Research Papers:

REST upregulates gremlin to modulate diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma vasculature

Shavali Shaik, Bridget Kennis, Shinji Maegawa, Keri Schadler, Yang Yanwen, Keri Callegari, Rishi R. Lulla, Stewart Goldman, Javad Nazarian, Veena Rajaram, Jason Fangusaro and Vidya Gopalakrishnan _

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Oncotarget. 2018; 9:5233-5250. https://doi.org/10.18632/oncotarget.23750

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Shavali Shaik1,*, Bridget Kennis1,*, Shinji Maegawa1, Keri Schadler1, Yang Yanwen1, Keri Callegari1, Rishi R. Lulla3, Stewart Goldman3, Javad Nazarian4, Veena Rajaram5, Jason Fangusaro3 and Vidya Gopalakrishnan1,2,6,7

1Department of Pediatrics, University of Texas, MD Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, Texas, USA

2Department of Molecular and Cellular Oncology, University of Texas, MD Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, Texas, USA

3Department of Pediatrics, Northwestern Feinberg School of Medicine, Northwestern University, Chicago, Illinois, USA

4Department of Integrative Systems Biology, George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences, Washington, District of Columbia, USA

5Department of Pathology, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, Dallas, Texas, USA

6Center for Cancer Epigenetics, University of Texas, MD Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, Texas, USA

7Brain Tumor Center, University of Texas, MD Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, Texas, USA

*These authors have contributed equally to this work

Correspondence to:

Vidya Gopalakrishnan, email: [email protected]

Keywords: DIPG; REST; vasculature; gremlin; VEGFR2

Received: August 29, 2017    Accepted: December 16, 2017    Published: December 28, 2017


Diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma (DIPG) is a highly aggressive glial tumor that occurs in children. The extremely poor median and 5-year survival in children afflicted with DIPG highlights the need for novel biology-driven therapeutics. Here, we have implicated the chromatin remodeler and regulator of brain development called RE1 Silencing Transcription Factor (REST), in DIPG pathology. We show that REST protein is aberrantly elevated in at least 21% of DIPG tumors compared to normal controls. Its knockdown in DIPG cell lines diminished cell growth and decreased their tumorigenicity in mouse intracranial models. DIPGs are vascularized tumors and interestingly, REST loss in DIPG cells also caused a substantial decline in tumor vasculature as measured by a decrease in CD31 and VEGFR2 staining. These observations were validated in vitro, where a significant decline in tube formation by human umbilical vein endothelial cells (HUVEC) was seen following REST-loss in DIPG cells. Mechanistically, REST controlled the secretion of a pro-angiogenic molecule and ligand for VEGFR2 called Gremlin-1 (GREM-1), and was associated with enhanced AKT activation. Importantly, the decline in tube formation caused by REST loss could be rescued by addition of recombinant GREM-1, which also caused AKT activation in HUVECs and human brain microvascular endothelial cells (HBMECs). In summary, our study is the first to demonstrate autocrine and paracrine functions for REST in DIPG development. It also provides the foundation for future investigations on anti-angiogenic therapies targeting GREM-1 in combination with drugs that target REST-associated chromatin remodeling activities.

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