Jen-Tsan Chi

Overview:

We are using functional genomic approaches to investigate the nutrient signaling and stress adaptations of cancer cells when exposed to various nutrient deprivations and microenvironmental stress conditions. Recently, we focus on two areas. First, we are elucidating the genetic determinants and disease relevance of ferroptosis, a newly recognized form of cell death. Second, we have identified the mammalian stringent response pathway which is highly similar to bacterial stringent response, but with some very interesting twists and novel mechanisms.

A. The genetic determinants and disease relevance of ferroptosis

Ferroptosis is a newly recognized form of cell death that is characterized by iron dependency and lipid peroxidation. The importance of ferroptosis is being recognized in many human diseases, including cancers, ischemia injuries, and neurodegeneration. Previously, we have identified the profound cystine addiction of renal cell carcinoma (1), breast cancer cells (2, 3), and ovarian cancer cells (4). Based on the concept that cystine deprivation triggers the ferroptosis due to the unopposed oxidative stresses, we have performed functional genomic screens to identify many novel genetic determinants of ferroptosis. For example, we have found that DNA damage response and ATM kinase regulate ferroptosis via affecting iron metabolism (5). This finding supports the potential of ionizing radiation to trigger DNA damage response and synergize with ferroptosis to treat human cancers. In addition, we found that ferroptosis is highly regulated by cell density. When cells are grown at low density, they are highly susceptible to ferroptosis. In contrast, the same cells become resistant to ferroptosis when grown at high density and confluency. we have found the Hippo pathway effectors TAZ and YAP are responsible for the cell density-dependent ferroptosis (4, 6, 7). Right now, we are pursuing several other novel determinants of ferroptosis that will reveal surprising insights into this new form of cell death.

B. A new stress pathway – mammalian stress response

All living organisms encounter a wide variety of nutrient deprivations and environmental stresses. Therefore, all organisms have developed various mechanisms to respond and promote survival under stress. In bacteria, the main strategy is “stringent response” triggered by the accumulation of the alarmone (p)ppGpp (shortened to ppGpp below) via regulation of its synthetase RelA and its hydrolase SpoT (8). The ppGpp binds to the transcription factor DksA and RNA polymerase to orchestrate extensive transcriptional changes that repress proliferation and promote stress survival (8, 9). While highly conserved among bacteria, the stringent response had not been reported in metazoans. However, a recent study identified Drosophila and human MESH1 (Metazoan SpoT Homolog 1) as the homologs of the ppGpp hydrolase domain of the bacterial SpoT (10). Both MESH1 proteins exhibit ppGpp hydrolase activity, and the deletion of Mesh1 in Drosophila led to a transcriptional response reminiscent of the bacterial stringent response (10). Recently, we have found that the genetic removal of MESH1 in tumor cells triggers extensive transcriptional changes and confers protection against oxidative stress-induced ferroptosis (11). Importantly, MESH1 removal also triggers proliferative arrest and other robust anti-tumor effects. Therefore, MESH1 knockdown leads to both stress survival and proliferation arrest, two cardinal features highly reminiscent of the bacterial stringent response. Therefore, we termed this pathway as “mammalian stringent response” (12). We have found that NADPH is the relevant MESH1 in the contexts of ferroptosis (13). Now, we are investigating how MESH1 removal leads to proliferation of arrests and anti-tumor phenotypes. Furthermore, we have found several other substrates of MESH1. We are investigating their function using culture cells, MESH1 KO mice, and other model organisms.

