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PLoS Biol. 2018 Aug 29;16(8):e2005756. doi: 10.1371/journal.pbio.2005756. eCollection 2018 Aug.

BRAF and AXL oncogenes drive RIPK3 expression loss in cancer.

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Department of Cell Biology, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts, United States of America.
Ludwig Center, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts, United States of America.
Massachusetts General Hospital Cancer Center, Boston, Massachusetts, United States of America.
Division of Medical Oncology, Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center, Columbus, Ohio, United States of America.
Gynecologic Oncology Program, Department of Medical Oncology, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Boston, Massachusetts, United States of America.
Department of Medicine, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts, United States of America.


Necroptosis is a lytic programmed cell death mediated by the RIPK1-RIPK3-MLKL pathway. The loss of Receptor-interacting serine/threonine-protein kinase 3 (RIPK3) expression and necroptotic potential have been previously reported in several cancer cell lines; however, the extent of this loss across cancer types, as well as its mutational drivers, were unknown. Here, we show that RIPK3 expression loss occurs progressively during tumor growth both in patient tumor biopsies and tumor xenograft models. Using a cell-based necroptosis sensitivity screen of 941 cancer cell lines, we find that escape from necroptosis is prevalent across cancer types, with an incidence rate of 83%. Genome-wide bioinformatics analysis of this differential necroptosis sensitivity data in the context of differential gene expression and mutation data across the cell lines identified various factors that correlate with resistance to necroptosis and loss of RIPK3 expression, including oncogenes BRAF and AXL. Inhibition of these oncogenes can rescue the RIPK3 expression loss and regain of necroptosis sensitivity. This genome-wide analysis also identifies that the loss of RIPK3 expression is the primary factor correlating with escape from necroptosis. Thus, we conclude that necroptosis resistance of cancer cells is common and is oncogene driven, suggesting that escape from necroptosis could be a potential hallmark of cancer, similar to escape from apoptosis.

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