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1.  Constitutive MEK1 Activation Rescues Anthrax Lethal Toxin-Induced Vascular Effects In Vivo▿  
Infection and Immunity  2010;78(12):5043-5053.
Anthrax lethal toxin (LT) increases vascular leakage in a number of mammalian models and in human anthrax disease. Using a zebrafish model, we determined that vascular delivery of LT increased permeability, which was phenocopied by treatment with a selective chemical inhibitor of MEK1 and MEK2 (also known as mitogen-activated protein kinase [MAPK] kinase, MEK, or MKK). Here we investigate further the role of MEK1/phospho-ERK (pERK) in the action of LT. Overexpression of wild-type zebrafish MEK1 at high levels did not induce detrimental effects. However, a constitutively activated version, MEK1S219D,S223D (MEK1DD), induced early defects in embryonic development that correlated with increased ERK/MAPK phosphorylation. To bypass these early developmental defects and to provide a genetic tool for examining the action of lethal factor (LF), we generated inducible transgenic zebrafish lines expressing either wild-type or activated MEK1 under the control of a heat shock promoter. Remarkably, induction of MEK1DD transgene expression prior to LT delivery prevented vascular damage, while the wild-type MEK1 line did not. In the presence of both LT and MEK1DD transgene expression, cardiovascular development and function proceeded normally in most embryos. The resistance to microsphere leakage in transgenic animals demonstrated a protective role against LT-induced vascular permeability. A consistent increase in ERK phosphorylation among LT-resistant MEK1DD transgenic animals provided additional confirmation of transgene activation. These findings provide a novel genetic approach to examine mechanism of action of LT in vivo through one of its known targets. This approach may be generally applied to investigate additional pathogen-host interactions and to provide mechanistic insights into host signaling pathways affected by pathogen entry.
doi:10.1128/IAI.00604-10
PMCID: PMC2981334  PMID: 20855511
2.  Spectrum of MEK1 and MEK2 gene mutations in cardio-facio-cutaneous syndrome and genotype–phenotype correlations 
Cardio-facio-cutaneous syndrome (CFCS) is a rare disease characterized by mental retardation, facial dysmorphisms, ectodermal abnormalities, heart defects and developmental delay. CFCS is genetically heterogeneous and mutations in the KRAS, BRAF, MAP2K1 (MEK1) and MAP2K2 (MEK2) genes, encoding for components of the RAS–mitogen activated protein kinase (MAPK) signaling pathway, have been identified in up to 90% of cases. Here we screened a cohort of 33 individuals with CFCS for MEK1 and MEK2 gene mutations to further explore their molecular spectrum in this disorder, and to analyze genotype–phenotype correlations. Three MEK1 and two MEK2 mutations were detected in six patients. Two missense MEK1 (L42F and Y130H) changes and one in-frame MEK2 (K63_E66del) deletion had not been reported earlier. All mutations were localized within exon 2 or 3. Together with the available records, the present data document that MEK1 mutations are relatively more frequent than those in MEK2, with exons 2 and 3 being mutational hot spots in both genes. Mutational analysis of the affected MEK1 and MEK2 exons did not reveal occurrence of mutations among 75 patients with Noonan syndrome, confirming the low prevalence of MEK gene defects in this disorder. Clinical review of known individuals with MEK1/MEK2 mutations suggests that these patients show dysmorphic features, ectodermal abnormalities and cognitive deficit similar to what was observed in BRAF-mutated patients and in the general CFCS population. Conversely, congenital heart defects, particularly mitral valve and septal defects, and ocular anomalies seem to be less frequent among MEK1/MEK2 mutation-positive patients.
doi:10.1038/ejhg.2008.256
PMCID: PMC2947095  PMID: 19156172
cardio-facio-cutaneous syndrome; MEK1; MEK2; BRAF
3.  Selective Role for Mek1 but not Mek2 in the Induction of Epidermal Neoplasia 
Cancer research  2009;69(9):3772-3778.
The Ras/Raf/Mek/Erk mitogen-activated protein kinase pathway regulates fundamental processes in normal and malignant cells, including proliferation, differentiation, and cell survival. Mutations in this pathway have been associated with carcinogenesis and developmental disorders, making Mek1 and Mek2 prime therapeutic targets. In this study, we examined the requirement for Mek1 and Mek2 in skin neoplasia using the two-step 7,12-dimethylbenz(a)anthraacene/12-O-tetradecanoylphorbol-13-acetate (DMBA/TPA) skin carcinogenesis model. Mice lacking epidermal Mek1 protein develop fewer papillomas than both wild-type and Mek2-null mice following DMBA/TPA treatment. Mek1 knockout mice had smaller papillomas, delayed tumor onset, and half the tumor burden of wild-type mice. Loss of one Mek1 allele, however, did not affect tumor development, indicating that one Mek1 allele is sufficient for normal papilloma formation. No difference in TPA-induced hyperproliferation, inflammation, or Erk activation was observed between wild-type, conditional Mek1 knockout, and Mek2-null mice, indicating that Mek1 findings were not due to a general failure of these processes. These data show that Mek1 is important for skin tumor development and that Mek2 cannot compensate for the loss of Mek1 function in this setting.
doi:10.1158/0008-5472.CAN-08-1963
PMCID: PMC3576816  PMID: 19383924
4.  Activation of MEK2 is sufficient to induce skin papilloma formation in transgenic zebrafish 
Background
Mutations in mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) kinase 1 (MEK1) that occur during cell proliferation and tumor formation are well described. Information on the roles of MEK2 in these effects is still limited. We established a constitutive MEK2 transgenic zebrafish, Tg(krt14:MEK2S219D-GFP), to elucidate the role of MEK2 in skin tumor formation.
Results
We found that both constitutive MEK2 and MEK1 are able to phosphorylate the extracellular signal-regulated kinase 1 (ERK1) protein. Transient expression of constitutive MEK2 and MEK1 in the zebrafish epidermis induced papillary formation at 48 h post-fertilization, but no effects were observed due to the expression of MEK1, MEK2, or the dominant negative form of MEK2. The transgenic zebrafish, Tg(krt14:MEK2S219D-GFP), developed skin papillomas in the epidermis within 6 days post-fertilization (dpf). The phospho-ERK signal was detected in section of skin papillomas in an immunohistochemical experiment. Treatment with 50 μM of the MEK inhibitor, U0126, had significantly decreased the skin papilloma formation in Tg(krt14:MEK2S219D-GFP) zebrafish by 6 dpf. In vitro and in vivo proliferation assay in COS-1 cells and in Tg(krt14:MEK2S219D-GFP) transgenic fish show significantly increased cell number and Ki-67 signaling.
