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Neoplasia. 2009 Jan;11(1):10-21.

RET/PTC1-driven neoplastic transformation and proinvasive phenotype of human thyrocytes involve Met induction and beta-catenin nuclear translocation.

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Department of Experimental Oncology and Laboratories, Fondazione IRCCS Istituto Nazionale dei Tumori, Milan, Italy.


Activation of the RET gene by chromosomal rearrangements generating RET/PTC oncogenes is a frequent, early, and causative event in papillary thyroid carcinoma (PTC). We have previously shown that, in human primary thyrocytes, RET/PTC1 induces a transcriptional program including the MET proto-oncogene. In PTCs, beta-catenin is frequently mislocated to the cytoplasm nucleus. We investigated the interplay between Ret/ptc1 signaling and Met in regulating the proinvasive phenotype and beta-catenin localization in cellular models of human PTC. Here, we show that Met protein is expressed and is constitutively active in human thyrocytes exogenously expressing RET/PTC1 as well as a mutant (Y451F) devoid of the main Ret/ptc1 multidocking site. Both in transformed thyrocytes and in the human PTC cell line TPC-1, Ret/ptc1-Y451-dependent signaling and Met cooperated to promote a proinvasive phenotype. Accordingly, gene/functional silencing of either RET/PTC1 or MET abrogated early branching morphogenesis in TPC-1 cells. The same effect was obtained by blocking the common downstream effector Akt. Y451 of Ret/ptc1 was required to promote proliferation and nuclear translocation of beta-catenin, suggesting that these oncogene-driven effects are Met-independent. Pharmacologic inhibition of Ret/ptc1 and Met tyrosine kinases by the multitarget small molecule RPI-1 blocked cell proliferation and invasive ability and dislocated beta-catenin from the nucleus. Altogether, these results support that Ret/ptc1 cross talks with Met at transcriptional and signaling levels and promotes beta-catenin transcriptional activity to drive thyrocyte neoplastic transformation. Such molecular network, promoting disease initiation and acquisition of a proinvasive phenotype, highlights new options to design multitarget therapeutic strategies for PTCs.

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