Andrew Liss, Ph. D.; Research Fellow, Department of Surgery, Massachusetts General Hospital

Watertown, MA

Current Site Of Practice: Boston
Hospital Affiliation: Massachusetts General Hospital
Focus of Research:
Fellowship Year: 2010 – 2011
Attended: Massachusetts General Hospital

Contact Andrew Liss


Synergistic stimulation of avian I kappa B alpha transcription by rel and fos/jun factors

Co-Authors J. Kralova, J.D. Schatzle, A.S. Liss, W. Bargmann, H.R. Bose, Jr.

Rel/NF-kappa B transcription factors and I Kappa B alpha function in an autoregulatory network. Avian I kappa B alpha transcription is increased in response to both c-Rel and v-Rel. This study shows that I kappa B alpha transcription is synergistically stimulated by Rel and AP-1 factors (c-Fos and c-Jun). However, the response to v-Rel and the AP-1 factors was not as vigorous as that of c-Rel and AP-1. A 386 bp region of the I kappa B alpha promoter (containing two NF-kappa B and one AP-1 binding sites) was shown to be both necessary and sufficient for response to both Rel factors alone or Rel factors in conjunction with the AP-1 proteins. In addition, an imperfect NF-kappa B binding site was found to overlap the AP-1 binding site. Mutation of either of the NF-kappa B binding sites or the AP-1 binding site dramatically decreased the response of the I kappa B alpha promoter to Rel proteins alone or Rel and AP-1 factors. Overexpression of c-Rel or v-Rel resulted in the formation of DNA binding complexes associated with the imperfect NF-kappa B binding site which overlaps the AP-1 site. v-Rel associated with the imperfect NF-kappa B site stronger than c-Rel, and overexpression of v-Rel also resulted in the formation of a v-Rel containing complex bound to a consensus AP-1 site. These studies address the difference in c-Rel and v-Rel's ability to synergistically stimulate I kappa B alpha expression in conjunction with the AP-1 factors.

Oncogene. 1996 Jun 20;12(12):2595-604

The chicken RelB transcription factor has transactivation sequences and a tissue-specific expression pattern that are distinct from mammalian RelB

Co-Authors K.A. Piffat, R. Hrdlicková, J. Nehyba, T. Ikeda, A. Liss, S. Huang, S. Sif, T.D. Gilmore, and H.R. Bose, Jr.

Rel/NF-kappaB proteins are eukaryotic transcription factors that control the expression of genes involved in a large variety of cellular processes. Rel proteins share a highly conserved DNA-binding/dimerization domain called the Rel Homology (RH) domain. We have constructed and characterized a composite cDNA encoding most of the chicken RelB transcription factor. The predicted chicken RelB protein has a high degree of sequence similarity to other vertebrate RelB proteins within the RH domain, but is much less conserved outside this domain. Chicken RelB does not bind DNA as a homodimer, but forms DNA-binding heterodimers with NF-kappaB p50 or p52. Overexpressed chicken RelB localizes to the nucleus in chicken embryo fibroblasts, and the nonconserved C-terminal sequences of chicken RelB contain a transactivation domain that functions in chicken and mouse fibroblasts. Thus, chicken RelB has functional properties similar to other vertebrate RelB proteins. However, Western blotting of diverse chicken tissues indicates that chicken RelB is more widely expressed than mammalian RelB.