Conclusion
Our data indicate that MEK2 is sufficient to induce epidermal papilloma formation through MAPK signaling in zebrafish, and this transgenic model can be used as a new platform for drug screening.
doi:10.1186/s12929-015-0207-2
PMCID: PMC4647631  PMID: 26572230
MEK2; Skin; Papilloma; Proliferation; Zebrafish
5.  Mek2 Is Dispensable for Mouse Growth and Development 
Molecular and Cellular Biology  2003;23(14):4778-4787.
MEK is a dual-specificity kinase that activates the extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK) mitogen-activated protein (MAP) kinase upon agonist binding to receptors. The ERK/MAP kinase cascade is involved in cell fate determination in many organisms. In mammals, this pathway is proposed to regulate cell growth and differentiation. Genetic studies have shown that although a single Mek gene is present in Caenorhabditis elegans, Drosophila melanogaster, and Xenopus laevis, two Mek homologs, Mek1 and Mek2, are present in the mammalian cascade. The inactivation of the Mek1 gene leads to embryonic lethality and has revealed the unique role played by Mek1 during embryogenesis. To investigate the biological function of the second homolog, we have generated mice deficient in Mek2 function. Mek2 mutant mice are viable and fertile, and they do not present flagrant morphological alteration. Although several components of the ERK/MAP kinase cascade have been implicated in thymocyte development, no such involvement was observed for MEK2, which appears to be nonessential for thymocyte differentiation and T-cell-receptor-induced proliferation and apoptosis. Altogether, our findings demonstrate that MEK2 is not necessary for the normal development of the embryo and T-cell lineages, suggesting that the loss of MEK2 can be compensated for by MEK1.
doi:10.1128/MCB.23.14.4778-4787.2003
PMCID: PMC162209  PMID: 12832465
6.  MEK2 Is Sufficient but Not Necessary for Proliferation and Anchorage-Independent Growth of SK-MEL-28 Melanoma Cells 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(2):e17165.
Mitogen-activated protein kinase kinases (MKK or MEK) 1 and 2 are usually treated as redundant kinases. However, in assessing their relative contribution towards ERK-mediated biologic response investigators have relied on tests of necessity, not sufficiency. In response we developed a novel experimental model using lethal toxin (LeTx), an anthrax toxin-derived pan-MKK protease, and genetically engineered protease resistant MKK mutants (MKKcr) to test the sufficiency of MEK signaling in melanoma SK-MEL-28 cells. Surprisingly, ERK activity persisted in LeTx-treated cells expressing MEK2cr but not MEK1cr. Microarray analysis revealed non-overlapping downstream transcriptional targets of MEK1 and MEK2, and indicated a substantial rescue effect of MEK2cr on proliferation pathways. Furthermore, LeTx efficiently inhibited the cell proliferation and anchorage-independent growth of SK-MEL-28 cells expressing MKK1cr but not MEK2cr. These results indicate in SK-MEL-28 cells MEK1 and MEK2 signaling pathways are not redundant and interchangeable for cell proliferation. We conclude that in the absence of other MKK, MEK2 is sufficient for SK-MEL-28 cell proliferation. MEK1 conditionally compensates for loss of MEK2 only in the presence of other MKK.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0017165
PMCID: PMC3041822  PMID: 21365009
7.  Extracellular Signal-Regulated Kinases Modulate DNA Damage Response - A Contributing Factor to Using MEK Inhibitors in Cancer Therapy 
Current Medicinal Chemistry  2011;18(35):5476-5482.
The Raf-MEK-ERK pathway is commonly activated in human cancers, largely attributable to the extracellular signal-regulated kinases (ERKs) being a common downstream target of growth factor receptors, Ras, and Raf. Elevation of these up-stream signals occurs frequently in a variety of malignancies and ERK kinases play critical roles in promoting cell proliferation. Therefore, inhibition of MEK-mediated ERK activation is very appealing in cancer therapy. Consequently, numerous MEK inhibitors have been developed over the years. However, clinical trials have yet to produce overwhelming support for using MEK inhibitors in cancer therapy. Although complex reasons may have contributed to this outcome, an alternative possibility is that the MEK-ERK pathway may not solely provide proliferation signals to malignancies, the central scientific rationale in developing MEK inhibitors for cancer therapy. Recent developments may support this alternative possibility. Accumulating evidence now demonstrated that the MEK-ERK pathway contributes to the proper execution of cellular DNA damage response (DDR), a major pathway of tumor suppression. During DDR, the MEK-ERK pathway is commonly activated, which facilitates the proper activation of DDR checkpoints to prevent cell division. Inhibition of MEK-mediated ERK activation, therefore, compromises checkpoint activation. As a result, cells may continue to proliferate in the presence of DNA lesions, leading to the accumulation of mutations and thereby promoting tumorigenesis. Alternatively, reduction in checkpoint activation may prevent efficient repair of DNA damages, which may cause apoptosis or cell catastrophe, thereby enhancing chemotherapy’s efficacy. This review summarizes our current understanding of the participation of the ERK kinases in DDR.
doi:10.2174/092986711798194388
PMCID: PMC3330700  PMID: 22087839
ERK1/2 kinases; DNA damage response (DDR); checkpoint activation; ATM; ATR.
8.  Activation of Erk and JNK MAPK pathways by acute swim stress in rat brain regions 
BMC Neuroscience  2004;5:36.
Background
The mitogen-activated protein kinases (MAPKs) have been shown to participate in a wide array of cellular functions. A role for some MAPKs (e.g., extracellular signal-regulated kinase, Erk1/2) has been documented in response to certain physiological stimuli, such as ischemia, visceral pain and electroconvulsive shock. We recently demonstrated that restraint stress activates the Erk MAPK pathway, but not c-Jun-N-terminal kinase/stress-activated protein kinase (JNK/SAPK) or p38MAPK, in several rat brain regions. In the present study, we investigated the effects of a different stressor, acute forced swim stress, on the phosphorylation (P) state of these MAPKs in the hippocampus, neocortex, prefrontal cortex, amygdala and striatum. In addition, effects on the phosphorylation state of the upstream activators of the MAPKs, their respective MAPK kinases (MAPKKs; P-MEK1/2, P-MKK4 and P-MKK3/6), were determined. Finally, because the Erk pathway can activate c-AMP response element (CRE) binding (CREB) protein, and swim stress has recently been reported to enhance CREB phosphorylation, changes in P-CREB were also examined.
