Inhibition of MerTK increases chemosensitivity and decreases oncogenic potential in T-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia.
ABSTRACT: Pediatric leukemia survival rates have improved dramatically over the past decades. However, current treatment protocols are still largely ineffective in cases of relapsed leukemia and are associated with a significant rate of chronic health conditions. Thus, there is a continued need for new therapeutic options. Here, we show that mer receptor tyrosine kinase (MerTK) was abnormally expressed in approximately one half of pediatric T-cell leukemia patient samples and T-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia (T-ALL) cell lines. Stimulation of MerTK by the ligand Gas6 led to activation of the prosurvival proteins Erk 1/2 and Stat5, and MerTK-dependent activation of the STAT pathway in leukemia represents a novel finding. Furthermore, inhibition of MerTK expression increased the sensitivity of T-ALL cells to treatment with chemotherapeutic agents and decreased the oncogenic potential of the Jurkat T-ALL cell line in a methylcellulose colony-forming assay. Lastly, inhibition of MerTK expression significantly increased median survival in a xenograft mouse model of leukemia (30.5 days vs 60 days, P<0.0001). These results suggest that inhibition of MerTK is a promising therapeutic strategy for the treatment of leukemia and may allow for dose reduction of currently used chemotherapeutics resulting in decreased rates of therapy-associated toxicities.
Project description:MERTK is ectopically expressed and promotes survival in acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) cells and is thus a potential therapeutic target. Here we demonstrate both direct therapeutic effects of MERTK inhibition on leukemia cells and induction of anti-leukemia immunity via suppression of the coinhibitory PD-1 axis. A MERTK-selective tyrosine kinase inhibitor, MRX-2843, mediated therapeutic anti-leukemia effects in immunocompromised mice bearing a MERTK-expressing human leukemia xenograft. In addition, inhibition of host MERTK by genetic deletion (Mertk-/- mice) or treatment with MRX-2843 significantly decreased tumor burden and prolonged survival in immune-competent mice inoculated with a MERTK-negative ALL, suggesting immune-mediated therapeutic activity. In this context, MERTK inhibition led to significant decreases in expression of the coinhibitory ligands PD-L1 and PD-L2 on CD11b+ monocytes/macrophages in the leukemia microenvironment. Furthermore, although T cells do not express MERTK, inhibition of MERTK indirectly decreased PD-1 expression on CD4+ and CD8+ T cells and decreased the incidence of splenic FOXP3+ Tregs at sites of leukemic infiltration, leading to increased T cell activation. These data demonstrate direct and immune-mediated therapeutic activities in response to MERTK inhibition in ALL models and provide validation of a translational agent targeting MERTK for modulation of tumor immunity.
Project description:MER receptor tyrosine kinase (MERTK) is expressed in a variety of malignancies, including glioblastoma multiforme (GBM). Our previous work demonstrated that inhibition of MERTK using RNA interference induced cell death and chemosensitivity in GBM cells, implicating MERTK as a potential therapeutic target. Here we investigate whether a novel MERTK-selective small molecule tyrosine kinase inhibitor, UNC2025, has similar anti-tumor effects in GBM cell lines.Correlations between expression of GAS6, a MERTK ligand, and prognosis were determined using data from the TCGA database. GBM cell lines (A172, SF188, U251) were treated in vitro with increasing doses of UNC2025 (50-400nM). Cell count and viability were determined by trypan blue exclusion. Cell cycle profiles and induction of apoptosis were assessed by flow cytometric analysis after BrdU or Po-Pro-1/propidium iodide staining, respectively. Polyploidy was detected by propidium iodide staining and metaphase spread. Cellular senescence was determined by ?-galactosidase staining and senescence-associated secretory cytokine analysis.Decreased overall survival significantly correlated with high levels of GAS6 expression in GBM, highlighting the importance of TAM kinase signaling in GBM tumorigenesis and/or therapy resistance and providing strong rationale for targeting these pathways in the clinic. All three GBM cell lines exhibited dose dependent reductions in cell number and colony formation (>90% at 200nM) after treatment with UNC2025. Cell cycle analysis demonstrated accumulation of cells in the G2/M phase and development of polyploidy. After extended exposure, 60-80% of cells underwent apoptosis. The majority of surviving cells (65-95%) were senescent and did not recover after drug removal. Thus, UNC2025 mediates anti-tumor activity in GBM by multiple mechanisms.The findings described here provide further evidence of oncogenic roles for MERTK in GBM, demonstrate the importance of kinase activity for MERTK tumorigenicity and validate UNC2025, a novel MERTK inhibitor, as a potential therapeutic agent for treatment of GBM.