Mol Cell Biol Res Commun. 2001 Sep;4(5):266-75


AP-1 factors play an important role in transformation induced by the v-Rel oncogene

Co-Authors J. Kralova, A.S. Liss, W. Bargmann, and H.R. Bose, Jr.

v-rel is the oncogenic member of the Rel/NF-kappaB family of transcription factors. The mechanism by which v-Rel induces transformation of avian lymphoid cells and fibroblasts is not precisely known. However, most models propose that v-rel disrupts the normal transcriptional regulatory network. In this study we evaluated the role of AP-1 family members in v-Rel-mediated transformation. The overexpression of v-Rel, c-Rel, and c-Rel delta resulted in a prolonged elevation of c-fos and c-jun expression and in a sustained repression of fra-2 at both the mRNA and protein levels in fibroblasts and lymphoid cells. Moreover, the transforming abilities of these Rel proteins correlated with their ability to alter the expression of these AP-1 factors. v-Rel exhibited the most pronounced effect, whereas c-Rel, with poor transforming ability, elicited only moderate changes in AP-1 levels. Furthermore, c-Rel delta, which exhibits enhanced transforming potential relative to c-Rel, induced intermediate changes in AP-1 expression. To directly evaluate the role of AP-1 family members in the v-Rel transformation process, a supjun-1 transdominant mutant was used. The supjun-1 mutant functions as a general inhibitor of AP-1 activity by inhibiting AP-1-mediated transactivation and by reducing AP-1 DNA-binding activity. Coinfection or sequential infection of fibroblasts or lymphoid cells with viruses carrying rel oncogenes and supjun-1 resulted in a reduction of the transformation efficiency of the Rel proteins. The expression of supjun-1 inhibited the ability of v-Rel transformed lymphoid cells and fibroblasts to form colonies in soft agar by over 70%. Furthermore, the expression of supjun-1 strongly interfered with the ability of v-Rel to morphologically transform avian fibroblasts. This is the first report showing that v-Rel might execute its oncogenic potential through modulating the activity of early response genes.

Mol Cell Biol. 1998 May;18(5):2997-3009


Mutational analysis of the v-Rel dimerization interface reveals a critical role for v-Rel homodimers in transformation

Co-Authors A.S. Liss and H.R. Bose, Jr.

The v-rel oncogene encoded by reticuloendotheliosis virus strain T is the acutely transforming member of the Rel/NF-{kappa}B family of transcription factors. In v-Rel-transformed cells, v-Rel exists as homodimers or heterodimers with the endogenous Rel/NF-{kappa}B proteins c-Rel, NF-{kappa}B1, NF-{kappa}B2, and RelA. To examine the contribution of these complexes to v-Rel-mediated transformation, mutations were introduced into the dimerization interface of v-Rel to generate v-Rel mutants with selective dimerization properties. Nine mutants are described in this study that are defective in homodimer and/or heterodimer formation with specific Rel/NF-{kappa}B family members. Viruses expressing mutants that failed to homodimerize but were able to form heterodimeric complexes were unable to transform splenic lymphocytes in vitro, indicating that the dimerization of v-Rel with endogenously expressed Rel/NF-{kappa}B proteins is not in itself sufficient for transformation. In addition, two partially transforming mutants were identified that exhibited an impaired ability to form homodimers. Sequence analysis of the proviral DNA from cells transformed by these mutants revealed the presence of multiple secondary mutations in sequences responsible for dimerization and DNA binding. Two of these mutations either enhanced or restored the ability of these proteins to bind DNA as a homodimer. Viruses expressing these proteins transformed cells at levels comparable to or slightly less than v-Rel, suggesting that a threshold level of DNA binding by v-Rel homodimers is required for transformation.

J Virol. 2002 May;76(10):4928-39.


The differential regulation of the inhibitor of apoptosis ch-IAP1 by v-rel and the proto-oncogene c-rel

Co-Authors J. Kralova*, A.S. Liss*, W. Bargmann, C. Pendleton, J. Varadarajan, E. Ulug, and H.R. Bose, Jr.