Results
A single 15 min session of forced swimming increased P-Erk2 levels 2–3-fold in the neocortex, prefrontal cortex and striatum, but not in the hippocampus or amygdala. P-JNK levels (P-JNK1 and/or P-JNK2/3) were increased in all brain regions about 2–5-fold, whereas P-p38MAPK levels remained essentially unchanged. Surprisingly, levels of the phosphorylated MAPKKs, P-MEK1/2 and P-MKK4 (activators of the Erk and JNK pathways, respectively) were increased in all five brain regions, and much more dramatically (P-MEK1/2, 4.5 to > 100-fold; P-MKK4, 12 to ~300-fold). Consistent with the lack of forced swim on phosphorylation of p38MAPK, there appeared to be no change in levels of its activator, P-MKK3/6. P-CREB was increased in all but cortical (prefrontal, neocortex) areas.
Conclusions
Swim stress specifically and markedly enhanced the phosphorylation of the MAPKKs P-MEK1/2 and P-MKK4 in all brain regions tested without apparent alteration in the phosphorylation of P-MKK3/6. Curiously, phosphorylation of their cognate substrates (Erk and JNK) was increased to a much more modest extent, and in some brain regions was not altered. Similarly, there was a region-specific discrepancy between Erk and CREB phosphorylation. Possible explanations for these findings and comparison with the effects of restraint stress will be discussed.
doi:10.1186/1471-2202-5-36
PMCID: PMC526203  PMID: 15380027
9.  Engineered single nucleotide polymorphisms in the mosquito MEK docking site alter Plasmodium berghei development in Anopheles gambiae 
Parasites & Vectors  2014;7:287.
Background
Susceptibility to Plasmodium infection in Anopheles gambiae has been proposed to result from naturally occurring polymorphisms that alter the strength of endogenous innate defenses. Despite the fact that some of these mutations are known to introduce non-synonymous substitutions in coding sequences, these mutations have largely been used to rationalize knockdown of associated target proteins to query the effects on parasite development in the mosquito host. Here, we assay the effects of engineered mutations on an immune signaling protein target that is known to control parasite sporogonic development. By this proof-of-principle work, we have established that naturally occurring mutations can be queried for their effects on mosquito protein function and on parasite development and that this important signaling pathway can be genetically manipulated to enhance mosquito resistance.
Methods
We introduced SNPs into the A. gambiae MAPK kinase MEK to alter key residues in the N-terminal docking site (D-site), thus interfering with its ability to interact with the downstream kinase target ERK. ERK phosphorylation levels in vitro and in vivo were evaluated to confirm the effects of MEK D-site mutations. In addition, overexpression of various MEK D-site alleles was used to assess P. berghei infection in A. gambiae.
Results
The MEK D-site contains conserved lysine residues predicted to mediate protein-protein interaction with ERK. As anticipated, each of the D-site mutations (K3M, K6M) suppressed ERK phosphorylation and this inhibition was significant when both mutations were present. Tissue-targeted overexpression of alleles encoding MEK D-site polymorphisms resulted in reduced ERK phosphorylation in the midgut of A. gambiae. Furthermore, as expected, inhibition of MEK-ERK signaling due to D-site mutations resulted in reduction in P. berghei development relative to infection in the presence of overexpressed catalytically active MEK.
Conclusion
MEK-ERK signaling in A. gambiae, as in model organisms and humans, depends on the integrity of conserved key residues within the MEK D-site. Disruption of signal transmission via engineered SNPs provides a purposeful proof-of-principle model for the study of naturally occurring mutations that may be associated with mosquito resistance to parasite infection as well as an alternative genetic basis for manipulation of this important immune signaling pathway.
doi:10.1186/1756-3305-7-287
PMCID: PMC4077580  PMID: 24957684
Anopheles; Mosquito; MAPK; Plasmodium; Malaria; Single nucleotide polymorphism; Immunity
10.  MEK targeting in N-RAS mutated metastatic melanoma 
Molecular Cancer  2014;13:45.
Background
Gain of function mutations in B-RAF and N-RAS occur frequently in melanoma, leading to mitogen activating protein kinase (MAPK) pathway activation, and this pathway is the target of drugs in development. Our purpose was to study clinical characteristics of patients with mutations in this pathway and to determine activity of inhibitors of B-RAF and MEK in short term cultures grown from tumors of some of these patients.
Methods
Clinical and pathologic data were collected retrospectively on melanoma patients tested for B-RAF and N-RAS mutations at the Yale Cancer Center and associations with survival were determined. We studied in vitro activity of the pan-RAF inhibitor, RAF265, and the MEK inhibitor, MEK162, in 22 melanoma short term cultures. We further characterized the effect of MEK inhibition on apoptosis and growth of melanoma cultures.
Results
In a cohort of 144 metastatic melanoma patients we found that patients with N-RAS mutant melanoma had a worse prognosis. These patients were more likely to have brain metastases at the time of presentation with metastatic disease than their N-RAS-wild-type counterparts. All N-RAS mutant melanoma cultures tested in our study (n = 7) were sensitive to MEK inhibition162. Exposure to MEK162 reduced ERK1/2 phosphorylation, and induced apoptosis. Clonogenic survival was significantly reduced in sensitive melanoma cell cultures.
Conclusions
The prognosis of patients with melanoma expressing constitutively active N-RAS is poor, consistent with studies performed at other institutions. N-RAS mutant melanoma cultures appear to be particularly sensitive to MEK162, supporting ongoing clinical trials with MEK162 in N-RAS mutated melanoma.
doi:10.1186/1476-4598-13-45
PMCID: PMC3945937  PMID: 24588908
Targeted therapy; Melanoma; N-RAS; MEK inhibitor; Apoptosis
11.  A proline-rich sequence unique to MEK1 and MEK2 is required for raf binding and regulates MEK function. 
Molecular and Cellular Biology  1995;15(10):5214-5225.
Mammalian MEK1 and MEK2 contain a proline-rich (PR) sequence that is absent both from the yeast homologs Ste7 and Byr1 and from a recently cloned activator of the JNK/stress-activated protein kinases, SEK1/MKK4. Since this PR sequence occurs in MEKs that are regulated by Raf family enzymes but is missing from MEKs and SEKs activated independently of Raf, we sought to investigate the role of this sequence in MEK1 and MEK2 regulation and function. Deletion of the PR sequence from MEK1 blocked the ability of MEK1 to associate with members of the Raf family and markedly attenuated activation of the protein in vivo following growth factor stimulation. In addition, this sequence was necessary for efficient activation of MEK1 in vitro by B-Raf but dispensable for activation by a novel MEK1 activator which we have previously detected in fractionated fibroblast extracts. Furthermore, we found that a phosphorylation site within the PR sequence of MEK1 was required for sustained MEK1 activity in response to serum stimulation of quiescent fibroblasts. Consistent with this observation, we observed that MEK2, which lacks a phosphorylation site at the corresponding position, was activated only transiently following serum stimulation. Finally, we found that deletion of the PR sequence from a constitutively activated MEK1 mutant rendered the protein nontransforming in Rat1 fibroblasts. These observations indicate a critical role for the PR sequence in directing specific protein-protein interactions important for the activation, inactivation, and downstream functioning of the MEKs.
