Professional Education

  • Doctor of Philosophy, Vanderbilt University (2011)
  • Bachelor of Science, University of Georgia (2007)

Stanford Advisors


Journal Articles

  • The Primary Function of gp130 Signaling in Osteoblasts is to Maintain bone Formation and Strength, Rather than Promote Osteoclast Formation. Journal of bone and mineral research : the official journal of the American Society for Bone and Mineral Research Johnson, R. W., Brennan, H. J., Vrahnas, C., Poulton, I. J., McGregor, N. E., Standal, T., Walker, E. C., Koh, T. T., Nguyen, H., Walsh, N. C., Forwood, M. R., Martin, T. J., Sims, N. A. 2013


    Interleukin-6 (IL-6) family cytokines act via gp130 in the osteoblast lineage to stimulate formation of osteoclasts (bone resorbing cells), activity of osteoblasts (bone forming cells) and to inhibit expression of the osteocyte protein, sclerostin. We report here that a profound reduction in trabecular bone mass occurs both when gp130 is deleted in the entire osteoblast lineage (Osx1Cre gp130 f/f) and when this deletion is restricted to osteocytes (DMP1Cre gp130 f/f). This was caused not by an alteration in osteoclastogenesis, but with a low level of bone formation specific to the trabecular compartment. In contrast, cortical diameter was increased to maintain ultimate bone strength, despite a reduction in collagen type 1 production. We conclude that osteocytic gp130 signalling is required for normal trabecular bone mass and proper cortical bone composition.

    View details for DOI 10.1002/jbmr.2159

    View details for PubMedID 24339143

  • Leukemia inhibitory factor: A paracrine mediator of bone metabolism GROWTH FACTORS Sims, N. A., Johnson, R. W. 2012; 30 (2): 76-87


    Leukemia inhibitory factor (LIF) is a soluble interleukin-6 family cytokine that regulates a number of physiologic functions, including normal skeletal remodeling. LIF signals through the cytokine co-receptor glycoprotein-130 in complex with its cytokine-specific receptor [LIF receptor (LIFR)] to activate signaling cascades in cells of the skeletal system, including stromal cells, chondrocytes, osteoblasts, osteocytes, adipocytes, and synovial fibroblasts. LIF action on skeletal cells is cell-type specific, and frequently dependent on the state of cell differentiation. This review describes the expression patterns of LIF and LIFR in bone, their regulation by physiological and inflammatory agents, as well as cell-specific influences of LIF on osteoblast, osteoclast, chondrocyte, and adipocyte differentiation. The actions of LIF in normal skeletal growth and maintenance, in pathological states (e.g. autocrine tumor cell signaling and growth in bone) and inflammatory conditions (e.g. arthritis) will be discussed, as well as the signaling pathways activated by LIF and their importance in bone formation and resorption.

    View details for DOI 10.3109/08977194.2012.656760

    View details for Web of Science ID 000302025100002

    View details for PubMedID 22304408

  • Myeloid-derived suppressor cells expand during breast cancer progression and promote tumor-induced bone destruction. Oncoimmunology Danilin, S., Merkel, A. R., Johnson, J. R., Johnson, R. W., Edwards, J. R., Sterling, J. A. 2012; 1 (9): 1484-1494


