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Int J Cancer. 2010 Jul 1;127(1):21-31. doi: 10.1002/ijc.25005.

Differential expression and phosphorylation of Pak1 and Pak2 in ovarian cancer: effects on prognosis and cell invasion.

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Department of Pathology, Queen Mary Hospital, The University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong, China.


Ovarian cancer is a gynecological malignancy with high mortality. Therefore, the identification of novel prognostic and therapeutic targets is important. p21-activated kinases (Paks) are involved in cytoskeleton reorganization. This study investigated the clinical significance of total and phosphorylated (p) Pak1 and Pak2 as well as their functional roles in ovarian cancer. Expressions of Pak1, p-Pak1 Thr(212), Pak2 and p-Pak2 Ser(20) in ovarian normal and cancerous cell lines as well as in clinical samples of ovarian tumors were evaluated. The effects of Pak1 and Pak2 on ovarian cancer cell functions were determined. Pak1, p-Pak1 and p-Pak2 were overexpressed in ovarian cancer cell lines, and clinical samples of ovarian cancers were compared with benign ovarian lesions/inclusion cysts. Similar Pak2 expression levels were observed among normal and cancerous cell lines and clinical samples. After multiple testing correction, high Pak1 and nuclear p-Pak1 expression in ovarian cancers was significantly associated with histological type and tumor grade, respectively. Pak1 and p-Pak1 expression was associated with poor overall and disease-free survival. Pak1 was an independent prognostic factor. Knockdown of Pak1 and Pak2 in ovarian cancer cell lines reduced cell migration and invasion but did not affect cell proliferation and apoptosis. Knockdown of Pak1 also reduced p38 activation and downregulated vascular endothelial growth factor. Conversely, ectopic Pak1 overexpression enhanced ovarian cancer cell migration and invasion in a kinase-dependent manner, along with increased p38 activation. Our findings suggest that Pak1, p-Pak1 and p-Pak2 play important roles in ovarian carcinogenesis. Pak1 and p-Pak1 may be potential prognostic markers and therapeutic molecular targets in ovarian cancer.

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