PMCID: PMC230769  PMID: 7565670
12.  Reconstitution of the Raf-1-MEK-ERK signal transduction pathway in vitro. 
Molecular and Cellular Biology  1993;13(11):6615-6620.
Raf-1 is a serine/threonine kinase which is essential in cell growth and differentiation. Tyrosine kinase oncogenes and receptors and p21ras can activate Raf-1, and recent studies have suggested that Raf-1 functions upstream of MEK (MAP/ERK kinase), which phosphorylates and activates ERK. To determine whether or not Raf-1 directly activates MEK, we developed an in vitro assay with purified recombinant proteins. Epitope-tagged versions of Raf-1 and MEK and kinase-inactive mutants of each protein were expressed in Sf9 cells, and ERK1 was purified as a glutathione S-transferase fusion protein from bacteria. Raf-1 purified from Sf9 cells which had been coinfected with v-src or v-ras was able to phosphorylate kinase-active and kinase-inactive MEK. A kinase-inactive version of Raf-1 purified from cells that had been coinfected with v-src or v-ras was not able to phosphorylate MEK. Raf-1 phosphorylation of MEK activated it, as judged by its ability to stimulate the phosphorylation of myelin basic protein by glutathione S-transferase-ERK1. We conclude that MEK is a direct substrate of Raf-1 and that the activation of MEK by Raf-1 is due to phosphorylation by Raf-1, which is sufficient for MEK activation. We also tested the ability of protein kinase C to activate Raf-1 and found that, although protein kinase C phosphorylation of Raf-1 was able to stimulate its autokinase activity, it did not stimulate its ability to phosphorylate MEK.
Images
PMCID: PMC364724  PMID: 8413257
13.  PRO40 Is a Scaffold Protein of the Cell Wall Integrity Pathway, Linking the MAP Kinase Module to the Upstream Activator Protein Kinase C 
PLoS Genetics  2014;10(9):e1004582.
Mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) pathways are crucial signaling instruments in eukaryotes. Most ascomycetes possess three MAPK modules that are involved in key developmental processes like sexual propagation or pathogenesis. However, the regulation of these modules by adapters or scaffolds is largely unknown. Here, we studied the function of the cell wall integrity (CWI) MAPK module in the model fungus Sordaria macrospora. Using a forward genetic approach, we found that sterile mutant pro30 has a mutated mik1 gene that encodes the MAPK kinase kinase (MAPKKK) of the proposed CWI pathway. We generated single deletion mutants lacking MAPKKK MIK1, MAPK kinase (MAPKK) MEK1, or MAPK MAK1 and found them all to be sterile, cell fusion-deficient and highly impaired in vegetative growth and cell wall stress response. By searching for MEK1 interaction partners via tandem affinity purification and mass spectrometry, we identified previously characterized developmental protein PRO40 as a MEK1 interaction partner. Although fungal PRO40 homologs have been implicated in diverse developmental processes, their molecular function is currently unknown. Extensive affinity purification, mass spectrometry, and yeast two-hybrid experiments showed that PRO40 is able to bind MIK1, MEK1, and the upstream activator protein kinase C (PKC1). We further found that the PRO40 N-terminal disordered region and the central region encompassing a WW interaction domain are sufficient to govern interaction with MEK1. Most importantly, time- and stress-dependent phosphorylation studies showed that PRO40 is required for MAK1 activity. The sum of our results implies that PRO40 is a scaffold protein for the CWI pathway, linking the MAPK module to the upstream activator PKC1. Our data provide important insights into the mechanistic role of a protein that has been implicated in sexual and asexual development, cell fusion, symbiosis, and pathogenicity in different fungal systems.
Author Summary
The specific response to environmental cues is crucial for cell differentiation and is often mediated by highly conserved eukaryotic MAP kinase (MAPK) pathways. How these pathways react specifically to huge numbers of different cues is still unclear, and current literature about adapter and scaffolding proteins remains scarce. However, gaining fundamental insight into molecular signaling determinants is pivotal for combating diseases with impaired signal transduction processes, such as Alzheimer's disease or cancer. Importantly, signal transduction can easily be studied in lower eukaryotes like filamentous fungi that are readily genetically tractable. The fungus Sordaria macrospora has a long history as an ideal model system for cell differentiation, and we show here that the proposed cell wall integrity (CWI) MAPK module of this fungus controls differentiation of sexual fruiting bodies, cell fusion, polar growth and cell wall stress response. We further discovered that developmental protein PRO40 binds the MAPK kinase kinase (MAPKKK), the MAPK kinase (MAPKK) and upstream activator protein kinase C (PKC1) of the CWI pathway and is required for MAK1 activity, thereby providing evidence that PRO40 is a scaffold protein. Collectively, our findings reveal a molecular role for a protein implicated in development, cell fusion, symbiosis, and pathogenicity in different fungi.
doi:10.1371/journal.pgen.1004582
PMCID: PMC4154660  PMID: 25188365
14.  CInQ-03, a novel allosteric MEK inhibitor, suppresses cancer growth in vitro and in vivo  
Carcinogenesis  2013;34(5):1134-1143.
The mitogen-activated protein kinase kinase 1 and 2 signaling pathway is a major component of the RAS (Rat sarcoma)/RAF (Radpidly accelerated fibrosarcoma)/MEK (mitogen-activated protein kinase kinase)/ERKs (Extracellular signal-regulated kinases) signaling axis that regulates tumorigenesis and cancer cell growth. MEK is frequently activated in various cancers that have mutations in the KRAS and BRAF oncogenes. Therefore, MEK has been suggested as a therapeutic target for inhibitor development against tumors that are dependent on the activating mutations in mitogen-activated protein kinase signaling. Herein, we report the discovery of three novel MEK inhibitors, herein referred to as CInQ-01, CInQ-03 and CInQ-06. All three inhibitors were highly effective in suppressing MEK1 and MEK2 in vitro kinase activity as well as anchorage-dependent and anchorage-independent cell growth. The inhibitory activity was associated with markedly reduced phosphorylation of ERKs and ribosomal S6 kinases. Furthermore, administration of CInQ-03 inhibited colon cancer cell growth in an in vivo xenograft mouse model and showed no skin toxicity. Overall, these results suggest that these novel MEK inhibitors might be used for chemotherapy or prevention.
doi:10.1093/carcin/bgt015
PMCID: PMC3643416  PMID: 23354306
15.  Phosphatidylcholine Specific PLC-Induced Dysregulation of Gap Junctions, a Robust Cellular Response to Environmental Toxicants, and Prevention by Resveratrol in a Rat Liver Cell Model 
PLoS ONE  2015;10(5):e0124454.