    Myeloid-derived suppressor cells (MDSCs), identified as Gr1(+)CD11b(+) cells in mice, expand during cancer and promote tumor growth, recurrence and burden. However, little is known about their role in bone metastases. We hypothesized that MDSCs may contribute to tumor-induced bone disease, and inoculated breast cancer cells into the left cardiac ventricle of nude mice. Disease progression was monitored weekly by X-ray and fluorescence imaging and MDSCs expansion by fluorescence-activated cell sorting. To explore the contribution of MDSCs to bone metastasis, we co-injected mice with tumor cells or PBS into the left cardiac ventricle and Gr1(+)CD11b(+) cells isolated from healthy or tumor-bearing mice into the left tibia. MDSCs didn't induce bone resorption in normal mice, but increased resorption and tumor burden significantly in tumor-bearing mice. In vitro experiments showed that Gr1(+)CD11b(+) cells isolated from normal and tumor-bearing mice differentiate into osteoclasts when cultured with RANK ligand and macrophage colony-stimulating factor, and that MDSCs from tumor-bearing mice upregulate parathyroid hormone-related protein (PTHrP) mRNA levels in cancer cells. PTHrP upregulation is likely due to the 2-fold increase in transforming growth factor β expression that we observed in MDSCs isolated from tumor-bearing mice. Importantly, using MDSCs isolated from GFP-expressing animals, we found that MDSCs differentiate into osteoclast-like cells in tumor-bearing mice as evidenced by the presence of GFP(+)TRAP(+) cells. These results demonstrate that MDSCs expand in breast cancer bone metastases and induce bone destruction. Furthermore, our data strongly suggest that MDSCs are able to differentiate into osteoclasts in vivo and that this is stimulated in the presence of tumors.

    View details for DOI 10.4161/onci.21990

    View details for PubMedID 23264895

  • Anti-Transforming Growth Factor beta Antibody Treatment Rescues Bone Loss and Prevents Breast Cancer Metastasis to Bone PLOS ONE Biswas, S., Nyman, J. S., Alvarez, J., Chakrabarti, A., Ayres, A., Sterling, J., Edwards, J., Rana, T., Johnson, R., Perrien, D. S., Lonning, S., Shyr, Y., Matrisian, L. M., Mundy, G. R. 2011; 6 (11)


    Breast cancer often metastasizes to bone causing osteolytic bone resorption which releases active TGFβ. Because TGFβ favors progression of breast cancer metastasis to bone, we hypothesized that treatment using anti-TGFβ antibody may reduce tumor burden and rescue tumor-associated bone loss in metastatic breast cancer. In this study we have tested the efficacy of an anti-TGFβ antibody 1D11 preventing breast cancer bone metastasis. We have used two preclinical breast cancer bone metastasis models, in which either human breast cancer cells or murine mammary tumor cells were injected in host mice via left cardiac ventricle. Using several in vivo, in vitro and ex vivo assays, we have demonstrated that anti-TGFβ antibody treatment have significantly reduced tumor burden in the bone along with a statistically significant threefold reduction in osteolytic lesion number and tenfold reduction in osteolytic lesion area. A decrease in osteoclast numbers (p = 0.027) in vivo and osteoclastogenesis ex vivo were also observed. Most importantly, in tumor-bearing mice, anti-TGFβ treatment resulted in a twofold increase in bone volume (p<0.01). In addition, treatment with anti-TGFβ antibody increased the mineral-to-collagen ratio in vivo, a reflection of improved tissue level properties. Moreover, anti-TGFβ antibody directly increased mineralized matrix formation in calverial osteoblast (p = 0.005), suggesting a direct beneficial role of anti-TGFβ antibody treatment on osteoblasts. Data presented here demonstrate that anti-TGFβ treatment may offer a novel therapeutic option for tumor-induced bone disease and has the dual potential for simultaneously decreasing tumor burden and rescue bone loss in breast cancer to bone metastases. This approach of intervention has the potential to reduce skeletal related events (SREs) in breast cancer survivors.

