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Cancer Res. 2006 Feb 1;66(3):1446-54.

Vascular endothelial growth factor receptor-3 and focal adhesion kinase bind and suppress apoptosis in breast cancer cells.

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  • 1Department of Surgery, Biochemistry, and Molecular Biology, University of Florida, PO Box 100286, 1600 Southwest Archer Road, Gainesville, FL 32610, USA.


Focal adhesion kinase (FAK) and vascular endothelial growth factor receptor-3 (VEGFR-3) are protein tyrosine kinases that are overexpressed in human cancer and play an important role in survival signaling. In addition to its involvement with cell survival, VEGFR-3 is a primary factor in lymphatic angiogenesis. Because FAK function is regulated by its COOH terminus (FAK-CD), we used FAK-CD as a target to identify binding partners. We isolated a peptide from a phage library that bound to FAK-CD, specifically the focal adhesion targeting domain of FAK and was homologous to VEGFR-3, suggesting these two tyrosine kinases physically interact. We have also shown that VEGFR-3 is overexpressed in human breast tumors and cancer cell lines. For the first time, we have shown the physical association of FAK and VEGFR-3. The association between the NH(2) terminus of VEGFR-3, containing the peptide identified by phage display, and the COOH terminus of FAK was detected by in vitro and in vivo binding studies. We then coupled a 12-amino-acid VEGFR-3 peptide, AV3, to a TAT cellular penetration sequence and showed that AV3 and not control-scrambled peptide caused specific displacement of FAK from the focal adhesions and affected colocalization of FAK and VEGFR-3. In addition, AV3 peptide decreased proliferation and caused cell detachment and apoptosis in breast cancer cell lines but not in normal breast cells. Thus, the FAK/VEGFR-3 interaction may have a potential use to develop novel molecular therapeutics to target the signaling between FAK and VEGFR-3 in human tumors.

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