (2011) J Clin Invest. 121: 2750-67.

Chen X, etal. TNBCtype: A Subtyping Tool for Triple- Negative Breast Cancer. (2012) Cancer informatics 11, 147-156.

Abstracts presented in SABCS 2012 can be accessed here.

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