Validation of the p21-activated kinases as targets for inhibition in neurofibromatosis type 2.
ABSTRACT: Neurofibromatosis type 2 (NF2) is a dominantly inherited cancer disorder caused by mutations at the NF2 gene locus. Merlin, the protein product of the NF2 gene, has been shown to negatively regulate Rac1 signaling by inhibiting its downstream effector kinases, the p21-activated kinases (Pak). Given the implication of Paks in tumorigenesis, it is plausible that merlin's tumor suppressive function might be mediated, at least in part, via inhibition of the Paks. We present data indicating this is indeed the case. First, analysis of primary schwannoma samples derived from NF2 patients showed that in a significant fraction of the tumors, the activity of Pak1 was highly elevated. Second, we used shRNAs to knockdown Pak1, 2, and 3 in NIH3T3 cells expressing a dominant-negative form of merlin, NF2(BBA) (NIH3T3/NF2(BBA)), and find that simultaneous knockdown of Pak1-3 in these cells significantly reduced their growth rates in vitro and inhibited their ability to form tumors in vivo. Finally, while attempting to silence Pak1 in rat schwannoma cells, we found that these cells were unable to tolerate long-term Pak1 inhibition and rapidly moved to restore Pak1 levels by shutting down Pak1 shRNA expression through a methylation-dependent mechanism. These data suggest that inhibiting Pak could be a beneficial approach for the development of therapeutics toward NF2. In addition, the finding that the shRNA-mediated Pak1 suppression was silenced rapidly by methylation raises questions about the future application of such technologies for the treatment of diseases such as cancer.
Project description:The p21-activated kinases (PAKs) are immediate downstream effectors of the Rac/Cdc42 small G-proteins and implicated in promoting tumorigenesis in various types of cancer including breast and lung carcinomas. Recent studies have established a requirement for the PAKs in the pathogenesis of Neurofibromatosis type 2 (NF2), a dominantly inherited cancer disorder caused by mutations at the NF2 gene locus. Merlin, the protein product of the NF2 gene, has been shown to negatively regulate signaling through the PAKs and the tumor suppressive functions of Merlin are mediated, at least in part, through inhibition of the PAKs. Knockdown of PAK1 and PAK2 expression, through RNAi-based approaches, impairs the proliferation of NF2-null schwannoma cells in culture and inhibits their ability to form tumors in vivo. These data implicate the PAKs as potential therapeutic targets. High-throughput screening of a library of small molecules combined with a structure-activity relationship approach resulted in the identification of FRAX597, a small-molecule pyridopyrimidinone, as a potent inhibitor of the group I PAKs. Crystallographic characterization of the FRAX597/PAK1 complex identifies a phenyl ring that traverses the gatekeeper residue and positions the thiazole in the back cavity of the ATP binding site, a site rarely targeted by kinase inhibitors. FRAX597 inhibits the proliferation of NF2-deficient schwannoma cells in culture and displayed potent anti-tumor activity in vivo, impairing schwannoma development in an orthotopic model of NF2. These studies identify a novel class of orally available ATP-competitive Group I PAK inhibitors with significant potential for the treatment of NF2 and other cancers.
Project description:Group I p21-activated kinases (PAK) are important effectors of the small GTPases Rac and Cdc42, which regulate cell motility/migration, survival, proliferation, and gene transcription. Hyperactivation of these kinases have been reported in many tumor types, making PAKs attractive targets for therapeutic intervention. PAKs are activated by growth factor-mediated signaling and are negatively regulated by the tumor suppressor neurofibromatosis type 2 (NF2)/Merlin. Thus, tumors characterized by NF2 inactivation would be expected to show hyperactivated PAK signaling. On the basis of this rationale, we evaluated the status of PAK signaling in malignant mesothelioma, an aggressive neoplasm that is resistant to current therapies and shows frequent inactivation of NF2. We show that group I PAKs are activated in most mesotheliomas and mesothelioma cell lines and that genetic or pharmacologic inhibition of PAKs is sufficient to inhibit mesothelioma cell proliferation and survival. We also identify downstream effectors and signaling pathways that may contribute mechanistically to PAK-related tumorigenesis. Specifically, we show that inhibition of PAK results in attenuation of AKT and Raf-MAPK signaling and decreased tumor cell viability. Collectively, these data suggest that pharmacologic inhibition of group I PAKs may have therapeutic efficacy in tumors characterized by PAK activation.
Project description:<h4>Background</h4>NF2 is an autosomal dominant disease characterized by development of bilateral vestibular schwannomas and other benign tumors in central nervous system. Loss of the NF2 gene product, Merlin, leads to aberrant Schwann cell proliferation, motility, and survival, but the mechanisms by which this tumor suppressor functions remain unclear. One well-defined target of Merlin is the group I family of p21-activated kinases, which are allosterically inhibited by Merlin and which, when activated, stimulate cell cycle progression, motility, and increased survival. Here, we examine the effect of Pak inhibition on cells with diminished Merlin function.<h4>Methodology/principal findings</h4>Using a specific peptide inhibitor of group I Paks, we show that loss of Pak activity restores normal cell movement in cells lacking Merlin function. In addition, xenografts of such cells form fewer and smaller tumors than do cells without Pak inhibition. However, in tumors, loss of Pak activity does not reduce Erk or Akt activity, two signaling proteins that are thought to mediate Pak function in growth factor pathways.<h4>Conclusions/significance</h4>These results suggest that Pak functions in novel signaling pathways in NF2, and may serve as a useful therapeutic target in this disease.
