bims-pimaco Biomed News
on PI3K and MAPK signalling in colorectal cancer
Issue of 2021‒02‒14
fifteen papers selected by
Lucas B. Zeiger
Beatson Institute for Cancer Research

  1. Biomolecules. 2021 Feb 07. pii: 236. [Epub ahead of print]11(2):
      RAS oncogenes are among the most commonly mutated proteins in human cancers. They regulate a wide range of effector pathways that control cell proliferation, survival, differentiation, migration and metabolic status. Including aberrations in these pathways, RAS-dependent signaling is altered in more than half of human cancers. Targeting mutant RAS proteins and their downstream oncogenic signaling pathways has been elusive. However, recent results comprising detailed molecular studies, large scale omics studies and computational modeling have painted a new and more comprehensive portrait of RAS signaling that helps us to understand the intricacies of RAS, how its physiological and pathophysiological functions are regulated, and how we can target them. Here, we review these efforts particularly trying to relate the detailed mechanistic studies with global functional studies. We highlight the importance of computational modeling and data integration to derive an actionable understanding of RAS signaling that will allow us to design new mechanism-based therapies for RAS mutated cancers.
    Keywords:  RAS in human cancer; RAS oncogene; RAS signaling networks; computational modeling; personalized therapies; targeting RAS
  2. Cell Death Discov. 2020 Mar 11. 6(1): 12
      Oncogenic KRAS mutations are encountered in more than 90% of pancreatic ductal adenocarcinomas. MEK inhibition has failed to procure any clinical benefits in mutant RAS-driven cancers including pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC). To identify potential resistance mechanisms underlying MEK inhibitor (MEKi) resistance in PDAC, we investigated lysosomal drug accumulation in PDAC models both in vitro and in vivo. Mouse PDAC models and human PDAC cell lines as well as human PDAC xenografts treated with the MEK inhibitor trametinib or refametinib led to an enhanced expression of lysosomal markers and enrichment of lysosomal gene sets. A time-dependent, increase in lysosomal content was observed upon MEK inhibition. Strikingly, there was a strong activation of lysosomal biogenesis in cell lines of the classical compared to the basal-like molecular subtype. Increase in lysosomal content was associated with nuclear translocation of the Transcription Factor EB (TFEB) and upregulation of TFEB target genes. siRNA-mediated depletion of TFEB led to a decreased lysosomal biogenesis upon MEK inhibition and potentiated sensitivity. Using LC-MS, we show accumulation of MEKi in the lysosomes of treated cells. Therefore, MEK inhibition triggers lysosomal biogenesis and subsequent drug sequestration. Combined targeting of MEK and lysosomal function may improve sensitivity to MEK inhibition in PDAC.
  3. Int J Mol Sci. 2021 Feb 09. pii: 1743. [Epub ahead of print]22(4):
      The aim of this review was to summarize current available information about the role of phosphatidylinositol-3-kinase (PI3K)/AKT/mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) signaling in cancer as a potential target for new therapy options. The mTOR and PI3K/AKT/mTORC1 (mTOR complex 1) signaling are critical for the regulation of many fundamental cell processes including protein synthesis, cell growth, metabolism, survival, catabolism, and autophagy, and deregulated mTOR signaling is implicated in cancer, metabolic dysregulation, and the aging process. In this review, we summarize the information about the structure and function of the mTOR pathway and discuss the mechanisms of its deregulation in human cancers including genetic alterations of PI3K/AKT/mTOR pathway components. We also present recent data regarding the PI3K/AKT/mTOR inhibitors in clinical studies and the treatment of cancer, as well the attendant problems of resistance and adverse effects.
