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Cancer Res. 2009 Nov 1;69(21):8317-25. doi: 10.1158/0008-5472.CAN-09-1248. Epub 2009 Oct 27.

The BRAFV600E oncogene induces transforming growth factor beta secretion leading to sodium iodide symporter repression and increased malignancy in thyroid cancer.

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Instituto de Investigaciones Biomédicas Alberto Sols Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas y Universidad Autónoma de Madrid, Madrid, Spain.


The activating mutation BRAF(V600E) is a frequent genetic event in papillary thyroid carcinomas (PTC) that predicts a poor prognosis, leading to loss of sodium/iodide symporter (NIS) expression and subsequent radioiodide-refractory metastatic disease. The molecular basis of such an aggressive behavior induced by BRAF remains unclear. Here, we show a mechanism through which BRAF induces NIS repression and promotes epithelial to mesenchimal transition and invasion based on the operation of an autocrine transforming growth factor (TGF)beta loop. BRAF induces secretion of functional TGFbeta and blocking TGFbeta/Smad signaling at multiple levels rescues BRAF-induced NIS repression. Although this mechanism is MAP/extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK) kinase (MEK)-ERK independent, secreted TGFbeta cooperates with MEK-ERK signaling in BRAF-induced cell migration, Matrigel invasion, and EMT. Consistent with this process, TGFbeta and other key components of TGFbeta signaling, such as TbetaRII and pSmad2, are overexpressed in human PTC, suggesting a widespread activation of this pathway by locally released TGFbeta. Moreover, this high TGFbeta/Smad activity is associated with PTC invasion, nodal metastasis, and BRAF status. Interestingly, TGFbeta is overexpressed in the invasive front, whereas NIS is preferentially expressed in the central regions of the tumors, suggesting that this negative correlation between TGFbeta and NIS occurs locally inside the tumor. Our study describes a novel mechanism of NIS repression in thyroid cancer and provides evidence that TGFbeta may play a key role in promoting radioiodide resistance and tumor invasion during PTC progression.

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