One of the most critical steps in the progression to malignancy is the acquisition by tumor cells of the ability to metastasize. The hypothesis to be tested in this proposal is that downregulation of Rap1GAP contributes to thyroid tumor progression. This notion is based on data showing that Rap1GAP is highly expressed in normal human thyroid cells, and that its expression is dramatically reduced in the majority of invasive papillary thyroid carcinomas. Studies in human thyroid carcinoma cell lines revealed a striking correlation between loss of Rap1GAP and loss of epithelial structure. Rap1GAP-deficient tumor cells lacked E-cadherin and acquired the expression of vimentin, indicative of epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition. These cells exhibited enhanced migratory and invasive properties compared to tumor cells that retained Rap1GAP. Restoring Rap1GAP to Rap1GAP-deficient cells inhibited cell migration, invasion and anchorage-independent proliferation. Silencing Rap1GAP expression in thyroid carcinoma cells that retain an epithelial morphology caused the cells to disperse, enhanced the dissociation of cell aggregates, and dysregulated E-cadherin, suggestive of defects in cell/cell adhesion. As disruption of cell/cell junctions is associated with serious pathological consequences, we propose that downregulation of Rap1GAP contributes to the pathogenesis of thyroid tumors by attenuating cell/cell adhesion. In vitro studies will explore the molecular mechanism through which decreased Rap1GAP expression attenuates cell/cell adhesion and assess whether eliminating Rap1GAP endows tumor cells with altered migratory properties and invasive potential. As TSH regulation of Rap1GAP is lost from the human thyroid tumor cell lines, but is likely to be retained in primary thyroid tumors, complementary studies will be performed in differentiated rat thyroid cells. These studies will be conducted in cells in three-dimensional environments, conditions that more closely reproduce the matrix compliance of human tissues and where cell/cell contacts are maximized. The in vitro studies are complemented with studies in human tumor specimens that will identify the subtypes of thyroid tumors in which Rap1GAP expression is decreased and probe the clinical significance of loss of Rap1GAP. In summary, this proposal presents a highly cohesive plan to investigate the contribution and clinical significance of Rap1GAP depletion to the progression of human thyroid tumors.

Public Health Relevance

This proposal investigates the contribution and clinical significance of decreased Rap1GAP expression to the progression of human thyroid tumors. Studies in human thyroid tumor cell lines will elucidate the mechanism through which downregulation of Rap1GAP attenuates cell/cell adhesion and investigate whether loss of Rap1GAP enhances migratory and invasive potential. Studies in human tumor specimens will identify the subtypes of thyroid tumors that exhibit Rap1GAP downregulation, assess whether decreased expression of Rap1GAP is correlated with the presence of metastatic disease at presentation, examine whether Rap1GAP expression is further decreased in lymph node metastases compared to primary tumors and assess whether Rap1GAP expression is correlated with the presence of angioinvasion or lymphoinvasion, markers of poor prognosis.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Cancer Institute (NCI)
Research Project (R01)
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Molecular and Cellular Endocrinology Study Section (MCE)
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Snyderwine, Elizabeth G
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University of Pennsylvania
Schools of Medicine
United States
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Dong, Xiaoyun; Tang, Waixing; Stopenski, Stephen et al. (2012) RAP1GAP inhibits cytoskeletal remodeling and motility in thyroid cancer cells. Endocr Relat Cancer 19:575-88
Vuchak, Lisa A; Tsygankova, Oxana M; Meinkoth, Judy L (2011) Rap1GAP impairs cell-matrix adhesion in the absence of effects on cell-cell adhesion. Cell Adh Migr 5:323-31
Dong, Xiaoyun; Korch, Christopher; Meinkoth, Judy L (2011) Histone deacetylase inhibitors upregulate Rap1GAP and inhibit Rap activity in thyroid tumor cells. Endocr Relat Cancer 18:301-10
Tsygankova, Oxana M; Ma, Changqing; Tang, Waixing et al. (2010) Downregulation of Rap1GAP in human tumor cells alters cell/matrix and cell/cell adhesion. Mol Cell Biol 30:3262-74