    View details for DOI 10.1371/journal.pone.0027090

    View details for Web of Science ID 000297553900020

    View details for PubMedID 22096521

  • 6-Thioguanine Inhibition of Parathyroid Hormone-related Protein Expression Is Mediated by GLI2 ANTICANCER RESEARCH Johnson, R. W., Merkel, A. R., Danilin, S., Nguyen, M. P., Mundy, G. R., Sterling, J. A. 2011; 31 (9): 2705-2712


    Breast cancer cells frequently metastasize to bone, where they up-regulate their expression of the transcription factor GLI2 and the downstream osteolytic factor parathyroid hormone-related protein (PTHrP). The guanosine nucleotide 6-thioguanine (6-TG) inhibits PTHrP expression and blocks osteolytic bone destruction in mice inoculated with bone metastatic cells; however, the mechanism by which 6-TG inhibits PTHrP remains unclear. We hypothesized that 6-TG inhibition of PTHrP is mediated through GLI2 signaling.Human MDA-MB-231 breast cancer cells and RWGT2 squamous-cell lung carcinoma cells were treated with 100 μM 6-TG and examined for GLI2 mRNA expression and stability by Q-PCR, promoter activity by luciferase assay, and protein expression by Western blot.6-TG significantly blocked GLI2 mRNA and protein expression, but did not affect stability. Additionally, 6-TG directly inhibited GLI2 promoter activity, and when cells were transfected with constitutively expressed GLI2, the inhibitory effect of 6-TG on PTHrP expression was abolished.Taken together, these data indicate that 6-TG regulates PTHrP in part through GLI2 transcription, and therefore the clinical use of 6-TG or other guanosine nucleotides may be a viable therapeutic option in tumor types expressing elevated levels of GLI proteins.

    View details for Web of Science ID 000293357700004

    View details for PubMedID 21868511

  • TGF-beta Promotion of Gli2-Induced Expression of Parathyroid Hormone-Related Protein, an Important Osteolytic Factor in Bone Metastasis, Is Independent of Canonical Hedgehog Signaling CANCER RESEARCH Johnson, R. W., Nguyen, M. P., Padalecki, S. S., Grubbs, B. G., Merkel, A. R., Oyajobi, B. O., Matrisian, L. M., Mundy, G. R., Sterling, J. A. 2011; 71 (3): 822-831


    Breast cancer frequently metastasizes to bone, in which tumor cells receive signals from the bone marrow microenvironment. One relevant factor is TGF-β, which upregulates expression of the Hedgehog (Hh) signaling molecule, Gli2, which in turn increases secretion of important osteolytic factors such as parathyroid hormone-related protein (PTHrP). PTHrP inhibition can prevent tumor-induced bone destruction, whereas Gli2 overexpression in tumor cells can promote osteolysis. In this study, we tested the hypothesis that Hh inhibition in bone metastatic breast cancer would decrease PTHrP expression and therefore osteolytic bone destruction. However, when mice engrafted with human MDA-MB-231 breast cancer cells were treated with the Hh receptor antagonist cyclopamine, we observed no effect on tumor burden or bone destruction. In vitro analyses revealed that osteolytic tumor cells lack expression of the Hh receptor, Smoothened, suggesting an Hh-independent mechanism of Gli2 regulation. Blocking Gli signaling in metastatic breast cancer cells with a Gli2-repressor gene (Gli2-rep) reduced endogenous and TGF-β-stimulated PTHrP mRNA expression, but did not alter tumor cell proliferation. Furthermore, mice inoculated with Gli2-Rep-expressing cells exhibited a decrease in osteolysis, suggesting that Gli2 inhibition may block TGF-β propagation of a vicious osteolytic cycle in this MDA-MB-231 model of bone metastasis. Accordingly, in the absence of TGF-β signaling, Gli2 expression was downregulated in cells, whereas enforced overexpression of Gli2 restored PTHrP activity. Taken together, our findings suggest that Gli2 is required for TGF-β to stimulate PTHrP expression and that blocking Hh-independent Gli2 activity will inhibit tumor-induced bone destruction.