Project description:Self-antigens expressed by apoptotic cells (ACs) may become targets for autoimmunity. Tolerance to these antigens is partly established by an ill-defined capacity of ACs to inhibit antigen-presenting cells such as dendritic cells (DCs). We present evidence that the receptor tyrosine kinase Mer (MerTK) has a key role in mediating AC-induced inhibition of DC activation/maturation. Pretreatment of DCs prepared from nonobese diabetic (NOD) mice with AC blocked secretion of proinflammatory cytokines, up-regulation of costimulatory molecule expression, and T cell activation. The effect of ACs on DCs was dependent on Gas6, which is a MerTK ligand. NOD DCs lacking MerTK expression (NOD.MerTK(KD/KD)) were resistant to AC-induced inhibition. Notably, autoimmune diabetes was exacerbated in NOD.MerTK(KD/KD) versus NOD mice expressing the transgenic BDC T cell receptor. In addition, beta cell-specific CD4(+) T cells adoptively transferred into NOD.MerTK(KD/KD) mice in which beta cell apoptosis was induced with streptozotocin exhibited increased expansion and differentiation into type 1 T cell effectors. In both models, the lack of MerTK expression was associated with an increased frequency of activated pancreatic CD11c(+)CD8alpha(+) DCs, which exhibited an enhanced T cell stimulatory capacity. These findings demonstrate that MerTK plays a critical role in regulating self-tolerance mediated between ACs, DCs, and T cells.
Project description:Metastatic melanoma is one of the most aggressive forms of cutaneous cancers. Although recent therapeutic advances have prolonged patient survival, the prognosis remains dismal. C-MER proto-oncogene tyrosine kinase (MERTK) is a receptor tyrosine kinase with oncogenic properties that is often overexpressed or activated in various malignancies. Using both protein immunohistochemistry and microarray analyses, we demonstrate that MERTK expression correlates with disease progression. MERTK expression was highest in metastatic melanomas, followed by primary melanomas, while the lowest expression was observed in nevi. Additionally, over half of melanoma cell lines overexpressed MERTK compared with normal human melanocytes; however, overexpression did not correlate with mutations in BRAF or RAS. Stimulation of melanoma cells with the MERTK ligand GAS6 resulted in the activation of several downstream signaling pathways including MAPK/ERK, PI3K/AKT, and JAK/STAT. MERTK inhibition via shRNA reduced MERTK-mediated downstream signaling, reduced colony formation by up to 59%, and diminished tumor volume by 60% in a human melanoma murine xenograft model. Treatment of melanoma cells with UNC1062, a novel MERTK-selective small-molecule tyrosine kinase inhibitor, reduced activation of MERTK-mediated downstream signaling, induced apoptosis in culture, reduced colony formation in soft agar, and inhibited invasion of melanoma cells. This work establishes MERTK as a therapeutic target in melanoma and provides a rationale for the continued development of MERTK-targeted therapies.
Project description:MerTK, a receptor tyrosine kinase (RTK) of the TYRO3/AXL/MerTK family, is expressed in myeloid lineage cells in which it acts to suppress proinflammatory cytokines following ingestion of apoptotic material. Using syngeneic mouse models of breast cancer, melanoma, and colon cancer, we found that tumors grew slowly and were poorly metastatic in MerTK-/- mice. Transplantation of MerTK-/- bone marrow, but not wild-type bone marrow, into lethally irradiated MMTV-PyVmT mice (a model of metastatic breast cancer) decreased tumor growth and altered cytokine production by tumor CD11b+ cells. Although MerTK expression was not required for tumor infiltration by leukocytes, MerTK-/- leukocytes exhibited lower tumor cell-induced expression of wound healing cytokines, e.g., IL-10 and growth arrest-specific 6 (GAS6), and enhanced expression of acute inflammatory cytokines, e.g., IL-12 and IL-6. Intratumoral CD8+ T lymphocyte numbers were higher and lymphocyte proliferation was increased in tumor-bearing MerTK-/- mice compared with tumor-bearing wild-type mice. Antibody-mediated CD8+ T lymphocyte depletion restored tumor growth in MerTK-/- mice. These data demonstrate that MerTK signaling in tumor-associated CD11b+ leukocytes promotes tumor growth by dampening acute inflammatory cytokines while inducing wound healing cytokines. These results suggest that inhibition of MerTK in the tumor microenvironment may have clinical benefit, stimulating antitumor immune responses or enhancing immunotherapeutic strategies.