    Keywords:  AKT; PI3K; cancer; mTOR; mutation; therapy
  4. Genes Dis. 2021 Jan;8(1): 48-60
      Hippo Tumor Suppressor Pathway is the main pathway for cell growth that regulates tissue enlargement and organ size by limiting cell growth. This pathway is activated in response to cell cycle arrest signals (cell polarity, transduction, and DNA damage) and limited by growth factors or mitogens associated with EGF and LPA. The major pathway consists of the central kinase of Ste20 MAPK (Saccharomyces cerevisiae), Hpo (Drosophila melanogaster) or MST kinases (mammalian) that activates the mammalian AGC kinase dmWts or LATS effector (MST and LATS). YAP in the nucleus work as a cofactor for a wide range of transcription factors involved in proliferation (TEA domain family, TEAD1-4), stem cells (Oct4 mononuclear factor and SMAD-related TGFβ effector), differentiation (RUNX1), and Cell cycle/apoptosis control (p53, p63, and p73 family members). This is due to the diverse roles of YAP and may limit tumor progression and establishment. TEAD also coordinates various signal transduction pathways such as Hippo, WNT, TGFβ and EGFR, and effects on lack of regulation of TEAD cancerous genes, such as KRAS, BRAF, LKB1, NF2 and MYC, which play essential roles in tumor progression, metastasis, cancer metabolism, immunity, and drug resistance. However, RAS signaling is a pivotal factor in the inactivation of Hippo, which controls EGFR-RAS-RAF-MEK-ERK-mediated interaction of Hippo signaling. Thus, the loss of the Hippo pathway may have significant consequences on the targets of RAS-RAF mutations in cancer.
    Keywords:  Cancer; Hippo pathway; Metastasis; Signaling; Tumor suppressor
  5. Mol Cancer Res. 2021 Feb 12. pii: molcanres.MCR-20-0600-A.2020. [Epub ahead of print]
      Recently developed molecularly-targeted therapies such as EGFR inhibitors have notably improved the prognosis of patients with cancer. However, patients with KRAS and BRAF mutations do not currently benefit from these therapies. Here, we aimed to examine potential effects of crenolanib as a new molecularly-targeted therapy in colorectal cancer (CRC). We used multiple CRC cell lines to investigate the growth-inhibitory effect of crenolanib and its effect in combination with other cytotoxic agents. Primary cultures of patient-derived organoids (PDOs), a model that reflects the heterogeneity of clinical CRC, were used to further validate the effects of crenolanib. Unlike cetuximab, crenolanib remarkably suppressed ERK and AKT/mTOR pathways in HT29 cells with BRAF mutation and in HCT116 cells with KRAS mutation with corresponding growth-suppressing effects. Additive or synergistic effects were observed in treatments with combination of crenolanib and other cytotoxic drugs. Moreover, crenolanib suppressed the expression of stem cell markers, such as OCT4, NANOG, and SOX2. These observations were substantiated in seven PDOs with KRAS mutation and two PDOs without KRAS/BRAF mutations, with crenolanib suppressing the growth of all PDOs regardless of their KRAS mutation status. Further, crenolanib abrogated PDGF- and TGFβ-induced increase of OCT4-positive cells in PDOs. Together, these findings suggest that crenolanib may have clinical utility for CRC patients, especially patients with KRAS/BRAF mutations. Implications: These findings indicate that crenolanib can be a useful target agent for CRC patients, especially patients with KRAS/BRAF mutations.
  6. Cell Metab. 2021 Feb 04. pii: S1550-4131(21)00014-0. [Epub ahead of print]
      Cell-to-cell heterogeneity in metabolism plays an unknown role in physiology and pharmacology. To functionally characterize cellular variability in metabolism, we treated cells with inhibitors of oxidative phosphorylation (OXPHOS) and monitored their responses with live-cell reporters for ATP, ADP/ATP, or activity of the energy-sensing kinase AMPK. Across multiple OXPHOS inhibitors and cell types, we identified a subpopulation of cells resistant to activation of AMPK and reduction of ADP/ATP ratio. This resistant state persists transiently for at least several hours and can be inherited during cell divisions. OXPHOS inhibition suppresses the mTORC1 and ERK growth signaling pathways in sensitive cells, but not in resistant cells. Resistance is linked to a multi-factorial combination of increased glucose uptake, reduced protein biosynthesis, and G0/G1 cell-cycle status. Our results reveal dynamic fluctuations in cellular energetic balance and provide a basis for measuring and predicting the distribution of cellular responses to OXPHOS inhibition.