The v-rel oncogene encoded by reticuloendotheliosis virus is the acutely transforming member of the Rel/NF-kappaB family of transcription factors. v-Rel is a truncated and mutated form of c-Rel and transforms cells by inducing the aberrant expression of genes regulated by Rel/NF-kappaB proteins. The expression of ch-IAP1, a member of the inhibitor-of-apoptosis family, is highly elevated in cells expressing v-Rel and contributes to the immortalization of cells transformed by this oncoprotein. In this study we demonstrate that the elevated expression of ch-IAP1 in v-Rel-expressing cells is due to an increased rate of transcription. The ch-IAP1 promoter was isolated, and four Rel/NF-kappaB binding sites were identified upstream of the transcription start site. Two kappaB sites proximal to the transcription start site were required for v-Rel to activate the ch-IAP1 promoter. While c-Rel also utilized these sites, a third more-distal kappaB site was required for its full activation of the ch-IAP1 promoter. Differences in the transactivation domains of v-Rel and c-Rel are responsible for their different abilities to utilize these sites and account for their differential activation of the ch-IAP1 promoter. Although c-Rel was a more potent activator of the ch-IAP1 promoter than v-Rel in transient reporter assays, cells stably overexpressing c-Rel failed to maintain high levels of ch-IAP1 expression. The reduction of ch-IAP1 expression in these cells correlated with the efficient regulation of c-Rel by IkappaBalpha. The ability of v-Rel to escape IkappaBalpha regulation allows for the gradual and sustained elevation of ch-IAP1 expression directly contributing to the transforming properties of v-Rel.


J Virol. 2002 Dec;76(23):11960-70


Normalization of luciferase reporter assays under conditions that alter internal controls

Co-Authors R.J. Sims III, A.S. Liss, and P.D. Gottlieb

Biotechniques. 2003 May;34(5):938-40


The suppression of SH3BGRL is important for v-Rel-mediated transformation

Co-Authors S.M. Majid, A.S. Liss, M. You, and H.R. Bose, Jr.

The v-rel oncogene is the most efficient transforming member of the Rel/NF-kappaB family of transcription factors. v-Rel induces avian and mammalian lymphoid cell tumors and transforms chicken embryo fibroblasts in culture by the aberrant regulation of genes under the control of Rel/NF-kappaB proteins. Here we report that the expression of SH3BGRL, a member of the SH3BGR (SH3 domain-binding glutamic acid-rich) family of proteins, is downregulated in v-Rel-expressing fibroblasts, lymphoid cells, and splenic tumor cells. Chromatin immunoprecipitation experiments demonstrated that v-Rel binds to the sh3bgrl promoter in transformed cells. Coexpression of SH3BGRL with v-Rel in primary splenic lymphocytes reduced the number of colonies formed by 76%. Mutations in the predicted SH3-binding domain of SH3BGRL abolished the suppressive effect on v-Rel transformation and resulted in colony numbers comparable to those formed by v-Rel alone. However, mutations in the predicted EVH1-binding domain of SH3BGRL only had a modest effect on suppression of v-Rel transformation. This study provides the first example of a gene that is downregulated in v-Rel-expressing cells that also plays a role in v-Rel transformation.

Oncogene. 2006 Feb 2;25(5):756-68.


Mechanism of telomerase activation by v-Rel and its contribution to transformation

Co-Authors R. Hrdlicková, J.Nehyba, A.S. Liss, and H.R. Bose, Jr.

Telomerase is activated during the transformation of lymphoid cells and fibroblasts by v-Rel, the oncogenic member of the Rel/NF-kappaB family of transcription factors. v-Rel-transformed cell lines have longer telomeres than untransformed chicken lymphoid cells and have high levels of telomerase activity. v-Rel-mediated activation of telomerase is achieved by multiple mechanisms. The expression of the gene encoding the catalytic subunit of telomerase (TERT) was directly upregulated by v-Rel. Moreover, the expression of v-Rel altered the ratio of alternatively spliced and full-length TERT transcripts in favor of the full-length forms. The activation of telomerase by v-Rel in lymphocytes was also accompanied by inactivation of nuclear inhibitors. The inhibition of telomerase activity in v-Rel-transformed cell lines led to apoptosis within 24 h. The expression of v-Rel in a macrophage cell line resulted in elevated levels of reactive oxygen species (ROS), increased telomerase activity, and increased sensitivity to telomerase inhibitors. In contrast, the ectopic expression of TERT decreased the extent of apoptosis induced by ROS. The activation of telomerase by v-Rel may, therefore, partially protect the transformed cells from apoptosis induced by ROS.

