Therapeutic and prognostic strategies in neuroblastoma : exploring nuclear hormone receptors, MYC targets, and DIAPH3

Författare: Ye Yuan; Karolinska Institutet; Karolinska Institutet; []

Nyckelord: ;

Sammanfattning: Neuroblastoma (NB) is a pediatric cancer derived from the cells of neural crest origin that form the sympathoadrenal system. Typically, the tumor cells migrate along the spinal cord and spread to the chest, neck, and/or abdomen. Different clinical behaviors are observed in this disease: some tumors spontaneously regress without treatment, while others are highly aggressive and resistant to current therapies. Approximately 40% of high-risk NB patients have MYCN amplification while 10% have MYC (i.e. encoding c-MYC) overexpression. These patients have undifferentiated tumors with a poor prognosis. Our group previously found that the expression and activation of nuclear hormone receptors (NHRs) estrogen receptor alpha (ERα) by 17-β-estradiol (E2), and the glucocorticoid receptor (GR) by dexamethasone (DEX), could trigger differentiation by disrupting the regulation of the miR-17 ~ 92 microRNA cluster by MYCN. In paper I, we sought to investigate whether the simultaneous activation of both ERα and GR has a more beneficial effect compared to the activation of either ERα or GR alone. We examined cell survival, alterations in cell shape as indicated by neurite extension, variations in metabolic pathways, accumulation of lipid droplets, and performed xenograft experiments. Our findings revealed that the simultaneous activation of GR and ERα, compared to their single activation, led to reduced viability and a more robust differentiation. This dual activation also caused changes in glycolysis and oxidative phosphorylation, increased lipid droplet accumulation, and decreased aggressiveness in mouse models. The triple activation with an additional activation of the retinoic acid receptor using all trans-retinoic acid (ATRA), amplified the differentiation phenotype. Bulk-sequencing analysis showed that patients with high levels of NHRs are related to favorable survival and clinical outcome. In summary, our data suggest that combination activation of these NHRs could be a potential differentiation induction treatment. Paper II investigates target genes of c-MYC and MYCN to explore if it is possible to obtain a better prognosis prediction using the expression of this group of genes, instead of the expression of MYC and/or MYCN alone. In addition, we analyzed if there are different prediction power capabilities between c-MYC and MYCN target genes, and their different role during sympathoadrenal development. We screened lists of target genes by using comprehensive approaches, including differential expression analysis between clinical risk groups, INSS stages, MYCN amplification status, progression status; Univariate Cox regression analysis to select the target genes related to prognosis prediction power, and protein interaction network analysis to select genes that share a meaningful biology function. Following the training and validation of (LASSO) regression prediction models in three different patient cohorts (SEQC, Kocak, and Versteeg), we found that a risk score computed on c-MYC/MYCN target genes with prognostic value, could effectively classify patients in groups with different survival probabilities. The high-risk group of patients exhibited unfavorable clinical outcomes and low survival rates. Further, single cell RNA sequencing analysis revealed that c-MYC and MYCN targets have different expression patterns during sympathoadrenal development. Notably, genes linked to adverse outcomes were predominantly expressed in sympathoblasts in comparison to chromaffin cells. In summary, our research provides new insights into the importance of c-MYC/MYCN target genes during sympathoadrenal development and their value in predicting patient outcome. In paper III we studied the function of one member of the formin protein family involved in cytoskeleton modulation: Diaphanous Related Formin 3 (DIAPH3). We found that high DIAPH3 expression in NB tumors are associated with MYCN amplification, higher stage, risk, progression and negative clinical outcome. Elevated DIAPH3 expression was also found in specific cells during mouse sympathoadrenal development and in progenitor cells of the post- natal human adrenal gland. Furthermore, the knockdown of DIAPH3 resulted in a slight decrease in cell growth and cell cycle arrest. Our study suggests that DIAPH3 could be a promising target for new therapeutic strategies.

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