    Keywords:  AKT; FRET; PI3K; adenosine mono-phosphate-regulated protein kinase; electron transport chain; insulin signaling; mammalian target of rapamycin; metabolic cycle; oligomycin; oscillation; translation regulation
  7. Cell Death Dis. 2021 Feb 10. 12(2): 172
      As evidenced by the behavior of loss-of-function mutants of PTEN in the context of a gain-of-function mutation of AKT1, the PTEN-AKT1 signaling pathway plays a critical role in human cancers. In this study, we demonstrated that a deficiency in PTEN or activation of AKT1 potentiated the expression of platelet-derived growth factor receptor α (PDGFRα) based on studies on Pten-/- mouse embryonic fibroblasts, human cancer cell lines, the hepatic tissues of Pten conditional knockout mice, and human cancer tissues. Loss of PTEN enhanced PDGFRα expression via activation of the AKT1-CREB signaling cascade. CREB transactivated PDGFRα expression by direct binding of the promoter of the PDGFRα gene. Depletion of PDGFRα attenuated the tumorigenicity of Pten-null cells in nude mice. Moreover, the PI3K-AKT signaling pathway has been shown to positively correlate with PDGFRα expression in multiple cancers. Augmented PDGFRα was associated with poor survival of cancer patients. Lastly, combination treatment with the AKT inhibitor MK-2206 and the PDGFR inhibitor CP-673451 displayed synergistic anti-tumor effects. Therefore, activation of the AKT1-CREB-PDGFRα signaling pathway contributes to the tumor growth induced by PTEN deficiency and should be targeted for cancer treatment.
  8. Biochem Biophys Res Commun. 2021 Feb 06. pii: S0006-291X(21)00121-2. [Epub ahead of print]545 183-188
      The mechanistic target of rapamycin complex 1 (mTORC1) signaling is the prototypical pathway regulating protein synthesis and cell proliferation. The level of mTORC1 activity is high in intestinal stem cells located at the base of the crypts and thought to gradually decrease as transit-amplifying cells migrate out of the crypts and differentiate into enterocytes, goblet cells or enteroendocrine cells along the epithelium. The unknown mechanism responsible for the silencing of intestinal epithelium mTORC1 during cell differentiation was investigated in Caco-2 cells, which spontaneously differentiate into enterocytes in standard growth medium. The results show that TSC2, an upstream negative regulator of mTORC1 was central to mTORC1 silencing in differentiated Caco-2 cells. AMPK-mediated activation of TSC2 (Ser1387) and repression of Raptor (Ser792), an essential component of mTORC1, were stimulated in differentiated Caco-2 cells. ERK1/2-mediated repression of TSC2 (Ser664) seen in undifferentiated Caco-2 cells was lifted in differentiated cells. IRS-1-mediated activation of AKT (Thr308) phosphorylation was stimulated in differentiated Caco-2 cells and may be involved in cross-pathway repression of ERK1/2. Additionally, PRAS40 (Thr246) phosphorylation was decreased in differentiated Caco-2 cells compared to undifferentiated cells allowing dephosphorylated PRAS40 to displace Raptor thereby repressing mTORC1 kinase activity.
    Keywords:  AKT; ERK; Enterocyte; PRAS40; Raptor; Tight junction protein
  9. Front Cell Dev Biol. 2020 ;8 607444
      Mild hypoxia (5% O2) as well as FGFR1-induced activation of phosphatidylinositol-4,5-bisphosphate 3-kinase/protein kinase B (PI3K/AKT) and MAPK signaling pathways markedly support pluripotency in human pluripotent stem cells (hPSCs). This study demonstrates that the pluripotency-promoting PI3K/AKT signaling pathway is surprisingly attenuated in mild hypoxia compared to the 21% O2 environment. Hypoxia is known to be associated with lower levels of reactive oxygen species (ROS), which are recognized as intracellular second messengers capable of upregulating the PI3K/AKT signaling pathway. Our data denote that ROS downregulation results in pluripotency upregulation and PI3K/AKT attenuation in a hypoxia-inducible factor 1 (HIF-1)-dependent manner in hPSCs. Using specific MAPK inhibitors, we show that the MAPK pathway also downregulates ROS and therefore attenuates the PI3K/AKT signaling-this represents a novel interaction between these signaling pathways. This inhibition of ROS initiated by MEK1/2-ERK1/2 may serve as a negative feedback loop from the MAPK pathway toward FGFR1 and PI3K/AKT activation. We further describe the molecular mechanism resulting in PI3K/AKT upregulation in hPSCs-ROS inhibit the PI3K's primary antagonist PTEN and upregulate FGFR1 phosphorylation. These novel regulatory circuits utilizing ROS as second messengers may contribute to the development of enhanced cultivation and differentiation protocols for hPSCs. Since the PI3K/AKT pathway often undergoes an oncogenic transformation, our data could also provide new insights into the regulation of cancer stem cell signaling.