Project description:Glioblastoma is an aggressive tumor that occurs in both adult and pediatric patients and is known for its invasive quality and high rate of recurrence. Current therapies for glioblastoma result in high morbidity and dismal outcomes. The TAM subfamily of receptor tyrosine kinases includes Tyro3, Axl, and MerTK. Axl and MerTK exhibit little to no expression in normal brain but are highly expressed in glioblastoma and contribute to the critical malignant phenotypes of survival, chemosensitivity and migration. We have found that Foretinib, a RTK inhibitor currently in clinical trial, inhibited phosphorylation of TAM receptors, with highest efficacy against MerTK, and blocked downstream activation of Akt and Erk in adult and pediatric glioblastoma cell lines, findings that are previously unreported. Survival, proliferation, migration, and collagen invasion were hindered in vitro. Foretinib treatment in vivo abolished MerTK phosphorylation and reduced tumor growth 3-4 fold in a subcutaneous mouse model. MerTK targeted shRNA completely prevented intracranial and subcutaneous glioma growth further delineating the impact of MerTK inhibition on glioblastoma. Our findings provide additional target validation for MerTK inhibition in glioblastoma and demonstrate that robust MerTK inhibition can be achieved with the multi-kinase inhibitor Foretinib as an innovative and translational therapeutic approach to glioblastoma.
Project description:Aberrant tyrosine-protein kinase Mer (MerTK) expression triggers prosurvival signaling and contributes to cell survival, invasive motility, and chemoresistance in many kinds of cancers. In addition, recent reports suggested that MerTK could be a primary target for abnormal platelet aggregation. Consequently, MerTK inhibitors may promote cancer cell death, sensitize cells to chemotherapy, and act as new antiplatelet agents. We screened an inhouse chemical library to discover novel small-molecule MerTK inhibitors, and identified AZD7762, which is known as a checkpoint-kinase (Chk) inhibitor. The inhibition of MerTK by AZD7762 was validated using an in vitro homogeneous time-resolved fluorescence (HTRF) assay and through monitoring the decrease in phosphorylated MerTK in two lung cancer cell lines. We also determined the crystal structure of the MerTK:AZD7762 complex and revealed the binding mode of AZD7762 to MerTK. Structural information from the MerTK:AZD7762 complex and its comparison with other MerTK:inhibitor structures gave us new insights for optimizing the development of inhibitors targeting MerTK.
Project description:Essentials Signaling by Gas6 through Tyro3/Axl/Mer receptors is essential for stable platelet aggregation. UNC2025 is a small molecule inhibitor of the Mer tyrosine kinase. UNC2025 decreases platelet activation in vitro and thrombus formation in vivo. UNC2025's anti-platelet effect is synergistic with inhibition of the ADP receptor, P2Y12 . SUMMARY:Background Growth arrest-specific protein 6 signals through the TAM (TYRO-3-AXL-MERTK) receptor family, mediating platelet activation and thrombus formation via activation of the aggregate-stabilizing ?IIb ?3 integrin. Objective To describe the antithrombotic effects mediated by UNC2025, a small-molecule MERTK tyrosine kinase inhibitor. Methods MERTK phosphorylation and downstream signaling were assessed by immunoblotting. Light transmission aggregometry, flow cytometry and microfluidic analysis were used to evaluate the impact of MERTK inhibition on platelet activation and stability of aggregates in vitro. The effects of MERTK inhibition on arterial and venous thrombosis, platelet accumulation at microvascular injury sites and tail bleeding times were determined with murine models. The effects of combined treatment with ADP-P2Y1&12 pathway antagonists and UNC2025 were also evaluated. Results and Conclusions Treatment with UNC2025 inhibited MERTK phosphorylation and downstream activation of AKT and SRC, decreased platelet activation, and protected animals from pulmonary embolism and arterial thrombosis without increasing bleeding times. The antiplatelet effect of UNC2025 was enhanced in combination with ADP-P2Y1&12 pathway antagonists, and a greater than additive effect was observed when these two agents with different mechanisms of inhibition were coadministered. TAM kinase signaling represents a potential therapeutic target, as inhibition of this axis, especially in combination with ADP-P2Y pathway antagonism, mediates decreased platelet activation, aggregate stability, and thrombus formation, with less hemorrhagic potential than current treatment strategies. The data presented here also demonstrate antithrombotic activity mediated by UNC2025, a novel translational agent, and support the development of TAM kinase inhibitors for clinical applications.
Project description:Maintenance of a healthy photoreceptor-retinal pigment epithelium (RPE) interface is essential for vision. At the center of this interface, apical membrane protrusions stemming from the RPE ensheath photoreceptor outer segments (POS), and are possibly involved in the recycling of POS through phagocytosis. The molecules that regulate POS ensheathment and its relationship to phagocytosis remain to be deciphered. By means of ultrastructural analysis, we revealed that Mer receptor tyrosine kinase (MERTK) ligands, GAS6 and PROS1, rather than ?V?5 integrin receptor ligands, triggered POS ensheathment by human embryonic stem cell (hESC)-derived RPE. Furthermore, we found that ensheathment is required for POS fragmentation before internalization. Consistently, POS ensheathment, fragmentation, and internalization were abolished in MERTK mutant RPE, and rescue of MERTK expression in retinitis pigmentosa (RP38) patient RPE counteracted these defects. Our results suggest that loss of ensheathment due to MERTK dysfunction might contribute to vision impairment in RP38 patients.