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1.  p21-activated kinase 1 is required for efficient tumor formation and progression in a Ras-mediated skin cancer model 
Cancer research  2012;72(22):5966-5975.
The RAS genes are the most commonly mutated oncogenes in human cancer and present a particular therapeutic dilemma, as direct targeting of Ras proteins by small molecules has proved difficult. Signaling pathways downstream of Ras, in particular Raf/Mek/Erk and PI3K/Akt/mTOR, are dominated by lipid and protein kinases that provide attractive alternate targets in Ras-driven tumors. As p21-activated kinase 1 (Pak1) has been shown to regulate both these signaling pathways and is itself upregulated in many human cancers, we assessed the role of Pak1 in Ras-driven skin cancer. In human squamous cell carcinoma (SCC), we found a strong positive correlation between advanced stage and grade and PAK1 expression. Using a mouse model of Kras-driven SCC, we showed that deletion of the mouse Pak1 gene led to markedly decreased tumorigenesis and progression, accompanied by near total loss of Erk and Akt activity. Treatment of KrasG12D mice with either of two distinct small molecule Pak inhibitors (PF03758309 and FRAX597) caused tumor regression and loss of Erk and Akt activity. Tumor regression was also seen in mice treated with a specific Mek inhibitor, but not with an Akt inhibitor. These findings establish Pak1 as a new target in KRAS-driven tumors and suggest a mechanism of action through the Erk, but not the Akt, signaling pathway.
PMCID: PMC3500416  PMID: 22983922
2.  Role of group A p21-activated kinases in the anti-apoptotic activity of the pseudorabies virus US3 protein kinase 
Virus research  2010;155(1):376-380.
The alphaherpesvirus US3 kinase is a conserved multifunctional serine/threonine kinase that plays a role in several processes, including modulation of the actin cytoskeleton, egress of virus particles from the nucleus and inhibition of apoptosis. However, the mechanisms used by the US3 protein to exert its functions remain poorly understood. Recently, we identified the group A p21-activated kinases PAK1 and PAK2 as important effectors in the US3-mediated cytoskeletal rearrangements. Here, we investigated if group A PAKs are also involved in the anti-apoptotic properties of US3. Infection experiments using a group A PAK inhibitor pointed at a moderate role for group A PAKs in the anti-apoptotic properties of US3. Furthermore, infection assays using wild type and US3null PRV in wild type MEF, PAK1−/−MEF and PAK2−/− MEF indicated that PAK2 does not play a role in US3-mediated inhibition of apoptosis during infection, whereas PAK1 plays a significant, yet limited role. Experiments in US3-transfected MEF using staurosporine as apoptosis trigger confirmed these observations. These results show that PAK1 plays a significant, yet limited, role in the anti-apoptotic activity of US3.
PMCID: PMC3477636  PMID: 21093504
3.  The role of p21-activated kinase in the initiation of atherosclerosis 
p21-activated kinase (PAK) has been implicated in the inflammatory activation of endothelial cells by disturbed fluid shear stress, which is the initiating stimulus in atherosclerosis. The study addresses whether PAK1 contributes to inflammatory marker expression in endothelial cells at atherosclerosis-susceptible regions of arteries in vivo.
Aortas from WT and PAK1-/- C57BL/6J mice on a normal chow diet were fixed, dissected and processed for immunohistochemistry using a panel of inflammatory markers. We visualized and quantified staining in the endothelium at the greater and lesser curvatures of the arch of aorta, as atherosclerosis-resistant and susceptible regions, respectively.
Fibronectin, VCAM-1 and the activated RelA NF-κB subunit were localized to the lesser curvature and decreased in PAK1-/- mice. The activated RelB NF-κB subunit was also localized to the lesser curvature but was increased in PAK1-/- mice. Low levels of staining for ICAM-1 and the monocyte/macrophage marker Mac2 indicated that overall inflammation in this tissue was minimal.
These data show that PAK1 has a significant pro-inflammatory function at atherosclerosis-prone sites in vivo. These effects are seen in young mice with very low levels of inflammation, suggesting that inflammatory activation of the endothelium is primarily biomechanical. Activation involves NF-κB, expression of leukocyte recruitment receptors and fibronectin deposition. These results support and extend in vitro studies demonstrating that PAK contributes to activation of inflammatory pathways in endothelial cells by fluid shear stress.
