A JNK-dependent switch determines the oncogenic or tumor suppressor activity of ILKs

A D Durbin, G R Somers, M Forrester, G E Hannigan, D Malkin


Background: Integrin-linked kinase (ILK) is a potent intracellular kinase involved in the regulation of multiple proliferation and survival kinases, including protein kinase B/Akt, glycogen synthase kinase-3β (GSK3β) and extracellular signal-regulated kinases 1 and 2 (ERK1/2). Evidence suggests ILK is overexpressed and acts oncogenically in a wide variety of primary tumors and genetic models, resulting in induction of tumor cell proliferation, migration, adhesion and angiogenic behaviours. Rhabdomyosarcoma (RMS) is the most common soft-tissue sarcoma of childhood. Histological subclassification of RMS yields two major variants, embryonal (ERMS) and alveolar (ARMS). ERMS, as well as multiple other tumors including breast and lung carcinoma, are commonly associated with loss of heterozygosity at 11p15.5, a region harboring the ILK locus.
Methods: We utilized cell culture and primary tumors to examine the expression and function of ILK.
Results: We demonstrate differential expression of ILK between ERMS and ARMS tumors in vitro and in vivo. RNAi to ILK induces potent gene silencing, with decreases in the phosphorylation of multiple ILK targets. ILK silencing induced inhibition of ARMS, and a contrasting potent stimulation of ERMS cell growth in survival and proliferation assays. These effects were reversed by adenoviral overexpression of ILK in multiple RMS and other tumor cell lines. Moreover, ILK silencing has multiple signaling effects, including induction of cell cycle progression through bmi-1and p16INK4a in ERMS with repression in ARMS, and phosphorylation of c-Jun NH2 terminal kinase (JNK) and c-Jun in ERMS and repression in ARMS cells. Coupling of JNK inhibition with ILK knockdown in ERMS cells inverted the ILK knockdown phenotype, resulting in a significant loss of cell proliferation.
Conclusions: Together, these data confirm the oncogenic role of ILK in alveolar rhabdomyosarcoma, and suggest a novel tumor-suppressive role for ILK signaling in embryonal rhabdomyosarcoma, mediated through the novel ILK target axis, JNK-c-Jun.

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.25011/cim.v30i4.2849


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