J Virol. 2006 Jan;80(1):281-95


The activation of TC10, a Rho small GTPase, contributes to v-Rel-mediated transformation

Co-Authors S. Tong, A.S. Liss, M. You, and H.R. Bose, Jr.

v-Rel is the oncogenic member of the Rel/NF-kappaB family of transcription factors and transforms hematopoietic cells and fibroblasts. Differential display was employed to identify target genes that exhibit altered expression in v-Rel transformed cells. One of the cDNAs identified encodes the chicken ortholog of TC10, a member of the Rho small GTPase family. The expression of TC10 was increased in v-Rel-transformed chicken embryonic fibroblasts (CEFs) 3 to 6-fold relative to control cells at both the RNA and protein levels. An elevated level of active, GTP-bound TC10 was also detected in v-Rel-transformed cells relative to control cells. expression of a dominant-negative TC10 mutant (TC10T32N) decreased the colony formation potential of v-Rel-transformed cells. Furthermore, overexpression of wild-type TC10 or a gain-of-function mutant (TC10Q76L) greatly enhanced the ability of v-Rel transformed CEFs to form colonies in soft agar. In addition to enhance the transformation potential of v-Rel, the overexpression of wild-type TC10 or the gain-of-function mutant alone enhanced the saturation density of CEFs and was sufficient for their anchorage-independent growth in vitro. These results indicate that elevated TC10 activity contributes to v-Rel-mediated transformation of CEFs and demonstrate for the first time that a Rho factor alone is capable of inducing the in vitro transformation of primary cells.

Oncogene. 2007 Apr 5;26(16):2318-29


Targeted disruption of Mib2 causes exencephaly with a variable penetrance

Co-Authors J.I. Wu, R. Rajendra, J.C. Barsi, L. Durfee, E. Benito, G. Gao, M. Kuruvilla, R. Hrdlicková, A.S. Liss, and K. Artzt.

Mib1 and Mib2 ubiquitin ligases are very similar in their domain construction. They partake in the Notch signaling pathway by ubiquitinating the Notch receptors Delta and Jagged prior to endocytosis. We have created a targeted mutation of Mib2 and show that its phenotype is a variable penetrance, failure to close the cranial neural tube. The penetrance depends on the genetic background but it appears that Mib2 is not completely essential in mouse development. genesis.

Genesis. 2007 Nov;45(11):722-7


Isolation and characterization of centroacinar/terminal ductal progenitor cells in adult mouse pancreas

Co-Authors M. Rovira, S.G. Scott, A.S. Liss, J. Jensen, S.P. Thayer, and S.D. Leach

The question of whether dedicated progenitor cells exist in adult vertebrate pancreas remains controversial. Centroacinar cells and terminal duct (CA/TD) cells lie at the junction between peripheral acinar cells and the adjacent ductal epithelium, and are frequently included among cell types proposed as candidate pancreatic progenitors. However these cells have not previously been isolated in a manner that allows formal assessment of their progenitor capacities. We have found that a subset of adult CA/TD cells are characterized by high levels of ALDH1 enzymatic activity, related to high-level expression of both Aldh1a1 and Aldh1a7. This allows their isolation by FACS using a fluorogenic ALDH1 substrate. FACS-isolated CA/TD cells are relatively depleted of transcripts associated with differentiated pancreatic cell types. In contrast, they are markedly enriched for transcripts encoding Sca1, Sdf1, c-Met, Nestin, and Sox9, markers previously associated with progenitor populations in embryonic pancreas and other tissues. FACS-sorted CA/TD cells are uniquely able to form self-renewing "pancreatospheres" in suspension culture, even when plated at clonal density. These spheres display a capacity for spontaneous endocrine and exocrine differentiation, as well as glucose-responsive insulin secretion. In addition, when injected into cultured embryonic dorsal pancreatic buds, these adult cells display a unique capacity to contribute to both the embryonic endocrine and exocrine lineages. Finally, these cells demonstrate dramatic expansion in the setting of chronic epithelial injury. These findings suggest that CA/TD cells are indeed capable of progenitor function and may contribute to the maintenance of tissue homeostasis in adult mouse pancreas.