Project description:Current models imply that the FERM domain protein Merlin, encoded by the tumor suppressor NF2, inhibits mitogenic signaling at or near the plasma membrane. Here, we show that the closed, growth-inhibitory form of Merlin accumulates in the nucleus, binds to the E3 ubiquitin ligase CRL4(DCAF1), and suppresses its activity. Depletion of DCAF1 blocks the promitogenic effect of inactivation of Merlin. Conversely, enforced expression of a Merlin-insensitive mutant of DCAF1 counteracts the antimitogenic effect of Merlin. Re-expression of Merlin and silencing of DCAF1 implement a similar, tumor-suppressive program of gene expression. Tumor-derived mutations invariably disrupt Merlin's ability to interact with or inhibit CRL4(DCAF1). Finally, depletion of DCAF1 inhibits the hyperproliferation of Schwannoma cells from NF2 patients and suppresses the oncogenic potential of Merlin-deficient tumor cell lines. We propose that Merlin suppresses tumorigenesis by translocating to the nucleus to inhibit CRL4(DCAF1).
Project description:Merlin, encoded by the NF2 gene, is a tumor suppressor that acts by inhibiting mitogenic signaling and is mutated in Neurofibromatosis type II (NF2) disease, although its molecular mechanism is not fully understood. Here, we observed that Merlin inhibited Wnt/?-catenin signaling by blocking phosphorylation of LRP6, which is necessary for Wnt signal transduction, whereas mutated Merlin in NF2 patients did not. Treatment with Wnt3a enhanced phosphorylation of Ser518 in Merlin via activation of PAK1 in a PIP2-dependent manner. Phosphorylated Merlin dissociated from LRP6, allowing for phosphorylation of LRP6. Tissues from NF2 patients exhibited higher levels of ?-catenin, and proliferation of RT4-D6P2T rat schwannoma cells was significantly reduced by treatment with chemical inhibitors of Wnt/?-catenin signaling. Taken together, our findings suggest that sustained activation of Wnt/?-catenin signaling due to abrogation of Merlin-mediated inhibition of LRP6 phosphorylation may be a cause of NF2 disease.
Project description:Neurofibromatosis 2 (NF2) is a tumor suppressor, although the molecular mechanism accounting for this effect remains unknown. Here, we show that merlin exerts its activity by inhibiting phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase (PI3-kinase), through binding to PIKE-L. Wild-type merlin, but not patient-derived mutant (L64P), binds PIKE-L and inhibits PI3-kinase activity. This suppression of PI3-kinase activity results from merlin disrupting the binding of PIKE-L to PI3-kinase. In addition, merlin suppression of PI3-kinase activity as well as schwannoma cell growth is abrogated by a single PIKE-L point mutation (P187L) that cannot bind merlin but can still activate PI3-kinase. Knocking down PIKE-L with RNA interference abolishes merlin's tumor-suppressive activity. Our data support the hypothesis that PIKE-L is an important mediator of merlin growth suppression.
Project description:Cell adhesion to the extracellular matrix or to surrounding cells plays a key role in cell proliferation and differentiation and is critical for proper tissue homeostasis. An important pathway in adhesion-dependent cell proliferation is the Hippo signaling cascade, which is coregulated by the transcription factors Yes-associated protein 1 (YAP1) and transcriptional coactivator with PDZ-binding motif (TAZ). However, how cells integrate extracellular information at the molecular level to regulate YAP1's nuclear localization is still puzzling. Herein, we investigated the role of ?1 integrins in regulating this process. We found that ?1 integrin-dependent cell adhesion is critical for supporting cell proliferation in mesenchymal cells both <i>in vivo</i> and <i>in vitro</i> ?1 integrin-dependent cell adhesion relied on the relocation of YAP1 to the nucleus after the down-regulation of its phosphorylated state mediated by large tumor suppressor gene 1 and 2 (LATS1/2). We also found that this phenotype relies on ?1 integrin-dependent local activation of the small GTPase RAC1 at the plasma membrane to control the activity of P21 (RAC1)-activated kinase (PAK) of group 1. We further report that the regulatory protein merlin (neurofibromin 2, NF2) interacts with both YAP1 and LATS1/2 via its C-terminal moiety and FERM domain, respectively. PAK1-mediated merlin phosphorylation on Ser-518 reduced merlin's interactions with both LATS1/2 and YAP1, resulting in YAP1 dephosphorylation and nuclear shuttling. Our results highlight RAC/PAK1 as major players in YAP1 regulation triggered by cell adhesion.
