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PLoS One. 2013 Nov 11;8(11):e80071. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0080071. eCollection 2013.

Cancer cells resistant to therapy promote cell surface relocalization of GRP78 which complexes with PI3K and enhances PI(3,4,5)P3 production.

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  • 1Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, University of Southern California, Keck School of Medicine, USC Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center, Los Angeles, California, United States of America.


Traditionally, GRP78 has been regarded as an endoplasmic reticulum (ER) lumenal protein due to its carboxyl KDEL retention motif. Recently, a subfraction of GRP78 is found to localize to the surface of specific cell types, serving as co-receptors and regulating signaling. However, the physiological relevance of cell surface GRP78 (sGRP78) expression in cancer and its functional interactions at the cell surface are just emerging. In this report, we combined biochemical, imaging and mutational approaches to address these issues. For detection of sGRP78, we utilized a mouse monoclonal antibody highly potent and specific for GRP78 or epitope-tagged GRP78, coupled with imaging and biochemical techniques that allowed detection of sGRP78 but not intracellular GRP78. Our studies revealed that breast and prostate cancer cells resistant to hormonal therapy actively promote GRP78 to the cell surface, which can be further elevated by a variety of ER stress-inducing conditions. We showed that sGRP78 forms complex with PI3K, and overexpression of sGRP78 promotes PIP3 formation, indicative of PI3K activation. We further discovered that an insertion mutant of GRP78 at its N-terminus domain, while retaining stable expression and the ability to translocate to the cell surface as the wild-type protein, exhibited reduced complex formation with p85 and production of PIP3. Thus, our studies provide a mechanistic explanation for the regulation of the PI3K/AKT signaling by sGRP78. Our findings suggest that targeting sGRP78 may suppress therapeutic resistance in cancer cells and offer a novel strategy to suppress PI3K activity.

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