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Cell Death Dis. 2015 Feb 12;6:e1637. doi: 10.1038/cddis.2015.2.

p21-activated kinase 1 determines stem-like phenotype and sunitinib resistance via NF-κB/IL-6 activation in renal cell carcinoma.

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Department of Urology, Ninth People's Hospital, School of Medicine, Shanghai Jiaotong University, Shanghai 200011, China.
Key Laboratory of Glycoconjugate Research, MOH, Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, School of Baskic Medical Sciences, Shanghai Medical College of Fudan University, Shanghai 200032, China.
Department of Urology, Zhongshan Hospital, Fudan University, Shanghai 200032, China.


The p21-activated kinase 1 (PAK1), a serine/threonine kinase that orchestrates cytoskeletal remodeling and cell motility, has been shown to function as downstream node for various oncogenic signaling pathways to promote cell proliferation, regulate apoptosis and accelerate mitotic abnormalities, resulting in tumor formation and invasiveness. Although alterations in PAK1 expression and activity have been detected in various human malignancies, its potential biological and clinical significance in renal cell carcinoma (RCC) remains obscure. In this study, we found increased PAK1 and phosphorylated PAK1 levels in tumor tissues according to TNM stage progression. Elevated phosphorylated PAK1 levels associated with progressive features and indicated unfavorable overall survival (OS) as an independent adverse prognosticator for patients with RCC. Moreover, PAK1 kinase activation with constitutive active PAK1 mutant T423E promoted growth, colony formation, migration, invasion and stem-like phenotype of RCC cells, and vice versa, in PAK1 inhibition by PAK1 kinase inactivation with specific PAK1 shRNA, dead kinase PAK1 mutant K299R or allosteric inhibitor IPA3. Stem-like phenotype due to sunitinib administration via increased PAK1 kinase activation could be ameliorated by PAK1 shRNA, PAK1 mutant K299R and IPA3. Furthermore, nuclear factor-κB (NF-κB)/interleukin-6 (IL-6) activation was found to be responsible for PAK1-mediated stem-like phenotype following sunitinib treatment. Both IL-6 neutralizing antibody and IPA3 administration enhanced tumor growth inhibition effect of sunitinib treatment on RCC cells in vitro and in vivo. Our results unraveled that oncogenic activation of PAK1 defines an important mechanism for maintaining stem-like phenotype and sunitinib resistance through NF-κB/IL-6 activation in RCC, lending PAK1-mediated NF-κB/IL-6 activation considerable appeal as novel pharmacological therapeutic targets against sunitinib resistance.

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