Topics overview: The need for precise and personalized medicine for cancer treatment, Sci-RNA-seq to profile cells, Selective and sustained targeting of endothelial S1P receptors by ApoM-Fc could be a viable therapeutic strategy in vascular diseases, Repurposing existing GLP-1R agonist drugs may be a useful therapeutic strategy for treating raised ICP, VCP inhibition and oncolytic virus as a potential treatment for HCC and demonstrates promising therapeutic potential.
1. A pathology atlas of the human cancer transcriptome
Cancer is one of the leading causes of death, and there is great interest in understanding the underlying molecular mechanisms involved in the pathogenesis and progression of individual tumors. Mathias Uhlen at KTH–Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm, Sweden and his colleagues used systems-level approaches to analyze the genome-wide transcriptome of the protein-coding genes of 17 major cancer types with respect to clinical outcome. A general pattern emerged: Shorter patient survival was associated with up-regulation of genes involved in cell growth and with down-regulation of genes involved in cellular differentiation. Using genome-scale metabolic models, they show that cancer patients have widespread metabolic heterogeneity, highlighting the need for precise and personalized medicine for cancer treatment. All data are presented in an interactive open-access database (www.proteinatlas.org/pathology) to allow genome-wide exploration of the impact of individual proteins on clinical outcomes.
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2. Comprehensive single-cell transcriptional profiling of a multicellular organism
To resolve cellular heterogeneity, Junyue Cao at University of Washington in WA, USA and his colleagues developed a combinatorial indexing strategy to profile the transcriptomes of single cells or nuclei, termed sci-RNA-seq (single-cell combinatorial indexing RNA sequencing). They applied sci-RNA-seq to profile nearly 50,000 cells from the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans at the L2 larval stage, which provided >50-fold “shotgun” cellular coverage of its somatic cell composition. From these data, they defined consensus expression profiles for 27 cell types and recovered rare neuronal cell types corresponding to as few as one or two cells in the L2 worm. They integrated these profiles with whole-animal chromatin immunoprecipitation sequencing data to deconvolve the cell type–specific effects of transcription factors. The data generated by sci-RNA-seq constitute a powerful resource for nematode biology and foreshadow similar atlases for other organisms.
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3. An engineered S1P chaperone attenuates hypertension and ischemic injury
Endothelial dysfunction, a hallmark of vascular disease, is restored by plasma high-density lipoprotein (HDL). However, a generalized increase in HDL abundance is not beneficial, suggesting that specific HDL species mediate protective effects. Apolipoprotein M–containing HDL (ApoM+HDL), which carries the bioactive lipid sphingosine 1-phosphate (S1P), promotes endothelial function by activating G protein–coupled S1P receptors. Moreover, HDL-bound S1P is limiting in several inflammatory, metabolic, and vascular diseases. Steven L. Swendeman at Boston Children’s Hospital in Boston, USA and his colleagues report the development of a soluble carrier for S1P, ApoM-Fc, which activated S1P receptors in a sustained manner and promoted endothelial function. In contrast, ApoM-Fc did not modulate circulating lymphocyte numbers, suggesting that it specifically activated endothelial S1P receptors. ApoM-Fc administration reduced blood pressure in hypertensive mice, attenuated myocardial damage after ischemia/reperfusion injury, and reduced brain infarct volume in the middle cerebral artery occlusion model of stroke. Their proof-of-concept study suggests that selective and sustained targeting of endothelial S1P receptors by ApoM-Fc could be a viable therapeutic strategy in vascular diseases.
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4. A glucagon-like peptide-1 receptor agonist reduces intracranial pressure in a rat model of hydrocephalus
Current therapies for reducing raised intracranial pressure (ICP) under conditions such as idiopathic intracranial hypertension or hydrocephalus have limited efficacy and tolerability. Thus, there is a pressing need to identify alternative drugs. Glucagon-like peptide-1 receptor (GLP-1R) agonists are used to treat diabetes and promote weight loss but have also been shown to affect fluid homeostasis in the kidney. Hannah F. Botfield at Institute of Metabolism and Systems Research, University of Birmingham in Edgbaston, UK and his colleagues investigated whether exendin-4, a GLP-1R agonist, is able to modulate cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) secretion at the choroid plexus and subsequently reduce ICP in rats. They used tissue sections and cell cultures to demonstrate expression of GLP-1R in the choroid plexus and its activation by exendin-4, an effect blocked by the GLP-1R antagonist exendin 9-39. Acute treatment with exendin-4 reduced Na+– and K+-dependent adenosine triphosphatase activity, a key regulator of CSF secretion, in cell cultures. Finally, they demonstrated that administration of exendin-4 to female rats with raised ICP (hydrocephalic) resulted in a GLP-1R–mediated reduction in ICP. These findings suggest that GLP-1R agonists can reduce ICP in rodents. Repurposing existing GLP-1R agonist drugs may be a useful therapeutic strategy for treating raised ICP.
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5. Targeting VCP enhances anticancer activity of oncolytic virus M1 in hepatocellular carcinoma
Oncolytic virotherapy is rapidly progressing through clinical evaluation. However, the therapeutic efficacy of oncolytic viruses in humans has been less than expected from preclinical studies. Haipeng Zhang at Sun Yat-sen University in Guangzhou, China and his colleagues describe an anticancer drug screen for compounds that enhance M1 oncolytic virus activity in hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). An inhibitor of the valosin-containing protein (VCP) was identified as the top sensitizer, selectively increasing potency of the oncolytic virus up to 3600-fold. Further investigation revealed that VCP inhibitors cooperated with M1 virus–suppressed inositol-requiring enzyme 1α (IRE1α)–X-box binding protein 1 (XBP1) pathway and triggered irresolvable endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stress, subsequently promoting robust apoptosis in HCC. They show that VCP inhibitor improved the oncolytic efficacy of M1 virus in several mouse models of HCC and primary HCC tissues. Finally, this combinatorial therapeutic strategy was well tolerated in nonhuman primates. Their study identifies combined VCP inhibition and oncolytic virus as a potential treatment for HCC and demonstrates promising therapeutic potential.
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