Cancer Research. 2008 Dec 1;68(23):9678-85. [Link]

Graziani I, Eliasz S, De Marco MA, Chen Y, Pass HI, De May RM, Strack PR, Miele L, Bocchetta M.

Department of Pathology and Oncology Institute, Loyola University Chicago, Cancer Center, Maywood, Illinois 60153, USA.


Malignant mesothelioma (MM) is a cancer of the lining of the lungs, heart, and intestine and is known to respond poorly to chemotherapy. Here we show that malignant mesothelial cells have an elevated Notch signaling pathway compared with normal human mesothelial cells. We studied the role of Notch in MM under normoxic and hypoxic conditions, the latter condition best recapitulating the MM microenvironment. Genetic and chemical modulation of the Notch pathway indicated that MM cells are dependent on Notch signaling. More specifically, this signaling was Notch-1 dependent as the result of its negative transcriptional regulation on phosphatase and tensin homologue (PTEN), which led to activation of the prosurvival phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase (PI3K)/Akt/mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) signaling pathway. Our study also provides evidence that whereas Notch-1 is elevated in the malignant setting, Notch-2 is diminished. This differential expression of the two Notch isoforms benefits cancer cell survival because reexpression of Notch-2 was toxic to MM cells. The mechanism of Notch-2 toxicity to MM cells countered that of Notch-1, as it was the result of positive transcriptional regulation of PTEN and inhibition of the PI3K/Akt/mTOR signaling pathway. These results provide new insight into the role of Notch in MM and suggest that Notch pathway inhibitors may be useful in the treatment of this deadly disease.

Keywords: Notch signaling, Akt, apoptosis, hypoxia, mesothelioma, γ-secretase inhibitors