 

C. Genomic and single cell RNA analysis of Red Blood Cells

Red blood cells (RBC) are responsible for oxygen delivery to muscles during vigorous exercise. Therefore, many doping efforts focus on increasing RBC number and function to boost athletic performance during competition. For many decades, RBC were thought to be merely identical “sacs of hemoglobin” with no discernable differences due to factors such as age or pre-transfusion storage time. Additionally, because RBC lose their nuclei during terminal differentiation, they were not believed to retain any genetic materials.  These long-held beliefs have now been disproven and the results have significant implications for detecting autologous blood transfusion (ABT) doping in athletes.  We were among the first to discover that RBCs contain abundant and diverse species of RNAs. Using this knowledge, we subsequently optimized protocols and performed genomic analysis of the RBC transcriptome in sickle cell disease; these results revealed that heterogeneous RBCs could be divided into several subpopulations, which had implications for the mechanisms of malaria resistance. As an extension of these studies, we used high resolution Illumina RNA-Seq approaches to identify hundreds of additional known and novel microRNAs, mRNAs, and other RNA species in RBCs. This dynamic RBC transcriptome represents a significant opportunity to assess the impact that environmental factors (such as pre-transfusion refrigerate storage) on the RBC transcriptome. We have now identified a >10-fold change in miR-720 as well as several other RNA transcripts whose levels are significantly altered by RBC storage (14) which gained significant press coverage. We are pursuing the genomic and single cell analysis of RNA transcriptome in the context of blood doping, sickle cell diseases and other red cell diseases.

 

 

 

 

1.         Tang X, Wu J, Ding CK, Lu M, Keenan MM, Lin CC, et al. Cystine Deprivation Triggers Programmed Necrosis in VHL-Deficient Renal Cell Carcinomas. Cancer Res. 2016;76(7):1892-903.

2.         Tang X, Ding CK, Wu J, Sjol J, Wardell S, Spasojevic I, et al. Cystine addiction of triple-negative breast cancer associated with EMT augmented death signaling. Oncogene. 2017;36(30):4379.

3.         Lin CC, Mabe NW, Lin YT, Yang WH, Tang X, Hong L, et al. RIPK3 upregulation confers robust proliferation and collateral cystine-dependence on breast cancer recurrence. Cell Death Differ. 2020.

4.         Yang WH, Huang Z, Wu J, Ding C-KC, Murphy SK, Chi J-T. A TAZ-ANGPTL4-NOX2 axis regulates ferroptotic cell death and chemoresistance in epithelial ovarian cancer. Molecular Cancer Research. 2019: molcanres.0691.2019.

5.         Chen PH, Wu J, Ding CC, Lin CC, Pan S, Bossa N, et al. Kinome screen of ferroptosis reveals a novel role of ATM in regulating iron metabolism. Cell Death Differ. 2019.

6.         Yang W-H, Chi J-T. Hippo pathway effectors YAP/TAZ as novel determinants of ferroptosis. Molecular & Cellular Oncology. 2019:1699375.

7.         Yang WH, Ding CKC, Sun T, Hsu DS, Chi JT. The Hippo Pathway Effector TAZ Regulates Ferroptosis in Renal Cell Carcinoma Cell Reports. 2019;28(10):2501-8.e4.

8.         Potrykus K, Cashel M. (p)ppGpp: still magical? Annu Rev Microbiol. 2008;62:35-51.

9.         Kriel A, Bittner AN, Kim SH, Liu K, Tehranchi AK, Zou WY, et al. Direct regulation of GTP homeostasis by (p)ppGpp: a critical component of viability and stress resistance. Mol Cell. 2012;48(2):231-41.

10.       Sun D, Lee G, Lee JH, Kim HY, Rhee HW, Park SY, et al. A metazoan ortholog of SpoT hydrolyzes ppGpp and functions in starvation responses. Nat Struct Mol Biol. 2010;17(10):1188-94.

11.       Dixon SJ, Lemberg KM, Lamprecht MR, Skouta R, Zaitsev EM, Gleason CE, et al. Ferroptosis: an iron-dependent form of nonapoptotic cell death. Cell. 2012;149(5):1060-72.

12.       Ding C-KC, Rose J, Wu J, Sun T, Chen K-Y, Chen P-H, et al. Mammalian stringent-like response mediated by the cytosolic NADPH phosphatase MESH1. bioRxiv. 2018.

13.       Ding C-KC, Rose J, Sun T, Wu J, Chen P-H, Lin C-C, et al. MESH1 is a cytosolic NADPH phosphatase that regulates ferroptosis. Nature Metabolism. 2020.

