Donato Romagnolo

Donato Romagnolo, MSc, PhD, has served as a member of study sections for the National Institutes of Health, the U.S. Department of Defense, the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation, and as a scientific reviewer for nutritional, cancer, and pharmacology and toxicology scientific journals. Dr. Romagnolo is a member of the Training Grant in Cancer Biology at the University of Arizona. Dr. Romagnolo's research focuses on: 1) mechanisms of epigenetic silencing of tumor suppressor genes by environmental and dietary xenobiotics, and 2) role of dietary bioactive food components in the etiology and prevention of cancer and inflammation. For the last 14 years, Dr. Romagnolo's research has been funded by grants from the National Institutes of Health, the U.S. Army Department of Defense, the Susan G. Komen for the Cure and the Arizona Biomedical Research Commission.

Some of his research reveals  humans are exposed to a complex mixture of ligands of the aromatic hydrocarbon receptor (AhR). Prototypical AhR agonists include the polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon (PAH) benzo[a]pyrene (B[a]P), and the dioxin-like compound 2,3,7,8 tetrachlorodibenzene(p)dioxin (TCDD). Increased incidence of breast cancer is documented in human populations of industrialized areas where high levels of dioxins are found in the air, soil, drinking water, and cow milk. Unlike PAH, TCDD is not metabolized and it promotes tumor development. Population studies reported the presence of TCDD in breast milk, suggesting this agent may accumulate in breast tissue and be a potential risk factor in mammary neoplasia. The in-utero activation of the AhR with TCDD increased the susceptibility to mammary carcinogens in rat female offspring. The activation of the AhR pathway may increase the susceptibility to breast cancer through epigenetic silencing of tumor suppressor genes, including p16 and p53, while inducing transcription of the proinflammatory COX-2 gene.


Trichloroethylene Induces Methylation Of The Serca2 Promoter In H9c2 Cells And Embryonic Heart. Source: Cardiovascular Toxicology
Trichloroethylene (TCE) is a halogenated hydrocarbon used as a solvent in industrial settings and in house-cleaning products. Exposure to TCE has been linked to increased risk for congenital heart malformations in both human and animal models. Previous studies showed TCE exposure reduced the expression and function of the ATP-dependent calcium pump, Serca2a, which is important for regulating calcium flux in myocytes and maintaining physiological cardiac function. In this study, we investigated whether TCE reduced Serca2a expression by altering the methylation status of its proximal promoter region. Low doses of TCE exposure (10 ppb) induced DNA hyper methylation in the Serca2 promoter region in cardiac myoblast cells and rat embryonic cardiac tissue. TCE exposure induced DNA methylation in a region of the Serca2 promoter which is the target for SP1 binding site essential for regulation of Serca2a transcriptional activity. Chromatin immunoprecipitation data confirmed that TCE exposure reduced the binding of SP1 to the Serca2 promoter region adjacent to the methylated CpG dimer. Finally, low-dose TCE exposure reduced the concentration of S-adenosyl-methionine in exposed cells and embryos. These cumulative data indicate that epigenetic mechanisms, including DNA methylation, may be important in mediating the teratogenic effects of TCE in embryonic heart.<br><br>
Nutritional Targeting Of Cyclooxygenase 2 For Colon Cancer Prevention. Source: Inflammation & Allergy Drug Targets
August 6th, 2010 PMID: 20553228 Donato Romagnolo
Factors related to diet and life style have been identified as primary determinants in about 80% of colorectal cancers. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAID) and selective cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2) inhibitors (COXIB) reduce the relative risk of colon cancer. To overcome systemic COX inhibition associated with NSAID and COXIB, there is a growing interest in developing alternative colon cancer prevention strategies using diet-based approaches that target COX-2. The transition from aberrant crypt foci (ACF) to colon cancer is a multiyear process providing opportunities for nutritional targeting of genes influencing the course of this disease process at early stages of development. The activation of the proinflammatory gene COX-2 and PG production in the colonic mucosa are recognized risk factors in colon cancer. Many natural food components may impact colon cancer risk by interfering with ligand-activated receptors, signal transduction pathways, and transcription factors involved in stimulation of COX-2 expression. In this review, we highlight key upstream features of signaling pathways and transcriptional control of the COX-2 gene and discuss opportunities for dietary modulation of COX-2 expression in gastro-intestinal cancers with special emphasis on prevention of colorectal tumors. Review of the experimental evidence suggests that dietary strategies based on specific or cocktails of bioactive food components as well nutritional-pharmacological combinations targeted to regulation of COX-2 expression and activity may prove useful in the prevention of colon cancer. An integrated approach may offer the advantage of combined higher efficacies. Future studies should investigate the efficacy of combinations of bioactive food compounds on epigenetic regulation of the COX-2 gene and characterize potential synergies and amplification effects resulting from the concomitant use of bioactive food components and COX-2 inhibitors.<br><br>
Resveratrol Prevents Epigenetic Silencing Of Brca 1 By The Aromatic Hydrocarbon Receptor In Human Breast Cancer Cells. Source: The Journal Of Nutrition
The BRCA-1 protein is a tumor suppressor involved in repair of DNA damage. Epigenetic mechanisms contribute to its reduced expression in sporadic breast tumors. Through diet, humans are exposed to a complex mixture of xenobiotics and natural ligands of the aromatic hydrocarbon receptor (AhR), which contributes to the etiology of various types of cancers. The AhR binds xenobiotics, endogenous ligands, and many natural dietary bioactive compounds, including the phytoalexin resveratrol (Res). In estrogen receptor- alpha (ER alpha )-positive and BRCA-1 wild-type MCF-7 breast cancer cells, we investigated the influence of AhR activation with the agonist 2,3,7,8 tetrachlorobenzo(p)dioxin (TCDD) on epigenetic regulation of the BRCA-1 gene and the preventative effects of Res. We report that activation and recruitment of the AhR to the BRCA-1 promoter hampers 17 beta -estradiol (E2)-dependent stimulation of BRCA-1 transcription and protein levels. These inhibitory effects are paralleled by reduced occupancy of ER alpha , acetylated histone (AcH)-4, and AcH3K9. Conversely, the treatment with TCDD increases the association of mono-methylated-H3K9, DNA-methyltransferase-1 (DNMT1), and methyl-binding domain protein-2 with the BRCA-1 promoter and stimulates the accumulation of DNA strand breaks. The AhR-dependent repression of BRCA-1 expression is reversed by small interference for the AhR and DNMT1 or pretreatment with Res, which reduces TCDD-induced DNA strand breaks. These results support the hypothesis that epigenetic silencing of the BRCA-1 gene by the AhR is preventable with Res and provide the molecular basis for the development of dietary strategies based on natural AhR antagonists.<br><br>
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