Dysregulation of gap junctional intercellular communication (GJIC) has been associated with different pathologies, including cancer; however, molecular mechanisms regulating GJIC are not fully understood. Mitogen Activated Protein Kinase (MAPK)-dependent mechanisms of GJIC-dysregulation have been well-established, however recent discoveries have implicated phosphatidylcholine-specific phospholipase C (PC-PLC) in the regulation of GJIC. What is not known is how prevalent these two signaling mechanisms are in toxicant/toxin-induced dysregulation of GJIC, and do toxicants/toxins work through either signaling mechanisms or both, or through alternative signaling mechanisms. Different chemical toxicants were used to assess whether they dysregulate GJIC via MEK or PC-PLC, or both Mek and PC-PLC, or through other signaling pathways, using a pluripotent rat liver epithelial oval-cell line, WB-F344. Epidermal growth factor, 12-O-tetradecanoylphorbol-13-acetate, thrombin receptor activating peptide-6 and lindane regulated GJIC through a MEK1/2-dependent mechanism that was independent of PC-PLC; whereas PAHs, DDT, PCB 153, dicumylperoxide and perfluorodecanoic acid inhibited GJIC through PC-PLC independent of Mek. Dysregulation of GJIC by perfluorooctanoic acid and R59022 required both MEK1/2 and PC-PLC; while benzoylperoxide, arachidonic acid, 18β-glycyrrhetinic acid, perfluorooctane sulfonic acid, 1-monolaurin, pentachlorophenol and alachlor required neither MEK1/2 nor PC-PLC. Resveratrol prevented dysregulation of GJIC by toxicants that acted either through MEK1/2 or PC-PLC. Except for alachlor, resveratrol did not prevent dysregulation of GJIC by toxicants that worked through PC-PLC-independent and MEK1/2-independent pathways, which indicated at least two other, yet unidentified, pathways that are involved in the regulation of GJIC. In conclusion: the dysregulation of GJIC is a contributing factor to the cancer process; however the underlying mechanisms by which gap junction channels are closed by toxicants vary. Thus, accurate assessments of risk posed by toxic agents, and the role of dietary phytochemicals play in preventing or reversing the effects of these agents must take into account the specific mechanisms involved in the cancer process.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0124454
PMCID: PMC4449167  PMID: 26023933
16.  Dual Inhibition of MEK and PI3K Pathway in KRAS and BRAF Mutated Colorectal Cancers 
Colorectal cancer (CRC) is a heterogeneous disease with multiple underlying causative genetic mutations. Genetic mutations in the phosphatidylinositol-3 kinase (PI3K) and the mitogen activated protein kinase (MAPK) pathways are frequently implicated in CRC. Targeting the downstream substrate MEK in these mutated tumors stands out as a potential target in CRC. Several selective inhibitors of MEK have entered clinical trial evaluation; however, clinical activity with single MEK inhibitors has been rarely observed and acquired resistance seems to be inevitable. Amplification of the driving oncogene KRAS(13D), which increases signaling through the ERK1/2 pathway, upregulation of the noncanonical wingless/calcium signaling pathway (Wnt), and coexisting PIK3CA mutations have all been implicated with resistance against MEK inhibitor therapy in KRAS mutated CRC. The Wnt pathway and amplification of the oncogene have also been associated with resistance to MEK inhibitors in CRCs harboring BRAF mutations. Thus, dual targeted inhibition of MEK and PI3K pathway effectors (mTOR, PI3K, AKT, IGF-1R or PI3K/mTOR inhibitors) presents a potential strategy to overcome resistance to MEK inhibitor therapy. Many clinical trials are underway to evaluate multiple combinations of these pathway inhibitors in solid tumors.
doi:10.3390/ijms160922976
PMCID: PMC4613347  PMID: 26404261
colorectal cancer; drug resistance; phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase; mitogen-activated protein kinase; MEK
17.  MEK-1 Activates C-Raf Through a Ras-Independent Mechanism 
Biochimica et biophysica acta  2013;1833(5):976-986.
C-Raf is a member of the Ras-Raf-MEK-ERK mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) signaling pathway that plays key roles in diverse physiological processes and is upregulated in many human cancers. C-Raf activation involves binding to Ras, increased phosphorylation and interactions with co-factors. Here, we describe a Ras-independent in vivo pathway for C-Raf activation by its downstream target MEK. Using 32P-metabolic labeling and 2D-phosphopeptide mapping experiments, we show that MEK increases C-Raf phosphorylation by up-to 10-fold. This increase was associated with C-Raf kinase activation, matching the activity seen with growth factor stimulation. Consequently, coexpression of wildtype C-Raf and MEK was sufficient for full and constitutive activation of ERK. Notably, the ability of MEK to activate C-Raf was completely Ras independent, since mutants impaired in Ras binding that are irresponsive to growth factors or Ras were fully activated by MEK. The ability of MEK to activate C-Raf was only partially dependent on MEK kinase activity but required MEK binding to C-Raf, suggesting that the binding results in a conformational change that increases C-Raf susceptibility to phosphorylation and activation or in the stabilization of the phosphorylated-active form. These findings propose a novel Ras-independent mechanism for activating C-Raf and the MAPK pathway without the need for mutations in the pathway. This mechanism could be of significance in pathological conditions or cancers overexpressing C-Raf and MEK or in conditions where C-Raf-MEK interaction is enhanced due to the downregulation of RKIP and MST2.
doi:10.1016/j.bbamcr.2013.01.015
PMCID: PMC3608709  PMID: 23360980
Raf; Ras; MEK; ERK; MAPK; phosphorylation
18.  A Docking Site in MKK4 Mediates High Affinity Binding to JNK MAPKs and Competes with Similar Docking Sites in JNK Substrates* 
The Journal of biological chemistry  2003;278(35):32662-32672.
Specific docking interactions between MAPKs and their activating MAPK kinases (MKKs or MEKs) are crucial for efficient and accurate signal transmission. Here, we report the identification of a MAPK-docking site, or “D-site,” in the N terminus of human MKK4/JNKK1. This docking site conforms to the consensus sequence for known D-sites in other MKKs and contains the first of the two cleavage sites for anthrax lethal factor protease that have been found in the N terminus of MKK4. This docking site was both necessary and sufficient for the high affinity binding of the MAPKs JNK1, JNK2, JNK3, p38α, and p38β to MKK4. Mutations that altered conserved residues in this docking site reduced JNK/p38 binding. In addition, a peptide version of this docking site, as well as a peptide version of the JNK-binding site of the JIP-1 scaffold protein, inhibited both MKK4/JNK binding and MKK4-mediated phosphorylation of JNK1. These same peptides also inhibited JNK2-mediated phosphorylation of c-Jun and ATF2, suggesting that transcription factors, MKK4, and the JIP scaffold compete for docking to JNK. Finally, the selectivity of the MKK4, MEK1, and MEK2 D-sites for JNK versus ERK was quantified. The MEK1 and MEK2 D-sites displayed a strong selectivity for their cognate MAPK (ERK2) versus a non-cognate MAPK (JNK). In contrast, the MKK4 D-site exhibited only limited selectivity for JNK versus ERK.
doi:10.1074/jbc.M304229200
PMCID: PMC3017503  PMID: 12788955
19.  Gefitinib-Induced Killing of NSCLC Cell Lines Expressing Mutant EGFR Requires BIM and Can Be Enhanced by BH3 Mimetics 
PLoS Medicine  2007;4(10):e316.