14.       Yang WH, Doss JF, Walzer KA, McNulty SM, Wu J, Roback JD, et al. Angiogenin-mediated tRNA cleavage as a novel feature of stored red blood cells. Br J Haematol. 2018.

 

 

Positions:

Associate Professor in Molecular Genetics and Microbiology

Molecular Genetics and Microbiology
School of Medicine

Assistant Professor of Medicine

Medicine, Rheumatology and Immunology
School of Medicine

Assistant Professor in Radiation Oncology

Radiation Oncology
School of Medicine

Associate Professor of Pharmacology and Cancer Biology

Pharmacology & Cancer Biology
School of Medicine

Member of the Duke Cancer Institute

Duke Cancer Institute
School of Medicine

Education:

M.D. 1991

National Taiwan University (Taiwan)

Ph.D. 2000

Stanford University

Postdoctoral Research, Biochemistry

Stanford University

Grants:

Metabolic regulation of KLHL proteins through O-glycosylation

Administered By
Molecular Genetics and Microbiology
Awarded By
National Institutes of Health
Role
Principal Investigator
Start Date
End Date

Storage-specific erythrocyte gene signatures to detect autologous transfusion

Administered By
Molecular Genetics and Microbiology
Awarded By
Partnership for Clean Competition
Role
Principal Investigator
Start Date
End Date

Detect autologous transfusion by novel separation and characterization of RBC storage exosomes

Administered By
Molecular Genetics and Microbiology
Awarded By
Partnership for Clean Competition
Role
Principal Investigator
Start Date
End Date

Small RNA transcriptome as novel approaches to detect autologous blood transfusion

Administered By
Molecular Genetics and Microbiology
Awarded By
World Anti-Doping Agency
Role
Principal Investigator
Start Date
End Date

Comparison of oxidant damage, Nrf2 characteristics, and gene modification of cord blood versus plerixafor-mobilized adult CD34+ cells from sickle cell disease patients

Administered By
Molecular Genetics and Microbiology
Awarded By
New York Blood Center
Role
Principal Investigator
Start Date
End Date

Publications:

Characterizing stored red blood cells using ultra-high throughput holographic cytometry

<jats:title>Abstract</jats:title><jats:p>Holographic cytometry is introduced as an ultra-high throughput implementation of quantitative phase image based on off-axis interferometry of cells flowing through parallel microfluidic channels. Here, it is applied for characterizing morphological changes of red blood cells during storage under regular blood bank condition. The approach allows high quality phase imaging of a large number of cells greatly extending our ability to study cellular phenotypes using individual cell images. Holographic cytology measurements show multiple physical traits of the cells, including optical volume and area, which are observed to consistently change over the storage time. In addition, the large volume of cell imaging data can serve as training data for machine learning algorithms. For the study here, logistic regression is used to classify the cells according to the storage time points. The results of the classifiers demonstrate the potential of holographic cytometry as a diagnostic tool.</jats:p>
Authors
Park, HS; Price, H; Ceballos, S; Chi, J-T; Wax, A
MLA Citation
Park, Han Sang, et al. Characterizing stored red blood cells using ultra-high throughput holographic cytometry. Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory. Crossref, doi:10.1101/2021.04.29.442040.
URI
https://scholars.duke.edu/individual/pub1481899
Source
crossref
DOI
10.1101/2021.04.29.442040

The influence of low-carbohydrate diets on the metabolic response to androgen-deprivation therapy in prostate cancer.

