|dc.description.abstract||Tumor necrosis factor (TNF) is a master inflammatory cytokine that can, depending on the circumstances, promote survival and proliferation or induce cell death. Anti-TNF drugs have proven strikingly successful in treating inflammatory diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis (RA), psoriasis and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) but it is still unclear exactly why. For a long time, it was thought that they work solely by preventing TNF induced transcription of other inflammatory cytokines, but more recently it has been proposed that one of their major anti-inflammatory functions is to prevent TNF induced death. Therefore, understanding the mechanism by which TNF induced death is regulated may enable the conceptualization of newer or improved approaches in treating a variety of inflammation-associated pathologies.
Binding of TNF to its receptor TNFR1 leads to the formation of two distinct signalling complexes. While most previous studies have focused on the membrane-bound, transcription-activating complex (complex-1), the composition and post-translational modifications of the cytosolic, caspase-8-containing, death-inducing complex (complex-2) remain far less well defined.
To analyse TNFR1 complex-2 composition at endogenous levels, we decided to generate FLAG tagged caspase-8 knock-in mouse strains. The reagents for the FLAG tag enable very efficient and specific purification and identification of a FLAG tagged protein and its partners. After some preliminary tests and trials, I decided to use a 3x FLAG tag which has been reported to be 20–200 times more sensitive than other FLAG tags in immunoprecipitation and detection assays. Before generating the mouse strains, in Chapter 3 I performed extensive in vitro comparison of N-terminally or C-terminally 3x FLAG-tagged caspase-8 using a doxycycline (Dox)-inducible stably integrated lentiviral system. The results suggested that when expressed above endogenous levels, the expression and killing activity of caspase-8 was unaffected by a 3x FLAG tag. Interestingly, when expressed at physiological levels, C-terminally 3x FLAG tagged caspase-8 appeared to be equivalent to untagged caspase-8 and marginally more efficient in mediating TNF-induced death and complex-2 formation compared to N-terminally 3x FLAG tagged caspase-8. In addition, I immunoprecipitated TNFR1 complex-2 from cells expressing endogenous levels of 3x FLAG tagged caspase-8 and performed a mass spectrometry (MS) analysis. According to this analysis, Tankyrase-1 (TNKS1/PARP5a/ ARTD5), a member of the poly ADP-ribose polymerase (PARP) superfamily, appears to be a novel interactor of complex-2.
Based on our in vitro data, we generated N-terminally or C-terminally 3x FLAG tagged caspase-8 knock-in mice using CRIPSR/Cas9 technology and these mice were characterized in Chapter 4. Homozygous N-terminally or C-terminally 3x FLAG tagged caspase-8 knock-in mice were viable, fertile and developed normally, indicating that N-terminally or C-terminally 3x FLAG tagged caspase-8 were expressed and active in vivo, at least to heterozygous caspase-8 levels. As expected, the expression of N-terminal or C-terminal 3x FLAG tagged caspase-8 was detectable in tissue and cells from knock-in mice by Western blot and immunofluorescence stain using an anti-FLAG M2 antibody. The 3x FLAG tagged caspase-8 displayed similar tissue distribution and comparable expression levels as endogenous caspase-8. The cell death assay suggested that the primary cells and transformed cells from 3x FLAG tagged caspase-8 knock-in mice responded similarly as wild-type cells to apoptotic and necroptotic stimulations. Moreover, by performing anti-FLAG immunoprecipitation, I successfully purified endogenous TNFR1 complex-2 from knock-in mice derived cells. These data indicated that 3x FLAG tagged caspase-8 knock-in mouse strains are useful tools to study caspase-8 and caspase-8-containing protein complexes at physiological levels.
In Chapter 5, I characterized tankyrases-mediated poly(ADP-ribosyl)ation (PARsylation) as a novel checkpoint that limits TNF-induced cytotoxicity. Using primary cells from the 3x FLAG tagged caspase-8 knock-in mice described in Chapter 4, I found that the enzyme tankyrase-1 (TNKS1/TNKS/PARP5a/ARTD5), which was identified by mass spectrometry in Chapter 3, is recruited to the endogenous TNFR1 complex-2. Western blot data indicates that tankyrase-2 (TNKS2/PARP5b/ARTD6) may also be recruited. Tankyrases are poly ADP-ribose polymerases and belong to an ancient group of enzymes that post-translationally modify proteins with ADP-ribose. I found that during TNF signalling, complex-2 becomes poly(ADP-ribosyl)ated (PARsylated) in a tankyrases-dependent manner. Furthermore, tankyrases-specific inhibitors sensitized cells to TNF-induced cell death, which correlated with increased levels of complex-2. This suggested that normally tankyrases help limit TNF induced death. Mechanistically, I showed that tankyrases may modulate the stability of complex-2 by recruiting the E3 ubiquitin ligase RNF146, that in turn promotes ubiquitylation and degradation of complex-2. Moreover, inactivation of tankyrases dramatically increased the killing of the clinical Smac-mimetic (SM) birinapant in a primary acute myeloid leukemia (AML) model.
Taken together, this thesis describes 3x FLAG tagged caspase-8 knock-in mice as new tools to study caspase-8 and caspase-8-containing protein complexes at physiological levels. Furthermore, this study identifies tankyrases-mediated PARsylation as a novel checkpoint in TNF signalling that expands our understanding of how TNF induced death is regulated and provides a rationale to use tankyrases inhibitors for cancer therapy.||