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Am J Pathol. 2003 May;162(5):1503-13.

Aberrant expression and activation of the thrombin receptor protease-activated receptor-1 induces cell proliferation and motility in human colon cancer cells.

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Neuroendocrinologie et Biologie Cellulaire Digestives, INSERM U410, Institut National de la Santé et de la Recherche Médicale, Paris, France.


The traditional view on the role of serine proteases in tumor biology has changed with the recent discovery of a family of protease-activated receptors (PARs). In this study we explored the expression and functional role of the thrombin receptor PAR-1 in human colon cancer cells. Reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction analysis showed that PAR-1 mRNAs are present in 11 of 14 human colon cancer cell lines tested but not in normal human colonic epithelial cells. This is in line with the immunolocalization of PAR-1 in human colon tumors and its absence in normal human colonic mucosa. The functional significance of the aberrant expression of PAR-1 in colon cancer cells was then investigated. We found that 1) a prompt increase in intracellular calcium concentration was observed on thrombin (10 nmol/L) or PAR-1 agonist AP1 (100 micro mol/L) challenge of HT29 cells; 2) HT29 quiescent cells treated with thrombin (0.01 to 20 nmol/L) or AP1 (1 to 300 micro mol/L) exhibited dramatic mitogenic responses (3.5-fold increase in cell number). Proliferative effects of thrombin or AP1 were also observed in other colon cancer cell lines expressing PAR-1. This effect was reversed by the MEK inhibitor PD98059 in consonance with the ability of thrombin or AP1 to induce phosphorylation of p42/p44 extracellular-regulated protein kinases. 3) PAR-1 activation by thrombin or AP1 led to a two-fold increase in cell motility of wounded HT29-D4. Our results demonstrate for the first time the aberrant expression of the functional thrombin receptor PAR-1 in colon cancers and its important involvement in cell proliferation and motility. Thrombin should now be considered as a growth factor for human colon cancer.

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