Background
The epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) plays a critical role in the control of cellular proliferation, differentiation, and survival. Abnormalities in EGF-EGFR signaling, such as mutations that render the EGFR hyperactive or cause overexpression of the wild-type receptor, have been found in a broad range of cancers, including carcinomas of the lung, breast, and colon. EGFR inhibitors such as gefitinib have proven successful in the treatment of certain cancers, particularly non-small cell lung cancers (NSCLCs) harboring activating mutations within the EGFR gene, but the molecular mechanisms leading to tumor regression remain unknown. Therefore, we wished to delineate these mechanisms.
Methods and Findings
We performed biochemical and genetic studies to investigate the mechanisms by which inhibitors of EGFR tyrosine kinase activity, such as gefitinib, inhibit the growth of human NSCLCs. We found that gefitinib triggered intrinsic (also called “mitochondrial”) apoptosis signaling, involving the activation of BAX and mitochondrial release of cytochrome c, ultimately unleashing the caspase cascade. Gefitinib caused a rapid increase in the level of the proapoptotic BH3-only protein BIM (also called BCL2-like 11) through both transcriptional and post-translational mechanisms. Experiments with pharmacological inhibitors indicated that blockade of MEK–ERK1/2 (mitogen-activated protein kinase kinase–extracellular signal-regulated protein kinase 1/2) signaling, but not blockade of PI3K (phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase), JNK (c-Jun N-terminal kinase or mitogen-activated protein kinase 8), or AKT (protein kinase B), was critical for BIM activation. Using RNA interference, we demonstrated that BIM is essential for gefitinib-induced killing of NSCLC cells. Moreover, we found that gefitinib-induced apoptosis is enhanced by addition of the BH3 mimetic ABT-737.
Conclusions
Inhibitors of the EGFR tyrosine kinase have proven useful in the therapy of certain cancers, in particular NSCLCs possessing activating mutations in the EGFR kinase domain, but the mechanisms of tumor cell killing are still unclear. In this paper, we demonstrate that activation of the proapoptotic BH3-only protein BIM is essential for tumor cell killing and that shutdown of the EGFR–MEK–ERK signaling cascade is critical for BIM activation. Moreover, we demonstrate that addition of a BH3 mimetic significantly enhances killing of NSCLC cells by the EGFR tyrosine kinase inhibitor gefitinib. It appears likely that this approach represents a paradigm shared by many, and perhaps all, oncogenic tyrosine kinases and suggests a powerful new strategy for cancer therapy.
Andreas Strasser and colleagues demonstrate that activation of the proapoptotic BH3-only protein BIM is essential for tumor cell killing and that shutdown of the EGFR−MEK−ERK signaling cascade is critical for BIM activation.
Editors' Summary
Background.
Normally, cell division (which produces new cells) and cell death are finely balanced to keep the human body in good working order. But sometimes cells acquire changes (mutations) in their genetic material that allow them to divide uncontrollably to form cancers—life-threatening, disorganized masses of cells. One protein with a critical role in cell division that is often mutated in tumors is the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR). In normal cells, protein messengers bind to EGFR and activate its tyrosine kinase. This enzyme then adds phosphate groups to tyrosine (an amino acid) in proteins that form part of signaling cascades (for example, the MEK–ERK signaling cascade) that tell the cell to divide. In cancers that have mutations in EGFR, signaling is overactive so the cancer cells divide much more than they should. Some non-small cell lung cancers (NSCLC, the commonest type of lung cancer), for example, have activating mutations within the EGFR tyrosine kinase. Treatment with EGFR tyrosine kinase inhibitors (TKIs) such as gefitinib and erlotinib induces the cells in these tumors to stop growing and die. This cell death causes tumor shrinkage (regression) and increases the life expectancy of patients with this type of NSCLC.
Why Was This Study Done?
Unfortunately, treatment with TKIs rarely cures NSCLC, so it would be useful to find a way to augment the effect that TKIs have on cancer cells. To do this, the molecular mechanisms that cause cancer-cell death and tumor regression in response to these drugs need to be fully understood. In this study, the researchers have used a combination of biochemical and genetic approaches to investigate how gefitinib kills NSCLC cells with mutated EGFR.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers first measured the sensitivity of NSCLC cell lines (tumor cells that grow indefinitely in dishes) to gefitinib-induced apoptosis. Gefitinib caused extensive apoptosis in two cell lines expressing mutant EGFR but not in one expressing normal EGFR. Next, they investigated the mechanism of gefitinib-induced apoptosis in the most sensitive cell line (H3255). Apoptosis is activated via two major pathways. Hallmarks of the “intrinsic” pathway include activation of a protein called BAX and cytochrome c release from subcellular compartments known as mitochondria. Gefitinib treatment induced both these events in H3255 cells. BAX (a proapoptotic member of the BCL-2 family of proteins) is activated when proapoptotic BH3-only BCL-2 proteins (for example, BIM; “BH3-only” describes the structure of these proteins) bind to antiapoptotic BCL2 proteins. Gefitinib treatment rapidly increased BIM activity in H3255 and HCC827 cells (but not in gefitinib-resistant cells) by increasing the production of BIM protein and the removal of phosphate groups from it, which increases BIM activity. Pharmacological blockade of the MEK–ERK signaling cascade, but not of other EGFR signaling cascades, also caused the accumulation of BIM. By contrast, blocking BIM expression using a technique called RNA interference reduced gefitinib-induced apoptosis. Finally, a combination of gefitinib and a BH3-mimicking compound called ABT-737 (which, like BIM, binds to antiapoptotic BCL-2 proteins) caused more apoptosis than gefitinib alone.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings (and those reported by Gong et al. and Costa et al.) indicate that activation of the proapoptotic BH3-only protein BIM is essential for gefitinib-induced killing of NSCLC cells that carry EGFR tyrosine kinase mutations. They also show that inhibition of the EGFR–MEK–ERK signaling cascade by gefitinib is essential for BIM activation. Because these findings come from studies on NSCLC cell lines, they need confirming in freshly isolated tumor cells and in tumors growing in people. However, the demonstration that a compound that mimics BH3 action enhances gefitinib-induced killing of NSCLC cells suggests that combinations of TKIs and drugs that affect the intrinsic pathway of apoptosis activation might provide a powerful strategy for treating cancers in which tyrosine kinase mutations drive tumor growth.
