Combinatorial chemoprevention reveals a novel smoothened-independent role of GLI1 in esophageal carcinogenesis

Sumera Rizvi, Cathrine J. DeMars, Andrea Comba, Vladimir G. Gainullin, Zaheer Rizvi, Luciana L. Almada, Kenneth Wang, Gwen Lomberk, Martin E. Fernández-Zapico, Navtej S. Buttar

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

38 Scopus citations


Reflux-induced injury promotes esophageal adenocarcinoma, one of the most rapidly increasing, highly lethal cancers in Western countries. Here, we investigate the efficacy of a combinatorial chemoprevention strategy for esophageal adenocarcinoma and characterize the underlying molecular mechanisms. Specifically, our approach involves the use of ursodeoxycholic acid (Urso) due to its ability to decrease injury-inducing bile salts in combination with Aspirin to mitigate the consequences of injury. We find that Urso-Aspirin combination reduces the risk of adenocarcinoma in vivo in animals with reflux, decreases the proliferation of esophageal adenocarcinoma cells, and downregulates a key cell cycle regulator, CDK2. Mechanistically, using cell growth, luciferase reporter, expression, and chromatin immunoprecipitation assays, we identify GLI1, a Hedgehogregulated transcription factor, as a novel target of Urso-Aspirin combination. We show that GLI1 is upregulated during esophageal carcinogenesis, and GLI1 can bind to the CDK2 promoter and activate its expression. Although the Urso-Aspirin combination downregulates GLI1, the GLI1 overexpression not only abrogates the effect of this combination on proliferation but it also restores CDK-2 expression. These findings support that the chemopreventive effect of the Urso-Aspirin combination occurs, at least in part, through a novel GLI1-CDK2-dependent mechanism. To further understand the regulation of CDK2 by GLI1, both pharmacologic and RNAi-mediated approaches show that GLI1 is a transcriptional activator of CDK2, and this regulation occurs independent of Smoothened, the central transducer of the Hedgehog canonical pathway. Collectively, these results identify a novel GLI1-to-CDK2 pathway in esophageal carcinogenesis, which is a bona fide target for effective combinatorial chemoprevention with Urso and Aspirin.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)6787-6796
Number of pages10
JournalCancer research
Issue number17
StatePublished - Sep 1 2010

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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