GAS6-expressing and self-sustaining cancer cells in 3D spheroids activate the PDK-RSK-mTOR pathway for survival and drug resistance.
ABSTRACT: AXL receptor tyrosine kinase (RTK) inhibition presents a promising therapeutic strategy for aggressive tumor subtypes, as AXL signaling is upregulated in many cancers resistant to first-line treatments. Furthermore, the AXL ligand growth arrest-specific gene 6 (GAS6) has recently been linked to cancer drug resistance. Here, we established that challenging conditions, such as serum deprivation, divide AXL-overexpressing tumor cell lines into non-self-sustaining and self-sustaining subtypes in 3D spheroid culture. Self-sustaining cells are characterized by excessive GAS6 secretion and TAM-PDK-RSK-mTOR pathway activation. In 3D spheroid culture, the activation of the TAM-PDK-RSK-mTOR pathway proves crucial following treatment with AXL/MET inhibitor BMS777607, when the self-sustaining tumor cells react with TAM-RSK hyperactivation and enhanced SRC-AKT-mTOR signaling. Thus, bidirectional activated mTOR leads to enhanced proliferation and counteracts the drug effect. mTOR activation is accompanied by an enhanced AXL expression and hyperphosphorylation following 24 h of treatment with BMS777607. Therefore, we elucidate a double role of AXL that can be assigned to RSK-mTOR as well as SRC-AKT-mTOR pathway activation, specifically through AXL Y779 phosphorylation. This phosphosite fuels the resistance mechanism in 3D spheroids, alongside further SRC-dependent EGFR Y1173 and/or MET Y1349 phosphorylation which is defined by the cell-specific addiction. In conclusion, self-sustenance in cancer cells is based on a signaling synergy, individually balanced between GAS6 TAM-dependent PDK-RSK-mTOR survival pathway and the AXLY779/EGFR/MET-driven SRC-mTOR pathway.
Project description:TAM receptors (Tyro-3, Axl, and Mertk) are a family of three homologous type I receptor tyrosine kinases that are implicated in several human malignancies. Overexpression of TAMs and their major ligand Growth arrest-specific factor 6 (Gas6) is associated with more aggressive staging of cancers, poorer predicted patient survival, acquired drug resistance and metastasis. Here we describe small molecule inhibitors (RU-301 and RU-302) that target the extracellular domain of Axl at the interface of the Ig-1 ectodomain of Axl and the Lg-1 of Gas6. These inhibitors effectively block Gas6-inducible Axl receptor activation with low micromolar IC50s in cell-based reporter assays, inhibit Gas6-inducible motility in Axl-expressing cell lines, and suppress H1299 lung cancer tumor growth in a mouse xenograft NOD-SCIDγ model. Furthermore, using homology models and biochemical verifications, we show that RU301 and 302 also inhibit Gas6 inducible activation of Mertk and Tyro3 suggesting they can act as pan-TAM inhibitors that block the interface between the TAM Ig1 ectodomain and the Gas6 Lg domain. Together, these observations establish that small molecules that bind to the interface between TAM Ig1 domain and Gas6 Lg1 domain can inhibit TAM activation, and support the further development of small molecule Gas6-TAM interaction inhibitors as a novel class of cancer therapeutics.
Project description:Protein S (ProS) and growth arrest-specific 6 (Gas6) bind to phosphatidylserine (PtdSer) and induce efferocytosis upon binding TAM-family receptors (Tyro3, Axl, and Mer). Here, we produced mouse ProS, Gas6, and TAM-receptor extracellular region fused to IgG fragment crystallizable region in HEK293T cells. ProS and Gas6 bound Ca2+ dependently to PtdSer (Kd 20-40 nM), Mer, and Tyro3 (Kd 15-50 nM). Gas6 bound Axl strongly (Kd < 1.0 nM), but ProS did not bind Axl. Using NIH 3T3-based cell lines expressing a single TAM receptor, we showed that TAM-mediated efferocytosis was determined by the receptor-binding ability of ProS and Gas6. Tim4 is a membrane protein that strongly binds PtdSer. Tim4 alone did not support efferocytosis, but enhanced TAM-dependent efferocytosis. Resident peritoneal macrophages, Kupffer cells, and CD169+ skin macrophages required Tim4 for TAM-stimulated efferocytosis, whereas efferocytosis by thioglycollate-elicited peritoneal macrophages or primary cultured microglia was TAM dependent, but not Tim4 dependent. These results indicate that TAM and Tim4 collaborate for efficient efferocytosis in certain macrophage populations.