PMCID: PMC3489605  PMID: 22824149
Fluid shear stress; Endothelial cells; Vascular inflammation; Fibronectin
4.  PAK kinase regulates Rac GTPase and is a potential target in human schwannomas 
Experimental neurology  2009;218(1):137-144.
Merlin loss causes benign tumours of the nervous system, mainly schwannomas and meningiomas. Schwannomas show enhanced Rac1 and Cdc42 activity, The p21-activated kinase 2 (PAK2) activation and increased ruffling and cell adhesion. PAK regulates activation of merlin. PAK has been proposed as a potential therapeutic target in schwannomas. However where PAK stands in the Rac pathway is insufficiently characterised. We used a novel small molecule PAK inhibitor, IPA-3, to investigate the role of PAK activation on Rac1/Cdc42 activity, cell spreading and adhesion in human primary schwannoma and Schwann cells. We show that IPA-3 blocks activation of PAK2 at Ser192/197 that antagonises PAKs interaction with Pix. Accordingly, Pix-mediated Rac1 activation is decreased in IPA-3 treated schwannoma cells, indicating that PAK acts upstream of Rac. We show that this Rac activation at the level of focal adhesions in schwannoma cells is essential for cell spreading and adhesion in Schwann and schwannoma cells.
PMCID: PMC2760977  PMID: 19409384
schwannoma; PAK; merlin; small GTPases
5.  Kinase-deficient Pak1 mutants inhibit Ras transformation of Rat-1 fibroblasts. 
Molecular and Cellular Biology  1997;17(8):4454-4464.
Among the mechanisms by which the Ras oncogene induces cellular transformation, Ras activates the mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK or ERK) cascade and a related cascade leading to activation of Jun kinase (JNK or SAPK). JNK is additionally regulated by the Ras-related G proteins Rac and Cdc42. Ras also regulates the actin cytoskeleton through an incompletely elucidated Rac-dependent mechanism. A candidate for the physiological effector for both JNK and actin regulation by Rac and Cdc42 is the serine/threonine kinase Pak (p65pak). We show here that expression of a catalytically inactive mutant Pak, Pak1(R299), inhibits Ras transformation of Rat-1 fibroblasts but not of NIH 3T3 cells. Typically, 90 to 95% fewer transformed colonies were observed in cotransfection assays with Rat-1 cells. Pak1(R299) did not inhibit transformation by the Raf oncogene, indicating that inhibition was specific for Ras. Furthermore, Rat-1 cell lines expressing Pak1(R299) were highly resistant to Ras transformation, while cells expressing wild-type Pak1 were efficiently transformed by Ras. Pak1(L83,L86,R299), a mutant that fails to bind either Rac or Cdc42, also inhibited Ras transformation. Rac and Ras activation of JNK was inhibited by Pak1(R299) but not by Pak1(L83,L86,R299). Ras activation of ERK was inhibited by both Pak1(R299) and Pak1(L83,L86,R299), while neither mutant inhibited Raf activation of ERK. These results suggest that Pak1 interacts with components essential for Ras transformation and that inhibition can be uncoupled from JNK but not ERK signaling.
PMCID: PMC232299  PMID: 9234703
6.  The fission yeast genes pyp1+ and pyp2+ encode protein tyrosine phosphatases that negatively regulate mitosis. 
Molecular and Cellular Biology  1992;12(12):5571-5580.
We have used degenerate oligonucleotide probes based on sequences conserved among known protein tyrosine phosphatases (PTPases) to identify two Schizosaccharomyces pombe genes encoding PTPases. We previously described the cloning of pyp1+ (S. Ottilie, J. Chernoff, G. Hannig, C. S. Hoffman, and R. L. Erikson, Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 88:3455-3459, 1991), and here we describe a second gene, called pyp2+. The C terminus of each protein contains sequences conserved in the apparent catalytic domains of all known PTPases. Disruption of pyp2+ results in viable cells, as was the case for pyp1+, whereas disruption of pyp2+ and pyp1+ results in synthetic lethality. Overexpression of either pyp1+ or pyp2+ in wild-type strains leads to a delay in mitosis but is suppressed by a wee1-50 mutation at 35 degrees C or a cdc2-1w mutation. A pyp1 disruption suppresses the temperature-sensitive lethality of a cdc25-22 mutation. Our data suggest that pyp1+ and pyp2+ act as negative regulators of mitosis upstream of the wee1+/mik1+ pathway.
PMCID: PMC360496  PMID: 1448087

Results 1-6 (6)