    View details for DOI 10.1158/0008-5472.CAN-10-2993

    View details for Web of Science ID 000286830300022

    View details for PubMedID 21189326

  • Longitudinal live animal micro-CT allows for quantitative analysis of tumor-induced bone destruction BONE Johnson, L. C., Johnson, R. W., Munoz, S. A., Mundy, G. R., Peterson, T. E., Sterling, J. A. 2011; 48 (1): 141-151


    The majority of breast cancer and prostate cancer patients with metastatic disease will go on to develop bone metastases, which contribute largely to the patient's morbidity and mortality. Numerous small animal models of cancer metastasis to bone have been developed to study tumor-induced bone destruction, but the advancement of imaging modalities utilized for these models has lagged significantly behind clinical imaging. Therefore, there is a significant need for improvements to live small animal imaging, particularly when obtaining high-resolution images for longitudinal quantitative analyses. Recently, live animal micro-computed tomography (μCT) has gained popularity due to its ability to obtain high-resolution 3-dimensional images. However, the utility of μCT in bone metastasis models has been limited to end-point analyses due to off-target radiation effects on tumor cells. We hypothesized that live animal in vivo μCT can be utilized to perform reproducible and quantitative longitudinal analyses of bone volume in tumor-bearing mice, particularly in a drug treatment model of breast cancer metastasis to bone. To test this hypothesis, we utilized the MDA-MB-231 osteolytic breast cancer model in which the tumor cells are inoculated directly into the tibia of athymic nude mice and imaged mice weekly by Faxitron (radiography), Imtek μCT (in vivo), and Maestro (GFP-imaging). Exvivo μCT and histology were performed at end point for validation. After establishing a high-resolution scanning protocol for the Imtek CT, we determined whether clear, measurable differences in bone volume were detectable in mice undergoing bisphosphonate drug treatments. We found that in vivo μCT could be used to obtain quantifiable and longitudinal images of the progression of bone destruction over time without altering tumor cell growth. In addition, we found that we could detect lesions as early as week 1 and that this approach could be used to monitor the effect of drug treatment on bone. Taken together, these data indicate that in vivo μCT is an effective and reproducible method for longitudinal monitoring of tumor-associated bone destruction in mouse models of tumor-induced bone disease.

    View details for DOI 10.1016/j.bone.2010.05.033

    View details for Web of Science ID 000286122000020

    View details for PubMedID 20685406

  • Targeted glycoproteomic identification of biomarkers for human breast carcinoma JOURNAL OF PROTEOME RESEARCH Abbott, K. L., Aoki, K., Lim, J., Porterfield, M., Johnson, R., O'Regan, R. M., Wells, L., Tiemeyer, M., Pierce, M. 2008; 7 (4): 1470-1480


    Glycosylation is a dynamic post-translational modification that changes during the development and progression of various malignancies. During the oncogenesis of breast carcinoma, the glycosyltransferase known as N-acetylglucosaminyltransferase Va (GnT-Va) transcript levels and activity are increased due to activated oncogenic signaling pathways. Elevated GnT-V levels leads to increased beta(1,6)-branched N-linked glycan structures on glycoproteins that can be measured using a specific carbohydrate binding protein or lectin known as L-PHA. L-PHA does not bind to nondiseased breast epithelial cells, but during the progression to invasive carcinoma, cells show a progressive increase in L-PHA binding. We have developed a procedure for intact protein L-PHA-affinity enrichment, followed by nanospray ionization mass spectrometry (NSI-MS/MS), to identify potential biomarkers for breast carcinoma. We identified L-PHA reactive glycoproteins from matched normal (nondiseased) and malignant tissue isolated from patients with invasive ductal breast carcinoma. Comparison analysis of the data identified 34 proteins that were enriched by L-PHA fractionation in tumor relative to normal tissue for at least 2 cases of ductal invasive breast carcinoma. Of these 34 L-PHA tumor enriched proteins, 12 are common to all 4 matched cases analyzed. These results indicate that lectin enrichment strategies targeting a particular glycan change associated with malignancy can be an effective method of identifying potential biomarkers for breast carcinoma.

    View details for DOI 10.1021/pr700792g

    View details for Web of Science ID 000254711000012

    View details for PubMedID 18271524

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