Project description:<i>Background.</i> Growth arrest-specific (Gas) 6 is one of the endogenous ligands of TAM receptors (Tyro3, Axl, and Mertk), and its role as an immune modulator has been recently emphasized. Naturally occurring CD4<sup>+</sup>CD25<sup>+</sup> regulatory T cells (Tregs) are essential for the active suppression of autoimmunity. The present study was designed to investigate whether Tregs express TAM receptors and the potential role of Gas6-TAM signal in regulating the suppressive function of Tregs. <i>Methods.</i> The protein and mRNA levels of TAM receptors were determined by using Western blot, immunofluorescence, flow cytometry, and RT-PCR. Then, TAM receptors were silenced using targeted siRNA or blocked with specific antibody. The suppressive function of Tregs was assessed by using a CFSE-based T cell proliferation assay. Flow cytometry was used to determine the expression of Foxp3 and CTLA4 whereas cytokines secretion levels were measured by ELISA assay. <i>Results.</i> Tregs express both Axl and Mertk receptors. Gas6 increases the suppressive function of Tregs in vitro and in mice. Both Foxp3 and CTLA-4 expression on Tregs are enhanced after Gas6 stimulation. Gas6 enhances the suppressive activity of Tregs mainly through Axl receptor. <i>Conclusion</i>. Gas6 has a direct effect on the functions of CD4<sup>+</sup>CD25<sup>+</sup>Tregs mainly through its interaction with Axl receptor.
Project description:AXL belongs to the TAM (TYRO3, AXL, and MERTK) receptor family, a unique subfamily of the receptor tyrosine kinases. Their common ligand is growth arrest-specific protein 6 (GAS6). The GAS6/TAM signaling pathway regulates many important cell processes and plays an essential role in immunity, hemostasis, and erythropoiesis. In cancer, AXL overexpression and activation has been associated with cell proliferation, chemotherapy resistance, tumor angiogenesis, invasion, and metastasis; and has been correlated with a poor prognosis. In hematological malignancies, the expression and function of AXL is highly diverse, not only between the different tumor types but also in the surrounding tumor microenvironment. Most research and clinical evidence has been provided for AXL inhibitors in acute myeloid leukemia. However, recent studies also revealed an important role of AXL in lymphoid leukemia, lymphoma, and multiple myeloma. In this review, we summarize the basic functions of AXL in various cell types and the role of AXL in different hematological cancers, with a focus on AXL in the dormancy of multiple myeloma. In addition, we provide an update on the most promising AXL inhibitors currently in preclinical/clinical evaluation and discuss future perspectives in this emerging field.