Additional Information.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.0040316.
A perspective by Ingo Mellinghoff discusses this article and two related research articles
Wikipedia pages on epidermal growth factor receptor, apoptosis, and BCL2 proteins (note that Wikipedia is a free online encyclopedia that anyone can edit; available in several languages)
CancerQuest provides information on all aspects of cancer from Emory University (in several languages)
US National Cancer Institute information for patients and professionals on lung cancer (in English and Spanish)
Information for patients from Cancer Research UK on lung cancer including information on treatment with TKIs
Information for patients from Cancerbackup on erlotinib and gefitinib
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.0040316
PMCID: PMC2043013  PMID: 17973573
20.  A MEK Inhibitor Abrogates Myeloproliferative Disease in Kras Mutant Mice 
Science Translational Medicine  2011;3(76):76ra27.
Chronic and juvenile myelomonocytic leukemias (CMML and JMML) are aggressive myeloproliferative neoplasms that are incurable with conventional chemotherapy. Mutations that deregulate Ras signaling play a central pathogenic role in both disorders, and Mx1-Cre, KrasLSL-G12D mice that express the Kras oncogene develop a fatal disease that closely mimics these two leukemias in humans. Activated Ras controls multiple downstream effectors, but the specific pathways that mediate the leukemogenic effects of hyperactive Ras are unknown. We used PD0325901, a highly selective pharmacological inhibitor of mitogen-activated protein kinase kinase (MEK), a downstream component of the Ras signaling network, to address how deregulated Raf/MEK/ERK signaling drives neoplasm formation in Mx1-Cre, KrasLSL-G12D mice. PD0325901 treatment induced a rapid and sustained reduction in leukocyte counts, enhanced erythropoiesis, prolonged mouse survival, and corrected the aberrant proliferation and differentiation of bone marrow progenitor cells. These responses were due to direct effects of PD0325901 on Kras mutant cells rather than to stimulation of normal hematopoietic cell proliferation. Consistent with the in vivo response, inhibition of MEK reversed the cytokine hypersensitivity characteristic of KrasG12D hematopoietic progenitor cells in vitro. Our data demonstrate that deregulated Raf/MEK/ERK signaling is integral to the growth of Kras-mediated myeloproliferative neoplasias, and further suggest that MEK inhibition could be a useful way to ameliorate functional hematologic abnormalities in patients with CMML and JMML.
doi:10.1126/scitranslmed.3001069
PMCID: PMC3265440  PMID: 21451123
21.  Mitogenic growth signalling, DNA replication licensing, and survival are linked in prostate cancer 
British Journal of Cancer  2007;96(9):1384-1393.
Activation of mitogen/extracellular-signal-regulated kinase kinase 5/extracellular signal-regulated kinase-5 (MEK5/ERK5) growth signalling is coupled to increased cell proliferation in prostate cancer (PCa). Dysregulation of the DNA replication licensing pathway, a critical step in growth control downstream of transduction signalling pathways, is associated with development of PCa. In this study we have investigated linkages between the MEK5/ERK5 pathway and DNA replication licensing during prostate carcinogenesis. The effects of increased MEK5/ERK5 signalling on the expression of replication licensing factors Mcm2 and geminin and the proliferation marker Ki67 were studied in an ecdysone-inducible system expressing a constitutively activated mutant of MEK5 in EcR293 cells and in stable ERK5 over-expressing PC3 clones. In parallel, expression of these biomarkers in PCa biopsy specimens (n=58) was studied and compared to clinicopathological parameters. In both in vitro systems induction of MEK5 expression resulted in increased levels of phosphorylated ERK5 and Mcm2, geminin and Ki67 proteins. In PCa specimens average Mcm2 expression was greater than Ki67 and geminin expression (median labelling index (LI) 36.7, 18.1, and 3.4% respectively), consistent with their differential expression according to growth status (P<0.0001). Mcm2, geminin and Ki67 expression were significantly associated with Gleason grade (P=0.0002, P=0.0003, P=0.004); however there was no link with T or M stage. There was a significant relationship between increasing ERK5 expression and increasing Mcm2 (P=0.003) and Ki67 (P=0.009) expression, with non-significant trends seen with increasing MEK5 expression. There were significant associations between Gleason grade and the number of cells traversing G1 phase (Ki67LI-gemininLI; (P=0.001)), with high ERK5 levels associated with both an increase in replication licensed but non-cycling cells (Mcm2LI-Ki67LI; (P=0.01)) and accelerated cell cycle progression (gemininLI/Ki67LI; (P= 0.005)), all indicative of a shift towards increasing proliferative potential. While Mcm2 and Ki67 were both prognostic factors on univariate analysis, only Mcm2 remained an independent prognostic marker on multivariate analysis. Taken together, our data show that induction of MEK5/ERK5 signalling is linked to activation of the DNA replication licensing pathway in PCa, and that the strong prognostic value of MCM proteins may result from their function as relay stations coupling growth regulatory pathways to genome duplication.
doi:10.1038/sj.bjc.6603718
PMCID: PMC2360172  PMID: 17406359
MEK5/ERK5; Mcm2; geminin; DNA replication licensing; prognosis; prostate cancer
22.  Mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK)-docking sites in MAPK kinases function as tethers that are crucial for MAPK regulation in vivo 
Cellular signalling  2005;18(1):123-134.
Docking sites on targets of mitogen-activated protein kinases (MAPKs) facilitate accurate and efficient substrate phosphorylation. MAPK/ERK kinases (MEKs, or MKKs), the upstream regulators of MAPKs, also contain N-terminal MAPK-docking sites, or ‘D-sites’; however, the in vivo functions of MEK D-sites are incompletely understood. Here we found that the ability of constitutively-active human MEK1 and MEK2 to stimulate ERK phosphorylation and to induce the neoplastic transformation of NIH 3T3 cells required the integrity of the D-site. In addition, D-site mutants of otherwise wild-type MEK1/2 were unable to anchor unphosphorylated ERK2 in the cytoplasm. ERK activation, cytoplasmic anchoring and release were completely retained in ‘swap’ mutants in which MEK2’s D-site was replaced with the D-site of MEK1 or yeast Ste7. Furthermore, these abilities were significantly retained when MEK2’s D-site was moved to its C-terminus, or replaced by an unrelated MAPK-binding domain taken from the Ets-1 transcription factor. We conclude that the D-sites in MEKs are crucial for the activation of their cognate MAPKs in vivo, and that their primary function is to tether their cognate MAPKs near the MEK’s kinase domain. This proximity effect is sufficient to explain the contribution that the D-site interaction makes to several biologically important signaling events.
doi:10.1016/j.cellsig.2005.04.001
PMCID: PMC3017502  PMID: 15979847
Mitogen-activated protein kinases; Signal transduction; Phosphorylation; Binding sites; Protein binding
23.  Sequential Activation of the MEK-Extracellular Signal-Regulated Kinase and MKK3/6-p38 Mitogen-Activated Protein Kinase Pathways Mediates Oncogenic ras-Induced Premature Senescence†  
Molecular and Cellular Biology  2002;22(10):3389-3403.
