Wnt inhibitory factor 1 induces apoptosis and inhibits cervical cancer growth, invasion and angiogenesis in vivo

I Ramachandran, E Thavathiru, S Ramalingam, G Natarajan, W K Mills, D M Benbrook, R Zuna, S Lightfoot, A Reis, S Anant, L Queimado
Oncogene 2012 May 31, 31 (22): 2725-37
Aberrant activation of Wingless-type (Wnt)/β-catenin signaling is widespread in human cervical cancer. However, the underlying mechanisms of Wnt activation and the therapeutic potential of Wnt inhibition remain largely unknown. Here, we demonstrate that the Wnt inhibitory factor 1 (WIF1), a secreted Wnt antagonist, is downregulated in all human primary cervical tumors and cell lines analyzed. Our data reveal that WIF1 downregulation occurs due to promoter hypermethylation and is an early event in cervical oncogenesis. WIF1 re-expression upon 5-aza-2'-deoxycytidine treatment or WIF1 gene transfer induces significant apoptosis and G(2)/M arrest, and inhibits cervical cancer cell proliferation in vitro. Consistent with this, treatment of established mice tumor xenografts with peritumoral WIF1 gene transfer results in a significant inhibition of cancer growth and invasion. WIF1 treatment causes a significant decrease in intracellular WNT1 and TCF-4 proteins revealing novel Wnt-regulatory mechanisms. Thus, WIF1 causes a major cellular re-distribution of β-catenin and a significant inhibition of the Wnt/β-catenin pathway in tumor cells, as documented by a remarkable reversion in the expression of Wnt/β-catenin transcriptional target genes (E-cadherin, c-Myc, cyclin D1, CD44 and VEGF). Consequently, multiple critical events in tumor progression and metastasis such as cell proliferation, angiogenesis and invasion were inhibited by WIF1. In addition, WIF1 modulated the expression of specific anti-apoptotic and apoptotic proteins, thereby inducing significant apoptosis in vivo. Our findings demonstrate for the first time that WIF1 downregulation by epigenetic gene silencing is an important mechanism of Wnt activation in cervical oncogenesis. Of major clinical relevance, we show that peritumoral WIF1 gene transfer reduces not only cancer growth but also invasion in well-established tumors. Therefore, our data provide novel mechanistic insights into the role of WIF1 in cervical cancer progression, and the important preclinical validation of WIF1 as a potent drug target in cervical cancer treatment.

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