Cynthia Miranti
Co-Program Leader, Cancer Biology Research Program
Professor, BIO5 Institute
Professor, Cellular and Molecular Medicine
Primary Department
Department Affiliations
(520) 626-2269
Research Interest
Research Interests Our objective is to define how integrin interactions within the tumor microenvironment impact prostate cancer development, hormonal resistance, and metastasis. Our approach is to understand the normal biology of the prostate gland and its microenvironment, as well as the bone environment, to inform on the mechanisms by which tumor cells remodel and use that environment to develop, acquire hormonal resistance, and metastasize. Our research is focused in three primary areas: 1) developing in vitro and in vivo models that recapitulate human disease based on clinical pathology, 2) identifying signal transduction pathway components that could serve as both clinical markers and therapeutic targets, and 3) defining the genetic/epigenetic programming involved in prostate cancer development.


Klionsky, D. J., Abdalla, F. C., Abeliovich, H., Abraham, R. T., Acevedo-Arozena, A., Adeli, K., Agholme, L., Agnello, M., Agostinis, P., Aguirre-Ghiso, J. A., Ahn, H. J., Ait-Mohamed, O., Ait-Si-Ali, S., Akematsu, T., Akira, S., Al-Younes, H. M., Al-Zeer, M. A., Albert, M. L., Albin, R. L., , Alegre-Abarrategui, J., et al. (2012). Guidelines for the use and interpretation of assays for monitoring autophagy. Autophagy, 8(4), 445-544.
BIO5 Collaborators
Walter Klimecki, Cynthia Miranti

In 2008 we published the first set of guidelines for standardizing research in autophagy. Since then, research on this topic has continued to accelerate, and many new scientists have entered the field. Our knowledge base and relevant new technologies have also been expanding. Accordingly, it is important to update these guidelines for monitoring autophagy in different organisms. Various reviews have described the range of assays that have been used for this purpose. Nevertheless, there continues to be confusion regarding acceptable methods to measure autophagy, especially in multicellular eukaryotes. A key point that needs to be emphasized is that there is a difference between measurements that monitor the numbers or volume of autophagic elements (e.g., autophagosomes or autolysosomes) at any stage of the autophagic process vs. those that measure flux through the autophagy pathway (i.e., the complete process); thus, a block in macroautophagy that results in autophagosome accumulation needs to be differentiated from stimuli that result in increased autophagic activity, defined as increased autophagy induction coupled with increased delivery to, and degradation within, lysosomes (in most higher eukaryotes and some protists such as Dictyostelium) or the vacuole (in plants and fungi). In other words, it is especially important that investigators new to the field understand that the appearance of more autophagosomes does not necessarily equate with more autophagy. In fact, in many cases, autophagosomes accumulate because of a block in trafficking to lysosomes without a concomitant change in autophagosome biogenesis, whereas an increase in autolysosomes may reflect a reduction in degradative activity. Here, we present a set of guidelines for the selection and interpretation of methods for use by investigators who aim to examine macroautophagy and related processes, as well as for reviewers who need to provide realistic and reasonable critiques of papers that are focused on these processes. These guidelines are not meant to be a formulaic set of rules, because the appropriate assays depend in part on the question being asked and the system being used. In addition, we emphasize that no individual assay is guaranteed to be the most appropriate one in every situation, and we strongly recommend the use of multiple assays to monitor autophagy. In these guidelines, we consider these various methods of assessing autophagy and what information can, or cannot, be obtained from them. Finally, by discussing the merits and limits of particular autophagy assays, we hope to encourage technical innovation in the field.

Sridhar, S. C., & Miranti, C. K. (2006). Tetraspanin KAI1/CD82 suppresses invasion by inhibiting integrin-dependent crosstalk with c-Met receptor and Src kinases. Oncogene, 25(16), 2367-78.

KAI1/CD82, a tetraspanin protein, was first identified as a metastasis suppressor in prostate cancer. How loss of CD82 expression promotes cancer metastasis is unknown. Restoration of CD82 expression to physiological levels in the metastatic prostate cell line PC3 inhibits integrin-mediated cell migration and invasion, but does not affect integrin expression. Integrin-dependent activation of the receptor kinase c-Met is dramatically reduced in CD82-expressing cells, as is c-Met activation by its ligand HGF/SF. CD82 expression also reduced integrin-induced activation and phosphorylation of the cytoplasmic tyrosine kinase Src, and its downstream substrates p130Cas and FAK Y861. Inhibition of c-Met expression or Src kinase function reduced matrigel invasion of PC3 cells to the same extent as CD82 expression. These data indicate that CD82 functions to suppress integrin-induced invasion by regulating signaling to c-Met and Src kinases, and suggests that CD82 loss may promote metastasis by removing a negative regulator of c-Met and Src signaling.

