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Oncogenesis. 2019 Jan 15;8(2):7. doi: 10.1038/s41389-018-0116-9.

Activation of c-Met in cancer cells mediates growth-promoting signals against oxidative stress through Nrf2-HO-1.

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Division of Nephrology, Boston Children's Hospital, Boston, MA, 02115, USA.
Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA, 02115, USA.
Department of Anesthesiology, Boston Children's Hospital, Boston, MA, 02115, USA.
Dana Farber Cancer Institute, Boston, MA, 02115, USA.
Division of Nephrology, Boston Children's Hospital, Boston, MA, 02115, USA.
Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA, 02115, USA.


Any imbalance between reactive oxygen species (ROS) generation and the anti-oxidant capacity lead to cellular oxidative stress. Many chemotherapeutic agents mediate their cytotoxic functions through the generation of ROS. c-Met, a receptor tyrosine kinase, is over-expressed in renal cancer and plays very crucial role(s) in its growth and survival. Here, we show that c-Met activation protected renal cancer cells from ROS, oxidative stress and cytotoxicity induced by the anti-cancer agent sorafenib (used for renal cancer treatment); and it markedly attenuated sorafenib-induced DNA damage. Activated c-Met promoted the anti-apoptotic proteins (Bcl-2 and Bcl-xL) and inhibited apoptotic cleaved caspase-3. We found that the cytoprotective function of c-Met against sorafenib-induced ROS generation and apoptosis was mediated primarily through the activation of anti-oxidant Nrf2-HO-1. c-Met promoted the nuclear localization of Nrf2 and hindered its binding with the inhibitory protein Keap1. Silencing of Nrf2 attenuated the protective action of c-Met against sorafenib-induced oxidative stress. To evaluate the physiological significance of our findings, in a tumor xenograft model, we observed that a combination treatment with pharmacological inhibitors of c-Met and it's anti-oxidant downstream effecter HO-1 markedly reduced the growth of renal tumor in vivo; it increased the oxidative stress, DNA damage and apoptotic markers in the tumor xenografts, along with reduced tumor vessel density. Our observations indicate that the c-Met-Nrf2-HO-1 pathway plays a vital role in relieving ROS-mediated oxidative stress of renal tumors. Targeting this pathway can significantly increase the oxidative stress to promote apoptotic death of cancer cells.

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