    Keywords:  HIF-1; MAPK; PI3K/AKT; hPSCs; hypoxia; reactive oxygen species
  10. Front Immunol. 2020 ;11 595818
      Phosphoinositide 3-kinases (PI3Ks) and their downstream proteins constitute a signaling pathway that is involved in both normal cell growth and malignant transformation of cells. Under physiological conditions, PI3K signaling regulates various cellular functions such as apoptosis, survival, proliferation, and growth, depending on the extracellular signals. A deterioration of these extracellular signals caused by mutational damage in oncogenes or growth factor receptors may result in hyperactivation of this signaling cascade, which is recognized as a hallmark of cancer. Although higher activation of PI3K pathway is common in many types of cancer, it has been therapeutically targeted for the first time in chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL), demonstrating its significance in B-cell receptor (BCR) signaling and malignant B-cell expansion. The biological activity of the PI3K pathway is not only limited to cancer cells but is also crucial for many components of the tumor microenvironment, as PI3K signaling regulates cytokine responses, and ensures the development and function of immune cells. Therefore, the success or failure of the PI3K inhibition is strongly related to microenvironmental stimuli. In this review, we outline the impacts of PI3K inhibition on the tumor microenvironment with a specific focus on CLL. Acknowledging the effects of PI3K inhibitor-based therapies on the tumor microenvironment in CLL can serve as a rationale for improved drug development, explain treatment-associated adverse events, and suggest novel combinatory treatment strategies in CLL.
    Keywords:  chronic lymphocytic leukemia; idelalisib; phosphoinositide 3-kinase (PI3K); phosphoinositide 3-kinase (PI3K) inhibition; tumor microenvironment
  11. Oncol Lett. 2021 Mar;21(3): 209
      In anticancer therapy, the effectiveness of therapeutics is limited by mutations causing drug resistance. KRAS mutations are the only determinant for cetuximab resistance in patients with colorectal cancer (CRC). However, cetuximab treatment has not been fully successful in the majority of patients with wild-type (WT) KRAS. Therefore, it is important to determine new predictive mutations in CRC treatment. In the present study, the association between AKT1/β-catenin (CTNNB1) mutations with the drug resistance to cetuximab and other chemotherapeutics used in the CRC treatment was investigated by using site-directed mutagenesis, transfection, western blotting and cell proliferation inhibition assay. Cetuximab resistance was higher in the presence of AKT1 E17K, E49K and L52R mutations, as well as CTNNB1 T41A, S45F and S33P mutations compared with that of respective WT proteins. AKT1/CTNNB1 mutations were also associated with oxaliplatin, irinotecan, SN-38 and 5-fluorouracil resistance. Furthermore, mutant cell viability in oxaliplatin treatment was more effectively inhibited compared with that of the other chemotherapeutic drugs. In conclusion, AKT1/CTNNB1 mutations may be used as an important predictive biomarker in CRC treatment.
    Keywords:  AKT1; cetuximab; colorectal cancer; drug resistance; β-catenin
  12. Cell Death Discov. 2020 Mar 17. 6(1): 14
      Twenty-one percent of all human cancers bear constitutively activating mutations in the proto-oncogene KRAS. This incidence is substantially higher in some of the most inherently therapy-resistant cancers including 30% of non-small cell lung cancers (NSCLC), 50% of colorectal cancers, and 95% of pancreatic ductal adenocarcinomas (PDAC). Importantly, survival of patients with KRAS-mutated PDAC and NSCLC has not significantly improved since the 1970s highlighting an urgent need to re-examine how oncogenic KRAS influences cell death signaling outputs. Interestingly, cancers expressing oncogenic KRAS manage to escape antitumor immunity via upregulation of programmed cell death 1 ligand 1 (PD-L1). Recently, the development of next-generation KRASG12C-selective inhibitors has shown therapeutic efficacy by triggering antitumor immunity. Yet, clinical trials testing immune checkpoint blockade in KRAS-mutated cancers have yielded disappointing results suggesting other, additional means endow these tumors with the capacity to escape immune recognition. Intriguingly, oncogenic KRAS reprograms regulated cell death pathways triggered by death receptors of the tumor necrosis factor (TNF) receptor superfamily. Perverting the course of their intended function, KRAS-mutated cancers use endogenous TNF-related apoptosis-inducing ligand (TRAIL) and its receptor(s) to promote tumor growth and metastases. Yet, endogenous TRAIL-TRAIL-receptor signaling can be therapeutically targeted and, excitingly, this may not only counteract oncogenic KRAS-driven cancer cell migration, invasion, and metastasis, but also the immunosuppressive reprogramming of the tumor microenvironment it causes. Here, we provide a concise summary of the current literature on oncogenic KRAS-mediated reprogramming of cell death signaling and antitumor immunity with the aim to open novel perspectives on combinatorial treatment strategies involving death receptor targeting.