Edick, M. J., Tesfay, L., Lamb, L. E., Knudsen, B. S., & Miranti, C. K. (2007). Inhibition of integrin-mediated crosstalk with epidermal growth factor receptor/Erk or Src signaling pathways in autophagic prostate epithelial cells induces caspase-independent death. Molecular biology of the cell, 18(7), 2481-90.

In vivo in the prostate gland, basal epithelial cells adhere to laminin 5 (LM5) via alpha3beta1 and alpha6beta4 integrins. When placed in culture primary prostate basal epithelial cells secrete and adhere to their own LM5-rich matrix. Adhesion to LM5 is required for cell survival that is dependent on integrin-mediated, ligand-independent activation of the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) and the cytoplasmic tyrosine kinase Src, but not PI-3K. Integrin-mediated adhesion via alpha3beta1, but not alpha6beta4 integrin, supports cell survival through EGFR by signaling downstream to Erk. PC3 cells, which do not activate EGFR or Erk on LM5-rich matrices, are not dependent on this pathway for survival. PC3 cells are dependent on PI-3K for survival and undergo caspase-dependent death when PI-3K is inhibited. The death induced by inhibition of EGFR or Src in normal primary prostate cells is not mediated through or dependent on caspase activation, but depends on the induction of reactive oxygen species. In addition the presence of an autophagic pathway, maintained by adhesion to matrix through alpha3beta1 and alpha6beta4, prevents the induction of caspases when EGFR or Src is inhibited. Suppression of autophagy is sufficient to induce caspase activation and apoptosis in LM5-adherent primary prostate epithelial cells.

Knudsen, B. S., & Miranti, C. K. (2006). The impact of cell adhesion changes on proliferation and survival during prostate cancer development and progression. Journal of cellular biochemistry, 99(2), 345-61.

In the normal prostate epithelium, androgen receptor (AR) negative basal epithelial cells adhere to the substratum, while AR expressing secretory cells lose substratum adhesion. In contrast, prostate cancer cells both express AR and adhere to a tumor basement membrane. In this review, we describe the differential expression of integrins, growth factor receptors (GFRs), and AR in normal and cancerous epithelium. In addition, we discuss how signals from integrins, GFRs, and AR are integrated to regulate the proliferation and survival of normal and malignant prostate epithelial cells. While cell adhesion is likely of great importance when considering therapeutic approaches for treatment of metastatic prostate cancer, no data on integrin expression are available from tissues of prostate cancer metastasis. However, several drug targets that are upregulated after androgen ablative therapy regulate cell adhesion and thus novel targeted therapies indirectly interfere with cell adhesion mechanisms in prostate cancer cells.

Tesfay, L., Schulz, V. V., Frank, S. B., Lamb, L. E., & Miranti, C. K. (2016). Receptor tyrosine kinase Met promotes cell survival via kinase-independent maintenance of integrin α3β1. Molecular biology of the cell, 27(15), 2493-504.

Matrix adhesion via integrins is required for cell survival. Adhesion of epithelial cells to laminin via integrin α3β1 was previously shown to activate at least two independent survival pathways. First, integrin α3β1 is required for autophagy-induced cell survival after growth factor deprivation. Second, integrin α3β1 independently activates two receptor tyrosine kinases, EGFR and Met, in the absence of ligands. EGFR signaling to Erk promotes survival independently of autophagy. To determine how Met promotes cell survival, we inhibited Met kinase activity or blocked its expression with RNA interference. Loss of Met expression, but not inhibition of Met kinase activity, induced apoptosis by reducing integrin α3β1 levels, activating anoikis, and blocking autophagy. Met was specifically required for the assembly of autophagosomes downstream of LC3II processing. Reexpression of wild-type Met, kinase-dead Met, or integrin α3 was sufficient to rescue death upon removal of endogenous Met. Integrin α3β1 coprecipitated and colocalized with Met in cells. The extracellular and transmembrane domain of Met was required to fully rescue cell death and restore integrin α3 expression. Thus Met promotes survival of laminin-adherent cells by maintaining integrin α3β1 via a kinase-independent mechanism.