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Gastroenterology. 2010 Jun;138(7):2357-67. doi: 10.1053/j.gastro.2010.02.046. Epub 2010 Feb 23.

Oncogenic K-Ras turns death receptors into metastasis-promoting receptors in human and mouse colorectal cancer cells.

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Department of Surgery, University Medical Center Utrecht, Utrecht, The Netherlands.



Death receptors expressed on tumor cells can prevent metastasis formation by inducing apoptosis, but they also can promote migration and invasion. The determinants of death receptor signaling output are poorly defined. Here we investigated the role of oncogenic K-Ras in determining death receptor function and metastatic potential.


Isogenic human and mouse colorectal cancer cell lines differing only in the presence or absence of the K-Ras oncogene were tested in apoptosis and invasion assays using CD95 ligand and tumor necrois factor-related apoptosis-inducing ligand (TRAIL) as stimuli. Metastatic potential was assessed by intrasplenic injections of green fluorescent protein- or luciferase-expressing tumor cells, followed by intravital fluorescence microscopy or bioluminescence imaging, and confocal microscopy and immunohistochemistry. Ras-effector pathway control of CD95 output was assessed by an RNA-interference and inhibitor-based approach.


CD95 ligand and TRAIL stimulated invasion of colorectal tumor cells and liver metastases in a K-Ras-dependent fashion. Loss of mutant K-Ras switched CD95 and TRAIL receptors back into apoptosis mode and abrogated metastatic potential. Raf1 was essential for the switch in CD95 function, for tumor cell survival in the liver, and for K-Ras-driven formation of liver metastases. K-Ras and Raf1 suppressed Rho kinase (ROCK)/LIM kinase-mediated phosphorylation of the actin-severing protein cofilin. Overexpression of ROCK or LIM kinase allowed CD95L to induce apoptosis in K-Ras-proficient cells and prevented metastasis formation, whereas their suppression protected K-Ras-deficient cells against apoptosis.


Oncogenic K-Ras and its effector Raf1 convert death receptors into invasion-inducing receptors by suppressing the ROCK/LIM kinase pathway, and this is essential for K-Ras/Raf1-driven metastasis formation.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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