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Cancer Res. 2009 Apr 1;69(7):2748-56. doi: 10.1158/0008-5472.CAN-08-2690. Epub 2009 Mar 17.

Spleen tyrosine kinase functions as a tumor suppressor in melanoma cells by inducing senescence-like growth arrest.

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  • 1Institut National de la Santé et de la Recherche Médicale U895, Team 1, Biology and Pathologies of Melanocytes, Nice, France.


Loss of tumor-suppressive pathways that control cellular senescence is a crucial step in malignant transformation. Spleen tyrosine kinase (Syk) is a cytoplasmic tyrosine kinase that has been recently implicated in tumor suppression of melanoma, a deadly skin cancer derived from pigment-producing melanocytes. However, the mechanism by which Syk suppresses melanoma growth remains unclear. Here, we report that reexpression of Syk in melanoma cells induces a p53-dependent expression of the cyclin-dependent kinase (cdk) inhibitor p21 and a senescence program. We first observed that Syk expression is lost in a subset of melanoma cell lines, primarily by DNA methylation-mediated gene silencing and restored after treatment with the demethylating agent 5-aza-2-deoxycytidine. We analyzed the significance of epigenetic inactivation of Syk and found that reintroduction of Syk in melanoma cells dramatically reduces clonogenic survival and three-dimensional tumor spheroid growth and invasion. Remarkably, melanoma cells reexpressing Syk display hallmarks of senescent cells, including reduction of proliferative activity and DNA synthesis, large and flattened morphology, senescence-associated beta-galactosidase activity, and heterochromatic foci. This phenotype is accompanied by hypophosphorylated retinoblastoma protein (Rb) and accumulation of p21, which depends on functional p53. Our results highlight a new role for Syk tyrosine kinase in regulating cellular senescence and identify Syk-mediated senescence as a novel tumor suppressor pathway the inactivation of which may contribute to melanoma tumorigenicity.

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