Project description:Neurofibromatosis type 2 (NF2) is an autosomal dominant disorder characterized by the development of multiple tumors in the central nervous system, most notably schwannomas and meningiomas. Mutational inactivation of NF2 is found in 40-60% of sporadic meningiomas, but the molecular mechanisms underlying malignant changes of meningioma cells remain unclear. Because group I p21-activated kinases (Paks) bind to and are inhibited by the NF2-encoded protein Merlin, we assessed the signaling and anti-tumor effects of three group-I specific Pak inhibitors - Frax597, 716 and 1036 - in NF2-/- meningiomas in vitro and in an orthotopic mouse model. We found that these Pak inhibitors suppressed the proliferation and motility of both benign (Ben-Men1) and malignant (KT21-MG1) meningiomas cells. In addition, we found a strong reduction in phosphorylation of Mek and S6, and decreased cyclin D1 expression in both cell lines after treatment with Pak inhibitors. Using intracranial xenografts of luciferase-expressing KT21-MG1 cells, we found that treated mice showed significant tumor suppression for all three Pak inhibitors. Similar effects were observed in Ben-Men1 cells. Tumors dissected from treated animals exhibited an increase in apoptosis without notable change in proliferation. Collectively, these results suggest that Pak inhibitors might be useful agents in treating NF2-deficient meningiomas.
Project description:p21-activated kinases (PAKs) are a family of serine/threonine kinases that regulate cytoskeletal dynamics and cell motility. PAKs are subdivided into group I (PAKs 1-3) and group II (PAKs 4-6) on the basis of structural and functional characteristics. Based on prior gene expression data that predicted enhanced PAK signaling in the invasive fronts of aggressive papillary thyroid cancers (PTCs), we hypothesized that PAKs functionally regulate thyroid cancer cell motility and are activated in PTC invasive fronts. We examined PAK isoform expression in six human thyroid cancer cell lines (BCPAP, KTC1, TPC1, FTC133, C643, and SW1746) by quantitative reverse transcription-PCR and western blot. All cell lines expressed PAKs 1-4 and PAK6 mRNA and PAKs 1-4 protein; PAK6 protein was variably expressed. Samples from normal and malignant thyroid tissues also expressed PAKs 1-4 and PAK6 mRNA; transfection with the group I (PAKs 1-3) PAK-specific p21 inhibitory domain molecular inhibitor reduced transwell filter migration by ?50% without altering viability in all cell lines (P<0.05). BCPAP and FTC133 cells were transfected with PAK1, PAK2, or PAK3-specific small interfering RNA (siRNA); only PAK1 siRNA reduced migration significantly for both cell lines. Immunohistochemical analysis of seven invasive PTCs demonstrated an increase in PAK1 and pPAK immunoactivity in the invasive fronts versus the tumor center. In conclusion, PAK isoforms are expressed in human thyroid tissues and cell lines. PAK1 regulates thyroid cancer cell motility, and PAK1 and pPAK levels are increased in PTC invasive fronts. These data implicate PAKs as regulators of thyroid cancer invasion.
Project description:Neurofibromatosis type 2 (NF2) is caused by mutations in the NF2 gene that encodes a tumor-suppressor protein called merlin. NF2 is characterized by formation of multiple schwannomas, meningiomas and ependymomas. Merlin loss-of-function is associated with increased activity of Rac and p21-activated kinases (PAKs) and deregulation of cytoskeletal organization. LIM domain kinases (LIMK1 and 2) are substrate for Cdc42/Rac-PAK and modulate actin dynamics by phosphorylating cofilin at serine-3. This modification inactivates the actin severing and depolymerizing activity of cofilin. LIMKs also translocate into the nucleus and regulate cell cycle progression. Significantly, LIMKs are overexpressed in several tumor types, including skin, breast, lung, liver and prostate. Here we report that mouse Schwann cells (MSCs) in which merlin function is lost as a result of Nf2 exon2 deletion (Nf2(?Ex2)) exhibited increased levels of LIMK1, LIMK2 and active phospho-Thr508/505-LIMK1/2, as well as phospho-Ser3-cofilin, compared with wild-type normal MSCs. Similarly, levels of LIMK1 and 2 total protein and active phosphorylated forms were elevated in human vestibular schwannomas compared with normal human Schwann cells (SCs). Reintroduction of wild-type NF2 into Nf2(?Ex2) MSC reduced LIMK1 and LIMK2 levels. We show that pharmacological inhibition of LIMK with BMS-5 decreased the viability of Nf2(?Ex2) MSCs in a dose-dependent manner, but did not affect viability of control MSCs. Similarly, LIMK knockdown decreased viability of Nf2(?Ex2) MSCs. The decreased viability of Nf2(?Ex2) MSCs was not due to caspase-dependent or -independent apoptosis, but rather due to inhibition of cell cycle progression as evidenced by accumulation of cells in G2/M phase. Inhibition of LIMKs arrests cells in early mitosis by decreasing aurora A activation. Our results suggest that LIMKs are potential drug targets for NF2 and tumors associated with merlin deficiency.