Project description:Background: Microglia are well known key regulators of neuroinflammation which feature in multiple neurodegenerative disorders. These cells survey the CNS and, under inflammatory conditions, become "activated" through stimulation of toll-like receptors (TLRs), resulting in changes in morphology and production and release of cytokines. In the present study, we examined the roles of the related TAM receptors, Mer and Axl, and of their ligand, Gas6, in the regulation of microglial pro-inflammatory TNF-? production and microglial morphology. Methods: Primary cultures of murine microglia of wild-type (WT), Mer-/- and Axl-/- backgrounds were stimulated by the TLR4 agonist, lipopolysaccharide (LPS) with or without pre-treatment with Gas6. Gene expression of TNF-?, Mer, and Axl was examined using reverse transcription-quantitative polymerase chain reaction (RT-qPCR), and enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) was used to measure TNF-? release from microglia. Immunofluorescence staining of ?-actin and the microglial marker Iba1 was performed to reveal microglial morphological changes, with cellular characteristics (area, perimeter, Feret's diameter, minimum Feret, roundness, and aspect ratio) being quantified using ImageJ software. Results: Under basal conditions, TNF-? gene expression was significantly lower in Axl-/- microglia compared to WT cells. However, all microglial cultures robustly responded to LPS stimulation with the upregulation of TNF-? expression to similar degrees. Furthermore, Mer receptor expression was less responsive to LPS stimulation when in Axl knockout cells. The presence of Gas6 consistently inhibited the LPS-induced upregulation of TNF-? in WT, Mer-/- and Axl-/- microglia. Moreover, Gas6 also inhibited LPS-induced changes in the microglial area, perimeter length, and cell roundness in wild-type cells. Conclusion: Gas6 can negatively regulate the microglial pro-inflammatory response to LPS as well as via stimulation of other TLRs, acting through either of the TAM receptors, Axl and Mer. This finding indicates an interaction between TLR and TAM receptor signaling pathways and reveals an anti-inflammatory role for the TAM ligand, Gas6, which could have therapeutic potential.
Project description:The dysregulation of receptor protein tyrosine kinase (RPTK) function can result in changes in cell proliferation, cell growth and metastasis leading to malignant transformation. Among RPTKs, the TAM receptor family composed of three members Tyro3, Axl, and Mer has been recognized to have a prominent role in cell transformation. In this study we analyzed the consequences of Tyro3 overexpression on cell proliferation, activation of signaling pathways and its functional interactions with Axl. Overexpression of Tyro3 in the Rat2 cell line that expresses Axl, but not Mer or Tyro3, resulted in a 5 fold increase in cell proliferation. This increase was partially blocked by inhibitors of the mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) signaling pathway but not by inhibitors of the phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase (PI(3)K) signaling pathway. Consistent with these findings, an increase in ERK1/2 phosphorylation was detected with Tyro3 but not with Axl overexpression. In contrast, activation of Axl stimulated the PI(3)K pathway, which was mitigated by co-expression of Tyro3. The overexpression of Tyro3 enhanced Gas6-mediated Axl phosphorylation, which was not detected upon overexpression of a "kinase dead" form of Tyro3 (kdTyro3). In addition, the overexpression of Axl induced kdTyro3 phosphorylation. Co-immunoprecipitation experiments confirmed that the Axl and Tyro3 receptors are closely associated. These findings show that overexpression of Tyro3 in the presence of Axl promotes cell proliferation, and that co-expression of Axl and Tyro3 can affect the outcome of Gas6-initiated signaling. Furthermore, they demonstrate a functional interaction between the members of the TAM receptor family which can shed light on the molecular mechanisms underlying the functional consequences of TAM receptor activation in cell transformation, neural function, immune function, and reproductive function among others.
Project description:Vascular endothelial functional dysregulation and barrier disruption are involved the initiation and development of sepsis. Growth arrest-specific protein 6 (Gas6), one of the endogenous ligands of TAM receptors (Tyro3, Axl, and Mertk), is confirmed to have beneficial functions in hemostasis, inflammation, and cancer growth. Here, we demonstrated the protective effects of Gas6 on multi-organ dysfunction syndrome (MODS) in sepsis and the underlying mechanisms. We investigated Gas6-ameliorated MODS by inhibiting vascular endothelial hyperpermeability in a mouse model of sepsis. Additionally, in vitro, under lipopolysaccharide (LPS) stimulation in vascular endothelial cells, Gas6 attenuated vascular endothelial hyperpermeability by reinforcing the tight junction proteins occludin, zonula occludens-1 (ZO-1), and claudin5. Furthermore, Gas6 substantially suppressed NF-?B p65 activation. In addition, blocking the Gas6 receptor, Axl, partially reduced the protective effect of Gas6 on the vascular endothelial barrier and diminished the inhibitive effect of Gas6 on NF-?B p65 activation. Taken together, this study suggests that Gas6 has a protective effect on MODS in sepsis by inhibiting the vascular endothelial hyperpermeability and alteration of tight junction and that the Axl/NF-?B signaling pathway underlies these effects.