BACKGROUND: Prostate cancer (PC) is the second most lethal cancer for men. For metastatic PC, standard first-line treatment is androgen deprivation therapy (ADT). While effective, ADT has many metabolic side effects. Previously, we found in serum metabolome analysis that ADT reduced androsterone sulfate, 3-hydroxybutyric acid, acyl-carnitines but increased serum glucose. Since ADT reduced ketogenesis, we speculate that low-carbohydrate diets (LCD) may reverse many ADT-induced metabolic abnormalities in animals and humans. METHODS: In a multicenter trial of patients with PC initiating ADT randomized to no diet change (control) or LCD, we previously showed that LCD intervention led to significant weight loss, reduced fat mass, improved insulin resistance, and lipid profiles. To determine whether and how LCD affects ADT-induced metabolic changes, we analyzed serum metabolites after 3-, and 6-months of ADT on LCD versus control. RESULTS: We found androsterone sulfate was most consistently reduced by ADT and was slightly further reduced in the LCD arm. Contrastingly, LCD intervention increased 3-hydroxybutyric acid and various acyl-carnitines, counteracting their reduction during ADT. LCD also reversed the ADT-reduced lactic acid, alanine, and S-adenosyl methionine (SAM), elevating glycolysis metabolites and alanine. While the degree of androsterone reduction by ADT was strongly correlated with glucose and indole-3-carboxaldehyde, LCD disrupted such correlations. CONCLUSIONS: Together, LCD intervention significantly reversed many ADT-induced metabolic changes while slightly enhancing androgen reduction. Future research is needed to confirm these findings and determine whether LCD can mitigate ADT-linked comorbidities and possibly delaying disease progression by further lowering androgens.
Authors
Chi, J-T; Lin, P-H; Tolstikov, V; Oyekunle, T; Alvarado, GCG; Ramirez-Torres, A; Chen, EY; Bussberg, V; Chi, B; Greenwood, B; Sarangarajan, R; Narain, NR; Kiebish, MA; Freedland, SJ
MLA Citation
Chi, Jen-Tsan, et al. “The influence of low-carbohydrate diets on the metabolic response to androgen-deprivation therapy in prostate cancer.Prostate, May 2021. Pubmed, doi:10.1002/pros.24136.
URI
https://scholars.duke.edu/individual/pub1481754
PMID
33949711
Source
pubmed
Published In
Prostate
Published Date
DOI
10.1002/pros.24136

DDR2 upregulation confers ferroptosis susceptibility of recurrent breast tumors through the Hippo pathway.

Recurrent breast cancer presents significant challenges with aggressive phenotypes and treatment resistance. Therefore, novel therapeutics are urgently needed. Here, we report that murine recurrent breast tumor cells, when compared with primary tumor cells, are highly sensitive to ferroptosis. Discoidin Domain Receptor Tyrosine Kinase 2 (DDR2), the receptor for collagen I, is highly expressed in ferroptosis-sensitive recurrent tumor cells and human mesenchymal breast cancer cells. EMT regulators, TWIST and SNAIL, significantly induce DDR2 expression and sensitize ferroptosis in a DDR2-dependent manner. Erastin treatment induces DDR2 upregulation and phosphorylation, independent of collagen I. Furthermore, DDR2 knockdown in recurrent tumor cells reduces clonogenic proliferation. Importantly, both the ferroptosis protection and reduced clonogenic growth may be compatible with the compromised YAP/TAZ upon DDR2 inhibition. Collectively, these findings identify the important role of EMT-driven DDR2 upregulation in recurrent tumors in maintaining growth advantage but activating YAP/TAZ-mediated ferroptosis susceptibility, providing potential strategies to eradicate recurrent breast cancer cells with mesenchymal features.
Authors
Lin, C-C; Yang, W-H; Lin, Y-T; Tang, X; Chen, P-H; Ding, C-KC; Qu, DC; Alvarez, JV; Chi, J-T
MLA Citation
Lin, Chao-Chieh, et al. “DDR2 upregulation confers ferroptosis susceptibility of recurrent breast tumors through the Hippo pathway.Oncogene, vol. 40, no. 11, Mar. 2021, pp. 2018–34. Pubmed, doi:10.1038/s41388-021-01676-x.
URI
https://scholars.duke.edu/individual/pub1474448
PMID
33603168
Source
pubmed
Published In
Oncogene
Volume
40
Published Date
Start Page
2018
End Page
2034
DOI
10.1038/s41388-021-01676-x

Zinc transporter ZIP7 is a novel determinant of ferroptosis.

