AKT plays a central role in tumorigenesis and is frequently activated in human lymphoma. v-akt is an oncogene harbored by a retrovirus that induced thymic T-cell lymphomas in mice, and transgenic mice expressing constitutively active forms of Akt (Myr-Akt) specifically in immature T cells develop thymic lymphomas. Multiple thymic lymphomas from a Myr-Akt2 mouse model were found to harbor a novel inversion of chromosome 6, inv(6), with breakpoints in the T-cell receptor beta chain locus (Tcrb) and Dss1 gene. A fusion protein was not detected, but the rearrangement places the Tcrb enhancer near several genes and noncoding RNAs that are consistently up regulated. Up regulation of one of these candidate genes, encoding the transcription factor Dlx5, has recently been reported in several common human cancers, suggesting that this homeobox gene may be oncogenic when expressed aberrantly. The broad, long-term objective of this project is to improve our understanding of the role of Akt2 in lymphomagenesis and elucidate mechanisms by which up regulation of Dlx5 converges with Akt2 signaling to promote tumor formation.
The specific aims are: 1) Assess the relevance of up-regulated Dlx5 to lymphoma formation. We will determine if cell proliferation and/or viability of thymic lymphoma cells with the inv(6) are inhibited by knock down of Dlx5. In addition, bone marrow chimera experiments will be carried out to determine if knock down of Dlx5 in non-malignant marrow cells from a founder line with high incidence of inv(6)-positive lymphomas inhibits tumor formation in recipient wild-type littermates. We will also examine if transgenic mice engineered to overexpress Dlx5 in the thymus develop spontaneous T-cell lymphomas. 2) Using a direct genetic approach, test whether Dlx5 cooperates with Akt2 in thymic tumor development. Myr-Akt2 mice will be crossed with Dlx5 transgenic mice or conditional Dlx5 knockout mice to determine if tumor development is accelerated or inhibited, respectively. We will also identify mechanisms by which Akt2 cooperates with Dlx5 in tumorigenesis by assessing cell growth, proliferation and survival in primary thymocytes from transgenic mice expressing Dlx5 or Myr-Akt2 alone versus in combination. 3) Determine if hyperactivation of Akt2 signaling is required for both lymphoma development and maintenance of established tumors. Fluorescence in situ hybridization, PCR, and magnetic resonance microimaging analyses will be employed to establish when the inv(6) arises during tumor development;then an early intervention strategy will be used to determine if inhibition of Akt2 signaling prevents or delays the development of lymphoma. In addition, an inducible Myr-Akt2 model will be developed to ascertain if inactivation of Akt2 in established thymic lymphomas results in tumor regression. This project will enhance our understanding of Akt2-mediated lymphomagenesis and cooperation between Akt2 and a novel putative oncogene, Dlx5, whose activation may also contribute to the pathogenesis of various human cancers.

Public Health Relevance

(RELEVANCE TO PUBLIC HEALTH STATEMENT) The cellular enzyme AKT2 is hyperactive in most human cancers and promotes tumor cell survival and resistance to chemotherapy. Our studies in a mouse model have uncovered a novel gene (Dlx5) that, when expressed abnormally, works together with activated Akt2 to induce aggressive lymphomas of the thymus. Human DLX5 has recently been shown to be expressed at elevated levels in some lymphomas as well as more common tumors such as lung cancers, suggesting that DLX5 may serve as a new therapeutic target in human AKT2-related malignancies.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Cancer Institute (NCI)
Research Project (R01)
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Cancer Genetics Study Section (CG)
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Howcroft, Thomas K
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Fox Chase Cancer Center
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