In primary mammalian cells, oncogenic ras induces premature senescence, depending on an active MEK-extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK) mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) pathway. It has been unclear how activation of the mitogenic MEK-ERK pathway by ras can confer growth inhibition. In this study, we have found that the stress-activated MAPK, p38, is also activated during the onset of ras-induced senescence in primary human fibroblasts. Constitutive activation of p38 by active MKK3 or MKK6 induces senescence. Oncogenic ras fails to provoke senescence when p38 activity is inhibited, suggesting that p38 activation is essential for ras-induced senescence. Furthermore, we have demonstrated that p38 activity is stimulated by ras as a result of an activated MEK-ERK pathway. Following activation of MEK and ERK, expression of oncogenic ras leads to the accumulation of active MKK3/6 and p38 activation in a MEK-dependent fashion and subsequently induces senescence. Active MEK1 induces the same set of changes and provokes senescence relying on active p38. Therefore, oncogenic ras provokes premature senescence by sequentially activating the MEK-ERK and MKK3/6-p38 pathways in normal, primary cells. These studies have defined the molecular events within the ras signaling cascade that lead to premature senescence and, thus, have provided new insights into how ras confers oncogenic transformation in primary cells.
doi:10.1128/MCB.22.10.3389-3403.2002
PMCID: PMC133789  PMID: 11971971
24.  Evaluation of efficacy of a new MEK inhibitor, RO4987655, in human tumor xenografts by [18F] FDG-PET imaging combined with proteomic approaches 
EJNMMI Research  2014;4:34.
Background
Inhibition of mitogen-activated protein kinase (MEK, also known as MAPK2, MAPKK), a key molecule of the Ras/MAPK (mitogen-activated protein kinase) pathway, has shown promising effects on B-raf-mutated and some RAS (rat sarcoma)-activated tumors in clinical trials. The objective of this study is to examine the efficacy of a novel allosteric MEK inhibitor RO4987655 in K-ras-mutated human tumor xenograft models using [18F] FDG-PET imaging and proteomics technology.
Methods
[18F] FDG uptake was studied in human lung carcinoma xenografts from day 0 to day 9 of RO4987655 therapy using microPET Focus 120 (CTI Concorde Microsystems, Knoxville, TN, USA). The expression levels of GLUT1 and hexokinase 1 were examined using semi-quantitative fluorescent immunohistochemistry (fIHC). The in vivo effects of RO4987655 on MAPK/PI3K pathway components were assessed by reverse phase protein arrays (RPPA).
Results
We have observed modest metabolic decreases in tumor [18F] FDG uptake after MEK inhibition by RO4987655 as early as 2 h post-treatment. The greatest [18F] FDG decreases were found on day 1, followed by a rebound in [18F] FDG uptake on day 3 in parallel with decreasing tumor volumes. Molecular analysis of the tumors by fIHC did not reveal statistically significant correlations of GLUT1 and hexokinase 1 expressions with the [18F] FDG changes. RPPA signaling response profiling revealed not only down-regulation of pERK1/2, pMKK4, and pmTOR on day 1 after RO4987655 treatment but also significant up-regulation of pMEK1/2, pMEK2, pC-RAF, and pAKT on day 3. The up-regulation of these markers is interpreted to be indicative of a reactivation of the MAPK and activation of the compensatory PI3K pathway, which can also explain the rebound in [18F] FDG uptake following MEK inhibition with RO4987655 in the K-ras-mutated human tumor xenografts.
Conclusions
We have performed the first preclinical evaluation of a new MEK inhibitor, RO4987655, using a combination of [18F] FDG-PET imaging and molecular proteomics. These results provide support for using preclinical [18F] FDG-PET imaging in early, non-invasive monitoring of the effects of MEK and perhaps other Ras/MAPK signaling pathway inhibitors, which should facilitate a wider implementation of clinical [18F] FDG-PET to optimize their clinical use.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s13550-014-0034-6) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
doi:10.1186/s13550-014-0034-6
PMCID: PMC4452660  PMID: 26116108
18F FDG-PET; RO4987655; MAPK/PI3K pathway; RPPA; Signaling; Feedback loops
25.  Activation of MEK1 or MEK2 isoform is sufficient to fully transform intestinal epithelial cells and induce the formation of metastatic tumors 
BMC Cancer  2008;8:337.
Background
The Ras-dependent ERK1/2 MAP kinase signaling pathway plays a central role in cell proliferation control and is frequently activated in human colorectal cancer. Small-molecule inhibitors of MEK1/MEK2 are therefore viewed as attractive drug candidates for the targeted therapy of this malignancy. However, the exact contribution of MEK1 and MEK2 to the pathogenesis of colorectal cancer remains to be established.
Methods
Wild type and constitutively active forms of MEK1 and MEK2 were ectopically expressed by retroviral gene transfer in the normal intestinal epithelial cell line IEC-6. We studied the impact of MEK1 and MEK2 activation on cellular morphology, cell proliferation, survival, migration, invasiveness, and tumorigenesis in mice. RNA interference was used to test the requirement for MEK1 and MEK2 function in maintaining the proliferation of human colorectal cancer cells.
Results
We found that expression of activated MEK1 or MEK2 is sufficient to morphologically transform intestinal epithelial cells, dysregulate cell proliferation and induce the formation of high-grade adenocarcinomas after orthotopic transplantation in mice. A large proportion of these intestinal tumors metastasize to the liver and lung. Mechanistically, activation of MEK1 or MEK2 up-regulates the expression of matrix metalloproteinases, promotes invasiveness and protects cells from undergoing anoikis. Importantly, we show that silencing of MEK2 expression completely suppresses the proliferation of human colon carcinoma cell lines, whereas inactivation of MEK1 has a much weaker effect.
Conclusion
MEK1 and MEK2 isoforms have similar transforming properties and are able to induce the formation of metastatic intestinal tumors in mice. Our results suggest that MEK2 plays a more important role than MEK1 in sustaining the proliferation of human colorectal cancer cells.
doi:10.1186/1471-2407-8-337
PMCID: PMC2596176  PMID: 19014680

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