Ferroptosis is a newly described form of regulated cell death triggered by oxidative stresses and characterized by extensive lipid peroxidation and membrane damages. The name of ferroptosis indicates that the ferroptotic death process depends on iron, but not other metals, as one of its canonical features. Here, we reported that zinc is also essential for ferroptosis in breast and renal cancer cells. Zinc chelator suppressed ferroptosis, and zinc addition promoted ferroptosis, even during iron chelation. By interrogating zinc-related genes in a genome-wide RNAi screen of ferroptosis, we identified SLC39A7, encoding ZIP7 that controls zinc transport from endoplasmic reticulum (ER) to cytosol, as a novel genetic determinant of ferroptosis. Genetic and chemical inhibition of the ZIP7 protected cells against ferroptosis, and the ferroptosis protection upon ZIP7 knockdown can be abolished by zinc supplementation. We found that the genetic and chemical inhibition of ZIP7 triggered ER stresses, including the induction of the expression of HERPUD1 and ATF3. Importantly, the knockdown of HERPUD1 abolished the ferroptosis protection phenotypes of ZIP7 inhibition. Together, we have uncovered an unexpected role of ZIP7 in ferroptosis by maintaining ER homeostasis. These findings may have therapeutic implications for human diseases involving ferroptosis and zinc dysregulations.
Authors
Chen, P-H; Wu, J; Xu, Y; Ding, C-KC; Mestre, AA; Lin, C-C; Yang, W-H; Chi, J-T
MLA Citation
Chen, Po-Han, et al. “Zinc transporter ZIP7 is a novel determinant of ferroptosis.Cell Death Dis, vol. 12, no. 2, Feb. 2021, p. 198. Pubmed, doi:10.1038/s41419-021-03482-5.
URI
https://scholars.duke.edu/individual/pub1474447
PMID
33608508
Source
pubmed
Published In
Cell Death & Disease
Volume
12
Published Date
Start Page
198
DOI
10.1038/s41419-021-03482-5

A method to culture human alveolar rhabdomyosarcoma cell lines as rhabdospheres demonstrates an enrichment in stemness and Notch signaling.

The development of three-dimensional cell culture techniques has allowed cancer researchers to study the stemness properties of cancer cells in in vitro culture. However, a method to grow PAX3-FOXO1 fusion-positive rhabdomyosarcoma (FP-RMS), an aggressive soft tissue sarcoma of childhood, has to date not been reported, hampering efforts to identify the dysregulated signaling pathways that underlie FP-RMS stemness. Here, we first examine the expression of canonical stem cell markers in human RMS tumors and cell lines. We then describe a method to grow FP-RMS cell lines as rhabdospheres and demonstrate that these spheres are enriched in expression of canonical stemness factors as well as Notch signaling components. Specifically, FP-RMS rhabdospheres have increased expression of SOX2, POU5F1 (OCT4), and NANOG, and several receptors and transcriptional regulators in the Notch signaling pathway. FP-RMS rhabdospheres also exhibit functional stemness characteristics including multipotency, increased tumorigenicity in vivo, and chemoresistance. This method provides a novel practical tool to support research into FP-RMS stemness and chemoresistance signaling mechanisms.
Authors
Slemmons, KK; Deel, MD; Lin, Y-T; Oristian, KM; Kuprasertkul, N; Genadry, KC; Chen, P-H; Chi, J-TA; Linardic, CM
MLA Citation
Slemmons, Katherine K., et al. “A method to culture human alveolar rhabdomyosarcoma cell lines as rhabdospheres demonstrates an enrichment in stemness and Notch signaling.Biol Open, vol. 10, no. 2, Feb. 2021. Pubmed, doi:10.1242/bio.050211.
URI
https://scholars.duke.edu/individual/pub1469810
PMID
33372065
Source
pubmed
Published In
Biology Open
Volume
10
Published Date
DOI
10.1242/bio.050211