Project description:Leiomyosarcoma (LMS) are 15% of adult sarcomas and remain seldom curable in metastatic phase. The TAM receptors and their ligands are overexpressed or activated in multiple malignancies, including LMS.The TAM receptor and ligand expression was evaluated in LMS cell lines and 358 sarcoma samples by either gene expression or immunohistochemistry. TYRO3 and AXL were knocked down. Crizotinib and foretinib were investigated in vitro.High expression of TYRO3 and AXL was detected in LMS cell lines. TYRO3 or AXL gene knockdown reduced cell proliferation/colony formation. Crizotinib and foretinib decreased TYRO3 and AXL phosphorylation, apoptosis, G2/arrest and reduced colony formation. Immunohistochemistry performed in 107 sarcomas showed higher expression of TYRO3 and GAS6 in LMS vs other sarcomas and nuclear TYRO3 only in LMS. Microarray gene expression performed in 251 sarcomas revealed significantly higher expression of TYRO3 and GAS6 in LMS than other sarcomas. Leiomyosarcoma patients with high expression of GAS6 or PROS1 present a significantly worse PFS.Leiomyosarcoma patients, especially those whom develop metastasis, express higher levels of TYRO3 and GAS6. Crizotinib and foretinib showed effective antitumour activity in LMS through TYRO3 and AXL deactivation indicating that clinical trials using TYRO3 and AXL inhibitors are warranted in advanced LMS.
Project description:Dysregulation of the von Hippel-Lindau/hypoxia-inducible transcription factor (HIF) signaling pathway promotes clear cell renal cell carcinoma (ccRCC) progression and metastasis. The protein kinase GAS6/AXL signaling pathway has recently been implicated as an essential mediator of metastasis and receptor tyrosine kinase crosstalk in cancer. Here we establish a molecular link between HIF stabilization and induction of AXL receptor expression in metastatic ccRCC. We found that HIF-1 and HIF-2 directly activate the expression of AXL by binding to the hypoxia-response element in the AXL proximal promoter. Importantly, genetic and therapeutic inactivation of AXL signaling in metastatic ccRCC cells reversed the invasive and metastatic phenotype in vivo. Furthermore, we define a pathway by which GAS6/AXL signaling uses lateral activation of the met proto-oncogene (MET) through SRC proto-oncogene nonreceptor tyrosine kinase to maximize cellular invasion. Clinically, AXL expression in primary tumors of ccRCC patients correlates with aggressive tumor behavior and patient lethality. These findings provide an alternative model for SRC and MET activation by growth arrest-specific 6 in ccRCC and identify AXL as a therapeutic target driving the aggressive phenotype in renal clear cell carcinoma.
Project description:Molecular targeted therapy for cancer has been a research hotspot for decades. AXL is a member of the TAM family with the high-affinity ligand growth arrest-specific protein 6 (GAS6). The Gas6/AXL signalling pathway is associated with tumour cell growth, metastasis, invasion, epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT), angiogenesis, drug resistance, immune regulation and stem cell maintenance. Different therapeutic agents targeting AXL have been developed, typically including small molecule inhibitors, monoclonal antibodies (mAbs), nucleotide aptamers, soluble receptors, and several natural compounds. In this review, we first provide a comprehensive discussion of the structure, function, regulation, and signalling pathways of AXL. Then, we highlight recent strategies for targeting AXL in the treatment of cancer.AXL-targeted drugs, either as single agents or in combination with conventional chemotherapy or other small molecule inhibitors, are likely to improve the survival of many patients. However, future investigations into AXL molecular signalling networks and robust predictive biomarkers are warranted to select patients who could receive clinical benefit and to avoid potential toxicities.