  13. Sci Rep. 2021 Feb 11. 11(1): 3656
      Mutant KRAS is a common tumor driver and frequently confers resistance to anti-cancer treatments such as radiation. DNA replication stress in these tumors may constitute a therapeutic liability but is poorly understood. Here, using single-molecule DNA fiber analysis, we first characterized baseline replication stress in a panel of unperturbed isogenic and non-isogenic cancer cell lines. Correlating with the observed enhanced replication stress we found increased levels of cytosolic double-stranded DNA in KRAS mutant compared to wild-type cells. Yet, despite this phenotype replication stress-inducing agents failed to selectively impact KRAS mutant cells, which were protected by CHK1. Similarly, most exogenous stressors studied did not differentially augment cytosolic DNA accumulation in KRAS mutant compared to wild-type cells. However, we found that proton radiation was able to slow fork progression and preferentially induce fork stalling in KRAS mutant cells. Proton treatment also partly reversed the radioresistance associated with mutant KRAS. The cellular effects of protons in the presence of KRAS mutation clearly contrasted that of other drugs affecting replication, highlighting the unique nature of the underlying DNA damage caused by protons. Taken together, our findings provide insight into the replication stress response associated with mutated KRAS, which may ultimately yield novel therapeutic opportunities.
  14. Cancers (Basel). 2021 Feb 05. pii: 638. [Epub ahead of print]13(4):
      The overexpressed HER2 is an important target for treatment with monoclonal antibody (mAb) trastuzumab, only in patients with breast and gastric cancers, and is an emerging therapeutic biomarker in metastatic colorectal cancer (mCRC) treated with anti-epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) mAbs cetuximab and panitumumab. In this study, we investigated the relative expression and predictive value of all human epidermal growth factor receptor (HER) family members in 144 cetuximab-treated patients with wild type RAS mCRC. The relative expression of EGFR and HER2 have also been examined in 21-paired primary tumours and their metastatic sites by immunohistochemistry. Of the 144 cases examined, 25%, 97%, 79%, 48%, and 10% were positive for EGFR, HER2, HER3, and HER4 and all four HER family members, respectively. The expression of EGFR was an indicator of poorer overall survival and the membranous expression of HER2 and HER3 3+ intensity was associated with a shorter progression free survival (PFS). In contrast, the cytoplasmic expression of HER2 was associated with better PFS. In 48% and 71% of the cases, there were discordance in the expression of EGFR or one or more HER family members in paired primary and related metastatic tumours, respectively. Our results implicate the importance of a large prospective investigation of the expression level and predictive value of not only the therapeutic target (i.e., EGFR protein) but also HER2 and other HER family members as therapeutic targets, or for response to therapy with anti-EGFR mAbs and other forms of HER inhibitors, in both the primary tumours and metastatic sites in mCRC.
    Keywords:  HER2; cetuximab; metastatic colorectal cancer; predictive biomarker
  15. Cell Death Discov. 2020 Apr 22. 6(1): 27
      Glucose is a major requirement for biological life. Its concentration is constantly sensed at the cellular level, allowing for adequate responses to any changes of glucose availability. Such responses are mediated by key sensors and signaling pathway components that adapt cellular metabolism to glucose levels. One of the major hubs of these responses is mechanistic target of rapamycin (mTOR) kinase, which forms the mTORC1 and mTORC2 protein complexes. Under physiological glucose concentrations, mTORC1 is activated and stimulates a number of proteins and enzymes involved in anabolic processes, while restricting the autophagic process. Conversely, when glucose levels are low, mTORC1 is inhibited, in turn leading to the repression of numerous anabolic processes, sparing ATP and antioxidants. Understanding how mTORC1 activity is regulated by glucose is not only important to better delineate the biological function of mTOR, but also to highlight potential therapeutic strategies for treating diseases characterized by deregulated glucose availability, as is the case of cancer. In this perspective, we depict the different sensors and upstream proteins responsible of controlling mTORC1 activity in response to changes in glucose concentration. This includes the major energy sensor AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK), as well as other independent players. The impact of such modes of regulation of mTORC1 on cellular processes is also discussed.