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2010 Jan 5;107(1):75-80


Activation of ERK and JNK pathways is essential for transformation by the v-rel oncogene

Co-Authors J. Kralova, J. Sheeley, A.S. Liss, W. Bargmann, and H.R. Bose, Jr.

v-Rel is the acutely oncogenic member of the NF-κB family of transcription factors. Infection with retroviruses expressing v-Rel rapidly induces fatal lymphomas in birds and transforms primary lymphocytes and fibroblasts in vitro. We have previously shown that AP-1 transcriptional activity contributes to v-Rel-mediated transformation. While v-Rel increases the expression of these factors, their activity may also be induced through phosphorylation by the mitogen-activated protein (MAP) kinases. The expression of v-Rel results in the strong and sustained activation of the ERK and JNK MAPK pathways. This induction is critical for the v-Rel transformed phenotype, as suppression of MAPK activity with chemical inhibitors or siRNA severely impairs colony formation of v-Rel transformed lymphoid cell lines. However, signaling must be maintained within an optimal range in these cells, since strong additional activation of either pathway beyond the levels induced by v-Rel through the expression of constitutively active MAPK proteins attenuates the transformed phenotype. MAPK signaling also plays an important role in the initial transformation of primary spleen cells by v-Rel, although distinct requirements for MAPK activity at different stages of v-Rel-mediated transformation were identified. We also show that the ability of v-Rel to induce MAPK signaling more strongly than c-Rel contributes to its greater oncogenicity.

Oncogene. In Press

Cell transformation by v-Rel reveals distinct roles of AP-1 family members in Rel/NF-kB oncogenesis

Co-Authors R. Tiwari., J. Kralova, and H.R. Bose, Jr.

Cell transformation by the v-rel oncogene is mediated by the aberrant expression of genes that are normally tightly regulated by other Rel/NF-κB family members. Although a number of genes inappropriately activated or suppressed by v-Rel have been identified, their contributions to the v-Rel transformation process have been poorly characterized. Here, we examine the role of individual AP-1 proteins in v-Rel-mediated transformation. v-Rel transformed cells exhibit elevated RNA and protein expression of c-Fos, c-Jun, and ATF2 and sustained repression of Fra-2. c-Fos and c-Jun are essential in both the initiation and maintenance of v-Rel-mediated transformation while Fra-2 is dispensable. By employing a c-Jun dimerization mutant, we further identified Fos:Jun heterodimers as major contributors to the v-Rel transformation process. The inability of c-Rel to induce the expression of c-Fos and c-Jun contributes to its weaker oncogenic potential relative to v-Rel. Our studies also demonstrate that v-Rel may induce AP-1 members by directly upregulating gene expression (c-fos and ATF2) and by activating pathways that stimulate AP-1 activity. While elevated expression of ATF2 is also required for v-Rel-mediated transformation, its ectopic overexpression is inhibitory. Investigating the mode of ATF2 regulation revealed a positive feedback mechanism whereby ATF2 induces p38 MAPK phosphorylation to further induce its own activity. In addition, these studies identified Ha-Ras as an effector of v-Rel mediated transformation and reveal a novel role for ATF2 in the inhibition of the Ras-Raf-MEK-ERK signaling pathway. Overall, these studies reveal distinct and complex roles of AP-1 proteins in Rel/NF-κB oncogenesis.

Oncogene. Advance online publication 21 June 2010